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It's that time of the year again.  With spring in the air (finally for those of us up north!!) and primary election season right around the corner its time for me to make my initial ratings of all Senate, House, and Gubernatorial races.  

This is now my 4th election cycle for doing election prognostication.  Thus far, the Senate is the only body in which I've gotten every race right, doing it twice, in 2008 and 2012.  That was a big reason why I came away with the 2012 DKE Pick'Em Contest, but I sort of got lucky with the House, as a lot of races I called correctly were included in the contest, and some of the ones I got wrong were not included.  As you'll see later, going 435 for 435 is a very, very difficult thing to do.  Going 34 for 34 on the Senate...still tough but doable.  Here's where I see things now, in April.  Please note that these picks are certainly not meant to be final, we have a very long time to go between now and Election Day, a span of about 6 1/2 months.  A lot of twists and turns are sure to be taken down this road.  

If you've read my diaries before, you know that I split the races up by region.  I've revised the regions a little bit since 2012.  Here they are:

New England - ME, NH, VT, MA, RI, CT
Mid-Atlantic - NY, PA, NJ, DE, MD
Coastal Southeast - VA, NC, SC, GA, FL
Interior Southeast - WV, KY, TN, AL, MS, AR, LA
Great Lakes - OH, MI, IN, IL, WI
Great Plains - MN, IA, MO, ND, SD, NE, KS, OK
Desert Southwest - TX, NM, AZ
Rocky Mountains - CO, WY, MT, UT, ID, NV
Pacific Coast - CA, OR, WA, AK, HI

The biggest change is that I now split the southeast along the Applachian Mountains east and west, as that seems to be at the heart of a growing political divide, with the states east of the mountains moving leftward and the states west of it moving rightward.  I moved Texas into a southwestern block to prevent the interior southeast from being too large.  Most other regions are unchanged.  

New England  –

Maine – Shenna Bellows vs Suzanne Collins-inc
Our first race of the cycle is probably the one seat the Republicans held in 2008 in a blue state.  Republican Suzanne Collins is very well liked by her constituents and will be next to impossible to unseat due to this personal popularity.  No top tier democrats arose to challenge her.  The democratic candidate is Shenna Bellows, the former president of the Maine chapter of the ACLU.  The only poll of the race so far has Collins up 59-20.  
Rating – Safe R

New Hampshire – Jeanne Shaheen-inc vs ??
Senator Jeanne Shaheen took this seat in 2008 and is up for her first re-election battle.  Her favorability ratings are generally quite good, but this is a race that is hard to judge for a couple of reasons.  First off, the republican nomination is still up for grabs.  Former Massachusetts senator Scott Brown is the likely GOP candidate.  The only confirmed candidate at this point is Bob Smith.  If Brown is in, this will be a fairly tough race for Shaheen, even though polling results show her in the mid to high 40s against both Brown and Smith.  The one thing that troubles me is that New Hampshire seems to be a state that is subject to wild swings whenever there is a wave election for one side or the other.  If the national mood turns against democrats this is one of the first places I would expect the wave to hit.  For now though, I give Shaheen an edge.
Rating – Lean D

Vermont – No election

Massachusetts – Ed Markey-inc vs ??
Senator Ed Markey was elected in a special election to replace John Kerry, who of course was tapped by Barack Obama to be Secretary of State.  For such a blue state, Massachusetts republicans did have a few good options for candidates but none declared.  The primary will be contest between Brian Herr and Frank Addivinola.  Addivinola ran in the MA-5 special election last year but was defeated.  At this point its hard seeing either him or Herr making much headway against Markey.
Rating – Safe D

Rhode Island – Jack Reed-inc vs ??
This is a seat that hasn’t gone red since Herbert Hoover was the POTUS, and it won’t be going red this year, as Jack Reed is very popular, this is a blue state, and the republicans don’t have any confirmed candidates.  Former governor Donald Carcieri is considering but he is unpopular and would get crushed.
Rating – Safe D

Connecticut – No election

Mid-Atlantic  –

New York – No election

New Jersey – Cory Booker-inc vs Brian Goldberg
Cory Booker won this seat in a special election and is looking to secure his first full term in the Senate.  The situation here is pretty dire for the republicans, and no big candidates stepped forward, not they Team Red has much of a bench in the Garden State to throw around.  Businessman Brian Goldberg appears to be the standard bearer, but he’s got his work cut out for him.
Rating – Safe D

