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Democrats Dominate List Of Most Vulnerable Senate Seats In 2014

Capitol Building Dusk

As the attention of political analysts starts to shift toward the 2014 midterms, now just over eleven months away, National Journal’s Stephen Shepard and Kevin Brennan note that the list of vulnerable Senate seats is overwhelmingly Democratic:

A lot has happened since National Journal Hotline last surveyed the Senate landscape. Republicans took a significant hit when their efforts to derail the Affordable Care Act resulted in a federal government shutdown. But the struggles in implementing that law have swung the pendulum back in the GOP’s favor in recent weeks.

Combined with a favorable map, Republican momentum has put control of the Senate firmly in play. In fact, the 7 seats most likely to switch parties in our latest Hotline Senate Rankings are only Democratic-held. If Republicans flip 6 of the 7 — without losing any of their own vulnerable seats — they would control the Senate in 2015.

Overall, 13 of the 15 most vulnerable seats are held by Democrats. Just two GOP-held seats are even somewhat in danger of flipping parties: Georgia, where Republicans could nominate a controversial candidate like Rep. Paul Broun, and Kentucky, where Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell isn’t popular and faces well-funded primary and general-election challengers.

Shepard and Brennan then go on to list the 15 seats that are considered vulnerable, and they range from seats like South Dakota and West Virginia which, absent some extreme circumstances, are likely to switch to the GOP next November at the top of the list to Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Oregon, which are typically not seats that come up in any conversation about possible GOP pickups next year absent a wave election that would make 2010 seem tame by comparison, and there’s not really any sign of that occurring at this point. Indeed, the seats that are generally considered the main battleground for control of the Senate are South Dakota, West Virginia, Montana, Arkansas, Alaska, Louisiana, and North Carolina. The one thing that these states all have in common, of course, is that they are states that Mitt Romney won in the 2012 Election. If Republicans manage to win all seven of these states then they will flip the Senate and have a majority of 52-48. Outside of these seven, there are some people who consider a handful of other states, such as Iowa, Michigan, and New Hampshire, all states that the President won in 2012, as possible targets next year. However while the GOP has some success in recruiting in some of these states, such as Michigan, the odds of a Republican winning statewide in any of them seems doubtful looking at the numbers this far out. The one possibility on this list that could prove most interesting in New Hampshire, where the possibility of former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown mounting a challenge to Senate Jean Shaheen seems to be moving closer to reality. Beyond that, the idea of the GOP being competitive in Obama states like Colorado, Iowa, Oregon, or Minnesota strikes me as being pretty far fetched absent a pretty tremendous GOP wave that crests at just the right time next year. Assuming that happened, though, the GOP is looking at the potential of a Senate majority as large as 57 seats.

While the probability of such a waive seems unlikely at this point, The Washington Post’s Reid Wilson does note that it’s far from an impossibility at this point:

Democrats will say the Republican Party is in even worse shape than they are, and they have a point: In the October Washington Post/ABC News poll, just 32 percent of voters said they had a favorable impression of the GOP, compared with 46 percent who had a favorable impression of the Democratic Party. And Republicans still have not articulated a clear governing vision for the country, even a year after failure to do so emerged as a central criticism of Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign.

But back in 2010, 40 percent told Post pollsters they viewed Republicans in a favorable light, 10 points lower than those who said they saw Democrats favorably. Republicans feigned a national platform, akin to the Contract With America, but their pitch to voters was more about what they were against — namely, Democrats and ObamaCare — than what they were for. Voters have backed the unpopular party with few ideas over the slightly-more-popular party with unpopular ideas before.

The stakes are highest for Democratic senators seeking re-election in red states, where the Affordable Care Act is even more widely despised than it is nationally. Democratic incumbents in Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina and Alaska will face added headwinds unless the political climate changes.

And there aren’t many opportunities for Democrats to change that climate.

The one opportunity that Democrats do have lies in negotiations over the federal budget. October’s government shutdown gave Democrats a temporary advantage, and if Republican hardliners pursue the same path, they could hand Democrats an opening. But with Republican anger at Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and others who led the shutdown crusade at such pitched levels, it seems unlikely Republicans would repeat their political mistakes of this fall.

That leaves Democrats weighed down by an unpopular president and an unpopular (and malfunctioning) law, running in unfavorable terrain. A major political wave hasn’t developed yet, but a Republican sweep looks more likely now than it has since the waning weeks of the 2010 campaign.

