Dick Morris: GOP will keep Senate

Dick Morris: GOP will keep Senate
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Democrats are salivating at the prospect of recapturing the Senate in 2016. With 24 of the 34 seats up in this cycle currently held by Republicans, the Dems are hoping to make up for the ground they lost in 2010 and 2014 in the upper chamber. The decisions of Sens. Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsPutin can learn from Gorbachev on how to gain from future US talks GOP senator blocking Trump's Intel nominee NSA nominee sails through second confirmation hearing MORE (R-Ind.) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioTrump replaces McMaster with Bolton as national security adviser Orlando March for Our Lives protesters to march to Rubio's downtown office, Pulse nightclub Lawmakers eye crackdown on China’s Confucius Institutes MORE (R-Fla.) not to seek reelection whets their appetites further.

But not so fast! A close analysis of the seats in play shows that the composition of the 2017 Senate is not likely to be much different from its current makeup. 

Indiana, one of the two states where a vacant seat is attracting Democratic interest, is a solidly Republican state. Carried by Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential race, it only elected a Democratic senator that year because Richard Mourdock, the Republican Senate nominee, called a pregnancy stemming from a rape “something that God intended.” Barring such self-immolation, there is no reason not to believe the Republicans will hold Coats’s seat.

Republicans might lose the Rubio seat in Florida, but the possible loss could be offset by a GOP victory for the Nevada seat being vacated by Democratic Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidGOP pushes to change Senate rules for Trump Trump presses GOP to change Senate rules Only thing Defense’s UFO probe proves is power of political favors MORE. Florida and Nevada are genuine toss-up states. President Obama beat Romney in the Sunshine State by only 0.9 percent of the vote, the smallest margin of victory for the president in any state. Republican Gov. Rick Scott won reelection two years later by only 1.1 percent. Florida could go either way.

And so could Nevada. Republican Brian Sandoval won the governorship in 2010, defeating Rory Reid — Harry’s son — by 53 percent to 42 percent. In 2014, he was reelected with 71 percent of the vote. While Obama carried the state in both elections, Nevadans in 2012 elected Republican Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerRepublican drops Senate primary challenge to Heller after Trump's urging Three states where Dems can pick up Senate seats GOP senator: Justice Kennedy is going to retire this summer MORE to the Senate, albeit by only 1.2 percent of the vote.

Beyond these two toss-up states, the best Democratic hope for a pickup is Illinois, where Republican Sen. Mark KirkMark Steven KirkHigh stakes as Trump heads to Hill Five things to watch for at Trump-Senate GOP meeting Giffords, Scalise highlight party differences on guns MORE is handicapped by the possible lingering effects of a stroke he suffered early in his tenure. Kirk’s efforts to sanction Iran, however, give him a great issue to take into the election. Still, Illinois is a quintessentially Democratic state and could revert to form in 2016.

But Republicans could well offset any losses by winning in Colorado, where Michael BennetMichael Farrand Bennet2020 Dems unify around assault weapons ban, putting pressure on colleagues McConnell, Schumer tap colleagues to explore budget reform Democrats march toward single-payer health care MORE, the surprise winner of a tight race in 2010, is up for reelection. Having won by only 1.7 percent, despite a terribly flawed campaign by Tea Party favorite Republican Ken Buck, Bennet should be in Republican crosshairs this year. Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerSen. Gardner won’t let Jeff Sessions tread on Colorado’s cannabis boom Trump presses GOP to change Senate rules Republicans insist tax law will help in midterms MORE’s (R-Colo.) upset win in 2014 and two Republican gains in the House in 2010 could indicate a swing to the right in this formerly reliable Republican state.

And don’t forget — as Democrats tend to — Washington state, where Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care: House passes .3T omnibus | Bill boosts funds for NIH, opioid treatment | Senators spar over ObamaCare fix | 'Right to Try' bill heads to the Senate Overnight Regulation: Omnibus includes deal on tip-pooling rule | Groups sue over rules for organic livestock | AT&T, DOJ make opening arguments in merger trial Warren presses Mulvaney, Azar on tip pooling MORE (D) survived a strong challenge from Republican Dino Rossi, with 52 percent to 48 percent. In the two weeks before the 2010 election, Rossi was running even or slightly ahead of Murray, forcing her to turn to slashing negative ads in the final days. Rossi, ineptly, failed to answer the attacks, and they did their damage. But Murray is no shoo-in this time around.

Wisconsin could pose a problem for Republicans as Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonOvernight Health Care: House passes .3T omnibus | Bill boosts funds for NIH, opioid treatment | Senators spar over ObamaCare fix | 'Right to Try' bill heads to the Senate GOP pushes to change Senate rules for Trump House passes 'right to try' drug bill MORE (R-Wis.) seeks to turn back a challenge from Russ Feingold, whom he defeated in 2010 by 5 points. With Gov. Scott Walker’s increasingly successful runs in the state and Johnson’s record as senator, it is hard to see Wisconsin electing Feingold.

Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanLawmakers introduce bipartisan bill to speed up infrastructure permitting Overnight Tech: Zuckerberg breaks silence on Cambridge Analytica controversy | Senate passes sex trafficking bill | EU pushes new tax on tech | YouTube toughens rules on gun videos Senate passes controversial online sex trafficking bill MORE (R-Ohio), elected in 2010 with 57 percent of the vote, faces former Gov. Ted Strickland, who lost to Gov. John Kasich by 2 points in 2010. Portman should be able to keep his seat.

Democrats hope that Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa) or Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteAudit finds US Defense Department wasted hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars US sends A-10 squadron to Afghanistan for first time in three years No, the US did not spend million on a gas station in Afghanistan MORE (R-N.H.) could prove vulnerable, but it’s not very likely.

So Democrats could lose Nevada and Colorado. And the Republicans could lose Illinois and Florida. The more things change, the more they remain the same. 

Morris, who served as adviser to former Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and former President Clinton, is the author of 17 books, including his latest, Power Grab: Obama’s Dangerous Plan for a One Party Nation and Here Come the Black Helicopters. To get all of his and Eileen McGann’s columns for free by email, go to dickmorris.com.