Pennsylvania – No election

Delaware – Chris Coons-inc vs ??
Chris Coons won this seat in a 2010 special election, where he defeated Christine O’Donnell, who may or may not be a witch, who knows.  Coons looks to have an easy time of it this time around.  In fact, the GOP has not even put forth a candidate officially yet.  
Rating – Safe D

Maryland – No election

Coastal Southeast  –

Virginia – Mark Warner-inc vs ??
Now we start to get to the interesting states, at least from a PVI standpoint.  Virginia is one of those quintessential swing states that tends to go as the nation goes.  However, lately the democrats have had an impressive lock on their Senate seats.  Senator Mark Warner is a pretty popular guy, who is polling  around the 50% mark in virtually all polls taken.  That fact alone will make it difficult for the GOP to unseat him.  The GOP primary is crowded.  You have former RNC chairman Ed Gillespie as the likeliest man to win the primary, but Anthony DeTora, Wayshak Hill, and Charles Moss are also in that contest.  Right now I like Warner’s chances at another term.
Rating – Likely D

North Carolina – Kay Hagan-inc vs ??
This is shaping up to be one of the marquee races in 2014.  Kay Hagan won this seat in 2008 after Elizabeth Dole famously crashed and burned.  She’s had some difficulty really establishing herself though, and her polling numbers are pretty bad, mired in the lower 40s.  She actually is facing a primary here from democrats Will Stewart and Ernest Reeves, but the odds of her getting knocked out in the primary round are very small.  The GOP primary is a whale of a contest as well.  GOP state house speaker Thom Tillis is the most likely nominee, though he is getting competition from tea party activist Greg Brannon and Reverend Mark Harris, as well as several others of some dude quality.  Tillis is actually quite unpopular himself, so if you’re Team Blue, you have to hope that primary turns into a clown car and allows Tillis to reach the general.  But even if that does happen, Hagan is in for the fight of her life.  My heart says NC won’t go red this year, but my brain says the opposite.  This is really tough to call.
Rating – Toss Up/Tilt R (1st GOP Pickup, R+1 overall)

South Carolina – Lindsey Graham-inc vs ??
Now here’s a race in which the primary could be more interesting than the general.  Republicans have long disliked GOP Senator Lindsey Graham, and a whole cast of characters are going after him in the GOP primary.  The rundown includes businesswoman Nancy Mace, state senator Lee Bright, businessman Richard Cash, and pastor Det Bowers, among others.  This is surely a clown car situation, which should help Graham considerably.  On the democratic side, it’s a contest between businessman Jay Stamper and state senator Brad Hutto.  Whoever the GOP candidate is will be favored to win the general, but watch out now, SC has had some surprisingly close results in the last few cycles, most notably in the 2010 governor’s race and in the 2008 presidential election.  I wouldn’t write this one off completely.
Rating – Likely R

Georgia – Open seat race
The Peach State has gradually been trending blue over the past few election cycles, and this will be a very interesting race as the Senate seat is open.  The GOP primary is full of top tier candidates.  Congressmen Paul Broun, Phil Gingrey, and Jack Kingston are all in, as are businessman David Perdue and former secretary of state Karen Handel.  On the democratic side, the favorite is definitely Michelle Nunn, daughter of former senator Sam Nunn.  She’ll have to deal with psychiatrist Branko Radulovacki and former state senator Steen Miles in the primary.  It’s hard to really guess who will emerge from the GOP pileup.  Team Blue will no doubt be hoping that either Broun or Gingrey will, as both are weapons-grade wingnuts, whereas Handel would probably be the GOP’s most electable candidate.  Hard to handicap this at the moment, but due to Nunn’s name recognition the democrats might have a real shot at this one.  I’m hedging on my rating until I know the identity of the GOP candidate.
Rating – Toss Up/Tilt R

Florida – No election

Great Lakes  –

Ohio – No election

Michigan – Open seat race
The Wolverine State features one of the more interesting and developed races at this early stage.  Senator Carl Levin is retiring, which prompted an open seat.  Former Secretary of State Teri Lynn Land is the presumptive GOP nominee, and she was about the best candidate that Michigan republicans could put up here, which has made the race competitive.  Representative Gary Peters is the democratic candidate.  Most polls from very early had Land slightly ahead, but that’s changed this month as Peters has been ahead from anywhere from 2 to 6 points in the last 3 polls excluding the one from new GOP firm Harper Research, which had Land up by a couple.  The thing that concerns me about Peters is that Congress is hugely unpopular, the House of Representatives in particular, and that may act as a drag on him to some degree.  That being said, this is Michigan, which last time I checked is a blue state, so Land will have to run a solid campaign or have the national mood go her way to win.  
Rating – Toss Up/Tilt D

Indiana – No election

Illinois – Dick Durban-inc vs Jim Oberweis
Illinois should be a fairly sleepy state on the Senate big board this election cycle.  Dick Durbin may not be incredibly beloved by his constituency, but he is one of the top democrats in the Senate and hails from an extremely blue state.  State senator Jim Oberweis is running for the GOP, hoping to draw the inside straight that Mark Kirk used to defeat Alexi Giannoulias four years ago.  Then again, Oberweis is no Kirk, Durbin is no Giannoulias, and the national environment isn’t likely to duplicate 2010’s.  Even We Ask America has Oberweis down 11, which is basically code for this race isn’t competitive.
Rating – Safe D

Wisconsin – No election

Interior South –

West Virginia – Open seat race
The mountaineer state is one that has been trending republican for a long time, but has stayed stubbornly democratic at the state and local level.  Perhaps most frustrating for team red has been their inability to win either of the senate seats there.  This cycle represents their greatest chance, as the seat is open, and their top possible candidate, representative Shelley Capito is in the race.  On the democratic side, the likely standard bearer is secretary of state Natalie Tennant.  Tennant is a fairly strong candidate in her own right, but Capito is the most popular GOP politician in the state.  Surprisingly we’ve had very little polling on this race this year.  One poll had Capito up 6, the other had her up 14 but that was from Rasmussen.  Either way, I have to give Capito the edge, but I suspect that Tennant won’t go down as easily as most pundits seem to think.  She is a statewide elected politician that is fairly popular after all.  
Rating – Lean R (2nd GOP pickup, R+2 overall)

Kentucky – Alison Grimes vs Mitch McConnell-inc
This is definitely one of the marquee races of the 2014 cycle.  Mitch McConnell is the leader of the senate republicans and hails from a very red state, at least in years in which a black presidential candidate is running.  However, Kentucky has been a state where democrats can win given the right conditions.  The biggest problem for McConnell is that he is hugely unpopular at home, with favorability ratings in the 30s.  That’s bad, bringing back memories of Harry Reid’s re-election campaign of 2010.  Then again, Reid had the luck of getting to run against whackjob Sharron Angle, which probably saved him.  McConnell isn’t so lucky, as democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes has stepped up to run against him.  Grimes, as a statewide elected politician, has a solid profile.  Polling on this race has been close, with 3 of the last 4 being within a point, the fourth poll putting Grimes ahead by 4.  The biggest problem for McConnell is that he hasn’t cracked 45% in a poll all cycle.  I know that Kentucky is a red state federally, but should Grimes run a solid campaign and not give reasons for voters to reject her like Angle did against Reid, I honestly think she wins because McConnell is so reviled at this point.  In the event that Matt Bevin were to upset Mitch McConnell in the GOP primary, pretty much everything I wrote here goes out the window as that would be a completely different race.  Luckily for democrats, the odds of that happening are very small.
Rating – Toss Up/Tilt D (1st Dem pickup, R+1 overall)

Tennessee – ??? vs Lamar Alexander-inc
This is a race that isn’t likely to be competitive.  The Volunteer State has zoomed to the right in recent election cycles, and Lamar Alexander is a longstanding incumbent that doesn’t seem to have any popularity or ethics-based issues.  The democrats didn’t come up with a candidate of substance.  It looks like George Flinn, a radiologist who ran unsuccessfully ran for the 9th congressional district, and businessman John King, are the most likely nominees.  Whoever it ends up being is likely to be swamped in November.
Rating – Safe R

Alabama – unopposed vs Jeff Sessions-inc
Republican Jeff Sessions is running unopposed here, and will win another term.
Rating – Safe R

Mississippi – Travis Childers vs Thad Cochran-inc
This race is probably going to be a sleepy one.  Thad Cochran is a powerful incumbent senator in a red state, albeit one that believe or not seems to trending bluer these days.  Travis Childers, a former representative from Mississippi’s first district, is running for the democrats.  Current polling has Childers trailing by anywhere from 10 to 15 points at the moment.  Voting is so racially segregated in terms of party in Mississippi that Childers will probably get north of 40% easily, but getting to 50% is going to be nearly impossible.  
Rating – Likely R

