With Obama’s poll numbers worse today than they were in 2010, Republicans seemed poised for an historic sweep in November’s midterm elections. A switch of just 6 seats in the Senate, where Democrats are defending almost twice as many seats, would give the GOP control of the upper chamber. This, however, would require the best Republican performance in Senate races in more than three decades. In a number of races, Republicans could fall short due to third party, especially Libertarian, challengers. Republicans have proven adept at picking up open Senate seats, where a Democrat incumbent has retired, but have a very mixed record in the last three decades on defeating incumbents. In the 1980 Reagan wave election, the GOP defeated 9 Democrat senators. Since then, the party hasn’t defeated more than 2 sitting Democrat senators in any election cycle. Even in the 1994 wave election, when the GOP regained control of the chamber, Republican victories were built on winning open seats. The party defeated just 2 Democrat senators running for reelection. This year, the pattern is repeating itself as the Republicans hold significant advantages in three states where Democrat incumbents are retiring; Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia. The party
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