Golden Opportunity: Can Republicans Recapture the Senate in 2014?

The November midterm elections are approaching quickly. These races will place the seats of all senators who were last elected in 2008 and all current congressional representatives up for grabs. Some special races are also being held for currently vacant positions in Senate that would not be normally put up for election in this specific midterm cycle. Among these races was an election to replace Florida Representative Bill Young, who died in office last October. This election, which was held in March, resulted in Republican attorney David Jolly’s victory over Alex Sink, a Democrat and former gubernatorial candidate. Two more House seats in addition to the Florida race will be contested due to such circumstances. In addition to races for seats at the federal level, the midterms this year will also determine which party will control 46 state legislatures and numerous other races at the county and city level.

2014 Election Map

2014 Senate Midterm Election Map. States highlighted in blue represent seats currently held by Democrats, while states highlighted in red represent seats currently held by Republicans.

The 2014 midterms could be the lucky break that Republicans have been waiting for to take control of the Senate. Currently, Democrats hold a 53-45 majority in the upper chamber of Congress. The 2 Independents in the Senate, Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, also vote with the Democrats, bringing their caucus’ de facto majority to 55. Of the 33 seats being contested in November, 15 are held by Republicans while 21 are held by Democrats. Because so many of those 21 Democratic seats belong to very vulnerable incumbents in swing states, Republicans have an unprecedented advantage which might be enough to net them the 6 seats needed to gain a majority. According to Nate Silver, a renowned statistical expert, Republicans could have a 60% chance of gaining these 6 seats and taking control of Congress’ upper chamber. Some Senators who may be defeated by GOP challengers include Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, and Kay Hagan of North Carolina. In addition, seats in more traditional Democratic states such as Michigan and Iowa might also face a stiff challenge from Republicans.

But how do Republicans even have a shot at winning these seats that Democrats have held for a long time? First, the GOP has managed to recruit better candidates this year who largely back the Republican Establishment’s agenda, which is very moderate when compared to the Tea Party’s. In addition, President Obama’s popular appeal during the first quarter of his second term has decreased by about 3%, and Democrats in general seem less attractive to voters due to the recent NSA scandal and the botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act in October. Also, young voters and racial minorities, who form the the backbone of the Democratic Party, are less likely to turn out during midterm elections than during elections in presidential years. Without the support of these demographic groups, Democrats will have a difficult time finding the voter backing that they need to keep their hold on the Senate.


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