GOP Looks to Take the Senate

Leading political prognosticators see the Republicans winning total control of the U.S. Congress this fall, meaning that President Obama’s political agenda would be effectively finished. But will this bleak prospect finally force Democrats to fight back, wonders Beverly Bandler.

By Beverly Bandler

The Democrats are facing a tough political map in their fight to keep control of the U.S. Senate in 2014. Most of the states that will be casting ballots for the Senate in 2014 are Republican leaning; seven of the 21 Democratic-held seats are in states carried by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012, while just one of the 15 contested Republican seats is in a state won by President Barack Obama.

Also, with the exception of three Senate races to replace senators who died or resigned, the seats in play this year were last contested in 2008, “an extraordinarily strong year for Democrats,” notes the respected political prognosticator Nate Silver.

President Barack Obama.

President Barack Obama.

In July 2013, Silver forecast that the race for Senate control was a toss-up, but his most recent forecast on March 23 stated, “We think the Republicans are now slight favorites to win at least six seats and capture the chamber.”

The Democrats’ position has deteriorated somewhat since last summer, with President Obama’s approval ratings down to 42 or 43 percent from an average of about 45 percent before, Silver said. Furthermore, as compared with 2010 or 2012, it has been suggested that the GOP has done a better job of recruiting credible candidates.

Silver said Democrat-held seats likely to be picked up by Republicans are in West Virginia, South Dakota, Montana and Arkansas, with Republicans then having to win just two toss-up races in Alaska, North Carolina or Michigan, or pull off a modest upset in a state like New Hampshire. They’ll also have to avoid losses in Georgia and Kentucky, he said.

Democrats have challenged Silver’s prediction. Guy Cecil, the executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, issued a rebuttal on Monday, saying: “Silver was wrong in 2012″ when he also projected a likely Republican Senate takeover.

“In fact, in August of 2012 Silver forecast a 61 percent likelihood that Republicans would pick up enough seats to claim the majority,” Cecil said. “Three months later, Democrats went on to win 55 seats.”

But Silver is not alone in seeing the GOP advantage. “Senate Republicans seem to have a strong chance at gaining the six seats they need for a majority in the chamber,” according to political professor John J. Pitney Jr., ”but their task will be tougher if they drop any of the seats that they already have.”

Late last year, political analyst Charlie Cook said “Democrats need to win 3 of the 7 most competitive Senate races to hold the chamber,” while “Republicans would need to win 5 of these 7 seats – including unseating 3 Democrats – to win a 51 seat majority on the Senate. Six of these seven states were won by Romney in 2012 (AK, AR, LA, NC, GA, KY), and one was won by Obama (MI).”

But control of the Senate would likely be in play again in 2016, a presidential election year, Cook and other observers believe.

The Senate “will be very closely divided after the 2014 election and could swing to the other side in 2014 and again in 2016.” Cook concluded this March. ”It’s hard to see how the GOP doesn’t score a net gain of at least four seats, shaving the Democratic majority to 51 seats. At the other extreme, it would not be impossible for Republicans to score a net gain of seven or eight seats, giving the GOP a 52-48 majority, or even one of 53-47.”

Cook believes, “The odds are high after this election that the majority party will have 53 seats or less, but it is important to remember that in 2016, the shoe will be on the other foot in terms of seat exposure. This year, Democrats have 21 seats up, compared with 15 for Republicans; in 2016, the GOP will have 24 seats up, while Democrats will only have 10. It’s not implausible that Republicans could pick up a majority in 2014 only to lose it again in 2016, with the Senate teetering on the edge for the foreseeable future.”

The view of Kyle Kondik of Sabato’s Crystal Ball is that 16 races are potentially competitive at the moment. “Of those races, 14 are currently held by Democrats, and just two are held by Republicans,” Kondik said. “Nearly all the competitive seats this cycle are in places where Democrats are playing defense.”

The chief Republican worry is that some of the GOP primaries will produce Tea Party nominees who could be weak general election candidates, as has happened in the past two election cycles. These GOP primaries have been identified as key to watch: Georgia, Iowa, Colorado, Kentucky, Mississippi, Texas, Tennessee and South Carolina.

But it appears safe to say even months before the midterm elections that for Americans the days a half century ago when political scientist Clinton Rossiter could boast that America’s party system reflected genius and that U.S. political parties were “creatures of compromise, coalitions of interest in which principle is muted and often even silenced” are long gone.

Congressional scholars Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein offered a worrisome assessment in 2012: “One of these parties has taken on the role of insurgent outlier; the Republicans have become ideologically extreme, scornful of compromise, and ardently opposed to the established social and economic policy regime.”

Journalist Robert Parry, the editor of ConsortiumNews, has suggested that: “We’ve allowed the madness to dominate for three decades. Now, it may be impossible to govern responsibly with such a huge apparatus behind the madness.”

