Republicans are hoping to regain their majority in the U.S. Senate in the upcoming midterm congressional elections. To do that, and strip Democrat Harry Reid of his Senate Majority Leader post, they need a net of 6 seats.
Democrats now control the Senate 55-45, including two so-called “independents,” Angus King, Maine, and Bernard Sanders, Vermont, who caucus with the Democrats. However, Democrats face strong challenges in November.
With 36 Senate seats up for grabs in 2014, 21 are held by Democrats and 15 by Republicans. There are seven open seats where no incumbent is running, and five of them, Iowa, Michigan, Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia are now held by Democrats.. At this point, the GOP is heavily favored to pick up at least two of these seats, in South Dakota and West Virginia.
Meanwhile, Democratic incumbents in Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, and North Carolina are trying to hold on to their seats in states GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney carried by double digits against President Barack Obama in 2012.
Republicans are defending two open seats, in Georgia and Nebraska. So far, Democrats are mostly hoping to win in Georgia, where former Senator Sam Nunn’s daughter, Michelle Nunn, is running. Whether the imprimatur of the Nunn name will convey from the famous and formidable father to the less-known and untested daughter remains to be seen. Recent polls show her trailing Republican businessman David Perdue 46%-40%, with 10% still “undecided.”
Can the GOP wrest control of the Senate from Democrats desperate to maintain their majority? Mathematically and politically, they seem poised to do so. Of the 15 Republican-held seats up for re-election in 2014, 13 are considered “safe” by most
political experts. If they can keep them safe, hold on to Kentucky and Mississippi, win in Georgia and Nebraska, and pick up Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota, and West Virginia, they will control the Senate in 2015.
However, as the GOP learned the hard way in 2012, there is a huge difference in “can” and “will.” For example, Tea Party candidates in Delaware and Indiana were “iced” by their Democratic opponents nearly 2-1 in the general elections. Republicans can’t afford to make mistakes like those again.
To tilt the political landscape further in their favor, Republicans need to pick and promote more candidates who can unify the GOP, attract independents, sway disaffected Democrats, and convey a positive message of what they stand for-not just what they’re against. Only then will they deserve to win the Senate majority leadership that has eluded them since the days of Tennessean Bill Frist.
Retired Army Col. Thomas B. Vaughn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.