Election Central

Risch re-election almost a sure thing, GOP is slight favorite to control Senate, says Silver

Idaho GOP Sen. Jim Risch is among six U.S. senators with a 99 percent likelihood of re-election, according to Nate Silver, the forecaster who precisely predicted President Obama’s Electoral College win and percentage of the popular vote in 2012.

Silver also predicts Republicans will win exactly the six seats they need for a 51-49 margin in the Senate, which would propel both Risch and Idaho’s senior GOP Sen. Mike Crapo into more powerful committee posts.

“We think the Republicans are now slight favorites to win at least six seats and capture the chamber,” writes Silver, who recently left the New York Times for ESPN.

Risch, who has spent all but eight of the last 44 years in elected office, likely will face first-time Democratic candidate Nels Mitchell in the Nov. 4 general election. Both have token opposition in the May 20 primary, with New Yorker William Bryk challenging Risch and Boisean Jeremy “T” Anderson opposing Mitchell.

Silver rates Risch with five other incumbents as having a 99 percent probability of re-election. The others are Rhode Island Democrat Jack Reed and Republicans Pat Roberts of Kansas, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, Mike Enzi of Wyoming and John Sessions of Alabama.

Silver’s ratings are based on the national environment, candidate quality, state partisanship, incumbency and head-to-head polls. Thirty-six seats are contested this year, two higher than normal because of special elections in Hawaii and South Carolina. Silver

The Idaho race is in the category of 13 Republican seats “likely or almost certain to be retained” by the GOP. Of these, Silver writes, “none looks like a viable opportunity for Democrats.”

Adds Silver: “The moonshot for Democrats might be Mississippi, where the Republican incumbent, Thad Cochran, is vulnerable to a primary challenge and Democrats have a good prospective nominee in former Rep. Travis Childers. Still, as (Silver’s FiveThirtyEight colleague) Harry Enten explained, it’s hard for any Democrat to get to 50 percent of the vote in Mississippi.”

The same holds true in recent Idaho elections. The last statewide Democrat to reach that threshold was then-Superintendent of Public Instruction Marilyn Howard, who carried 52 percent of the vote over Republican Tom Luna in 2002.


Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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Posted in Election Central, Idaho Politics