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Rothenberg: Obama Looms Large Over Democrats' 2014 Fight to Retain the Senate

You can almost see the writing on the wall in the newly open Iowa Senate race, where GOP primary voters easily could select a doctrinaire conservative over a mainstream conservative, lessening their party’s chances of picking up an already difficult opportunity.

Anyway, the cycle starts off with eight vulnerable Democratic Senate seats and not a single vulnerable GOP one. Republicans need to net six Senate seats to have a majority in the next Congress. Though not impossible, that is a very difficult task, especially given the current standing of the two parties.

At the Rothenberg Political Report, we start off by giving Republicans a slight edge in West Virginia’s open seat. South Dakota looks like a problem for Democrats with or without Sen. Tim Johnson’s retirement, while the politically conservative, anti-Obama natures of Louisiana and Arkansas put them at great risk for incumbent Sens. Mary L. Landrieu and Mark Pryor.

The cycle could deteriorate dramatically for Democrats if most or all of the next group of potentially competitive contests — Alaska, Iowa’s open seat, Montana, North Carolina and even New Hampshire — become really serious Republican opportunities. Of those five, Obama carried only two, Iowa and New Hampshire.

Obviously, this year’s special election in Massachusetts and additional retirements on both sides of the aisle could have a big effect on the final results next November.

No two cycles are exactly alike. The GOP’s failure to net three or four seats last time, as many initially expected, doesn’t mean the same will happen in 2014.

Personally I don’t believe in jinxes, whether in second-term midterms or because the Boston Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees. But voter fatigue with a president after six years is a very real danger for Obama, and that, more than anything else, may make 2014 more challenging than last cycle for Guy Cecil.

Stuart Rothenberg (@stupolitics) is editor of the Rothenberg Political Report (rothenbergpoliticalreport.com).

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