With the majority of potentially damaging primary races now in the rearview mirror, the Republicans’ Senate campaign arm had this message for donors this week: “What a difference a year makes.”
Republicans feel stronger than ever about their chances of taking control of the upper chamber, two years after divisive primaries and disastrously run campaigns helped Democrats bolster their majority. With competitive 2014 races in Iowa, Montana, South Dakota, North Carolina, West Virginia, Arkansas, Colorado and elsewhere now in general election mode — and with establishment-preferred candidates as standard-bearers — party operatives are breathing an audible sigh of relief that they not only didn’t screw up but that they also put Democrats on their toes.
“Last summer, our friends at the DSCC wrote that divisive primaries and a failure to ‘expand the map’ would leave only a half dozen competitive states to determine the Senate majority,” National Republican Senatorial Committee Executive Director Rob Collins told donors in an email, first shared with RCP. “Today, Republicans are in a strong position … and we are proud of the candidates who are running.”
Collins said the committee has one goal: “to win the majority.” While the map favors Republicans, wresting control of the Senate from Democrats appeared to be a taller order at the start of the campaign season. While the most vulnerable Democrats up for re-election this cycle represent conservative states President Obama lost in 2012, those incumbents are tested, well-financed and pros at distancing themselves from their party and its leaders. Senators like Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Mark Begich of Alaska also have the valuable advantage of family ties to public service in their states. These and other Democratic candidates are running localized races aimed at inoculating them from an unfavorable national climate, while also backing Senate legislation aimed at turning out key members of the party’s coalition who might otherwise to stay home.