There’s been a lot written about the Senate seats Democrats are defending on the most conservative turf – West Virginia, South Dakota, Arkansas and Louisiana. But the most useful indicators for how the battle for the Senate will shape up will be in more politically-competitive states with working-class populations, like Montana, Iowa, Minnesota, and even Michigan. (Of note: All those states have gun ownership rates above the national average.) There’s a high potential for bubbling anger among those voters over the state of the economy, the implementation of the president’s health care law and the Democratic party choosing to prioritize social issues like gun control and immigration over focusing on the economic interests of the middle class. …

Right now, given the political landscape and worsening environment for Obama, there’s a greater chance that the Senate could flip Republican than the House going the other direction. The key for Senate Democrats, both incumbents and challengers, is to prove they’re in touch with the anxieties facing many Americans. Schweitzer, who opened the doors of the governor’s mansion to average citizens, is a perfect fit in the Montana Senate race for that very reason. Their likely nominees in the other states have a more mixed track record. In the open seat to succeed retiring Sen. Tom Harkin, Rep. Bruce Braley is well-positioned to portray himself as a populist (he’s founder of the House Populist Caucus), but as a trial attorney and four-term congressman, his biography will be thoroughly scrutinized. Minnesota Sen. Al Franken boasts solid job approval numbers back home, but his background as a celebrity and former SNL funnyman doesn’t exactly scream working-class hero. And in Michigan, Rep. Gary Peters represents an urban Detroit district, beginning his career in finance as an executive at Merrill Lynch and Paine Webber before turning to politics. He’s a capable candidate, but Republicans have plenty to pore over.