We have said for over a year that this would be a close, hard fought race and not to underestimate Sherrod Brown. I said in June 2011:
Make no mistake, Sherrod Brown is a shrewd politician. Most of us know he is the most liberal, tax-loving, anti-business member of the Senate. But he's done a very good job of crafting his image of someone more populist and mainstream.Ohio Senate races are usually pretty lopsided affairs, but I still believe this one is going to be a dead heat all the way until November. Let's take a look at some recent polling.
And this brings me to one more reason I believe this race will be close, and we have a shot at beating him. He now has a record that will be exposed statewide. And our side will be certain to educate Ohio voters about how far left Sherrod Brown really is.
The last 4 polls that we have seen have the following results: Dead even, Brown +7, Brown +1, Dead even.
The Brown +7 result comes from the CBS/NYT/Quinnipiac poll, and once again they used a Dem +8 sample, which is crazy. If you account for the lopsided partisan sample, that poll also becomes a statistical dead heat.
The Ohio Democratic Party and others, like the Plunderpals (but I repeat myself), want you to believe that Josh Mandel is on the ropes and has no chance. The reality is that Brown has plateaued and Mandel is surging. Bottom line: this race is going to remain a tossup until election night.
U.S. Senate balance of power
I have seen some pundits make the statement that control of the Senate hinges on the Brown/Mandel result. Believe me, I would like nothing better than to see Sherrod Brown kicked out of office, but it is not critical to the Republicans chances of claiming the Senate.
First, let's make some safe and conservative assumptions about some of the races. We need to flip 3 seats to make it 50-50 in the Senate. Before Todd Akin contracted diarrhea of the mouth and then refused to drop out of the race, I think getting to at least 50-50 was a slam dunk, based on the following races:
Wisconsin: Tommy Thompson is popular and cruising to a win. Flip to GOP.
North Dakota: Rick Berg should cruise to a win over Heitkamp. Flip to GOP.
Nebraska: Replacing Ben Nelson with Bob Kerrey didn't help. Deb Fischer will crush him. Flip to GOP.
Montana: This one is closer, but its still a safe bet that Rehberg will unseat Jon Tester. Flip to GOP.
Missouri: Claire McCaskill is deeply unpopular. This SHOULD be an assumed safe flip to GOP.
Maine: We're going to lose this one. King is an indy, but expected to caucus with Democrats. Flip to Dems.
Massachusetts: For the sake of argument for now, lets assume Scott Brown loses. Flip to Dems.
These races would result in a +3 net gain for the GOP and tie up the Senate. Now you see why it is so important for Todd Akin to withdraw from the race. Its not impossible for him to win, but its very very unlikely. I still include him above because I think he may have stayed in initially to see what the polls looked like. But as they start coming in looking like this, and with just about every Republican in the country, including Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and Reince Priebus asking him to step aside, I believe he will have to face reality sooner or later. (Hopefully sooner.)
So that puts us at 50-50, which gives us control if Mitt Romney wins. But for an outright majority, there are many other pickup opportunities for the GOP. Let's take a look.
Ohio: Obviously, we all know this one well. It will be close.
Virginia: In this rematch between Kaine and Allen, no other race has been so evenly divided. The RCP average is currently a dead tie.
Florida: This race is a lot like Ohio's. The Democrat incumbent has been maintaining a very small lead.
Connecticut: Yes, really. RCP has moved this race to tossup and Rasmussen just published a poll showing Linda McMahon in the lead. This is Joe Lieberman's seat, who is retiring.
Michigan: A poll came out today showing Pete Hoekstra beating Debbie Stabenow. It might be an outlier, but it is the first poll published since he won his primary. Definitely need to keep watching.
That's 5 races where we are competitive right now. And we only have to win ONE of them. And I'd like to also come back to Massachusetts. I assumed above that Scott Brown would lose and we would give this one up, but it's actually a tossup. In fact, several polls show him ahead, and he is ahead in the RCP average. If he does win, we don't need to win ANY of those 5 races.
On the flip-side, there are few opportunities for the Democrats to flip seats. We've already conceded Maine and Massachusetts. The only other opportunity they have is MAYBE Indiana. But absent an Akin style meltdown by Mourdock, I just don't see that happening.
So what's my bottom line? I do think that we will end up winning control of the Senate. My hope is that Todd Akin considers the sake of his country and his party, and does the right thing. If he does, we go back to it being almost a lock for power to change hands. But absent that, I still think we will end up with 51 seats in the Senate, to 49 seats for the Democrats.
But if things work out right, and we can push candidates like Josh Mandel to victory and hold Massachusetts, then I think we could be looking at 53-54.