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UPDATED (3/28/2013) at 8:25PM: Small updates to KY and SD races.

As all frequent viewers of Pollitics Today know, I got a bit of an interest in the 2014 mid-term elections.  Okay fine, an obsession.  But can you blame me?  Midterm elections are not as historical as Presidential cycles, I get that, but when it comes to actual legislation being passed; the midterms are key.

The Democrats currently have the majority with 55 members in their caucus (which includes two Independents in Bernie Sanders and Angus King) but their advantage can be traced back to their incredible success in 2008.  Unfortunately for Democrats, those big wins for 2008 are back in play.

The Republicans on the other hand might have two seats in play but even that might be questionable.  We are far from having any substantial polling but it’s looking like it would be ideal for Democrats to play defense rather than offense.

For this feature we will be using the following categories to determine the safety of each seat.

  • REPUBLICAN LOCK – 100% chance of GOP retention
  • LIKELY REPUBLICAN – Republican is heavily favored to retain seat
  • LEAN REPUBLICAN – Republican is slightly favored.
  • TOSSUP – 50/50 shot at predicting who wins.
  • LEAN DEMOCRAT – Democrat is slightly favored.
  • LIKELY DEMOCRAT – Democrat is heavily favored to retain seat
  • DEMOCRATIC LOCK – 100% chance of Democratic retention

ALABAMA – REPUBLICAN LOCK

  • Jeff Sessions, in his third term in the Senate, should easily earn re-election bid in Alabama.

ALASKA – LEAN DEMOCRAT

  • Freshman Democrat Mark Begich has done a decent job at keeping a moderate record in libertarian Alaska.  I’m more confident on Begich being re-elected than other freshman Democrats actually but I could see Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell or Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan giving Begich a real run for his money.  If Joe Miller runs and wins a Republican primary again, this race turns into LIKELY DEMOCRAT.

ARKANSAS – TOSSUP

  • Democrat Mark Pryor somehow was not challenged in 2008 and trounced Green Party candidate Rebekah Kennedy to win re-election.  This time he won’t be as lucky as Rep. Tom Cotton and LG Mark Darr are both heavily considering a run.  It’s possibly by this time next year, this race will be leaning Republican but the Pryor name still holds weight in Arkansas.

COLORADO – LIKELY DEMOCRAT

  • Freshman Democratic Senator Mark Udall is in good shape for re-election and with Governor John Hickenlooper maintaining high approval ratings, Democrats should be really happy for the inroads they made in Colorado.  Toughest challenger for Udall would likely be AG John Suthers but the race would still heavily be in Udall’s favor.

DELAWARE – DEMOCRATIC LOCK

  • Chris Coons will coast to victory here as the Republican bench in Delaware is barely existent which means the return of Christine O’Donnell on the campaign trail.

GEORGIA – LEAN REPUBLICAN

  • One of only two potential pickup opportunities for Democrats rely in the Peach State. Still, this is almost LIKELY REPUBLICAN due to Georgia’s redness but a highly contested (and ugly and far-right) primary could really shake things up.  The Democrats though need to hope either former Governor Roy Barnes, Rep. John Barrow or State Senator Jason Carter (grandson of Jimmy) run or this opportunity will slip through their fingers.

HAWAII – DEMOCRATIC LOCK

  • Following the death of longtime Democratic Senator Daniel Inouye in December, Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie appointed LG Brian Schatz to replace him.  Schatz could be a lifer in the Senate but may get a challenge from Rep. Colleen Hanabusa who was Inouye’s choice for the seat.  Regardless of who wins a primary (if it comes to fruition), the Hawaii Republican Party is non-existent…almost literally.

IDAHO – REPUBLICAN LOCK

  • Republican Jim Risch will coast to a second term in this blood red state.  This is one of those states where a third party should look at due to the void of Democrats in Idaho.

ILLINOIS – DEMOCRATIC LOCK

  • Dick Durbin is running for a fourth term and the Majority Whip’s challenger could very well be former Rep. Joe Walsh.  Need I say more?

IOWA – LIKELY DEMOCRAT

  • After six-term Democratic Senator Tom Harkin announced he would retire as opposed to seek re-election, there was some panic over Republican Rep. Tom Latham entering the race.  However Latham announced he would not run and Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley entered the race.  Now the Republicans likely candidate is Rep. Steve King whose Tea Party branded conservatism makes him likely to trounce a primary but lose a general.  

