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Updated:
Mon. Jul 28, 2014
Senate
Republicans 49
Democrats 49
Independents 2
GOP +4
House
Republicans 233
Democrats 202
DEM +1
Governors
Republicans 27
Democrats 23
DEM +2
2014 Elections on Demand
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Election Day
November 4, 2014

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2014 Senate Races

Today's numbers are posted.  I found a few interesting results to point out among the latest polls.  First, SurveyUSA has a poll out of Kansas giving Democrat Paul Davis a surprising 6-point lead over incumbent Republican Governor Sam Brownback.  Time will tell if that poll is an outlier or indicative of an unexpectedly difficult re-election bid for Brownback.  Kansas does have a history, despite its deep red nature, of electing Democrats to the statehouse, so Brownback would be wise to take Davis' challenge very seriously.  You can get the details on this race on the Kansas Governor election page.

Second, Rasmussen's latest poll testing the Colorado Senate election puts Republican challenger Cory Gardner just a single point behind incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Udall.  Rasmussen's track record of late has been suspect, but an April Quinnipiac poll found the same one point separating Udall and Gardner.  It looks like Republicans may have a legitimate takeover opportunity in the Rocky Mountain State this year.

Finally, a poll by the conservative-leaning Civitas organization gives Kay Hagan a four-point lead over Republican Thom Tillis in the North Carolina Senate election.  As a result, the Democratic incumbent is projected to keep the seat for the blue team, reducing the GOP's projected Senate gain to just 5 seats - one less than they need for the majority.  Projected tally:  50 Republicans, 48 Democrats, 2 Independents

posted by Scott Elliott at 5:52pm 06/30/14 :: link
Tomorrow, voters in 7 states will head to the polls.  Five states - Colorado, Maryland, New York, Oklahoma and Utah - are holding regular primary elections.  Two others - Mississippi and South Carolina - return to cast votes in primary runoffs.  The big contest of the day is the runoff battle in Mississippi between long-time Republican Senator Thad Cocran and Tea Party favorite Chris McDaniel.  Cocran is behind in the latest EP Poll Average and would be the first incumbent senator to lose a primary so far this year if the polls hold true.

I'll begin updating the election pages for all races in these states that I'm tracking here at Election Projection, so be sure to come back to see how the primary battles affect the general election numbers.

posted by Scott Elliott at 10:35am 06/23/14 :: link
This article appeared last week on PJMedia

Given all the dissatisfaction with President Obama and his administration and the level of frustration with ObamaCare, one might expect a shellacking is on the horizon for his party in the 2014 elections.  The latest round of job approval numbers shows the president's approval still languishing in the low 40s, while approval for his health care law is even lower.  That's not an environment conducive to a strong electoral performance.  On the contrary, such numbers should portend a calamitous result for Democrats in November.

We saw that kind of election in 2010 when Republicans captured six Senate seats and won just about everything in sight en route to an historic 63-seat net gain in the House.  Some see a similar result looming in 2014 - especially in the Senate.  However, were the votes cast today, I believe a case can be made that the GOP, while they likely would make gains, would not perform well enough to term this cycle a wave election.  There are factors on both the Senate and House fronts that seem to indicate we’re heading toward a more neutral outcome.

House Elections

Let’s first take a look at the House and the factors that temper my bullishness toward the likelihood of a Republican wave in the lower chamber.

Generic congressional preference polling

There have been four elections since Bill Clinton ascended to the presidency in 1992 that I would consider "wave" elections.  In 1994, Newt Gingrich and friends crafted the "Contract with America" and captured the House majority by gaining 54 seats.  Congressional Republicans nationwide enjoyed a 7.1-point voting advantage over their Democratic counterparts that year.  Twelve years later, Bush fatigue precipitated a wave of a different color and ushered in a run of three consecutive wave elections.

In 2006, Democrats used an 8-point advantage in congressional voting to gain 30 seats and take back control of the House.  A 21-seat gain followed in 2008, aided by President Obama's sizable triumph on the top line and an even larger 10.4% Democratic advantage at the congressional level.  Then came the red tsunami of 2010.  Republicans used a 6.8-point congressional voting spread to score their now famous 63-seat haul.

The average voting advantage for the victorious party over these four wave elections was 8.1% and the average net gain was 42 seats.  By contrast, the average voting advantage over the six non-wave elections during the same period was just 1.7% with an average net gain of just 4.7 seats.  This year, polling data measuring this critical indicator falls solidly in the non-wave range.  In fact, the Democrats are currently fractionally ahead.  So, it’s difficult to envision any sizable Republican gains in the House this year.

Competitive races outlook

Each wave election shares common characteristics for the party riding it - an abundance of pickup opportunities and a dearth of vulnerable seats to defend.  Election Projection wasn't around for the Republican romp in 1994, but I do have data from the latter three wave elections to illustrate this point.  By the time Election Day rolled around in 2006, EP was tracking 55 congressional races.  Fifty-one were held by Republicans.

The same lopsided count benefited Republicans in 2010, only to a much greater degree.  That year, Election Projection tracked 112 congressional races, a staggering number in the age of incumbent-protecting redistricting strategies.  Even more remarkable is that 103 were held by Democrats!  With so many vulnerable Democrats and so few vulnerable Republicans, it's no wonder the GOP ruled the day once the votes were counted.

This year, congressional election waters seem much more placid. Election Projection is currently tracking just 46 competitive House races, and the partisan breakdown is nearly even.  Twenty-one seats are held by Republicans, twenty-five by Democrats.  Balance like that hardly indicates a wave is brewing out there.

One more point before we look at the Senate. In 2008, the blue team's advantage in the competitive House races list was clear, but, at 49-18, it wasn't as pronounced as in 2006 or 2010.  Moreover, despite the largest congressional vote advantage of the last quarter-century, Democrats realized a net gain that fell short of the other three wave elections.  The reason?  They already held 233 seats, so there simply wasn’t as much upside for them.

That same lofty starting point faces the GOP this year.  With 234 seats already in their quiver, Republicans will find it hard to produce substantial gains. And with no advantage in the congressional preference metric, they may find it hard to earn any gains at all.

Senate Elections

Structural advantages in the Senate election line-up should produce large GOP gains in November - with or without a Republican wave.  And early polling data doesn’t fit a wave-election model.

Nearly all the battlefields are in red states

Open Democratic seats in the deep red states of Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia all but ensure GOP gains in the Senate this year.  But the structural advantages for Republicans don't end there.  The four most vulnerable Democratic incumbents also hail from states won by Republican Mitt Romney in 2008.  Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Kay Hagan of North Carolina are all struggling to keep their Senate seats in Republican-leaning states.  Even races which have Republicans concerned, the open seat election in Georgia and Mitch McConnell's re-election bid in Kentucky, are being waged in GOP-friendly territory.

So from a structural standpoint, this year's Senate elections favor Republicans in a big way.  With so many targets situated in Republican states, the GOP conceivably could win the Senate majority without a significant tailwind.  That means a true GOP wave requires a more aggressive target.  Sweeping the races I've mentioned would be but a baseline.  To achieve wave election status, the GOP would need to add victories in blue states like Colorado, Iowa and Michigan.

Polling data is good - but not great - for Republican Senate candidates

So are the poll numbers there to foster confidence that such a run might come to pass for Republicans?  Not at this point in the election season.  Election Projection’s current Senate projections do show the GOP regaining the majority, but the massive takeover count one would expect in a wave election with such strong structural advantages just isn’t there.

Pryor leads Tom Cotton in Arkansas.  Begich is ahead in Alaska.  That's two races in red states which Democrats are defending well.  In Michigan, Republican Terri Land's early leads have vanished, and while newly-minted Republican nominee Joni Ernst bests Democrat Rep. Bruce Braley in two post-primary polls in Iowa, her lead seems more like a temporary primary bounce than a true advantage.  Taken together, the polls show a good election is in store for Republicans, but a landslide may not be.

The political barometer, based on news cycles and voter unrest, promises a wave election for Republicans.  But a deeper investigation into the underlying factors of Election 2014 paints a different picture.  The overall outlook is certainly positive for the red team, but it might not deliver the kind of rout intrinsic to a wave election.

posted by Scott Elliott at 2:56pm 06/19/14 :: link
Today's Election Projection offers a new tally in the Senate.  Democrat Bruce Braley, the congressman who is running to keep the seat of outgoing Iowa Senator Tom Harkin in Democratic hands, has moved ahead of Republican nominee Joni Ernst thanks to a Quinnipiac poll showing him 4 points ahead.  This latest survey shifts the Iowa Senate election projection from Weak GOP Gain to Weak DEM Hold with Braley now holding a scant 0.8% projected margin.  Overall, the 2014 Senate Elections are projected to yield a GOP majority, 51 Republicans, 47 Democrats and 2 Independents who caucus with the Democrats.
posted by Scott Elliott at 8:50pm 06/18/14 :: link
Republicans are now projected to add seven seats to their Senate contingent.  The two most recent polls out of Arkansas put challenger Tom Cotton ahead of Democratic incumbent Mark Pryor.  As a result, today's Election Projection for the Arkansas Senate election is colored red.  Seven Senate takeovers is one more than the GOP needs to reclaim the majority.

The current projected tally in the Senate is 52 Republicans, 46 Democrats and 2 Independents

posted by Scott Elliott at 8:37pm 06/12/14 :: link
Tonight's primary results provide a mixed bag for either side of the immigration debate in the Republican Party.  On the one side, those who favor a compromising posture on immigration reform, otherwise known as the Republican establishment, can point to Senator Lindsey Graham's easy victory in the South Carolina GOP primary as a signal to continue their current tact on the issue.  Derisively known as Grahamnesty by his conservative detractors, Graham is one of the co-authors of immigration reform legislation that has many in the GOP threatening to bolt the party in November.

On the other, Tea Party folks will trumpet House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's shocking upset in his Virginia 7th District primary as a resounding warning shot to establishment Republicans that they proceed on immigration reform at their own peril.  Once a darling of small government types, Cantor has run afoul of conservatives by taking less-than-pure Tea Party stances on immigration policies.  He was handily defeated by under-funded, little-known college professor David Brat.

Both primary contests were held on fertile ground for Republicans, so neither results endangers Republican seats.  But the implications are huge for both immigration factions within the party.  If the Tea Party wanted any Republican currently seeking re-election to be defeated, it would likely be Graham - and yet he survived without even a runoff.  His primary victory is a bitter blow to Tea Party activists.

On the other hand, Cantor's loss is the first time in history that a sitting House Majority Leader has succumbed in a primary contest.  By virtue of his position alone, this defeat should be a wake-up call for the GOP establishment.  But only time will tell if Graham's win tonight will assuage the trepidation Cantor's loss would have created without it.

posted by Scott Elliott at 11:27pm 06/10/14 :: link
June is the busiest month of the 2014 election season in terms of number of primary elections held.  Eighteen states hold primaries this month.  And five hold them today.  Voters in Maine, Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina and Virginia will choose their party nominees.  In some cases, close partisan battles will result in runoff elections later in the year.

That's what conservative South Carolina Republicans are hoping for.  Moderate GOP Senator Lindsay Graham needs to break the 50% mark in order to avoid a runoff.  Conservatives hope a field of GOP contenders can limit Graham to a plurality and force him to go one-on-one in the primary runoff two weeks from today.  (If you're interested, Southern Sense is hosting a blogtalkradio show this afternoon from 2-4 with Bill Connor, one of Graham's conservative opponents, as the guest.  The two hour show will be dedicated to the GOP Palmetto State primary.)

Starting tonight, I'll be updating Election Projection's race pages according to the outcomes of today's contests.  Among today's line-up, I look forward to kicking off tracking for Virginia's Senate election.  The likely Republican nominee to battle Democrat Mark Warner is Ed Gillespie, a former Republican National Committee chair.  This race currently isn't projected to be close, but, if a large GOP wave is growing out there this fall, look for it to tighten up.

posted by Scott Elliott at 11:06am 06/10/14 :: link
Two polls have been released surveying the Iowa Senate electionsince the Hawkeye State held primary elections last Tuesday.  Newly-minted Republican nominee Joni Ernst claims the lead over Democrat Bruce Braley in both of them.  As a result, the seat is projected to flip to red in EP's latest 2014 Senate elections projection calculations.  It moves from Weak DEM Hold to Weak GOP Gain.  As this seat is not one the GOP is expected to readily pick-up this cycle, the Democrats will have a hard time holding the Senate, if this projection holds true.

The change gives Republicans another projected pick-up in the Senate, moving them into the projected majority with 51 seats.  The new projected balance of power in the Senate is 51 Republicans, 47 Democrats and 2 Independents who caucus with the Democrats.

posted by Scott Elliott at 11:15am 06/07/14 :: link
Election Projection is receiving a lot of traffic today from search engines, so I thought I'd share with you the benefits EP has to offer.  If this is your first time visiting Election Projection, let me welcome you!  EP has a ten year history of providing some of the most accurate election predictions you'll find on the internet.

EP's Track Record
Using mathematical formulas, EP projected Bush would win 289 electoral votes in 2004.  He won 286.  In 2006, EP picked the GOP to lose the House and correctly called every Senate race.  Despite my own conservative ideology, the site projected a solid victory for Barack Obama in 2008, correctly picking 48 out of 50 states.

In 2010, Election Projection's House projections were closer than any other major prognosticating website. EP predicted Republicans would bag a net of 64 new seats, a monumental shift in the balance of power.  When all the votes were counted, they had gained 63.

Two years ago, Election Projection enjoyed its best presidential prediction year to date, correctly projecting every state except Florida.  In addition, EP's Senate performance was 31 out of 33, and I missed just one gubernatorial election that year.

2014 Election Projection Summaries
For this year's election cycle, Election Projection is back with plenty of useful features.  You can check out easy-to-read summary pages of the 2014 Senate elections, the 2014 House elections and the 2014 gubernatorial races which offer you at-a-glance overview of the state of the 2014 elections, complete with colorful red and blue maps.

Open Seats and Primary Dates
If your looking for primary election dates or open seat races, Election Projection has you covered. 

Individual Race Pages
You can also get detailed information on each race I track using EP's handy 2014 Elections on Demand tool at the top of each page.  Each race page contains an election timeline, candidate list, current patisan make up of that state's national delegation and state government and projection data which allows you to see how I arrive at my projections.  As an example, check out the North Carolina Senate Election page.

2014 Election Polls
Want polling data?  Use the same on demand tool to track the polls for all the races as well.  Or you can check out the Latest Polls on everything from President Obama's job approval to generic congressional preference polls to the latest polls on the Mississippi primary runoff election to lots of surveys forecasting the Senate, House and gubernatorial races that interest you most.

The site is updated daily except Sunday with new polls and new projection numbers.  I believe you'll find Election Projection to be informative, exciting and fun as Election Day approaches, and I hope it will become an indispensible election resource.  Once again, thanks for stopping by!

posted by Scott Elliott at 3:45pm 06/03/14 :: link
Eight states will hold primary elections on Tuesday.  That's two more than any other day during the 2014 primary election season.  California, the biggest state of all, will conduct another round of jungle primaries in which candidates from all parties battle against all others.  Two years ago was the first time the blanket primary system, as it is also known, was tried in the Golden State.  The unique aspect of an open primary such as this is that the top two candidates who move on to the general election can be from the same party, an oddity that occurred in eight U.S. House races here in 2012.

The other seven states holding primaries are Alabama, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota.  Mississippi will hold perhaps the most noteworthy primary contest between longstanding Republican Senator Thad Cochran and Tea Party upstart State Senator Chris McDaniel.  The EP Poll Average of four polls taken in the last month peg the race exactly a tie.

posted by Scott Elliott at 9:44pm 06/02/14 :: link
A rush of polls released today out of Michigan results in two races moving in different directions.  First, two different surveys, one from Detroit News and the other from EPIC-MRA, give Democrat Gary Peters 5 and 6-point leads, respectively, over Republican Terri Land in their open seat battle for departing Democratic Senator Carl Levin spot in the 2014 Michigan Senate election.  These polls move the Election Projection from Weak DEM Hold to Mod DEM Hold.

Meanwhile, in the Michigan Governor election, the Detroit News poll shows Republican incumbent Governor Rick Snyder with a 45-35 lead over his likely Democratic opponent, former Congressman Mark Shauer.  The 10-point margin is exactly in line with the new Election Projection for the race and results in a rating change from Mod GOP Hold to Strong GOP Hold.

posted by Scott Elliott at 9:01pm 05/28/14 :: link
Tomorrow Texans will head to the polls to determine who will represent their parties in some important Lone Star State races.  The most significant runoff battle will reveal GOP Senator John Cornyn's Democratic opponent in the 2014 Texas Senate election.  Kesha Rogers and David Alameel made it to the runoff by earning the most votes in Texas' March 4 Democratic primary.

Further down the ballot, 91-year-old Ralph Hall, a congressman with over 30 years service who became a Republican in 2004, is in a highly-competitive nomination battle with John Ratcliffe, the Tea Party favorite.  In a interesting twist, Michelle Bachmann, a former Tea-Party-backed presidential candidate herself, has endorsed the incumbent.

Neither the Senate contest nor Hall's 4th district race appears to be competitive in the general election this year, so the runoff winners shouldn't affect the partisan outcome of these races.  As always, you can check back tomorrow for a link to the results.

posted by Scott Elliott at 12:16pm 05/26/14 :: link
The Senate race in North Carolina promised from the outset to be a close contest as incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan has faced dismal approval numbers in this reddish-purple state.  My preliminary evaluation of the race numbered it among numerous GOP projected takeovers in the Senate.  That changed when I began using polling data to calculate an official projection after the GOP primary last week.

Well, another poll is out this week and, lo and behold, North Carolina is painted red again on EP's 2014 Senate elections map.  A Public Policy Polling survey says the race is now a tie, and that result puts Republican nominee Thom Tillis back on top in the North Carolina Senate election.

But the Tarheel State's color changes are far from over more than likely.  I could see this one flipping a half-dozen more times before November 4.  Be sure to check back often to find out what North Carolina's color of the day is.

posted by Scott Elliott at 8:52pm 05/13/14 :: link
The automation process has progressed to the point where I can calculate and update official projections on all races in which the two party candidates are known.  Today's numbers reflect the first such update for the 2014 election season.  As I explained yesterday, one of the side-effects of moving to formula-based calculations is the possibility of large shifts in the numbers.  That's what we see today.

In the Senate elections, the Louisiana Senate race and the North Carolina Senate race have switch projected outcomes.  Republican Bill Cassidy is now projected to edge out incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu in Louisiana while Republican Thom Tillis is now projected to fall just short of unseating incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan in North Carolina.

The House elections is where this initial jumpstart has impacted projections the most.  Democrats have gone from a projected net loss of 2 seats to a projected gain of two.  Four seats sport new colors in today's update.  California CD-52 has moved back to the Democrats.  Colorado CD-6, Iowa CD-3 and New Jersey CD-3 have left the projected GOP fold.

The main reason for this exodus is the current generic congressional polling average and how that number plays into my House race projection formula.  Since Democrats lead this important metric right now, any race labeled a toss-up by all three experts who comprise my pundit panel will be projected to go to the blue team.  This is the case in all four of these races.

Turning our attention to the 2014 gubernatorial races, the switch to EP's official projections has yielded a similar move in the opposite direction.  Thanks to early polling in Hawaii, former Lt. Governor Duke Aiona is projected to win the Hawaii Governor election over incumbent Democrat Neil Abercrombie.  I'm highly dubious that he'll hold that lead until November.  The other gubernatorial projection flip comes from the absolute opposite side of the country.  Incumbent Governor Paul LaPage is now projected to win a three-way Maine Governor election.  This race promises to be a legitimate barnburner.

Now that things are setup here at Election Projection, you can look forward to new updates six days a week between now and Election Day.  I hope you'll enjoy the ride!

posted by Scott Elliott at 10:44pm 05/09/14 :: link
Last Friday, I wrapped up a tour of the 2014 gubernatorial elections.  Tomorrow I'll be embarking on a quick tour of 48 competitive House races.  In the interim, I thought revisiting the Senate election landscape would be interesting and relevant, especially since some recent polling data has altered the outlook of a few races.

Arkansas:  Incumbent Mark Pryor is polling better than he was when I published Election Projection's preview of the Arkansas Senate race.  The last two surveys put him ahead of Republican Tom Cotton by an average of 1.5 points.  This race is still a major target for Republicans, and I have major doubts as to whether Pryor can survive Cotton's challenge in this deeply Republican state.  However, the polling data calls it differently at this point in the campaign.  Based on that data, I am changing the preliminary projection of the Arkansas Senate Election to Weak DEM Hold.

Colorado:  The candidacy of Cory Gardner, a GOP congressman, has generated some excitement among Colorado Republicans as they try to unseat Democratic incumbent Mark Udall.  They believe he represents the best chance to claim this Senate seat.  Polling data supports their optimism, to a point.  Gardner gets closest to Udall in polls conducted here, but he still comes up a couple points short.  Now, to be sure, his prospects could improve as we move closer to the election, but for the time being, Udall is still the favorite.  Weak DEM Hold

Georgia:  Michele Nunn, the Democratic Senate candidate with the golden last name, looks like she'll be every bit as strong a contender for the open seat here as Democrats hoped she would be.  Polls actually give her the advantage against three of five Republican nomination contenders.  David Perdue, cousin of former Governor Sonny Perdue, is leading the race for the GOP nomination.  He also happens to be one of the two Republicans who are polling ahead of Nunn.  I'm still confident a Republican, probably Perdue, will be victorious come November, but Nunn's success so far prompts me to move this race to Weak GOP Hold.

Michigan:  Republican Terri Land marched out to a surprise lead over Democrat Gary Peters in the Michigan Senate election.  Multiple early polls from a variety of polling firms showed her ahead by two to eight points over the winter.  With the coming of Spring, however, Peters began to close the gap.  Two of the last three polls give him the edge.  Notably, those two polls are both from Democratic pollsters while the third, the one which has Land up by 2, is a Republican firm.  Partisan polling slant notwithstanding, I do believe Peters has moved out in front by a hair, and, as a result, I'm changing the preliminary projection for this race to Weak DEM Hold.

Significantly, these updates remove two projected Republican pickups from the 2014 Senate elections map and return the projected majority in the Senate to the Democrats.  Let me add a caveat: these are preliminary projections that can and will change, perhaps drastically, between now and Election Day.  To illustrate that point, Nate Silver has stated that Republicans could win anywhere from 1 to 11 Senate seats in 2014.  That means a lot of Senate races are still very much up in the air.  As an electoral prognosticator and election observer, I can't wait to see how all these competitive races develop.  It's going to be an exciting 7 months.

posted by Scott Elliott at 9:14pm 04/15/14 :: link
This year's Senate elections promise to be a banner year for Republicans with pickup opportunities peppering the 2014 Senate map.  But which seats are most likely to flip from blue to red?  And are any Republican-held seats at risk?

To answer those questions, here is my first list of the Top Ten Most Vulnerable Senate Seats for the 2014 election cycle.

Top Ten Most Vulnerable Senate Seats
Rank State Incumbent Party Projection
1. South Dakota OPEN (Johnson) Democrat Mod GOP Gain
2. West Virginia OPEN (Rockefeller) Democrat Mod GOP Gain
3. Montana OPEN (Baucus) Democrat Mod GOP Gain
4. Arkansas Mark Pryor Democrat Weak GOP Gain
5. North Carolina Kay Hagan Democrat Weak GOP Gain
6. Louisiana Mary Landrieu Democrat Weak DEM Hold
7. Alaska Mark Begich Democrat Weak DEM Hold
8. Michigan OPEN (Levin) Democrat Weak GOP Gain
9. Kentucky Mitch McConnell Republican Weak GOP Hold
10. Colorado Mark Udall Democrat Mod DEM Hold
You might be curious why Michigan, projected to go the GOP, is listed below both Louisiana and Alaska.  Let me answer that question.  The projection for a race here at Election Projection can be thought of as what would happen if the election were held today.  Since it is based on current polling, it is by nature predictive of the current situation.

How vulnerable a seat is, and thus where it lands on this list, is more an indication of how the race will turn out come November - in your host's humble opinion.  So, I believe that, while polling in Michigan is more favorable right now to the GOP challenger, the Republicans are more likely to win Louisiana and Alaska once the votes are cast in November.

posted by Scott Elliott at 11:33am 03/26/14 :: link
Sometimes when a senator resigns, a competitive race ensues to see who will fill out that senator's term.  Sometimes the race is a mere formality.  The 2014 Oklahoma Special Senate Race falls into the latter category.  Republican Tom Coburn announced on January 16, 2014 that he would resign his seat effective at the end of this year's Congress.  He had earlier announced that he would not be seeking re-election in 2016.  So an open seat election was upcoming anyway; it will just happen two years ahead of schedule.

Since Oklahoma is such a deeply red Republican state, the only real question here is who will be the Republican nominee.  With Jim Imhofe cruising to easy re-election, whoever that is will be the Sooner State's next junior senator.  So far, Oklahoma Congressman James Lankford and state Representative T.W. Shannon are the two credentialed candidates in the running.  It is too early to tell who the front runner is at the moment.  But, again, this seat is sure to remain in Republican hands.

