United States Senate elections, 2014
- 1 Partisan breakdown
- 2 Campaign finance
- 3 Outside race ratings
- 4 Issues heading into 2014
- 5 Government shutdown
- 6 Farm Bill
- 7 Syria
- 8 Gang of Eight
- 9 Farm bill
- 10 Affordable Care Act
- 11 Student Success Act
Elections to the U.S. Senate will be held on November 4, 2014. A total of 33 of the 100 seats will be up for regular election. Additionally, two special elections will take place in 2014 to fill vacancies that occurred in the 113th Congress (Hawaii and South Carolina).
Those elected to the U.S. Senate in the 33 regular elections on November 4, 2014, will begin their six-year terms on January 3, 2015.
The 2014 elections mark the 100th anniversary of the direct popular election of U.S. Senators. Prior to the ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1913, U.S. Senators were selected by state legislatures.
As of December 2013, seven senators had announced they would not be running for re-election. In comparison, ten incumbent senators did not run for re-election in 2012, and twelve did not run for re-election in 2010.
In 2014, Republicans would need to pick up six seats currently held by Democrats in order to gain a majority.
Three incumbent Democratic U.S. Senators (Max Baucus of Montana, Tim Johnson of South Dakota and Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia) have announced that they are not running for re-election in 2014, and the GOP is considered a favorite to pick up the seats they are leaving vacant. Three other states with Democratic U.S. Senators up for re-election in 2014 (Alaska, Arkansas and North Carolina) are generally considered to have GOP-leaning electorates.
In 2012, the Democratic Party retained control over the chamber, winning 25 of the 33 seats. With Republican candidates winning only eight seats, this was the worst performance by a major party since the 1950s.
The following table displays the partisan composition of the U.S. Senate heading into the 2014 elections.
|U.S. Senate Partisan Breakdown|
|Party||As of April 2014||After the 2014 Election|
As of December 2013, seven senators have announced they will not be running for re-election in 2014:
|Jay Rockefeller||Democratic||West Virginia|
|Tim Johnson||Democratic||South Dakota|
- Mary Landrieu (LA) had raised $1.2 million and had $3.5 million cash on hand
- Mark Pryor (AK) had raised $1.9 million and had $3.4 million cash on hand
- Kay Hagan (NC) had raised $1.6 million and had $2.7 million cash on hand
- Mark Begich (AK) had raised $948,000 and had $1.5 million cash on hand
An August 2013 Politico report reported that the 27 incumbents running for re-election in 2014 had together raised about $125 million by the end of June 2013. The report also found that 2014 may be the most expensive midterm election to date, pointing to the fact that the total amount raised for incumbents seeking re-election is $30 million more than at the same point in 2012 and on par with the amount they had raised in 2010.
The incumbents highlighted in the article were:
- Minority Leader Mitch McConnell led in fundraising, having raised more than $15 million for the 2014 cycle
- Lindsey Graham (SC) an John Cornyn (TX) have raised more than $8 million in the 2014 cycle
- Kay Hagan (NC), Mark Pryor (AR) and Mary Landrieu (LA) have each raised between $4 million to $7 million in the 2014 cycle
DSCC and NRSCC
Both the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) work to elect candidates from their respective parties to the U.S. Senate.
The DSCC outraised their GOP counterpart, the NRSC, by one million dollars in October 2013. The DSCC raised $4.8 million compared to the NRSC's $3.8 million. This was the organization's best off-year October in their history.
At that time, the DSCC had raised $14 million more than the NRSC, a total of $43.5 million raised. They reported $11.1 million cash on hand. However, the organization was also carrying $6.2 million in debt. The NRSC had $5 million cash on hand at the end of October 2013.
July 2013 memo
In July 2013, NRSC president, Rob Collins, circulated a memo to top donors outlining the path to a majority in the Senate for the Republican Party. From the memo:
- "Montana now joins West Virginia and South Dakota as the third red-state where Democrats have not only failed to land their top candidates, but to recruit a candidate capable of winning a general election matchup."
Collins reiterated that Republicans need to win just three seats in states with incumbent Democratic senators.
