One-third of the Senate is up for election this year, but Senate control of the national agenda over the next two years is not likely to happen, unless you count blocking initiatives as control. (They do.) Unlike the presidency, there is a do-over in 2014, when another third of the seats will be contested.
With two senators per state regardless of population, the Senate is conservative and slow-moving by design. In addition, filibuster rules essentially permit 40 senators to stop anything they oppose. According to Real Clear Politics, of the 100 seats, 42 are either safely Republican or not up for election this year, and 37 are either safely Democratic or not up for election.
Though it is theoretically possible for the Republicans to hold the Democrats below the 40 senator mark, it is extremely unlikely. And if it were to happen, it would probably be part of a tsunami that would change political outcomes across the nation.
Of the remaining 21 seats, five are likely to be won by Democrats, and six more lean that way.
Angus King, who is running as an independent in Maine, is one of the five Democratic "likelys." King could turn out to be one of the most powerful people in America, especially if you happen to be a Senate Committee Chairman or staff member. Depending on the party with which he chooses to caucus when organizing the Senate, he could give either party the majority, tipping all of the committee chairmanships one way or the other.
The split of staff members varies accordingly. Irrelevance and job losses for some; fame and K Street fortune for others.
One of the “leaners” pits Democrat Claire McCaskill against Republican Todd Akin. The Republicans had counted on this race in the quest for 51 senators, until their eminent biologist candidate imploded with the claim that rape victims miraculously knew how not to get pregnant.
On the Republican side, Nebraska is a likely, and Arizona leans their way. In the former, Deb Fischer is clobbering Bob Kerrey, who has lived in New York for a decade. However, a recent poll shows that Democrat Richard Carmona may be beating Republican Jeff Flake 44% to 39%. (Flake had previously been leading by a seven-point margin.)
That leaves eight toss-ups, with the Democrats “probably” needing only two to retain control. “Probably” for two reasons: first, they would have to lure King to their side; second, they would have to win the presidency, so Vice President Joe Biden could serve as the tie-breaker.
Assuming the Republicans don’t win the presidency (making Paul Ryan the tie-breaker), and the Democrats can’t entice King to their side, they have to win seven of the eight toss-ups: Connecticut, Indiana, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Virginia and Wisconsin.
As in the presidential election, a toss-up is within the polling margin of error, so it is too close to call — but that does not mean there isn’t a leader. Allocating each race to today’s slim leader results in a 52-48 split favoring the Democrats. Connecticut, Massachusetts, Virginia and Wisconsin go their way, while Indiana Montana, Nevada and North Dakota go to the Republicans. This results in a one-seat Republican gain, but not enough for GOP control of the Senate.
Biologists are conflicted as to whether they would prefer Mr. Akin to serve in the world’s greatest deliberative body or return to his groundbreaking research.