Markos Moulitsas: GOP victory isn’t assured

Republicans are acting as if they’ve already won control of the next Senate, and the media appears happy to play along. 

But despite tens of millions of dollars in attack ads and the right wing’s religious certainty that ObamaCare will ride them to victory, a race-by-race look reveals that Democrats aren’t only competitive in this November’s Senate elections — they’re steadily improving. 


The math is simple: Republicans need to win six seats to take control of the Senate, and are prohibitive favorites in two Democratic-held seats: South Dakota and West Virginia. That means they have to win four of the six competitive Democratic seats — Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana and North Carolina — while holding on to two endangered GOP seats in Georgia and Kentucky. 

On the macro level, Republicans are banking that discontent over the Affordable Care Act and President Obama’s unpopularity will prove the keys to the majority. In both cases, the trends aren’t in the GOP’s favor. 

In Gallup polling, Obama’s unpopularity peaked in mid-February, with a 41 percent job approval rating and 54 percent disapproval rating. Early this week, that number was 45 percent approval to 49 percent disapproval, a 9-point shift. 

Similarly, the stunning early ObamaCare success — 8 million signups on the exchange and still counting — has already led to improving poll numbers across the board, like the ABC/Washington Post poll showing support of the law at 49 percent to 48 percent against. In November, the numbers were 40/57. 

Endangered Democratic Senate incumbents are similarly seeing their standings improve, despite millions of attack ad dollars spent against them by the Koch brothers and their friends. 

Among incumbent Democrats in competitive seats, Louisiana Sen. Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuDems wrestle over how to vote on ‘Green New Deal’ Lobbying world Former New Orleans mayor: It's not my 'intention' to run for president MORE is the sole senator to have seen her public poll numbers erode. She has faced at least $2.6 million in Koch attack ads. By contrast, Sen. Mark BegichMark Peter BegichFormer GOP chairman Royce joins lobbying shop Lobbying world Dem governors on 2020: Opposing Trump not enough MORE (Alaska) appears to be running neck and neck against his Republican challengers, despite facing more than $1 million in Koch attack ads in his cheap-to-advertise state. Arkansas Sen. Mark PryorMark Lunsford PryorMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm MORE lagged earlier this year, yet none of the six most recent polls have shown him trailing. His resurgence comes, despite more than $2 million in Koch attack ads.

Incumbent Colorado Democrat Sen. Mark UdallMark Emery UdallDenver Post editorial board says Gardner endorsement was 'mistake' Gardner gets latest Democratic challenge from former state senator Setting the record straight about No Labels MORE has expanded his own narrow lead against a highly touted GOP recruit, despite facing $2 million in Koch attack ads. And North Carolina Sen. Kay HaganKay Ruthven HaganNC state senator meets with DSCC as Dems eye challenge to Tillis GOP, Dems locked in fight over North Carolina fraud probe 2020 Dems compete for top campaign operatives MORE has already faced more than $8 million in Koch attack ads, yet her race remains neck and neck. In Montana’s open seat, Crossroads’s latest poll showed Republicans leading the race 42 percent to 35 percent. That might not sound great for Democrats, but it represents a massive improvement from Crossroads’s previous poll, in January, which had the race at 43-29. The big attack-ad spender in this state has been Crossroads, so there’s some irony in Karl Rove’s own polling demonstrating how ineffective his own advertising has been. 

Republican hopes to make New Hampshire and Virginia competitive have yet to bear fruit. As of now, they’re off the map. Michigan is currently competitive, but Republicans will need a depressed Democratic electorate to have a shot. 

Adding it up, it’s a tight contest, no doubt. But Republicans have the tougher hill to climb, winning six states without losing either Kentucky or Georgia while navigating the pitfalls of Tea Party primary challenges and the inevitable emergence of this year’s version of Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock. 

Never underestimate Republicans’ ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Moulitsas is the founder and publisher of Daily Kos.