Republicans face an uphill climb to wrest control of the U.S. Senate from the Democrats in November. Democrats currently enjoy a 60-40 majority, counting two independents who usually vote with them. That means the GOP would need a net pickup of 11 seats to win control. Earlier this year that looked impossible. Not so much now.
Latest polls show Republicans leading in nine races for seats currently held by Democrats — including those of incumbents seeking re-election: Barbara Boxer (California), Russ Feingold (Wisconsin), Michael Bennet (Colorado) and Blanche Lincoln (Arkansas). Granted, some of the GOP leads are within the margin of error. And it’s only mid-August. But the current state of play in those races mirrors an apparent national trend against the Democrats. The only Republican seat in play right now is Florida, and it’s not clear Democrats would have a pickup. Their leading candidate trails Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican running as an independent, and likely GOP nominee Marco Rubio, and Crist is no lock to caucus with Democrats in the Senate if he wins.
Still, that’s only nine and the GOP needs 11. They’ll need to knock off two more Democratic incumbents. Those two might be Patty Murray in Washington and Harry Reid in Nevada, who lead their opponents but, again, not outside the margin of error. If those races break the GOP’s way, with the other nine they’d have their 11. A Republican Senate is still a long shot but no longer unthinkable.