Opinion: The blue path to victory in the 2016 Senate elections

Ryan McCarthy is a sophomore political science major and a columnist for The Kent Stater. Contact him at rmccart5@kent.edu.

Ryan McCarthy is a sophomore political science major and a columnist for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].

Ryan McCarthy

Two weeks ago, the Republicans won an important victory by gaining the majority in the Senate. After a likely Republican victory in the Louisiana runoff, and the two independents — Angus King and Bernie Sanders caucusing with the Democrats — the Republicans will have a 54-46 majority in the Senate of the 114th Congress. This might bring pessimistic feelings to Democrats, but we should be optimistic of our chances in 2016.

Republicans had several advantages in 2014. Democrats have troublingly low voter turnouts in midterm elections; the midterm of a president’s second term historically does not bode well for his party, and most importantly, the Democrats had more to lose. All the senators up for election two weeks ago were elected or re-elected in 2008, a year that was unusually strong for Democrats, and so 21 blue seats were facing re-election compared to 15 red seats.

Fortunately for Democrats, all seats up for re-election in two years were either elected or re-elected in 2010, an unusually strong year for Republicans. Even more fortunate for Democrats is that only nine blue seats will be for election in 2016 compared to 22 red seats. This is not taking special elections into account, and with the likely results of these in mind, it will be 24 red seats compared to 10 blue seats. Therefore, Democrats will need to keep these 10 seats and pick up at least five in the process.

Conveniently, only two of these Democratic seats were competitive in 2010, one being the seat of Harry Reid, and as majority leader for the past eight years and minority leader for the next two, he’ll have the funding, name recognition and backing to get re-elected in 2016. The other is Michael Bennet of Colorado. As a state that voted for Obama twice, it seems that this, combined with his incumbent status, could result in re-election. Also, conveniently for Democrats, of eight red seats considered competitive, five of them are from states that typically vote Democratic in presidential elections. These include Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Iowa and New Hampshire. In three of these states, the Republican only won by less than four percentage points, and this in the most optimal of conditions.

Democrats also have certain advantages in the Florida and North Carolina races and have enough to make a strong appearance for the Ohio Senate seat, depending on whether they can field a strong candidate. If the Democrats can motivate their base, which they have been able to in the last two presidential elections, and can run quality candidates, the next president could be operating with a blue senate.