In disappointing news for Republicans, Tommy Thompson and George Pataki have decided against running for Senate in Wisconsin and New York respectively. The latter appears to have turned down the challenge so he can lay the groundwork for a 2012 presidential bid—which shows that Pataki is so out-of-touch with reality that he did his party a favor by not running.
This brings down the number of pick-up possibilities for the GOP by two. Thompson and Pataki were ahead of Feingold and Gillibrand in hypothetical match-ups, so it shows an appetite exists for a challenger, but I wouldn’t count on winning these seats. This makes capturing the Senate a lot more difficult for the GOP, but a road does exist for that to happen.
The GOP must hold all of the 41 seats it currently holds. This is likely, although the races in Missouri and Ohio are pretty close. In addition to those, there are six seats that the Republicans seem likely to take over. These are in Nevada, Delaware, North Dakota, Arkansas, Colorado and Indiana.
This means that it is a safe bet at this juncture to say that the GOP will have at least 47 seats after the November elections, although this is a tentative projection before the races have really begun. Republican Rep. Mark Kirk has a small lead in Illinois and Pat Toomey’s lead in Pennsylvania has grown and become solid. The Democrats are on a downward trend and it will be difficult to stop and reverse it. That brings the GOP to 49 seats in the Senate. Two more for a majority.
The GOP only really needs to win one of the races in Washington, California, Wisconsin or New York. This will bring the total to 50-50, with Vice President Biden casting the deciding vote in the case of a gridlock—so why do I think the GOP only needs one? I cannot prove it, but I highly suspect that Lieberman will caucus with the Republicans if it comes down to a split, handing them a one-seat majority. It is quite possible that two of the races are won so Lieberman doesn’t have to do this, but this scenario has a very strong possibility of occurring. Either way, a very realistic path to GOP control of the Senate exists.