GOP Unlikely To Grab Senate This Year, But They’ll Have Another Shot In Two Years

The GOP's hopes of taking over the Senate in 2012 have all but slipped away, but there is another option.

Two years ago, the GOP lost out on a chance to take control of the Senate thanks largely to the fact that, thanks to the Tea Party, they ended up nominating a handful of candidates that essentially handed the election to their Democratic opponents. In Delaware, it meant rejecting an almost assured victory by nominating former Governor and Congressman Mike Castle in favor of a woman who can best be described as flaky. In Colorado, it meant nominating Ken Buck, who ended up running one of the worst Senate campaigns of the entire cycle. Further west in Nevada, the Tea Party pushed Sharron Angle, the one candidate that Harry Reid’s campaign knew it could beat, into the lead for the GOP nomination. And, finally, up north in Alaska, the Tea Party made the mistake of taking on Lisa Murkowski.

This time around, it appears that a combination of bad candidate selection and just plain old bad luck is going to keep the GOP from grabbing the Senate yet again:

The Democrats have incumbents running in traditionally GOP-friendly territories Missouri and Montana, as well as incumbents and challengers for open seats competing in swing states Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. And because of retirements by Democratic lawmakers, the Democrats have also had to compete in states like Nebraska and North Dakota, which had been held by a Democratic senator despite being red-leaning states.

In contrast, the only GOP incumbent in a blue state seeking re-election was Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts, while Sen. Dean Heller is seeking his first full term in the swing state of Nevada.

But then Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine said she was retiring, putting her blue-leaning state in play, while candidates for open seats in Indiana and Arizona haven’t run as strongly as some had anticipated.

Real Clear Politics, the political-aggregation website, said that according to its polls of polls, Democrats are leading in all of these races except for Arizona, Nebraska, and Nevada, while the race in Montana between incumbent Democratic Sen. Jon Tester and challenger Rep. Dennis Rehberg is a virtual tie.

If Republicans fail to regain the majority, blame could fall on candidates backed by the tea-party movement. Similarly, tea-party victories in GOP primaries two years ago were widely seen to have cost the party winnable Senate races in Colorado, Delaware and Nevada.

This year, veteran Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana was defeated by Richard Mourdock, the state treasurer, in the GOP primary. But a solid campaign by Rep. Joe Donnelly and remarks by Mr. Mourdock about rape victims and abortion, have resulted in Mr. Donnelly leading in most polls.

Then, of course, their’s Todd Akin, whose idiotic comments about rape turned what should have been a relatively easy pickup for the GOP into a chance for Claire McCaskill to return from the political dead despite the fact that she had spent the better part of her term doing everything possible to completely alienate the voters of Missouri.

Other candidates that appear to have fallen short include Josh Mandel in Ohio, who has come close to Sherrod Brown in some polls but never been able to get over the hump and now appears unlikely to win unless we get the unlikely event of a huge Romney victory in the Buckeye State that creates a “Coattail” effect for Mandel. In Wisconsin, former Governor Tommy Thompson was seemingly the best choice to take on Tammy Baldwin for the Senate there given his long history in the state, but Baldwin has managed to run a good campaign and heads into Election Day with a narrow, within the margin of error, lead. In Virginia, the epic battle between two popular former Governors seems to be leaning in Tim Kaine’s favor, although George Allen would likely still eke out a win today if Mitt Romney manages to win the state. Other states where GOP hopes are likely to fall short include Florida, where Connie Mack IV’s effort to unseat Bill Nelson never really seems to have had a chance in retrospect.

As noted in our Congressional Election Predictions post, I’ve forecast a 53-47 Senate, with three pick-ups by the Democrats (Maine, Massachusetts, and Indiana) and three pickups by Republicans (Montana, North Dakota, and Nebraska). By the end of tonight, though, it could easily turn out to be 52-48 or 54-46 depending on how Virginia and Montana turn out, and it’s possible that I’m wrong about either Missouri or Indiana (or both), but the odds of a GOP Senate takeover seem slim.

