Along with Kentucky, Democratic Senate candidates are trying to keep seats and possibly expand the map.
This is a tough cycle because Democrats have seven senators from states that went for Republican presidential candidates in 2008 and 2012. Two are declining to run for re-election (South Dakota and West Virginia) and one dropped out because of a plagiarism scandal that resulted in Montana Democrats scrambling for a replacement candidate.
The remaining four red state Democratic senators, one is in Alaska and the remaining three are in the south.
For starters the incumbents.
NORTH CAROLINA, C'MON AND RAISE UP
In 2008, North Carolina voters sent their electoral votes to a Democratic candidate. The last time the Tar Heel State did that: 1976.
Obama won the state but with a plurality of the vote and his closest win margin in any state. His win in North Carolina was attributed to several factors: North Carolina's changing demographics, the Obama campaign's willingness to expand the map, the tone of the McCain-Palin ticket, and the unpopularity of President George W. Bush.
In that election, Senator Elizabeth Dole, the wife of Bob Dole, was up for re-election in that cycle. Dole was seen as an up and comer in Republican politics having briefly run for president in 2000.
During the 2008 election, Dole's campaign ran an ad claiming that the Democratic candidate attended a meeting and took campaign funds from a group promoting rights for atheists. The ad was titled "Godless."
The Democratic candidate released this statement:
"I am absolutely appalled at Elizabeth Dole's vile tactics. This is politics of the worst kind, and I know it has been rejected by North Carolinians at every level. It is so unbecoming of a woman like Elizabeth Dole. This is a fabricated, pathetic ad. I am a Sunday school teacher, I am an elder at First Presbyterian Church in Greensboro, my family has been going to this church for over 100 years, I have raised my children there. I have been involved in youth missions."
On Election Night 2008, Dole lost that election 53-44.
The winner of that North Carolina Senate race is the incumbent Kay Hagen.
Since that 2008 election, North Carolina has taken a rightward direction in its state and federal politics.
It began in November 2010 when North Carolina Republicans flipped the North Carolina General Assembly from Democrats controlling both chambers to Republicans controlling both chambers. North Carolina's US House delegation after the 2010 mid terms lost one Democrat and was at a 7-6 Democratic advantage.
Like most states, North Carolina redraws legislative districts by who controls the state legislature. Since Republicans were in control in Raleigh, they were going to draw the maps which meant there was going to be a Republican advantage in the Congressional delegation.
In November 2012, Romney won North Carolina and its 15 electoral votes with 50.4% of the vote. In the US House Election for all 13 districts in North Carolina, Democratic candidates received 2.22 million votes to Republican candidates receiving 2.14 million votes. You would think that would result in Democrats holding the most seats in the North Carolina US House delegation.
You thought wrong.
Because of the way the maps were drawn to a Republican advantage, North Carolina's House delegation was a 9-4 Republican advantage. Republicans in the North Carolina increased their majorities in the state house and state senate.
Also in North Carolina in that election cycle was a gubernatorial election. Then-Governor Beverly Perdue declined to seek another term as she probably recognized the difficulties of running for re-election in the same year as the presidential and seeing the rightward direction of North Carolina in its legislature.
With Governor Pat McCrory in place, North Carolina became the focal point for a lot of rightward policies being pushed through the North Carolina general assembly. Though there was a lot of focus on Texas, North Carolina had their fair share of Republican policies passed in their state that angered a lot of people and led to protests called Moral Mondays.
Similar to Texas' anti-abortion law, North Carolina implemented a similar outpatient surgical center law that claims that it raises the standards of abortion clinics but in reality it closes many abortion clinics because of the new regulations they have to meet and it harms many economically disadvantaged women.
Huh…? And I thought Republicans were against regulations.
Like a lot of southern states, North Carolina tried to enact their form of voter suppression. Thanks to the Supreme Court's ruling in Shelby County, AL v. Holder (2013), many of these states were given a green light to restrict ballot access to voters who are likely to vote for Democrats. In North Carolina, the state made many attempts to restrict the access of the ballot to college students.
It is projected that North Carolina will miss out on $51 billion in federal dollars over the next decade due to not participating in Medicaid expansion according to a study released by the nonprofit Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
This rejection of federal money prompted action from Belhaven, NC Mayor Adam O'Neal. Not only did he call on Medicaid expansion to help his community and save his town's rural hospital, but he walked the 237 miles from eastern North Carolina to Washington, DC.
Oh and Mayor O'Neal is a Republican.
It is interesting that North Carolina Republicans chose Thom Tillis out of an eight candidate field. Perhaps it was because Tillis was the one who could be the most competitive against Senator Hagan. Tillis has one liability and it is a HUGE liability.
Tillis is the current Speaker of the North Carolina House.
All the policies enacted by the Republican led government in Raleigh and Tillis is being tied to it. Though polls showed a close election appearing to favor Tillis in the beginning, it looks like Senator Hagan might be pulling away. According to Real Clear Politics, Hagan has been leading in recent polls resulting in an average of a 3.5 point advantage.
There might be a chance to break the Republican hold on North Carolina with this Senate race and restore some sanity to the Tar Heel State.
WOO PIG SOOEEE
It is looking more and more likely that Senator Mark Pryor will not be returning to the Senate in 2015.
