North Carolina is the bellwether state for Republicans in the midterm elections and must be won for the GOP to take back the Senate, according Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard.
"If Republicans are going to win the Senate — and they certainly have a very good shot of doing that — they're going to have to win North Carolina," Barnes told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.
"There are three states that are open Democratic seats, West Virginia, South Dakota and Montana, which are not givens. There are no guarantees in politics but it looks like Republicans are going to win there. Their candidates are double digits ahead.
"Then there's Louisiana and Arkansas, which there's a little better chance than North Carolina to win those states and that gets you to five. And then there's North Carolina … a purple state."
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The incumbent, Kay Hagan, has run into trouble because of her support for the Affordable Care Act, Barnes noted, which gives the GOP an edge.
"Republicans really do need to win it; that would give them six seats if they won those other five. North Carolina would be number six and they'd have a majority in the Senate," he said.
"I would say there is somewhere around a 50-50 chance [in North Carolina] — maybe a little above it. The approval rating of Sen. Hagen is very low; it's in the low 40s; [it] can be kind of hard to get re-elected with your approval rating well under 50 percent.''
But Republicans could be hindered by the time consumed by a primary and drawn-out runoff.
"[That] would drag out the Republican campaign all the way to July 15, which would be rough on whoever the nominee is — probably the House Speaker Thom Tillis. He's ahead. So it's not in the bag," Barnes said.
"The winner needs … to avoid a runoff if at all possible. I mean that could be very bruising and reduce his chances of beating Kay Hagan.... Avoiding a runoff is very crucial to Republican chances."
Barnes said that with Obama’s approval rating low in North Carolina, Hagan is avoiding mentioning of him on the campaign trail.
"She's not running as a Democrat, she's not running as an Obama supporter. She calls herself an independent," he said.
"Obviously she's on the Democratic ticket, but that doesn't appear in her ads and her speeches. She's an independent who just wants to come to Washington to be bipartisan."
As far as the 2016 presidential race goes, Barnes believes former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is now "trying out" what his campaign themes would be if he decided to run.
"I'm not sure that he is, [and] I guess, my expectation is that he won't," Barnes said.
"I happen to think he was a great governor, he was a reformer on education and on Medicaid and a number of other things."
But Barnes acknowledged that Bush has been hurt by his controversial comment about illegal immigrants — that their breaking of the law is an "act of love."
"There is certainly strong opposition to his views on immigration.... He's just trying out his views and what he would run on as sort of a trial balloon to see … what happens," he said.
"I would say so far the reception has not been very good. His supporters are fairly quiet and his critics have been very noisy."
Barnes said former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's expected run for the Democratic nomination in 2016 is not necessarily in the bag.
"She'll get a challenge from somebody on the left and maybe some others as well. You don't get … the presidential nomination for a party just for your asking. You have to campaign for it and hard, and she lost to Obama [in 2008]," Barnes said
"There's going to be great pressure from the left to have their own candidate.... The part of the Democratic Party that has really rejuvenated is the left wing of the party with the mayor of New York Bill de Blasio and [Sen.] Elizabeth Warren [of Massachusetts]."
"They're very noisy, they're very ambitious and the one person they would like to see run is Elizabeth Warren so there will be an effort to draft her or to push her or persuade her and what would she have to lose?"
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