KANSAS – REPUBLICAN LOCK

  • Pat Roberts will be 78 in 2014 but apparently is gearing up for another run.  There has been some minor buzz though over former Rep. Todd Tiahrt or current Rep. Todd Huelskamp challenging Roberts but I don’t know if anything will come of it.  Regardless, easy Republican hold.

KENTUCKY – LIKELY REPUBLICAN

  • This has been the race that’s generated the most headlines thus far as House Minority Leader Mitch McConnell goes for a sixth term.  Speculation has swirled around actress and activist Ashley Judd as being the potential Democratic nominee.  The progressive Judd may not be the greatest fit for Kentucky though and SoS Alison Lundergan Grimes is being touted as a potential nominee.  McConnell will be held under 55% most likely but it’s highly dependent on the Democratic nominee to pull it off. 
  • Consider this a small update to the bulletpoint above.  Ashley Judd can be crossed off the list of potential nominees with Alison Lundergan Grimes becoming the odds-on favorite to be the nominee.  Grime makes this race a bit closer but we’ll have to see polls first before I change the ratings.

LOUISIANA – LEAN DEMOCRAT

  • Third-term Senator Mary Landrieu dodged a bullet when Governor Bobby Jindal and LG Jay Dardenne both announced they would not run against her.  If she faces Rep. Bill Cassidy, the race probably will swing back to TOSSUP but Rep. John Fleming might mount a challenge as well.  Fleming would be the better candidate for Democrats to face.

MAINE – LIKELY REPUBLICAN

  • Maine is the quintessential “purple” state and Susan Collins, the last of the moderate Republicans, hasn’t announced her 2014 intentions yet.  It’s presumed she will run, but if she doesn’t (or is somehow challenged); this seat becomes an instant TOSSUP.  If she runs, it’s safely Republican.

MASSACHUSETTS – DEMOCRATIC LOCK

  • When John Kerry was named Secretary of State, this seat opened up and after some initial fears, former Sen. Scott Brown announced he wouldn’t run in a special election and its presumed he won’t run in 2014.  On the Democrats side, Rep. Ed Markey will likely beat fellow Rep. Stephen Lynch but regardless who wins; it’s safely Democratic.

MICHIGAN – LEAN DEMOCRAT

  • The retirement of six-term Sen. Carl Levin freed up this seat and Democrats should be considered the slight favorites to hold it.  Rep. Gary Peters is clearly the frontrunner should he announce and he would likely be favored against any Republican.  Should Rep. Justin Amash (a Paulite type Republican) win the nomination for the GOP, this seat becomes LIKELY DEMOCRAT.  Republicans should favor Rep. Mike Rogers to make a bid.

MINNESOTA – LIKELY DEMOCRAT

  • The last race to be decided in 2008 was the Minnesota Senate race between Republican Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken.  Franken barely prevailed but don’t let that fool you, with a lack of big name challenger; Franken should coast to victory in the same that his fellow Senator Amy Klobuchar did in 2012.

MISSISSIPPI – REPUBLICAN LOCK

  • Thad Cochran in, you guessed it, his sixth term hasn’t announced his intentions to run for re-election but even if he doesn’t, this seat is safely red.

MONTANA – LEAN DEMOCRAT

  • Max Baucus has served Montana for six terms and is running again but might face a primary from Brian Schweitzer, the former Democratic Governor of the state.  It seems unlikely but if Schweitzer does and succeeds, he should do well.  Baucus on the other hand might be damaged by being a D.C. insider and for his role in the healthcare debates.  State Rep. Champ Edmunds has already announced a run but it seems the big fish is Steve Daines.  If Daines run, this race could be a tight one.

NEBRASKA – REPUBLICAN LOCK

  • First term Senator Mike Johanns announced he would retire as opposed to run for re-election but popular Governor Dave Heineman will be term-limited and is a safe bet to retain it.  If Bob Kerrey couldn’t swing this state in 2012, it’ll be hard for any Democrat to.

NEW HAMPSHIRE – LIKELY DEMOCRAT

  • This race has sparked my curiosity as first-term Jeanne Shaheen could represent a pick-up opportunity for the Republicans but this race has been very slow-moving.  It stays at likely for now until we get some idea of who could run.

