Newspaper article Roll Call

Why Republicans Must Win the Senate in 2014

Newspaper article Roll Call

Why Republicans Must Win the Senate in 2014

Article excerpt

If next month produces a big Republican year, with the GOP gaining control of the Senate and expanding its majority in the House, it will say little or nothing about 2016, when a presidential electorate and a very different Senate class combine to create the makings of a substantially good Democratic year.

But if the GOP fails to capture the Senate this year, 2016 could turn into an unmitigated disaster for the party. And for that reason, Republicans are under extremely heavy pressure to take back the Senate in November.

Four years ago, a Republican wave swept across much of the country (but not the West Coast), handing over control of the House and giving the GOP six more Senate seats. But the fact the party kicked away a handful of Senate seats -- in Delaware, Colorado and Nevada -- was disappointing and discouraging to GOP contributors who thought the party had a chance to win back the Senate.

Two years later, Republicans entered the cycle needing to net four Senate seats (three if President Barack Obama failed to win a second term) and filled with optimism about reclaiming the Senate. As spring approached, the map looked good for the GOP and dangerous for Democrats.

After all, Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson and North Dakota Democrat Kent Conrad were retiring, and given each of their state's fundamentals and the president's weak standing, both appeared to be likely Republican takeovers. And in Missouri, Sen. Claire McCaskill was easy pickings, as long as the GOP didn't nominate some knucklehead.

Even before Memorial Day arrived, Republicans seemed to have at least three other good takeover opportunities, in Montana against Sen. Jon Tester, and in open seats in Wisconsin and Virginia.

Yes, two GOP incumbents were at risk, in Massachusetts and Nevada, but Senate control looked promising for the party.

But when November rolled around, Democrats not only kept control of the Senate, they actually gained two more seats, making it that much more difficult for the GOP to take over the chamber this cycle. And many Republican donors who deluded themselves into believing Mitt Romney had a strong chance to win the White House and that GOP control of the Senate was within reach felt deflated and misled. …

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