Democrats will respond, of course, that most of the factors that Wilson cites could change. Public opinion about the PPACA could improve and that would likely assist in repairing at least some of the poll damage that the President and Congressional and Senate Democrats have suffered over the past two months. Upcoming budget battles could end up causing the GOP to fall into public disfavor again. And, of course, there is always the unknown factor of something that could happen on the foreign or domestic front that would throw everything into chaos in much the same way that yesterday’s day of college football has thrown the BCS projections into chaos. As things stand at the moment, though, things don’t look so good for Democrats, and the groundwork for what could be a GOP wave has already started.

As Shepard and Brennan note, of course, the GOP has two seats of it own that are potentially vulnerable. The Kentucky race between Mitch McConnell and Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes is likely to get a lot of national media attention simply for its potential to unseat the sitting Senate GOP Leader. However, the thing to remember about Mitch McConnell is that he’s faced strong General Election Challengers in the past and always managed to pull off a victory. His first win in 1984 came down to 0.4% of the vote, his last win in 2008 came down to 6% of the vote, which is pretty low for a long-serving Senator of either party. In other words, McConnell knows what its like to fight in a tight race in Kentucky and win and, given the fact that he is sitting on a huge amount of cash on hand and facing a Tea Party primary challenger who is, at best, a complete amateur who has been very skilled at damaging his own campaign, it would be a mistake to write the Senate Minority Leader off. Indeed, I’d say he has the advantage in that race right now notwithstanding what current poll numbers. The other state the GOP has to worry about is Georgia, where much will depend on which candidate wins the Republican primary early in the year. At the same time, though, Georgia is still enough of a red state that I’d say that whoever wins that nomination will start out the General Election with a clear advantage even if the name on the other side of the ballot is as storied as Nunn. Obviously, though, losing one or both of these seats would make it almost impossible for the GOP to hold on to the Senate.

Nonetheless, courtesy of our friends at 270towin, here’s where I see the Senate being after the 2014 elections, given the way things stand today:

Senate Projection as of 1212013

 

This assumes GOP pickups in Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia, which seem almost a given right now, along with Arkansas, Louisiana, and Alaska, as well as GOP holds in Kentucky and Georgia, and gives the GOP a 51-49 majority. Razor thin, but enough to do the job. It also assumes that North Carolina will stay Democratic, although its worth noting that Kay Hagen’s poll numbers are slipping in the Tarheel State.  An analysis by Tom Dougherty from mid-November puts the GOP in an even better position than I’m projecting, and is worth reading in full. We’ll see where this stands in a couple months when the polling starts becoming more rigorous.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Daniel says:

    There may be some buyer’s remorse on the whole filibuster removal thing (aka “the nuclear option) in the next Senate….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

  2. stonetools says:

    This was the case last election too. How did that work out for the GOP?
    Plus candidate selection matters. The Tea Party have a lot of Sharon Angles to nominate and some of them will be running for Senate in 2014, I reckon

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 5

  3. al-Ameda says:

    But the struggles in implementing that law have swung the pendulum back in the GOP’s favor in recent weeks.

    It is impossible to underestimate the mediocrity of American voters.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 5

  4. C. Clavin says:

    @al-Ameda:
    They still seem to have a problem understanding the difference between legislation and a website.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 4

  5. Ron Beasley says:

    And never under estimate the ability of today’s Republican Party to self destruct.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 15 Thumb down 5

  6. Tyrell says:

    The activities and record of the present administration could be causing a course correction in the Democratic Party toward the center, toward what it was in the ’50′s and ’60′s under the leadership of the Kennedy’s, Johnson, Russell, Ervin, Humphrey, Mills, and Russell Long.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 8

  7. Pinky says:

    @stonetools:

    This was the case last election too.

    2008 as well.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

  8. C. Clavin says:

    @Tyrell:
    C’mon… Obama is more Conservative than Reagan.
    The problem is you are so far off the starboard side that the mast looks like it’s no longer in the center. Everything is relative. When you are pursuing whacko economic theories, wars of choice, growing Government, tor torturing, and outing covert spies…you’ve forgotten what the Center looks like.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 16 Thumb down 4

  9. C. Clavin says:

    I’d like to ask everyone that votes for a Republican Senator just exactly what they are voting for???
    From what I can see Republicans are only against Obama. Absent the Black President they don’t seem to have an agenda.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 16 Thumb down 11

  10. Stonetools says:

    I’ll lay down a prediction here: I expect the GOP to force a self destructive showdown over the debt ceiling early next year. I also expect the ACA to be a plus for Democrats as Republicans go on the defense over turning down Medicaid expansion. Finally I predict the Democrats will successfully defend their Senate majority again.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 7

  11. Tyrell says:

    @C. Clavin: Thanks for the reply.
    I always liked Humphrey and Wilbur Mills. I went to a Humphrey rally in 1968. If we had one more week Humphrey would have beat Nixon.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  12. edmondo says:

    They still seem to have a problem understanding the difference between legislation and a website.

