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Odds Say Republicans Will Maintain US Senate Majority After Midterms

Don Aguero

by Don Aguero in Politics News

Updated Mar 30, 2020 · 9:57 AM PDT

Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell is optimistic about the upcoming midterms. Can the Republicans hold onto their majority?
Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell is optimistic about the upcoming midterms. Can the Republicans hold onto their majority? Photo by Donkey HOtey (flickr).
  • The upcoming midterm election is under a month away
  • The Republicans currently hold a slight 51-49 majority in the Senate, giving them control of both chambers of Congress
  • Can the Democrats flip the Senate on November 6th?

The Republicans hold the majority in the Senate by a single vote. If they lose a mere two seats in the November Midterms, Congress’ upper chamber will flip Democratic. The party in opposition usually over-performs during the midterms, especially when the President is unpopular. Trump’s approval rating hasn’t floated above 50% since he took office and Democratic voters are eager to use the Midterms to rally against him.

All this is good news for the Democrats. So why are the Republicans still favored to hold control of the Senate come November 7th? To understand why the Dems face such an uphill battle for the Senate, we need to dive into the numbers. Grab your calculators, it’s time for some math!

2018 Senate Midterm Odds

Who Will Hold The Senate Majority After the Midterms?  Odds
Republican Majority -260
Democratic Majority +450
No Overall Majority +400

Republican Senate Seats After Midterms Odds

Number Of Republican Senate Seats After Midterms Odds
49 or Less +450
50 +600
51 +600
52 +400
53 +450
54 +600
55 +800
56 +1000
57 +2000
58 +2500
59 +2500
60 or More +2000

Guaranteed Seats

  • Republican: 42 seats
  • Democrat: 23 seats

Right out of the gate, the Democrats start at a huge disadvantage. A third of the Senate is up for election — 33 seats — and it’s mostly the Dems playing defense. The Republicans have just nine seats on the line; the Democrats have a whopping 26 (including the two independents who caucus with the Dems). The Republicans are guaranteed 42 seats after the midterms; the Democrats can only be sure of 23. That already sounds pretty bad for the men and women in opposition.

But wait, it gets worse!

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Safe Seats

  • Republican: 4 seats
  • Democrat: 13 seats

Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi), Deb Fischer (R-Nebraska), and John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) are expected to sail through to a comfortable re-election, and Mitt Romney should easily take over Orrin Hatch’s seat in Utah. It would be a truly bizarre twist for the Republicans to lose any of those four seats. That leaves just five red seats in play for the Democrats.

Depending on how optimistic you are, the Democrats can afford to count between 13 to 19 chickens before they hatch. After how poorly the forecasters predicted the 2016 election, let’s err on the side of caution and stick to the lower bound. 13 safe seats is plenty, but it still leaves another 13 in play.

Forget the Blue Wave; the Democrats need a Blue Tsunami.

If we take the phrase “safe seats” at face value, then the Senate count sits at: Republicans 46, Democrats 38. The Republicans are just five seats short of the majority, while the Democrats still need to win 13. Forget the Blue Wave; the Democrats need a Blue Tsunami.

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Seats In Play

  • Republican: 5
  • Democrat: 13

This is the point where the forecasts diverge. The categories and ratings vary wildly depending on the forecaster (and boy are there a lot of them). There’s ‘lean’, ‘likely’, ‘tilt’, and ‘tossup’ to name a few — and those terms aren’t always well defined. So let’s let’s paint with a broad brush. Any seat that isn’t widely considered ‘safe’ is ‘in play’. That puts five Republican seats and 11 Democratic seats in play.

The categories and ratings vary wildly depending on the forecaster.

It’s slim picking for the Democrats. Jeff Flake’s vacated seat in Arizona and Dean Heller’s in Nevada are both considered ‘tossups’ by virtually every forecaster, so those are the two seats most likely to turn blue. There’s also a strangely close race for Ted Cruz’ seat in Texas, and Bob Corker’s vacated seat in Tennessee is within reach. Then there’s Cindy Hyde-Smith’s seat in Mississippi, but that one will be significantly tougher to flip.

The Republicans have quite a few more options. They have a particularly good shot at unseating four Democrats — Bill Nelson (D-Florida), Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana), Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), and Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota) — and that would be enough to not only remain in control of the Senate, but also increase their majority. The Democrats are fighting tooth and nail to hold on to those four seats, and that’s to say nothing of the nine other seats they could conceivably lose.

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Picks and Predictions

Here are my predictions:

  • Heidi Heitkamp (D) loses her seat
  • One of the following lose their seat: Claire McCaskill (D), Joe Donnelly (D), Bill Nelson (D)
  • Jeff Flake’s (R) vacated seat goes to the Democrats
  • Dean Heller (R) loses his seat
  • Ted Cruz (R) loses his seat

That would result in a net gain of one seat for the Democrats and a 50-50 split in the Senate, which still hands control to the Republicans since Vice President Mike Pence is the tiebreaker.

Picks: No Majority (+400) and 50 Republican Senators (+600)

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