Republicans have reason to be optimistic about capturing the Senate in 2014. The GOP must win six seats, and there is a promisingly red pool of seven.
Recent polls show that Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) trails behind her two top Republican competitors. State Speaker of the House Thom Tillis leads by a four-point average and the Rand Paul-endorsed physician Greg Brannon leads Hagan by three.
Louisiana’s Sen. Mary Landrieu is also in trouble. Yesterday’s Rasmussen poll reveals that Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) leads by four points. Though the poll is recent, Landrieu wisely released a December campaign commercial criticizing President Obama’s failure to keep his promise that no one would lose their health insurance under the passage of Obamacare: “This is a promise that you made. This is a promise you should keep.”
Landrieu’s move might be necessary for other vulnerable Democrats. Cassidy’s lead came just as Gallup released a poll of Obama’s popularity in each state. Of the swing states where the GOP could potentially gain, Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota, and West Virginia, the highest state approval rating for the president is 43 percent—in North Carolina, the only then-battleground state to go red in the 2012 presidential election. In fact, Romney captured all seven 2014 swing states.
Among the Senate elections with no recent polls, campaign roadblocks are ahead. To the dismay of Democrats, Brian Schweitzer, the popular former governor of Montana, has declared he won’t run to replace Sen. Max Baucus. Incumbents in South Dakota and West Virginia won’t be seeking reelection. Former South Dakota governor Mike Rounds, a Republican, is campaigning against two-time congressional candidate Rick Weiland. West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, favored among the Democratic field, has also distanced herself from the White House. Her campaign felt compelled to specify that Michelle Obama’s encouraging donors to fund Tennant was “not an endorsement.” West Virginia ranked worst of all the seven troubled Democratic states and gave the president a 25 percent approval rating.
Although Obama’s low polling numbers don’t guarantee a Republican takeover of the Senate, Democrats seem to fear it might make a difference. Politico reports that Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) “took pains last year to distance himself from the president during the campaign, at one point saying it was ‘totally secondary to me’ whether Romney or Obama won.”
Even Senator Udall (D-Colo.) who has a fairly secure seat in Colorado is now wavering on whether or not he will campaign with Obama:
Senator Mark Begich (D-Ak.) put it more bluntly: “I don’t need [Obama] campaigning for me.”
There are two potentially troubling seats for the GOP in Georgia and Kentucky on the road to a net-six win, but as Obama’s popularity continues to plummet, other blue states might begin to turn purple.