In a Political Fix post this morning, Cillizza and Blake don't think much of GOP candidates Todd Akin, John Brunner, and Sarah Steelman, but go along with the conventional wisdom that Claire McCaskill won't win because of her association with President Obama.
But in late February 2012, the Senate playing field pivoted when Republican Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe, a shoo-in for re-election, announced she would retire, and former Gov. Angus King, an independent expected to caucus with Democrats, decided to run.
Suddenly, with King a near-certain pickup, the path to retaining the majority didn’t look so impossibly high for Democrats. Assuming King wins and picks the Democrats, Republicans would need four seats to take over the majority if former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney wins and five seats if President Obama is re-elected. (The vice president serves as President of the Senate and casts tie-breaking votes when necessary.)
So, how do Republicans get to four (or five)? Nebraska is an almost certain pickup, with polls showing state Sen. Deb Fischer (R) with a comfortable lead. North Dakota’s open seat is far more competitive than most people expected (including us) but it’s still a state that should go solidly for Romney in November, which will help Rep. Rick Berg (R). The Republican field in Missouri is mediocre, but Sen.Claire McCaskill (D) isn’t likely to be able to get enough distance from Obama to save herself.