A new Landmark/Rosetta Stone poll of the upcoming South Carolina senate primary, released last night, shows incumbent Senator Lindsey Graham to be facing a strong primary challenge in his bid for reelection next year. While Graham polls at 42 percent, that is well below the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff. Should a runoff take place, he would run against the second place candidate, and if most of that other 58 percent unified behind the challenger, Graham could find himself being fired by Republican primary voters in his bid for another six-year term as South Carolina's Senior Senator.
Aside from that seat, there are 33 other senate seats in contention during this election cycle. With the Democrats finding themselves defending many of these seats, including some in so-called “red” Republican-leaning states, the GOP has an excellent opportunity to regain majority control of the U. S. Senate after the 2014 elections.
There are 34 senate seats up for election between special election in New Jersey this year as well as regular elections in 2014. The remaining 66 seats that are not up for election are held by 33 Democrats and two Independents that caucus with the Democrats and 31 Republicans. There are an additional 26 seats, of which 16 are held by Republicans and 10 are held by Democrats, that are considered either safe or leaning for the party currently holding them.
The safe or leaning seats are as follows:
Republicans: Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, 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: Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, 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 47 total seats. The remaining nine, covered below, will decide which party will hold a majority in the senate after the 2014 election.
Alaska: Incumbent Senator Mark Begich is running for reelection and could race 2010 nominee Joe Miller or a few other possible candidates. 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 behnd Joe Miller would give him a fair shot at defeating Begich. For now, this one is a toss up.
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 may nominate Rep. Tom Cotton or Rep. Steve Womack. Right now this seat is considered a toss up.
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.
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 seat a toss up.
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: Senator Kay Hagan is one of the most vulnerable incumbents for 2014, but the Republicans have a long list of potential candidates at this point. Given the GOP leaning of the state, this one leans Republican.
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 nine seats, as projected above, Democrats would win three of them while Republicans would win three of them. The remaining three are toss ups, and are too close to project right now. In total, this would leave the senate projected 47 Democrats (including the two Independents that caucus with them), 50 Republicans and two seats listed as toss ups.
The Alaska, Louisiana, and Arkansas senate races in 2014 could decide which party controls the senate after the election. While Democrats have very electable incumbents seeking reelection in those states, Republicans will have both a partisan advantage and nominate strong candidates in both states.