For months, political prognosticators have acted like the Democrats winning a Senate majority was a foregone conclusion.
With Republicans having to defend 24 seats to the Democrats 10, the map favored Democrats seizing control of the Senate.
But there is one variable that may keep the Republicans in control no matter who wins the Presidential election.
Defeating incumbent politicians is always difficult.
In Senate races, where candidates must build statewide name identification and fundraising networks, the task becomes even more difficult.
So even though Democrats need to win just five seats – four if Hillary wins the Presidency and Vice President Tim Kaine can cast tiebreaking votes – the quality of Democrat candidates may be what allows Republican Senators to win races they otherwise may have lost.
The New York Times reports:
“But just as Senate Republicans blew their chances in 2010 and 2012 before finally taking control in 2014, Democrats find themselves hobbled by less-than-stellar candidates in races that could make the difference in winning a majority.
In Pennsylvania, Katie McGinty, a relatively unknown former federal official who has never held elective office, is ahead in polls but lags Hillary Clinton’s large lead in the state. In Florida, a nasty primary between two flawed candidates could harm the Democrats’ chance to unseat Senator Marco Rubio.
Several high-profile Democrats turned down the chance to challenge Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina before they settled on a civil liberties lawyer, Deborah Ross, who is not necessarily a good fit for suburban voters there. Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat and former state attorney general now running for an open seat in Nevada, has also failed to catch fire.
To challenge 82-year-old Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, Democrats settled on 72-year-old Patty Judge. Senator Rob Portman’s Democratic challenger in Ohio, former Gov. Ted Strickland, is 75, an easy target for Mr. Portman’s taunting nickname, “Retread Ted.”
The Democrats’ problem stems from a depletion of their ranks in state legislatures and governors’ mansions over recent years and a lack of institutional support for grass-roots-level politicians who represent a changing base.”
Democrats are heavily favored to oust Republican incumbents in Illinois and Wisconsin.
In New Hampshire, the Democrat challenger has a good chance to defeat incumbent Republican Kelly Ayotte.
But the open seat race in Nevada to replace Harry Reid is a toss-up race where the Republican candidate – Congressman Joe Heck – has run a strong campaign.
That Republican pickup could negate one loss and force the Democrats to win an extra race.
And in contests where the Republican incumbent is either not very strong or is running in a state Hillary could carry – such as Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio, or Pennsylvania – the Democrat challenger is very weak.
Polls show Republicans ahead in Iowa, North Carolina, and Ohio.
In Pennsylvania, the Democrat challenger – Katie McGinty – holds a margin of error lead and is polling below Hillary Clinton.
With Donald Trump stabilizing his poll numbers after a disastrous period in early August where they cratered, the quality of the Democrats’ candidates in the Senate could be what prevents Hillary Clinton’s ally Chuck Schumer from ascending to the position of Majority Leader.