Will Republicans lose the Senate majority?

Republicans' two-year hold on the Senate is at serious risk, say observers, and Democrats hope to cut into the party's 30-seat majority in the House of Representatives as well.

Seth Perlman/AP/File
Illinois Democratic US Senate candidate, Rep. Tammy Duckworth, appears in Springfield, Ill. Illinois was once billed as one of November's most competitive US Senate races. Democrats are now counting on her to defeat Illinois Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk as the party looks to reclaim the majority in the chamber.

Having Donald Trump at the top of the ticket is dragging the rest of the ballot down, Republican aides say.

Less than two weeks before November’s election, aides are concerned that Mr. Trump’s slumping numbers will have a negative effect on down-ballot candidates. At stake: control of the Senate in the next Congress. 

The winning candidate often has a "coattails" effect: they’re so popular that they win support for their party all the way down the ballot. Trump appears to be having the opposite effect for Republicans. 

"The reason we don’t hold the Senate, if we don’t, is because of Donald Trump," one aide told Reuters.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll released Wednesday found that 41 percent of Republicans now expect a Hillary Clinton victory in November, compared to 40 percent who think Trump will win. That’s a sharp drop in Trump’s numbers over the past month: in September, 58 percent of Republicans expected a Trump presidency, and just 23 percent saw Mrs. Clinton winning the White House.

That could be influencing poll numbers for Senate candidates. The same aide said that in Pennsylvania, a swing state with a vulnerable Senate seat, incumbent Republican Pat Toomey has to "fight off dead weight at the top of the ticket." And studies show that Senate wins have been correlated with White House victories over the past few decades.

In states such as Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, Republicans’ struggles are compounded by what University of New Hampshire professor Dante Scala calls a "one-two punch" of independents who may not support Trump and an electorate that tends to lean Democratic in presidential election years. 

For now, Real Clear Politics still has several Republican incumbents leading their Democratic challengers. Pennsylvania’s Mr. Toomey, Roy Blunt in Missouri, and Richard Burr of North Carolina are all up one percentage point or more in the polls.

Races are tight across the country, but Republicans are defending 24 Senate seats to Democrats’ 10, as the seats they picked up in 2010 – when the Tea Party movement was in full swing – come up for reelection.

According to a senior Senate Democratic aide, that means, “We have a lot more paths to a majority than they do.”

If Clinton wins, Republicans could hand Democrats a majority by losing just four seats. Her vice president, Tim Kaine, would cast the tie-breaking vote for Democrats when necessary. The last time this happened was in 2000, with Vice President Dick Cheney breaking any ties.

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report predicted on Tuesday that Democrats would ultimately gain between five and seven seats. Another Republican aide pointed to opinion polling in six battleground states, telling Reuters that “the Senate is gone” with the expected losses in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Missouri.

Democrats also hope to pick up seats in the House, where the GOP holds a sizable majority, with 247 seats to Democrats’ 188. Seats in Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey, and Florida are all possibilities for Democrats, though they may lose a Republican-leaning Nebraska district they currently hold.

In the end, the Senate may not be decided until December, when a runoff election is expected to pick a new senator from Louisiana, where Republican Sen. David Vitter opted not to defend his seat after losing his bid for governor.

Material from Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.