Senate Democrats, like the Great Houdini, have repeatedly escaped seeming disaster. During the past two elections, they denied Republicans control of the chamber just when it looked as if the GOP had things sewed up.
Democrats once again are facing the threat of political demise in the 2014 mid-term election – but this time they may not be able to defy the odds.
Robert Gibbs, the former Obama White House Press Secretary, said on Sunday that the Senate is “definitely” in danger of changing hands in the November election.
Gibbs, appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” said there was no doubt that the administration’s highly troubled roll out of the Affordable Care Act “is still providing a huge hangover” for Democrats scrambling to hang on to their seats. Even more disconcerting for Democrats, Gibbs said, is the possibility that the GOP will engineer another “wave election” that could result in widespread Democratic losses in the House and Senate.
With President Obama’s approval rating in the historically low 40-percent range and widespread voter dissatisfaction or even outrage over the president’s signature health care program, Republicans are in solid shape to pick up the six seats they need to claim a narrow majority in the Senate. If they succeed this time, Obama will have a wretched time fending off a Republican controlled House and Senate during the final two years of his administration.
If that were the case, Republicans would be energized heading into the 2016 presidential campaign to make a sweep of things by winning back the White House, according to some political experts.
“If we lose the Senate, turn out the lights,” Gibbs said. “The party’s over.”
For now, at least, the Democrats have little to cheer about.
Republican David Jolly, a former Washington lobbyist, won a closely watched House special election in Florida last Tuesday after relentlessly hammering away at Obamacare – a win that’s a bad omen for other Democratic candidates across the country. Add to that an NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll showing Obama’s approval rating at an all-time low of 41 percent, suggesting Democrats may be facing strong political headwinds less than eight months before the November midterm elections.
Then on Friday, Scott Brown, a former Republican senator from Massachusetts who was unseated by Democrat Elizabeth Warren, announced an exploratory committee to challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire.
Until that announcement, Shaheen, a former governor, appeared to be a shoe-in for another term in the Senate – and she still may be. But Brown is a formidable campaigner and fundraiser. Moreover, American Crossroads, the Republican-aligned super-PAC, said it would spend $600,000 to help Brown’s effort.
As The Washington Post noted over the weekend, the GOP has a rather promising route to victory in the Senate this fall. The GOP’s best chance for pickups are in two open seat races and one where a recently appointed senator is running – West Virginia, South Dakota and Montana.
From there, the Republicans next best chances are in Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina and Alaska, where Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney won in 2012. But Democrats could spoil the GOP’s plans to regain a majority for the first time in eight years by scoring upsets in Georgia and Kentucky – where Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to face a tough challenge this fall from Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes – provided he fends off a Tea Party challenge in the primary.
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