Senate Ratings Changes: The Political Environment Turns on Democrats
Posted at 5 a.m. on May 22
While national polls haven’t shown a shift in the public’s opinion of President Barack Obama’s performance, recent controversies have, in my view, significantly changed the political landscape.
And changes in the landscape have led the Rothenberg Political Report to change its Senate ratings.
For the past few years, the public’s focus has been on Republicans’ opposition to the president’s agenda, their desire to shrink (even cripple) government and their conservatism. But the IRS scandal, along with controversies involving the attack in Benghazi and the Justice Department’s collecting of journalists’ telephone records, has change the political narrative.
While the Oklahoma tornado tragedy will dominate media coverage for the next few days, the new political narrative that will re-emerge when journalists return to politics involves questions about what the administration knew, said and did.
The new focus on the Obama administration puts it on the defensive and should boost enthusiasm on the political right throughout this year.
While we don’t know how long the focus will stay on the administration — or whether Republicans will stumble over the investigations or matters of public policy — between now and the November midterms, it is undeniable that recent events have altered, at least for now, the trajectory of the 2014 elections.
Given the different natures of midterm electorates, the new political narrative increases the risk for Democratic candidates in red states, where Democrats must win independent and, in many cases, Republican voters to be successful.
As Nathan Gonzales wrote this week, Republicans can get a Senate majority in next year’s elections by winning races in states Mitt Romney carried. Because that now seems more difficult than it did just a month ago, we are moving a number of Senate contests to the GOP.
Our moves are as follows:
- West Virginia (Open seat; Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a Democrat, is retiring): From Tossup/Tilt Republican to Lean Republican.
- South Dakota (Open seat; Sen. Tim Johnson, a Democrat, is retiring): From Tossup/Tilt Republican to Lean Republican.
- Arkansas (Sen. Mark Pryor, a Democrat): From Tossup/Tilt Democrat to Pure Tossup.
- Louisiana (Sen. Mary L. Landreiu, a Democrat): From Tossup/Tilt Democrat to Pure Tossup.
- Alaska (Sen. Mark Begich, a Democrat): From Lean Democrat to Tossup/Tilt Democrat.
- North Carolina (Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat): From Lean Democrat to Tossup/Tilt Democrat.