Pryor looked like he was going to retain his senate seat, but recent polls according to Real Clear Politics shows that his challenger, Representative Tom Cotton (AR-4, R), leading by as few as 2 points to as much as 7 in the last five polls conducted. Though one poll, conducted by USA Today/Suffolk has Pryor leading by 2, is being regarded as an outlier.
Pryor's father was a former governor and senator. At 80, David Pryor is hitting the campaign trail for his son.
Arkansas, like a lot of southern states, used to be in the Democratic sphere for several years. The Natural State gave rise to the Clinton Family with Bill serving as governor and then two terms as President of the United States. In 1992 and 1996, the Clinton-Gore ticket carried the state twice. Mark Pryor won in 2002 which was a very good year for Republicans when the election was turned into a debate over national security. Pryor won again in 2008 having faced off against third party opposition.
As pointed out by this article in Real Clear Politics, Arkansas does have an independent streak in their politics. Along with electing Pryor to the Senate in 2002, voters re-elected Mike Huckabee that cycle. Eight years later, Blanche Lincoln lost her seat to John Boozman but voters re-elected Mike Beebe as governor. Now in 2014 there appears to be a close governor's election on who will replace Beebe.
The only thing that will keep Pryor in the senate is the turnout operation of Arkansas Democrats and how well Pryor sells his record in the senate to the voters while also trying to distance himself from President Obama.
DOWN ON BAYOU
Mary Landreau is another incumbent Democrat from a southern red state facing a difficult re-election bid.
The polls for 4 November show her leading, but she could lose this election.
Well of course she is in Louisiana. Any slipup could cost her the election.
Yes, but there is a quirk with Louisiana.
In Louisiana, a candidate for office needs to get 50% or more to win. If not, like a lot of primaries in the south (Texas, Mississippi, Georgia), the top two head towards a runoff in December.
So Senator Landreau could receive the most votes on 4 November but end up losing her seat in December because of this rule.
Polls are indicating that likely scenario.
There is also this scenario. It is Election Night and Republicans at 50-48 in the US Senate with Louisiana undecided and the independent candidate in Kansas winning.
Louisiana could determine which party controls the Senate for the 114th Congress when it convenes in January 2015.
GEORGIA ON MY MIND
What if I told you that not Texas but Georgia could be the next presidential battleground?
Crazy coming from a Texan now living in Colorado, but it is possible.
With little assistance from the national campaign, Obama lost Georgia by 204,000 votes in 2008. Two years later in the Georgia gubernatorial election, Nathan Deal won that election by 258,000 votes. In the 2012 presidential election, Romney won Georgia by 300,000 votes.
Like Texas, Georgia had a long history of one-party rule by the conservative wing of the Democratic Party from the end of Reconstruction and into the middle of the 20th century. The Civil Rights Movements of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s shifted those voters over to the modern Republican Party and resulting their one-party dominance rule in the 21st century.
Also like Texas, Georgia is not necessarily a red state but rather a non-voting state. As show in this segment on his program, Chris Hayes talks about Georgia's political history and breaks down the prospects of turning Georgia blue.
According to former NAACP president Ben Jealous, there are 830,000 unregistered voters of color. It is safe to assume that based on the voting demographics of 2008 and 2012 that those voters will likely support a Democratic candidate for office.
If those voters turn out to the polls, Georgia is a blue state.
Which is why Georgia State Senator Fran Miller and his fellow Republicans are trying to suppress the vote in the Peach State if possible. Early voting will be available on 26 October which is a Sunday and you can expect a lot of Black churches in that area will have "Souls To The Polls."
The New Georgia Project has a goal to collect 120,000 voter registration applications. According to this Slate article published in September, 85,000 applications have been filled out.
There is also one more quirk about Georgia.
Like Louisiana, Georgia has the runoff rule for the Senate. A candidate has to break the 50% threshold or the election goes to a runoff.
But… The election will not be held in December. It will be held on 6 January.
As in three days after the 114th Congress is sworn in.
So one party could have control of the Senate for a brief period of time before switching over on 6 January.
And you can expect resources will be poured in for that election.
Here is hoping that the Peach Bowl is a good game for all those journalists stuck in the A-T-L over New Years.
The South is changing in a lot of ways. This is especially true in states like North Carolina, Georgia, and possibly Texas. The South is a microcosm of our national politics in a lot of ways. The large cities in the South (Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, Atlanta, Charlotte, New Orleans) generally go for Democrats while the rural areas go heavily for Republicans. The suburbs is where you need to cleave off just enough to squeak out a victory. In presidential, that is why Democrats haven't won Texas or Georgia in a while.
And of course, turnout. Who shows up to vote.
Hagan will likely retain her seat in the US Senate possibly because the voters have had enough of the extreme politics coming from the state capitol led by Thom Tillis. As for Landreau and Pryor, I only see one winning, but not both. Landreau has to avoid the runoff if possible. Pryor was leading at one point, but the polls were sampling registered voters. Now we are in the time of the election where the polls start asking LIKELY voters which are making it a closer race in some places. Right now Pryor is losing when the polls are asking the likely voters. Name recognition won't save him now.
As pointed out above, Georgia could be the next battleground state. Michelle Nunn is running for the US Senate while Jason Carter is running for governor. Nunn is the daughter of former Georgia US Senator Sam Nunn and Carter is the grandson of former Georgia governor and President Jimmy Carter. If at least one of those candidates win, I could buy that Georgia will be in play for 2016.
The South might be on the rise again.