Calm down Republicans, there isn’t going to be a “SNOWpocalypse” or “SNOWmageddon!” Maine Senator Olympia Snowe’s surprise retirement announcement may have diminished the GOP’s chances of holding onto her Senate seat in November, but the GOP remains in easy striking distance of a Senate majority.
In spite of all of the overly dramatic reporting on Snowe’s departure, many factors still favor the GOP as it fights for Senate control. The public still broadly opposes Obamacare, the economy is lousy and the Democratic-controlled chamber has failed to pass a budget in three years. Most importantly, the Democrats are spread extremely thin.
Due to the Democratic wave election in 2006, Democrats are forced to defend 23 seats this year compared to the Republicans’ ten seats. The GOP needs to pick up only four seats to control the chamber outright and three if Americans elect a Republican Vice-President, who would cast a vote in the case of a 50-50 tie.
Those are brutal numbers for Democrats, particularly when the party has to deal with its own retirements in competitive states that swung heavily to the GOP in 2009 and 2010. Seats currently held by retiring Democratic Sens. Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Jim Webb of Virginia, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico all represent attractive pick-up opportunities.
Election forecaster Charlie Cook lists Nelson’s Nebraska seat as a “likely” Republican pick-up, while seven other Democratic-held seats are listed as “toss ups.” By comparions, only three GOP-held seats are listed as “toss ups,” including Snowe’s. Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball blog rates the races similarly, although it gives Democrats a slight edge in Maine and Republicans a slight edge in North Dakota.
Based on Cook’s ratings, if both parties were to lose all of its “toss-up” seats, the GOP would pick up four seats and take control of the Senate. Throw in an additional likely win in Nebraska, the GOP is looking at an plausible 52-48 majority.
It’s interesting how Snowe’s retirement announcement has been painted by the media as a sign of impending doom for the GOP’s 2012 election hopes, despite the fact that the Democratic Party has been battered by the retirement announcements of its own moderate members.
We should also expect to hear a great deal about how those terrible “extremists” have pushed out yet another Republican centrist. Never mind the fact that retiring Senate Blue Dogs like Nelson and Webb regularly found themselves at odds with the liberal policies espoused by the current Democratic caucus.
The bottom-line is that losing Snowe, who was an unreliable conservative at best, is not devastating to the GOP. Republicans probably still have a better shot at winning the Senate than they do at winning the White House.