NRSC fundraising worries
In September 2013, Politico released a report fundraising and internal problems within the NRSC. The group had only raised $21.7 million through September in 2013, which was $5 million less than it had at the same time in 2009, with 2010 being the most recent midterm elections.
There was also speculation that a staff chasm has left some staffers loyal to Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS), the acting NRSC chairman, while others fall more in line with Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), the vice chairman of finance.
Outside race ratings
|U.S. Senate predictions|
|Prediction from:||Month||Solid D||Likely D||Lean D||Tossup||Lean R||Likely R||Solid R|
|Rothenberg Political Report||June 28, 2013||12||1||1||5||2||2||12|
|Sabato's Crystal Ball||June 27, 2013||7||3||3||5||2||3||11|
|Rothenberg Political Report||October 16, 2013||12||2||2||2||1||4||12|
Cook Political Report
|Cook Political Report Race Rating -- U.S. Senate|
|Month||Solid D||Likely D||Lean D||Tossup||Lean R||Likely R||Solid R||Total D||Total R||Total races|
|June 27, 2013||6||5||6||3||0||4||11||17||15||35|
|August 2, 2013||7||4||6||2||3||2||11||17||16||35|
|October 17, 2013||7||4||6||2||3||2||11||17||16||35|
|December 19, 2013||7||5||4||3||3||1||12||16||16||35|
|February 7, 2014||6||6||4||3||3||1||13||16||17||36|
|February 27, 2014||6||5||5||3||3||1||13||16||17||36|
|March 19, 2014||8||2||3||7||2||2||12||13||16||36|
Changes by month
- From June 27, 2013, to August 2, 2013, Cook's race ratings changed in the following states:
- Virginia went from Likely Democrat to Solid Democrat
- Arkansas went from Likely Democrat to Solid Democrat
- Iowa went from Lean Democrat to Tossup
- Montana went from Tossup to Lean Republican
- West Virginia went from Tossup to Lean Republican
- Georgia went from Lean Republican to Likely Republican
- Kentucky went from Likely Republican to Tossup
New York Times
According to an analysis by Nate Silver of The New York Times, Democrats are looking at a tough road ahead of them in the U.S. Senate in 2014. Democrats hold 21 of the 35 seats up for election in 2014, and there are more Democratic controlled seats that lean Republican than Republican seats that lean Democratic.
Additionally, Democrats could suffer from a lower voter turnout of their base due to the fact that 2014 is a midterm election and President Obama will not be on the ballot.
However, Republicans need to take six seats in order to gain control of the Senate, a large gain that will be difficult to accomplish even in a favorable environment. Based on the data below, at this very early stage Republicans are expected to be able to pick up four or five seats.
The table below lists the initial race ratings overview for the 35 senate seats up for election in 2014 as of February 2013.
|The New York Times Race Ratings -- U.S. Senate|
|Month||Solid D||Likely D||Lean D||Tossup||Lean R||Likely R||Solid R|
|February 20, 2013||6||7||3||4||0||4||11|
|July 15, 2013||8||4||3||3||0||4||13|
|March 23, 2014||10||2||3||1||1||4||16|
Most vulnerable seats
The FiscalTimes compiled a list of the seven most vulnerable Senate seats up for election in 2014. The seven included in the list are: Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia. Going into the 2014 election, all seven seats are held by Democrats.
- Georgia: After Michelle Nunn (D) announced her candidacy in July 2013, it greatly increased the chance for Democrats to pick up the seat. On the Republican side, as of August 2013 there already had been five major Republican candidates in the field that could break any which way. Who emerges from that primary will be a huge determining factor when it comes to whether this race is competitive.
- Iowa: Democratic candidate Bruce Braley seems to be a capable fundraiser and looks set to cruise to his party’s nomination without any trouble. The Republican primary, meanwhile, lacks a clear front-runner. While it features a former Senate aide, a conservative radio host, a former U.S. attorney, a state senator and possibly a retired businessman, Gov. Terry Branstad (R) says he likely won’t endorse in the primary. Democrats have the advantage in this open race as of August 2013, but the political contours of the state suggest it is not out of the question that Republicans can compete there.
