There’s not a ton to disagree with in this new assessment from Nate Silver — “Republicans Remain Slightly Favored To Take Control Of The Senate” — but I’m left scratching my head at his suggestion that the GOP’s Jim Oberweis is more likely to defeat Sen. Dick Durbin in Illinois than Ed Gillespie is to beat Sen. Mark Warner in Virginia. Really? Really?
Much to the frustration of the chattering class, the outlook for the Senate races hasn’t changed much during the summer. Republicans need six seats to win the Senate. (Yes, Sen. Angus King, independent of Maine, has said he will flip to the majority if the GOP takes over, but he won’t flip to the GOP for a 50-50 split.)
Republicans enjoy three near-automatic pick-ups of Democrat-held seats, in South Dakota, West Virginia, and in Montana, where incumbent Sen. John Walsh, dealing with a plagiarism scandal, is being urged to drop his reelection bid and/or resign from the U.S. Senate. Then there are three southern Senate Democrat incumbents who look vulnerable, but not quite toast yet: Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Kay Hagan of North Carolina. Bill Cassidy, Tom Cotton and Thom Tillis all just need their home states to follow their GOP instincts.
Then there are the vulnerable Democrat incumbents in red or purple states outside the South: the not-yet-determined GOP bid vs. Mark Begich in Alaska, Cory Gardner’s bid against Sen. Mark Udall in Colorado, and former Sen. Scott Brown’s effort against Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire.
Perhaps this tier can include in Monica Wehby’s effort against Jeff Merkley in Oregon and Gillespie’s effort against Warner in Virginia, although Nate Silver obviously disagrees. (It looks like a really tough year for incumbent Democrat senators named Mark.)
Then there are two open seat races held by retiring Democrats in blue states where GOP women candidates are running surprisingly strongly: Joni Ernst taking on Bruce Braley in Iowa, Terri Lynn Land vs. Gary Peters in Michigan.
Then there’s the one Republican incumbent who needs to hold on, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. For what it’s worth, Silver sees an 80 percent chance McConnell holds on against Alison Lundergan Grimes.
Then there’s the one open seat race where a Republican is retiring in Georgia, where David Purdue needs to hold off Michelle Nunn.
If Republicans can just win the gimmees and then beat the incumbents whose first names begin with “M-A-R”, they’ll be in good shape.