The 5 Races That Will Decide Who Controls The Senate


In 2014, Republicans will have — for the third election in a row — a decent chance of taking control of the Senate.

You don’t need Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball to recognize that the seven Senate seats currently held by Democrats in states President Obama lost in 2012 are prime opportunities for the GOP to pick up the four they’d need to take control of the Senate Chamber.

The seats currently held by retiring senators Tim Johnson (D-SD) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) will — barring some great miracle — be won by Republicans. That leaves Democrats with five seats to defend in order to preserve their majority. And if you think Republicans are successful now at obstructing the president’s agenda and nominations, just imagine what they’d do if Mitch McConnell (R-KY) were running the upper house of Congress.

Here’s a look at the five races where Democrats are hoping the GOP will nominate another Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock, Sharron Angle, Christine O’Donnell or Joe Miller.



With Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) retiring, Republicans should have a good shot of picking up this reliably red state. But with popular former Democratic governor Brian Schweitzer appearing ready to get into the race, Democrats have a decent chance of keeping this seat, even though President Obama lost the state’s three electoral votes by about 13 percent.

The Republicans likely to vie for this spot include Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT), ex-governor Marc Racicot and ex-Rep. Denny Rehberg, who lost to Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) in 2012.




Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) enraged national Democrats when he voted against the Manchin-Toomey background check amendment. Mayor Michael Bloomberg followed up that vote with ads inside Arkansas attacking Pryor for not standing up for the majority of his constituents, who support checks. But those ads may have been a campaign donation for the senator. Nothing is better for a southern Democrat than the personification of the “nanny state” attacking him on the TV.

Another huge asset for Pryor? Former Arkansas governor Bill Clinton.

Reps. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Steve Womack (R-AR) are both in the race. The anti-tax Club for Growth would love to see Cotton as the nominee and keep releasing polls showing Cotton only trailing Pryor by a few percent. In turn, Democrats have begun to run ads against Cotton.




Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) actually voted to expand background checks, along with good chunks of the president’s agenda — including Obamacare — since she was last elected in 2008. Still, she held a narrow lead over her likely opponent Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) in a recent poll. And things could get very interesting if Governor Bobby Jindal (R-LA) decides to get in this race.

Landrieu is the only senator who has to win a majority on Election Day in order to avoid a runoff, which she has done only once, in 2008.




Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) also declared his independence from national Democrats by voting against background checks. He also recently called himself a “Rockefeller Republican,” a sign that he recognizes that he’s only in the Senate because former Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) was convicted on several counts of ethics violations and corruption right before the 2012 election.

This will be a close race if declared candidate Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell (R) is the nominee. If Tea Partier Joe Miller wins the nomination, as he did in 2010, Begich can probably go back to saying he’s a Democrat and still win.

North Carolina



According to The Nation‘s Ari Berman, North Carolina is the new Wisconsin. A 2012 Republican takeover has been a takeover in the truest sense of the word. Republicans have bulldozed through a conservative agenda that makes Scott Walker looks like Cesar Chavez. Most recently, they’re working on gutting their unemployment insurance system. Despite Republican domination of the state, no big name from the right has expressed interest in running against Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC), except Speaker of the state House Thom Tillis.

The state’s left is increasingly organized in resistance, showing up at the state capitol each week for “Moral Mondays.” That effort is reminiscent of Wisconsin, where labor wasn’t able to use widespread discontent to defeat Governor Scott Walker in a recall. But that was a special election with an incredible amount of out-of-state resources pumped into the state. For Republicans to defeat Hagan, they’ll need a strong candidate and turnout that resembles 2012, when Mitt Romney won the state… not 2012, when Obama became the first Democrat to win the state since it voted for southerner Jimmy Carter.

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