Preliminary projection:  Solid GOP Hold

You can track this race throughout the 2014 election season here at Election Projection by visiting the Oklahoma Special Senate Election page for polls, projections and updates.  Also, check out the 2014 Senate Elections page for a summary of all gubernatorial races on tap in 2014 complete with EP's colorful red and blue Governor map.

posted by Scott Elliott at 10:29am 02/07/14 :: link
In my initial South Carolina Senate race preview, I stated that incumbent Senator Lindsey Graham, though not very well-liked among Palmetto State conservatives, seemed likely to avoid serious primary opposition.  I have since learned from sources on the ground that I was mistaken.  Several solid conservative candidates are in the running to unseat Graham, and at least two factors raise questions about his ability to win the Republican nomination in the 2014 South Carolina Senate election.

First, South Carolina is a primary runoff state.  That means that unless Graham can eclipse the 50% mark in the GOP primary, he will have to face a runoff election against an opponent running to his right with consolidated conservative Republican support behind him.  Second, we are still four months away from South Carolina's June 10 primary.  That's a good bit of time for one or more of the Republican challengers to build a groundswell of support.

We are seeing that happen already to some extent as one recent poll of GOP primary voters showed that only 38% felt Graham deserved be reelected.  The poll also showed that State Sen. Lee Bright is Graham most likely runoff opponent.

At this point, regardless of the outcome of the GOP primary, this seat will remain in Republican hands.  However, the flavor of the senator in this seat come January, 2015, may enjoy an upgrade from a conservative perspective.

posted by Scott Elliott at 5:30pm 02/06/14 :: link
I'm done with my Senate race previews.  And after flipping the North Carolina Senate Election to red due to yet another poll showing incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan falling behind, Election Projection has the GOP projected to gain 6 seats at this early stage in the election cycle.  Of course, that means if these projections hold true, Republicans will claim the majority in the 2014 Senate Elections.

The six projected takeovers are:

Three other states that could swing the GOP's way are:
  • Alaska - Incumbent:  Mark Begich
  • Iowa - Open seat (Tom Harkin)
  • Louisiana - Incumbent:  Mary Landrieu
Scott Brown makes New Hampshire somewhat of a wildcard as well.  Finally, two GOP seats are competitive - Georgia and Kentucky - with the Bluegrass State being much more so.
posted by Scott Elliott at 2:44pm 01/29/14 :: link
After yesterday's release of Rasmussen's North Carolina Senate poll, the consensus has built to a point where it is clear incumbent Democratic Senator Kay Hagan is in real danger of losing her seat.  All three Republicans tested came out ahead of Hagan in this latest poll.  That makes three straight surveys that have her losing, and that's enough to move me to change my preliminary projection for the North Carolina Senate Election from Weak DEM Hold to Weak GOP Gain.

The move holds more significance than just this race.  It also represents the sixth and deciding projected takeover in the GOP's quest in gain the majority in the 2014 Senate Elections.  At 51 seats, the projected Republican contingent would be enough to claim control of the chamber.  Certainly these numbers will fluctuate between now and November, but with at least another two possible takeover opportunities in Alaska and Louisiana on the table, I believe the minority party in the Senate has a better than 50-50 change to become the majority party in January, 2015.

posted by Scott Elliott at 5:51pm 01/28/14 :: link
Over the last six presidential elections, only Utah has voted more Republican than Wyoming.  And the Republican advantage has only grown since the turn of the century.  Senate elections have been even more decidedly crimson.  In fact, the best a Democratic candidate for Senate here performed since 2000 was a 45-point rout in 2006.  Needless to say, Mike Enzi, the three-term Republican incumbent in this year's Wyoming Senate race, will have no trouble getting another six years in Washington.

But for a while, it looked like a potential obstacle might arise.  Not from a Democrat, of course, but from a Republican.  Liz Cheney, former Vice-President Dick Cheney's daughter, announced in July of last year that she would mount a primary challenge to Enzi.  However, after a strong fundraising 3rd quarter in which she raked in over $1 million (Enzi, by contrast, raised just $850 thousand during the same period), she still found herself floundering in the polls.  An October 2013 survey had her 52 points behind.

The difficulties Cheney faced trying to close the gap stemmed from Enzi's good-standing with conservatives.  Unlike many Senators, Enzi has not accumulated a voting record that would incite his base to recruit a primary opponent.  Citing family health issues and unable to gain any traction among Wyoming Republicans, Cheney ended her campaign early this month.

Her decision serves only to dim the national spotlight on this race.  It will not affect the outcome - an overwhelming Enzi victory.

Preliminary projection: Solid GOP Hold

You can track this race throughout the 2014 election season here at Election Projection by visiting the Wyoming Senate Election page for polls, projections and updates.  Also, check out the 2014 Senate Elections page for a summary of all Senate races on tap in 2014 complete with EP's colorful red and blue Senate map.

posted by Scott Elliott at 5:05pm 01/27/14 :: link
Republican Shelley Capito is serving her seventh in Congress from West Virginia's 2nd district.  When she first won that seat in 2000, she became the first woman elected to go to Congress from this state and the first Republican since 1983.  Her victory that year helped signal the beginning of a massive ideological shift in the partisan voting patterns of West Virginians.

As recently as 1998, Democrats dominated statewide races in West Virginia and held a monopoly on the Congressional delegation.  Then the tide shifted - in a remarkably striking manner.  Bill Clinton's re-election bid saw him earn a solid 15% victory.  Four years later, George W. Bush won the state by 6.3%, the first time a GOP presidential candidate had won here since Reagan in the landslide of 1984 and only the second time since Eisenhower. From there, Republicans have enjoyed ever-increasing victory margins.

West Virginia Voting in Presidential Elections
Perhaps no other state in the nation has seen this level of change in such a short time.  And as a result, West Virginia's congressional delegation was bound to change as well.  A decade ago, the Mountain State claimed two Democratic senators - Richard Byrd and Jay Rockefeller.  Given such a drastic shift in presidential voting, one might have expected these two elder gentlemen would be succeeded by Republicans.

However, an opportunistic Democrat named Joe Manchin, spoiled the GOP's plans.  A popular two-term governor, Manchin appointed Democrat Carte Goodwin to replace the late Senator Byrd after his passing in June of 2010.  Goodwin turned out to be simply a place holder in Manchin's quest to win the seat himself - which he did in 2010.

Now, four years later, Senator Rockefeller's retirement has presented the GOP with a golden opportunity to accomplish what they could not in 2010 - win a West Virginia Senate seat.  Enter Ms. Capito.  The well known congresswoman has been mentioned before as a potential Senate candidate only to opt instead to keep her place in the House.

The 2014 West Virginia Senate race provides a chance too ripe to pass up, however, and she has decided to go for it.  She starts off as the favorite to win both the GOP nomination and the general election in November, but by no means is she is a shoo-in to make this seat a GOP takeover.  On the Democratic side, West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant will be a viable opponent, and polls taken late last year give Capito a clear, but not insurmountable, lead.

This open seat race promises to be an interesting one with the Republican starting out with a slight advantage.

Preliminary projection: Mod GOP Gain

You can track this race throughout the 2014 election season here at Election Projection by visiting the West Virginia Senate Election page for polls, projections and updates.  Also, check out the 2014 Senate Elections page for a summary of all Senate races on tap in 2014 complete with EP's colorful red and blue Senate map.

posted by Scott Elliott at 11:18am 01/27/14 :: link
In 2008, two former governors of Virginia squared off in a highly anticipated open seat contest to earn the right to succeed retiring Republican Senator John Warner.  But Jim Gilmore, the Republican nominee, ran a surprisingly poor and underfunded campaign, and got clobbered by the Democrat, Mark Warner.  The latter had run unsuccessfully against John Warner 12 years earlier in an oft-confusing Warner versus Warner election.

His second attempt to win a Senate seat in Old Dominion proved much more fruitful for Mark as he bested Gilmore by 31 points.  Now, six years later, the very popular incumbent looks quite formidable in his bid to earn another six years in Washington.  His moderate voting record has enabled him to avoid alienating much of Virginia's electorate.  According to National Journal's Vote Rating, he was just the 44th most liberal senator in 2012, and his intentional effort to court the business community has bolstered his approval across the aisle.

At first glance, Warner appears unthreatened in the 2014 Virginia Senate race.  However, when Ed Gillespie, former Republican National Committee Chairman, declared his candidacy, Democrats took notice.  Gillespie is a capable fundraiser and has bountiful contacts in national Republican circles.  He is not very well known as yet outside his GOP brethren, and Republicans hope his candidacy will gain traction once Virginia voters get to know him.

Even with Gillespie running, though, this is a difficult race for Republicans.  Assuming Gillespie wins the Republican nomination, which he should, he will likely start out the general election campaign trailing the incumbent by a large margin.  One recent poll, taken this month puts Warner ahead by 20, 50% - 30%.  Nevertheless, having a strong challenger compete against Warner has prompted Charlie Cook to slide this race from Safe DEM to Likely DEM.

My hunch is that Warner will end up winning re-election by a comfortable margin, but, given Virginia's status as a major swing state, the race is definitely one to keep an eye on.

Preliminary projection:  Strong DEM Hold

You can track this race throughout the 2014 election season here at Election Projection by visiting the Virginia Senate Election page for polls, projections and updates.  Also, check out the 2014 Senate Elections page for a summary of all Senate races on tap in 2014 complete with EP's colorful red and blue Senate map.

posted by Scott Elliott at 5:00pm 01/25/14 :: link
The Lone Star State figured to be another state in which the Senate race featured a primary battle more interesting than the general election.  With incumbent Republican Senator John Cornyn almost assured of victory in November, one would have to look to the GOP nomination contest for any drama here.  But there may not be much drama there either.

Unlike his colleague Ted Cruz, Cornyn at times has not garnered the favor of conservative groups.  His decision to side with Republican leadership on Capitol Hill during last fall's government shutdown battle has put him at odds with the state's Tea Party voters.  As a result, a large field of Republican challengers has emerged to oppose his nomination.  The most well-known of the bunch is Congressman Steve Stockman.  His late entry into the race was a bit of a surprise, and his campaign has not enjoyed an impressive start.

He has stumbled out of the gate with little money and has struggled under charges of questionable ethics.  With a massive warchest at his disposal, Cornyn has wasted little time attacking Stockman.  His super-PAC opened the new year with an ad characterizing Stockman record as 'shady' and 'troubling.'  Apparently, despite having a 44-point lead over Stockman in a mid-December poll, Cornyn is taking the Congressman's challenge seriously.

Cornyn's posture may stem from the fact that Texas is a runoff state.  If he fails to reach 50% of the vote +1 in the March 4 GOP primary, he will have to face his closest competitor in a primary runoff in late May.  That would give Stockman, should he place second, another 2 1/2 months to eat into Cornyn advantage.

If Stockman can't shed the shadow of controversy and raise a lot of money quickly, however, I don't foresee Cornyn needing to worry about a runoff.  It looks to me like he'll earn a majority of the primary vote and go on to enjoy a very large majority of the general election vote in November.

Preliminary projection: Solid GOP Hold

You can track this race throughout the 2014 election season here at Election Projection by visiting the Texas Senate Election page for polls, projections and updates.  Also, check out the 2014 Senate Elections page for a summary of all Senate races on tap in 2014 complete with EP's colorful red and blue Senate map.

posted by Scott Elliott at 10:26pm 01/24/14 :: link
In 2002, when Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson declined to run for re-election, former Rocky Top Governor Lamar Alexander stepped in, earning a 10 point victory over Democrat Bob Clement to retain the seat for the GOP.  In his first three years as Senator, Alexander engineered a pretty solid conservative voting record.  His composite conservative score between 2003 and 2005 was 86.7% as defined by the American Conservative Union.

Once 2006 got here, however, the Republican's voting record became much less conservative.  The last seven years have seen his average score drop to 72%.  And at 68%, his 2012 score, the latest the ACU has published, was his least conservative yet.  Alexander's slide on the conservative scale has not gone unnoticed by Tea Party and other right-leaning groups.  They have targeted Alexander for defeat in the August 7 primary.

Tennessee State Representative Joe Carr will likely be Alexander's most formidable primary opponent.  A December Public Policy Polling survey put Carr just six points behind the incumbent, 46-40, a result that highlights the challenges facing Alexander as he vies to earn a third trip to Capitol Hill.

On the other side of the aisle, Democrats will offer little resistance to the eventual Republican nominee in the 2014 Tennessee Senate race.  The last Democrat to win a Senate election in Tennessee, in fact, was former Vice President Al Gore way back in 1990.  Since then only Harold Ford, Jr. in 2006 was even able to get within single digits of the Republican - and that was an open seat contest in a blue wave election.

