- - Saturday, October 25, 2014

Fall is in the air. The leaves are changing colors, football season is in full swing and people in battleground states are being inundated by candidates and commercials.

In Washington, the GOP is already breaking out the champagne. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is already measuring the drapes in the majority leader’s office.

The anticipation is that the Republican Party will sweep the midterm elections. The common wisdom is that the GOP will gain seats in the House of Representatives and more importantly take control of the Senate.

But not so fast.

Right now there are 45 Republicans in the Senate. There are 53 Democrats and two independents who caucus with the Democrats. To gain a majority, the Republicans need six seats.

The truth is they need more than that.

According to the latest from Real Clear Politics, the current split is 45 Democratic seats that are either not on the ballot or that are safe seats. There are 46 Republican seats that are either not on the ballot or safe. There are nine toss ups.

The Republicans need five of those to get a majority. The common wisdom so far has been that the GOP would get more than five. But among the toss up states are Kentucky, Georgia and Kansas. These states all have Republican incumbents and should be safe GOP seats. In Georgia, Sen. Saxby Chambliss is retiring but in Kansas Pat Roberts is running for re-election and in Kentucky Mr. McConnell is fighting for his political life.

Some of the states the GOP was supposed to pick up don’t look so good now. North Carolina is a toss up, where Democrat Sen. Kay Hagen was supposed to have no chance at reelection.

What happens if the GOP wins only five of those seats and has a 51-49 majority over the Democrats?

Does anyone believe that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is going to quietly go away and say, “Well I guess the American people have spoken?”

In 2000, the end result of the election was a 50-50 split in the Senate. The Democrats demanded a power-sharing arrangement in the Senate that the Republicans surrendered to. The Democrats were not satisfied with that arrangement and courted several Republicans to defect. In May 2001, Vermont Republican Jim Jeffords was convinced to switch from a Republican to an independent. He was offered a deal by the Democrats. Had a private citizen offered that deal, they would have been indicted for bribery.

One of the senators who was courted by the Democrats in 2001 was John McCain.

Could Mr. McCain hold the balance of power in 2015?

If the Republicans only gain a one seat majority, you can bet Mr. Reid is going to be in Mr. McCain’s office offering him everything he can to get him to switch parties.

Mr. McCain has never been popular in conservative circles. The Arizona GOP censured Mr. McCain in January of this year.

Would Mr. McCain switch?

He has to decide soon if he wants to run for re-election in 2016.

2016 may not be a good year for the GOP in the Senate. The GOP will have to defend twice as many seats as the Democrats and many of those seats are in swing states. For Mr. McCain, inducements such as a powerful chairmanship that he could reasonably count on keeping for several years, as well as promises for help in his re-election effort could be enough to get him to switch.

If the Senate were divided 50-50, the Democrats would not show the same reluctance the GOP did in having the vice president vote. There would be no power-sharing arrangement as there was with Mr. Jeffords in 2001. The Democrats would use Vice President Joe Biden to cast the deciding vote.

This should be a landslide year for the Republicans. Instead, they have allowed their consultant class to once again ruin an election. Instead of campaigning on issues, the GOP’s mantra is, “We suck less than the Democrats.”

Not a winning strategy.

With nine states up for grabs, the GOP needs to win more than just five of them for a simple majority. They have to have a theft-proof majority. That means six or seven of those states must go Republican.

There is still time for the GOP to win this election.

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