Arkansas – Mark Pryor-inc vs Tom Cotton
This has the makings of an ugly race for team blue, but it is not necessarily unwinnable.  Mark Pryor is the democratic senator here, and at the time he was first elected Arkansas was a democratic leaning state.  Not anymore.  It has zoomed rightward at a dizzying pace, and 4 years after Blanche Lincoln was shown the door by John Boozman, representative Tom Cotton is hoping to follow that same playbook for the GOP.  Cotton has a fairly solid profile even though he’s an unabashed uber-conservative.  Of course, being a representative he has the stink of the tea party and the unpopularity of Congress following him around, so don’t discount that.  Polling wise this has been a bit of a politicized battle, as Cotton is leading most republican firms’ polls, but Pryor is leading in almost all others.  That being said, Pryor was mired in the lower to mid 40s until the last few polls showed him at 46% and 48%.  A few weeks I might have said Pryor was going to get beat, but based on the data in recent weeks, my feelings that way were premature.  Now I have to say that Pryor is indeed ahead and more importantly is close to the 50% mark.  For now, I keep this one in the blue column but boy does this one make me nervous.  
Rating – Toss Up/Tilt D

Louisiana – Mary Landrieu-inc vs ???
This is another race pitting an incumbent democrat against a republican challenger in a state that used to be less red than it is today.  Louisiana is starting to trend back toward the democrats though, unlike Arkansas which is still running unchecked to the right.  Mary Landrieu is a 3-term senator, and is used to tough re-election battles.  Right now the likely GOP nominee is representative Bill Cassidy, although state representative Paul Hollis is looking to take him out in the primary.  Assuming Cassidy does get there, he’ll be around even money to beat Landrieu if polling is to be believed.  The last four polls of the race have it very close, with Landrieu ahead in two of them and Cassidy ahead in the other two.  Like Mark Pryor before, Mary Landrieu is in for the fight of her life.  I know she’s survived before in situations like this, but I just can’t see her skinning the cat for a fourth time.  Eventually even she has to run out of lives and hit game over.
Rating – Toss Up/Tilt R (3rd GOP pickup, R+2 overall)

Great Plains –

Minnesota – Al Franken-inc vs ??
Al Franken has proven to be a thorn in the side of the GOP, and a few years back republicans were looking at targeting this seat very heavily.  But the resistance never materialized, as no top tier republicans looked to challenge the single term Franken.  The GOP primary is a jumbled affair of candidates, led notably by state representative Jim Abeler and state senator Julianne Ortman.  Minnesota usually decides their nominees via convention even though there is a primary, so forgive me if this has already taken place.  Either way, Franken is leading all comers by 10 to 15 in all polls that aren’t blatantly republican leaning and is close to 50% in each one.  Not impossible for the GOP, but almost impossible.
Rating – Likely D

Iowa – Open seat race
Senator Tom Harkin is hanging it up this year, which has led to an open seat.  Democratic representative Bruce Braley jumped in immediately and is the democratic standard bearer.  He’s got a strong profile, but again, he might have to deal with the unpopularity of Congress hanging over his head.  On the flip side, team red pretty much struck out in terms of getting a solid candidate here.  State senator Joni Ernst and former US attorney Matthew Whitaker are the most likely to get out of a crowded primary field.  In terms of polling, Braley is in the 40s in most polls whereas all the GOPers are pretty much in the 30s, so he has a clear edge at this point.  That being said, Iowa is a swing state, so you can’t take anything for granted.
Rating – Lean D

Missouri – No election

North Dakota – No election

South Dakota – Open seat race
This is an ugly situation for team blue.  Senator Tim Johnson is hanging it up this year, so the seat is open.  Businessman Rick Weiland jumped in early and is the democratic nominee.  The GOP got its man very early as well in the former governor of SD, Mike Rounds.  Oddly enough, his presence wasn’t enough to clear the field, as several others including state representative Stace Nelson and state senate majority whip Larry Rhoden.  If one of those guys is able to knock off Rounds in the primary then things might change, but as it is, Rounds is near 50% in most polls and leading Weiland by 15.  That means that this seat is all but gone barring a huge surprise.
Rating – Likely R (4th GOP pickup, R+3 overall)

