Who Will Take Senate Control? Look To The Runoffs

By Dick Morris on October 21, 2014

Published on TheHill.com on October 21, 2014

The odds are that Republicans will have taken the Senate by Election Day, though it’s possible runoffs in Georgia and Louisiana, one slated for December and the other for January, will be what hands the gavel to the GOP, albeit with some delay.Third-party candidates in both races — constitutional conservative Rob Maness in Louisiana and libertarian Amanda Swafford in Georgia — are very likely to keep the major-party candidates below 50 percent of the vote on Nov. 4, necessitating a runoff under state law.

But runoffs in these states are likely to favor the Republicans. In Louisiana, Rep. Bill Cassidy (R) has consistently led Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu in runoff polling, and most of the vote going to Maness in the general election will probably move to the GOP column in the second round. In this case, the saying applies: “In the first round, you vote with your heart. In the second, you vote with your head.”

In Georgia, Democrat Michelle Nunn’s Obamaesque assault on Republican candidate David Perdue over his role in restructuring companies and, particularly, the issue of outsourcing, is giving her new momentum. But no poll has ever had her above 50 percent, so a runoff is quite possible.

Runoffs in Southern states almost always feature a sharp tilt toward the Republican Party. Voters in the first round often show up at the polls to vote for local Democratic candidates for sheriff, county judge and council. But, in the runoff, very few of these positions will still be on the ballot, most having been resolved on Nov. 4. Turnout will drop in the runoff and downscale voters — particularly minorities — are much less likely to show up.

Republicans are likely either to gain a majority on Nov. 4 or to miss it narrowly. The GOP seems assured of pickups in Montana, West Virginia, Arkansas and Alaska. The threat of the Larry Pressler candidacy seems to be diminishing in South Dakota, so Republican Mike Rounds should win there as well. That makes five seats.

The sixth could come in Iowa, Colorado, New Hampshire or North Carolina, where the races are neck and neck.

There is still a chance that misguided voters in Kansas will fall for the false flag strategy of Greg Orman masquerading as an independent and defeat GOP incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts. But the odds are that the GOP will win a majority on Nov. 4. If they do, I predict Democratic funding for the Louisiana and Georgia runoffs will dry up and Republican funding will grow accordingly. Even if the GOP falls just short of six seats, the effect of the momentum is likely to carry over.

And, after Election Day, President Obama is likely to let the other shoe drop and act to end deportations of illegal immigrants, an action he delayed because of the political fallout. But Latinos will only let him wait so long.

Another big question remains: whither the undecideds?

Until recently, it has been axiomatic that the undecided vote goes against the incumbent. The refusal to back the incumbent in the polls has been taken as a sign of discontent. It’s like asking if you will be married to the same person next year — to say you are undecided does not reflect credit on the viability of the marriage.

But the surge of identity politics and class warfare under Obama may have reversed that trend. These days, late-deciding voters, most of whom are downscale, could vote Democratic, defying political tradition. In the presidential races of 2012, Obama picked up most of the undecided vote, a feat previous incumbent presidents had failed to accomplish.

With Senate polls in dead heats, the eventual choice of the undecideds is a major question students of the process will watch with interest.

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