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Keeping Control Of The Senate Just Got More Difficult For Republicans

Capitol Building

The latest poll out of Indiana seems to show that Republicans may have trouble holding on to Indiana’s Senate seat now that Evan Bayh has entered the race, and that could have serious implications for the battle for control of the Senate:

Former Sen. Evan Bayh (D) leads by seven points in the latest Indiana Senate race poll by Monmouth University.

The Indiana race is shaping up as a key contest in Democratic efforts to win a Senate majority.
In the survey of likely Indiana voters, Bayh, also a former Indiana governor, led Rep. Todd Young (R) 48-41, with Libertarian candidate Lucy Brenton polling at 4 percent.

Monmouth has not previously polled this race, but a July poll by Democrat-leaning pollster Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group showed Bayh ahead by 21 points, 54-33.

This seat is current held by Republican Senator Dan Coats, who himself returned from retirement to win the seat in in the 2010 election after Bayh announced that he was retiring. Last year, though, Coats announced that he was retiring after just one term back in office, thus creating an open seat. Initially, it looked as though Coats’ seat would stay Republican but the calculus of the race changed significantly when Bayh announced last month that he was getting into the race to get his old seat back. Given that he remains quite popular among Indiana voters, it was assumed that Bayh would prove to be a formidable challenger to the Republican nominee, Congressman Todd Young, and this poll would seem to confirm that fact. Perhaps the most significant thing about the poll, and the one that will likely make Republicans who want to hold on to control of the Senate, is the fact that Bayh has this lead notwithstanding the fact that Donald Trump seems to have a rather comfortable lead in the Hoosier State. No doubt this has much to do with the fact that Trump chose Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his running mate. Whatever the case, though, the fact that Young is down seven points to Bayh in the same poll that has Trump leading by eleven points is quite problematic for Young’s campaign to say the least.

I already noted last week the extent to which Republican control of the Senate is at risk this year, and the extent to which Trump’s candidacy is posing problems for incumbent Republicans in states such as Ohio, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania. This news out of Indiana just serves to place another seat in danger for the GOP, although this time it’s clearly not something that can be blamed on Trump specifically. Instead, it’s likely due to the fact that Bayh has remained a popular political figure in in the Hoosier State and that is giving him a tremendous advantage in his bid to return to the Senate, and to help Democrats regain control of the Senate. In order to do that, Democrats need to win back at least five seats to force a tie which could be broken by a Democratic Vice-President, and six seats to win an outright majority. So far, polling would seem to indicate that they are likely to win back the seats in Wisconsin and Illinois. If Indiana gets added to that list, then they would be half way to their goal and would need to win three races of out of the remaining Republican seats considered to be potentially vulnerable, a list that includes Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, North Carolina,  Missouri, Arizona, and Florida. This calculation assumes that Democrats don’t lose any seats they currently control, of course, but right now the only Democratic seat that appears to be at serious risk of flipping is the open seat in Nevada that was created as a result of Harry Reid’s retirement. In that race, Republican Congressman Joe Heck has the narrowest of leads over his Democratic opponent in a race that looks as though it will go down to the wire.

In any case, the addition of Indiana to the list of vulnerable Senate seats, along with the fact that Hillary Clinton appears to be making serious plays for traditionally red states such as Georgia and Arizona, just adds to the list of headaches for Republicans, as if they needed any more. At the very least, it appears to be clear that if Clinton manages to win the General Election by the margins we’re seeing in polling right now, the odds that Republican Senate candidates in vulnerable states will be able to pull off wins will become even more unlikely. In the end, I wouldn’t expect the Democrats to do as well as at the Senate level as Republicans did in 2014, but even if they walk away from Election Day with a slim 51- 49 majority in the Senate, that will make all the difference for the first two year years of what is likely to be the second Clinton Administration, especially when it comes to matters since as Cabinet and Judicial appointments. Based on the math, there’s a good likelihood that Republicans could win the Senate back in 2018, but those two years alone would give the party the ability to get a lot done that would otherwise not be possible if the GOP retains control of both houses of Congress. That’s why you can expect Republicans to start backing away from Trump and concentrating on down ballot races if Clinton’s lead in September is similar to where it is right now, or worse. Of course, by then it may turn out to be too little, too late.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Neil Hudelson says:

    That same poll had the Governor’s race in Indiana at a statistical tie.

    Trump up 11.
    Bayh up 7.
    Gregg/Holcomb at a tie.

