Playoffs this fall
By Seymour Klierly
Fall typically brings tailgating, trash talking and hard nose fights on the field. As the college football season kicks off, most eyes are on Florida State, Alabama, Oklahoma and Oregon as the early leaders to make the first ever playoff for the national championship. Off the gridiron, North Carolina, Arkansas, Louisiana and Alaska are four of the top states to watch in this fall’s midterm elections, which will decide control of the United States Senate. For the football teams and challenged politicians, all eyes are on their tightly watched races.
This year Republicans need to win six seats away from the Democrats in order to take control of the upper legislative chamber. If the party is able to defend their own seats and keep multiple races competitive, the pressure will continue to build on the Democrat incumbents in red states. Republicans are poised to pick up seats in Montana, West Virginia and South Dakota and are focused on beating Sens. Kay Hagan, D-NC; Mark Pryor, D-AR; Mary Landrieu, D-LA; and Mark Begich, D-AK.
Just like the pre-season college football rankings, the polling in the Senate races indicates that there will be several close races. Sports and political statistician, Nate Silver, is forecasting a Republican takeover of the Senate. “Summing the probabilities of each race yields an estimate of 51 seats for Republicans. That makes them very slight favorites—perhaps somewhere in the neighborhood of 60-40—to take control of the Senate, but also doesn’t leave them much room for error.”
With a little over two months left until the Nov. 4 elections, Silver’s website FiveThirtyEight predicts that Pryor and Landrieu will lose by 10 and 5 points, with Hagan and Begich in pure toss up races with 50-50 chances. Winning three of those four races would likely send Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, to the minority along with the rest of the Democrats in the Senate. The outlook is bad news for President Barack Obama who still has two years left to leave his legacy.
In any early season ranking, there is the possibility for a dark horse candidate to completely change the entire outlook. In 2010 and 2012, Republicans in Indiana, Delaware and Missouri nominated flawed tea-party aligned candidates who eventually lost to Democrats. In 2014, Republicans had a deeper bench in the primary elections and appear to have nominated higher quality candidates.
This year, the Democrats are sweating several low quality candidates who could upset the apple cart. Already, Sen. John Walsh, D-MT, has dropped out of his election campaign due to plagiarism allegations. In the open seat in Iowa, State Sen. Bruce Braley has been reeling after a leaked video showed him criticizing popular Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-IA, as “a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school.”
The field for the fall is now set and the cameras are rolling. Whether or not the pollsters are correct, there should be several exciting games and campaigns throughout the fall, including countless annoying commercials.
Editor’s note: Seymour Klierly writes Washington Whispers for the Journal from inside the Beltway.