Election 2014 displayed one of the most incredible switches of U.S. Senate control in recent memory.
The Republicans did not just take back the upper chamber—they wiped the floor with the Democrats. They bested some of their pettiest political tricks, including three different Democratic candidates in Montana, plus three-way races in other states.
Nothing can top Election Day 1980, which produced a Republican majority with 12 Senate wins.
Election Day 2014 produced nine seats, but could have been 11 if not for the intense infighting in Republican primaries.
So, will 2016 turn into an epic landslide of the Democrats and help them win back the upper chamber?
After Election 2014, I believed that the Republicans would have no trouble holding their majority. They have strong incumbents, many whom have provided superior constituent services to their states. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) has worked across the aisle on select issues so that he does not alienate his base, but can reach out to independents and even some Democrats.
I knew that the battleground was going to be wider for Democratic gains, and harder for Republican holds.
After nearly two year of campaigning, polling, and the unexpected, I have to revise my predictions.
For example, I was certain that Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin would not have a hard time getting re-elected. And yet poll after poll has documented a surprising yet consistent lead for Democratic challenger Russ Feingold, the incumbent whom Johnson knocked out in 2010. It has narrowed recently, but the NRSC has not invested major funding for ads…yet. This setback is very disappointing. Johnson is a vocal and effective legislator. He has fought for strong our country’s best interests in national security. He has focused on ending illegal immigration. Unlike other Republicans, this Tea Party candidate has not run away from his values. Recent polling has delivered good news, indicating a tighter race, but the numbers still look bad for Johnson.
Just south of Johnson, fellow Republican Mark Kirk of Illinois is in a world of hurt.
He is the top target on the Senate map, even though he has raised considerable amount of money. The state is just too blue. Kirk won in 2010, which was not just an off-year, but witnessed a wave of voter discontent which swept Kirk into office. He was running against one corrupt challenger, and replacing a corrupt appointment which has opted not to even run for re-election. This year, Kirk is running against a decorated wounded veteran. Despite allegations of malfeasance and incompetence dogging Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, she is poised to win.
Other seats which were not supposed to be in play, but now have become competitive, including Indiana. Evan Bayh had retired in 2010, smelling the blood in the water for Democrats. Now he's back, and hoping for a larger Democratic turnout which will prop him back into office. So many unhappy, unnerving retreads. Could Indiana end up with two Democratic Senators in 2016?
Now the good news.
Opportunities have emerged for Republicans to keep the majority.
Rob Portman of Ohio is running a smart campaign. He has raised the most money of all his fellow colleagues running. Black activist groups have supported the senator, along with labor unions, which means more campaign dollars.
His Democratic challenger, Ted Strickland, has been struggling to fundraise and to raise his positives with Ohio voters, who don't want him back in elected office. Major headlines from the liberal press reported that the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee is pulling their investments out of the state. Uh Oh!
In Florida, Marco Rubio earned enough press to remake himself into a household name in the swing-state Sunshine State. After much backroom prodding, Rubio decided to run for re-election, though he had decided to retire following his bid for president.
Even though he lost Florida presidential primary by huge margins, he blew away his primary competition to hold onto his Senate seat. He now consistently polls at least five points ahead of his Democratic challenger. This seat is no longer in precarious hands. Rubio will return for a second Senate term, but let us hope that he will stop pushing immigration "reform" and fight for conservative causes with renewed gusto.
There is one more truly swing state that is swinging back to Republicans: Pennsylvania.
Senator Pat Toomey was riding high earlier this year, especially because of Democratic infighting that was chipping away at their chances in for winning the seat. Toomey ran against a weakened challenger in 2010, who had toppled turncoat incumbent RINO-Democrat Arlen Specter. Back then, Toomey eked out a 51 percent victory.
Will he have a wider win in 2016? Incredible constituent contacts, well-informed efforts and newsletters, plus a unique mixture of confirmed conservatism with purple pragmatism may see him through--or not, as his challenger Katie McGinty shows her besting incumbent Toomey, within the margin of error.
Iowa’s Chuck Grassley is doing very well, standing firm against Obama’s Supreme Court nominee while fighting hard against illegal immigration. His stock has improved in connection with Donald Trump, too. Despite quivering pollsters and salivating liberal media pundits, Missouri’s Roy Blunt, an accomplished politician with a long resume, will show the Democrats he can carry the “Show Me State.”
New Hampshire’s Kelly Ayotte has a harder fight on her hands. Patent reform notwithstanding, her support for immigration “reform” could dampen voters’ spirits. If Trump’s standing improves, then Ayotte’s bedrock of support will strengthen her chances in the Granite State.
Republicans could pick up a seat from the Democrats, too. Now that the humiliated and greatly weakened Democratic leader “Dirty” Harry Reid no longer feels so lucky, Republican Congressman Joe Heck looks primed to win.
As for Colorado, Darryl Glen shocked triumphed in a crowded primary. With little support in the general, he holds little chance of flipping the seat from Michael Bennett, although he certainly deserves to lose.
The stats are looking better for Senate Republicans.
Election 2016 Prediction: Republicans hold the Senate 52-48.