With Dems on defensive, GOP has chance to win Senate

What’s the outlook for the 2014 Senate elections? The Republicans once again have a chance to overturn the Democrats’ majority, as they did in 2010 and 2012.

Much attention has been focused on whether Republicans this time will nominate candidates capable of winning key races, as they failed to do in those two elections. But another interesting question is how Democrats will try to hold onto seats in Republican-leaning states even as Barack Obama maintains his strong tilt to the political left.

 With Dems on defensive, GOP has chance to win Senate

Both Landrieu and Pryor have run under 50 percent in recent polls against Reps. John Fleming and Tom Cotton, with Pryor a statistically insignificant 1 percent ahead of the Republican.

In North Carolina (50 percent Romney), Democrat Kay Hagan faces a different battleground. The Obama campaign vastly increased turnout in 2008 and won the state then with high black turnout and support from high-education whites.

But that coalition failed to prevail in 2012, when Romney narrowly carried the state and Republicans captured the governorship and won large majorities in the state legislature.

Incumbent Hagan won the seat in 2008 largely because of slip ups by Republican Elizabeth Dole. She has come out for same-sex marriage and isn’t denouncing Obamacare. Evidently she’s hoping to reassemble the 2008 Obama majority.

Another Democratic surprise winner in 2008 was Mark Begich of Alaska (55 percent Romney). He won by 1 percent after incumbent Ted Stevens was convicted on federal charges in October. That conviction was reversed in 2009, but Begich was positioned to cast what can legitimately be called the deciding vote for Obamacare that year.

If Democrats lose all seven of these seats in Romney states, and if Republicans avoid nominating candidates who manage to lose seats that currently seem unloseable, Republicans will have at least a 52-48 Senate majority.

And they have at least an outside chance of winning seats in 2012 target states Colorado, Iowa and New Hampshire, plus Michigan.

Well, you might ask, isn’t it unusual for parties to sweep all the close races? Actually, sometimes they do. Republicans did in 1980 and Democrats did in 1986 — and those were the same seats.

Republicans won the bulk of close races in 2002, and Democrats won the bulk of close races in 2008 — the same seats again and the ones up next year.

A sweep is by no means certain this time. But if the Obamacare rollout is a “train wreck,” as Baucus feared, the odds get better.

Michael Barone is senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner.