Democratic senators seeking re-election in 2014 are facing strong headwinds in the form of President Barack Obama's unpopularity in blue states, writes Republican strategist Karl Rove in The Wall Street Journal.
Obama's sliding approval ratings in the eight states he carried in 2012 could hurt Democrats in November, according to Rove, who helped organize the American Crossroads political action committee.
The combination of Obama being held in lower esteem in states where he was once popular, combined with the GOP fielding appealing candidates, such as Congressman Cory Gardner in Colorado, could translate into trouble for Democratic incumbents like Colorado's Sen. Mark Udall. Obama carried the state in 2008 and 2012.
Similarly, New Hampshire's Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is seeking re-election against the background of a 45 percent Obama approval rating.
From New Mexico's Tom Udall and Oregon's Jeff Merkley to Virginia's Mark Warner, Democratic senate incumbents will have to overcome the drag of Obama's approval ratings, which in each of their states is below the president's 2013 national averages.
This is good news for Warner's likely challenger, former Republican chairman Ed Gillespie. It also enhances the chances of Marine veteran Allen Weh in New Mexico, and pediatric neurosurgeon Monica Wehby in Oregon, to overcome their state's Democratic incumbents.
Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, who does not yet know who his Republican opponent will be, could also be in trouble if Obama's approval rating in his state continues to hover below 50 percent.
The precariousness of the Democratic position will offset possible Republican loses. Rove expressed particular concern over the fate of Kentucky GOP incumbent Sen. Mitch McConnell who "will face an all-out assault from every union and liberal pressure group that fears his effective leadership."
All in all, though, enough blue-state Senate seats could be picked up by Republicans, in combination with anticipated red state victories, for a net gain of six seats needed to capture a Senate majority.
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