In recent years, the Republican Party has increasingly been described as a shrinking entity dominated by angry white males and southerners. But the problem for the Democrats is that Southern states will likely determine control of the U.S. Senate in this year's elections.
Four of the seven seats listed as Senate "tossups" by the polling gurus at RealClearPolitics are in the South -- North Carolina, Louisiana, Kentucky and Arkansas. Republican wins in these four states would deliver the magic number required for the GOP to take majority control of the Senate.
In North Carolina, Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan is currently behind several potential Republican opponents in the polls. But she leads the most likely Republican nominee by a slim margin. Regardless, the state is trending Republican, and Hagan is in serious trouble.
Despite Louisiana's rather bizarre electoral system, and barring some unforeseen event, Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu is likely to be defeated by a Republican opponent. She barely survived in her reelection bid in 2008 when she rode the wave of strong voter turnout for Barack Obama. That level of Democratic turnout won't be there for her this year.
And in Arkansas, things are looking tough for incumbent Democrat Mark Pryor. His GOP opponent enjoys a lead in most polls. And this state in recent years has been moving toward Republican dominance. Mitt Romney carried Arkansas by more than 20 points against Barack Obama. If the Republican National Committee and like organizations can pump enough money into Republican Tom Cotton's effort, he will likely win in November.
Ironically, perhaps the most drama among these four "Southern Special" elections is in Kentucky. The reelection effort of the GOP's own Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell -- "Ole Happy Face" -- is having one heck of a time getting him back to the Senate, where he might then become majority leader. For McConnell it's as much a matter of style, with his stodgy and dour demeanor, than it is his policies. While he is viewed by more conservative Republicans as too moderate, he at least seems headed to an easy win in his primary election.
It seems likely that of the four "southern tossup" states, the GOP can carry at least three in November. But if the South supplies only three tossup victories, Republicans will have to find another close race to win in another region.
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