- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 20, 2014

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report has moved three competitive Senate races from “Lean Democratic” to “Toss Up” — an indication of the headwinds Democrats are facing at the moment in their hopes of maintaining an edge in the U.S. Senate after the fall elections.

The races for seats held by Democratic Sens. Mark Begich of Alaska, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Kay Hagan of North Carolina have now shifted from “Lean Democratic” to “Toss Up,” writes Jennifer Duffy.

Cook also rates the seat held by Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas and the open seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, as toss-ups. Republicans need to pick up a net of six seats to regain outright control of the chamber.

“Democratic strategists are reconciled to the reality that the political environment will remain very bad for them, that the President’s job approval and favorability ratings will not materially improve between now and the election, nor will public attitudes toward the unpopular Affordable Care Act,” Ms. Duffy wrote.

The recent entry of GOP Rep. Cory Gardner into the race against incumbent Sen. Mark Udall in Colorado moved that contest to “Lean Democratic,” as has the likely entry of former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown into the race in New Hampshire to challenge incumbent Democrat Jeanne Shaheen.

Seats held by Democrats in Massachusetts and Hawaii, meanwhile, are now “Solid Democratic,” while the open seat in Georgia held by retiring GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss has moved from “Lean Republican” to “Toss Up” with Democrat Michelle Nunn to square off against a Republican plucked from a crowded primary that could end up in a runoff.

The only other race currently in Cook’s “Toss Up” column is in Kentucky, where Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell is expected to beat back a primary challenge from businessman Matt Bevin but figures to face a tough general election campaign against Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes.

Mississippi is rated Likely Republican, though incumbent GOP Sen. Thad Cochran is getting a strong primary challenge from state Sen. Chris McDaniel.

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