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14 Factors to Watch in the 2014 Midterms

3. Will Tea Party Candidates Keep Losing General Elections? 

While Tea Partiers may be winning Republican primaries, they’ve often lost general elections.  Republican analyst Tony Quinn estimates that in 2010 and 2012, Tea Party Republican Senate candidates (O’Donnell, Ken Buck in Colorado, Sharron Angle in Nevada, Todd Akin in Missouri and Richard Mourdock in Indiana) cost Republicans five winnable elections – and possibly control of the US Senate.   The question for 2014 is: are voters so fed that they’ll vote for even Tea Party Republicans to flip control of the Senate?

4. Will the Minority Vote Turn Out for Democrats? 

Presidential elections always draw the highest turnout and those “extra” voters almost always by definition support the winner’s party.  However, those “marginal” voters often fall off in mid-terms when the interest simply isn’t as high, thus hurting the incumbent president’s party.  For example in 2008, the black share of the electorate was 13% and that figure dropped off to 11% in 2010 – when the Republicans re-took the House.  However, the black vote jumped back up to 13% in 2012 and the Hispanic vote set a new record – a difference that helped re-elect President Obama narrowly.

If the historic pattern holds and the 2014 voters are more white and middle class than in 2012, Republicans will obviously be big beneficiaries.

5. Will Political Legacies Continue?

This year, a startling number of children who followed their parents into politics are running again, especially among Democratic Senators.  In Arkansas, Senator Mark Pryor (who holds the Senate seat of his father David), is seeking a third term in a very tough Red State battle.  In Louisiana, Senator Mary Landrieu (whose father and brother both served as Mayor of New Orleans) also faces a tough re-election in a conservative Southern state.  In Colorado, Senator Mark Udall, (son of popular Arizona Representative Mo) now faces tough sledding in his re-election fight, while his cousin Tom (son Interior Secretary Stuart Udall) in New Mexico is expected to win more easily.

Up in Alaska, first-term Senator Mark Begich (whose father once represented Alaska in the House) will also have an uphill fight in a very Red state.  In Kentucky, Allison Grimes, the daughter of a former Democratic State Chairman, is running even with GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell in recent polls, while in Georgia, Michelle Nunn, (the daughter of Senate power Sam Nunn) is also running a close race for her father’s former seat.  In Georgia, Democrats are hoping for a “Return of the Jimmy” as President Carter’s grandson Jason runs for Governor.  And Republican “kids” are getting in on the act too: in West Virginia, Shelley Moore Caputo (daughter of three-time Governor Arch Moore) is a solid favor to win a Senate race, while in Texas, George P. Bush (son of Jeb) will be elected Texas Land Commissioner and presumably begin his national career.

6. Can women post major gains?

This year, women candidates will headline three of the most important races.  In Kentucky, Democratic Secretary of State Alison Grimes is running even or slightly ahead of Mitch McConnell.  In Georgia, Michelle Nunn, the daughter of legendary Senator Sam Nunn, has an even shot at an open US Senate seat according to early polls.  And in Texas, Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis, who gained national fame with a 2013 filibuster over abortion rights, starts out behind in that heavily Republican state, but hopes to attract female Republican and Independent “crossover” women votes to score the upset.

7. Can minorities post major gains? 

The Senate’s two African-Americans – New Jersey’s Corey Booker and South Carolina’s Tim Scott – are expected to win easily – as are the nation’s two Hispanic governors – Republicans Brian Sandoval in Nevada and Susana Martinez in New Mexico.  South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (whose family roots are in India) will win handily.  In Maryland, Lt. Governor Anthony Brown (an Iraq war veteran) has an even shot at becoming that state’s first black governor.  In California, Governor Jerry Brown leads a Democratic ticket that could include a Taiwanese-American (John Chiang for Treasurer), a black/Indo-American (Attorney General Kamala Harris), a Hispanic (Alex Padilla for Secretary of State) and either a Chinese or gay for Controller (Betty Yee or John Perez).  In the Golden State at least, Jesse Jackson’s “Rainbow Coalition” lives on!