Preliminary projection:  Solid GOP Hold

You can track this race throughout the 2014 election season here at Election Projection by visiting the Tennessee Senate Election page for polls, projections and updates.  Also, check out the 2014 Senate Elections page for a summary of all Senate races on tap in 2014 complete with EP's colorful red and blue Senate map.

posted by Scott Elliott at 11:28pm 01/23/14 :: link
When Democrat Tim Johnson defeated Republican incumbent Larry Pressler in 1996, South Dakota, despite its deep red bent in presidential elections, boasted two Democratic senators. His colleague at the time was Democrat Tom Daschle who was elected to the Senate in 1986 and later served as both the chamber's minority and majority leader.

In 2002, a good year for Republicans, Johnson barely survived a razor close contest against South Dakota Congressman John Thune.  Just 527 votes separated the incumbent from one and done.  Two years later, Thune's fortunes changed as he challenged and defeated Daschle in George W. Bush's re-election year.

Republicans were hopeful that they could build on Thune's victory and defeat Johnson as well in 2008.  However, after suffering a severe stroke on December 13, 2006, Johnson culminated a remarkable and courageous recovery by returning to the Senate on February 15, 2007 and going on to win a landslide election in November the following year.

This year, Johnson decided against running for a fourth term.  His decision has Republicans salivating at the opportunity to accomplish what they could not six years ago.  And a couple other decisions have made the 2014 South Dakota Senate race especially vulnerable.  First, the two highest profile and strongest potential Democratic candidates opted out of the race.  Neither Brendan Johnson, US Attorney General and Senator Johnson's son, nor Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, former US representative, felt inclined to run.

On the other hand, Republicans got the very best candidate they could have hoped for when former Governor Mike Rounds entered the race.  He probably would have started out with the edge against either Sandlin or Johnson, but with 1996 congressional candidate Rick Weiland the only Democrat currently opposing him, Rounds has a decided advantage.  Barring some unforeseen hiccup, Republicans should gain this Senate seat with Rounds enjoying a convincing victory.

Preliminary projection:   Mod GOP Gain

You can track this race throughout the 2014 election season here at Election Projection by visiting the South Dakota Senate Election page for polls, projections and updates.  Also, check out the 2014 Senate Elections page for a summary of all Senate races on tap in 2014 complete with EP's colorful red and blue Senate map.

posted by Scott Elliott at 12:07am 01/23/14 :: link
When I published the Michigan Senate Race Preview in December, Republican nominee apparent Terri Land led Democratic front runner Gary Peters by 2 points in the only recent poll I could find testing the race, a survey put out by Democratic pollster Public Policy Polling.  Since then, two more polls have been released.  Both of them put Land in the lead as well.  Yes, I know, one of them was conducted by a Republican polling firm and the other by Rasmussen (who proved to be too rosy for the red team in their Senate polls the last two election cycles).

Nevertheless, when I look at the recent polls listed on EP's Michigan Senate election page, I see nothing but red in the spread column.  It's hard to call this race a tossup at this point, much less give Peters the advantage.  So, I am changing the preliminary projection to Weak GOP Gain.

This change represents the third projected pick up for Republicans in the 2014 Senate elections and leaves them just three shy of taking over the majority in the Senate.  As Michigan is not the most fertile ground for the GOP, I won't be surprised to see this race flip back to blue at some point before November.  But having a close race in a state not expected to provide such a good chance at a Republican pickup bodes well for the GOP's designs on the majority.

I will be continuing my Senate race previews this evening with a look at South Dakota, another great takeover opportunity for the GOP.  Stay tuned as the battle for Capitol Hill heats up here at Election Projection...

posted by Scott Elliott at 9:06pm 01/22/14 :: link
When South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, a champion of conservatives, announced on December 6, 2012 that he was leaving the Senate to become president of the Heritage Foundation, it fell to Republican Governor Nikki Haley to appoint an interim that would serve until a special election could be held.  Haley turned to sophomore Congressman Tim Scott, making him the first African-American senator from the South since Reconstruction and the first ever from the Palmetto State.

Since taking the oath of office on January 3, 2013, Scott has shown himself to be a solid conservative and a capable senator.  As a result, he currently faces no primary opposition and appears to be on the fast-track the GOP nomination.  Democrats will be hard-pressed, once the primary season concludes, to present Scott with a viable threat.  So, it looks like the interim senator is headed for an easy election victory in November and the right to finish out former Senator DeMint's term.

He'll be up for re-election in 2016 and will probably be the strong favorite to win again in two years.  In fact, in a state like South Carolina, Scott looks set to enjoy a long tenure in the Senate - unless his career aspirations lead him to attempt to attain greater heights.

Preliminary projection:  Solid GOP Hold

You can track this race throughout the 2014 election season here at Election Projection by visiting the South Carolina Special Senate Election page for polls, projections and updates.  Also, check out the 2014 Senate Elections page for a summary of all Senate races on tap in 2014 complete with EP's colorful red and blue Senate map.

posted by Scott Elliott at 11:44pm 01/21/14 :: link
Looking at the spectrum of blues, purples and reds that color our political map, South Carolina is red, to be sure, but you'll find a good number of redder states.  But 'Republican' down here is more synonymous with 'conservative' than in most states - unless you are an incumbent Senator seeking re-election and your name is Lindsey Graham.  First elected in 2002, Graham has engineered a voting record that leaves much to be desired in the minds of South Carolina conservatives.

He survived his first re-election bid in 2008 easily when, despite running awry of the conservative line on issues such as immigration, he avoided a serious primary challenge.  He retained the GOP nomination that year and breezed back to Washington for a second term with 58% of vote in November.

His second term has not been any more satisfying to the large conservative base in his Palmetto State constituency.  In 2012, he ranked as just the 33rd most conservative senator, which put him in the bottom third of Republicans.  Somehow, however, all the talk of defeating him in the primary has again failed to produce a first-tier GOP opponent.  He will no doubt be on the general election ballot once again.  And facing little more than token opposition from the Democrats, Graham is almost assured of a third term, likely by his most convincing margin yet.

Preliminary projection: Solid GOP Hold

You can track this race throughout the 2014 election season here at Election Projection by visiting the South Carolina Senate Election page for polls, projections and updates.  Also, check out the 2014 Senate Elections page for a summary of all Senate races on tap in 2014 complete with EP's colorful red and blue Senate map.

posted by Scott Elliott at 8:45pm 01/21/14 :: link
Democratic Senator Jack Reed was first elected to the upper chamber of Congress in 1996.  He won that election with 63% of the vote.  Since then, Rhode Islanders have sent him back to the Senate two more times with 78% and 73% of their vote in 2002 and 2008, respectively.  Suffering from anemic presence in the Ocean State, the GOP will be hard-pressed to keep Reed from winning an even larger victory in the 2014 Rhode Island Senate race.

With a liberal voting score of 84.7, as compiled by the National Journal, Reed ranked as the 13th most liberal senator in 2012.  That's just fine with the voters of Rhode Island, one of the very most liberal states in the nation.  They'll be happy to send their most popular politician back to Washington for another six years.

As of mid-January, no Republican has stepped in to challenge Reed.  In fact, neither has any Republican signed up to oppose either of Rhode Island's two Democratic congressmen.  Don't be surprised to see Reed coast to reelection victory without a Republican opponent.  This race is as solid as they get.

Preliminary projection:  Solid DEM Hold

You can track this race throughout the 2014 election season here at Election Projection by visiting the Rhode Island Senate Election page for polls, projections and updates.  Also, check out the 2014 Senate Elections page for a summary of all Senate races on tap in 2014 complete with EP's colorful red and blue Senate map.

posted by Scott Elliott at 12:33pm 01/20/14 :: link
From 1966 through 1996, Republicans won every Senate race held in Oregon.  That's a quite remarkable fact considering the dominating position Democrats now hold in the state.  Both senators, the governor and all the most prominent elected officials in state government and four of five US representatives in Oregon carry a D after their name.

Since Republican Gordon Smith succeeded longtime Senator Mark Hatfield in 1998, the GOP has managed but one Senate victory here - Smith's successful re-election bid in 2002.  When he tried for a third term six years later, it didn't turn out so well for the red team.  In 2008, Smith lost a very competitive race to Oregon Speaker of the House, Democrat Jeff Merkley who is up for re-election in this year's Oregon Senate race.

Merkley looks to be a shoo-in in 2014, benefiting from the same type of partisan stranglehold enjoyed by Republicans here throughout the 70s and 80s.  None of the four GOP hopefuls in the race so far will threaten him.  And with entrenched Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden all but assured to keep Oregon's other Senate seat in Democratic hands when his re-election comes up in two years, the blue team very likely doesn't need to worry about losing an Oregon Senate seat for the foreseeable future.

Preliminary projection:  Solid DEM hold

You can track this race throughout the 2014 election season here at Election Projection by visiting the Oregon Senate Election page for polls, projections and updates.  Also, check out the 2014 Senate Elections page for a summary of all Senate races on tap in 2014 complete with EP's colorful red and blue Senate map.

posted by Scott Elliott at 9:19am 01/20/14 :: link
Here's a number for you:  Zero.   That's the number of Democrats elected to the congressional delegation from Oklahoma plus the number of Democrats elected to major posts in Oklahoma's state government. And here's another number for you:  72.5%. That's the percentage of Republicans in Oklahoma's state legislature.  Finally one more number:   33%.  That's how much of the vote Oklahomans gave to President Obama in 2012.   Needless to say, the Sooner State is a good place to run if you are a Republican senator seeking re-election.

In the 2014 Oklahoma Senate race, Republican incumbent James Inhofe is just that.   First elected to the Senate in a special election in 1994, Inhofe has enjoyed a string of four election routs, and this go around promises to be another non-competitive cycle.

Sometimes an incumbent from a deeply partisan state like Inhofe must contend with a challenge from within the party.   However, Inhofe will catch a break in that regard as well.  He will waltz unopposed into the general election where the Democratic nominee (little-known Matt Silverstein is currently the only declared Democrat) won't threaten him.

Preliminary projection:  Solid GOP Hold

You can track this race throughout the 2014 election season here at Election Projection by visiting the Oklahoma Senate Election page for polls, projections and updates.  Also, check out the 2014 Senate Elections page for a summary of all Senate races on tap in 2014 complete with EP's colorful red and blue Senate map.

posted by Scott Elliott at 3:04pm 01/17/14 :: link
What do current North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr and the late Jesse Helms have in common?   Aside from being Republican senators from the Tar Heel state, they are also the only two people to win reelection to the Senate in North Carolina since 1980.   That fact alone should make Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan a little nervous.

She is up for reelection for the first time in the 2014 North Carolina Senate race, and her path back to Washington promises to be fraught with peril.   Battling a negative drag from her voting record, Hagan has seen her job approval rating dip to 39% in one recent poll.   Incumbents with that suppressed level of approval almost never win reelection.   And early polling data hints at the difficulty she faces winning a second Senate race here.

Public Policy Polling, coincidentally a North Carolina firm, just released a survey on this race on Tuesday.   They find that Hagan, who had a sizable lead in their poll last September, has fallen behind all five GOP hopefuls that they tested.   What's more alarming than the one to two point deficits confronting her is the fact that she couldn't get above 41 or 42 percent in any of them.

But the red team isn't checking this one off as a sure pickup just yet.   Despite a year that shaping up well for Republicans across the nation, this is still very much a battleground state, and GOP fans aren't exactly thrilled at the lineup of candidates vying to challenge Hagan in November.   The front runner appears to be N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis.   If he wins the nomination, Democrats feel they can attack him on ethics and the legislation pushed by the N.C. General Assembly under his watch.   In fact, they have already been attacking him for months.

The other contenders on the Republican side, a physician, radio host, retired Army nurse and minister, are political newbies.   The physician, however, is one to keep an eye on.   His name is Greg Brannon, and he has secured endorsements from Senator Rand Paul, RedState.com's Erick Erickson and the National Association for Gun Rights, indications that his campaign could turn into a viable alternative to the Speaker.

Regardless of who wins the GOP nomination, this race is a sure bet to be hard-fought, entertaining and competitive.   It is truly a tossup.   Hagan's job approval makes her vulnerable in the worst way. But a lack of confidence in her eventual opponent offsets that the vulnerability. As a prognosticator who doesn't use a tossup rating, I am in a quandary with this one.   I usually side with the incumbent in a tossup situation such as this, but incumbents in tossup races rarely have such dismal approval numbers.

Nevertheless, I think I'll stay true to my convention and rate this one for Hagan… for now.   However, if the next poll gives Republicans the advantage again, don't be surprised to see this race flip to red before my 2014 election previews are complete.