Nebraska – Open seat race
Senator Mike Johanns is hanging it up this year, resulting in an open seat situation.  There are five names in the running for the GOP nomination, including Ben Sasse, Shane Osborn, and Clifton Johnson.  I don’t know who these people are and neither does Ballotpedia for that matter.  Dave Domina is the democratic standard bearer.  Unless there’s something crazy lurking beneath the surface I would say this is a lock for the GOP.  
Rating – Safe R

Kansas – ??? vs Pat Roberts-inc
Republican Pat Roberts is running for re-election, which would seem like a slam dunk except he’s come under fire in recent months for not actually living in the state.  Normally I’d say attacks like that are weaksauce, but radiologist Milton Wolf is trying to defeat Roberts in the GOP primary, so that bears watching.  Shawnee County district attorney Chad Taylor is the likely democratic nominee.  There is still a chance that former governor and former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius could jump in though.  I’m not convinced that Sebelius would do better than Taylor though, even though she only trails Wolf by 7 and Roberts by 14 in most recent polls, compared to Taylor being down 15 against both.  The polling and the candidate situation is enough for me to put the race on the board, but this is Kansas, a democratic victory will require an inside straight flush on the river.
Rating – Likely R

Oklahoma – Matt Silverstein vs Jim Inhofe-inc
Oklahoma is one of the most republican states in the nation.  Jim Inhofe should be a shoo-in for re-election.  Democrat Matt Silverstein will try to upend him, but good luck with that.
Rating – Safe R

Southwest  –

Texas – ??? vs John Cornyn-inc
Texas is one of the few states if any that have already had their primary elections for this cycle.  Incumbent John Cornyn was easily able to hold off the challengers, including representative Steve Stockman, to advance to the general.  The democratic primary is a little bit of a train wreck, as real democrat David Alameel is mired in a runoff against fake dem Kesha Rogers.  Really it doesn’t matter who reaches the general election because Cornyn will win regardless, but Rogers reaching the general would be embarrassing for the Texas Dem party.
Rating – Safe R

New Mexico – Tom Udall-inc vs ???
The land of enchantment used to be a swing state, but not anymore.  It’s moved solidly into the democratic column, and incumbent senator Tom Udall should be able to manage.  David Clements and Allen Weh are running in the GOP primary, but both are down 20 points to Udall in the most recent polls taken.  
Rating – Safe D

Arizona – No election

Rocky Mountains –

Colorado – Mark Udall-inc vs Cory Gardner
This has the makings for a very tough confrontation, and it’s a race that worries me.  Mark Udall is a fine senator but he’s not really had a great hold on this seat, and I feel that the Colorado legislature overreaching on items like gun control this session might genuinely give representative Cory Gardner a good shot at winning.  Gardner is your garden variety tea party conservative from a safe R seat in the house.  The good news there is that again, house representatives have to deal with the stench of public opinion about their body.  Polling is tight, with Udall ahead in all polls thus far but mired in the lower 40s, which is not good.  Those polls were all taken right after Gardner got in though, and the national mood seems to have moved toward the democrats a little since then.  I suspect that Udall is ahead and will ultimately win, but its very tight.
Rating – Toss Up/Tilt D

Wyoming – ??? vs Mike Enzi-inc
Mike Enzi is running unopposed outside of an independent challenger, so he will be back in the Senate next session.
Rating – Safe R

Montana – John Walsh-inc vs Steve Daines
There are contested primaries on both sides of the aisle in this race, but I’m going to say an upset in either is very unlikely.  Most likely you’ll have John Walsh, who was appointed to cover the remainder of Max Baucus’s term, going up against representative Steve Daines.  This is a rare race in which the incumbent is less well known than the challenger, and that might be a reason why Daines is ahead in the polls.  However, that advantage is getting smaller, with Walsh getting close to the 40% mark in the last poll and Daines falling well below 50 for the first time.  This could be the slow developing surprise race of the 2014 cycle, and democrats will hope it is, but for now Daines has the advantage and should be picked to win.
Rating – Lean R (5th GOP pickup, R+4 overall)

Utah – No election

Idaho – ??? vs Jim Risch-inc
This should be an easy race for Risch in what is a rock-ribbed republican state.  William Bryk and Nels Mitchell are running in the democratic primary, but their reward for winning is a beating in November.
Rating – Safe R

