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.