Preliminary projection:  Weak DEM Hold

You can track this race throughout the 2014 election season here at Election Projection by visiting the North Carolina Senate Election page for polls, projections and updates.  Also, check out the 2014 Senate Elections page for a summary of all Senate races on tap in 2014 complete with EP's colorful red and blue Senate map.

posted by Scott Elliott at 11:41pm 01/15/14 :: link
In the desert Southwest, it is a requirement that all U. S. House members must run for the Senate.  Of course, no such a requirement exists. It only seems that way when you look at the candidate lists in New Mexico's recent Senate races.  Back in 2006, New Mexico's three representatives in the House were Republicans Heather Wilson and Stephen Pearce and Democrat Tom Udall.  All three congressmen left behind their House seats in 2008 to pursue the Senate seat of retiring Sen. Pete Domenici, a Republican.

In the GOP primary, the more conservative Pearce defeated Wilson but turned out to be a weak choice in the general election.  Against Udall, Pearce could muster just 39% of the vote as the Democrat sailed to an easy Senate seat takeover.  However, judging from the rest of the ticket - Democrats swept all three of New Mexico's House seats, earning two pickups in the process - Wilson may not have fared much better.

Six years later, Senator Udall is well-positioned to claim another easy victory in his first Senate re-election bid.  Lower-tier Republicans David Clements and Allen Weh, the two GOP candidates currently in the race, appear capable of only token resistance.  Lt. Governor John Sanchez has been mentioned as another possible challenger, but he too would probably not be able to threaten the incumbent.

By the way, in 2012, Heather Wilson lost in the general election to the Land of Enchantment's current junior senator, Martin Heinrich. His position prior to running for the Senate? You guessed it: US representative from New Mexico.

Preliminary projection:  Solid DEM hold

You can track this race throughout the 2014 election season here at Election Projection by visiting the New Mexico Senate Election page for polls, projections and updates.  Also, check out the 2014 Senate Elections page for a summary of all Senate races on tap in 2014 complete with EP's colorful red and blue Senate map.

posted by Scott Elliott at 11:58pm 01/14/14 :: link
When Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg passed away on June 3, 2013, he was 89 years old.  At the time, he was also the oldest active senator and the only World War II veteran in the Senate.  His death left behind a vacancy that New Jersey's Republican Governor Chris Christie filled with a Republican, Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa.

However, Christie also scheduled a special election to be held on October 16, 2013 to determine who would serve out the remainder of Lautenberg's term.   As New Jersey is a strongly Democratic state, Newark Mayor Cory Booker's victory in the Democratic primary virtually assured him a place in the upper chamber of Congress.   The charismatic Booker won an easy 11 point decision against Republican Steve Lonegan, the former mayor of Bogota, in the general election.

In the 2014 New Jersey Senate race, Booker is the incumbent seeking his first full term.  His quest promises to be a smooth ride mostly because the GOP bench in the Garden State leaves so much to be desired.   In fact, as of this writing, no Republican has even declared a run against Booker.

Preliminary projection:   Solid DEM Hold

You can track this race throughout the 2014 election season here at Election Projection by visiting the New Jersey Senate Election page for polls, projections and updates.  Also, check out the 2014 Senate Elections page for a summary of all Senate races on tap in 2014 complete with EP's colorful red and blue Senate map.

posted by Scott Elliott at 10:56pm 01/14/14 :: link
If the election results over the last several cycles are any indication, New Hampshire voters seem to have trouble settling on a particular party.  Focusing on the Senate and House elections here over the last seven cycles, the Granite State has given one party or the other a clean sweep in each and every election.  The chart below shows New Hampshire's remarkably consistent track record of partisan wavering.
New Hampshire Voting Since 2002
Year Senate House CD1 House CD2
2012   DEM DEM
2010 GOP GOP GOP
2008 DEM DEM DEM
2006   DEM DEM
2004 GOP GOP GOP
2002 GOP GOP GOP
2000   GOP GOP
Looking at the chart, a clear pattern arises which suggests that 2014 should see another partisan flip.  This time back to the GOP.  Indeed, the historical data might induce a degree of anxiety in incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat.  But, as that famous financial disclaimer attests, "past results do not guarantee future performance."

In Sen. Shaheen's case, a welcomed bit of partisan consistency appears likely for her in November.  After winning and serving three terms as New Hampshire's governor from 1997 through 2003, Shaheen entered the 2008 Senate race against incumbent Republican John Sununu.  That year turned out to be a very good election for Democrats nationwide, and the former governor bested the incumbent by just over six points to claim a Senate seat takeover for the blue team.

Six years removed from that blue wave election and six years into an Obama presidency hobbled by low approval numbers, the climate would seem ripe for the seat to flip back to the Republicans.  However, bolstered by high favorability numbers, Shaheen is not as vulnerable as one might expect.  Early polling gives her substantial leads over former Sen. Bob Smith and several other Republicans who have entered the race for the GOP nomination.

But the most intriguing figure, by far, on the Republican side hasn't yet declared his candidacy.  In fact, he just moved in from neighboring Massachusetts. Former Bay State Sen. Scott Brown made headlines last month when he became a new resident of the state.  His move has fueled rampant speculation that he has designs on Shaheen's Senate seat.  Polls show him within a few points of her, far closer than any of her other potential Republican opponents.

We'll have to wait and see what Brown decides to do, but for now, Shaheen must be considered a strong favorite to hold the seat for Democrats.  If Brown jumps in, however, he would likely diminish Shaheen's advantage and could bring this seat into play.

Preliminary projection:  Strong DEM Hold

You can track this race throughout the 2014 election season here at Election Projection by visiting the New Hampshire Senate Election page for polls, projections and updates.  Also, check out the 2014 Senate Elections page for a summary of all Senate races on tap in 2014 complete with EP's colorful red and blue Senate map.

posted by Scott Elliott at 11:30pm 01/13/14 :: link
One term is enough - at least to Republican Senator Mike Johanns.  After taking a long journey to Capitol Hill, with stops as Mayor of Lincoln, Governor of Nebraska and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture under President George W. Bush, Johanns won an open seat race to succeed Republican Chuck Hagel in the Senate six years ago.

Even with his extended track record of public service, many were surprised by his decision to forego another term (which he would have easily won).  But, as he told his constituents...

With everything in life, there is a time and a season.  At the end of this term, we will have been in public service over 32 years.  Between the two of us, we have been on the ballot for primary and general elections 16 times and we have served in eight offices.  It is time to close this chapter of our lives.
The open seat he leaves behind might be competitive, but it isn't vulnerable.  A hard fought race could materialize here; it just won't be the one in November.  That's because in a state like Nebraska, the Republican primary winner will be the heir-apparent to Senator Johanns.

At this stage, the early leader for the GOP nod is former Nebraska State Treasurer Shane Osborn.  (No, he is not related to legendary Cornhusker coach and former Nebraska Congressman Tom Osborne.)  A Distinguish Flying Cross recipient, Osborn served as State Treasurer from 2007-2011.  He is the only announced candidate in the race to have won elected office.  His strongest challenge will come from banker Sid Dinsdale and Midland University President Ben Sasse.  If fundraising totals so far are any indication, Sasse, who has twice as much in the bank as Osborn after just one quarter, may prove to be a formidable opponent.

Whether Osborn can keep his frontrunner status or Sasse or Dinsdale comes from behind to win the nomination, this seat will remain in GOP hands.  As of this writing, no Democrat has even entered the fray.

Preliminary projection:  Solid GOP Hold

You can track this race throughout the 2014 election season here at Election Projection by visiting the Nebraska Senate Election page for polls, projections and updates.  Also, check out the 2014 Senate Elections page for a summary of all Senate races on tap in 2014 complete with EP's colorful red and blue Senate map.

posted by Scott Elliott at 8:18pm 01/09/14 :: link
Democrat Max Baucus was first elected to the U.S. Senate from the great state of Montana way back in 1978.  After six terms and five re-election battles in which he was often a prime Republican target they could never defeat, he has decided to call it a day at this end of this term.  His decision leaves a wide open door for the GOP to finally win the seat they've long coveted.

But it might not have been so.  Despite the Republican lean of Montana's voters, Democrats have fared well here, and former Governor Brian Schweitzer is a great example.  He recently won two terms as the state's top executive and was thought to be a worthy successor to Baucus in this year's 2014 Montana Senate race.  However, in a move that surprised many, Schweitzer opted out of a run.  With him in the race, Democrats would have had an even money chance at worst of holding this seat.  Without him, they face a significant challenge keeping it in the fold.

Republicans, on the other hand, got exactly the man they hoped for - Congressman Steve Daines.  A Capitol Hill freshman, Daines almost ran for the Senate two years ago against Jon Tester, Montana's other Democratic senator, but decided instead to go after the at-large House seat left open by Denny Rehberg, Tester's eventual Republican opponent.  The decision turned out to be a fortuitous career move as Tester proved a difficult out and his easy victory in the congressional race positioned Daines well for this year's quest to move up to the Senate.

Though not a shoo-in by any means, Daines enjoys the advantage of having won a statewide race here already.  Since Montana only has one House seat, candidates vying for it must conduct a statewide campaign and gain the plurality of statewide voters.  That should help him in the general election once he gets past only minor primary opposition.

On the Democratic side, a competitive primary may be in store.  Two Montana Lt. Governors, one past, one present, are seeking the blue team's nomination.  A Public Policy Polling survey conducted in November gave former Lt. Governor John Bohlinger a 39-31% edge over current Lt. Governor John Walsh.  But regardless of who prevails, the nominee is likely to start off as the underdog against Daines.

Preliminary projection:  Weak GOP Gain

You can track this race throughout the 2014 election season here at Election Projection by visiting the Montana Senate Election page for polls, projections and updates.  Also, check out the 2014 Senate Elections page for a summary of all Senate races on tap in 2014 complete with EP's colorful red and blue Senate map.

posted by Scott Elliott at 10:28pm 01/08/14 :: link
There is one downside to having a string of easy re-election successes.  The fundamentals of what it takes to win a grueling election can atrophy.  That's what six-term Republican incumbent Thad Cochran faces this year.  He hasn't had to put much effort into keeping this deep red seat since he secured a second term back in 1984.  As a result, in many ways, Cochran's task this time around is not unlike a rookie senate candidate trying to build a campaign from the ground up.

Granted, his tenure and recognition gives him structural advantages over a newbie, but his media outreach and get-out-the-vote organization will need a lot of work.  And to exacerbate his challenge, Cochran's war chest is but a fraction of most incumbent senators.  Due to his late decision to seek re-election - his December announcement was the latest of all 14 GOP senators up for re-election in 2014 - and his reluctance to raise funds until that decision was made, Cochran only has around $800,000 on hand.

He'll need to beef up his coffers to fend off his biggest challenge to re-election - Republican State Senator Chris McDaniel.  That's right, Cochran has landed square in the crosshairs of Tea Party groups, and they have all coalesced around McDaniel, a staunch conservative even perhaps by Mississippi standards.  The resulting primary battle promises to resemble the 2012 primary showdown in Indiana between then-Senator Richard Lugar and Tea Party favorite Richard Murdock.  The challenger ousted the incumbent in that one, but went on to lose the seat for Republicans when Democrat Joe Donnelly defeated him by 6 points.

Democrats are hoping for the same outcome this year in the 2014 Mississippi Senate race.  They have become interested in this race since McDaniel got in and are hoping to lure someone from their short bench here to run this year.  Several names have been floated, such as former Congressman Travis Childers, Attorney General Jim Hood and former Governor Ray Mabus, but none has entered the race as of early January.

Time will tell whether McDaniel, should he prevail in the primary, will turn out to be a woeful candidate like Murdock, but his nomination would likely move this race into a more competitive category - pending a first-tier Democratic challenge.  That said, in a state like Mississippi, either Cochran or McDaniel would be the hands down favorite once the primaries are over.  Polls measuring their battle are very premature at this point and are all over the place.  Of the two polls I've seen, one has McDaniel crushing the incumbent by 20 points, but the other shows an even greater margin with Cochran comfortably ahead.

This race will be interesting at least - something we've not seen in decades for Cochran.  When all is said and done, however, I think Mississippi is just too conservative to elect a Democrat to the Senate.  Look for the GOP nominee - either one will do - to win easily in November.

Preliminary projection:  Solid GOP Hold

You can track this race throughout the 2014 election season here at Election Projection by visiting the Mississippi Senate Election page for polls, projections and updates.  Also, check out the 2014 Senate Elections page for a summary of all Senate races on tap in 2014 complete with EP's colorful red and blue Senate map.

posted by Scott Elliott at 12:01pm 01/07/14 :: link
Several factors can produce a competitive Senate race.  An open seat tends to be more competitive than one in which an incumbent is seeking re-election.  A senator in poor standing with his constituency will be more likely to face stiff competition than one who is well-liked.  Sometimes even well-liked senators can be threatened if the right top-tier candidate jumps in to oppose him.

