Share This Page

Senate contests expected to be tossups

| Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013, 8:21 p.m.

Now that the general election is over, the fight for the Senate takes center stage.

Much of the battle next year for control of the Senate will be in open races — West Virginia, Montana and South Dakota are states where Republicans could make gains.

Experts, however, say Democratic and Republican incumbents will be a large part of the story line.

“Six is the magic number, and the majority will be won or lost based on a handful of incumbents,” said Nathan Gonzales, an analyst with the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report.

If Republicans can net six seats, they will gain control of the upper chamber — which they haven't accomplished since 2006. They would have the ability to override any tiebreaking vote by Vice President Joe Biden.

In Kentucky, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is fighting battles from the right and the left. The five-term senator faces a primary challenge from businessman Matt Bevin, who has the backing of the Tea Party. If he overcomes that hurdle, McConnell will face an Election Day challenge from Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes; the 34-year-old Democrat won the statewide office in 2011 with 60 percent of the vote.

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates Kentucky a tossup in the Nov. 4 general election. Analyst Jennifer Duffy said McConnell is sitting in the “Republicans' most endangered seat.”

“There will be a lot of national attention on this race,” she said. “Before McConnell even gets to the general election, he's got a Tea Party primary to deal with.”

Lundergan Grimes, the daughter of Kentucky's former state Democratic Party chairman, has a tough fight ahead of her — Kentucky leans conservative. In 2010, the election of Tea Party firebrand Rand Paul cemented the Tea Party sea change. In 2012, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney won the state with 60 percent of the vote.

“(McConnell's) saving grace may be that he gets to run for re-election in Kentucky, a place where President Obama has never been popular,” Gonzales said.

Also facing primary challengers is second-term Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. His seat, however, likely will remain in Republican control.

A number of Democratic incumbents are also vulnerable in 2014. Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana are top GOP targets. North Carolina's Kay Hagan has a fight ahead of her. All four represent states carried by Romney.

Despite Arkansas' history as a Democratic stalwart, Pryor is the lone Democrat in the state's congressional delegation. He faces a challenge from freshman U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, 36, an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran.

“This is the one place Republicans actually agree with each other (on a candidate): There is no Establishment-Tea Party fight,” Duffy said.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.