The Sunday line is open. Final words:

* NOW REPUBLICANS LIKE NATE SILVER: Remember the last presidential election. It was hard to find a Republican who didn’t sneer at stat man Nate Silver and his prediction of an easy re-election for President Obama, along with some sound predictions on Democratic-friendly congressional outcomes. Today, Republicans LOVE them some Nate Silver. He’s done a U.S. Senate forecast  and, after grinding all the numbers and factors, says Republicans are slight favorites to retake the Senate, perhaps a 51-49 split.

Advertisement

The local angle is this: Silver gives Tom Cotton a 70 percent probability of beating U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor. This is based on a number of factors, not just polling, which Silver notes at this point has little to show in the way of reliable data. Key factor: 

As Dan Hopkins wrote at FiveThirtyEight last week, races of all kinds have become more and more correlated with presidential results in recent years. So the Partisan Voting Index (PVI), which compares how a state voted in the past two presidential years against the national popular vote, is also a useful tool for congressional races. 

In a state where Barack Obama is lucky to poll in the 30s and, in race after race, where  voters seem to be voting against the party of Obama reflexively, you can see where a 70 percent probability comes from. And still … polls show Pryor remains in the race. That, I think, is a mark of  Cotton’s strangeness and extremism. It’s Pryor’s only hope, slim though it might be. The Pryor analysis from Silver, bad as it is, is actually slightly more hopeful than it is for some other Democrats:

Advertisement

The final race in this category is Arkansas, where Democrats have a true incumbent, Sen. Mark Pryor, running. Pryor was once so popular that he won without Republican opposition in 2008. But Arkansas has become redder and redder, and Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s 21-point loss to Republican John Boozman in 2010 demonstrates that past popularity is no guarantee of future success for a Democrat there. Furthermore, Republicans have a strong candidate in Rep. Tom Cotton, who is ahead by an average of about five points in recent polls. Pryor will be able to fight for his seat — he had $4.2 million in cash on hand as of Dec. 31, compared to $2.2 million for Cotton. The polling has returned inconsistent answers about Pryor’s approval and favorability ratings, so it’s hard to say how deep a reservoir of personal goodwill he will have to draw from. But the evidence points toward him being the underdog.