- North Carolina: State house Speaker Thom Tillis (R) has been plagued by headlines about major donors getting seats on the UNC Board of Governors and the money he has received from the gaming industry, and criticism over his decision to launch a Senate campaign while the legislature was still in session. According to Washington Post, none of it means Tillis cannot compete with Sen. Kay Hagan (D), who remains vulnerable. However, his rough start was not the way to begin what promises to be a hard-fought campaign.
- Kentucky: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) drew a self-funding primary challenge running to his ideological right as well as a Democratic challenger in Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. Despite a rocky start for Grimes, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee reportedly will ensure she has a solid team around her to make sure she avoids further rookie mistakes. Polling as of August 2013 suggests it is already a close race. According to the Washington Post, "We think McConnell still is a slight favorite to come back to the Senate in 2015, but his chances got longer over the past month."
- Alaska: Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell appears to be the favorite, and 2010 nominee Joe Miller is the guy Republicans definitely don’t want. In the middle is the potential wild card, state Natural Resources Commissioner Daniel S. Sullivan — not to be confused with the Anchorage mayor of the same name — who recently deployed to Afghanistan. Treadwell didn’t get off to a fast start, raising just $180,000 in the first six months of 2013, and there is speculation that Sullivan, who is not a candidate yet, could start looking more attractive as an alternative.
- Louisiana: Rep. Bill Cassidy (R) had a strong fundraising quarter, hauling in over $1 million for his bid against Sen. Mary Landrieu (D). His only Republican opponent, meanwhile, brought in just $40,000, which is more good news for Cassidy. Landrieu has shown an ability to win in competitive races, but 2014 promises to be her toughest test yet.
- Arkansas: Rep. Tom Cotton (R) is the rare Republican recruit with the ability to unite the conservative grass roots and the Republican establishment, spelling trouble for Sen. Mark Pryor (D), the Senate’s most vulnerable incumbent, according to the Washington Post. Pryor has already taken criticism over the airwaves from both conservative groups on his right and a leading gun-control organization on his left. When Cotton committed to running, things looked even bleaker for the Democrat.
- Montana: Former governor Brian Schweitzer’s (D) surprise decision not to run effectively turned a seat that leaned Democratic into a seat that leans Republican. Since his announcement, a trio of big-name potential female Democratic candidates have passed on the race, including state Auditor Monica Lindeen, Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock and state schools superintendent Denise Juneau. On the Republican side, all are still waiting to see if freshman Rep. Steve Daines jumps in. As of August 2013, former state senator Corey Stapleton is seen as the front-runner.
- South Dakota: Four Democratic senators from the state have lined up behind Rick Weiland as the Democratic standard-bearer in this race, but national Democrats are still in search of an alternative, not believing Weiland can make a race of it against likely Republican nominee and former Gov. Mike Rounds. According to the Washington Post, Democrats’ best hope here may be the possibility that Rounds gets a legitimate primary challenger who can damage his candidacy or somehow upset him.
- West Virginia: Not even Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R) could have dared to imagine that the path to the Senate would have opened up so well for her back in late 2012 when she announced her candidacy. Democrats have watched candidate after candidate say “no” to the race. The latest candidate to take a pass is West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis. All Democratic hope now lies in Natalie Tennant, the West Virginia Secretary of State.
Issues heading into 2014
- See also United States budget debate, 2013
Beginning in August 2013, House and Senate members began discussing the possibility of a government shutdown over the funding of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). On September 20, Republicans passed a spending bill in the House that funds the government until December, but strips funding from Obamacare. When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced that the Senate would hold a procedural vote on Wednesday, September 24, many senators began to announce their positions on voting against a cloture, the motion to end debate on a bill. After Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) gave a marathon speech, the motion for cloture was accepted and Reid was able to strip the Obamacare defunding language contained in the Republican House members' continuing resolution (CR).
Following the successful cloture vote and the Senate subsequently sending a clean continuing resolution back to the House, the two chambers began a high-stakes game of hot potato. By September 30, the House had voted and sent three resolutions to the Senate that all were struck down. The Senate then sent back a clean resolution stripped of any healthcare defunding language. With Obamacare being the issue-at-hand, Congress was unable to agree on whether a resolution would fund the landmark healthcare law.
