N. Dakota and Arkansas are generally pretty conservative states. It’s surprising N. Dakota ever had a Democratic senator in the first place, and the retirement of Byron Dorgan would nearly guarantee a Republican victory there, regardless of what year it was. in Arkansas is in trouble, perhaps surprisingly, because she <i>didn’t</i> support President Obama’s agenda, particularly on . It’s likely the voters there would prefer an actual Republican to a Democrat who merely votes like one.
Pennsylvania and Indiana are swing states. Although won Pennsylvania handily, do recall that McCain thought he had a chance there, up until the very end. Additionally, this is ’s seat that’sup for grabs. It’s only now in Democratic hands because Specter switched parties, not because Pennsylvania had elected a Democrat to that seat. Had Specter not switched parties, he would have been massively favored for re-election.
Obama won Indiana by a margin of only about 2% of the popular vote. In the first midterm of his administration, it’s not surprising such a state might go to the other party. The same argument could be made for Colorado and Nevada, though Obama won those states by much more significant margins. Al Gorelost these states, and pretty convincingly, only four years before. That they might swing back and forth is hardly surprising.
The final state where Mr. Silver gives the Republicans better than a 50% chance of takeover is Illinois. This is Obama’s former seat up for the vote, a seat he won in a hotly-contested race in 2006. Undoubtedly, the controversy surrounding Rolland Burris’ appointment (remember Blago?) has complicated matters for theDems. Still, for all the power of Chicago, the downstate voters there tend toward the conservative, and Illinois has frequently had Republican representation in the Senate.
The loss of none of these seats for the Dems would be shocking, in any year. Perhaps a clean sweep by the Republicans would be impressive, but only due to volume, not because of any seismic shift in opinion. That is, most of these (except, perhaps, for Illinois) are anyway, which the Democrats would only be expected to win or to hold in special circumstances (such as Byron Dorgan’s incumbency).
So what would it mean, in terms of the mood of the electorate, if the Democrats lose many, perhaps most, of these seats? Does it mean America has suddenly swung far toward the Tea Party? Does it signify a rejection of the Democrats or of Obama?
Not really. It seems to me more like a pretty normal first-term midterm, a number of factors (including several retirements) having conspired to make a several soft seats available to the other party all at the same time.