With Republicans leading in polls and a slate of highly favored candidates running for office, a GOP takeover of the Senate is looking good for this fall, but there are still some Democratic incumbents who are causing concern among strategists.
"The environment is really good right now, and the quality of candidates is superior," Scott Reed, a veteran GOP strategist and senior political aide at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told USA Today
. "These are the best candidates I've seen in 32 years. With a good environment and good candidates, it's a good combination. We like where we are."
Republican nominees for seats held by Democrats in South Dakota, West Virginia, and Montana are polling high and are favored to win in November, which would give Republicans half of the six seats they need to take over the Senate.
The Rothenberg Political Report,
a nonpartisan political newsletter, is forecasting Republicans will gain four to eight Senate seats in November, but deputy editor Nathan Gonzales warned that many of the GOP candidates who seem strong are still untested as November nears.
Also, Gonzales said, Democrats "have incumbents who are running good campaigns, they have strong profiles in their state, they are good fundraisers, and they have good teams. Their incumbents are structurally in good shape."
Democrats are being challenged to hold incumbent seats in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Michigan, and North Carolina, while Republicans are only defending Senate seats in highly competitive races in Kentucky and Georgia.
Republicans also have strong candidates in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Oregon. Democrats hold leads in those states, but could face backlash from President Barack Obama's declining poll rates,
opposition to Obamacare, and other issues that have caused Democrats' polling numbers to dip.
Democrats have also not yet opened their war chests, said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee National Press Secretary Justin Barasky. Further, he pointed out that the party is heavily campaigning for the Kentucky and Georgia seats, and if a Democrat takes either state, that could put a GOP Senate takeover in jeopardy.
We feel really good," said Barasky. "We know there are going to be a lot of close races, but we feel like we're winning them, and I don't see six states for Republicans because we have expanded the map in a real way."
The June 24 runoff election
in Mississippi between Republican incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran and his tea party-backed challenger, Republican state Sen. Chris McDaniel, could also prove vital to the Republican effort to take over the Senate this fall.
Neither Cochran nor McDaniel secured 50 percent of the vote in Tuesday's primary election, prompting the second vote in what's become one of the most contentious primaries in the country. But Democrats believe if McDaniel wins in the runoff, the state's voters will chose a Democrat rather than vote for a candidate pushed by tea party supporters.
John Bruce, chairman of the political science department at the University of Mississippi, told USA Today that he believes that won't happen.
"The Republican instinct, particularly among white voters in the state, is so strong that it would take an extraordinary effort by the Democratic candidate to prevail," he said.
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