The Cycle
updated 2/3/2013 12:47:58 PM ET 2013-02-03T17:47:58

The magic number of states Republicans need to pick up is six, The Cycle host Steve Kornacki says, with a possible eight states in play. But can they do it?

We are not even a month into the new Congress, and there are already questions brewing about what the 2014 Senate will look like. From the upcoming special election in Massachusetts for Secretary of State John Kerry’s seat, to the scandal surrounding New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, speculation is brimming about who will run and more importantly, who will win in 2014.

Early in the 2012 election, it looked like Republicans had a shot at winning the majority in the Senate. But far-right candidates, members of what The Cycle host Steve Kornacki dubs “the GOP’s suicide club,” botched the Republicans’ dreams of gaining Senate seats. So will 2014 be any different?

The GOP must follow failed presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s lead in order to clinch the Senate majority, and take the states he carried in the 2012 election. The magic number of states for the Republicans to pick up is six, Kornacki says, with a possible eight states in play. But can they do it? On Thursday’s show Kornacki said we need to “take a look at some of these races Republicans need to win in 2014 to get the chamber back” and that is exactly what we are going to do.

Incumbent: Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, is a freshman Democratic who barely won against Republican congressional veteran Ted Stevens in 2008 when Stevens was wrapped up in corruption charges. “Begich should be a very vulnerable candidate,” Kornacki says of the freshman’s prospects in 2014.

Challengers: There are three possible opponents to run in the Republican primaries for the Alaska Senate seat. Lieutenant Gov. Mead, Gov. Sean Parnell, and Joe Miller. Miller, “the ultimate Tea Party guy,” Kornacki pointed out on Thursday’s show, blew his chances in 2010 when he ran against Lisa Murkowski and lost. But he is back and eyeing another run at the Senate seat. However, if Alaska would let a Republican, say the state’s lieutenant governor, go up against Begich he “could probably win,” Kornacki said on Thursday.

Incumbent:  Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller announced his retirement earlier this week, leaving the door wide open for a strong Republican candidate to come in and win a state that has pivoted away from going Democrat in recent presidential elections.

Challengers: With no incumbent, rumor has it that former Democratic Sen. Carte Goodwin has been meeting with Democratic officials to mull a possible 2014 run. For Republicans, current Rep. Shelley Moore Capito announced she would run for Senate even before Rockefeller formally announced his retirement. “West Virginia needs a new and diverse voice in the United States Senate, a voice that can listen and can walk with others to achieve great things,” Capito said in November upon announcing her run.

Incumbent: The prospects of a GOP takeover in South Dakota remains unclear. Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson has not announced his retirement as of yet, but speculation is spiraling that it may be coming. Not to mention, should he continue to keep his seat, Johnson may have sealed his fate with conservatives in the state over his stance on the Keystone XL pipeline. “Thus far Johnson has sided with Obama on the pipeline issue, putting him at odds with many voters,” the National Journal points out.

Challengers: With Johnson’s future in the balance, no Democratic candidate has been announced. But for now the race is taking shape as former GOP Gov. Mike Rounds, who would be a very strong candidate, announced he will run in 2014. “Republicans sense an opportunity for a pickup in a conservative state,” The National Journal points out.

Incumbent: During her 2008 run, Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu made herself known as a moderate Democratic and had support from many Republicans and Independents.

Challengers: No official opponent has announced intentions to challenge Landrieu, but Rep. Bill Cassidy and former Rep. Jeff Landry, both Republicans, are flirting with the idea.  However, upon jumpstarting her campaign on Thursday, Landrieu released a statement where she stated that her opponents “‘may find a more difficult path forward than expected as many prominent members of their own party have already thrown their support behind her.”

Incumbent: Democrat Sen. Max Baucus saw his approval ratings drop after his role in the passage of the Affordable Care Act, making him vulnerable to a challenge.

Challengers: While no official opponent has been announced, one name floating around is Rep. Denny Rehberg, who is thinking about a repeat try after loosing to Sen. Jon Tester in 2012.

