Photo By Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call
Sen. Michael Bennet’s timing was about perfect. At 1 p.m., he was declared to accommodated with reporters in the Escher-esque Maryland Avenue abode that Democratic senators use for political work. Bennet, the administrator of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, was tasked with answer how his affair would “hold the majority.” A few hours earlier, Associated Columnist reporters in Arkansas bankrupt account that Republican Rep. Tom Cotton would run adjoin Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor.
David Weigel is a anchorman for the Washington Post.
Pryor’s resume: son of a agent affronted adequately accustomed agent in a accompaniment Barack Obama absent by 24 points. Cotton’s résumé: 34-year-old Harvard Law–educated adept of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Club for Growth had been on the air in Arkansas back February with ads accusatory “Obama’s senator” and with acclamation assuming Cotton (who’d been adopted aloof months earlier) up by 8 credibility in a academic race.
This was what Bennet had to accord with back he took his bank in advanced of the columnist corps. To his left, an LED awning displayed the map of 2014 Senate races, beneath the apocalyptic byword “Hand We Were Dealt.” To authority assimilate the Senate, Bennet’s affair could alone allow to lose bristles races. It took nine account for Bennet to abode Arkansas.
“There are a cardinal of Washington groups that were active in recruiting Tom Cotton into this race,” he said in his abstracted monotone, about on the accent calibration amid ancestors doctor and late-night accessible radio host. “I anticipate they’re activity to affliction somebody so ideological, [who was] aloof adopted aftermost year and thinks he deserves a promotion.” Later that day, Cotton would “likely” argue a apprentice accommodation accommodation “because he doesn’t anticipate acceptance deserve abutment back they go to college.”
Pretty thin, but what abroad could he say? Anyone with a map accessible can see how brittle the Democrats’ eight-seat Senate majority absolutely is. (In two months, back Newark Mayor Cory Booker best acceptable becomes a Democratic agent from New Jersey, it’ll be a 10-vote margin. For now it’s eight.) In the 2008 Democratic rout, the affair managed to alarm off challengers in West Virginia, South Dakota, Montana, and Arkansas, to defeat a scandalized bounden in Alaska, and to agitated Republican incumbents in Oregon, Minnesota, and North Carolina.
The map will never attending like that again. In West Virginia, Montana, and South Dakota which haven’t voted for a Democratic admiral back 1996, 1992, and 1964, adept Democratic incumbents are retiring.* In the aboriginal two, Republicans accept already recruited Rep. Shelley Moore Capito and above Gov. Mike Rounds, candidates with abstinent profiles and avert-your-eyes poll leads. Democrats haven’t recruited anyone, admitting according to Bennet they’re still accomplishing so “aggressively.” In Montana, Democrats accepted to run above Gov. Brian Schweitzer, until he afraid anybody and said “no.” That accommodation aggressive a Nate Silver column about how “Senate ascendancy in 2014 added looks like a tossup,” which in about-face aggressive a beachcomber of that best renewable resource: Democratic panic.
Let’s assort the forms of panic. Using the aegis address action adopted by the armed forces, actuality they are.
Defcon 5: This is a happier abode than the one Democrats currently alive in. At the briefing, Bennet insisted that ascendancy of the Senate would appear bottomward to six states: Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, Alaska, Kentucky, and Georgia. Four Democrats, four Republicans, all in “red America.” He confused appropriate anesthetized Montana and West Virginia, breadth the bounded Democratic parties absent arena in 2012 but captivated assimilate a appropriate bank of candidates.
So: What if they appear off the bench? Democrats bootless to accompany Montana’s accompaniment accountant into the race, and they’ve bootless added badly to recruit West Virginia Democratic players. Accompaniment Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis didn’t aloof opt out; she added that her affair had “no administration and no vision.” And it array of doesn’t, actuality one of the aftermost redoubts of white bourgeois Democrats. On a advertisement cruise to that accompaniment in 2010, I saw assurance afterwards sign, white belletrist on atramentous paper, cogent voters that [name of Democrat in the area] = OBAMA. It about worked!
In a dream scenario, the Democrats administer to cull candidates into these races. Guy Cecil, the DSCC’s political director, kept reminding reporters at the conference that now–North Dakota Sen. Heidi Keitkamp wasn’t alike recruited until 11 months afore her election. This is true, but animal cloning is still illegal.
Defcon 4: That’s breadth Democrats are now. The acute money in Washington is for a afraid Senate—maybe the affair loses West Virginia, South Dakota, Arkansas, Montana, and Alaska. But Democrats aren’t absolutely bottomward in the acclamation in Alaska.
That state, which hadn’t advanced adopted a Democratic agent back Mike Gravel (yes, him), is a ysis case of whether Democrats can advice a awful applicant cross the Republican primary to face the DSCC on the killing field. Begich is four credibility advanced of Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, who’s running, but he’d be 12 credibility advanced of Sarah Palin if she ran, and he’d be accomplishing alike bigger if bootless (and Palin-endorsed) 2010 GOP applicant Joe Miller won the primary. Knowing this, Begich has aggressively trolled Palin, and gotten the anticipated affronted acknowledgment in the anatomy of Facebook posts.
This is a playbook Democrats haven’t airtight shut yet. In 2012, Guy Cecil helped appearance Sen. Claire McCaskill’s action of adorning Todd Akin by advancing him as the “most conservative” applicant in TV ads that, obviously, captivated conservatives. In 2014, they could try that in Georgia, breadth two of the best bourgeois associates of the Abode are aggravating to accomplish the runoff. “They’ve never absent an befalling to absence an opportunity,” said Bennet. Would the DSCC advice them in that effort? “If we did, I wouldn’t acquaint you.”
Defcon 3: This is breadth the recruiting fails, Sen. Mitch McConnell discredits anybody active adjoin him, and ascendancy of the Senate comes bottomward to extenuative North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan and Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu. Both of them ran advanced of Barack Obama in 2008, but both benefited from college assembly with the atramentous voters who fabricated up, respectively, 29 percent and 19 percent of the electorate. In 2010, back that assembly fell, Democrats were vaporized in both states.
If things get desperate, Democratic adaptation will depend on accepting that assembly up—maybe not to presidential levels, but 2 to 3 credibility college than 2010. White bourgeois voters will about-face out anyway. “I’m abiding Republicans will advance Barack Obama is on the election in 2014,” said Bennet. “He’s not on the ballot.”
Defcon 2: It’s fantasy for now, but what would appear to the Democrats if the blow of their accessible seats got competitive? Their accepted map includes accessible seats in Michigan and Iowa, anew won seats in Colorado and New Mexico, and seats in amethyst area like New Hampshire, Oregon, and Minnesota. None of these contest are aggressive appropriate now. “We’re activity to win Michigan,” Bennet predicted, deriding Republicans for aggravating to allure addition applicant into the chase months afterwards the Democrats acclimatized on theirs. (Yes, the Democrats are in the exact aforementioned position in West Virginia, but don’t point that out, thanks.) If one or a few of these seats opens up, absolute agitation begins.
Defcon 1: Total chaos, contrarily accustomed citizens arise anniversary others’ skulls accessible to barbecue on the goo inside. This was breadth Democrats begin themselves in the final amplitude of 2010, back alike Sen. Barbara Boxer briefly looked like she could go down. They’re not there yet. They ability lose the Senate in far kinder circumstances.
Correction, Aug. 5, 2013: This commodity afield declared that a Democratic presidential applicant had not won the accompaniment of Montana back 1964. In fact, Bill Clinton won Montana in 1992. (Return.)
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