PJ Media

PJ Media Symposium: How Big Will the GOP Wave Be in 2014?

Republicans across the country are salivating at the prospect of making big gains in the November 2014 midterm elections. They certainly have cause for optimism. The playing field gives them a big advantage, with Democrats defending many more seats than Republicans and several Democratic senators running in states won by Mitt Romney in 2012, and the Obamacare issue favors the GOP. Couple that with a decided “enthusiasm gap” between the Republican and Democratic bases, and you have a recipe for a true wave election where it can be imagined that the Republicans regain control of the Senate and add to their majority in the House.

Much can happen between now and election day, however, and it remains to be seen if this tailwind will propel the GOP to a one-sided victory on November 4.

We’ve asked seven of PJ Media’s top political analysts to look into their crystal balls and answer the following question: How big will the GOP wave be in 2014?

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A Cloudy Outlook for GOP in November

by Rich Baehr

Richard A. Baehr is the co-founder and chief political correspondent for the American Thinker. For his day job, he has been a health care consultant for many years, doing planning and financial analyses for providers.

Six months out from the 2014 midterms, the current political environment favors the Republicans to maintain control of the U.S. House, with a likely gain of a few seats. The current RealClearPolitics.com ratings places 197 seats, all currently held by Republicans, in the safe category. Another 18 seats are considered likely to be won by the Republican candidate — two of them pickups in North Carolina 7 and Utah 4,where Democratic incumbents are retiring. Another 15 seats now held by Republicans are considered to be leaning their way. In total, this gives the GOP 230 seats, four short of the number currently held by Republicans, but 12 more than the number needed to be the majority: 218. In addition, there are 17 seats considered tossups — four of them held by the GOP, 13 by Democrats. If all the seats considered likely or leaning towards the GOP went their way, and eight of the 17 tossups, they would wind up at 238, a gain of four. RCP considers only 162 Democratic held seats as safe, another 15 as likely, and 11 leaning their way, including two GOP-held seats in New York 11 and California 31.

If the real battleground are all the seats considered tossups or leaning to one party or another, the  GOP has 215 without winning any tossups or any of the 15 seats leaning their way, and the Democrats are at 177 considered the same way.

In other words, the Democrats have to win 41 of the 43 competitive seats to win a majority, and that seems extremely unlikely.

The Senate picture is far more clouded. The worst outcome for the GOP is likely to be a pickup of one  net seat — pickups in open seat races in South Dakota and West Virginia and a win in Montana, coupled with losses in Georgia and Kentucky. The Georgia and Kentucky seats are tossups leaning towards the GOP, while the GOP candidate has solid leads in the other three races. Seven other Democratic held seats are considered tossups — Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, Colorado and two open seats in Iowa and Michigan. Another two Democratic-held seats in New Hampshire and Oregon are considered leaning to the Democrats. In a best case, Republicans would hold Georgia and Kentucky and win the seven Democratic-held tossup races plus the two lean Democratic seats for a gain of 12. This is highly unlikely. Democrats have done well in competitive Senate races in recent years, and they have the advantage of incumbency and or strong family names in five of the seven tossup races and both lean Democratic races.

Forced to give an early edge in every race, the GOP is slightly favored to hold Kentucky and Georgia and is even or ahead in North Carolina and Alaska. Arkansas, Iowa, and Louisiana seem to be pure tossups, with Iowa emerging as a state where the Democratic nominee for the open seat, trial lawyer Bruce Braley, seems gaffe prone and now trails in the most recent polls. Democrats have the edge currently in Michigan, Colorado, New Hampshire, and Oregon, though only Oregon is a solid lead for the Democrat at this point. If this were the result in November, the Republicans would have an excellent chance of controlling the Senate with a pickup in the range of five to eight net seats.

