This morning I spaced out on whether Sen. Mitch McConnell’s seat is in play this year (it is) and that reminded me that we haven’t yet taken a look at the 2014 Senate elections map. USA Today this week wrote about what it will take for the Democrats to hold the majority.
Democrats currently enjoy a 55-45 advantage in the Senate, including two independent members who caucus with them. Republicans would have to win a plurality of six seats in order to claim a majority. The Democrats also have more seats to defend, however. Of the 35 Senate races in November, 21 involve seats now held by Democrats — some in red states where Obama fared poorly during his 2012 re-election and where his approval ratings are low. Gallup reports that, for the year 2013, Obama’s approval ratings averaged 43% or below in seven states with Democratic senators who are being contested this year: West Virginia, South Dakota, Montana, Alaska, Arkansas, North Carolina and Louisiana. Obama and the Democrats are also running up against history: The party in control of the White House tends to lose congressional seats in the sixth year of the presidency. That’s not always the case. Republicans had high hopes for the mid-term elections in 1998, with President Bill Clinton mired in the Monica Lewinsky scandal. But Democrats broke even on Senate races and actually picked up House seats that year. In the next presidential sixth year — 2006, with George W. Bush in the White House, and the Iraq War unpopular — Republicans lost control of both the House and Senate.
New Jersey is technically in play because Sen. Cory Booker has to run to hold the seat he won in a special October 2013 election. However he currently has no official opposition. Eight other Senate seats are open due to retirement. Right wing PJ Media is optimistic:
Senate Democrats are hit hard by retirements this go-round, some representing states that are almost certain to turn to Republicans. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), and Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) have decided to step aside. All with the possible exception of Johnson, who in 2006 suffered bleeding in the brain as the result of a cerebral arteriovenous malformation that has left him somewhat debilitated, would have been favored to win re-election. Now they are up for grabs. Of those five seats, three – West Virginia, Montana and South Dakota – are in states that President Obama lost by substantial margins in his successful 2012 re-election. Those three are considered likely Republican pick-ups. Senate Republicans face only three retirements – Coburn, Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Sen. Mike Johanns of Nebraska. All hail from states former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee, carried handily.