Elections guru Larry Sabato asks a startling question about the upcoming elections: “when’s the last time a major political party has failed to capture a single House seat, Senate seat, or governorship of the opposing party in a federal election year?” The answer is, if it has ever happened before, it was before World War II. And yet, Sabato’s team “cannot identify a single election for Senate, House or Governor in which a Republican is likely to succeed a Democrat in office.”
Talk about a perfect storm. That means no open seats currently held by a Democrat will change hands and no Democrat incumbent will be defeated. Even in the biggest electoral routs in American history, such as in the Watergate Congress of 1974, there were always a handful of lucky candidates from the defeated party that bucked the trend. While Sabato & Co. say the chances of an absolute shutout are no greater than 50/50, the fact that it is within the realm of possibility underscores how dire the Republicans’ position is right now. For example, the best chances in the Senate that the GOP has of picking up currently Democratic seats are in New Jersey, where Tom Kean trails incumbent Bob Menendez by an average of 5 points, and in Maryland, where Michael Steele trails Ben Cardin by about 7 points. Thin branches to stand on indeed.
On the other hand, if the GOP succeeds in taking a solitary Democratic seat (I’m holding out hope for Kean in the homeland), the White House can spin it as “exceeding expectations.” And they probably will.