Michael Barone

Democratic National Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz says that Obamacare will be a vote-winner for Democrats in 2014. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says the same thing.

Perhaps they really believe that. But the numbers in polls conducted since Oct. 17, when the end of the government shutdown put the spotlight on the rollout of Obamacare, tell a different story.

Democrats currently hold a 55-45 majority in the Senate. Republicans need a net gain of six seats to win a majority there.

This looks to be within reach. Seven Democratic-held seats are up in states carried by Mitt Romney. And four Democratic incumbents are seeking re-election in target states in the 2012 presidential election.

In three Romney states -- Montana, West Virginia, South Dakota -- Democratic incumbents are retiring. The likely Republican nominees, two current House members and a former governor, have been leading by wide margins. These are not gimmes yet, but they probably will be.

Of the four incumbent Democrats running in Romney states, only one, Alaska's Mark Begich, has a statistically significant lead in the most recent public poll. But it was conducted in August.

A Republican poll last weekend in Arkansas found challenger Tom Cotton leading Mark Pryor 48-41. That's a significant difference from pre-Oct. 17 polling showing an even race -- and that's bad news for an incumbent.

The latest Louisiana poll has incumbent Mary Landrieu at 41 percent in the state's all-candidate primary. That's well below the 48 percent she got in an August Democratic poll.

The most frequent polling in these races comes from North Carolina, where the Democratic firm PPP has matched incumbent Kay Hagan against several Republicans 12 times in the last year.

In the first 10 polls, Hagan led controversial state House Speaker Thom Tillis by an average of 48 to 38 percent. In two polls conducted since the Obamacare rollout began, Hagan's lead was down to a perilous 44 to 42 percent.

Races have been tightening in 2012 target states too. Colorado Democrat Mark Udall led 2010 Republican nominee Ken Buck 50-35 last June -- post-rollout, his leads were 45-42 and 46-42.

In 2012 Mitt Romney carried Colorado whites 54-44 but lost Hispanics 75-23. Given Barack Obama's big post-rollout slide among Hispanics nationally, Udall may have difficulty matching Obama's Hispanic numbers.

Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley has been the favorite to replace retiring Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin. But a Republican December poll showed Braley with only 40 to 42 percent support and just 3 to 6 points ahead of five Republicans that have limited name recognition.


Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM