Feb. 6, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

For Democrats, Senate Still a Possible Nightmare

Delaware’s Republican primary may well have lulled Democrats into a sense of complacency about their ability to hold the Senate after November’s elections. They would be wise to wake up if they want to avoid a nasty surprise on election night.

Tea party activists did indeed do Democrats a huge favor in selecting Christine O’Donnell (R) to oppose New Castle County Executive Chris Coons (D) in the fall.

Yes, Coons is an unabashed liberal, and he almost certainly would have fallen to Rep. Mike Castle (R) in an election cycle when voters are dissatisfied with Democratic governance and focused on issues such as spending and big government. But most voters don’t care about ideology, and O’Donnell’s worldview and agenda simply do not fit Delaware.

Smart Republicans know they will win if the 2010 elections are about Democrats, not about the Republican candidate’s background or ideology. Tea party activists apparently don’t get that, even though it isn’t a complicated idea.

O’Donnell’s primary victory notwithstanding, Republicans are still headed for major Senate gains, and a 10-seat gain isn’t impossible.

With a month to go until Nov. 2, Republicans have a clear advantage in five seats held by Democrats, with another five seats still in play.

Unless things change, Republicans will likely hold all 18 of their seats up this cycle. No GOP incumbent is in any trouble — even Sens. Richard Burr (N.C.) and David Vitter (La.), who seemed at some risk early on, look headed for comfortable victories — and Republican open seats appear to be at limited risk.

Of the open seats, Kelly Ayotte (R) looks like a solid bet over Rep. Paul Hodes (D) in New Hampshire, and Rob Portman (R) has opened up a lead over underfunded Lee Fisher (D) in Ohio.

In Florida, Independent Charlie Crist appears to be slipping, and that should all but guarantee the election of former state Speaker Marco Rubio (R).

That leaves Kentucky and Missouri, where weak Republicans are likely to take advantage of a good political environment to hang on to GOP seats.

While Democrats like to talk about Kentucky as “within the margin of error,” most surveys show Rand Paul (R) ahead, probably by somewhere from 3 to 6 points — meaning that the contest could be anywhere from even to Paul up by 8 or 9 points.

While the campaign of Jack Conway (D) claims momentum and portrays the contest as even, there is little reason to see Kentucky as a pure tossup. Paul clearly has a narrow but important edge, with few undecided voters in some surveys.

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