In the 2014 Minnesota Senate race, none of these close-race-producing factors exists.  First, Democrat Al Franken is seeking re-election this cycle so that removes the open seat challenge.  Second, Franken has proven himself to be a serious elected official who has cultivated a non-divisive persona on Capitol Hill.  And this despite being an outlandish liberal talk show firebrand who's reputation before his razor-thin victory in 2008 might have foretold just the opposite.

Finally, the Minnesota GOP has been unable to coax any legitimate challengers to run against him.  Two Republican congressmen who might have been the kind of candidates to make this a close race, John Kline and Erik Paulsen, decided to pass.  Their decisions clear the way for Franken to enjoy a reasonably comfortable ride to a second term.

Preliminary projection:  Strong DEM Hold

You can track this race throughout the 2014 election season here at Election Projection by visiting the Minnesota Senate Election page for polls, projections and updates.  Also, check out the 2014 Senate Elections page for a summary of all Senate races on tap in 2014 complete with EP's colorful red and blue Senate map.

posted by Scott Elliott at 2:11pm 12/23/13 :: link
It happens every cycle.  A safe bet for one party or the other becomes immediately competitive upon the announcement that the incumbent is going to retire.  The 2014 Iowa Senate election is a good example.  Senator Tom Harkin's decision to forego another term has produced a close race to succeed him.

Other retirements don't produce such fireworks.  The race for the Nebraska will be a Solid GOP Hold even though Mike Johann's is stepping down.  And then there are cases like the 2014 Michigan Senate race.  When 35-year veteran Carl Levin decided to retire after his sixth term, no one rushed to push this race into the toss-up category.

But that perspective began to change as polling out of the Wolverine State showed Republican Terri Land, the apparent GOP nominee, within just a few points of likely Democratic nominee Congressman Gary Peters.  In November, Stuart Rothenberg opined that this race could be competitive and moved his rating of the race from Safe Democrat to Democrat Favored.

Now, another month has passed, and Terri Land's position has improved even more.  A Public Policy Polling survey conducted December 5-8 put her 2 points ahead of Peters.  (The previous PPP poll from October gave Peters a 7-point lead.)  Even though Land was not the first - or even second - choice of GOP strategists (they were hoping for one of their congressmen, Mike Rogers or Dave Camp, to run) she has started off out-performing expectations and raising lots of campaign cash.

For his part, Peters will be a formidable candidate as well.  He has the advantage of running in a state that gave President Obama 9.5% and 16.4% victories here in 2012 and 2008, respectively.  He is sitting on more cash that his opponent, despite her early fundraising success.  And Rothenberg points out that Peters possesses "remarkable political agility."  No, Peters will by no means be an easy target.

Taken together, all these factors portend a very, very close and exciting race.  And though I'm not ready to color it red just yet, the fact that Democrats have an expected fight to hold a seat in their electoral backyard is already a win for the GOP.

In truth, this race appears to be a legitimate toss-up right now - Charlie Cook, in fact, just declared it such.  But Election Projection doesn't deal in toss-ups.  So, just as in baseball where the tie goes to the runner, I tend to follow the axiom that toss-ups go to the incumbent party.  Therefore, much to the chagrin, I'm sure, of several readers who've written in hoping to convince me to color Michigan bright red on today's Senate map, my initial evaluation of this race leaves it in Democratic hands.

But this one is going to be exciting!

Preliminary projection:  Weak DEM Hold

You can track this race throughout the 2014 election season here at Election Projection by visiting the Michigan Senate Election page for polls, projections and updates.  Also, check out the 2014 Senate Elections page for a summary of all Senate races on tap in 2014 complete with EP's colorful red and blue Senate map.

posted by Scott Elliott at 10:36pm 12/20/13 :: link
Former Senator John Kerry, who lost the 2004 presidential election to George W. Bush, held this seat in the Senate from January, 1985 until he resigned on February 1, 2013 to become U.S. Secretary of State in the Obama administration.  Governor Deval Patrick chose William "Mo" Cowan to assume the seat in an interim capacity until a special election could be held.

Cowan decided against running in the June 25, 2013 special election, and a competitive race ensued between retired Navy Seal Gabriel Gomez, a Republican, and Congressman Ed Markey, a Democrat.  Gomez had hoped to duplicate Republican Scott Brown's surprise Bay State upset victory in January, 2010.  By running a much better campaign than Martha Coakley, Scott Brown's opponent, Markey avoided the same fate and won the election by a 10-point margin.

That brings us to the 2014 Massachusetts Senate race.  Markey is seeking election to a first full term and has already caught a big break in that quest.  Brown, who lost his bid for a full term in 2012, had been mentioned as a possible challenger in this race, but he is changing addresses.  His move to New Hampshire has people wondering about a possible Senate run against NH Democrat Jeanne Shaheen - but we'll explore that possibility when I preview the Granite State race in the upcoming days.

With Brown out of consideration, Markey's path to re-election is much less perilous.  That's not to say Brown would have beaten him.  It's just that, in this quintessential liberal state, he's likely the only Republican outside of Gomez who could have given Markey a run for his money.  And with Gomez yet to jump into a rematch with Markey, the incumbent appears set to enjoy an easy ride to a full term in the Senate.

Preliminary projection:  Solid DEM Hold

You can track this race throughout the 2014 election season here at Election Projection by visiting the Massachusetts Senate Election page for polls, projections and updates.  Also, check out the 2014 Senate Elections page for a summary of all Senate races on tap in 2014 complete with EP's colorful red and blue Senate map.

posted by Scott Elliott at 12:10pm 12/19/13 :: link
Before Olympia Snowe's retirement in 2013, Maine was one of four states featuring two female senators.  (California, Washington and, since 2010, New Hampshire are the remaining three.)  And it was the only state with two Republican female senators.  Independent former Governor Angus King succeeded Snowe by winning a three-way race in 2012 which saw the Democratic nominee score just 13% of the vote.

The loss was not significant for Democrats, however, since King caucuses with the Democrats, and his voting record has proven to be reliably Democratic.  Some have called him "Independent in Name Only" (IINO?), a nickname that provides an apt segue to this year's senate election here.

Susan Collins is up for re-election to a fourth term in the 2014 Maine Senate race and her reputation as a RINO (Republican in name only) is well-earned.  Her conservative score in 2012 as determined by the American Conservative Union was just 20%.  But that track record fits in well in Maine, a state which gave President Obama 58% and 57% in 2008 and 2012, respectively.  Moreover, she has developed a good relationship with her constituents.  They like her and don't appear to be inclined to cut her loose.

A dozen years ago, northeastern RINOs were a plentiful breed in the Senate.  Now, only Collins remains.  But after targeting Collins in her previous two re-election bids (in 2002 and 2008), Democrats seem to have conceded her a fourth term this time around.  They are more interested in mounting a challenge to Mark LaPage, the current Republican governor, who does not enjoy the same cozy relationship with the folks in Maine.  So it looks like the last northeastern RINO will stay on for at least another six years.

Preliminary projection:  Solid GOP Hold

You can track this race throughout the 2014 election season here at Election Projection by visiting the Maine Senate Election page for polls, projections and updates.  Also, check out the 2014 Senate Elections page for a summary of all Senate races on tap in 2014 complete with EP's colorful red and blue Senate map.

posted by Scott Elliott at 9:58pm 12/16/13 :: link
Two quick oddities from down on the bayou.  Did you know that Louisiana doesn't have counties?  Nope, the state's residents claim parishes instead.  And did you know that Louisiana doesn't hold traditional partisan primaries like most everyone else?  Instead they hold an 'open primary' of sorts on Election Day.

There is no party nomination process in Louisiana, at least not for the races I'll be tracking here at Election Projection.  All qualifying candidates, which can and usually do include multiple folks from at least one party, are on the general election ballot.

The objective, in this format, is not only to get more votes than the other candidates, but to get more than all other candidates combined.  If no one is able to gain that 50% plus one vote on Election Day, then the top two vote-getters head to a general election runoff in December.  In the 2014 Louisiana Senate race, I expect that will indeed be the outcome.

Incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu will be fighting for her political life as usual.  Most likely, she'll not be able to eclipse 50% and avoid a runoff.  But that's life as normal for this recurring Republican target.  First elected in 1996 with just 50.2% of the vote, she has survived two re-election bids, neither of which saw her earn more than 52%.

Still, close victories are just as effective as blowouts, and while Republicans think this seat is ripe for a takeover, Landrieu has proven she won't go down easily.  Democrats hope her less-than-ideal liberal voting record and her occasional opposition to President Obama's agenda will counteract Louisiana's recent shift toward the right.

Republicans, on the other hand, hope that shift - and a first-tier challenge from Congressman Bill Cassidy - will finally be more than she can withstand.  Retired Air Force Colonel Rob Maness and a pair of also-rans will help push this race to a runoff, but Landrieu and Cassidy appear locked in as the top two who will advance to a December vote, a showdown that might have much more at stake than a single Senate seat.

With the general mood of the 2014 midterm election favoring the GOP, the minority party in the Senate stands to gain a few seats.  Looking at the slate of competitive races, it isn't hard to envision a scenario where a runoff in Louisiana could be held with the Senate majority in the balance.  If that were the case, focus on Landrieu-Cassidy would be enormous, and outside money would flood into Louisiana's election scene like never before.

Just shy of a year from the runoff date (December 6, 2014), Landrieu holds the 'favorite' moniker, albeit by a very small margin.  Most pundits give her a slight advantage at this point, but expectations are for this election to be a hard-fought nail biter.  I wouldn't be surprised if, at some points between now and November, Cassidy is projected to win.  But for now, EP will start off the 2014 Louisiana Senate race colored blue on my Senate map.

Preliminary projection:  Weak DEM Hold

You can track this race throughout the 2014 election season here at Election Projection by visiting the Louisiana Senate Election page for polls, projections and updates.  Also, check out the 2014 Senate Elections page for a summary of all Senate races on tap in 2014 complete with EP's colorful red and blue Senate map.

posted by Scott Elliott at 9:25pm 12/11/13 :: link
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky's senior senator, will have two competitive races in 2014.  The first will be his quest to win the GOP nomination.  As the ranking Republican, McConnell is the face of GOP leadership in the Senate.  To those on his right, he also represents in many ways the face of the Republican establishment they find so distasteful.

Yes, the Tea Party would like to retire McConnell, and businessman Matt Bevin is their choice to accomplish the feat.  But despite McConnell's shaky relationship with his more conservative constituents, the five-term senator must be considered the favorite to meet the Democratic nominee in November.

A poll taken in October puts the incumbent in front of Bevin by a whopping 50-17% margin.  That edge will no doubt shrink as the political newcomer's campaign gets into gear in advance of their primary showdown.  However, Bevin will have to overcome the massive war chest McConnell has accumulated.  McConnell is a prodigious fundraiser who has raised an eye-popping $18 million so far this cycle and has almost $10 million on hand. 

Moreover, as Charlie Cook reports (subscription required), the Minority Leader has a history of running "textbook perfect campaigns."  The Tea Party and Mr. Bevin will put up a good fight, but this incumbent will prove to be up to the challenge.

And those same qualities will serve him well in the general election as well.  Of course, Democrats want to retire him too.  To do that, they've enlisted Kentucky's Secretary of State Alison Grimes.  A couple others are also running on the Democratic side, but it is Grimes who will move on to face McConnell.  Her proven statewide appeal will ensure a competitive race.

Polls are scarce this far out - and don't mean much yet anyway - but those that have been done do give Democrats hope that McConnell might be vulnerable enough to defeat.  One shows McConnell with just a one point lead over Grimes, and the other puts the race at a dead even tie.  Granted, both polls were conducted by Democratic polling firms, but they serve nonetheless to illustrate just how close this race is likely to be.

Preliminary projection:  Weak GOP Hold

You can track this race throughout the 2014 election season here at Election Projection by visiting the Kentucky Senate Election page for polls, projections and updates.  Also, check out the 2014 Senate Elections page for a summary of all Senate races on tap in 2014 complete with EP's colorful red and blue Senate map.

posted by Scott Elliott at 7:42pm 12/10/13 :: link
Few states are more reliably Republican than the Sunflower State.  Boasting two GOP senators, 4 GOP congressmen, a GOP governor and large GOP majorities in the state legislature, Kansas gave just 39% of its 2008 presidential vote to Barack Obama.  Such a situation might seem like a sweet deal to an incumbent Republican senator seeking re-election - unless your voting record isn't conservative enough.

