Last-minute momentum shift puts Senate majority within reach for Republicans
This week, at the very end of their campaign, Republicans will take the Senate seat long held by Democratic Sen. Max Baucus, the top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Finance. (That doesn’t mean they will control the chamber: the GOP holds 54 seats to the Democrats’ 46, and Baucus’ seat is not really competitive.)
Republicans’ success this year has been mostly a function of the party’s strong ground game in rural and exurban areas, and the party’s ability to put its message out.
Baucus, in other words, is just one of the Senate’s 13 special elections. The rest of them all require that the seat be decided by Nov. 4.
And these special elections have been relatively close races, as is evident in the results from 2012 and in this year’s midterm elections. This year’s two special elections have also been especially close.
But the election of Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) is really a race between Tester and current Republican Sen. Steve Daines, who will be defending his seat in 2014. Tester is running against the unpopular Democratic incumbent, who spent millions to defeat him in 2012 thanks to a controversial ad campaign touting an out-of-state college degree as a qualification (he’s an English professor at a community college).
For now, it also looks like he’s about to have a tough time defending his seat: Tester is leading Daines by a margin of 9.4 points in an average of recent polls, but Tester has not led by double digits for more than a year, when Daines was ahead by 10.9 points in an average of polls going back to 2010.
The race is going to be decided by a handful of undecided voters, among them voters who haven’t seen the Daines ad; they may conclude that the Tester is the candidate who is most likely to represent their values.
“I’m not as confident as I was a