Republican U.S. Senate promising in November

Republican U.S. Senate promising in November

August 24th, 2014 in Opinion Free Press

A week before Labor Day, a Republican United States Senate looks like a distinct possibility in November.

Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker thinks that should make President Obama happy. Seriously.

If Republicans lead the Senate and the House -- which will almost certainly remain Republican -- both sides will have to be serious, he said in a meeting with Times Free Press reporters and editors last week.

"Republicans would have to be responsible," Corker said. "We would fully own any kind of solution we put forth."

Obama, in turn, could not obfuscate and blame Congress for inaction; he would own his own inaction.

Currently, the Democrat-led Senate and the Republican-led House blame each for what does or does not happen legislatively in the country. Obama remains aloof, above it all, taking no responsibility when necessary and blaming Congress -- at least the House -- at other times.

Corker believes Republicans have a 55 or 60 percent chance of capturing the Senate, especially since "we ended up with some really good candidates."

The Senate currently has 53 Democrats, 45 Republicans and two independents who vote with the Democratic Party. Using Real Clear Politics as a baseline, 39 Democratic senators are believed safe or are not up for election this fall, while 41 Republicans are believed safe or are not up for election.

Five Democratic seats are considered Likely Democrat wins, and one Democrat seat is believed to Lean Democrat. On the other side, two Democratic seats (Montana and South Dakota) and one Republican seat are considered Likely Republican wins, and one Republican seat and one Democrat seat (West Virginia) are believed to Lean Republican.

If those seats wind up the way they are listed, that gives Republicans a three-seat head start and leaves nine seats listed as Toss-ups. Here is one view of what might happen with those seats:

• Alaska: Republicans this past week nominated former state Attorney General Dan Sullivan as their candidate. He faces incumbent Democrat Sen. Mark Begich, who ousted a scandal-plagued incumbent in conjunction with President Obama's election in 2008. Although Begich held a 2.8 percent lead in Real Clear Politics' rolling average of polls and has a big campaign war chest, expect GOP support to jell around Sullivan and this seat to flip in the solidly red state.

• Arkansas: Two-term Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor is vulnerable because the state has become more red since his election and because Obama is not popular there. Challenger U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton is a former Army captain and Harvard Law School graduate and leads in the rolling average of polls. Former Democratic Sen. Blanche Lambert Lincoln lost her seat in a 2010 landslide. Expect Pryor's seat also to turn over to the GOP in a closer race.

• Colorado: One-term Democratic incumbent Mark Udall will have his hands full with Republican challenger U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner in this state that frequently switches senatorial parties. But Udall has remained narrowly ahead in polls and likely will keep his seat unless voters sense a GOP sweep and decide to get aboard.

• Georgia: The seat is open because of the retirement of Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss. Michelle Nunn, daughter of former Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn and unopposed in the primary, has probably peaked in interest. Look for Republican David Perdue to win this one going away in this deeply red state.

• Iowa: This seat is open because of the retirement of longtime Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin. State Sen. Joni Ernst is the GOP pick to win the seat back and has been assisted by gaffe-prone Democratic challenger U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley. Ernst has pulled ahead in polls, but look for Braley to eke this one out.

• Kentucky: Republican U.S. Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's is nobody's idea of a perfect candidate, but, as in Georgia, look for him to win going away in his race with Secretary of State challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes.

• Louisiana: Incumbent Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu will easily gain a plurality in the all-comers open primary in November, but she'll have to face likely second-place finisher U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy in the Dec. 6 runoff. The state of the Senate at that time may decide this race. If Republicans need Cassidy for a tie or a one-vote majority, look for him to get it. In any other scenario, give it to Landrieu.

• Michigan: This seat opened with the retirement of longtime Democratic Sen. Carl Levin. And while the GOP has an attractive candidate in former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, the state hasn't elected a Republican in this seat since 1979, so it seems hard to believe Democratic U.S. Rep. Gary Peters won't win this one.

• North Carolina: One-term incumbent Kay Hagan hasn't made much of a splash since being elected along with President Obama in 2008. Though N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis isn't the most magnetic of candidates, look for him to turn the seat back to the GOP.

Republicans, then, will have 51 seats going into Landrieu's runoff race. Since they already will have captured the Senate, that's where they'll finish.