In the 2010 and 2012 cycles, Republican tossed away opportunities in Nevada, Delaware, Missouri, Indiana, and Colorado with sub-optimal candidates. That is a possibility now in Mississippi, where a bitter primary, with a runoff to follow, may leave the Republican weakened. That could also occur in the Georgia runoff.

But if the party has a very good night in November and wins most of the close races, it could win seven to nine seats without any shocking upsets.

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 No Matter What the Dems Do, GOP Must Be United

by Charlie Martin

Charlie Martin writes on science, health, culture, and technology for PJ Media. Follow his 13-week diet and exercise experiment on Facebook and at PJ Lifestyle.

I wrote a series of articles for PJM in 2012 about polling. All of them were based around the observation that no matter what, some of  the polling had to be wrong, because the turnout models, which were weighted heavily Democrat, conflicted with the enthusiasm polls, which were very heavily in Republicans’ favor.

As it turned out, the turnout models were right. Space prevents me from exploring the reasons in detail here, but there seem to have been three things we can point to for suggestions.

First, there was the preternaturally high turnout in some precincts, such as inner-city precincts in Cleveland and Philadelphia, which had total turnout in excess of 100 percent of registered voters, and in some cases in excess of 100 percent of the voting-age population of the precinct. These precincts also often reported vote totals that leaned Democrat to a degree that would make Saddam Hussein blush, with total Republican votes in the single digits.

Digits, mind you, not percentages.

Second was election reporting that was objectively indistinguishable from a campaign to suppress GOP voters. See, for example, Chris Matthews’ assertion that the only reason anyone would vote against Obama is racism.

Third, and most important I suspect, was an active, criminal conspiracy among people in the White House, the Congress, the Department of Justice, and the IRS to suppress and harass the insurgent groups that had been so effective getting out Republican votes in 2010.

As a result, clearly, the actual turnout was in line with the turnout models, and a lot of “enthusiastic” Romney voters didn’t show up.

So what does this mean for the 2014 election? The original question for today’s  symposium was to look at a scenario for the changes in Congress after the 2014 election. Obviously there are a lot of possibilities. Now, my inclination is that I think the Republicans will win pretty big and take over the Senate, but I think the 2012 election is an instructive warning. Since 2010, the Tea Party insurgents and conservatives in general have been on a RINO hunt, denouncing anyone who differed from them on any point as “not a real Republican.” Often, people then assert their intention to not vote at all if the Republican candidate in an election is insufficiently “real.”

That way lies madness. The quest for “real” Republicans, cutting off one for not being sufficiently against illegal immigration, or not cutting whatever spending one doesn’t like, or for any other position that doesn’t match in every detail what one person thinks is the “real” Republican position, if carried out, would result in a Republican Party that could hold a national convention in a freight elevator.

But if they want to fill it, they’d better have an open bar. Of course, the Democrats have been more than happy to encourage this. How many times have we found out that Democrats were covertly and sometimes not so covertly  supporting the weakest candidate in a primary because, after all, who wants to run against a strong candidate? It’s of a piece with the other voter suppression efforts: anything they can do that convinces anyone who might vote for a Republican to not vote at all, is a vote for the Democrat.

And that’s the bottom line: you might not like whoever your eventual Senate or House candidate is, but failing to vote for a RINO is a vote for the Democrats.

Signs Point to GOP Winning Senate Majority

By Patrick Reddy

Patrick Reddy is a Democratic political consultant in California.  He is the co-author of California After Arnold and the author of the forthcoming 21st Century America, a study of national politics.

PJ Media asked for our opinions on the 2014 midterm elections, offering four scenarios to choose from: 1) GOP loses House seats and picks up zero or fewer Senate seats; 2) GOP picks up 1-10 House seats and 1-5 Senate seats; 3) GOP picks up 11-20 House seats and 6-10 Senate seats; and 4) GOP picks up more than 20 House seats and more than 10 Senate seats.

History and this year’s political climate lead me to believe that scenarios #1 and #4 are unlikely, but #2 and #3 are much better bets.

