GOP expands Senate playing field
How badly are things shaping up for Democrats in 2014? They couldn't get much worse.
That's why Republican strategists have recently expanded their list of target states to include some blue territory carried by President Obama in 2012.
In 2012, Democrats snagged Senate seats from Republicans in states where the GOP should have prevailed with relative ease.
In 2014, Republicans want to show they can play that game, too.
The GOP could conceivably capture the Senate by winning in seven states currently represented by Democrats but that Mitt Romney carried. But running the table in those states is a very tall task, party strategists freely acknowledge, so they're working to expand the map of competitive races to states like Iowa, Michigan, Colorado and several others.
If Republicans can mount strong campaigns in purple and even some blue states, it could allow them to capitalize on an anti-Obamacare electoral wave if one forms - or, short of that, force Democrats to spend precious dollars they'd rather devote to the true battleground races.
The GOP's problem all along has been attracting strong candidates to run in these races. In Michigan, several House members refused the challenge, including Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the intel committee. But Republicans in the state appear now to be coalescing behind Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, who has shown some surprising strength by raising over a million dollars last quarter while putting another million of her own money into her campaign.
In Iowa, too, a couple of state wide office holders declined the opportunity to run. The field is crowded in the Hawkeye state but energy executive Mark Jacobs has more than enough of his own money to burn and may emerge as a favorite.
In New Hampshire, former Senator Scott Brown is playing peek-a-boo with the state GOP - giving signals he may be running and then hinting that he won't. AT political correspondent Rich Baehr doesn't think he'll run. But Brown recently sold his house in Massachusets so at this point, anything is possible.
The Minnesota race against Senator Al Franken has proceeded in a similar fashion to the races in Michigan and Iowa. Strong GOP candidates like former Senator Norm Coleman declined to run, leaving a wide open field. Investor Mike McFadden is another one of those rich guys who could self finance a race. But Franken has been dutifully and steadily raising cash for the last 6 years as well as keeping a low profile to hide his extremist liberal views.
Three other states - CO, HI, and OR - are much bigger long shots. But if the right candidates can be found, a wave election just might allow candidates in those deeply blue states to ride to victory.
The key, of course, is how Obamacare will play into the election next fall. Even with a beautifully working website, there are going to be plenty of other issues that will anger voters and remind them of who is responsible for this mess.
Does that translate into victory and a GOP takeover of the Senate? Republicans are counting on it.