Saturday, February 8, 2014

Control of the Senate in 2014 -- some descriptive statistics and discussion

Issue:  Political Commentators are of the view that the 2014 election will be a tough year for Democratic Senate candidates and that there is a high likelihood that the Democrats will lose control of the Senate? 

Why are many political analysts so negative on the Democrats chances in 2014?

What other factors might influence the impact of the contest for Senate control?

Situation:  

There appear to be three factors giving the Republicans an advantage in 2014   –open seats are in states leaning Republican, several Democrats that won with Obama 2008 coattails are up for reelection, and Blue States tend to be more competitive than Red States.


Assessment: 

Open Seats: 

Open seats are important because there tends to be high party turnover when incumbents quit.   There are eight open Senate seats in 2014

State
Obama Vote Percentage in 2012
Georgia
45%
Iowa
52%
Michigan
54%
Montana
42%
Nebraska
38%
Oklahoma (special)
33%
South Dakota
40%
West Virginia
36%



  • ·      6 of 8 open-seat states went to Romney in 2012.



  • ·      The Obama percentage in the two blue states (Iowa and Michigan) was smaller than the Romney percentage (100- Obama percentage not including third candidate) in the six red states.  


  • ·      Democrats are retiring in six of the eight states with open seats.  Republicans can easily prevail in three of these states (South Dakota, Montana and Montana.)


  • ·      Political pros believe that the Democrats are running strong races in Georgia and Kentucky.  This may offset Democratic losses elsewhere.



Weaker Democratic Incumbents:

In 2014 more Democratic incumbents are facing stiff challenges than Republican incumbents.   There are two potential reasons.  First, 2008 was a great year for Democrats due to President Obama’s coattails.  As a result, some relatively weak Democrats are up for reelection.  Second, in general blue states may be more competitive with red states.

Statistics on incumbent percentage in 2008 and 2012 Obama percentage are presented below.



Party of Incumbent
Incumbent 2008 Vote %
2012 Obama %
Alaska
D
48%
41%
Arkansas
D
80%
37%
Colorado
D
53%
51%
Delaware
D
57%
59%
Illinois
D
68%
57%
Louisiana
D
52%
41%
Minnesota
D
42%
53%
New Hampshire
D
52%
52%
New Jersey
D
56%
58%
New Mexico
D
61%
53%
North Carolina
D
53%
51%
Oregon
D
49%
54%
Rhode Island
D
73%
63%
Virginia
D
65%
51%
Alabama
R
63%
38%
Idaho
R
58%
33%
Kansas
R
60%
38%
Kentucky
R
53%
38%
Maine
R
61%
56%
Mississippi
R
62%
44%
Oklahoma
R
57%
33%
South Carolina
R
58%
44%
Tennessee
R
65%
39%
Texas
R
55%
41%
Wyoming
R
76%
28%


Analysis of likely turnover for races where incumbent is seeking reelection:

  • ·      14 Democratic Incumbents are facing reelection compared to 11 Republicans


  • ·      The 2012 average Obama percentage in the states with a Democratic Incumbent was 52%.   The average Obama percentage in the states with a Republican Incumbent was 39%.  In general, the Democratic Incumbents are in more challenging races than the Republican Incumbents.


  • ·      Three Democratic incumbents are in states won by Romney (Alaska, Arkansas, and Louisiana).  All three states are considered tossups by the political pros.  Note that the incumbent in Arkansas (Mark Pryor) won by a landslide in 2008.  This race is now a coin flip.


  • ·      Only one Republican Susan Collins in Maine is in a state won by Obama.  Political pros do not consider her race in jeopardy.


  • ·      Political pros believe that Democratic incumbents are vulnerable in North Carolina, Arkansas, and Alaska.  Actually several other races (Minnesota, Colorado, Oregon, and New Hampshire) were highly contested in 2008 and could also be highly contested again in 2014.


  • ·      States where Tea Party challengers may unseat established Republicans include – Tennessee, Kansas, South Carolina and Mississippi.  Democrats have won Senate races in red states – Missouri and Indiana both in 2012 – when the Republicans nominated weaker candidates.  Control of the Senate may depend on whether the Democrats can effectively respond to opportunities created by Tea Party candidates unseating highly favored Republicans.


  • ·      Political pros appear to be ignoring two races -- Minnesota and Oregon -- where Democrats barely won in 2008 despite large Obama coattails.  The Minnesota race was decided in court in 2008.   Both states remain blue states but both states are having trouble implementing the ACA and both states will be closely contested in 2104.



Concluding Thoughts:  The political landscape strongly favors Republicans in their quest for the Senate in 2104.   Political pros by concentrating on 10 top Senate races may be understating potential turnover.  It is a bit strange that a Senator in Arkansas who won with 80% of the vote is viewed as more vulnerable than a Senator from Minnesota who won by 250 votes in 2102. 



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