Barring an unforeseen crisis (a 9/11, or an Iran hostage crisis) that causes voters to rally around President Obama, we can discount scenario #1 of Republican losses or no gains. As Larry Sabato wrote: “We know that the president is unpopular, the president’s party typically performs poorly in midterms and the Democrats are overextended on this year’s Senate map.” Especially in the Senate, there are simply too many seats up in states like South Dakota and West Virginia where President Obama has never been strong, even at the peak of his popularity in 2008. Therefore, at least some Republican gains are almost assured.

(As an aside, the date of November 4 has often coincided with Republican presidential landslides for over a century: for Ronald Reagan in 1980, Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, Calvin Coolidge in 1924, William McKinley in 1896, and Ulysses S. Grant in 1868, though obviously Obama in 2008 was the great exception to this trend. The 2014 election also marks the 100th anniversary of popular elections for the United States Senate.)

The second scenario, one of modest Republican gains, is definitely on solid ground. For the generic polling question: “Which party would you prefer to see control Congress?”, the Democrats have not yet been over 50% in 2014. And when in doubt, the undecided have historically voted against the president’s party in midterms.

Even if undecided voters break evenly for the Democrats, the Republicans will retain their House majority and probably gain a few seats in “red” districts in the South that often vote Republican for president. Charlie Cook, who along with Larry Sabato and Nate Silver is probably the best congressional handicapper, sees 196 completely safe GOP House seats with another 33 leaning Republican (218 are needed for a majority), thus making Republicans overwhelming favorites to control the House in 2014. (Cook correctly predicted the congressional elections of 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010).

In the Senate, Democrats have 21 seats at stake this year compared to only 15 for Republicans. Cook’s call is for a minimum of 46 Republican seats — meaning if the GOP wins five of the eight other “toss-up” seats (including Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky), they can seize control of the Senate. But if Democrat Michelle Nunn can win her father’s old seat in Georgia (she is currently leading in polls) or McConnell loses, the Republicans will almost certainly fall short of a majority.

Scenario #4 of big, across-the-board Republican gains is also unlikely, especially in the House, simply because almost all of the vulnerable Democratic House seats were lost in the 2010 “shellacking.” And losses of at least 10 seats in the Senate are very rare and usually caused by major events: 1920 (the “Return to Normalcy” after World War I); the 1930s (the Great Depression); 1946 (the post-World War Two exhaustion); 1958 (the deepest recession since 1945); and 1980 (the Iran hostage crisis and stagflation). But if President Obama has as bad an autumn of 2014 as he did in 2013 with the botched health care rollout, scenario #4 can’t be ruled out.

The good news for Republicans is they don’t need to gain 10 seats for a Senate majority; they only need a net gain of six, which fits into scenario #3. (It’s also possible that if Republicans gained five seats, conservative Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia could switch parties to flip the Senate). That figure is much more achievable by historic standards. In fact, the “out party” has gained at least a half-dozen Senate seats in the second midterm election of a presidential administration (the so-called “six-year itch”) in six of the nine cases since 1914. So, the historic odds favor the GOP. The aforementioned Larry Sabato is forecasting a “wave that’s more than a ripple but less than a tsunami — a four to eight-seat addition for the Republicans, with the higher end of the range being a shade likelier than the lower.”

The great “X-factor” in any election is turnout — that is, who actually votes. President Obama has twice displayed impressive get-out-the-vote capability. But a good bit of those minority Obama supporters only vote when he is leading the ticket. Hence, the lower turnouts leading to Republican victories in 2009 and 2010. If the history of a low Democratic non-presidential turnout repeats itself, scenario #3 could happen. As Cook wrote just before the Republicans lost Congress in 2006: “That’s how midterm election debacles occur: disproportionate turnout.”

Democratic senators like Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Mark Udall of Colorado, who have never lost a general election in their careers, are in the vulnerable category this year, a clear warning shot across the Democrats’ bow.

