Nate Silver: Republicans slight favorites to win Senate

Nate Silver, the political forecasting guru, rates Republican chances of capturing the Senate at around 60 percent. Last summer, he rated the battle for control of the Senate as a toss-up.

Silver attributes the downturn in Democratic fortunes to the decline of President Obama’s approval rating and to the successful recruiting, “with some exceptions,” of good Republican candidates.

Republicans need to pick up six Senate seats. Silver sees only four seats as likely Republican pickups: Arkansas, Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia.

However, Silver also sees four races as toss-ups: Alaska, Louisiana, Michigan, and North Carolina. Even I remember enough probability theory to realize that 4 plus one-half of 4 equals six.

Of course, the Dems have opportunities to pick up Republican held seats (and the races in Arkansas, Montana, etc. aren’t sure things). They are targeting Georgia and Kentucky. Silver rates these races as leaning Republican but in play.

But the possibility of Democratic success in Georgia and/or Kentucky is apparently offset (or more) by the possibility of Republicans winning in the following “leans Democratic” states: Colorado, Iowa, and New Hampshire. By contrast, Silver discounts Republican prospects in three states that partisans, at least, see as in play: Michigan, Minnesota, and Oregon.

Silver’s status is such that the Democrats promptly pushed back. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) sent out a memo pointing to red states where Democrats surpassed Silver’s expectations in 2012. Memo to the DSCC: this isn’t 2012.

But even as Democrats pushback on Silver’s analysis, they use it freely to raise funds. Scott Bland of The National Journal points out that “the DSCC has sent at least 11 fundraising e-mails in the past four months with Silver in the subject line, an apparent attempt to secure donations by raising alarm bells about the landscape as Silver has pointed to danger for Democrats in the midterms.”

Silver himself concludes with this note:

The balance has shifted slightly toward the GOP. But it wouldn’t take much for it to revert to the Democrats, nor for this year to develop into a Republican rout along the lines of 2010.

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