Earlier this week we offered a pre-Labor Day assessment of the midterm state of play in the Senate, House, and gubernatorial races coming up in November. The conclusion of that piece, written in Politico Magazine, is as follows:
The overall picture is this: A Republican Senate gain of four-to-eight seats, with a GOP Senate pickup of six-to-seven seats the likeliest outcome; a GOP gain of somewhere around a half-dozen seats in the House; and little net party change in the gubernatorial lineup even as a few incumbents lose. So what could shift these projections in a significant way, beyond candidate implosions that move individual races on and off the board?
For Democrats, the road to a better result than what we’ve sketched out is Republicans’ ideological disunity and their refusal to march together tactically and strategically. (The destructive sideshow over potentially impeaching President Obama is a prime example.) Last October, Democrats saw, briefly, how the government shutdown boosted their numbers. When Congress returns next month, Democrats hope Republicans will act foolishly just before the election, perhaps during consideration of a short-term continuing resolution to fund the government that Speaker Boehner will have to get through the House.
For Republicans, a further curdling of President Obama’s approval ratings would be welcome. Foreign crises haven’t really moved the needle yet, but one wonders if the racial passions unleashed by the events in Ferguson, Missouri, combined with international strife, could have some cumulative effect. The president’s approval rating — though low — has remained fairly stable in 2014, ranging between about 41% and 44%. That could change as crises develop and partisan rhetoric escalates in the campaign’s concluding months.
For political junkies, the election season never ends. But Labor Day, the traditional starting point of the general election for most normal people, draws near. The state of many key races, including enough Senate seats to decide the majority, remains fluid, and it is the Senate that will define this midterm. Given electoral conditions and the red-leaning geography of the map, Republicans have few credible excuses if they don’t take Senate control in January. GOP hopes in the Senate have been dashed in the previous four elections; if there’s a fifth this November, Republicans will have only themselves to blame.
With that in mind, we are tweaking a handful of ratings this week in all three of our categories.
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