Nate Silver called the 2012 national results almost exactly, and now says the Republicans are “slight favorites” to gain the six seats they need in the U.S. Senate as of the spring. I agree: with just a little luck — a mistake by a Democratic candidate, a low black turnout somewhere, an unexpected scandal — the Republicans will take the Senate.

We should always remember that forecasting elections is more of an art than science. Academic political science models in 1994 predicted only modest Democratic losses. Instead, the Democrats lost both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years.

As of this writing, 2014 appears to fit somewhere in between scenarios #2 and #3: solid Republican gains in both chambers, with control of the U.S. Senate too close to call. Scenario #2 would seem to be the GOP’s floor this year.  More change is possible between now and November 4, but that’s how I see it now.

Republicans in 2014: To Wave or Not To Wave, That is the Question

By Scott Elliott

Scott Elliott is a poll compilator and blogger. His website, ElectionProjection.com, has provided accurate, objective election predictions and political commentary since 2003.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: in the Senate, the GOP will pick up seats in Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia. That’s half the number they need to regain the majority. In the House, GOP victories in North Carolina CD-7 and Utah CD-4 are foregone conclusions. But they will be countered more than likely by Democratic takeovers in California CD-31 and New York CD-11. So, out of the gate, the baseline 2014 election outcome is a gain of three for Republicans in the Senate and no change to a one-seat gain for the GOP in the House. If the political winds are calm come November 4, that’s the outcome we’re headed for.

But political winds are rarely calm on election day — and sixth-year midterms for a sitting president almost always feature strong winds blowing against the party in the White House. History suggests Republicans should enjoy solid gains this year. From where I sit, however, the GOP’s chances for a wave election akin to 2010 are slim to nil. They should do well, perhaps even win the Senate, but two major aspects of the 2014 political landscape lead me to temper projections of a tsunami.

The first is structural. In the House, Republicans already hold 234 seats. That’s slightly down from their recent high watermark after the 2010 election, but it is a strong majority nonetheless. With such an advantage, Republicans will struggle to find pickup opportunities. We see this difficulty illustrated when looking at the set of competitive House races published by political pundits Larry Sabato, Charlie Cook, and Stuart Rothenberg. The trio have identified 81 competitive races. Republicans currently hold 39 of those seats compared to 42 held by Democrats. That’s an advantage, but it’s hardly indicative of a coming landslide. And it is strikingly unlike the same list in 2010. That year, Election Projection tracked 112 competitive races. A whopping 103 of them were held by Democrats.

In the Senate, Republican gains could number a half-dozen or more, but, again, the underlying structure is more responsible than a pro-GOP wave. The three Senate races I’ve already mentioned are open-seat contests that take place in states won handily by John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012. The next tier of possible takeover targets for Republicans — Mark Begich in Alaska, Mark Pryor in Arkansas and Mary Landrieu in Louisiana — also hail from red states. In addition, North Carolina’s Kay Hagan represents a state won by Romney in 2012 that becomes much more Republican in midterm elections. These structural advantages extend as well to the limited number of competitive seats Republicans must defend. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s re-election bid in Kentucky and the open-seat race to replace outgoing Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss are both being contested in very red states.

A second argument against a wave election in 2014 is the current trends in polling data. In 2010, the Congressional Generic metric favored Republicans by almost 10 points. By contrast, the two parties were essentially tied in 2012. So far this year, Democrats hold a 0.7-point lead. Again, that’s not a number which portends a coming Republican wave.  And that kind of data is evident in various Senate races across the country as well. Pryor wasn’t supposed to be faring so well at this point in Arkansas and neither — a GOP wave-election model would argue — was Democratic nominee Michelle Nunn in Georgia.

