Having blown five likely Senate wins on bad candidates and worse consulting, it is best not to count chickens before they hatch, but the prospects for Republican gains in the Senate in 2014 are brightening. And there is a solid shot at regaining control.
Two seats seem poised to fall into Republican laps. In West Virginia, the retirement of Democratic Sen. Jay RockefellerJay RockefellerLobbying world Overnight Tech: Senators place holds on FCC commissioner Overnight Tech: Senate panel to vote on Dem FCC commissioner MORE leaves a void that Republican Congresswoman Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Moore CapitoRepublicans want to grease tracks for Trump Republicans face divisions over ObamaCare repeal High out-of-pocket prescription drug cost: the patient perspective MORE seems likely to fill. Moore Capito is the daughter of longtime West Virginia Gov. Arch Moore (a former client), who remained popular even after his conviction and imprisonment on corruption charges. It’s hard to see any Democrat beating her.
In Arkansas, Democratic incumbent Mark PryorMark PryorCotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm Top Democrats are no advocates for DC statehood MORE is not retiring — not voluntarily anyway — but Basswood Research has him running 8 points behind newly elected Republican Rep. Tom CottonTom CottonArk., Texas senators put cheese dip vs. queso to the test Overnight Defense: Debate over Mattis heats up | White House releases military force rules Senate GOP to Obama: Stop issuing new rules MORE. Pryor’s job approval is dead even, at 36-36. As Arkansas has shifted from 3:1 Democratic to 4:0 Republican in its congressional delegation over the past two cycles, and after former Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln was trounced in 2010, Pryor’s incumbency rests uneasy.
Beyond those three seats, Republicans are hungrily eyeing Sen. Tom HarkinTom HarkinGrassley challenger no stranger to defying odds Clinton ally stands between Sanders and chairmanship dream Do candidates care about our health or just how much it costs? MORE’s vacancy in Iowa, and have legitimate shots at Democratic incumbents in Alaska, Louisiana, Montana and North Carolina — red states all.
Republicans should hang on to all their vacancies, but Republican Susan CollinsSusan CollinsDems, greens gear up for fight against Trump EPA pick Medicare looms over Trump-Ryan alliance Senators crafting bill to limit deportations under Trump MORE of Maine could be endangered as she seeks another term.
The lessons of 2010 and 2012 loom large. The Republican Party threw away five likely Senate wins — in Nevada, Delaware, and Colorado in 2010 and in Indiana and Missouri in 2012. In each case, a strong Tea Party conservative beat a mainstream Republican in the primaries and then blew the general election — in Indiana, Missouri and Delaware by asinine comments, and in Nevada and Colorado by incompetent campaigns.
But remember that, without the Tea Party, we would never have won 68 seats in the House in 2010. So we shouldn’t reject all Tea Party insurgents, but rather be more sensible in our choice of candidates.
To win, Republicans must end the Democratic hegemony among Latino voters. The GOP performance on immigration reform will tell the story.
And Republicans must stop saying stupid things about abortion. In the narrow sense, we must make sure that we defeat in primaries any candidate who favors a ban on abortion in the case of rape. Such a nominee would be too far to the right to be elected in any of these swing states.
In a larger sense, Republican nominees should move away from the legal front on abortion and toward the practical way to vindicate a pro-life agenda. After 40 years of Roe under Republican courts, let’s all realize that it is not about to be overturned under President Obama. Let’s instead emphasize our determination to reduce the number of abortions by birth control, abstinence education, counseling, adoption incentives and parental notification and consent. We have lowered the number of abortions from 1.4 million to 800,000 in the past two decades. We should set a goal of getting it under 500,000 — a goal both mainstream liberals and conservatives can unite to accomplish.
The prospects are bright for 2014 if we can heed the admonition of the cartoon character Pogo: “we have met the enemy and he is us!”
Morris, a former adviser to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and President Clinton, is the author of 16 books, including his latest, Screwed and Here Come the Black Helicopters. To get all of his and Eileen McGann’s columns for free by email, go to dickmorris.com.