My quick handicapping of Democratic at-risk Senate races in 2014.

Since Glenn Reynolds asked, here’s my current assessment of at-risk Democratic Senators in 2014*. Bear in mind: while I generally got the House right in 2010 and 2012, I overestimated our Senate performance by a couple of seats in both years and of course got the 2008 and 2012 Presidential elections wrong. So, you know, grain of salt and all of that.

Alaska Mark Begich Serious Risk
Arkansas Mark Pryor Some Risk
Colorado Mark Udall Some Risk
Louisiana Mary Landrieu Serious Risk
Massachusetts John Kerry Only if vacant
Michigan Carl Levin Low Risk
Minnesota Al Franken Serious Risk
Montana Max Baucus Some Risk
New Hampshire Jeanne Shaheen Some Risk
New Jersey Frank Lautenberg Only if vacant
New Mexico Tom Udall Low Risk
North Carolina Kay Hagan Serious Risk
Oregon Jeff Merkley Some Risk
South Dakota Tim Johnson Serious Risk
Virginia Mark Warner Low Risk
West Virginia Jay Rockefeller Low Risk

Quick assessments on each:

  • Mark Begich is a freshman Senator who squeaked in; he won’t survive a rigorous challenge, and I cannot believe that one won’t occur. So don’t nominate any idiots (repeat this admonition as needed, throughout this list).
  • Mark Pryor is popular, but Arkansas is a Red state and Barack Obama isn’t going to be very popular there in 2014.
  • Mark Udall looks very vulnerable on paper, but we’re going to need the right kind of Colorado Republican to face him. IE, a libertarian- and Latino-friendly one.
  • Mary Landreiu should be making sure that her retirement benefits are in order.
  • If John Kerry is still the senior Senator from MA in 2014, he’ll be the senior Senator from MA in 2015. If he’s Sec Def/State in 2014, then there’s a shot of (presumably) Scott Brown taking the seat. MA’s bench on both sides is otherwise remarkably underwhelming.
  • Carl Levin is only on this list because he IS from a state that hasn’t been too friendly to Democrats lately AND has been in the Senate forever AND he might be somebody that Obama might tap for his next Cabinet. Otherwise, well.
  • Al Franken is a freshman nonentity who was the ultimate protest vote. And he almost lost anyway in a wave election. He will collapse when facing any credible candidate who will call him “Senator Smalley” to his face.
  • Max Baucus is more vulnerable than he looks on paper: he’s possibly been too long in the Senate and his recent voting habits suggest that he’s come to the conclusion that he’s invincible. Montana is, however, a somewhat restive Red State, so he’s not at high risk. Yet.
  • Jeanne Shaheen looks a little more vulnerable than she actually is, but that does not mean that she’s not vulnerable.
  • Frank Lautenberg does not look at all well. But he’d probably be re-elected if he was in an actual vegetative state, so this seat only opens up if Lautenberg dies/retires and is not replaced by Cory Booker. And if you don’t think that Chris Christie wouldn’t give that seat to Booker… well. So the seat is vulnerable IF Lautenberg [goes away] and Cory Booker is Governor of NJ when that happens. This is not… entirely implausible. Also, NJ has no real bench, either.
  • Tom Udall is a freshman, but otherwise isn’t sweating this election. Put up a good candidate and that changes. Susana Martinez will be up for re-election, and that will help the aforementioned good candidate.
  • Kay Hagan is likewise well-advised to start planning for her retirement.
  • I don’t believe in widespread election fraud – but I DO kind of believe in widespread election fraud in Oregon and Washington; the Democrats always seem to win those close recounts, so odd. Jeff Merkley would be in a lot worse shape if he didn’t have that buffer.
  • Tim Johnson… needs to rest. I’m sorry, but he’s not a well man and outside of 2008 his Senate elections have always been close. He’s going to be at a real disadvantage this campaign season.
  • I actually wish that Virginia would get rid of its one-term limit for Governors: it makes figuring out who is doing what more complicated. If Mark Warner still wants the job, it’s probably his… unless by-then former Governor Bob McDonnell challenges him for the seat, or Lt Governor Bill Bolling challenges him for the seat, or if AG Ken Cucchinelli challenges him for the seat, or… you get the drill. This assumes that Warner doesn’t have other ambitions, including maybe even being Governor of Virginia again. This is all just likely enough to make the seat not actually safe-safe.
  • Jay Rockefeller is on this largely thanks to the triumph of hope over experience, but his numbers have been getting a bit worse. So maybe. …Maybe.

So there you go. Out of twenty seats, we’ve got five excellent shots at pickups, five that could happen if things break our way, four that aren’t all that likely, but not outside the realm of possibility, two retirement opportunities, and four ‘safe’ seats. This will probably all change once retirement announcements start to trickle in (on both sides), but this isn’t a bad list, this far out.

So don’t nominate any idiots.

Moe Lane (crosspost)

*On the GOP side? Saxy Chambliss of Georgia and Susan Collins of Maine are the most likely to have problems; or, more accurately, the Republican candidates for GA and ME are the most likely to have problems. I expect some vigorous primaries, but those are the two most likely to succeed. So… don’t nominate any idiots.


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