So let’s bring all this to some hard predictions. In the House, takeovers will be far and few between. Democrats will win four to six seats and so will Republicans. Election 2014 may well be the year of no net change in the lower chamber of Congress. In the Senate, you have the three sure-bet GOP Senate takeovers. Aside from those, Republicans have a chance to pick up Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, and North Carolina (no, not Oregon or Virginia). They also could lose races in Georgia and Kentucky. I say they’ll keep both of their own vulnerable seats while earning three takeovers in addition to Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia for a net gain of six. That’s exactly enough to win the majority by one, but given the number of vulnerable Democratic seats out there, it’s by no means a tsunami.

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GOP Senate Takeover a Tall Order, but Doable

By Bill Straub

Washington freelancer Bill Straub is former White House correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service.

If Republicans fail to capitalize on the 2014 off-year election, they will have only themselves to blame.

Gallup shows that 52 percent of those questioned disapprove of President Obama’s performance, a number that should dampen Democratic turnout and energize Republicans. Of the 36 Senate seats up for grabs, Democrats are defending 21, including states like South Dakota and West Virginia where Democrats face declining political support.

Add the facts that the party that doesn’t hold the White House almost always makes gains during non-presidential election years and Republicans generally head to the polls in greater numbers than Democrats in off-year races, and it appears the GOP is sitting pretty.

But a tsunami like 2010, when Republicans picked up 63 House seats and six in the Senate and six governorships that gave the GOP a grand total of 29? Don’t bet on it.

For one thing, it seems Republicans have pretty much maxed out in the House, while Democrats have hit bottom. Thanks to legislative redistricting, there are very few remaining true toss-up congressional districts. Most around the country now are either strongly Democratic or overwhelmingly Republican, providing the two parties with few pick-up opportunities — certainly fewer than the 63 the GOP nailed four years ago.

Right now, it appears Republicans have a better-than-even chance of picking up two seats: the ones held by Rep. Nick Joe Rahall (D-WV) in a state where Obama and Democrats are now about as popular as smallpox, and by Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT), which has always been something of an aberration and his retirement almost assuredly is a Republican gain.

But Democrats have opportunities as well. Rep. Mike Grimm (R-NY) is facing federal tax fraud charges in an already competitive Staten Island district. Meanwhile, Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA) is not seeking re-election in a district centered around San Bernardino that gave Obama more than 57 percent of the vote two years ago.

After that, there are only a handful of toss-ups. Republicans might — might — pick up a couple, but they also could lose one or two: an open seat in South Jersey where Rep. John Runyan (R-NJ) has retired could be iffy. But it’s likely Republicans will hold serve and pick up one or two frosting-on-the-cake seats.

It’s the Senate where Republicans stand a chance of making gains. Don’t believe that Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is in any legitimate trouble. Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes should give McConnell his best race since he beat incumbent Sen. Walter “Dee’’ Huddleston (D-KY) in 1984, but he’s a good bet to slide in under the wire given the feelings about Obama in the bluegrass. And some say that while Grimes could make an attractive candidate at some point, she’s not ready.

Democrats have one legitimate pick-up shot: in Georgia, where Michelle Nunn, the daughter of the widely respected former Sen. Sam Nunn, is vying for an open seat against either Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) or businessman David Perdue, who are involved in a run-off. Rasmussen Reports shows her leading, and she has some GOP support — former senators John Warner of Virginia and Richard Lugar of Indiana have both endorsed her.

But the Republicans have far more pick-up opportunities and should gain control of the Senate, where Democrats currently have a 10-vote majority. Emphasis on the word “should’’ since the GOP was expected to grab the advantage two years ago and then proceeded to lose states like North Dakota.

Democrats are expected to lose open seats in North Dakota, probably Montana — where Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT) is a solid favorite over Sen. John Walsh (D-MT), who was appointed to take the place of former Sen. Max Baucus, who resigned to become ambassador to China — and West Virginia, where Rep. Shelly Moore Capito is favored to replace the retiring Jay Rockefeller, a Democrat.