In the midst of the government shutdown in October 2013, talks began regarding the impending debt ceiling.
Polling during the shutdown
|Congressional approval rating|
|Poll||Total approve||Total disapprove||Margin of Error||Sample Size|
|The Economist/YouGov (September 21-23, 2013)||9%||72%||+/-5.1||690|
|CBS/New York Times (September 19-23, 2013)||14%||80%||+/-3||1,014|
|CNN/ORC (September 27-29, 2013)||10%||87%||+/-3.5||803|
|Gallup (October 3-6, 2013)||11%||85%||+/-4||1,028|
|AP-GfK (October 3-7, 2013)||5%||83%||+/-3.4||1,227|
|Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted in this race. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org|
Approval of own congressmen
During the shutdown, American's disapproval rating of their own congressmen reached new a new high, with almost as many people stating disapproval of their member (43%) to approval (44%). The Gallup poll concluded:
- "While members of Congress may continue to argue that problems with the image of the body as a whole is not their fault, and that they are doing nothing more than faithfully representing their particular constituents, it is clear that even their own constituents are less positive about the job they are doing than they were in the past."
- See also: United States Farm Bill 2013
The farm bill is an expansive piece of legislation that provides funding for commodity programs, conservation, trade, nutrition, credit, rural development, research, forestry, energy, horticulture, organic agriculture, livestock, crop insurance, disaster assistance programs and tax provisions. The farm bill is typically passed every five years. The 2008 Farm bill expired September 30, 2012. Congress extended the 2008 bill for one more year, bringing us to the current controversy over the 2013 Farm Bill.
The vast majority of the farm bill is nutrition--roughly 75% of the total farm bill. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) makes up about 72% of the nutrition budget. Crop insurance is expected to be the next largest budgetary expense.
Nutrition and federal spending are in the cross hairs of the current farm bill debate. Republicans want to see cuts to the food assistance programs and Democrats are concerned with crop insurance fraud. In an effort to push through some type of farm bill, the House has attempted to split food stamps from farm policy and create two separate bills. This is the first time since 1973 that food stamps have been split from farm policy.
If the bill expires on September 30, 2013, effects of not having a new bill would not be seen until December 31, 2013, when the dairy price support program would end. If a new bill is not passed before the current one ends, the program would revert back to 1940's era agriculture laws. Crops would likely not be effected until summer of 2014, when the 2013 crop cycle ends.
- See also: United States involvement in Syria
In August 2012, President Obama said the "red line" for U.S. involvement in Syria was the use of chemical or biological weapons. In April 2013, reports surfaced that Syria had used chemical weapons twice in their civil war, but it was not enough for the U.S. to intervene. In June 2013, President Obama authorized sending weapons to Syrian rebels following more reports of small scale chemical weapon attacks.
On August 21, 2013, the Syrian government was accused of a chemical weapons attack on a town in the suburbs of Damascus, killing thousands, including women and children. On September 3, 2013, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Secretary of State John Kerry and General Martin Dempsey met with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to support President Obama's decision to use military force to intervene in the Syrian conflict. The group met with the House Foreign Affairs Committee on September 5.
- See also: Gang of Eight
On May 6, 2013 Senators John McCain (R), Chuck Schumer (D), Richard Durbin (D), Robert Menendez (D), Michael Bennet (D), Lindsey Graham (R), Marco Rubio (R), and Jeff Flake (R) unveiled the outlines of their bi-partisan immigration plan. The statement of principles was rather broad, but sets forth “four basic pillars”:
- 1. A “tough but fair path to citizenship . . . .contingent upon securing our borders and tracking whether legal immigrants have left the country as required”;
- 2. Reform our legal immigration system with a greater eye toward our economic needs;
- 3. Workplace verification; and
- 4. Setting up a system for admitting future workers (although the term “guest worker” is not used).
On June 27, 2013 in a late afternoon vote, the Senate voted to approve the immigration reform bill, Senate Bill 744. The bill passed by a vote of 68-to-32, with 14 Republicans voting in favor.
