Some possible midterm surprises

There are some unassailable facts that must not be overlooked when you discuss midterm elections. First and foremost is who actually comes out to vote. This is not a presidential election. The conventional wisdom is abundantly true. Those who vote are older, whiter and more conservative. This definitely favors Republicans.

Second, the states that are in play (for the U.S. Senate) are states that President Obama lost two years ago: Arkansas, Louisiana, Alaska, Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia. And he lost them by wide margins. Each of the states mentioned above are held or were held by Democratic senators. (Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia are now open seats.)

Democratic senators in those states dare not be seen with Obama. He is wildly unpopular. Proximity to the president is viewed as a fatal factor. Obama did not help the fortunes of his party last week by proclaiming the following: “I am not on the ballot this fall. But make no mistake. These policies are on the ballot. Every single one of them.” To those voters who want to send Obama a message, he gave them clear invitation.

Everybody writes off Democratic chances in Montana and West Virginia. Remember, Republicans need to pick up six seats to be in the majority. Earlier I wrote that good family names (Begich in Alaska, Landrieu in Louisiana, Pryor in Arkansas) might allow senators to keep their seats even though they are in reliably Republican states.

{mosads}Let’s assume I’m dead wrong and all three lose their races. We are now down to one more contest which could give the Republicans control. Iowa and Colorado are now trending Republican — Democrats Sen. Mark Udall (Colo.) and Rep. Bruce Braley (Iowa) are in trouble. (Brief aside: Michele Obama surely did not help Braley by repeatedly calling him “Bailey” at a campaign event — another indicator of the Obama “personal” touch.)

If either Udall or Braley loses, the game is then over. Republicans are in charge. But wait a minute: Some very unlikely scenarios might just take place that could save the day for the Democrats.

No. 1 is Kansas, which I wrote about last week (Independent Greg Ormond beating Republican Sen. Pat Roberts.)

No. 2, of all places, is South Dakota. There is a former three-term Republican senator, the irrepressible Larry Pressler, who very well may be a godsend for the Democrats. He is pulling votes away from the Republican candidate, former Gov. Mike Rounds. Now-Independent Pressler is definitely aiding Democrat Rick Weiland. Remember, South Dakota has sent Democrats to the U.S. Senate — James Abourezk, Tom Daschle and the retiring Tim Johnson. And, of course, George McGovern. A candidate can win this race with as little as 33 percent. There is no runoff — it’s just a simple plurality. And there is even a fourth candidate,  Gordon Howie. He’s a conservative and probably is pulling votes away from Republican Rounds.

Another nontraditional candidate is helping Democratic candidate Michelle Nunn in Georgia. Libertarian Party nominee Amanda Swafford is viewed as taking votes away from Republican David Perdue.

We haven’t talked about North Carolina. This is the only state where an endangered Democrat (Kay Hagan) seems to be leading in the polls. There, the savior for the Democrats is again a libertarian. He is a pizza delivery man. His name is Sean Haugh. Republican candidate Thom Tillis wishes his name was not on the ballot. If third party libertarians continue to get their names on the ballot, this is an ominous development for the Republican Party in the future. I firmly believe that they deliver close races to the Democrats. Their 5 percent to 10 percent is taking votes from the GOP.

So on Tuesday, Nov. 4, you very well might pay attention to former no-names — Larry Pressler, Gordon Howie, Amanda Swafford and Sean Haugh. These so-called fringe players might be soon getting thank-you notes from Senater Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

Plotkin is a political analyst and a contributor to the BBC on American politics.

Tags 2014 Elections Amanda Swafford David Perdue Georgia Gordon Howie Greg Orman Kansas Kay Hagan Larry Pressler Michelle Nunn midterms Mike Rounds North Carolina Pat Roberts Rick Weiland Sean Haugh South Dakota Thom Tillis

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