Perhaps the only way to reverse the current trends is for Democrats to get out of their defensive crouch and stop being so averse to confrontation. Yet, even if they go on the offensive and marshal the evidence to support their positions, the odds may be against them, given the vast sums of money available to Republicans and the Right.

Political observer Bill Moyers calls the current struggle against extremist authoritarians masquerading as conservatives “the fight of our lives.” But informed and decent American voters still have an opportunity to make a difference – a vote is a voice.

The hard reality is that we are in a fight to save our representative democracy and we must face battle after battle, with 2014 midterms the next one looming.

Beverly Bandler’s public affairs career spans some 40 years. Her credentials include serving as president of the state-level League of Women Voters of the Virgin Islands and extensive public education efforts in the Washington, D.C. area for 16 years. She writes from Mexico. 

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11 comments on “GOP Looks to Take the Senate

  1. Seems to me that the GOP and a large number of pollsters of the GOP said Romney would win by a landslide. Nate has used available polls several of which are GOP supportive polls.
    Today there is new polls out that says the Democratic Party members are leading
    http://www.thedemocraticstrategist.org/strategist/2014/03/with_the_2014_elections_just.php
    Thus it is so early that one can find a poll to back either position. I will help you all out. Want the Democratic Party members to win Please pass on the following.
    Any one that supports the Democratic Party and does not plan on voting in November is supporting the GOP and all of their policies. The ultimate poll is the actual vote counts after the vote. Until then ALL Democratic Party members should be telling all to vote, have voting parties, plan on you and as many of your family and friends going together to vote. Offer to give rides to those you know that might have a difficult time getting to the polls. Do your part, the more effort we all put it the better the turn out. Support voting any way you can!

  2. bobzz on said:

    “But informed and decent American voters still have an opportunity to make a difference – a vote is a voice.”
    The operative word here is “informed”. As long as Americans rely on the MSM, we are uninformed. Now that Democrats have been sucked into dependence on Wall Street and corporate re-election campaign contributions, i.e., bribes sanitized by law, I tend to agree with George Wallace: a vote for a Democrat or a Republican is a vote for twiddle dee or twiddle dum (though I recall his saying it like “tweedle” dee or dum). The difference I see between the Democrats and the Republicans is that we go downhill with the former and jump off the cliff with the latter. Carter may have been the last true Democrat, but he is the one that got deregulation rolling. Clinton and Obama turned out to be crypto-Republicans.

  3. F. G. Sanford on said:

    If this was 1974 instead of 2014, Mel Brooks would be making a movie called “Spy Anxiety”. Instead of spoofing Hitchcock, he’d be spoofing Neocons. The title song would be, “It’s Springtime, for Angie, and Yatsenyuk”. Victoria Nuland would be type-cast as Nurse (No fruit-cup for you) Diesel, and there would be a cameo featuring Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, Diane Feinstein and Samantha Power. Instead of Pussy Riot, they’d be Phallus Malice. They’d be making their stage entrance with Don Rumsfeld, Lindsey Graham and John mcCain, who would be on hands and knees wearing studded collars, leashes and leather pants. John Boehner would be leading them wearing a bellhop uniform accompanied by a trained monkey. The monkey would be equipped with a racist dog whistle. The chorus line would be the Senate Democrats led by Harry Reid. They’d be wearing leather pants too…with their senate “seats” exposed. James Clapper, Bob Gates and Michael Hayden would appear wearing raincoats, fedora hats and monocles. In a German accent, they’d do a song and dance routine: We have ways to make you talk, we’re not the sissy CIA, we don’t use electric shock, water-boards are what excite us! Poison gas in home-made rockets, DoJ will not indict us, we have got them in our pockets, rule of law is just for sissies! We – ‘re NSA, nana nana nana na! We – ‘re NSA, nana nana nana na! If you like coups and want regime change, you don’t need to be a smarty, come and join the Nazi Party! The chorus is interrupted by a tank which clatters on stage and the turret rotates toward the Senate Intelligence Committee. A big puff of smoke and an Israeli flag pop out of the barrel. The hatch opens, and just like the circus clown car, an impossible number of Neocons climb out. Their spokesperson is Charles Krauthammer, who announces that he’s from the “Think Tank”. Samantha Powers faints, and Lindsey Graham shoves John McCain to break her fall. Reverend Al Sharpton yells, “Somebody call a Doctor!” Bernie Sanders tries to stop the bleeding with food stamps. Dr. Phil arrives and immediately goes on a tirade about homoerotic sadomasochism and the need for fiscal responsibility. The monkey blows the dog whistle, and Don Rumsfeld says, “We need a Doctor, not a trained ape”. Mike Huckabee is incensed at the reference to Darwinian evolution, and Don says, “Shut up, I was talking to the monkey”. Then Putin arrives with a proposal to give back Crimea if the Israelis will pull back to the ’67 borders. The Gaza Strippers climb out of the tank as Kerry and Krauthammer approach Putin, who asks, “Which one of you guys is Lurch?” Angie wrestles “Yats” to the floor kissing him passionately as Putin dances away with the Gaza Strippers, bare chested as usual.

