Is the Senate Battle 2014 looking like Senate Battle 2006? Chris Cillizza sees some ominous parallels:
“During that cycle, our guys in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Rhode Island, Missouri, Montana and Ohio could never move their numbers, and in the last couple of weeks the races blew open,” said Billy Piper, who was chief of staff to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) at the time. “The macro environment was too much to overcome in states that were not reliably red.”
At the start of the 2006 election, Republicans controlled 55 seats, buoyed by two consecutive elections — 2002 and 2004 — that had moved seats their way. But their vulnerabilities were significant. Despite defending only 15 seats (to the Democrats’ 17), the GOP had incumbents in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island — two states that President George W. Bush had lost convincingly two years earlier — as well as sitting senators in places such as Missouri and Montana who, through a combination of the competitiveness of their states and their own foibles, were in deep trouble. As the cycle wore on, Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) turned his race ultra-competitive by referring to a Democratic tracker as a “macaca.”
I can’t think of any Democrats this cycle going Full George Allen and throwing away perfectly good races, but the underlying dynamics are much the same, including an increasingly unpopular President and a confused and dispiriting war effort in Iraq.
The economy remains the big unknown, with the official numbers just not reflecting the reality on the ground for millions of Americans. What I don’t see during this cycle however is the Republicans actively courting new voters, choosing instead to focus on motivating their base. That’s a mistake, and it reflects a lack of boldness and imagination.