Even if the GOP only makes minor progress this year, though, there’s still another shot for them two years from now. In 2014, there will be 20 Democrats up for re-election as opposed to only 13 Republicans. Of those 20 Democrats, seven of them are in states that will be going Republican this year and another four of them  will be in swing states. By contrast, only one Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, is in a state that will go for President Obama this year and none of them are in what could be fairly described as swing states. Among this list of 33 Senators, there are likely to be several Senators who end of retiring. So, assuming the GOP keeps it close by the end of tonight, they have a better than decent chance of grabbing that elusive majority in the 2014 mid-terms.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, Congress, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Geek, Esq. says:

    2014 looks to be the safest group of incumbents I’ve seen in a while. Not a single Republican could be in even remote danger of losing her seat. Democrats, well maybe Begich and Hagan and possibly Landrieu. Rockefeller’s seat will be open, and that one will be a prime pickup opportunity for the Republicans.

    Of course, given the high carbon production in the states represented by vulnerable Democrats, you can bet the house that not a single word of legislation regarding global warming will pass the Senate. Not that the House would ever accept science and stuff, of course.

  2. Tsar Nicholas says:

    GOP Unlikely To Grab Senate This Year, But They’ll Have Another Shot In Two Years

    True, but every two years the GOP and its ridiculous “base” shoot themselves in the feet regarding the Senate.

    This year there’s Akin and Mourdock and not even fielding 2nd-tier candidates much less 1st-tier candidates in PA and OH (which astonishingly are pretty close contests notwithstanding). The ’10 fiascos speak for themselves. In ’08 there was the Ted Stevens fiasco. In ’06 there was the George Allen “macaca” fiasco among others. Then you also have to factor in the Tammany Hall/Chicago-style factor. Franken-Coleman. The “Torricelli Switch.” Carnahan’s corpse. Gordon-Cantwell. Landrieu-Jenkins. That sort of shit happens at least 1x nearly every cycle.

    The Senate is a giant windmill and the GOP is Quixote.

  3. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Oops, “Gorton-Cantwell,” that is.

  4. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    There are reports out of Philadelphia that Republican poll watchers (court-appointed poll watchers) are being physically removed from polling stations, and the Black Panthers are once again “providing security” at polling stations.

    Nothing to see here, move along and vote Democrat. Of, if you’re busy, they’ll do it for you..

  5. Geek, Esq. says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Yes, scary black men cause little girly twerps posing as men on the right to soil their drawers, as they have since Nat Turner.

  6. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Geek, Esq.: You’re right. We shouldn’t worry about racist, Marxist paramilitaries with a history of violence. I’m just being silly.

  7. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Geek, Esq.: And those poll watchers? Just because they’re court-appointed and the PA GOP has a court order permitting their presence, they just might intimidate voters or give good Dems cooties or something, so that’s just fine, too?

  8. MBunge says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: “We shouldn’t worry about racist, Marxist paramilitaries with a history of violence.”

    Ooooh! They’re Marxist! Run away!


  9. Just Me says:

    Are there seriously people here defending kicking court appointed minority poll waters out of the polls? Seriously? Thankfully the judge as reappointed them and sent some deputies to make sure they get to stay. Makes one wonder what shenanigans occurred while the poll watchers were fighting for something they had already apparently fought for.

    As for the senate-this year I hadn’t expected the GOP to retake the senate. I think at best they gain 1 seat but I suspect it will still be the same.

    As for next go around-from reading here lately I was under the impression that the GOP was totally irrelevant so the democrats get to win all the seats next time.

    But really-unless Susan Collins retires she is going to keep her seat. Maine likes her.

  10. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Just Me: Are there seriously people here defending kicking court appointed minority poll waters out of the polls? Seriously?

    You’re new here, right?

  11. Geek, Esq. says:

    @Just Me:

    Yeah, GOP/Tea Party poll observers are just innocent lambs.

    An Allegheny County judge on Tuesday issue an order to halt electioneering outside a polling location in Homestead.

    County officials received a complaint shortly before 10 a.m. Tuesday that Republicans outside a polling location on Maple Street in Homestead were stopping people outside the polls and asking for identification.

    The order states: “Individuals outside the polls are prohibited from questioning, obstructing, interrogating or asking about any form of identification and/demanding any form of identification from any prospective voter.”

    Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Guido A. DeAngelis, one of two judges overseeing Elections Court, issued the order and said such actions by partisans “could have a chilling effect” on voting.

    Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning, who also is overseeing the court this morning, said the only people permitted to ask for ID are the poll workers inside the voting locations.

    The GOP ‘poll observers’ have the same agenda as those who enacted poll taxes and literacy tests. Scum.

  12. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Geek, Esq.: Oh, I see. Because some jerks act like jerks OUTSIDE the polls, it’s OK to physically remove court-appointed observers INSIDE the polls.

    Makes perfect sense to me.

  13. Just Me says:

    @Geek, Esq.: Oh, I see. Because some jerks act like jerks OUTSIDE the polls, it’s OK to physically remove court-appointed observers INSIDE the polls.

    And only if they are Repubilicans.

    And once again these are a group of people appointed by the courts to do what they were at the polls to do.

  14. Mr. Replica says:

    While I do not condone people intimidating others outside of a voting place. I want to know a few things.

    1) Are these Black Panthers walking into the building and forcing people to vote for who they deem worthy of office? Are they standing in the voting area/booth to make sure people vote the way they want them to?

    2) Who are these people trying to intimidate? Are they forcing people to vote for a certain party or candidate and or are they keeping people away if they know if a person will vote for a candidate or party that they do not like?

    3) Are there actually any documented cases of people being forced away from voting or physically harmed and the police did nothing about it?

    If what the article from TheBlaze says is true, it seems what they are doing is not illegal. And If no one can give me any evidence of these people actually assaulting, turning people away, or forcing people to vote for a certain candidate/party, at what point is this outrage supposed to be taken seriously?

  15. C. Clavin says:

    It’s nice that every once in a while Indiana Jones…oops…Jenos shows up with a racist screed. There is something about consistency that is comforting.

    Early yet, but the polls…and even intrade…point to Turtle Face McConnell being a complete failure. He most likely has failed to make Obama a one term President and he most likely has failed to win the Senate.

    I would like to see Obama call him out soon after the elction is over…Mitch, baby…you failed…now drop the hyper-partisanship and contribute to the hard work of governing. Drop the my-way-or-the-highway approach and work for the country. Do what you are paid for…legislate.

  16. Geek, Esq. says:

    @Mr. Replica:

    In this case, the NBPP individual was guilty of:

    (1) smiling at people;
    (2) holding the door open for people;
    (3) being black

    Which is enough for the Fox News crowd to hide their women and children.

  17. superdestroyer says:

    Why would anyone believe that a party that is collapsing at the national level to be able to pick up seats in the Senate or the House. In the next two years, the U.S. will probably experience moderate economic growth. All the Democrats have to go is keep avoiding any responsibility, add millions to the entitlement rolls with the ACA, and the Democrats should be cruising to more victories in the future.

    The only hope that the Republicans have in two years is that the demographic wave that is swamping them will be less severe due to it being an off year election. Of course, what ever the Democrats fail to gain in two years, it can make for in 2016 when the media will be forced to stop pretending that the Republican Party is a national political party.

  18. C. Clavin says:

    Indiana Jones….oops…Jenos links to a Washington Examiner op-ed column that has no sources or verifiable facts…and trolls the thread.
    So…a racist troll. Wait…is that redundant?

  19. Mr. Replica says:

    Which is enough for the Fox News crowd to hide their women and children.


  20. ptfe says:

    @Geek, Esq.: That’s one of the most incriminating videos I’ve seen of voter intimidation. He combines blacktacular blackness with a blackitudinous smile and that blackible way of opening the door that practically screams, “Vote for the black guy or else.” Or something.

  21. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Just Me:

    Are there seriously people here defending kicking court appointed minority poll waters out of the polls? Seriously?”

    No, there are seriously people here that are tired of lending any sort of legitimacy to the opinions of our resident racist commenters.


  22. Sejanus says:

    @Geek, Esq.: “Democrats, well maybe Begich and Hagan and possibly Landrieu. ”

    I’ll add Jeff Merkley to the list of Democrats in danger, seeing that he may not have won in 2008 without the constitution party stealing Republican votes.