Via the Corner, an atypically clear-eyed assessment of the national landscape or a mindless overreaction to the GOP’s big win in FL-13 earlier this week? Could be that this is just standard partisan alarm-sounding after a supposed bellwether: Just as Karl Rove’s warning Republicans not to get cocky and assume that ObamaCare alone will deliver the Senate on a silver platter, Matthews wants Dems to fear the reaper and go on offense over the minimum wage, voting rights, etc. Both are motivational tactics. Maybe we can settle this by turning to a dispassionate election observer, RCP’s Sean Trende, who’s been modeling this fall’s Senate elections based on Obama’s job approval and who thinks the GOP is overstating how important Jolly’s win over Sink in FL-13 was.

Trende’s verdict: Yep, sure looks like the Senate is going, going, gone.

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Republicans need six seats to claim a majority. Obama hasn’t seen an approval rating north of 45 percent in RCP’s average since early August of last year, before the Syria “red line” fiasco and the the Healthcare.gov meltdown. You do the math. Trende himself now gives Republicans somewhere in the ballpark of an 80-85 percent chance of capturing the seats they need to get to 51. Matthews isn’t out on a limb here.

But that doesn’t answer Rove’s strategic question. If ObamaCare is an advantage but not a decisive advantage for the GOP, what other issues should the party emphasize? Here’s a clue from a new poll of Louisiana, where Mary Landrieu is rocking a 42/52 approval rating.

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Of course, Obama might take that issue out of Republicans’ hands by approving the pipeline before November, but don’t underestimate the ability of especially dumb liberals to tie his hands on it. There may not be enough of them willing to turn out to stop the GOP this fall, but there are certainly enough of them to make Obama’s life difficult if he tacks too far towards the center to better position the party for the midterms. Thank heaven for small favors.

Exit question via WaPo: Democrats keep saying they want to “fix” ObamaCare. “Fix” it how, exactly? What does that mean, beyond the standard blather of extending the enrollment deadline for another month or waiving the mandate penalty that’s already effectively been waived? It’s a meaningless soundbite designed to appease angry voters by suggesting that they’re kinda sorta angry too. Let’s hear some specifics.