Monday, February 3, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The All-Important 2014 U.S. Senate Races

The 2014 U.S. senate races have now entered their active
phase. There are nine months until election day. Of course
much can happen between now and then, but the shape of
the numerous competitive contests is beginning to appear.

As of now, it would appear that there are five likely senate
pick-up for the Republicans, including Montana, South
Dakota, West Virginia, Arkansas, and now Louisiana.
Nothing is certain, but with the Democratic leadership
persisting in defending Obamacare, continued high
unemployment, uncertain financial markets, and a
problematic international economic and military
environment, it is difficult to see how these vulnerable
Democratic senate seats can be successfully defended.

Furthermore, four senate seats currently held by
Democrats, in Alaska, North Carolina, Iowa and Michigan
seem especially endangered at this stage of the campaign.

At risk, but still “Democratic-favored,” are seats in
New Hampshire, Minnesota,  and Colorado. (If Scott Brown
enters the New Hampshire race, that contest would become
a “toss-up.”)

A pick-up of six Democratic seats would be necessary in
order for the GOP to take control of the senate.

Democrats also have pick-up opportunities as well, in
Georgia(where they have an excellent candidate), Tennessee,
Kentucky and South Carolina, but if a conservative wave
develops, these opportunities might be missed.

(It is important to note that prior to the 2012 national
elections Republicans were expected to make gains in the
many close election contests that year, but, in fact, lost two
a net of seats. That outcome was attributable to the strong
showing of the Democratic presidential candidate at the top
of the ticket, much better Democratic GOTV efforts, and
several “flawed” GOP senate nominees who lost races many
thought should have been won.)

What is different from 2012, however, is that there is no
presidential contest, and that intraparty challenges to
incumbent GOP senators seem to lacking voter traction so
far. Since the number of Republican incumbents up for
re-election in 2016 will greatly outnumber Democrats ( a
reversal of the past three cycles), any hope of GOP control
of the senate would be lost for many years if the
Republicans do not succeed this year.

The “Tea Party” wing of the conservative party, however,
remains potent in several states, and until the GOP nominees
are finally chosen later in the year, the outcomes of several
races are in some doubt.

Some GOP hopes are wishful thinking. Although Ed Gillespie
is an excellent Republican candidate in Virginia, it is difficult
now to imagine any scenario by which incumbent Democratic
Senator Mark Warner is defeated.

But Obamacare is taking its toll on Democrats this year,
and several incumbents are beginning to separate themselves
from the White House and senate leadership on this issue.

But other issues are important in this cycle, too. Control of
the U.S. house seems to have been so far ceded by the
Democrats who are seeing some of their most senior and
powerful members retire. (Several Republican house members
are also retiring or running for higher office.) The economy in
general will, as always, be a major factor this year, especially
if another “wave” election develops (as happened for the
Democrats in 2006, and for the Republicans in 2010).

As I have pointed out for some time, the competition for control
of the U.S. senate is the principal political battleground of the
2014 national midterm elections. I will continue to provide updates
as developments occur.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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