Fewer competitive House and Senate seats in 2014 means possible GOP gains

Rick Moran
Interesting article in Politico about the dearth of competitive House seats at this stage of the 2014 race. The Democrats were going to have a hard time taking over the House anyway, thanks to expert gerrymandering by Republicans at the state level. But now circumstances would seem to favor Republicans even more.

House Republicans are strongly favored to remain in power, absent some jolt that triggers a voter revolt against Speaker John Boehner and his rowdy GOP conference. Some handicappers see the party actually increasing its 17-seat majority.

The Senate will take a lot less to flip: The handful of states expected to determine control of the chamber features electorates that favor the GOP, as well as a history of electing Republicans to statewide office. To return to the majority, the GOP needs to turn six Democratic seats red.

 

The Cook Political Report currently rates 66 House races as competitive, the smallest number at this point in an election cycle since 2004. In 2012, about 75 seats were considered to be in play, and in 2010 there were around 100 targeted contests.

On the Senate side, Cook ranks no contests as tossups. It considers only two seats now controlled by Democrats, in West Virginia and Montana, as "leaning" Republican -- and no GOP-held seats as favoring Democrats. Though several other states are still very much in play, it's the least competitive landscape at this point in the election cycle that the respected handicapper has found in 20 years.

"It's almost like a presidential map with the battlegrounds," said a Democratic strategist involved in the fight. "You'll see the races start earlier. You'll see a lot of activity in those states. It's going to be a very focused cycle. In 2012, the map was just so open."

 

The main reason for the shrunken battlefield is the failure of both parties to land prized recruits. Time and again, top-tier potential candidates have decided the lure of the Senate isn't strong enough to endure a grueling campaign that might or might not end well.

Former Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer, the party's best hope of keeping Sen. Max Baucus's seat in their column, was only the latest example when he opted July 13 not to run. Democrats haven't turned up strong candidates in two states where members of their party are retiring, West Virginia or South Dakota, making them likely GOP pickups.

Some Republicans are counting on a poor rollout for Obamacare to give them a boost, but even if it's a total disaster, it will be hard to nationalize a mid term election. Voters are expecting problems and those predisposed to blame Democrats were already voting Republican anyway. Remember, mid terms are base elections - they're just aren't enough independents voting to give dramatic swings to one side or the other.

It's the Senate where the GOP needs to roll up its sleeves. Quality candidates are lacking in Iowa and Michigan - with Democrats in both states already running hard and raising tons of money. It seems apparent at this point, the GOP is going to have to win at least one, and perhaps two purple/blue state contests to take the Senate. This is doable, but it's not going to be easy. Incumbents like Senator Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire and Al Franken in Minnesota have been busy shoring up their support and raising money, despite their looking vulnerable just a few months ago.

The contours of the race should be revealed after the first of the year when primaries test some of the candidates. But at this point, it would be fair to say that the GOP is in better shape in the House than one might have thought a few months ago, while Democrats are doing better than expected in the Senate.

Looks like an "incumbent" election rather than a "wave" election at this stage of the race.


Interesting article in Politico about the dearth of competitive House seats at this stage of the 2014 race. The Democrats were going to have a hard time taking over the House anyway, thanks to expert gerrymandering by Republicans at the state level. But now circumstances would seem to favor Republicans even more.

House Republicans are strongly favored to remain in power, absent some jolt that triggers a voter revolt against Speaker John Boehner and his rowdy GOP conference. Some handicappers see the party actually increasing its 17-seat majority.

The Senate will take a lot less to flip: The handful of states expected to determine control of the chamber features electorates that favor the GOP, as well as a history of electing Republicans to statewide office. To return to the majority, the GOP needs to turn six Democratic seats red.

 

The Cook Political Report currently rates 66 House races as competitive, the smallest number at this point in an election cycle since 2004. In 2012, about 75 seats were considered to be in play, and in 2010 there were around 100 targeted contests.

On the Senate side, Cook ranks no contests as tossups. It considers only two seats now controlled by Democrats, in West Virginia and Montana, as "leaning" Republican -- and no GOP-held seats as favoring Democrats. Though several other states are still very much in play, it's the least competitive landscape at this point in the election cycle that the respected handicapper has found in 20 years.

"It's almost like a presidential map with the battlegrounds," said a Democratic strategist involved in the fight. "You'll see the races start earlier. You'll see a lot of activity in those states. It's going to be a very focused cycle. In 2012, the map was just so open."

 

The main reason for the shrunken battlefield is the failure of both parties to land prized recruits. Time and again, top-tier potential candidates have decided the lure of the Senate isn't strong enough to endure a grueling campaign that might or might not end well.

Former Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer, the party's best hope of keeping Sen. Max Baucus's seat in their column, was only the latest example when he opted July 13 not to run. Democrats haven't turned up strong candidates in two states where members of their party are retiring, West Virginia or South Dakota, making them likely GOP pickups.

Some Republicans are counting on a poor rollout for Obamacare to give them a boost, but even if it's a total disaster, it will be hard to nationalize a mid term election. Voters are expecting problems and those predisposed to blame Democrats were already voting Republican anyway. Remember, mid terms are base elections - they're just aren't enough independents voting to give dramatic swings to one side or the other.

It's the Senate where the GOP needs to roll up its sleeves. Quality candidates are lacking in Iowa and Michigan - with Democrats in both states already running hard and raising tons of money. It seems apparent at this point, the GOP is going to have to win at least one, and perhaps two purple/blue state contests to take the Senate. This is doable, but it's not going to be easy. Incumbents like Senator Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire and Al Franken in Minnesota have been busy shoring up their support and raising money, despite their looking vulnerable just a few months ago.

The contours of the race should be revealed after the first of the year when primaries test some of the candidates. But at this point, it would be fair to say that the GOP is in better shape in the House than one might have thought a few months ago, while Democrats are doing better than expected in the Senate.

Looks like an "incumbent" election rather than a "wave" election at this stage of the race.