    How often does that type of ticket splitting actually occur? Serious question, as I have no idea. It strikes me that it won’t, at the end of the day. Whether that means Trump carries Young or Holcomb over the threshold, or Bayh and Clinton’s operatives* and GOTV work significantly closes the gap, your guess as to which is more likely is as good as mine.

    *Like most places, Trump has 0 staff here, and I believe not even a super volunteer empowered with decision making capabilities. So Clinton has that going for her.

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  2. Thor thormussen says:

    The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president. -Mitch McConnell, during the Great Recession

    I hope that shithead loses his position. He has all the morals of a Guinea Worm.

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  3. Argon says:

    Bayh, eh? That apple fell a bit far from the tree, but at least it’s a pickup of a seat.

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  4. BigT says:

    Evan Bayh earned my enmity when he bailed on the Democrats as the kitchen was getting too hot. Now that the political mood has shifted, he decides to be a Senator again rather than a corporate tool. Mixed feelings about his return…

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  5. Terrye Cravens says:

    I live in Indiana and I think that Bayh has a good chance of winning. So does the Democrat running for Governor. If Clinton had not gone after coal companies she might have a shot. Trump is ahead, but does not have a majority and most Hoosiers don’t like the man. Most Hoosiers, like most Americans don’t like Trump or Clinton. I think Johnson will do better here than in a lot of other states. Libertarians are stronger here.

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  6. Gromitt Gunn says:

    Neil – does Indiana allow voters to do a straight party line vote by pressing a single button, or do voters have to select each race individually?

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  7. grumpy realist says:

    @Terrye Cravens: Which is crazy, because the whole coal thing boils down to Natural Gas is Cheaper Than Coal.

    And it’s especially cheaper than coal once you’ve priced in the externalities associated with coal–the sulfur causing acid raid, the mercury causing birth defects…

    …or are you saying that we should just ignore all that part?

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  8. michael reynolds says:

    @BigT:

    A D is a D is a D.

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  9. Thor thormussen says:

    the coal industry in indiana amounts to about 2500 jobs out of a little over 3 million, or 0.1%. Indiana added 4,000 new jobs to its economy in June alone. Is coal really so important as to swing the prez election there? If so, that’s madness.

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  10. Jen says:

    @Thor thormussen: Eh, it’s not always about direct coal jobs–coal is still the dominant source of electricity generation in a number of Midwest states. If it goes away before alternatives are online, electric bills go up.

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  11. Bill says:

    @BigT:

    Evan Bayh earned my enmity when he bailed on the Democrats as the kitchen was getting too hot. Now that the political mood has shifted, he decides to be a Senator again rather than a corporate tool. Mixed feelings about his return…

    He also earned the enmity of the Palm Beach Post who sternly criticized him. The editorial might have worked better if whoever wrote it hadn’t said Bayh never held political office before Senator. Ouch! Bayh had been both Governor and Secretary of State for Indiana.

    http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/news/opinion/quitting-isnt-governing-evan-bayh-made-news-for-al/nL4kZ/

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  12. Andre Kenji says:

    Bayh is the ultimate political opportunist. He is only running because he knows that he is going to win, and that Democrats are going to control the Senate.

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  13. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Gromitt Gunn:

    We have single ticket except for races that can have multiple winners, like at-large races. Those you have to choose individually. So for the purposes of 2016, we have single ticket voting.

    @Thor thormussen:

    While I don’t think her coal comments will hurt her in the general as much as other people think, I also don’t think the kerfuffle was just about coal itself, but rather a general feeling that Hillary is squishy on blue collar jobs. Not a fair accusation, sure, but that’s politics.

    @Andre Kenji: You say that like it’s a bad thing. Baron Hill was cruising for a pretty bad loss against Todd Young. Bayh realized he could win, and now it looks like we’ll be in a better position to confirm Hillary’s SC nominations. Yay! His winning presence will also help Shelli Yoder in CD9 (Bloomington), which the DCCC has given “Red to Blue” status. Yay again! Political opportunism isn’t always such a bad thing.

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  14. al-Alameda says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    Bayh is the ultimate political opportunist. He is only running because he knows that he is going to win, and that Democrats are going to control the senate.

    I’m always shocked to find out that many politicians are opportunists, it’s so, so un-idealistic, right?.

    What better time to run than when you believe you have the best chance to win?

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  15. Electroman says:

    Yes, of course Bayh is an opportunist – he’s a politician; it’s what they do. If I still lived in Indiana, I would vote for him again (I say “again” because I was an Indiana resident once, and voted for Bayh in ’88, when I was still a Republican).

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