The Washington Times - October 24, 2013, 08:19AM

The latest 2014 election breakdown from the political gurus at the University of Virginia shows that Democrats are positioned to retain control of the Senate and pick up a number of seats in the House.

Larry Sabato, Kyle Kondik and Geoffrey Skelley of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics said that the national climate for Democrats has improved thanks to the recent budget stalemate that led to the 16-day government shutdown.


“If the numbers look similar close to Election Day next year, Democrats would be poised for significant gains in the House, and the generic ballot would also indirectly indicate a national sentiment for retained Democratic control of the Senate,” they write.

Republicans need to win six seats, net, to take control of the Senate.

The analysis from the Center for Politics says that the Louisiana and North Carolina races — featuring incumbent Sens. Mary Landrieu and Kay Hagan, respectively — now lean Democratic, while the races in Arkansas and Alaska remain toss-ups.

They say that Ms. Hagan is benefiting from North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory’s approval rating — which his stuck in the 30s — and some of the controversial conservative measures that the GOP-controlled legislature has signed into law, including new voter ID regulations.

In Louisiana, Ms. Landrieu is benefiting from the damaged national Republican brand and the poor fundraising of her opponent, Rep. Bill Cassidy.

The Center for Politics authors say Republicans have a good shot of knocking off Democratic Sen. Mark Begich in Alaska as long as they don’t nominate Joe Miller, the “disastrous 2010 Senate nominee.”

In Arkansas, Sen. Mark Pryor, a Democrat, faces off against Rep. Tom Cotton, a freshman Republican.

“Pryor remains in deep trouble and is probably the most endangered Senate incumbent of either party at this point,” they say.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, meanwhile, has helped himself by playing a leading role in ending the government shutdown — putting him on better footing headed into his potential match up with Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.

“Another reason to remain skeptical of Grimes’ chances is to consider Kentucky’s position in the Senate,” they said. “The state already has a tea party senator in the aforementioned Rand Paul (R). Are they really going to add a second one by backing Matt Bevin (R), McConnell’s primary opponent? Grimes might actually win against Bevin, and some Republicans are wise enough to recognize that fact.”