As the final, frantic hours of the campaign for control of Congress come to a close, Democrats look like slightly-better-than-even favorites to reclaim the Senate, while Republicans appear certain to hold the House after a Donald Trump-induced October scare.
If Democrats manage to flip the Senate, senior party aides and strategists involved in battleground races said they’re looking at a majority of 52 seats, best case. That would be a letdown from their earlier hopes of a 54- or 55-seat advantage and put Republicans in the pole position to win back the chamber in 2018.
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Senate Republicans are conceding nothing, though. The conservative Senate Leadership Fund has poured a jaw-dropping $37 million into the most competitive races over the past two weeks. Republican hopefuls are outperforming Trump and could conceivably prevail in enough of the half-dozen top contests to prevent a Democratic takeover.
“We are going to keep the majority,” declared Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, a vice chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee who has barnstormed the country this fall to campaign for GOP lawmakers. “I don’t think the presidential race will be a major factor … [voters] distinguish between the presidential race on the one hand … and the Senate races.”
Democrats’ confidence is rooted in Hillary Clinton’s narrow edge in national polls, which they believe offsets a late-game injection of uncertainty courtesy of FBI Director James Comey. Democrats need to pick up four seats if Clinton wins, and five if Trump prevails.
“I have a little heartburn over what Comey did. I think it was bizarre; I wouldn’t have ever expected that in a million years,” Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said in an interview. But “I just don’t see how [Trump] could ever pull this off. And I also feel …