The Senate Conservatives Fund, Politico reports today, is endorsing retired Air Force colonel Rob Maness for the Republican nomination for the Louisiana U.S. Senate seat. Maness is running in the primary against Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) for the GOP nomination to oppose incumbent Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) in the general election. The Louisiana seat, along with those in Arkansas and Alaska appear to be the key races that might decide which party controls the senate during the next session of Congress after the 2014 elections.
In the meantime, the senate seat in Kentucky is now in play, as recent polls show likely Democrat nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes with a slim lead over Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell first ran in 1984 for this senate seat, and by the end of 2014 he will have served 30 years as senator. McConnell was reelected with just 53 percent of the vote in 2008, and is likely to be more vulnerable in 2014.
If McConnell loses the general election, it is likely the Democrats will retain a majority of the senate after the 2014 elections. There are 35 seats up for election in 2014. Among the other 65 seats not up for election in 2014, Democrats hold 34 of them while Republicans hold 31. 25 of the seats up for election are considered likely or safe for either party, which includes 15 seats currently held by Republicans and 10 seats currently held by Democrats. With those seats added, Democrats will have 44 seats (including the two independents that caucus with the Democrats) and Republicans will have 46 seats. The remaining 10 seats will decide which party controls the senate after the 2014 elections.
The safe or likely seats are as follows:
Republicans: Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, both South Carolina seats, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming. In South Dakota, the retirement of Tim Johnson makes that seat a likely Republican gain.
Democrats: Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Virginia.
Adding those seats gives the Democrats 42 seats and the two Independents that caucus with them while the Republicans would have 46 total seats. The remaining 10, covered below, will decide which party will hold a majority in the senate after the 2014 election. Democrats need to win at least six of those 10 to hold a majority of the senate with Vice President Joe Biden's tie-breaking vote, or otherwise they need to win seven of the 10 seats to hold a 51 seat majority. Currently, it seems like they would do that if the elections were held today.
Alaska: Incumbent Senator Mark Begich is running for reelection and could race 2010 nominee Joe Miller appears to be the likely GOP nominee. Begich should be a strong candidate but a united (rather than divided like four years ago with Lisa Murkowski running as a write-in) GOP behind Joe Miller would give him a fair shot at defeating Begich. For now, this one leans Democrat.
Arkansas: While this state has turned heavily Republican in the last decade, incumbent Senator Mark Pryor seems to be in good shape for reelection. The GOP nominee will be Rep. Tom Cotton. Pryor has already started a strong negative campaign against Cotton and it appears to the working. The polls show this race close, and as of now it leans Democrat.
Colorado: Incumbent Senator Mark Udall is favored for reelection but he is likely to be challenged by Ken Buck, the TEA Party-supported candidate that barely lose to Senator Michael Bennet in 2010. Buck could mount a strong challenge to Udall, but as of now this race leans Democrat.
Iowa: Senator Tom Harkin is retiring, leaving an open race for this seat. Democrats are likely to nominate Rep. Bruce Braley while Republicans will have a wide open primary battle. This seat leans Democrat.
Kentucky: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is in trouble. He's losing support from the base, faces a challenge from TEA party candidate Matt Bevin, and likely Democrat nominee, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes already leads in some polls over McConnell. For many voters, McConnell has been in Washington too long. This race now leans Democrat.
Louisiana: Senator Mary Landrieu faces a very challenging reelection effort in a state that has turned heavily Republican. Republicans appear to have a contested primary between Rep. Bill Cassidy and retired Air Force Colonel Rob Maness. The strong GOP leaning of the state makes this close but for now it leans Democrat.
Michigan: Incumbent Senator Carl Levin is retiring, leaving Rep. Gary Peters as the likely Democratic nominee to run against the winner of the GOP primary. This seat leans Democrat.
Montana: Senator Max Baucus is retiring. Ex-Governor Brian Schweitzer will not be running for the seat, he has chosen to stay in Montana rather than go to Washington D.C. As of now, this one leans Republican.
North Carolina: Senatior Kay Hagan is one of the most vulnerable incumbents for 2014, but the Republicans have a long list of potential candidates at this point. At this point, without a clear Republican candidate, this one leans Democrat.
New Hampshire: The voters in this state had elected Democratic majorities in both house of the state legislature in 2008 and turned both over to the Republicans in 2010. Democrats made substantial gains in 2012 while President Obama carried the state. While Republicans could make a come-back in 2014 much like they did in 2010, Senator Jeanne Shaheen seems to have sufficient popularity to win reelection. Republicans might nominate former Rep. Frank Guinta, former Rep. Jeb Bradley or may even have former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown move to the state to run for this seat. As of now, this one leans Democrat.
Among those ten seats, as projected above, Democrats would win nine of them while Republicans would win one of them. In total, this would leave the senate projected with 53 Democrats (including the two Independents that caucus with them), 47 Republicans and two seats listed as toss ups.
The Alaska, Arkansas, and Louisiana senate races in 2014 could decide which party controls the senate after the election. If the GOP wins all three, they would have a shot at a 50 seats and in need of winning just one more to obtain a majority.
But things could turn worse for the GOP. Remember, most predictions in 2012 had the GOP winning the Montana and North Dakota seats, and Democrats pulled off upsets to win them both. In 2014, the races in Montana and South Dakota could repeat that result, which would give Democrats two more seats and a shot at holding their current 55 seat majority at 55 seats.
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