Charlie Cook, the editor/publisher of the Cook Political Report, held his first briefing of the election cycle on Tuesday and said Republicans are likely to pick up seats in the Senate but was hesitant to say they will definitely retake control of the body.
"The big number is going to be a six seat net gain that Republicans will need. And surely there are 6 opportunities out there," Cook said. "Heck, there are three Democratic seats that look more likely than not to go into Republican hands, but it’s those fourth, fifth, sixth, seats that Republicans really have to worry about. It’s Mark Begich in Alaska, it’s Mark Pryor in Arkansas, it’s Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, to a lesser extent Kay Hagan in North Carolina."
Cook’s comments came during a National Journal briefing that focused on the "2014 Midterm Election Environment," and looked at "early thoughts on the 2016 presidential nominations." The event was held at the Newseum, in Washington, D.C.
Republicans currently hold 46 Senate seats, Democrats hold 52, and there are two independents, both caucus as Democrats. At present, Republicans hold a New Jersey Senate seat, but that is likely to return to a Democrat after the October special election.
With 35 seats up for reelection or open, 21 are in the hands of Democrats, while Republicans have 14. According to analysts, four appear to be in limbo.
Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, and North Carolina are widely considered "toss-ups." Additionally, Republicans are thought to have a good chance to win in South Dakota and West Virginia, where Democrats previously held the seats.
Republicans are hoping to pick up at least six seats, assuming the New Jersey seat returns to Democrats in October, and take over control of the Senate. Alaska, Arkansas, and Louisiana will be key if they are to succeed.
"Can Republicans tip those over in addition to the open seats in South Dakota, and in West Virginia, and Montana?" Cook asked. "You’ve got three Democratic held seats that look like they’re probably going to go over to the Republican side."
Cook wrote on his website six of the seats Democrats are defending are "in states that GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney won easily in 2012, and two more that are in swing states." Of the seats Republicans are defending, "only one … is in a state that President Obama carried in 2012."
"These numbers would suggest that Republicans should be in a position to gain seats this cycle," Cook wrote. "At this early stage, the odds of Democrats losing seats are far greater than the odds of them gaining seats."
Cook pointed out Democrats appeared to be "overexposed" in 2012, yet Republicans failed to regain control of the Senate.
"We went from a situation where everybody thought that Republicans would pick up two, three, four seats to actually a net loss of two," he said. "And so that’s why I’m a little reticent about saying, even though the dynamics are very similar, 2008 was a great year for Democrats, therefore 2014 they’re overexposed."
"By all rights Democrats are enormously overexposed in 2014 and yet a lot of this is going to be contingent upon can Republicans fix their problems, both in terms of their macro brand problems on the one side, as well as problems like … are they getting good people to run," he said.
The seats in the House of Representatives are far more secure.
"In terms of the House of Representatives, it’s pretty unlikely Republicans will lose their majority in the House," Cook said. "The Democrats need a 17 seat net gain, which isn’t a huge number, but when you sort of look at where the congressional district boundaries are drawn and sort of the landscape, it’s hard to see how either party could pick up double digits, and particularly 17 seats."
"Ninety-three percent of all the Republicans in the House of Representatives are sitting in districts that Mitt Romney carried," he said. "Ninety-six percent of all districts that Democrats hold are in districts that President Obama carried. And so to a large extent the House is kind of sorted out."