When Human Events last looked at the 35 states in which voters are choosing U.S. Senators this fall, we concluded that “Republicans are brimming with confidence about gaining at least the four seats they need” to turn the Senate’s present 53-to-47 seat Democratic edge into a GOP majority.Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell put that year's takeover chances at 50-50, and the media dutifully reported about the difficulties for Democrats in that chamber. And they were legitimate difficulties. The map was tailor-made for Republican pickups, with tough seats from the Democratic landslide of 2006 up for grabs. Republicans ran hard on Obamacare, convinced the law's unpopularity would be the key to victory. Of course, we all know what happened—a projected Republican majority fizzled, and on Election Day Democrats celebrated the pickup of two seats.
Nearly four months later, that confidence has clearly grown. Of those 35 Senate races, eighteen can be considered truly competitive. The seats of all seven retiring Democratic senators are in that category: Joseph Lieberman (Conn.), Daniel Akaka (Hawaii), Ben Nelson (Neb.), Jeff Bingaman (N.M.), Kent Conrad (N.D.), Jim Webb (Va.), and Herb Kohl (Wis.). In addition, no less than seven Democratic incumbent senators are facing spirited challenges from Republican opponents.
So here we are again, a map just as crappy for Democrats in 2014 as it was in 2012, except that Republicans need six seats instead of four for the majority. Republicans just as confident as they were in 2012, and running on Obamacare. Again.
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And there's no sugarcoating it. The map looks bad for Democrats! But does it look as bad as they think it does? Here's the current state of play: Republicans are looking solid in West Virginia, South Dakota, and Arkansas. We haven't seen good recent polling out of Montana, but we can safely assume that for now, Montana is on this list.
Republicans need six seats to take control of the chamber. They have a solid 3-4 seat headstart in that direction. So they need another 2-3 seats from the group that includes Alaska, Colorado, Louisiana, Michigan and North Carolina. And that's assuming they don't lose either Georgia or Kentucky. That's also assuming they don't pull a Missouri and surrender pickup opportunities a la Todd Akin (I wouldn't make that assumption), or lose an easy-hold state a la Richard Mourdock (looking at you, Mississippi).
Is 2014 tough for Democrats? Yup. So was 2012. We've had to defend our gains from the wave 2006 and 2008 elections. If we could guarantee base turnout this year, we'd hold on safely. If our people vote, we win. But of course, that's easier said than done in these off-year elections. But worst-case scenario and Republicans take a narrow Senate majority, consider it a rental, because 2016 will be all ours.