Meanwhile, Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) are in jeopardy. All represent states Obama lost in 2012. If Nunn wins, the GOP would have to win all four of these to gain the majority — a tall order but certainly doable.

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Too Many “Unknowns” to Hazard a Guess

by Myra Adams

Myra Adams is a media producer, writer, and political observer who served on the McCain Ad Council during the 2008 McCain campaign and on the 2004 Bush campaign creative team. Her columns have appeared in PJ Media, National Review, The Daily Beast, The Daily Caller, RedState, BizPacReview, and Liberty Unyielding. Myra’s web site TheJesusStore.com contributes all profits to Christian charity. Follow Myra on Twitter @MyraKAdams.

In an attempt to answer this presumptive question, I called a leading Republican strategist (name withheld by request) whose clients include prominent senators, governors, and congresspeople. Our strategist is currently deployed on a campaign “battleship,” where he is engaged in churning the waters in hopes that on election day a “big GOP wave” will crash down on Democrats. When asked about the size of the wave, he replied, “You feel something is coming but you don’t know if it is a small ripple, a wave, or a tsunami. I hope it does crash. All sizes are possible — but it is a long way from shore.”

He also revealed that it is not all smooth sailing, as several of his races are tightening up: “A few more things need to break our way.” He is recommending a new messaging strategy to his clients that he believes could be effective in linking the Veterans Administration scandal to Obamacare: “The VA is government heath care run by bureaucrats who are messing it up, hiding waiting lists — so linking the two could be a potent message for Republicans. If you like the way the VA is run, than that is your future with Obamacare.”

He cautioned that he has seen only one election pivot on one issue, and that was in 2010 with Obamacare. This November, he knows Obamacare will not be the only issue motivating voters, because the economy is still of utmost importance and not all of the news is bad. In fact, there has been noteworthy economic improvement in some of the states where he is running gubernatorial races that should work to his candidates’ advantage.

Across the country, he is sensing strong feelings of: “Let’s make a change.” This attitude is based on Obama’s growing unpopularity and is further reflected in a new Fox News poll showing how voters think Obama has made America weaker. But how are those “change” feelings translating into actual numbers?

For the most current data, let’s turn to the reliable Real Clear Politics (RCP) poll averages. The current House scoreboard shows 188 seats currently held by Democrats as safe or leaning their way, 230 safe or leaning Republican seats, and 17 toss-ups. The Senate is a different story. Both sides show 46 seats as safe or leaning their way, with eight toss-ups.

At this point in June, no one can predict the outcome of this brutal battle that will ultimately cost mega-millions — for there are too many “unknowns” at play. Here is a list of unknowns that will become “known” either close to or on election day.

Turnout: Republicans believe Democrats will do anything to motivate their base, especially since this recent Gallup poll shows all voter enthusiasm is down from 2010 but even more so for Democrats.

Will the “War on Women” be ignited again? If the Democrats successfully reignite the faux “War on Women” they accuse Republicans of waging, will it motivate Democrat-leaning women to the polls?

Will the minimum wage and income inequality debates hurt Republicans? To what degree will these two Democrat talking point issues resonate with Democrat base voters and motivate them to turn out?

Will there be immigration reform? The lack of action on this issue could motivate Hispanic voters to turn out in record numbers to support Democrats or to vote against Republicans. Ongoing national Hispanic voter registration drives could also boost turnout, considering that in the 2012 election President Obama won 71 percent of the Hispanic vote.

Will the Clintons’ campaigning make a difference for Democrats? Both Hillary and Bill will have very high profiles out on the trail. Could they help boost turnout, especially in key southern Senate races?

Will Obama use scare tactics to motivate his base to vote? Yes, count on that. Truth is inconvenient and when lies are repeated often enough they become “true.”

What if there is a natural disaster of epic proportions, or a major terrorist attack?  A cataclysmic event of any kind is the ultimate “unknown.”

How about a major foreign policy crisis? The world is a tinderbox. Expect Obama to be tested as the election nears.