NEW JERSEY – DEMOCRATIC LOCK

  • With no big-name Republican challengers (Geraldo Rivera does not count), the intrigue in this race is focused solely on the Democratic primary.  It still remains to be seen if Reps. Frank Pallone and Rush Holt can damage Newark Mayor Cory Booker but while Booker is a progressive on some social issues, he is a Wall Street funded candidate.  

NEW MEXICO – LIKELY DEMOCRAT

  • Both Udall Brothers appear to be safe as Tom Udall of New Mexico will likely face a second-tier Republican challenger such as LG John Sanchez.  Part of me wonders though what would happen if former Governor Gary Johnson launched a third party bid.

NORTH CAROLINA – LEAN DEMOCRAT

  • First-term incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan has had a quiet first-term but with no real Republican challengers other than Tea Party favorite Greg Brannon, she’s the temporary front-runner.  This race is subject to change but another likely GOP candidate Thom Tillis (House Speaker of North Carolina) might run and he is considered a longshot as well.  Rep. Renee Elmers might be the best shot for the Republican Party here.

OKLAHOMA – REPUBLICAN LOCK

  • Jim Inhofe might be controversial but he will climate deny his way into a blowout race.

OREGON – DEMOCRATIC LOCK

  • Jeff Merkley squeaked by Republican incumbent Gordon Smith in 2008 but the Oregon GOP bench is heavily depleted.  Don’t expect any noteworthy challenge here.

RHODE ISLAND – DEMOCRATIC LOCK

  • Jack Reed will earn a fourth term with his eyes closed.

SOUTH CAROLINA (1) – LIKELY REPUBLICAN

  • This is Lindsey Graham’s seat and while he is a pariah to some on the right, it’s unlikely to see if he will get a credible primary challenge.  State Rep. Lee Bright has made some news regarding a potential run but he might be a bit on the fringe.  If a Democrat can challenge, and if Bright somehow pulls off the upset, then this race could be interesting.

SOUTH CAROLINA (2) – REPUBLICAN LOCK

  • This is the seat formerly held by Jim DeMint who retired to head the Heritage Foundation.  Governor Nikki Haley appointed Rep. Tim Scott to replace DeMint and it’ll be hard to see if anyone can challenge him.

SOUTH DAKOTA – LEAN REPUBLICAN

  • Democrat Tim Johnson has served since 1996 in the Senate but it looks like it might be time for him to retire.  Former Republican Governor Mike Rounds has already announced his candidacy and he will be tough to beat in the general.  However, if Rep. Kristi Noem can defeat him in a primary (should she run), then Stephanie Hereth Sandlin (should she run) could make this a race, also Johnson’s son, Brandon (a U.S. Attorney) could also be drafted into running.
  • UPDATE to the bulletpoint above but Johnson has retired.  Rating stays the same.

TENNESSEE – REPUBLICAN LOCK

  • There were some rumors of Lamar Alexander getting some type of right wing primary but it doesn’t appear to be coming to fruition.  Alexander will coast to another term.

TEXAS – REPUBLICAN LOCK

  • John Cornyn, the Senate Minority Whip, could face a primary but while Texas is inching to purple; I’m not counting on anything yet though a challenge by State Sen. Wendy Davis or San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro would make the race mildly interesting.  Not yet though.

VIRGINIA – LIKELY DEMOCRAT

  • Mark Warner is highly popular in Virginia and I can’t see him losing even if Governor Bob McDonnell runs against him.  The only reason I’m leaving the door open is if McDonnell gives it a go and even then Warner will be heavily favored.

WEST VIRGINIA – LIKELY REPUBLICAN

  • Democrat Jay Rockefeller decided to retire as oppose to seek a sixth term and with Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito running; it’s hard for me to see a Democrat win in the state.  The only possibility of an upset is if SoS Natalie Tennant runs and Moore Capito gets a right-wing challenge but that’s slim.  

WYOMING – REPUBLICAN LOCK

  • Mike Enzi will coast to victory here even if he gets challenged from the right.

As of this writing, I have two Republican pick-ups which leaves the current state of the Senate at 52-47 (Democratic majority) though I am abstaining on predicting the Arkansas race for now.  Still, I would assume that we are looking at a likely loss of three seats with the possibility of Louisiana and North Carolina going red.

Remember though, there’s a lot of time so this is only a rough draft.

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