In the recent cycles, the Tea Party has proven successful in knocking off several more moderate Republicans in deep red states like Kansas, and Pat Roberts, Kansas' senior senator, is not the most conservative guy on the block.  However, he has cultivated the kind of reputation and rapport with voters and colleagues alike that insulates him from the designs of the far right.

And it's not that he's a RINO by any stretch.  Though, as the Republican contingent in the Senate has moved rightward lately, his relative voting record has migrated more toward the center.  In 2009, his conservative score was rated 87.3.  By 2012, that score has slipped to 73.8%.  (A score of 60%, for example, signifies a voting record more conservative than 60% of the Senate as a whole.)

Still, Roberts has been outspoken in his opposition to Obamacare and his efforts to defund it have no doubt further assuaged any inclination of the Tea Party to pick a fight.  On the other side of the spectrum, Democrats don't have much stomach for a fight either.  Two cycles ago, back in 2002, Roberts didn't even face a Democratic opponent and won 83% of the votes against a couple of third party candidates.  This election he might enjoy the same luxury as no Democrats have yet decided to mount a challenge.

Preliminary projection:  Solid GOP Hold

Correction:  Democrat Chad Taylor, Shawnee County District Attorney, is running in this race.

You can track this race throughout the 2014 election season here at Election Projection by visiting the Kansas Senate Election page for polls, projections and updates.  Also, check out the 2014 Senate Elections page for a summary of all Senate races on tap in 2014 complete with EP's colorful red and blue Senate map.

posted by Scott Elliott at 12:07pm 12/09/13 :: link
Democrat Tom Harkin earned his first trip to the Senate in 1984.  In four re-election campaigns since, his closest contest was in 1996 when he slipped by Republican Jim Ross Lightfoot by just over 5 points.  Six years ago, he enjoyed his most lopsided victory, a twenty-five point trouncing of Christopher Reed.  If the entrenched senator were to try for a sixth term in 2014, he'd no doubt be on the safe list.

But Harkin announced in the early 2013 that he would be stepping down at the end of his present term.  His exit transforms the 2014 Iowa Senate race into a much more competitive one.  The Hawkeye State is a longstanding battleground state that is customarily up for grabs in presidential elections, and its House and Senate contingents are split right down the middle, party-wise.  So, it makes sense that an open Senate seat here would be closely fought.

There is one advantage, however, that Democrats hold in the race.  They've been able to clear a path for Congressman Bruce Braley to assume the nomination, whereas the GOP is looking at a crowded primary field with potential for a damaging, protracted nomination scuffle.  No less than seven Republicans are currently running, and that number may grow.

The most well-known among this largely obscure group are Iowa State Senator Joni Ernst and former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker.  But polls show the current front-runner in this race isn't even running...yet.  Controversial conservative GOPer and three-time gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats leads the declared Republican candidates in one poll of registered Republicans by 20 percent.  He has stated that he will make his decision whether to run before January 1.

Further clouding the outlook is an Iowa Republican Party rule that says a candidate must garner at least 35% of the primary vote to earn the nomination.  If none is able to get to that mark, the nominee will be chosen at the state convention.  But Charlie Cook points out that this usually produces a more conservative pick, a tendency that may not bode well for GOP efforts to earn a takeover here.

If that is indeed the case, Vander Plaats, were he to run, might be challenged most by Sam Clovis, a Sioux City radio talk show host and darling of Iowa's evangelical right.  But Republican Governor Terry Branstad believes Joni Ernst would be the most likely Republican to defeat Braley and, despite foregoing any public endorsement is reportedly working behind the scenes to promote her candidacy.

Another unknown is how much impact former energy CEO Mark Jacobs' deep pockets will have on the race.  The possibilities are practically endless when it comes to forecasting how this primary battle will play out.

In the end, the eventual GOP nominee will face a Democrat in Braley who will have enjoyed the luxury of an uncontested nomination run but who may be fighting the adverse effects of his staunch support of Obamacare as a congressman.  If Obamacare's unpopularity persists here in Iowa come November, Braley may not be able to hold this seat for the Democrats.  That said, from where we currently stand, it would be premature to declare this seat a projected Republican pickup.

Preliminary projection:  Weak DEM Hold

You can track this race throughout the 2014 election season here at Election Projection by visiting the Iowa Senate Election page for polls, projections and updates.  Also, check out the 2014 Senate Elections page for a summary of all Senate races on tap in 2014 complete with EP's colorful red and blue Senate map.

posted by Scott Elliott at 11:14pm 12/06/13 :: link
Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, the three-term Democrat up for re-election in 2014, outdid President-to-be Barack Obama in his own adoptive neighborhood in 2008.  Obama got the nod from 63% of Illinois voters; Durbin earned a 69% share.  Now seeking a fourth term, Durbin will enjoy another easy path to back to Washington.

Republicans have a tough time in the Land of Lincoln.  They can occasionally engineer competitive contests in statewide election, but the 2014 Illinois Senate Race will not be close.  Instead, GOP heavy hitters are deciding to jump into the race against embattled Governor Pat Quinn rather than trying to topple an Illinois stalwart in Senator Durbin.

Of the Republicans who are willing to play the prohibitive underdog in the Senate race, Illinois State Senator Jim Oberweis appears poised to win the GOP nomination.  In a Public Policy Polling survey taken just before Thanksgiving, Oberweis claimed support from 43% of those polled.  His nearest competitior could muster just 7%.  But it doesn't matter who gets to carry the GOP banner; Durbin is a shoo-in.

Preliminary projection:  Solid DEM Hold

You can track this race throughout the 2014 election season here at Election Projection by visiting the Illinois Senate Election page for polls, projections and updates.  Also, check out the 2014 Senate Elections page for a summary of all Senate races on tap in 2014 complete with EP's colorful red and blue Senate map.

posted by Scott Elliott at 10:35pm 12/05/13 :: link
In many states, a scandalous exit by a sitting senator would have the opposition party salivating at the chance for an easy takeover.  Idaho is not one of those states.  Even though former Republican Senator Larry Craig's embarrassing restroom arrest in August, 2007 forced him to bow out of a 2008 re-election bid, the GOP never worried about losing the seat.

Lt. Governor Jim Risch decided to make a run for Craig's open seat that year instead of waiting for the next gubernatorial contest in 2010.  Even with the pall of his disgraced predecessor's transgression still lingering, Risch soundly defeated his Democratic opponent, former Democratic U.S. Rep. Larry LaRocco.

Now, six years later, Risch will have no problems claiming a second term.  To get an idea of how safe the 2014 Idaho Senate Race is for the incumbent, consider this:  Risch won a scandal-laden open seat in a very good Democratic year against a former congressman by a whopping 24 percentage points!  The margin in 2014 will no doubt eclipse that rout.

Preliminary projection:  Solid GOP Hold

You can track this race throughout the 2014 election season here at Election Projection by visiting the Idaho Senate Election page for polls, projections and updates.  Also, check out the 2014 Senate Elections page for a summary of all Senate races on tap in 2014 complete with EP's colorful red and blue Senate map.

posted by Scott Elliott at 11:56pm 12/04/13 :: link
The late Daniel Inouye, former Democratic senator from Hawaii, served without interruption for 49 years, 349 days in the U.S. Senate.  December 17, 2012, sixteen days before his 50th anniversary in the Senate, Inouye passed away, leaving Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie to appoint his successor.

As a Democrat, Abercrombie would certainly be inclined to appoint someone from his own party.  In this case, however, he had no choice.  Hawaii law requires that any Senate seat left prematurely vacant much be filled by a member of the previous senator's party.

Governor Abercrombie didn't have to go far to find Hawaii's new senator.  He chose his right hand man, Lt. Governor Brian Schatz, to travel to Washington.  Next November, the interim senator will try to earn the seat in his own right in the 2014 special Senate election in Hawaii.  Winning the general election will be no problem for him in this overwhelmingly Democratic state.

However, getting to the general election won't be nearly so easy.  A rough, competitive primary looms for Schatz with Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, one of Hawaii's two congressmen.  Hanabusa was named early on as a possible replacement for Inouye, and she would love to assume that role.  It's too early to tell who will prevail.  The latest poll I could find showed Schatz up 38% to 36%.

Whichever Democrat emerges victorious in the primary will have a cakewalk to victory on Election Day.  Hawaii is as deep blue as they come.  In 2012, the Aloha State voted for native son Barack Obama by a larger margin than any other state.  That same year, Linda Lingle, a former governor and arguably the most marketable Republican in the state, could must just 37% in the open seat Senate election.  Whether it's Schatz or Hanabusa in the general, this one will stay in the blue column.

Preliminary projection:  Solid DEM Hold

You can track this race throughout the 2014 election season here at Election Projection by visiting the Hawaii Senate Election page for polls, projections and updates.  Also, check out the 2014 Senate Elections page for a summary of all Senate races on tap in 2014 complete with EP's colorful red and blue Senate map.

posted by Scott Elliott at 8:55pm 12/03/13 :: link
In a climate that favors Republicans, Democrats look to two states for opportunities to mitigate GOP gains in the Senate in 2014.  Only Mitch McConnell in Kentucky and the open seat here in Georgia are considered even remotely vulnerable among the fourteen Senate seats Republicans must try to hold.  Three factors give Democrats hope that they can get a rare victory in a southern state Senate race - Saxby Chambliss' retirement, a crowded, possibly contentious GOP primary field, and Democrat Michelle Nunn's candidacy.

Three congressmen, Paul Broun (CD-10), Phil Gingrey (CD-11) and Jack Kingston (CD-1), are running for the Republican nomination in the 2014 Georgia Senate Race.  Five others have also entered the race including David Perdue, a cousin of former Governor Sonny Perdue.  Third quarter 2013 FEC reports show three candidates - Kingston, Gingrey and Perdue - have over $1 mlliion on hand, and two more - Broun and 2010 gubernatorial candidate Karen Handel have over $300,000.  The abundance of money portends a heated battle for the GOP nomination that could and probably will help the Democratic nominee make this a fight in the general election.

Michelle Nunn looks to be that nominee.  Her name value here provides instant recognition (she's the daughter of former Democratic Senator Sam Nunn), and Georgia Democrats are encouraged by her first-tier candidacy.  Since jumping into the race back in July, Nunn has already raised $1.7 million and has nearly $1.4 million on hand.  Several others have declared on the Democratic side, including a former Georgia state Senator, but none is expected to give Nunn a legitimate challenge in the primary.

Once the primaries are settled, we should see an interesting and competitive general election campaign.  Considering Chambliss' narrow 3-point victory here in 2008, one might be tempted to give Nunn even-money odds to capture the seat now that Chambliss is retiring.  But 2008 was a strong Democratic year with President-to-be Barack Obama at the top of the ticket.  On the flipside, take a look at 2010's Georgia Senate race, a 20-point rout by Republican Johnny Isakson, and one might want to write off any chance of a Democratic victory.  2014 will be unlike either 2008 or 2010.  Instead, with at least a moderate GOP wind blowing, the Republican nominee - despite primary bruises - should be able to claim a close but comfortable win.

Preliminary projection:  Mod GOP Hold

You can track this race throughout the 2014 election season here at Election Projection by visiting the Georgia Senate Election page for polls, projections and updates.  Also, check out the 2014 Senate Elections page for a summary of all Senate races on tap in 2014 complete with EP's colorful red and blue Senate map.

posted by Scott Elliott at 10:54am 11/22/13 :: link
Aided in no small measure by the Tea Party, Republicans enjoyed a dominating election cycle in 2010, picking up 63 House seats, 6 Senate seats and 6 statehouses.  It was an historic election, but not a perfect one.  The GOP failed to regain the majority in the Senate though many thought the opportunities were there to accomplish that gargantuan feat.  One such missed opportunity was Vice-President Joe Biden's seat in Delaware - and the Tea Party was largely to blame.

With popular Republican Congressman Mike Castle set to run, Chris Coons was never considered much more than a sacrificial lamb for a state Democrat party who knew their chances of keeping Biden's seat were minimal at best.  Then the Tea Party swept in and helped the GOP nominate Christine O’Donnell instead.  The candidate and campaign that followed were both sad and comical at once and gifted the Democrats one less lost Senate seat.  Coons went on to win with 57% of the vote.

I'm not going to discuss whether conservatives would have been better off with another liberal Republican (Castle) in the Senate.  That discussion is beyond the scope of this preview, and I neither applaud nor condemn in this space the Tea Party for its part in O'Donnell's disastrous nomination.  However, the truth about the 2014 Delaware Senate Election remains.  Delaware is a deep blue state in which the GOP boasts little vote-getting capability in statewide elections.  As a result, incumbent Democrat Coons - not Republican Castle - will enjoy an easy path to re-election.