Nevada – No election

Pacific Coast –

Washington – No election

Oregon – Jeff Merkley-inc vs ???
This is one race I don’t think we can completely ignore, but Jeff Merkley isn’t the most likely of pick-off targets for the GOP this cycle.  Oregon is a pretty democratic state these days.  State representative Jason Conger and pediatric neurosurgeon Monica Wehby are the most noteworthy names in the GOP primary.  Recent polling by Harper has Merkley below 50, and 7 ahead of Conger and 12 ahead of Wehby, which indicates that this isn’t a complete slam dunk for Team Blue.  That being said, Merkley would have to probably run a terrible campaign to lose.
Rating – Likely D

California – No election

Alaska – Mark Begich-inc vs ???
You don’t see contested races in Alaska all that often, but Mark Begich’s 2008 election was a barnburner, and this one promises to be as well.  The GOP has a couple of strong candidates battling it out for the primary, and that includes Lt governor Mead Treadwell, state resources commissioner Daniel Sullivan, and 2010 senate nominee Joe Miller.  Miller is reviled by most, especially since his take out of Lisa Murkowski in the 2010 senate primary led to him being upended by Murkowski via a write-in candidacy in the general (and resulted in her becoming the most liberal republican in the Senate today).  Needless to say, team blue will hope he wins, but polling doesn’t show that as likely.  Both Treadwell and Sullivan would be tough for Begich to beat, but he’s proven resilient, leading all non-Rasmussen polls of the race up to this point.  Since the GOP candidates are pretty well known themselves, I have to believe they won’t swallow up most of the undecided easily.   For now, I like Begich to hold on, but it’s going to be a battle all the way unless Miller somehow wins the primary.
Rating – Toss Up/Tilt D

Hawaii – Open seat race
Hawaii is interesting because it has a contested Senate primary.  Governor Neil Abercrombie appointed then-Lt governor Brian Schatz to fill the seat held by the late Daniel Inouye.  Evidently, Inouye had made a final wish that his seat be taken by representative Colleen Hanabusa instead.  Perhaps motivated by this, Hanabusa is challenging Schatz in the primary.  Former representative Charles Djou is running for the GOP and will be their standard bearer.  Unless the democratic primary goes totally nuclear, I can’t see the republicans making much headway here.
Rating – Safe D

Summary – At this point in time, you have 55 democratic seats and 45 republican seats.  The republicans need a +6 or greater to take back control.  (Unless they manage to get Angus King to change sides, in which case he’s dumb unless he’s planning on flipping right back to the democrats after the 2016 cycle).  At this point, here is my board:

Safe D – MA, RI, NJ, DE, IL, NM, HI
Likely D – VA, MN, OR
Lean D – NH, IA
Toss Up/Tilt D – MI, KY, AR, CO, AK
Toss Up/Tilt R – NC, GA, LA
Lean R – WV, MT
Likely R – SC, MS, SD, KS
Safe R – ME, TN, AL, NE, OK, TX, WY, ID

The republicans have in my opinion, 3 seats currently held by democrats that they are definitely favored to pick up.  Those are South Dakota, West Virginia, and Montana.  South Dakota to me is the one sure slam dunk.  West Virginia we don’t have a lot of data to go on, and Montana is a bit of a special case with the new democratic incumbent, but let’s say they get those as they should.  They would then need to get at least 3 more seats to flip control.  Right now I see 4 races as being on a knife edge, Arkansas, North Carolina, Alaska, and Louisiana.  I could conceivably see any of those 4 going to the GOP, but I could see any of the 4 staying blue as well.  If the GOP is able to get their 3 there, then they don’t have to worry about expanding the map.  If they don’t get those though, the next places to look are in Colorado and Michigan.  Those states I also have as Tilt D but unlike the other states in the tilt column the republicans are fighting an uphill battle in terms of PVI.  In a best case, sweep of the board situation, I could see the GOP picking up SD, WV, MT, NC, MI, AR, LA, CO, and AK for a 9-seat pickup.