Speaker John Boehner told House Republicans in a closed-door meeting on July 10, 2013 that the internal debate over immigration reform is an “important conversation," and that while the House will not take up the Senate-passed bill, members must do something to address the issue.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) on July 8, 2013 ridiculed the House’s strategy of using the “Hastert rule” to pass legislation and said Speaker John Boehner will eventually have to take up the Senate’s immigration bill. Reid also said Boehner’s adherence to the “Hastert Rule” requiring a majority of Republican caucus votes to move legislation is emblematic of the lower chamber’s dysfunction.
- See also: United States Farm Bill 2013
The Senate passed a $1 trillion farm bill in June 2013 to fund both food stamps and farmer subsidies. States heavy in agriculture, including ones that will be competitive in 2014, may turn more favorably to Democratic candidates due to Republican opposition of the bill. The vote was 66-27, with 25 of the 27 nay votes being from Republicans. The two Democratic senators to vote against the bill were Jack Reed (RI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (RI)
Both Montana and South Dakota, with agriculture being a major industry, will reap the benefits of the bill and also have open seats due to the retirement of Max Baucus (D-MT) and Tim Johnson (D-SD). 
The comprehensive bill failed in the House due largely in part to the votes of 8 Democratic House members who joined the Republican majority to vote down the measure. Reps. Collin Peterson, John Barrow, Sanford Bishop, Cheri Bustos, Sean Maloney, Mike McIntyre, Bill Owens, and Tim Walz were the 8 Democratic members who voted to reject the bill. According to analysis by OpenSecrets, many of these Democratic members have received significant political contributions from agricultural organizations that benefit from crop insurance subsidies. Five of the eight are on the House Agriculture Committee--Peterson, Bustos, Maloney, McIntyre, and Walz-- from which agribusiness firms routinely target committee members with sizable contributions.
Upon arrival at the House, the bill was altered by focusing solely on the farm programs and did not include the food stamp program, which will be voted on later. The House and Senate will now need to draft a final bill through conference committee.
For senators up for re-election in 2016, this will be the first election since the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. This may be problematic for Democratic senators who voted in favor of the bill in states where it is no longer popular. Among these senators include:
Sen. Lee letter
In July 2013, Lee authored a letter, which as of August 2013 had been signed by 14 Republican senators, which promised a government shutdown unless the Affordable Care Act was defunded. The senators up for re-election in 2014 who signed the letter are:
Senate Conservative Fund targets
The Senate Conservative Fund targeted Sens. Isakson (R-GA), Graham (R-SC), Alexander (R-TN) and Burr (R-NC) in August 2013 with two weeks of radio ads designed to push Senate Republicans to support Utah's Mike Lee's effort to defund Obamacare. 
House Republicans passed a bill, the Student Success Act, on July 19, 2013 to reduce the federal role in public education and outline their vision for a national educational policy to replace the No Child Left Behind law. The measure would give state and local governments greater powers to determine how best to improve schools and would sharply reduce federal involvement in education matters.
It marks a significant departure from No Child Left Behind, the 2002 law that set federal goals for academic achievement and penalties for schools that fell short of those goals, as well as prescriptions for steps states must take to improve failing schools.
No Democrats supported the bill, which passed by a 221 to 207 margin, with 12 Republicans voting with the Democrats against the measure. It marked the first time in a dozen years that either chamber of Congress approved a comprehensive bill to update federal education law.
The House bill is said to have no chance of moving through the Democratic-led Senate as it is written and President Obama has threatened to veto it. The Senate committee overseeing education has completed work on its own measure that would give states greater flexibility in writing their own plans to improve schools. But, unlike the Republican proposal that passed the House, that bill would allow the education secretary to retain approval power over those proposals. Full Senate consideration of the measure is unlikely to happen before the fall of 2014.
- Senate Conservatives Fund "2014 Senate Races"
- Roll Call "Inside the 2014 Senate Races"
- Public Policy Polling "US Senate 2014"
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- Washington Post "Saxby Chambliss retiring in 2014," January 25, 2013
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- USA Today, "Rockefeller's retirement sparks battle for Senate seat," January 11, 2013