It's a strange story. For one, it would have been unthinkable to write just two months ago, before Scott Brown's Senate win in Massachusetts, when a Senate takeover didn't even qualify as G.O.P. fantasy. Yet now that the party's prospects for a Senate takeover have been upgraded from impossible to highly unlikely (the G.O.P. now holds 41 seats in the U.S. Senate) Nagourney shifted the burden to the G.O.P. to make it happen, as if it would be some kind of defeat for the party to fall short of 50 Senate seats.
The retirement of Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana has raised Republicans' hopes of capturing a significant number of Democratic Senate seats in November. Some Republicans and analysts are even suggesting that the party might take control of the Senate.
In theory, at least, that is possible, given the number of Democratic retirements, soaring public disillusionment with Congress and an unemployment rate that seems unlikely to diminish appreciably before November.
But a review of the political map suggests how daunting the Republican task would be, requiring both a continuing barrage of bad luck for Democrats and nothing short of a flawless performance by the Republican Party.
Nagourney admitted things looked good for GOP gains:
"Republicans can probably put North Dakota in the bank today, after Senator Byron L. Dorgan, a Democrat, decided not to seek re-election. Republicans also appear to be in strong shape in Delaware, where Mr. Biden's son Joseph R. Biden III, known as Beau, decided not to run, yielding the stage to Representative Michael N. Castle.
Mr. Bayh's retirement makes Republicans justifiably comfortable about their prospects of taking back a state that tilts Republican.
Assuming that Republicans held on to all seven of the open seats and picked up all eight held by vulnerable Democrats, they would still need to pick up one Democratic seat in decidedly less competitive races in California, Connecticut, New York, Washington and Wisconsin.
But the old rule of politics is you can't beat somebody with nobody. And so far, Republicans are struggling to find top-tier candidates in New York, Washington and Wisconsin.