Democrats’ chances of retaining Senate control are shrinking by the day. Polls suggest their candidates are in rough shape in a number of key states.
The New York Times’ electoral model gives the party only a 26% chance of retaining control of the chamber. Nate Silver puts their chances at just 40%. Even Princeton professor Sam Wang’s forecast, which has been the most consistently bullish toward Democrats, projects Republicans will have a 52-48 advantage in the chamber.
It will take a couple comebacks and some narrow victories for Democrats to retain control of the Senate. But they still have a few plausible paths to victory.
In all three of these cases, Iowa, Colorado, North Carolina, and Kansas — the four closest for Democrats in current polling averages — become virtual must-wins for the party.
The first case was outlined by the Eurasia Group research firm on Tuesday:
- Republicans will win seats in Alaska, Montana, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Lousiana;
- Democrats will hold seats in Colorado, Iowa, Arkansas, and North Carolina;
- Democrats will effectively pick up Kansas, with Independent candidate Greg Orman deciding to caucus with them since they will still hold the majority.
But at this point, such a scenario would require a Democratic comeback in at least three states. In Arkansas, Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor currently trails Republican US Rep. Tom Cotton by an average of 4.4 points, according to Real Clear Politics. In Iowa and Colorado, Democratic candidates are down by 1.6 and 2.0 points, respectively.
The Kansas race, which seemed to be shifting toward Independent candidate Greg Orman just one week ago, has seen a resurgence by incumbent GOP Sen. Pat Roberts. It is now tied in the Real Clear Politics average of polls.
“Republicans or their allies will likely pick up the seats in Alaska, Montana, South Dakota, West Virginia, and perhaps Louisiana,” Eurasia Group’s Corey Boles and Sean West wrote. “But the loss in Kansas will leave them one or two shy of their need to win a net six seats, and the Senate will remain in control of the Democrats.”
Here’s a look at the first scenario (map via 270 to Win):
The second scenario flips two outcomes — Arkansas and Alaska. In Alaska, polls show Republican candidate Dan Sullivan with a 4.4-point average lead over Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Begich. But Alaska has been notoriously difficult to poll in the past, with several potential Democratic-leaning populations traditionally underrepresented in pre-Election Day polling.
“Alaska is far from over,” one Democratic strategist told Business Insider.
The third scenario leaves the Senate with a 50-50 split, giving Democrats an effective majority, since Vice President Joe Biden would serve as the tiebreaking vote. It assumes losses in both Arkansas and Alaska, but keeps Kansas in the blue:
But what’s the most likely scenario, at this point? According to the current average of polls in individual states, Real Clear Politics projects Republicans will pick up eight seats.
Here’s a look at that map:
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