Beaten badly in the 2012 elections, Republicans are beginning to lay out plans for 2014, when the entire House and 1/3 of the Senate will be up for reelection. Among the Dem Senators facing the voters in 2014 will be six who represent “red” states and six others who represent swing states.
Given how badly Republicans were mauled in 2008, when these Dem Senators were elected, Republicans should, in theory, have little trouble winning 6 seats on net (enough for a majority). But it likely won’t happen. The chances of that happening are no higher than 10%, for the following reasons.
Firstly, Republicans still have a Hispanic problem, a woman problem, and a youth problem. The vast majorities of these focus groups perceive Republicans negatively (for example, Hispanics consider Republicans an “anti-immigrant party” and women consider the GOP to be an anti-woman party) and oppose Republican policies on issues they care about (e.g. immigration, abortion, gay marriage). Indeed, on these issues, solid majorities of all Americans oppose Republican policies.
Secondly, Republicans are still behind the Democrats in the GOTV game.
Thirdly, Republicans will be blamed for the incoming “fiscal cliff” (automatic tax hikes on everyone and automatic, massive, across-the-board defense cuts) by a majority of Americans. The negative narrative almost writes itself: “Republicans caused America to go over the cliff to protect tax cuts for millionnaires and to pander to Grover Norquist.” And it would be true – why did Republicans, or at least those 23 purist House Republicans who forced John Boehner to withdraw Plan B from House consideration, do so, if not to protect tax cuts for millionaires (most of whom vote Democrat, by the way)? Virtually everyone agrees on preserving tax cuts for the middle class and poorer Americans – the issue of disagreement between the two parties is whether tax cuts should be prolonged for wealthier Americans as well. Regardless of the merits of both parties’ policies, THAT is the issue of disagreement here.
And most Americans support raising taxes on millionnaires – not necessarily out of some class warfare beliefs, but because they think such tax hikes won’t affect them directly. And in this crisis, every man is looking to save only himself while trying to shift as much pain as possible on others. “Raise taxes for the other guy, but not for me. Cut spending on everything, except the programs I benefit from.” This is what most Americans are saying today. (That they are wrong is a separate matter.)
Fourthly, if the Tea Party again primaries electable Republicans and hands over nominations to unelectable fringe candidates, as it did this year and in 2010, Republicans are royally screwed. Republicans would’ve already had a Senate majority if it weren’t for the Tea Party and its losing 2010 and 2012 Senate candidates in Nevada, Delaware, Colorado, Connecticut, Missouri, and Indiana.
Last but not least, while there will be 20 Dems up for reelection in 2014, including 12 running in red or swing states, the majority of them are shoo-in for reelection, meaning that there will be only a few pick-up opportunities for Republicans – and certainly not enough to get to 51 seats. Let’s look at the Dem seats up for contesting in 2014:
In Delaware, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, and Minnesota, incumbent Dem Senators (Chris Coons, Dick Durbin, Carl Levin, Frank Lautenberg, and Al Franken) are safe (not surprising, given that all of these states are blue). Polling has found Al Franken leading all potential competitors by double-digit margins, except Tim Pawlenty sometimes, but even Pawlenty trails him badly. Lautenberg will be primaried by a fellow Democrat, however, and he may not be alive by 2014, but the seat will likely remain in Democrat hands.
In Colorado, incumbent Senator Mark Udall leads all potential Republican candidates, usually by broad margins, except former CO Bill Owens, who trails him “only” by four pp, 43% to 47%.
Hawaii had been represented for a long time by Senator Daniel Inouye. His death will not likely change which party will hold this seat, as Hawaii is a blue state. Still, Republicans might recruit a good candidate to run here. Former Governor Linda Lingle might run and win.
In Iowa, five-term incumbent Democrat Tom Harkin is leading all comers, usually by significant margins. The Republican who trails him by least, Governor Terry Branstad, trails him by 5 pp, 41% to 45%.
In Louisiana, incumbent three-term Senator Mary Landrieu is preparing to run for reelection. No polling has been done yet, but she did win reelection in 2008 by 52% in a red state. Moreover, the candidate who had the best chance of defeating her, Bobby Jindal, has declined to run (he probably intends to run for President in 2016). Still, Republicans have a deep bench in Louisiana, and 2008 was a year very favorable for the Democrats. Landrieu is not a shoo-in for reelection, but her chances are very good.
In Massachusetts, John Kerry, who would’ve otherwise been running for reelection in 2014, is retiring to become Secretary of State. Former Sen. Scott Brown may run and even win a special election, but he will likely be clobbered as he was this year, because MA Dems will again tie him to extremist Republicans like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock.
In Montana, Max Baucus will be running for reelection, and polling shows him leading a “Generic Republican” by 6 pp, 48% to 42%. A real-life Republican will have an even harder time beating Baucus, and Republicans don’t have a deep bench in Montana. But very little is known about this election so far, and anything might happen in MT.
In New Hampshire, Republicans don’t have a deep bench, either, and incumbent extremely-leftist Democrat Jeanne Shaheen (who believes taxpayers should pay for abortions) leads a Generic Republican and Republican predecessor John Sununu by 9 pp, 53% to 42%.
In Virginia, popular former Governor Mark Warner leads all comers comfortably. His relatively most formidable potential GOP challenger, Bob McDonnell, trails him by 11 pp, 40% to 51%.
In North Carolina, first-term incumbent Kay Hagan leads all challengers and was elected by a significant margin, 53%, in 2008. It’s hard to see how Republicans can find someone that can beat Hagan.
In Arkansas, incumbent Dem Senator Mark Pryor was reelected without any Republican opposition by 80% in 2008.
In Alaska, Mark Begich was elected in 2008 with just 48% of the vote, and Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell has already begun exploration. It’s hard to predict who will win.
This leaves Republicans with only two truly realistic Senate seat pickups: in Oregon and in West Virginia. In Oregon, first-term incumbent Jeff Merkley was elected by only 49% in 2008 – a great year for Dems – and is trailing Congressman Greg Walden. However, he leads all other potential GOP candidates. In WV, Jay Rockefeller likewise trails Shelley Capito, but leads all other potential GOP challengers.
But even those two races will be lost if the Tea Party intrudes again by giving the GOP loser candidates like Sharron Angle, Christine O’Donnell, Ken Buck, Linda McMahon, Richard Mourdock, and Todd Akin. The Tea Party is the GOP’s worst enemy.
Even if the GOP wins both races, it will still take only two seats, i.e. recover from the losses suffered this year. If it also wins Mark Begich’s and Mary Landrieu’s seats, which is a big if, it will still have only 49 seats.
So Republican prospects for a takeover of the Senate in 2014, even without the Tea Party intruding in any way, and without America going over the cliff. When Republicans fail to attain a Senate majority (or to win more than 2-3 seats) in 2014, remember you first read it here.