I was preparing my latest blog post, which was to be titled, "The Democrats still have a good shot at retaining the Senate." Let me share some of the reasons I felt this was so, even though pollsters and pundits were already giving Republicans more than a 60 percent chance of taking the Senate.
Republicans need to gain six seats to retake the Senate. It really all hinges on a number of very close races across the country.
About 11 of these Senate races are currently within the margin of error. These close races are actually getting closer. If the close races split between Democrats and Republicans, it is likely to be a long evening. Since races this close could go either way, the reality is it could be a big Republican win, a squeaker, or even a big Democratic win.
Turnout, therefore, is the key. It is assumed that Democrats will not turn out in a midterm election. Yet there are some reasons why they might, especially in certain races. Voter repression may make some angry enough to vote. A strong ground game could tip the balance in some states.
Democrats only need to pick off a couple of states that seem to be leaning Republican. There are some surprising states that may be in play, such as Kansas and South Dakota, where independents could tip the balance. A larger than expected turnout by Democrats in a few states could make a big difference. This is such a volatile election that it can literally turn on a dime.
But I think it just turned. Everything changed on Wednesday. Canada happened. An apparently lone gunman shot and killed a soldier guarding the National War Memorial in Ottawa. He then entered the Parliament building, where he was finally shot and killed.
In the scheme of things with the Islamic State group, Ebola, and Secret Service mishaps, this may seem a minor incident. Yet, as I said, a number of races are so close that almost anything can move the races in one direction or another
I believe the incident in Canada is that tipping point. A major issue in this race, stated or unstated, is fear. The American public is uneasy, and there is a convergence of issues that are rightly or wrongly making them feel less safe.
Republican politicians have effectively exploited fear in the past. One example is the 2004 election, when President George W. Bush was unpopular but was nevertheless re-elected because the campaign was able to influence the public to fear taking a chance on Sen. John Kerry.
In this election, we have heard politicians raise fears that terrorists are crossing the Mexican border and that travel bans are needed to prevent a major Ebola epidemic in this country. The new case of Ebola in New York City only adds to these concerns.
Until now, I felt that there would be enough resistance to this message in enough places for Democrats to hold the Senate. I now believe that balance has tipped. In most of these races, it will only take a 1 or 2 percent change to move the race into the Republican column. Consequently, I think we may be looking at a wave election, with nearly all of the close races going for Republicans. The Republicans will retake the Senate, gain seats in the House, and win more governor races than was originally expected.
The difference between a landslide and a squeaker is amazingly small. It is time to start wondering what impact Republican victories in 2014 will mean for the 2016 presidential election.