On the flip side, the GOP is defending 2 very vulnerable seats.  Kentucky I think is their biggest problem.  If I were a GOP strategist, I would go into battle with the goal of nabbing 7 seats, because McConnell isn’t likely to survive.  Georgia should be a little bit easier to defend because they don’t have a hugely unpopular incumbent, but even there, Michelle Nunn is a strong enough candidate to make them sweat.  From the democratic perspective, you have to assume SD is gone, and that you’re facing an uphill battle in WV and MT, but you could conceivably pick up KY and GA, for a net of only -1.  I believe that to be the democratic ceiling at the moment, but as the situation in Montana develops and we get more data from West Virginia, that ceiling might change to Even or maybe even +1.  We’ll see.  

At this early stage, I have the democrats picking up Kentucky, and the republicans picking up North Carolina, West Virginia, Louisiana, South Dakota, and Montana, for a net result of R+4.  That leaves 51 democrats and 49 republicans heading into the next session.

Poll

How many Senate seats will democrats control going into 2015?

3%3 votes
3%3 votes
5%4 votes
10%8 votes
13%10 votes
17%13 votes
22%17 votes
7%6 votes
9%7 votes
1%1 votes
5%4 votes

| 76 votes | Vote | Results

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  •  Tip Jar (9+ / 0-)

    26, OH-16, fiscal moderate, foreign policy liberal, social libertarian 2012 Daily Kos Elections Pick'Em Champion

    by StephenCLE on Fri Apr 18, 2014 at 11:05:38 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for posting (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY

    I would just quibble with how you rate AR, KY, LA and NC. I struggle to see how we win AR and lose NC. Kay Hagan has emerged as a monster fundraiser AND has by far the weakest Republican opponent of the four races.

    I think at this point of the 10 swing seats, we win CO, then MI, then NC, then AK, then LA, then KY, then AR, then GA, then MT, then WV and finally SD.

    I'd move LA up that list if not for that damn runoff. Flood insurance has become the political boon her response to Katrina was in 08, but will AAs turnout enough to get her passed 50% is in my mind the big question (she needs AAs to make up +30% of the total electorate)?

    23, Male, LA-02, TX-08 (originally), SSP: sschmi4

    by Stephen Schmitz on Fri Apr 18, 2014 at 12:34:12 PM PDT

  •  I think you're leaning too heavily on polling (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY

    and not enough on other evidence and factors.

    Here in Oregon Merkley is looking completely safe. Conger is raising little money (maybe competitive for a house race, but even then) and Wehby is polling double digits behind Merkley. In any case, Republicans generally have to raise and spend more money than Dems to be competitive here. If even Wehby is only raising 50-60% of what Merkley is, it's hard to see how this is really competitive at all.

    The first man who, having enclosed a piece of land, took it into his head to say, "This is mine," and found people simple enough to believe him, was the true founder of civil society. - Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality Among Men

    by James Allen on Fri Apr 18, 2014 at 12:56:38 PM PDT

  •  Some corrections (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    James Allen, MichaelNY

    South Carolina and Oklahoma both have two senate races this year: Tim Scott is running in a special election in SC, and OK has a special election triggered by Tom Coburn's impending retirement.

    Also, there's no mention of Thad Cochran's neo-Confederate primary opponent, Chris McDaniel. Cochran seems to be in serious danger of losing to him, a factor that has made the MS race far more competitive-looking than it otherwise would be.

    •  Exactly (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      James Allen

      If Cochran makes it to the general election, he's completely safe, but if he loses, it could turn into a Lean-R race.

      Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

      by MichaelNY on Fri Apr 18, 2014 at 02:08:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thank you both (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MichaelNY

        For pointing this out.  I already have Mississippi as somewhat of a race to watch, but an upset in the primary would definitely change the dynamic.  I'm not sure why I failed to mention that...maybe I just didn't realize how endangered Cochran really is.  

        26, OH-16, fiscal moderate, foreign policy liberal, social libertarian 2012 Daily Kos Elections Pick'Em Champion

        by StephenCLE on Mon Apr 21, 2014 at 05:59:13 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  NC-Sen (0+ / 0-)

    I think you have to look beyond recent polling and consider candidate quality. After the primaries are over, don't you think that the Hagan campaign and Democratic organizations will paste the winner for all kinds of shortcomings and unpopular positions? The likely Republican in the Louisiana runoff (if we get that far, and you may have forgotten that there is no Republican or Democratic primary there) is a strong candidate. None of the candidates in NC figure to be strong.

    Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

    by MichaelNY on Fri Apr 18, 2014 at 02:41:14 PM PDT

    •  There seems to be (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY

      Some general disagreement on my rating of North Carolina.  Basically I look at NC as a situation where the incumbent could well lose regardless of what flimsy republican challenger emerges from the primary.  Hagan right now is polling below 45% and has poor favorables as well.  I understand that this isn't necessarily a death sentence (see Reid, Harry), but is Thom Tillis really as bad as Sharron Angle?  I doubt that.  

      Now I do understand that Hagan has been getting peppered with ads from right wing sources bringing her down whereas the republicans haven't had to deal with that yet and they will once the primary round is over.  But the simple fact of the matter is that Hagan's numbers have to improve, or her opponent will have to make some unforced errors (see Akin, Todd & Mourdock, Richard) in order for her to win.  

      As a general sidenote, please understand that the way I do my ratings are like that of a snapshot.  If the election were held today, a 51-49 democratic result would be my prediction.  If I were projecting all the way out to November, then I have to prognosticate about who wins each primary, which GOPers flame out making ridiculous comments, and which democratic incumbents' numbers stay strong and which tank.  I don't have a crystal ball so I'm not going to try to do that.  That's why these race ratings can and often do change between now and November.  

      Finally...one thought for the guy who brought up Arkansas vs North Carolina.  I agree that it seems a little weird that dems would hold AR but lose NC, but that's what the polling data shows.  A week ago, I would've had Pryor losing along with Hagan, but Pryor has gotten some very good data in the past week, and the best Cotton could do was show an R internal that had the race tied, which is loserspeak.  Hagan could ultimately win too, but I have to conclude that Pryor would be more likely to win were the election held today.

      26, OH-16, fiscal moderate, foreign policy liberal, social libertarian 2012 Daily Kos Elections Pick'Em Champion

      by StephenCLE on Mon Apr 21, 2014 at 06:31:10 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I see (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        James Allen

        When I do ratings, I base it on more than just current polling. If that's all you're basing your ratings on, I definitely understand your NC-Sen rating, but I think that's a questionable practice. How could you, for example, base your rating of GA-Sen, where the identity of the Republican primary winner could go a long way toward determining the winner of the general election, only on current general election polls? Actually, it looks to me like you don't, as you are, reasonably, hedging.

        Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

        by MichaelNY on Mon Apr 21, 2014 at 10:46:31 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Polling isn't the only metric (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MichaelNY

          But its the biggest factor in my methodology.  

          I would rate these following factors as things I consider, in descending order of importance:

          1.Polling data
          2.Candidate quality
          3.District/state PVI
          4.National generic ballot/national mood
          5.Fundraising/outside spending

          Now there can sometimes some individual issues or nuances that impact individual contests, but those are generally the main ones.  A lot of folks here put a lot of emphasis on the generic ballot, while others consider fundraising totals and PAC money as very important.  For me, I almost always stick to polling data first and foremost.  My experience is that it's rarely wrong, especially in the swing states like Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, Iowa, and Florida.   Now certain states sometimes have unique issues (ie: Michigan with crappy local pollsters or Nevada & Hawaii with built-in democratic advantage that never seems to be reflected by pollsters) but for the most part I trust polling aggregates all the way.  I guess you could call me a Nate Silver disciple, because the way I do my forecasts are pretty similar (minus the gigantic programming code and all that computer stuff).

          Polling isn't everything though.  I learned this the hard way when I looked at individual district polls of House races in 2010 and concluded based on them that the democrats would either hold the House or just narrowly lose it.  I completely ignored the national generic ballot, and that was a huge mistake.  So to answer your question, yes, I do consider other factors within my ratings, but polling data has always been and remains the most important metric.

          26, OH-16, fiscal moderate, foreign policy liberal, social libertarian 2012 Daily Kos Elections Pick'Em Champion

          by StephenCLE on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 06:31:13 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Mostly on the nose (0+ / 0-)

    But I just can't share your optimism about KY. It's true that McConnell's numbers are about where Reid's were and Grimes is much better than Angle, but there are key differences; KY is much, much, much redder than NV is blue and unlike Reid, McConnell is running with the national environment and against a very unpopular (In KY) President. I can see how Grimes gets to 47 or 48; I just can't see how she gets to 51. I'm pretty confident that McConnell will pull out a narrow win here; honestly, I'd put it more between Tilt-R and Likely R than Toss-Up. It would feel good to win but it's just really hard.

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