There are really only two possible outcomes for Democrats in this year's Senate elections. Either Republicans are going to win enough seats to take control of the chamber, or Democrats will hold on by the skin of their teeth. The first outcome is more likely, simply because of the map. Democrats are defending twenty-one seats while Republicans are only defending fifteen seats. Furthermore, many of those Democratic seats are in conservative states like West Virginia, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Montana, making it even tougher.
So if you're a Democrat who's getting depressed by the prospect of a Republican Senate and all the loveliness that would bring, here's something that might make you feel a little better. A couple of weeks ago, I made a graph showing all this year's Democratic candidates and the tough environment many face. I decided to duplicate it for the 2016 races, as a little liberal pick-me-up.
Here's the good news for Democrats: Even if Republicans take the Senate this year, Democrats will almost certainly take it back in 2016. There will be twenty-four Republican-held seats up that year, but only nine Democratic-held seats. Almost all those Democratic seats are in states that Obama won comfortably two years ago, and none of them are in states Mitt Romney won. So it's possible that no more than one or two Senate Democrats will face a difficult race. More important, seven of those Republican seats are in states Obama won. I've put those seven seats in green:
Each of those races will have its own dynamic, of course (and a few of those incumbents won't end up running). But every one of those Republicans in green is going to have an extremely tough race. And since 2016 is a presidential year, the Democratic electorate—younger, more diverse—will turn out to vote in much higher numbers than they will this November.
All that isn't to say that having a Republican Senate for the last two years of the Obama presidency wouldn't be utterly miserable, because it surely would. I'll bet that even now, Mitch McConnell is devising creative and heretofore unimagined means of obstruction to unleash upon Barack Obama should he become majority leader next year. But if nothing else, we can be pretty sure it won't last.
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