Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Battle Of Fourteen

Nate Silver reminds us that the Democrats were very much on track to lose the Senate last November, but they were saved by a convergence of unlikely factors that actually allowed the Democrats to beat the odds and gain two seats.  In 2014, the Dems will need those five seats as a cushion, because the task of not losing six or more (and control of the Senate) to the Republicans is going to be difficult.

The party will face a difficult map again in 2014, however. Twenty-one of the 35 seats up for election are now held by Democrats. Moreover, most the states that will be casting ballots for the Senate in 2014 are Republican leaning: 7 of the 21 Democratic-held seats are in states carried by the former Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, while just one of the Republican seats is in a state won by President Obama.

Democrats could also suffer from the downside to presidential coattails. Most of the seats up for grabs in 2014 were last contested in 2008, a very strong Democratic year. Without having Mr. Obama on the ballot, and with an electorate that is likely to be older and whiter than in presidential years, some Democrats may find that their 2008 coattails have turned into a midterm headwind instead.

Are the conditions favorable enough to make Republicans odds-on favorites to gain six seats and win the Senate majority? Not quite. Six seats are a lot to gain, and Republicans are at risk of nominating subpar candidates in a number of races. But it would not take all that much to tip the balance toward them.

Nate shows West Virginia, with retiring Dem Jay Rockefeller, as a pretty clear GOP pickup.  Four other states:  Montana, North Carolina, Louisiana and South Dakota are tossups, with SD favoring the GOP, Montana and NC slightly favoring the Dems, and Louisiana as a true 50/50 matchup.

But three more states are in striking distance for the GOPAlaska, Arkansas, and retiring Dem Tom Harkin's seat in Iowa.  That means a GOP across the board tilt could put the Dems in a real hole, real fast...and the Dems don't have much of a clear shot at any pickups, yet.

For now, the road is going to be long and rough, but the way GOP senators are acting right now, they may completely pull a 2012 again...

What a shame that would be, right?

New tag, he's more than earned it:  Nate Silver.

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