Time for GOP's Mitch McConnell to measure drapes for majority leader office?

Mitch McConnell, currently the Senate minority leader, has opened a small but apparently steady lead against his Democratic challenger. Also, forecasting models are increasingly pointing to a GOP Senate takeover.

Timothy D. Easley/AP
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, joined by his wife Elaine Chao, as he speaks to media at Donamire Farm in Lexington, Ky., Oct. 2, 2014.

Premature celebration of victory courts disappointment. Anything can happen on Election Day, and has. A week can be forever in politics, and so on and so forth.

But let’s cut the caveats. It may be time for Mitch McConnell to start thinking about measuring drapes for the big office of majority leader of the US Senate.

First, it looks like Senator McConnell (R) of Kentucky is increasingly likely to win reelection himself. For much of the fall, that has not been a foregone conclusion. Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes has run a spirited campaign, and until recently, poll numbers showed this race running closer than many pundits expected.

But now McConnell has opened a small but apparently steady lead. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is no longer spending money on ads in Kentucky.

That’s “a perhaps telling sign about the current state of the race,” write University of Virginia political scientists Larry Sabato and Kyle Kondik in Sabato’s Crystal Ball political newsletter.

Sabato rates Kentucky a “likely Republican” Senate seat.

So if McConnell wins, what will be his position? Right now he’s the leader of the chamber minority. If the GOP takes 51 seats, he’ll supplant Democrat Harry Reid as majority leader.

As we said, it might be time to think about redecoration. Forecasting models increasingly point to a Republican Senate takeover in November.

The FiveThirtyEight data journalism site is predicting a 62 percent chance of a GOP majority. The comparable prediction from The New York Times Upshot model is 69 percent. The Washington Post Election Lab is even more favorable to Republican chances, predicting a 93 percent chance of a Senate takeover.

Over at Vox, they’ve helpfully averaged out all the major election models to produce a single number. The average chance of a GOP Senate victory is 72 percent, they say.

That’s still not certain, of course. It means there’s also a 28 percent chance of continued Democratic control. In baseball terms, that corresponds with the chance of a .280 hitter getting a hit in any one at-bat. That’s far from a freak occurrence.

But which hitter would you rather have? Somebody whose average is .280, or someone whose average corresponds with the GOP’s chances, .720?

Yeah, we thought so.

“Democrats’ main hope now is that the polls are wrong. That’s never a good place to be,” tweeted Vox editor in chief Ezra Klein on Monday.

It’s possible the polls are wrong, though. That’s happened before. As RealClearPolitics senior elections analyst Sean Trende writes in an interesting piece on Monday, it’s getting harder to poll accurately as more and more voters depend on cellphones and as the electorate gets younger and more diverse.

It’s possible that polls everywhere are off, Mr. Trende writes. But their inaccuracies are probably going to be small and could be in either direction.

“The possibilities basically cancel out, and I’m left with the simple poll averages as the best guidance for this election,” Trende writes.

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