Republican gains and President Obama’s weakness have Democrats on their heels, preparing to fight for Senate seats they never thought they would have to defend and hoping that 2016 will give them a chance to win back the Senate if they lose it next year.
Mark Warner, one of the most popular Democrats in the Senate, is now facing a serious challenge from one of the few Virginia Republicans who can keep pace with his fundraising. Polls show the Republican favorite in Michigan running evenly with Democratic Rep. Gary Peters, and raising more money than him as well. Republicans are even watching the Oregon Senate race closely, where a Republican physician running against Obamacare raised a half-million dollars against Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley.
Democrats are feeling the pressure and looking longingly at 2016, when the political landscape should be nearly as favorable to them as the 2014 environment is perilous to their majority. This year, the party is defending seven states that rejected Obama in 2012; the GOP will be defending six seats in state that he carried that year in 2016.
“We always knew this cycle would have a number of difficult seats to defend,” said Democratic strategist Jef Pollock. “Everything stacks up better for us in 2016.”