- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 24, 2010

It’s official: A week before the midterm elections, odds are that Republicans will win control of the House but Democrats will keep control of the Senate, according to the overseas bookmakers taking bets on this sort of thing.

Ireland-based Paddy Power says Republicans are “hot favorites” at 1-33 odds to capture the lower chamber, though they are not favored to win the Senate, with bettors getting odds of 11-4 against it.

Ken Robertson, communications manager for Paddy Power, said Republicans had the edge in the Senate until July, when Democrats’ momentum pushed them to become the odds-on favorite at 2-9, meaning a bettor placing a $9 wager stands to win just $2 if Democrats keep the 50 seats needed to control the upper house.

If the election bears out those predictions, it will be the first time since World War II that the House flipped control without the Senate also changing hands. But political prognosticators in the U.S. say that’s increasingly looking likely, with the Republicans riding voter anger to capture at least 39 seats needed in the House, but having a tougher time in the Senate.

“It is mathematically possible for the GOP to score a net gain of 10 seats, but it is a very difficult proposition, practically speaking,” the Cook Political Report said late last week.

Christine O'Donnell has 10-1 odds against winning the Senate seat in Delaware on Nov. 2, says Ireland-based bookmaker Paddy Power. (Associated Press)
Christine O’Donnell has 10-1 odds against winning the Senate seat in Delaware ... more >

The problem for oddsmakers and prognosticators alike is that polls in the Senate races show an unsettled picture.

The Nevada, Colorado, Illinois and West Virginia seats have been impossible to predict for some time, while Democrat Joe Sestak has turned Pennsylvania into a competitive race and Democrat Jack Conway did the same in Kentucky, even as Republican challengers are putting renewed heat on Democratic incumbents in Washington and California.

Desperation — whether real or exaggerated for fundraising purposes — showed in a donor solicitation e-mail from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee over the weekend. Online communications director Jason Rosenbaum pleaded for money to hold the line in some of the races that are surprisingly close.

“Keeping CA blue is just about a requirement if we’re going to keep the Senate,” Mr. Rosenbaum wrote, pointing to a public poll that showed Republican Carly Fiorina within 2 percentage points of incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Still, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine said Sunday that Republicans will struggle to topple Senate Democrats.

“Four or five months ago, the Republicans thought they had a great chance to taking both houses,” he told ABC’s “This Week” program. “For a variety of reasons, the Senate has gotten much more difficult for them.”

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he thinks Republicans will gain the number of seats needed to win control of the House but acknowledged “the Senate’s a little bit tougher.”

To get control of the Senate, Republicans must take 10 seats from Democrats to push their number to 51. A 50-50 split in the Senate would leave control in Democrats’ hands because of the tiebreaking vote of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Republicans may have lost the chance for a vital pickup when Delaware voters chose Christine O’Donnell over Rep. Michael N. Castle to be the party’s nominee. Paddy Power says the odds are 10-1 against her.

Now, Republicans must win nearly every seat in play in order to control the Senate.

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