July 22, 2015


The Four States That Will Make or Break Democrats' Senate Hopes : For the party to win back the Senate majority, it will need to turn its fortunes around in crucial battleground states. (JOSH KRAUSHAAR, 7/21/15, National Journal)

To be sure, Democrats have landed their strongest candidates in several crucial contests. In Ohio, they convinced former Gov. Ted Strickland to challenge Sen. Rob Portman--a contest that polls show is already competitive. They persuaded Rep. Tammy Duckworth to challenge Sen. Mark Kirk in Illinois. They convinced former Sen. Russ Feingold to go for a rematch bid against embattled Sen. Ron Johnson in Wisconsin. And to defend Harry Reid's must-win seat in Nevada, they landed a top-tier Hispanic recruit, former state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto.

For a while, they appeared on track, but in the last month, the storm clouds have gathered. Former Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina opted not to run again for the Senate, leaving Democrats empty-handed as they seek a challenger against Sen. Richard Burr in the swing state. New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, who looked likely to challenge Sen. Kelly Ayotte, now appears to be hedging her bets in the midst of a tough budget battle with Republicans. Scandal-plagued Rep. Alan Grayson is taking on party favorite Rep. Patrick Murphy in Florida, and he's poised to spend millions damaging Murphy's image in the primary. Meanwhile, party concerns over former Rep. Joe Sestak continue unabated in Pennsylvania--with few alternative candidates looking to run. Even Strickland, despite leading in several polls, disappointed party officials with his underwhelming first two quarters of fundraising.

The Illinois and Wisconsin races are genuine toss-ups, with small advantages to the Democratic challengers. The Ohio Senate contest is looking highly competitive, but with an early GOP edge. But after those three opportunities, the pickings are now looking a lot tougher for the Democrats. Not only do they have to win all three of those toss-up races, but catch breaks in Pennsylvania, Florida, and New Hampshire in races that are looking less favorable--all while ensuring that they don't lose any momentum defending battleground seats in Nevada and Colorado.

It's still early, but those assessing whether Democrats can retake the majority can't ignore the four states where they've suffered setbacks. That's where the Democratic Senate majority will be made--or where it will fall apart.

The problem for Democrats is there's no national rationale for voting against incumbents, what with a thriving economy, functional Congress and peace busting out all over.  So they'd need Hillary to blow out Jeb, which seems inlikely at best.  This looks like an easy cycle to defend incumbents.

Posted by at July 22, 2015 6:11 PM

blog comments powered by Disqus