Preliminary projection:  Solid DEM Hold

You can track this race throughout the 2014 election season here at Election Projection by visiting the Delaware Senate Election page for polls, projections and updates.  Also, check out the 2014 Senate Elections page for a summary of all Senate races on tap in 2014 complete with EP's colorful red and blue Senate map.

posted by Scott Elliott at 2:29pm 11/20/13 :: link
The Rocky Mountain State is transitioning.  After the 2002 elections, Colorado was a reddish-purple battleground state with a Republican governor, two Republican senators and five Republican representatives out of seven.  George W. Bush had won the state two years earlier by almost 8 points, even while losing the national popular vote to Al Gore.  Two years later, that margin would be reduced by half - despite Bush's 2.5% victory in the national vote.  In the 2008, Barack Obama took home Colorado's electoral votes for the Democrats for the first time since Bill Clinton in 1992.  He would win here again in 2012.

In the meantime, Democrats were picking up the statehouse, both Senate seats and netting one more House seat.  The gain in the House would have been greater save for two seats the GOP reclaimed in the red tsunami year of 2010.  Colorado remains a battleground state, to be sure, but it boasts a much bluer shade of purple these days, a fact which suits Colorado's senior senator, Democrat Mark Udall, just fine.  He's up for re-election in the 2014 Colorado Senate Election.

Udall won this seat in 2008 after five terms in the House of Representatives.  Though Colorado's battleground status denies him the prospect of a cake walk to a second term, he begins this cycle with the clear upper hand.  Several Republicans, including three Colorado state legislators and Ken Buck, the 2010 GOP Senate nominee, have decided to run against him.  But none appears, at least at the moment, to be the kind of first-tier candidate to seriously threaten the incumbent.

Preliminary projection:  Mod DEM Hold

You can track this race throughout the 2014 election season here at Election Projection by visiting the Colorado Senate Election page for polls, projections and updates.  Also, check out the 2014 Senate Elections page for a summary of all Senate races on tap in 2014 complete with EP's colorful red and blue Senate map.

posted by Scott Elliott at 3:47pm 11/18/13 :: link
Like the Alaska senate election I looked at earlier today, the 2014 Arkansas senate race features a vulnerable Democratic incumbent named Mark seeking re-election in a very Republican state.  But there are plenty of differences as well.

First, the incumbent, Democrat Mark Pryor, did not face a difficult election bid in 2008 as Alaska Senator Mark Begich did.  In fact, Pryor didn't even draw a GOP opponent in his first re-election bid six years ago, an ironic peculiarity in a state that voted for McCain in 2008 by 20% over Obama and for Romney by 24% in 2012.  Second, Arkansas Republicans are not facing a contentious primary battle.  Republican Congressman Tom Cotton, a freshman in the House, enjoys friendly relations with both the Tea Party and the GOP establishment, somewhat of a rarity in today's conservative circles.  Perhaps as a result of his universal acceptability within the party, Cotton's path to the nomination is clear.

With Cotton already the GOP nominee-apparent, we can preview this race strictly from the general election perspective.  Pryor's re-election six years ago with nearly 80% of the vote by no means affords him another easy go of it this cycle.  Arkansas has been moving abruptly to the right in recent elections and the 2014 elections here should be another step in that direction.  In Cotton, Pryor will draw a very conservative opponent who would be less formidable in a less crimson state.  The incumbent, in his own right, however, has shown himself to be one of the more moderate Democrats in the Senate.

Unfortunately, while trying to navigate the conservative waters of Arkansas as a Democrat, he nevertheless has votes on his record that Republicans will use against him during the 2014 Arkansas senate campaign.  Votes for health care reform, the stimulus package, TARP funds, raising the debt ceiling, as well as reform to financial services and immigration, do not sit well with most Arkansans and could be his demise come next November.

On the other hand, Cotton is conservative enough that Democrats will try to peg him as too conservative for Arkansas.  That task might have been easier a couple decades ago.  Until recently, the Natural State, as Arkansas is known, resisted the rightward transformation of its southern state brethren that began as far back as the 1970's.  However, it caught up over the last 10 years - and in a big way.

Since 1992, Arkansas has moved more to the right in presidential elections than any other state.  The following table shows just how drastic the shift has been.

Arkansas Presidential Results, 1992-2012
Year Republican Democrat Result
1992 Bush Sr. Clinton Clinton +17.73
1996 Dole Clinton Clinton +16.94
2000 Bush Jr. Gore Bush Jr. +5.45
2004 Bush Jr. Gore Bush Jr. +9.76
2008 McCain Obama McCain +19.86
2012 Romney Obama Romney +23.69
To be sure, former Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton's presence on the ballot in 1992 and 1996 skewed the earlier movement somewhat, but it is clear the trend has not been solely due to his retirement.  This reddening political climate is what Pryor faces as he tries to win a third term in the Senate.  My hunch, one year out, is that his quest will come up just short.

Preliminary projection:  Weak GOP Gain

You can track this race throughout the 2014 election season here at Election Projection by visiting the Arkansas Senate Election page for polls, projections and updates.  Also, check out the 2014 Senate Elections page for a summary of all Senate races on tap in 2014 complete with EP's colorful red and blue Senate map.

posted by Scott Elliott at 5:07pm 11/14/13 :: link
First-term Senator Mark Begich, former Democratic Mayor of Anchorage, won election to the Senate six years ago against embattled Republican incumbent Ted Stevens.  He received just 48% of the vote that year and likely would not have beaten a scandal-free GOP opponent.  That said, Begich has done a good job of engineering a moderate voting record in this very red state, and while he is quite vulnerable in his first re-election bid, the outcome of the 2014 Alaska senate race may hinge on who Republicans choose to run against him.

Two men are currently favored to contend for that privilege.  Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and 2010 Senate candidate Joe Miller are both running.  If you recall, Miller burst onto the scene in 2010 by riding a Tea Party wave to the Republican nomination, defeating sitting Senator Lisa Murkowski.  Unbowed, Murkowski exacted revenge by running, and winning, with a well-funded write-in campaign.  Now, four years later, Miller is competing again, and his staunch Tea Party stances on taxes and the size of government, among other conservative issues, will once again play well in the Alaska senate GOP primary.

However, Lt. Gov. Treadwell hopes Alaskan Republicans will view him as the better choice to challenge Begich.  In 2010, Treadwell teamed up with Governor Sean Parnell after his Republican primary victory, and the pair went on to win the 2010 general election by over 20 percentage points.  This time around, Treadwell looks to earn a ticket to Washington.  His brand of conservatism may not be as staunch as Miller's, but neither does it come in as controversial a persona.

The Alaska Senate Election, 2014 edition, will start out with a slight advantage for Begich if Miller triumphs in the primary.  A Treadwell nomination, on the other hand, will land this race squarely in the toss-up category.  Either way, in a state that gave President Obama just 43% of the vote in 2012 and saw two Republican candidates (Murkowski and Miller) get 75% of the vote in the 2010 Senate race, Begich's designation as one of the most vulnerable senators this cycle is well-deserved.

There is a 500-lb gorilla in the room with this race.  That is, of course, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's potential run for this Senate seat.  Although I don't expect her to go for it, a Palin campaign would shake things up drastically.  We'll need to revisit this preview should she enter.

Preliminary projection:  Weak DEM Hold

You can track this race throughout the 2014 election season here at Election Projection by visiting the Alaska Senate Election page for polls, projections and updates.  Also, check out the 2014 Senate Elections page for a summary of all Senate races on tap in 2014 complete with EP's colorful red and blue Senate map.

posted by Scott Elliott at 10:44am 11/14/13 :: link
Republican Senator Jeff Sessions took 63% of the Alabama vote last time he was up for re-election.  President Obama took just 39% of it in 2012.  When it comes to the outcome of the 2014 senate election in Alabama, that's "'nuff said."  As we've seen already, there will be plenty of competitive races in the Senate this cycle.  The battle for the Heart of Dixie won't be one of them.

Even if Democrats were to entice an Alabama heavyweight such as Bobby Bright, a former congressman and Montgomery mayor, or House Minority Leader Craig Ford to run, Sessions' victory here would not be threatened.  And since it is unlikely that either man will jump in the race, Sessions should enjoy a massive landslide on his way to a fourth term.

Preliminary projection:  Solid GOP Hold

You can track this race throughout the 2014 election season here at Election Projection by visiting the Alabama Senate Election page for polls, projections and updates.  Also, check out the 2014 Senate Elections page for a summary of all Senate races on tap in 2014 complete with EP's colorful red and blue Senate map.

posted by Scott Elliott at 7:26pm 11/12/13 :: link
Looking ahead to next November 4th and the midterm elections in the U.S. Senate, one thing is clear.  This should be a good year for Republicans.  Despite turmoil, both perceived and real, within GOP ranks, the red team is structurally and historically well-positioned to enjoy substantial gains in the upper chamber in 2014.  Several factors contribute to a political landscape that bodes well for the current minority party in the Senate.

Democratic seats up for re-election outnumber Republican seats 21-14
Six years ago, a national blue wave swept Barack Obama into the White House and clobbered the Republican contingent in the Senate.  Five GOP incumbents were defeated and three open GOP seats also changed hands.  All told, Democrats catapulted from an effective 51-49 advantage - attained by knocking off 6 Republicans two years earlier - to a near-filibuster proof 59-41 majority.  In politics, however, success does not always beget success, and a challenging side-effect to winning nearly everything in sight in 2006 and 2008 is the fact that seats won must be defended.

Two years ago, after a massive red wave in 2010 nearly regained the majority for the GOP, Democrats weathered that challenge well and even added two seats to the fold.  But that was a much different climate than the one we see approaching next year.  With President Obama no longer enjoying a solid re-election bid - nor the approval of most Americans - Democrats will be hard-pressed to duplicate their performance last time around.  As a result, the sheer abundance of Senate opportunities has Republican strategists salivating.  But that's not all they have going for them.

Democrats must defend more open Senate seats
Since 1982, over 85% of Senate incumbents running for office have been re-elected.  By contrast, less than 2/3 of the open Senate seats during that same period were retained by the incumbent party.  Holding an open seat has long been more difficult than winning re-election.  Barring any future retirements, Democrats hold a dubious 5-2 advantage in Senate open seats next year.  Moreover, all five open Democratic seats are currently rated competitive by one or more of the nationally recognized political pundits I follow.  On the other hand, just one Republican open seat (GA - Chambliss) is rated competitive by the same.

Red states dominate competitive Senate races
As if the preponderance of Democratically-held seats, both open and filled, weren't enough, the blue team must also counter a playing field that is more hostile than not.  Charlie Cook, who publishes the wonderful Cook Political Report website, has a telling chart gauging the 2014 Senate landscape with regard to the 2012 presidential election outcome.  (You'll need to subscribe to see the chart - which I highly recommend to every serious political enthusiast.  The treasure trove of information there is enormous and insightful.)

Of the 14 Republican seats up next year, just one, Susan Collins' seat in Maine, will be held in a state won by President Obama.  The other 13 are in states Mitt Romney won by at least 5 points, and nine of those are in states he won by 15 points or more.  On the Democratic slate are two seats in states decided by 5 points or less (NC and VA), two seats won by Romney by 5 to 15 points and four in states Romney took by 15 or more points.  That means Democrats must defend seven seats in red states while Republicans defend just one from a blue state.

Finally, 2nd-term midterms are historically bad for incumbent presidents
Over the years, second midterm elections have cut into the numbers of the party of the president.  Since the 1950 mid-term elections during Harry Truman's second term, the party of the White House has lost an average of almost 6 seats in the Senate.  That's including 1998 when a 55-45 Republican majority failed to add to its advantage during the last term of Bill Clinton.  All else being equal - which we have seen it is not - the GOP would expect to gain ground in President Obama's second term.  Combine the historical track record with the present landscape, and Republicans have reason for optimism, current intra-party difficulties notwithstanding.

So what does all this mean for the make-up of the Senate in 2015?  Are Republicans poised to finally regain the majority they lost in 2006?  Of course, only time will tell.  To be sure, if the GOP fails to realize at least some improvement in their Senate numbers, it will be a golden opportunity squandered.  But whether they have the goods to claim the net six seat gain needed for control is debatable, if not doubtful.  One year out, The Blogging Caesar sees a good night coming for Senate Republicans next November, but perhaps not good enough to claim the majority.  I'll put the over/under at a 4-seat GOP gain as things stand right now.

Tomorrow:  The 2014 House Elections Preview

Filed under:  2014 Senate Races 
posted by Scott Elliott at 9:00pm 11/06/13 :: link
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