Final 2016 Senate Predictions

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Avoiding a Donald Trump presidency is obviously the most important part of today, but if Hillary Clinton wins and has to deal with a Republican Senate, along with a Republican House, she will have to deal with obstruction beyond the levels of what we have seen during Obama’s presidency.

If Clinton wins tonight, Democrats need to pick up a net of four seats to get 50 seats, and a majority, with a Vice President Kaine breaking any ties. Ideally, Democrats would pick up more to give themselves a buffer. This is especially important since, if Clinton wins, there will be a special election for Kaine’s seat in late 2017. And given the party’s recent disasters in off-year elections, winning that seat, and keeping the chamber is far from guaranteed.

Without further adieu, here is my Senate map:

final-2016-senate-map

Basically, I have Democrats picking up seats in Illinois, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Missouri; as well as hanging out to Harry Reid’s seat in Nevada.

Illinois has been a foregone conclusion for a while now. Democrats landed their top recruit, Iraq War Veteran, double amputee, and current Rep. Tammy Duckworth to run against incumbent Sen. Mark Kirk, who won in the Tea Party fueled wave year of 2010.

Kirk has tried to take a moderate stance in the Senate on a number of issues, and he is one of the few remaining Republicans who has stuck to his unendorsement of Donald Trump. But this is a deep blue state in a presidential year. Kirk never really had a chance.

Things got a little hairy in Wisconsin towards the end, but the bottom line is Russ Feingold has led throughout the year and nothing indicates that has changed. Feingold gets his revenge against Sen. Ron Johnson, the man vanquished him six years ago.

In Pennsylvania, Sen. Pat Toomey seemed like he was in control on the race well into the summer. Then the pendulum swung towards Toomey’s challenger, Katie McGinty, after the convention in July and has not swung back. Even though Toomey has mostly conducted himself as a center-right Republican, it looks like he will be dragged underwater by his party nominee.

I believe the same will happen in New Hampshire, although that race will be much much closer. Incumbent Sen. Kelly Ayotte and current Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan have been locked in a neck-and-neck race all year. This is a race between the two titian of New Hampshire politics and it has more than lived up to the hype.

Ayotte has run ahead of Trump pretty consistently according to polling, and is likely to outperform him in the election. But I don’t see her running ahead of Trump enough to win reelection. This is the pick I have the least confidence in, but Hassan has small edge in the state.

Whatever happens in Missouri tonight, there is no question the state’s Secretary of State Jason Kander has run a very good race against incumbent Sen. Roy Blunt; and he definitely aired the best ad of the 2016 cycle.

In a red state like Missouri, Kander is the kind of Democratic candidate the party has to run. If he loses tonight, it’s a safe bet to say no Democrat could have won this race.

But I have been bullish on him all year and I still am today. To me, Missouri could easily be the North Dakota of the 2016 cycle, when Democrat Heidi Heitkamp pulled an upset and defeated Republican Richard Berg by less than a percentage point in the heavily Republican state Mitt Romney carried by 20 points.

Trump is going to win Missouri by a lot tonight and I think Kander pulls the upset.

Nevada has gone the way of Pennsylvania this year to some extent. Throughout most of the year, Republican candidate and current Rep. Joe Heck seemed to have control of the race until the last six weeks when the polls moved in favor of Harry Reid’s hand picked candidate and former state Attorney General, Catherine Cortez-Masto.

Polls have shown Ms. Cortez-Masto to have a slight advantage that is likely to grow a little bit given the early voting numbers we have seen from the state.

Florida is just going to annoy me. Marco Rubio was beatable in this election and by the looks of it, his challenger, Patrick Murphy  will come up short. Polls have gotten closer over the last couple of weeks, but Murphy has yet to pull ahead in any of them. I would love to be wrong about this one.

Finally, we arrive at Indiana. What an insane race this turned out to be. Republicans were considering a near certainty to keep the seat of retiring Sen. Dan Coats in their column given the conservative lean of the state. That was until popular former Governor and two-term Senator Evan Bayh surprised everyone and decided to run for his old seat that Coats won in 2010 after he (Bayh) announced his retirement.

As a result, Democrats suddenly felt good about their chances against Republican candidate Todd Young. Since then, Republicans have hammered away at Bayh relentlessly for his lobbying after leaving the Senate, and his general disengagement from the Hoosier State. After months of chipping away at the his lead, Todd Young finally pulled ahead in the well respected Monmouth poll earlier last week.

I was optimistic on Bayh’s chances until I saw that. I know it was one poll but all it did was confirm the obvious that the race was trending in the wrong direction for the former Senator. Again, I would love to be wrong, and very well could be. But when you look at the trend lines and the fact that Trump is going to win the state by a huge margin, it is harder and harder to believe Mr. Bayh pulls this out.

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