Incumbent: Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan won one of the most high profile races in North Caroline in 2008 when she defeated Sen. Elizabeth Dole.

Challengers: Even though Sen. Hagan won in 2008, the state just elected their first Republican governor in 20 years and Mitt Romney won the state in the 2012 election, making it is quite possible that the North Carolinian Senate seat could go Republican given the right candidate. However, no names have surfaced to who may run for the seat.

Incumbent: Sen. Mark Pryor, who is a popular Southern Democrat in a deep red state, ran unopposed in 2008 but is gearing up for a fight for the 2014 election.

Challengers: This heavily conservative state does not have a Republican nominee as of yet, but two potential people who could run are Reps. Steve Womack and Tom Cotton.

Incumbent: Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin announced on Saturday that he will not be seeking re-election thus opening up the seat. As Stuart Rothenberg told the Wall Street Journal, Iowa is “clearly no longer safe for the Democrats–it’s now a competitive race.”

Challengers: “It’s still early, obviously, but there are indications that Democrats will close ranks behind Rep. Bruce Braley, a fourth-term congressman who represents the northeastern corner of the state,” Kornacki points out in his column. He continues to say the Republicans’ path is far less clear, with the two names dominating the early chatter about likely candidates being Tom Latham and Steve King. According to Kornacki, King is “a far-right ideologue who has said that President Obama “favors the black person” and is “at least a Marxist” and has likened illegal immigrants to dogs.” He is precisely the sort of candidate  who ruined the GOP’s chances in 2010 and 2012.

Then there is Georgia. Georgia is not included in our elite eight but it is an important state to point out it is a Republican state where Democrats are still able to compete given the right circumstances. President Obama lost by five points in 2008, and eight in 2012, that isn’t much for a red state. As Kornacki pointed out, in order for the Republicans to keep with their magic number six they have to hold on to outgoing Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss’ seat, who came close to loosing it to Democrat Jim Martin in 2008. A credible nominee Democrats could capitalize on the nomination and win back the state.

Video: Kornacki: The GOP's 'suicide club' could cause problems in 2014

  1. Closed captioning of: Kornacki: The GOP's 'suicide club' could cause problems in 2014

    >>> less than a month in to the new congress and already there is turmoil brewing when it comes to what the next senate will look like. an upcoming special election in massachusetts and scandal of the top donor of new jersey's knob menendez. right now, the gop 's magic number to win the senate majority in 2014 is six and will will drop to five if scott brown wins this june. the obvious path to a gop majority in 2014 would be the states that mitt romney carried november. that's west virginia , south dakota , alaska , alabama, louisiana, iowa and should be a toss-up now and long-time democratic senator and calling it quits. democrats should lose seats in 2014 . and could lose the chamber. and democrats ended up adding to their majority. and the suicide club . that might be the real story to watch in the coming months. by nominating unelectable fringe candidates, will the gop squander winnable races? let's spin about this. we talked a little bit about massachusetts yesterday. maybe scott brown wins and the republicans gate seat. the situation in new jersey, who knows what's going on there? maybe christie makes an appointment. maybe democrats win it back. but i think the real question to me and an unknown and sort of a great drama to watch over a few months and years is take a look at the races republicans need to win in 2014 to get the chamber back. here's a great example, alaska . mark begich , barely won against ted stevens in 2008 because of circumstances, namely the federal investigation of stevens, begich should be a vulnerable candidate. lieutenant governor up there, establishment republican if he went against begich could probably win but blast from the past . joe miller . remember this guy?

    >> yes.

    >> beat lisa murkowski in a senate primary in alaska in 2010 . he had the palin stamp. murkowski around him and win as a write-in candidate in november. joe miller almost blew it for them. he is back and wants to run again. if you nominate him in alaska probably saying good-bye to taking out mark begich . can republicans prevent it from happening? paul brown who's a sort of todd akin -ish candidate to run for the senate in georgia and republican s retiring. not unwinnable for democrats under certain circumstances. iowa, steve king might be running there. first of all, will the so-called republican establishment be able to deliver candidates this time? will the mood of the base change or any meddling of the party establishment result in the same kind of backlash of 2010 and 2012 and will the prospect of that happening simply keep strong candidates on the strong lines? will the strong candidates say i don't want to be the next guy to lose to christine o'donnell?

