Republicans need to pick up at least six seats in the upper chamber of Congress in November in order to retake control of the legislative body. Open or Democrat-held seats in West Virginia, South Dakota, and Montana are already considered the GOP’s to lose. The rest of the Senate landscape remains competitive, and the seats most likely to flip from Democratic to Republican control are starting to look more favorable for the GOP.
The seats the Republicans are most likely to target are those held by Democrats in states where Mitt Romney won handily; Alaska, Arkansas, and Louisiana. In the Pelican State, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) has not held a lead in a public poll since early July. A Fox News poll of the state released last week showed her GOP opponent, Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), securing a majority of the support of Louisiana voters when he heads into a likely runoff election in December.
Democratic incumbents in Arkansas and Alaska have, however, proven more able to navigate the unfavorable political environment in their states. In the Frontier State, though, Sen. Mark Begich’s (D-AK) support looks far shallower among likely voters than it did among Alaska’s registered voters. The Natural State’s Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) has also been steadily shedding support.
In the last three polls of Alaska’s voters, Begich has led in none. While within the margin of error, the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling released a survey of the state on Tuesday which should put a spring in the step of Republican poll watchers. They revealed that GOP candidate Dan Sullivan led Mark Begich with 43 to 41 percent of the vote with a third party candidate syphoning off 5 percent of the public’s support. It is, however, the trend they noticed which will prove most buoying for the GOP’s hopes of retaking the upper chamber.
“Sullivan has gained 6 points since our last poll in early August, while Begich has dropped 2,” a PPP memo read. “Sullivan’s gain has come largely due to consolidating his support among Republican leaning voters since winning the primary last month.”
He now leads 75/9 among folks who voted for Mitt Romney in 2012, compared to 70/11 on the last survey. Sullivan’s seen significant improvement in his image as conservative voters have rallied around him too- his net favorability is up 10 points from -8 at 35/43 last month to now +2 at 44/42. Begich’s approval is a 42/51 spread.
That firm also released a survey of Arkansas which is positively devastating for Democrats who were hopeful early this year that Pryor might be able to pull off a win in spite of the headwinds Democrats face this cycle. PPP found Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR) leading Pryor by 43 to 38 percent. That is up slightly from PPP’s August survey which found Cotton leading the incumbent by 41 to 39 percent.
“Both candidates are receiving 77% of the vote from within their own party but Cotton has a substantial advantage with independents, getting 53% of their vote to 20% for Pryor,” PPP’s release read. Excluding Rasmussen Reports, which had Pryor up by 1 point in late August, Pryor has not led in a survey of that state’s electorate since April.
There are plenty of Democrat-held seats where Republicans remain competitive outside those already mentioned in states like Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, and North Carolina. Democrats, too, have opportunities to make up some ground. The most notable of these is in Kansas where unpopular incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) is trying to fend off a challenge by a refreshing Democrat-turned-independent who has led in every survey of that race taken since mid-September. Kansas has only sent Republicans to the upper chamber of Congress since the Depression, and 2014 is unlikely to be the year the Sunflower State bucks that trend.
While the electoral equation is looking bright for Republicans today, there are still seven weeks remaining in the midterm election cycle. That is plenty of time for Republicans to figure out a way to blow their inherent advantages.