    Not really. They both blow. Fixing the website will merely exacerbate their distaste of the legislation

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 10

  13. edmondo says:

    @Stonetools:

    I’ll lay down a prediction here: I expect the GOP to force a self destructive showdown over the debt ceiling early next year. I also expect the ACA to be a plus for Democrats as Republicans go on the defense over turning down Medicaid expansion. Finally I predict the Democrats will successfully defend their Senate majority again.

    And my prediction is that stonetools will declare victory for Democrats next year no matter what the results are.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 9 Thumb down 17

  14. C. Clavin says:

    @edmondo:
    Why is it you want to deny health care to others??? Those who are sick… With pre-existing conditions…or those who have hit their lifetime cap on benefits???
    Pretty Christian of you.
    Well…no… Not really… Not very Christian at all.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 9 Thumb down 12

  15. edmondo says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Why is it you want to deny health care to others???

    Why is it that you enjoy taxing the middle class’ health care benefits instead of the rich who can well afford it?

    Nope, not very American at all.

    (besides, why would you assume that I am a Christian?)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 7

  16. C. Clavin says:

    @edmondo:
    Left with no answer….you pose a false premise.
    We’ve all heard the wing-nuts rant about a trillion dollars of taxes on the middle class.
    Like all wing nut arguments there is nothing to it.
    Except the tax on your tanning sessions, of course.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 9

  17. edmondo says:

    @C. Clavin:

    “An annual $63 fee levied by ObamaCare on all plans (decreased each year until 2017 when pre-existing conditions are eliminated) to help pay for insurance companies covering the costs of high-risk pools.”

    Of course, this comes directly from the ObamaCare website so who knows if it is even true.

    http://obamacarefacts.com/obamacare-taxes.php

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  18. MarkedMan says:

    @edmondo: Really? That’s what you are outraged about? A $63 annual fee that goes down to 0$ by 2017? Apocalypse! Benghazi! Kenya! You’ve really showed us!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 5

  19. C. Clavin says:

    @edmondo:
    Seriously…a $5 a month fee.
    Certainly this is the end of the middle-class.
    What a maroon.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 8

  20. edmondo says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Yep, $63 times 100,000,000 insurance policies seems like a hefty gift for Wall Street insurance companies, doesn’t it? Now I want to see the Democrats run on that issue in 2014! There’s a winning platform if there ever was one. I can hardly wait for November 2014.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 11

  21. Yolo Contendere says:

    @Daniel: Why? If the Republicans take the senate majority, the filibuster was going away anyway.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  22. Davebo says:

    Don’t feed trolls.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 3

  23. C. Clavin says:

    @edmondo:
    First it was taxes… Then a fee…now it’s private sector insurance companies making money.
    Focus your hatred… Then get back to us when you’re feeling more rational.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 4

  24. edmondo says:

    @C. Clavin:

    It’s the plan you think is so awesome, stud!

    An annual $63 fee levied by ObamaCare on all plans to help pay for insurance companies …

    So, who do YOU think is getting the money? Do you even know what’s in the bill that you defend so vociferously?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 7

  25. wr says:

    @edmondo: “An annual $63 fee levied by ObamaCare on all plans to help pay for insurance companies …”

    Gosh, wonder what happens just after those ellipses that completely undoes fake liberal Edmondo’s argument.

    Oh, wait, he already posted that. It goes to help pay for high risk pools.

    Oh, yeah, Dems are doomed. $5 a month, and all we get is insurance for the uninsurable among us. Who would ever sacrifice one grande latte for that?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 5

  26. Gustopher says:

    I don’t see how the Republicans avoid trying to blow up the economy in January, how the Republican sequestration doesn’t cut too deeply into the middle class, or how the Federal website doesn’t get less worse, or how e Republicans avoid a few “I am not a witch” level debacles with candidate selection.

    But yes, if current trends somehow continue, the Democrats are in for a bad time.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  27. anjin-san says:

    “An annual $63 fee levied by ObamaCare on all plans

    You know, I will happily pay ten times that much if it helps someone that needs medical attention get it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

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    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  30. jukeboxgrad says:

    Obama is more Conservative than Reagan.

