|U.Va. Center for Politics Director Larry J. Sabato is contributing a regular column to Politico Magazine. This week he takes a look at the many Senate scenarios in 2014 and the most vulnerable Democratic seats. — The Editors|
Last week, Republican primary voters passed their first Senate test, producing a North Carolina nominee, Thom Tillis, who is merely imperfect, not catastrophic. After the disasters of recent years, national Republicans will happily take it.
The North Carolina result did nothing to change the expectation among most observers that the Republicans have a 50-50 or better shot at taking the Senate majority. It might even have enhanced those odds. The conventional wisdom is reasonable: We know that the president is unpopular, the president’s party typically performs poorly in midterms and the Democrats are overextended on this year’s Senate map. One of the ways the Republicans could hurt their chances is by running bad candidates in some of these races. Tillis might turn out to be that kind of candidate, but he was clearly the most credible nominee in the primary field.
So where is the Senate right now? Hypothetically, there’s still a wide range of potential outcomes — and all the likeliest ones involve at least some kind of Republican wave, perhaps delivering the magic six-seat gain that would dethrone Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
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