It’s a little over a year from the 2014 midterm elections, but candidates are already gearing up for the run. Democrats need to pick up 17 seats in the House to win a majority, which is not likely. They also will have to defend 20 Senate seats compared to only 13 for Republicans. What this adds up to is the Democrats will be fighting to edge closer in the House, with hopes for 2016 to win it back, and will be at a disadvantage in the Senate races. Keep in mind the Voting Rights Act has been virtually stripped down and voter turnout is consistently low in midterm elections and it does not look good for Democrats. However, there are some positives that swing in their favor.
The first advantage Democrats may have is that never before in the history of this country has Congress had a lower approval rating. According to a recent Gallup poll, only 12 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing. In the same poll, 57 percent said that they would support replacing every single member of Congress if given the option in 2014. When you look at the approval ratings between the parties, the Democrats have a higher favorability rating for their work in Congress compared to their Republicans. Again keeping in mind that low voter turnout has nearly always favored Republicans (hence why they want voter suppression) this could be the exception to that fact. Americans are fed up with Congress and look at the Republicans as being the primary reasons for gridlock and incompetency. It’s easy to see why when you look and see that they voted 39 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act simply so they can say they did (knowing it will never be overturned in the Senate). Also if you look at the waning support for the TEA Party, this could be the time that many Americans stand up to the Congressional Republicans and stop allowing them to stall progress. So with that in mind, here are the five Congressional races that I think will be the most intriguing to watch.
1) Alison Lundergan-Grimes challenging Mitch McConnell for his Senate seat representing Kentucky. No matter what Democrat you ask, every single one will agree that Mitch McConnell is the largest target to take down in 2014. The Senate Minority Leader (who could be Majority Leader if the Democrats lose the Senate majority) has been pivotal in stalling any piece of legislation that comes his way. He made his mind up in 2010 when he said Congressional Republicans’ “top priority” was to make President Obama a “one term president.” Since then the obstructionism has been on full force. Aliso Lundergan-Grimes is the Kentucky Secretary of State and is rising quickly up the Democratic rankings. She is most certainly one of the most exciting politicians today and has what it takes to get a base of support fired up. She also had President Clinton do a PSA during her campaign kickoff. If you have not yet seen her commercial yet launching her campaign you are missing out (watch it here). Recently during the Fancy Farm picnic the two spoke, with Lundergan-Grimes delivering a quote that fired up the crowd. (If doctors told Senator McConnell he had a kidney stone, he’d refuse to pass it.” It’s certainly a race that will be full of excitement and garner a large following.
2) Montana Senate seat of retiring Max Baucus. One of the seats Republicans are targeting big time is the soon-to-be vacant seat of Senator Max Baucus. Democrats seemed to be the favorites to replace him with former governor Brian Schweitzer until he announced he would not pursue the seat. Now Democrats are scrambling, looking for a candidate that can generate the popularity that Schweitzer could have. The Republicans are leaning towards former United States Representative Danny Rehberg, who nearly beat Baucus in 1996. However, there is no confirmed candidate for either side and this is truly a toss-up seat, which is why it is so intriguing. Democrats definitely need to find a way to win this seat and avoid losing it when they have to defend much more challenging seats in other states. I know many of you are thinking “it’s Montana, it doesn’t matter,” but I beg to differ. This could be the seat that helps Democrats retain the Senate.
3) North Carolina Senate seat of Senator Kay Hagan being challenged by Thom Tillis. North Carolina is a toss-up state that Democrats have consistently tried to control. Kay Hagan will face a very tough challenge from the current state Speaker of the House, Thom Tillis. Keep in mind that Mitt Romney won North Carolina in 2012 so Republicans will really be fighting to win this seat. Hagan does have a slight advantage because Tillis will have a pretty competitive primary with several candidates declaring they are running for the Republican nominee as well. This serves well for Hagan who gets to save all her money and resources for the general election.
4) Florida’s 2nd District seat of Steve Southerland versus Gwen Graham. Florida’s 2nd district holds the state capital of Tallahassee, which is far more liberal than the other counties included in the district and the district as a whole has a much larger base of registered Democrats as opposed to Republicans. However this has not been much help to Democrats. The last presidential candidate to carry the district was President Clinton in 1996. However, Graham is a popular choice who is the daughter of the former governor and Senator Bob Graham. The race will be exciting to watch and I will say currently it slightly favors Republicans, but that can change quickly.
5) North Carolina’s 7th District seat of Mike McIntyre versus David Rouzer. This will be a rematch of the race from 2012 where Rouzer nearly won, losing by only 560 votes. The Republicans see this as an opportunity to knock off McIntyre but it will be tough. The seat has been a virtual lock for Democrats so a Republican victory would be a huge upset, something that they are certainly looking for. The Republican Congressional Committee has already targeted McIntyre and begun running television ads against him. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has vowed that McIntyre is one Representative that they will ensure support for, meaning this will be another race to the finish. It could come down to less than a thousand votes again so it is certainly a race to watch.