January 18, 2014. Typically, eleven months before a General Election is too soon to predict the outcome of all the nationwide races. But polls are already suggesting that the Republicans will not only hold onto the House, they will also recapture the US Senate. From NSA spying and contributor scandals to endless drone wars and Obamacare, President Obama has turned out to be the Democrats’ biggest liability.
US Senate seats up for election in 2014, colored by incumbent's party. Image courtesy of CenterForPolitics.org.
Midterm elections are always hard on the party in power. And in 2014, that party is the Democrats. 2010 was the year of the Tea Party, not because the group was so popular, but because it was another midterm election year and the blowback from the inaugural election of Barack Obama in 2008 only added fuel to the GOP fire. After scandals at the IRS, DoJ, NSA, Guantanamo, Benghazi, and a host of others, 2014 is shaping up to be devastating for the Democratic Party.
Polls predict massive defeat for Democrats
Three weeks ago, CNN conducted its recurring survey in which it asked likely voters which party they planned to vote for in the November General Election. The results, ignored by the press for one reason or another, showed a shocking reversal of voter support. Two months prior, the Democrats controlled a commanding lead over the GOP. By the end of December, the Republicans had taken their own impressive lead in the polls.
When surveyed by CNN in October 2013 and asked to choose between nameless and generic candidates with only their party affiliation apparent, Democrats won 50% of the time to the Republicans’ 42%. By December, the Republicans had flipped those totals and taken their own lead 49% to 44%. While most news outlets chose not to report those results, editorials by publications like the Chicago Sun Times sounded the alarm.
Secondary questions in the poll showed that the motivation for the reversal isn’t so much voter support for Republicans as much as it is disappointment among Democratic Party voters. The survey showed that while only 22% of Democratic voters are excited about the 2014 elections, 36% of Republicans can’t wait to get into the voting booth.
US Senate poised to go red
Showing just how bad 2014 is shaping up to be for Democrats, individual state polls around the country show that if the General Election were held today, Republicans would easily take back control of the US Senate. 35 Senate seats are up for re-election this year with 21 being Democrat-held and 14 occupied by Republicans. Even more ominous, 6 Democratic seats won’t be defended by incumbents, as those Senators have announced their retirement. By comparison, there are only 3 Republican Senators retiring this election cycle.
When including the Senate independents that caucus with the Democrats, the party holds a 55-45 lead in the upper chamber. That means Republicans need to take away 6 Democratic seats to recapture the Senate. Looking at the coming elections in each of those 35 Senate races, it’s easy to see the GOP is poised to do just that, and then some. Following are the results from the most recent local polls and surveys covering some of the three dozen Senate races up for re-election.
State-by-state poll results
Below are local poll results for a number of 2014 US Senate races for seats currently held by Democrats (from FreedomsLighthouse.net):
The late Republican Ted Stevens held Alaska’s US Senate seat for 40 years. His replacement, Democrat Mark Begich (D-AK), has shown to be hovering between 45 and 55 percent in polls taken this past summer. This traditionally Republican seat could be the first of many to switch from blue back to red this year.
Incumbent Democrat Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) has seen his two-point lead over presumed Republican challenger Tom Cotton reverse to a two-point deficit between summer and Christmas. The most recent PPP poll from December shows a 44-44 tie among likely voters.
In the Rocky Mountain state, Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) isn’t so much in jeopardy because of a strong opponent as he is vulnerable to his own disapproval ratings. The slew of potential Republican challengers are all polling roughly the same number. The problem for Senator Udall, as some political analysts point out, is that his poll numbers consistently hover around 45%. That alone sets the stage for a November defeat, depending on third party alternatives. If there are no independents or third party candidates in the race, the protest vote would all go to Udall’s GOP opponent and guarantee an upset victory for the Republicans.
In Iowa, the retirement of Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) gives us one of the more conflicting polls. With the primaries yet to nominate candidates from each party, the various line-ups of potential candidates shows a wide assortment of survey results. Ironically, when nameless generic candidates are pitted against each other, the Republicans win the seat 42-38. But when likely candidates are used in the polls, the Democrats hold onto the seat every time with margins often as large as 10%.
Political pundits cite Louisiana as one of the Democrats’ more vulnerable Senate seats this November. In September, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) was in a statistical tie with presumed Republican challenger Bill Cassidy. The most recent poll from December shows her with a 7 point lead at 41-34.
With Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) retiring, Republicans look to complete their take-over of the state by winning its long-held Democratic Senate seat. Back in September, polls showed presumed Democratic nominees with leads of as much as 5%. By November, those leads had shrunk to 1%. In December, the Republicans enjoyed a 2% lead of their own. And polls from this month already show the GOP extending that lead to as much as 7 percent.
Based on the most recent polling, if there is one state guaranteed to switch from blue to red this November, it’s Montana. With Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) retiring, not one of the handful of presumed Democratic candidates has been able to top 36% in the polls. At the same time, presumed GOP nominee Steve Daines hasn’t polled below 51% against any of the possible Democratic opponents.
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In November’s New Hampshire Senate race, the winner could be strangely enough, the former Senator from neighboring Massachusetts. Incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) had a comfortable lead in polls against the state’s most likely Republican challengers. But a strange thing happened – former GOP Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown moved to New Hampshire. In early polls conducted last month and this month, the Democrat Shaheen only leads Brown by 3%.
Another state that looks sure to switch from blue to red in November is North Carolina. Incumbent Democrat Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) knows she’s in trouble because in every poll taken so far this year, all four potential Republican challengers come out ahead of her in head-to-head races. While the average margin of victory is only 2%, it doesn’t bode well for the Democrats in this state.
In West Virginia, the state’s recently poisoned water supply may spell doom for its Democratic government leaders. But according to the one and only poll available from back in September, the Republicans don’t need any help taking the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV). The Harper Poll showed presumed GOP nominee Shelley Moore Capito beating presumed Democratic nominee Natalie Tennant by an impressive 51-34 margin.
Of the above ten Senate races, Republicans only need to win six to take control of the US Senate, and in doing so, the entire Legislative Branch. If polling trends continue, it looks like it may happen. But there’s still a long time between now and November. And the most important factor won’t happen until Spring when each party holds its respective primary and nominates their candidates.
As in the past two national elections, the GOP primary looks to pit libertarian, religious and Tea Party reformers against the corporate, millionaire and establishment wing of the party. Each has had trouble defeating their Democratic opponents in the past. But that could all change this time around.
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