A Republican majority in the Senate is becoming more than a possibility. On Monday, prominent FiveThirtyEight statistician Nate Silver wrote that the political atmosphere has become increasingly favorable for Republicans, and predicted that Republicans, who currently hold 46 Senate seats, will hold 50 or 51 after the 2014 election.
In 2012, Republicans were largely focused on defending their seats. However, in 2014, they will be defending fewer seats in the Senate, leaving them free to acquire new ones. In three red states, Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia, incumbent Democrats are retiring, leaving their positions incredibly vulnerable. Democrats have yet to find strong and willing candidates in any of the three states, and according to Silver’s predictions, Republicans have over a 75% chance of acquiring each of these seats. Democrat Senators have also retired in Iowa and Michigan, "purple states" in which Republican candidates are likely to be competitive.
Meanwhile, weak Democrats are up for election in red states, including Louisiana, North Carolina, and Arkansas, where the GOP has a 40-50% chance of winning Senate seats. Silver goes so far as to say that, due to Democratic Senator Kay Hagan’s below-par approval rating in North Carolina, “a merely decent Republican nominee could make the race very competitive.”
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s (DSCC) favorites have declined to run in 2014, including former South Dakota Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, Ashley Judd, Georgia Rep. John Barrow, and Heather French Henry. The most recent rejection, by former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, has, per the Hill, “left frustrated Democrats scrambling for a replacement.” Writing about the potential for a Republican majority in the Senate, Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics called Schweitzer's decision "the biggest development in the race for the Senate so far this cycle."
While the DSCC contends with hesitant favorites and a divided base, strong Republicans have announced their candidacies, including West Virginia Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, former South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds, Louisiana Rep. Bill Cassidy, and Colorado State Senator Owen Hill.
If President Barack Obama’s approval ratings continue to decline, it will make for an even more advantageous political climate for Republicans. The IRS scandal has already proved damaging, and the implementation of Obamacare (its key architect, Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has already called it a "train wreck") may hurt his favorability as well.
Given the above, Republicans are increasingly positioned to take back the Senate. If current trends persist, Republicans will have a lot to celebrate on November 5, 2014.