Monday, July 2, 2012


As I have stated previously, the greatest suspense in the national elections of 2012, when we are in the closing days of the campaign in October, will likely
be in various close U.S. senate races. The mathematics of this cycle, with twice
as many Democrat incumbents up for re-election than Republicans, favors a
GOP takeover of the senate. While it seems almost certain that there will be a
Republican majority in the senate in 2013, the size of that majority, with four
months until election day, and not all the nominees yet determined, is up in the
political air.

There have been a number of retirements by long-term incumbents of both
parties, and in most of those cases, turnovers will result. Moderate GOP
Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine will probably be replaced by a centrist
independent who will organize with the Democrats, Angus King. Conservative
GOP Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas will likely be replaced by someone
from her own party, but a primary has yet to determine whether the new senator
will be an establishment conservative or a Tea Party conservative.

In North Dakota, retiring Democratic Senator Kent Conrad probably will be
succeeded by Rick Berg, a Republican. In Hawaii, the retiring Democrat may
well be replaced by an upset winner, former Governor Linda Lingle, the most
successful Republican in the state's history. Retiring Democrat Herbert Kohl of
Wisconsin will also give way to a new GOP senator, although the nominee has
yet to be determined by an upcoming primary.

Two Republican incumbents, Senator Dean Heller of Nevada and Senator Scott
Brown of Massachusetts, are facing serious challenges, but it is my sense that
both will survive.

Survival is not likely, however, for Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill of
Missouri who currently trails each of her GOP potential opponents by double

Open seats that are now closely contested, in Arizona, New Mexico, and Virginia
are probably too close to call, but the open seat in Nebraska, now held by a
Democrat, will be won by a Republican in November, as will the unexpectedly
open seat (incumbent GOP Richard Lugar  lost his primary). Democrats could
win one or two of the open seats, but they already control two of them.

Incumbent Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown now leads in the pivotal state
of Ohio, but his GOP opponent is a political phenomenon, Josh Mandel, whose
major drawback is not his actual youth, but his youthful appearance. I am virtually
alone among my pundit colleagues in predicting his win in November, but I am
sticking to it.

There is going to be a donnybrook in Montana where incumbent Democratic
Senator Jon Tester faces a very serious challenge from the state's only
congressman, Don Rehberg, a Republican.

In contrast, incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson would seem to have edge in Florida
where his GOP opponent Congressman Connie Mack IV has not been impressive.
Incumbent Democrat Debbie Stabenow in Michigan currently has a big lead over
her Republican opponent Peter Hoekstra, but this state is particularly volatile this
cycle, and this race could be a "sleeper" (other "sleeper" races could take place in
Washington and Connecticut).

A cursory look at the math, now has Republicans with a likely net gain of five or
six, and a chance at a net gain of two or three more. If President Obama's
re-election falters badly, more Democratic-held seats could fall. With prospects
for Democratic gains in the U.S. house now thought to be no more than single
digits. the likelihood of the conservative-controlled both houses of Congress in
2013 is high.

It is, however, early July. Caveats must be uttered inasmuch as economic and
international events can theoretically change. On the other hand, 2012 seems
now much more likely to resemble the character of 2010 than of 2006 or 2008
when Democrats clearly had both the intensity and momentum on their side.
The political aftermath of the controversial Supreme Court decision on
Obamacare has unexpectedly revived the key issue for voters in 2010.

No matter what, I will be returning to the senate races frequently over the next
few months. As 2010 was the campaign year of the U.S. house, 2012, regardless
of who wins, will be the campaign year of the U.S. senate.

Copyright (c) 2012 by Barry Casselman.  All rights reserved.

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