The Prognosis for the Senate

While we hear in the media that party control of the Senate for the coming term is still up in the air, I would suggest that it isn’t very far up in the air.  I think it looks pretty clear that the Republicans will be keeping their majority.

First, some math.  Right now, the count of officially called races is a tie, 48 to 48, leaving four seats theoretically unresolved.  The Republicans need 51 seats to hold a majority.  The Democrats only need 50 seats for that, because that would be a tie, and the vice-president–who in this case is going to be Kamala Harris–breaks the tie.  However, as I’m about to demonstrate, there’s every probability that the Republicans are going to have 52 seats in the Senate when the dealing’s done.

Of the four unresolved seats, two are in North Carolina and Alaska.  In each of those states ,the Republican candidate appears to be winning.  The other two are both in Georgia.  Georgia had the rare occurrence this year of two Senate elections in the same state, one regular and one special.  And in each of those Georgia Senate contests, with no candidate getting an outright majority, there’s going to be a runoff election in January between the top two vote-getters.  Both parties, of course, are pouring millions into the campaigns for those two seats; from the point of view of both parties, the battle for the soul of America is continuing.

As of Monday morning, the presidential contest in Georgia has not yet been called for either candidate, but Biden is ahead.  That might appear to look good for the Democratic candidates.  However, here’s the kicker:  in the same state where Biden is ahead in the presidential contest, in each of the Senate contests, though there’s no single candidate with a majority, the Democratic candidate is behind.

In the regular election, Republican David Perdue has 49.7% of the vote while Democrat Jon Ossoff has 47.9% and Libertarian Shane Hazel has 2.3%.  In the runoff, the Libertarian will be gone, but I highly doubt that even one Libertarian voter is going to vote for the Democrat.  Libertarians, while they tend to be liberal on the subjects of abortion and legalizing marijuana, are against all social welfare programs and most government regulations of business; they oppose government intervention and intrusion across the board.  They will most likely either stay home or vote for Perdue; they’re not going to vote for Ossoff in any significant numbers.

In the special election, by a quirk in the setup, there were two Republicans and one Democrat all running at once last Tuesday.  The Democratic candidate is Rev. Raphael Warnock, who is African American and the pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.  He has 32.9% of the vote, but he is outnumbered by the two Republicans combined, Kelly Loeffler with 25.9% and Doug Collins with 20%.  So, Warnock will be up against Loeffler.

In each of the runoff races, the Republican candidate is the incumbent.  (Loeffler was appointed by the governor to fill a vacant seat in mid-term.)  Incumbents usually have an advantage to begin with.  What’s more, in Georgia, Republicans have an advantage as well.  Although Biden is ahead in the still-unfinished vote count for president in Georgia, that state has not been considered a swing state before, but rather, a solidly Republican state.  Stacey Abrams has substantially increased the Democratic electorate in Georgia with a massive voter registration drive, and that undoubtedly made a difference in the presidential electoral vote, but again, it didn’t stop the Democratic candidates from being outnumbered last week.

Assuming that the Republicans win the unresolved Senate seats from North Carolina and Alaska–which it very much appears they’re going to do–the Democrats need both of those Georgia seats to have a majority, with Vice President Harris tie-breaking vote, in the Senate.  In order for that to happen, there would have to be an even greater Democratic turnout at the polls for the January runoff election than there was for the presidential election last week.  And while the Democratic Party is trying hard to make that happen, it doesn’t seem particularly likely.  It’s important to remember that turnout is usually considerably lower in nonpresidential elections, and that low voter turnout tends to favor Republicans, because Republicans are the more consistent and reliable voters.   Another important thing that needs to be remembered is that some of the people who voted for Biden are Republicans who would have voted for a Republican candidate for president if that candidate had been anyone other than Trump.  Those voters are still going to want a Republican majority in the Senate.  As a matter of fact–and here is the really key point where those voters are concerned–the narrative among Republicans is that a Republican Senate majority will be the only thing stopping Biden and Harris from turning the United States into a socialist dictatorship.

So again, the Democrats (like the Republicans) will be pouring millions of dollars into these two runoffs in January, in the hopes of taking a majority in the Senate, but they have every strike against them when it comes to the chances of victory there.

Article in Politico, November 8, 2020


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