How The Senate Is Shaping Up

Nate Cohn parses a poll showing Democrats leading in Southern Senate races:

[Arkansas Sen.] Mark Pryor has a 10-point lead, according to the poll, but 16 percent of Mr. Pryor’s supporters — or 8 nearly percent of all voters — oppose the Affordable Care Act and say they could not vote for a candidate who disagrees with their stance on the issue. Mr. Pryor, of course, voted for the Affordable Care Act. If those voters flip, his opponent, Representative Tom Cotton, will have the advantage.

Other Democrats face a similar challenge: In every contest, at least 10 percent of Democratic supporters oppose the Affordable Care Act and say they wouldn’t vote for a candidate who disagrees with their stance. All four Democratic Senate candidates in these states support the law.

Beutler thinks “the GOP’s Obamacare obsession is going to start looking more and more strained and untenable”:

We’re already seeing signs of that in Senate races in Arkansas, Michigan, New Hampshire, and North Carolina. But I don’t think Republicans are going to switch scripts any time soon, both because conservatives won’t let them, and for the more fundamental reason that they don’t have any other scripts lying around.

And they may not need to. Their map is good! But if Obamacare recedes as an issue, and the projections start looking less auspicious for them, they might start wishing that they hadn’t staked everything on a single issue, the success or failure of which rests largely outside of their control.

Drum gives Democrats free advice:

Electorates in red states know that these Democrats voted for Obamacare. Their opponents are going to hammer away at it relentlessly. It’s just impossible to run away away from it, and doing so only makes them look craven and unprincipled. The only way to turn this around is not to distance yourself from Obamacare, but to try and convince a piece of the electorate that Obamacare isn’t such a bad deal after all. You won’t convince everyone, but you don’t need to. You just need to persuade the 5 or 10 percent who are mildly opposed to Obamacare that it’s working better than they think.

Finally, Douthat fears that the GOP will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory:

The best reason to bet on the Democrats doing somewhat better than expected in these races … isn’t current polling (we’re too far out, still), and nor is it merely the general pattern in which savvy incumbent senators eke out re-election in races that the red-blue map suggests that they should lose. Rather, it’s the more specific phenomenon of a Republican Party that, in the age of Obama, has proven remarkably adept at squandering winnable Senate seats and underperforming in Senate races, with all sorts of candidates, in red and purple states alike.

In part, this has happened because of primary fights that have produced freakishly bad nominees, like Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell and Todd Akin. But it’s also happened in slow-motion, under-the-radar ways, sometimes with establishment candidates and sometimes with Tea Partiers, in races that are close and winnable and then just … slipped … away.