Election day is a little over 2 months away and polls are starting to show that the GOP's chance for a takeover are good. In fact, better than break-even good
We listed 5 seats that the GOP has to defend that are at least somewhat competitive. The GOP will likely lose Maine, and are clear favorites in Arizona and Indiana. Two others are expected to be closer, but recent polls show good signs for the GOP in both.
In Massachusetts, a PPP poll has Scott Brown leading by 5 points, 49-44@ over Liz Warren. Two other Likely Voter polls (the most accurate predictor models) had the race as Brown +2 and +1. The race is far from "safe," but Brown is popular for a Republican.
In Nevada, US Senator Dean Heller has consistently led in the polls and a Las Vegas Review Journal Poll came out this week showing him also up by 5 points.
If those race held for the Brown and Heller, it's likely they would only need to win 5 current Democrats seats to win back the US Senate (or 4 with a Romney-Ryan victory). This task is attainable as the Democrats (with two Independents) have a whopping 23 seats to defend, with at least 12 being somewhat vulnerable.
A handful of states are showing clear opportunities for pickup, leaning in the "likely to happen" category. In Nebraska, Deb Fischer is about as close to a lock as there is and she leads by as much as 20 points in the state. In Wisconsin, 3 polls over the last week show former Gov. Tommy Thompson leading Tammy Baldwin by 9, 5, and 11 points respectively. Of course, Wisconsin has been a surprising hotbed of conservative activity over the last 3 years. Meanwhile, in Montana, a typically Republican state, Danny Rheberg has led incumbent Jon Tester in 9 of 11 polls taken there over the last year, including by 47-43% in a Rasmussen poll released this week. (Missouri would have previously appeared in this likely takeover list, but we do not know what to think of this race any longer). In North Dakota, Berg is up 9 points and another clear favorite.
If the GOP takes 4 or 5 of those seats, they only need one more, or possibly no more. In Ohio, a new Ramussen poll has Josh Mandel in a 44-44 tie and voters are still getting to know him. George Allen and Tim Kaine have been flip-flopping leads in Virginia, but the state is still an R leaner.
In a not-sure-if-we-believe-it poll, former congressman Pete Hoekstra has 48-46% lead in Michigan. The race didn't even make the top 12 competitive states list. But its possible, as Rasmussen had Debbie Stabenow with just a 6 point lead a month ago. And while Connecticut did make it to our competitive list, I was still surprised to see Linda McMahon with a 3-point lead over congressman Chris Murphy.
Analysis: Even with the craziness in Missouri, the GOP is poised to win back the US Senate. The Democrats are now clear underdogs in 4 of their own US Senate seats, and would have to be extremely lucky to hold every single toss-up race and prevent a pure takeover. Given that a majority of the toss-ups are in red-leaning states, where tea-party made major advances over the last 3 years, and where the Democratic candidates are trying to untie themselves from President Obama and his policies, that seems like a very steep and slippery climb for Democrats.
Note: The original post cited a Florida poll that showed Connie Mack with a 9-point lead in Florida. That was a misprint on the poll's release, and the last three polls have shown leads of 9, 7, and 2 points by Bill Nelson (D).