2014 looks familiar

Republicans had every reason to salivate over the 2012 Senate map. Only 10 GOP incumbents were up for reelection — most of them in red states — while Democrats were on defense in swing and red states like Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, Virginia, Wisconsin and Ohio. 

Yet, when the dust settled, Republicans had somehow managed to lose a net two seats. The GOP’s crazy wing cost the party seats in Indiana and Missouri (where the nation’s most unpopular Democratic incumbent was reelected), while establishment Republicans came up short pretty much everywhere except Nebraska. 

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On paper, 2014 looks as good for Republicans as 2012 appeared to be. 

Of the 35 seats being challenged next year, just 14 are held by Republicans. Except for Maine, which has an entrenched and popular Republican incumbent, every one of those GOP seats is in red territory. Meanwhile, Democrats must defend incumbents in red states like Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina and South Dakota, and defend open seats in Iowa, New Jersey and West Virginia. It wouldn’t be unreasonable for Sen. Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat McConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Brent Budowsky: A plea to Alabama voters MORE (R-Ky.) to start picking out the curtains for the majority leader’s office.

Yet the early signs aren’t positive for the GOP. Polling last week showed that Democratic Sens. Mark BegichMark Peter BegichPerez creates advisory team for DNC transition The future of the Arctic 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map MORE of Alaska, Mary LandrieuMary LandrieuProject Veritas at risk of losing fundraising license in New York, AG warns You want to recall John McCain? Good luck, it will be impossible CNN producer on new O'Keefe video: Voters are 'stupid,' Trump is 'crazy' MORE of Louisiana and Kay HaganKay HaganPolitics is purple in North Carolina Democrats can win North Carolina just like Jimmy Carter did in 1976 North Carolina will be a big battleground state in 2020 MORE of North Carolina all begin the cycle with modest leads. They will face bruising reelection fights, no doubt, but they are in far better shape than Missouri’s Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillDemocrats turn on Al Franken Trump rips Dems a day ahead of key White House meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE was two years ago.  

Republican leaders may have recruited Rep. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoSenate women: Rules on harassment must change Congress, here's a CO2-smart tax fix to protect, create jobs Women, Dems leading sexual harassment discussion in Congress: analysis MORE, their preferred candidate for the open West Virginia seat, but the party continues to have difficulty winning statewide offices in the Mountain State. Of the six state-level executive offices and the two U.S. Senate seats, seven are held by Democrats. Moreover, Capito almost certainly will face a primary instigated by the GOP’s fringe, led by the Club for Growth. 

Conservative insurgents have already notched their first success down in Georgia. Ten years after getting elected by smearing war hero Max Cleland, the prospect of a bruising primary has chased Sen. Saxby ChamblissClarence (Saxby) Saxby ChamblissLobbying World Former GOP senator: Let Dems engage on healthcare bill OPINION: Left-wing politics will be the demise of the Democratic Party MORE into early retirement. Having learned nothing from their Indiana debacle in 2012, conservatives are hell-bent on electing the most extreme right-wingers they can find, in a state that is no longer as conservative as they think it is. 

The early polling out of Kentucky (and there’s been lots of it) surprisingly shows McConnell in rougher shape than anyone could imagine, leading actress and activist Ashley Judd by between 4 and 9 points (depending on the poll). Meanwhile, Tea Party groups in the state are working toward a primary challenge to punish the Senate Republican leader for ... well, who the heck knows anymore? Somehow, McConnell offended them through some random violation of conservative orthodoxy, which goes to show that no one is ever conservative enough for the Republican right.

Republicans have to be praying that the unhinged Rep. Steve King doesn’t contest the open seat in Iowa, thus costing them a shot at a pickup, and that Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Health Care: 3.6M signed up for ObamaCare in first month | Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' next year | Dems push for more money to fight opioids Study: ObamaCare bills backed by Collins would lower premiums Right scrambles GOP budget strategy MORE doesn’t retire in Maine, a seat they’d be hard-pressed to hold without Collins’s personal appeal. 

Ultimately, the GOP’s Senate troubles all come back to the party’s fundamental challenge: resolving its civil war. Because as long as Karl Rove, Haley Barbour, the Tea Party and the Club for Growth are trashing one another, any fight to take control of the Senate will be a sideshow at best.

Moulitsas is the publisher and founder of Daily Kos (dailykos.com)