    The problem is, nobody is willing to make fun of these assholes. The Democrats are gonna lose.

  4. Joe Tedesky on said:

    I quit being a republican the morning after George W landed on the USS Lincoln. I was standing at the gas pump looking at the new price of gasoline. I still recall after gassing up getting in the car when over the radio the news is announcing the GI death toll in Iraq for the day!

    With Barrack I voted twice (2008 & 2012). I cannot help but when I look at him want to yell, “do need help”! I swear he looks like he is being held captive. Where is the candidate Obama I voted for?

    Tell me why both parties have the same bankers, same defense people, and let’s not forget the same Neocon’s (their not even a party).

    I will still go vote, but I wish we would get what we think we are voting for! Did that make sense?

    • Paul G. on said:

      Keep reading this site and you will get the answers to your confusion, welcome.

      The candidate Obama you voted for never existed; just one of the best con jobs of the century, a wholly owned subsidiary of Wall Street. You might go back to the archives and look up Penny Pritzker his king maker and present Commerce Secretary. He followed the Clinton playbook on how to get a eight year lease on the White House.

    • LucasFoxx on said:

      Don’t let the purists scare you into apathy or wasting your vote. I didn’t caucus for Obama in 2008, but I have found him to be as earnest and truthful as one could reasonably expect from anyone in that office. He is not the President I want, some of his priorities are not mine, but he was better than any viable candidate. My disappointment has been at the congressional level. Obama is not a dictator nor a king. He has two democratic bodies he has to deal with in this republic. Obama may want tighter restrictions on banks and PAC money, but he can’t get that any more than the House can stop the ACA, no matter how many times they try; and he can’t get better people, in some cases can’t get anybody, for judicial seats and cabinet postions.

      Don’t give up, and don’t waste your vote. I find myself voting against people instead of for them anymore. I even campaigned for the first time for a local Governor. He wasn’t a great congressman, but he was wasn’t bad, it’s just that his opponent was manufactured by big neo-con money; and I felt, as the little guy, I had to do everything I could to help fight back. Just like I wasn’t about to waste my vote (nor my voice) and let McCain\Palin make the world a worse place than it could have been.

  5. lumpentroll on said:

    I can’t help but laugh when I read this kind of nonsense.

    You seem to have forgotten about the extremist authoritarians masquerading as liberals. Obama has enthusiastically erected a full blown police state while party loyalists remain completely unable to process the information.

    Why are you so frightened?

  6. Anonymous on said:

    “Leading political prognosticators see the Republicans winning total control of the U.S. Congress this fall, meaning that President Obama’s political agenda would be effectively finished.”

    Obama’s agenda is putting the Republicans/NeoCons in total control just as he single dicklessly rescued the Republicans from total oblivion in 2010 acting as the Great Capitulator. Jesus people wake up! The Democrats are the ones who should be leading the charge to impeach Obama!

    • pessimist on said:

      I endorse your comments.

      IF Obama had in 2009-10 exerted a fraction of the energy he’s since produced this year in his attempt to rescue his only real accomplishment (ACA) from Republican sabotage, the “shellacking” of 2010 wouldn’t have happened. Sitting back and waiting for the Congress to deliver a bill he wanted was a fooish strategy, and the voters knew it. This gave the House to the GOP.

      Now, with millions completely denied unemployment benefits while having so much trouble getting health insurance coverage, Obama’s ineptitude and misfeasance (I’m being kind) will deliver the Senate to the GOP, since the DNC and related national Party entities are incompetent and probably on the take to throw the election.

      So what will be GOP Stalking Horse Obama’s reward for betraying those who voted for him? As I see it, the very first item on the agenda of the new GOP-Majority Congress will be to impeach both Obama and Biden, and put whoever replaces Boner (sic) as Speaker into the Oval Office.

      If Lewis Powell were still alive, he’d be proud of the work done by those who read his infamous memo and used it as a script to destroy the US and convert it into a corporatocracy.

  7. pessimist on said:

    The Democratic Party is dead. It long ago morphed into the Not-As-Republican Party, dedicated to the very same corporate ideals as the GOP, but still claiming (falsely or naively) that they could deliver solutions for national social ills which the GOP loudly declaim.

    Looking at now the N_A_R Party treats those with real liberal credentials, there is no hope that small-d democracy will survive in the US. Both faces of the Oligarch Party clearly ascribe to the notion that only the select and wealthy few should be allowed to vote. Anyone who can’t buy a license to run (paid via “donations” to one of the national entities) has little hope of making a ballot, and the corporatist media will ensure that no write-ins (where still allowed) will be effective.

    Those not so enabled to be the rulers will be expected to remain docile and compliant to those exploiting them for personal profit – including being sent by the oligarchs to conquer rival corporate states for their benefit. No war, no food.