But it’s House Democrats who will need resilience in the face of a different kind of powerful storm.
The GOP wave in 2010 gave Republicans control of not just the House of Representatives, but also a number of state legislatures. That left Republicans controlling the redraw of far more House seats than Democrats and allowed them to cement recent gains. One recent study from New York University estimated that Republicans will be poised to keep long-term control of 11 more seats now than the party would have under the old lines.
A number of retirements in unfavorable districts also bedeviled Democrats this cycle, undermining their ability to chart a path back to control. And well-timed and well-positioned GOP independent expenditure spending — though matched for much of the cycle by outside Democratic spending — has also added to the party’s woes.
“It was always kind of far-fetched to think that Democrats would win back the House in just one cycle,” Democratic pollster Dave Beattie said.
Early on this cycle, it was also a less-than-even proposition that Democrats could retain control of the Senate, but a lot went right for them over the past year, and the party is now well-positioned to keep control. Still, the Senate majority is riding on a long list of close races that, given the uncertainty in the presidential race, makes any predictions tenuous.
Two Senate seats likely to flip party control are no longer viewed as competitive. Former Maine Gov. Angus King (I) is likely to win a three-way contest for the seat of retiring Sen. Olympia Snowe (R), and both parties expect he will caucus with Democrats. Nebraska state Sen. Deb Fischer (R) is expected to defeat former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D) for the seat of retiring Sen. Ben Nelson (D).
That leaves Democrats’ 53-47 majority in tact. To close that gap, Republicans must defeat Tester in Montana and pick up the open Democratic seat in North Dakota, where Heidi Heitkamp (D) is taking on Rep. Rick Berg (R). Romney will win both states with ease, yet both races are tossups with a week to go.
Should Romney win the White House and assuming the GOP wins both of those seats, Republicans would need to win just one more Democratic seat for a 50-50 Senate — as long as the party doesn’t lose any other seats. The GOP’s most likely possibilities for offense include the open seats in Virginia and Wisconsin, where Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) is taking on former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R). Ohio would be next, where state Treasurer Josh Mandel (R) is challenging Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) in the most targeted presidential state in the country.
Republican candidates are also making waves in Pennsylvania, where self-funding businessman Tom Smith (R) has closed in on Sen. Bob Casey (D), and in Connecticut, where former WWE CEO Linda McMahon (R) is competing against Rep. Christopher Murphy (D). Both states that were hardly on the radar at the beginning of the year have attracted an influx of outside spending in the past month.
“In many ways the battle for the Senate reflects what we’re also seeing in the presidential race — a lot of very close battles but a continued trend in the Republicans’ direction as more voters focus on the Democrats’ failed economic leadership,” National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brian Walsh said.
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