Toughest Election Call — the Senate; A Stimulus Surprise from Pelosi?
October 20, 2020
A BLUE WAVE IS FAR FROM GUARANTEED: All the talk about the Democrats gaining control of the Senate overlooks the still-plausible path that Republicans have for narrowly keeping control of the upper chamber.
THERE ARE TWO WAYS TO LOOK AT SENATE RACES: First, a comfortable Joe Biden win would give Democrats control, picking up a net of three to five seats. A narrow Biden win (still the most likely scenario) could leave the Democrats one seat short. A Trump victory obviously would give the GOP a good chance of keeping the Senate.
THE OTHER WAY TO LOOK AT THE SENATE is to focus on individual races, which still gives Republicans a chance. Democrats are likely to lose their Alabama seat, which means they would need to pick up four GOP seats to take the Senate in a 50-50 tie (assuming Biden wins the White House).
BUT THE REPUBLICANS MIGHT ONLY LOSE TWO OF THEIR SEATS, in Arizona and Colorado. Where could the other two GOP losses come from? Perhaps in Maine, where Susan Collins is trailing, but she’s a good campaigner; and perhaps in North Carolina, where GOP Sen.Thom Tillis narrowly trails a Democrat who’s embroiled in a sex scandal.
IT’S ENTIRELY POSSIBLE that the GOP could lose only three of their seats, thus narrowly keeping the Senate. Another path for the GOP would be if they pick up the Michigan seat, where the Democrats’ incumbent senator may be in trouble.
BOTTOM LINE: We’re still at only 55% that the Democrats take the Senate, lower than most analysts. If Biden wins easily, the Democrats will take the Senate, perhaps picking up a couple more seats — Iowa, Montana, Georgia and South Carolina would be in play.. But we don’t think Biden will win easily, which means a Blue Wave is far from certain.
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A NANCY PELOSI SURPRISE? We talked recently with someone familiar with Nancy Pelosi’s thinking on a stimulus bill. This source doesn’t rule out a deal today, with Pelosi taking a $2 trillion package from Steve Mnuchin and claiming credit for helping struggling Americans.
THEN, ACCORDING TO THIS SCENARIO, Mitch McConnell and the Republicans — who are distancing themselves from President Trump — would proclaim that the deal is grossly expensive and totally unacceptable. Pelosi could then say, “See, the Republicans have no interest in a stimulus bill; they have repudiated their president.”
THUS WE REITERATE — Any sign of a deal today would be a fake-out for the stock market, which clearly wants a big stimulus. Congressional Republicans would never accept a $2 trillion deal; even a $1 trillion deal is too rich for them. They want to confirm Amy Coney Barrett next Monday and go home.
PELOSI, MEANWHILE, HAS A SPIN BATTLE TO WIN, and she just might emerge with a huge deal that ultimately is killed by Congressional Republicans. The conventional wisdom is that she doesn’t want to give Trump a victory — but would it really be a victory for him if his own troops repudiate his deal?
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