Democratic hopes to take back the Senate remain dim. Perhaps, there’s no way to understand that better than to look at the following Senate races: North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and the Mississippi special election.
In the Democrats’ best case scenario, they need to win every other close race and then one of these four. The problem is that the forecast looks bad for Democrats in all four of these.
A close examination of all of them reveals that in the closing days of the campaign, the races seem, if anything, to be shifting away from the Democrats.
Tennessee: Former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen is of a different era. He easily won re-election in 2006, and Democrats had hoped the goodwill left from his governorship would override the fact that Trump won the state by 26 points. It did, for a while. Bredesen led in most of the polling through September. Since that point, however, he’s been trailing in most of them. The Forecast has him losing by around 5.
Mississippi special: We probably won’t actually know if Democrats’ prayers here are dashed until late November. That’s when a likely runoff between Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith and Democrat Mike Espy will take place for this seat formerly held by Republican Thad Cochran.
The runoff will be necessary because Cochran’s resignation started a process in which a jungle primary (in which all candidates run against each regardless of party affiliation) takes place on Election Day. The top two-vote getters (if no one hits 50% in round one) advance to the runoff. Democratic chances rest upon another Republican (Chris McDaniel) reaching the runoff against Espy.
Polling indicates Hyde-Smith, however, as the most likely person to face Espy in the runoff. Even in a good political environment for Democrats nationally, it’s nearly impossible for them to win a statewide federal contest in Mississippi unless the Republican is fatally flawed. Hyde-Smith isn’t.
Of course, thinking that Democrats will need just one of these states may be a bit of magical thinking.
Contests such as Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Missouri and Nevada are within 3 points.
If Republicans win three out of these five, they’ll end up with 53 seats in the next Congress. If Republicans sweep them, they’ll be at 55 seats.
Our forecast thinks Republicans will win two of them and end up with 52 seats.
Even if Democrats win all five, Republicans would still be at 50 seats. With Vice President Mike Pence casting a tie-breaking vote, Democrats are still in the minority.