Will Republicans successfully leverage all the Obama administration scandals? How well GOP candidates motivate their base and independent voters to turn out by using the IRS, VA, NSA, Obamacare, Benghazi and Bergdahl scandals as reasons for change will be a major factor in “wave” size.

All we know for sure is that anything can and will happen between now and E-Day. Per that leading Republican strategist: “A large wave is not a foregone conclusion.”

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A Ripple, not a Wave

by Rick Moran

Rick Moran is PJ Media’s Chicago editor and Blog editor at The American Thinker. He is also host of the”RINO Hour of Power” on Blog Talk Radio. His own blog is Right Wing Nut House.

If you had asked me that question two months ago, I might have had some confidence in predicting a real blood-on-the-floor, head-rolling massacre of the Democrats.

But as a lesson in humility, the intervening weeks have revealed a loss of momentum for the GOP and a slight uptick in support for the Democrats. The generic ballot is virtually tied, and several Senate races that looked very good a couple of weeks ago appear to be moving back to the Democrats — especially in Arkansas and Alaska where good Republican candidates are struggling.

It was never going to be easy. The top three vulnerable Democrats — Pryor in Arkansas, Begich in Alaska, and Landrieu in Louisiana — are all going to have more money than God and it will take a supreme effort at fundraising and organizing to match them. One of them will probably squeak through, thus making a GOP Senate takeover an uphill  climb.

But even if the Republicans lose a race they once thought they’d win, other opportunities are opening up in Michigan and Iowa thanks to GOP voters nominating very good candidates. Joni Ernst in Iowa has shown an appealing feistiness, comparing cutting spending in Washington to castrating hogs. She also has a united Republican Party as both Tea Party and establishment wings support her. But her secret weapon is the strong support of Governor Terry Branstad, the most popular politician in the state. Branstad is expected to coast to an easy victory in November, and Ernst will benefit from his statewide organization.

Michigan has another strong GOP woman candidate in former Secretary of State Teri Lynn Land. She’s hanging tough against Rep. Gary Peters, and polls show much dissatisfaction with Democrats in the state. She would have to get a few breaks, but the race should come down to the wire. Republicans are also expected to pick up open Democratic seats in Montana, West Virginia, and South Dakota.

Pickups for Republicans elsewhere will be few and far between — unless one of the following happens:

  1. Obamacare rears its ugly head again in the fall, with either massive price increases for premiums or some other problem.
  2. Republicans in Congress resist the effort to commit suicide, and shelve immigration reform until after the election — or better yet, next term.
  3. Obama does something else really stupid — a definite possibility.
  4. One or more Democratic candidates commit game-changing gaffes.

Never say never, but that’s a tall order. And don’t be surprised if the GOP ignores the pleas from their base and passes immigration reform with about 10% of the caucus voting for it. It sounds like madness, but the Chamber of Commerce has the leadership ready to jump off a cliff.

If that happens, all bets are off. The schism between the Tea Party and establishment will split wide open, and the Republicans will be lucky to hold on to the House. I can’t think of anything more detrimental — or more avoidable — than passing an immigration reform measure against the wishes of a majority of the party.

Let’s hope that sanity prevails. If it does, the Republicans should gain about five seats in the House and four to five in the Senate. They may win six, but they will lose either Kentucky or Georgia, thus denying them their majority.

But all hope is not lost. There is an outside chance that West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin might become so disgusted with the administration’s war on coal that he could jump to the Republican side of the aisle. If there’s a 50-50 tie, Mr. Manchin would be sitting pretty, indeed. A  bidding war would erupt and Manchin would have his pick of committees (not to mention office space, which is at a real premium on the Hill).

A Republican ripple would still set them up nicely for 2016.

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With all eyes on the mid-terms, PJ Media is launching The Grid. The Grid will be your one-stop shop to find out all the latest on these crucial elections, along with other news in and beyond politics.