The final week of the election has been an emotional rollercoaster for Democrats. Starting with FBI Director James Comey’s letter to Congress on Oct. 28 regarding additional emails found related to their investigation into Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, the polls tightened considerably, before getting a little more comfortable going into Election Day. But not all is rosy for the Dems — unlike last week, when it looked like the upper chamber of Congress would be within easy grasp of the party, Democrats’ control of the Senate is now a coin-toss — and that could spell big trouble for Clinton if she’s elected.
Going into 2016, things looked rough for Republicans. Of the 34 seats up for election, 24 of them belonged to the GOP, which meant they were almost entirely playing defense (the only Democratic seat that is being legitimately contested is Harry Reid’s former seat in Nevada). And for a while there, things were looking good for the Dems, with Evan Bayh making a strong play for his old seat in Indiana, underdog Dem Jason Kander making the Missouri race weirdly competitive, and Democrat Deborah Ross giving incumbent Richard Burr a run for his money. But in the week since Comey’s letter, the tide has shifted away from Senate Dems, and while they still stand to pick up at least a few seats, it may not be enough to get a clear majority.
Factored into all this is that, in the case of a 50-50 split in the Senate, the Vice President provides the tie-breaking vote, so the balance of the Senate is tied to the outcome of the presidential race, which is part of what is giving the Democrats their razor thin edge in forecasts for Senate control.
The Democrats taking the Senate will be key for giving Clinton, should she win, any real chance of governing, although the Republicans’ nearly iron-grip on the House of Representatives was always going to make that tough. Still, with a majority in the Senate, Clinton will have a fighting chance of getting nominations through; it’s possible a Democratic Senate could even further relax filibuster rules to keep the GOP from holding back everything (including the still vacant seat on the Supreme Court).
And if Clinton wins the presidency but the Democrats lose control of the Senate, we can expect to see even more legislative gridlock in the next two years (probably four years), with unclear futures for Clinton’s cabinet (which is subject to Senatorial advise-and-consent) and the Supreme Court.
The only darker scenario to imagine is if the GOP does a clean sweep of the Presidency, the Senate and the House — which is not that remote a possibility — giving Trump and the Republicans free reign in America.