Republicans have a shot to narrow the Democrats’ 10 seat edge in the US Senate in 2014. With a favorable landscape, Republicans have little room for mistakes and must avoid the unforced errors that ended the chance to win seats in Missouri and Indiana in 2012.
On paper, the Republicans should walk away 51-53 seats after November of next year. If all the toss-ups went their way along with the handful of seats that are just slightly leaning Democratic, the GOP could hold as many as 57 seats. No, that is not a prediction I am making. I am well aware of the ability of Republicans to trip over their own feet, get up, and then trip again.
With a year to go, anything can happen. Some of the Democrats in toss-up seats may not get a great challenger. A Republican can say something harmless that will be turned into a national scandal. And if the Obamacare mess clears itself up by next November… wait, who am I kidding? Okay, “if” that were to happen, maybe some of these toss-ups become leans Democrat, and some of the leans Democrat become safe Democrat. And maybe having the name “Nunn” is good enough to get elected in Georgia. For now, these are the projections:
In 2014, 35 US Senate seats will be up for election. Democrats have a bit of defending to do as they currently hold 21 of these seats that are up, while Republicans hold the other 14. This will be the first time that Democratic incumbents will be up for re-election following their votes for Obamacare in 2010. The GOP will need to net 6 seats to regain control of the upper chamber as Democrats and affiliated Independents currently enjoy a 55-45 advantage.
All race ratings are as of most recent information available. As polls flow in, challengers pop up, and major events alter race dynamics, we will update the ratings.
Safe Republican Incumbent Seats
One Republican advantage should be the number of safe seats they have up for election this cycle. This will enable the party and grassroots groups to focus on picking up the 6 seats they need. So far, 12 of their 14 seats are considered Safe.
Alabama – Jeff Sessions
Idaho – Jim Risch
Kansas – Pat Roberts
Maine – Susan Collins
Mississippi – Thad Cochran (Facing Primary Challenge)
Nebraska – Open (Mike Johanns is Retiring)
Oklahoma – Jim Inhofe
South Carolina – Lindsey Graham (Facing Primary Challenge)
South Carolina – Tim Scott (Special Election)
Tennessee – Lamar Alexander
Texas – John Cornyn
Wyoming – Mike Enzi (Facing Primary Challenge)
Safe Democratic Incumbents
Nine. That’s the number of safe seats the Democrats can currently claim out of 21. There are a handful that definitely lean Democratic, but a flood of retirements and extraordinary number of red states pose major problems.
Delaware – Chris Coons
Hawaii – Brian Schatz (Special Election)
Illinois – Dick Durbin
Massachusetts – Ed Markey
New Jersey – Corey Booker
New Mexico – Tom Udall
Oregon – Jeff Merkely
Rhode Island – Jack Reed
Virginia – Mark Warner
Likely Republican Pickups
As in 2010 and 2012, a handful of “moderate” Democrats in red states have opted to simply not face the voters after voting for Obamacare and voting against the values of their constituents. (Don’t worry, high-paying lobbying or “consulting” jobs await most of them.)
Montana – Max Baucus (Retiring)
South Dakota – Tim Johnson (Retiring)
West Virginia – Jay Rockefeller (Retiring)
Likely Democratic Pickups
None. The only blue state currently occupied by a Republican is Maine. Susan Collins is safe.
Republican Seats to Watch
Kentucky – Mitch McConnell: Democrats insist they have a shot. Not enough data to suggest they do… yet.
Georgia – Open: Saxby Chambliss is retiring. Democrats want to run Michelle Nunn, who has never held public office but has a famous last name.
Democratic Seats to Watch
Alaska – Mark Begich: A Democrat who likely would never have been elected in 2008 if not for a phony legal charges brought days before the election. (Tossup)
Arkansas – Mark Pryor: His former colleague, Blanch Lincoln, got thumped in 2010 for her support of Obamacare. GOP has recruited Congressman Tom Cotton to compete. (Leans Republican)
Colorado – Mark Udall: Obama won Colorado twice, but Udall’s favorable ratings are below 50% and Ken Buck is within the margin of error in polls. (Leans Democrat)
Iowa – Open: Tom Harkin is retiring and the field has been cleared for Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley. He polls below 50%, but leads, against a handful of low name-recognition Republicans. (Leans Democrat)
Louisiana – Mary Landrieu: The “moderate” Democrat is scrambling to distance herself from Obamacare and led the way in pushing a package to “fix” parts of the bill. (Toss-up)
Michigan – Open: Carl Levin is also retiring and polls have a dead heat between Democratic Congressman Gary Peters and former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land. (Toss-up)
Minnesota – Al Franken: The “comedian” won a controversial vote in 2008 with just 42% of the vote. (Leans Democrat)
New Hampshire – Jeanne Sheehan is also scrambling a bit on Obamacare. A lot of big names have dropped, and the national GOP is trying to recruit former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown. (Leans Democrat; Toss-up if Brown gets in)
North Carolina – Kay Hagan: The Tar Heel State is getting more purple, but Mitt Romney still won the state in 2012. Hagan’s popularity went downhill fast as attention was turned to Obamacare. (Tossup)
Where They Stand
Republicans will have 31 seats not up for re-election in 2014. Of the 14 up for re-election, 12 are currently considered safe. They are also predicted to pick up 3 seats currently held by Democrats. This gives them a projected 46 seats Safe Seats. The two remaining GOP seats and one Democratic seat currently lean Republican, giving them a projected 49 Seats.
Democrats (with two affiliated Independents) have 34 seats not up for re-election. Of the 21 seats up for re-election, just 9 are considered uncompetitive at this time. With no highly favorable match-ups against currently held Republican seats, they have a projected 43 Safe Seats. Four of the “Seats to Watch” currently lean Democratic, giving them a projected 47 seats.
At the current projection, Republicans would need to pick up two of the four “toss-up” seats currently held by Democrats to get to 51 seats and prevent Joe Biden from being the Senate tie-breaker. Three of those states (NC, AK, LA) went for Mitt Romney in 2012.
Of course, this is all fluid. In 2012, Missouri was supposed to be a pick-up for Republicans and Indiana was not supposed to go to Democrats on paper. Democrats additionally held almost all of the toss-up seats. The GOP can win the Senate, but they have no room for unforced errors.