    >> i think you are absolutely right and something i've been concerned about but i will report back from c-pac in marc and let you know because as you know, the conservative political action conference happening every year is a place where rising stars and incoming stars are trotted around the halls and put up on stages and meant to meet and greet and get to know them and make a splash, they meet the media. in fact, last year i met richard mourdock before we knew who he was. ted cruz , too, a full year before the actual election. so i'm really interested to see not just who they bring out, but the kinds of messages that are put up on these stages. and whether the party's going to be exercising some discipline this year because i know that they're using cpac and looking to cpac this year as an opportunity to say, restart, reset, rebrand.

    >> right.

    >> i hope that works because we have got a lot to offer if we can do it right.

    >> i think it's not just so much what they say but also how the audience receives what is said, as well.

    >> you're absolutely right. i remind people, in fact, i wrote a column of this for town hall . the media media descends on cpac . sometimes to promote good conservatism. sometimes to catch us looking crazy and us doesn't have to be on stage. us can be in the audience.

    >> breaking news. i won't be there.

    >> what?

    >> not going.

    >> what? . i'll take notes for you.

    >> yeah. throw them out. so we started off thinking about bob menendez . don't know what's going to happen or what he did or didn't do. not going to blame him or call him guilty before we have all the evidence. but it's a political scandal . he may or may not survive. interestingly, i would think that, you know, when you get elected to major office you take it as an awesome responsibility. i surely would take it as an awesome responsibility and be under a gigantic responsibility. i would not jaywalk as a congressman or senator but many people do much more. there's a long list of people who have gotten involved in relationships with younger people. mel reynolds , gerry studds , steve can do the list off the top of his head.

    >> buz lukens .

    >> went to jail.

    >> you'll notice --

    >> a star, right?

    >> notice two on that list won re-election. right now there's another list of people who were caught con sorting with ladies of the night, shall we say? david vitter . still in the senate. ken calvert still in congress and of course our former governor eliot spitzer who had to resign in disgrace. not necessarily career killers and bizarre to me. if i had to vote for somebody who's known sort of prost tooitutes, i would note for that person.

    >> a lot depends on how you hand tell crisis.

    >> oh, we caught you with a prostitute. no good way to answer this.

    >> don't do the anthony weiner thing, don't follow that model. going back to your question, steve, about are republicans going to continue to nominate the sort of crazy candidate that is can't win? and i think some of that may actually hinge on the immigration reform debate that we're about to have. i mean, you already see the battle lines being drawn. how much of the conservative party goes with this? how much does this become a litmus test? if you support quote/unquote amnesty, then the tea party and club for growth coming for you. that's one thing that could potentially happen. another senator who is somewhat under pressure is mitch mcconnell and there's an interesting thing going on, ashley judd may run in the general election .

    >> oh, i hope so.

    >> there's no one strong in the primary really stepped in to this race to try to take him out. and democratic groups and donors are actually trying to actively recruit a tea party candidate to try to take mcconnell out in the primary. part of me rejoices and thinks that's great to mess with him, make him uncomfortable.

    >> mess with him.

    >> the more i think about it, i think there's a difference between recruiting a candidate who was not going to enter the race already.

    >> yeah.

    >> and sort of southerly supporting someone like todd akin or sharron angle and already in the race and helping them across the finish line because if you think about it the big problem with the republican party right now is so focused on winning the primaries they move to the right and the extreme. they become very bad governmental actors and mitch mcconnell is a key player here if he's more concerned of a primary than general election , he's a poor person in the middle of the negotiations coming up.

    >> talking about mischief, the old kennedy family trick. the strong candidate. you recruit somebody with the same last name, two names on the ballot and then the kennedy wins.

    >> that's a mouthful.

    >> going back a ways. up next, going after gun makers where it hurts. their wallets. meet the man fox accused of strong arming the gun industry. [ male announcer ]


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