Can the GOP Win the Senate This November?

By:  Warren Mass
Can the GOP Win the Senate This November?

Political pundits were quick to discuss whether Republican David Jolly’s victory in a March 12 special election in Florida was an early indicator of a GOP takeover of the Senate in the November elections. 

However, this single house election is less significant than results surfacing in recent national opinion polls, as well as historic trends suggesting that the party occupying the White House usually loses seats in Congress in the mid-term elections, especially during the president’s second term.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll released on March 4 indicated that when registered voters were asked: “If an election for the U.S. Senate were being held in your state today, would you vote for (the Democratic candidate) or (the Republican candidate)?” a very slim plurality of overall respondents (46 percent to 45 percent) chose the Democratic candidate. More significantly, however, when the results were limited to states where there will be a Senate elections this year, the Republican candidate was chosen by 50 percent of those polled, with the generic Democrat receiving only 42 percent.

The results of this poll reflect the characteristics of our federal system, in which every state is represented equally in the Senate, an intentional (and non-amendable) provision in our Constitution designed to prevent the domination of our government by large population states.

Thirty-six Senate seats will be decided in 2014, 21 of which are currently held by a Democratic incumbent and 15 currently held by a Republican. Republicans need to pick up six seats in November to gain control of the Senate.

Among other questions asked by the Washington Post/ABC News poll, 38 percent said they would be less likely to vote for a congressional candidate who supported a “path to citizenship” (amnesty) for “undocumented” (illegal) immigrants, 30 percent would be more likely to vote for such a candidate, and 29 percent said it wouldn’t make much difference. On a possible Hillary Clinton run for the White House, only 25 percent would definitely vote for Clinton, 41 percent would consider voting for her, and 32 percent definitely would not vote for her. If a congressional candidate supports ObamaCare, 34 percent would be more likely to vote for the candidate, 36 percent would be less likely, and 27 percent said it wouldn’t make much difference.

A Reuters News article published on March 8, four days before the Florida special election, advanced the viewpoint that, although the outcome was expected to be close, the number of Senate races in which Republicans are now competitive has increased, giving the GOP a good chance of regaining control of the upper house. Reuters noted that the results of recent polls indicates Republicans have big leads in three states — Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia — all having longtime Democratic senators who have retired or will retire at the end of their current term.

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