Forecasts for the 2014 senatorial elections increasingly favor the Republican Party. The trend toward the GOP is likely driven by a combination of factors including the economy where President Obama’s approval has fallen to 35 percent in an August 15 Gallup poll. The problems with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act are also a drag on Democratic candidates. Rasmussen reports that only 41 percent of likely voters now have a favorable view of the health care law while 53 percent view it unfavorably. The Obama Administration’s scandals, particularly the IRS scandal and NSA wiretapping, have also hurt Democrats. A Fox News poll from early August showed that largely majorities of Americans believe that all of the Obama scandals should be taken seriously and investigated.
Rasmussen’s generic congressional ballot for August 12 shows 39 percent for both Democrats and Republicans, but the prior week showed the GOP with 41 percent to 38 percent for the Democrats. The two parties have spent much of the past four months in a statistical tie.
Over the summer, the Cook Political Report moved four races into the GOP column. One Democrat seat (Mark Pryor of Arkansas) moved from the Democratic column to tossup. No races were changed from likely Republican victories to Democrats.
In 2014, there are 15 Republican seats and 20 Democratic seats up for election. Republicans currently control 46 seats in the Senate. That number will probably drop to 45 in October since the Democratic candidate, Corey Booker, is expected to dominate New Jersey’s special election to replace the deceased Frank Lautenberg. This means that the GOP will likely need to win six seats to take control of the Senate next year.
So far there are seven announced Senate retirements for 2014. Five of these (Max Baucus of Montana, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Carl Levin of Michigan, and Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia) are Democrats. This means that the Republicans only have to defend two open seats in Georgia and Nebraska, where Saxby Chambliss and Mike Johanns are retiring. Of the Democrat open seats, Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia voted Republican in 2012, making them likely pickups for the GOP.
There are four other tossup races. All of these are seats that are currently held by the Democrats. Most observers consider Arkansas (Mark Pryor), Louisiana (Mary Landrieu), Alaska (Mark Begich), and North Carolina (Kay Hagan) to be in play. All four states voted for Mitt Romney in 2012.
A statistical edge is not a sure thing. Republicans had a similar edge in 2012 and lost two seats in the final analysis. The Republican losses were largely due to missteps by candidates such as Todd Aiken in Missouri and Richard Mourdock in Indiana. Republican chances will hinge on the selection of viable candidates in next year’s primaries.
Democratic victories in 2012 were also due the party’s technological edge in identifying potential voters and urging them to the polls. The effect of IRS suppression of conservative groups leading up to the 2012 also cannot be discounted. These advantages may be hard to repeat in 2014.
At this point there are ten Senate races to watch for 2014. View the list for details on each race.