Amy Walter, Cook Political Report, and Alex Jones, Shorenstein Center

Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report: Republicans likely to take U.S. Senate in 2014

September 30, 2014 Amy Walter, National Editor of the Cook Political Report, said that the outcomes of the 2014 midterm elections have the potential not only to shift control of the Senate, but also to give a strong indication of where the country is headed into the 2016 presidential election.

Democrats knew they were facing a “daunting” electoral map, Walter told a Shorenstein Center audience. Seven of the party’s incumbents now holding Senate seats were elected during the Obama wave election in 2008, in states that then voted for Romney in 2012. Six of those states saw double-digit margins for Romney.

A big November election night for the Republicans could mean winning eight Senate seats, giving them the majority, Walter said, while success for the Democrats will likely be defined by just narrowly holding on to their majority. The most likely scenario, she predicted, is that the Republicans would hold 52 Senate seats after the 2014 mid-term election.

Republican candidates at all levels are trying to “nationalize” races, running against President Obama and his signature policies such as the Affordable Care Act. By contrast, Democrats are trying to “localize” races, avoiding a referendum on the president. “We are seeing the disintegration of the ‘all-politics-is-local’ meme,” Walter said. “All politics is now national.”

Still, Walter noted that despite perceived momentum on the Republican side in this election cycle, “Democrats are actually outspending Republicans right now in a lot of these races.” And if Republicans don’t pick up seats in competitive states, it could spell trouble for the GOP’s future.

Any Republican victory in the Senate could be relatively short-lived, as many of the candidates elected in the 2010 Tea Party wave will be up for reelection in 2016. That means that, although Democrats could lose control in 2014, for Republicans it’s “just as likely that they lose the majority two years later,” Walter said.

Article by John Wihbey and photo by Nancy Palmer of the Shorenstein Center.