    Here’s some data relevant to that comparison: spending, revenue and deficit (measured as a % of GDP) are all now currently lower than Reagan’s average. And unlike Obama, Reagan did not inherit the worst financial collapse in 80 years.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 3

  31. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @Tyrell: Russell Long and Humphrey? Center? Interesting definition. Clearly you are not old enough to remember the old ad where Humphrey morphed into Mao Ze Dong. Wish I could find it foir you.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  32. C. Clavin says:

    @edmondo:
    Do you think covering those with pre-exisiting conditions is free?
    Do you think eliminating life-time caps is free?
    Of course not…but what you are not smart enoug to comprehend…is that your solution…don’t get sick…and when you do go to the emergency room and don’t pay…is actually way more expensive. The costs are just hidden. And dupes like you are conned by the leaders of your cult.

    And by the way…you don’t have to be Christian to act in a Christian manner.
    I’m an Atheist. And I am concerned about my fellow man.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  33. C. Clavin says:

    We should have a moment of silence in consideration of Jenos.
    One of the stars of his favorite movie…FAST AND FURIOUS…died over the weekend.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/02/paul-walker-death_n_4371304.html

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 6

  34. al-Ameda says:

    @Tyrell:

    The activities and record of the present administration could be causing a course correction in the Democratic Party toward the center,

    his administration is the center.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 5

  35. C. Clavin says:

    @al-Ameda:
    Right of Center.
    He offered the Republicans a Grand Bargain that was to the right of Simpson/Bowles.
    Deficits are coming down steeply…too steeply in my opinion. In any case…which Republican President reduced deficits?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  36. rudderpedals says:

    This begs the question as to whether deficit reduction can be a good thing for a country with no inflation that prints is own currency. Maybe it’s time to get back to basics and ask the deficit warriors to prove up their case before assuming deficit reduction to be a good thing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  37. gVOR08 says:

    @Daniel:

    There may be some buyer’s remorse on the whole filibuster removal thing (aka “the nuclear option) in the next Senate….

    Unlikely. The Dems wouldn’t have passed the rule change if they weren’t pretty well convinced the GOPs would do it anyway as soon as they had the chance.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  38. gVOR08 says:

    A couple months ago I copied down a comment on a similar story on nbcnews.com by one “Dennis, Columbus Ohio”. Nice summary, and saved me doing the homework:

    If the Republicans win the Senate in 2014 (about a 50/50 chance) they will only have it for 2 years. In the 2016 general election year where there is always a strong Democratic turnout there are 24 Republican and only 10 Democratic seats will be voted on with zero Dem held seats in Red/Swing states and 5 Republican held seats in Blue/Swing states.

    And Hillary’s likely to have coattails.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

  39. tarylcabot says:

    I’m from Louisiana & while Mary Landrieu has had her challengers in the past, she’s always held them off as I expect her to do so again. Remember the GOP thinking that they could pick her off in 2002 but it did not happen – i expect the same again. With that one change your map then is 50-50. Her opponents in 1996 & 2002 were frankly just not good candidates, which does seem to be a common GOP trend for challengers.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  40. Rob in CT says:

    As I understand it, 2014 is a real bad map for the Dems, but 2016 is much more favorable. Add in the typically low turnout in non-Presidential elections, the safe guess is to say the Dems are likely to lose seats but hold on, barely, to a senate majority. Then, in 2016, they’re likely to make significant gains.

    We’ll see. The Dems were riding comparatively high (really less low, which ends up being much the same thing) during the debt ceiling/government shutdown fight, then their numbers tanked b/c of the bungled Healthcare.gov rollout. The GOP could faceplant again (another debt ceiling/gov’t shutdown battle, perhaps) or not. Much can happen in a year.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

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    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  42. Pinky says:

    @gVOR08:

    The Dems wouldn’t have passed the rule change if they weren’t pretty well convinced the GOPs would do it anyway as soon as they had the chance.

    That’s crazy. You’d need to assume that Democrats are never opportunistic, and Republicans are always opportunistic.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  43. RockThisTown says:

    Why is it you want to deny health care to others???

    Which is more noble:
    1. Providing health care using other people’s money, or
    2. Taking money from earners to do so.

    Liberals always seem to condescendingly presume that providing health care to others is the greatest thing they can do . . . . never even considering they must steal from other people who earn money in order to do so.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 5

  44. gVOR08 says:

    @RockThisTown: This conflation of taxes with theft is one of the constant, and sillier, conservative memes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2

  45. grumpy realist says:

    @RockThisTown: Taxes are the price you pay for living in a civilized society.

    If you don’t want to pay taxes, move to a country that doesn’t have them. You’re probably going to discover not much in the way of infrastructure or government or police power, but as you Galtists all proclaim, “I don’t need them.” Have fun playing Mad Max!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  46. mannning says:

    @anjin-san:

    How about you sending your $640 check in, and show a receipt here? It is easy to make such claims, but they never come to anything. Oh, I know, you are waiting for everyone else to do the same. Put it up this time, or just keep quiet about such false claims.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0