- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 14, 2013

Borrowing a grading system based on the “Star Trek” franchise, the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics warns on Thursday in its latest breakdown of the 2014 Senate races that Senate Democrats should be on high alert in seven states in which they hold seats..

The political Trekkies — Kyle Kondik, Geoffrey Skelley and Larry J. Sabato — write in the latest edition of The Crystal Ball that Democrats are on “red alert” in Louisiana, South Dakota and West Virginia, and on “orange alert” in Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa and North Carolina.

States listed in red alert are ones where the incumbent party is at best a tiny favorite to hold the seat,” the trio said. “These are the states where all hands are on deck, and the Klingons are opening fire. (This is fitting because partisans surely look at their opponents as ultra-aggressive warmongers.) Orange alert is where candidates are on full alert, but have not yet been subjected to serious enemy fire. We made this one up (we think), but given [film director] J.J. Abrams’ recent reboot of the Star Trek franchise, we believe that anything goes.”

Republicans are now favored to win in West Virginia, roughly a month after Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, West Virginia Democrat, announced he would not seek a sixth term — making it the “only seat in the country where the current incumbent party is actually an underdog.”

“Democrats also have very tenuous holds on two other seats: South Dakota, where even if he runs again Sen. Tim Johnson (D) will face a stiff challenge from ex-Gov. Mike Rounds (R); and Louisiana, where despite having a popular family name, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) is likely to face a well-funded and, more importantly, sane challenger,” they say.

In 2014, there are 35 Senate seats up for grabs. Democrats will be defending 21 of them, and Republicans will be looking to protect 14. Democrats now hold a 55-to-45 seat edge — including two independents who caucus with the party — over Republicans in the Senate.

Republicans need a net gain of six seats to take back the chamber.

The most vulnerable Republican seats are in Georgia, where Sen. Saxby Chambliss is retiring, and in Kentucky, “where a perfect storm could endanger Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.”

The group places the danger level in these two states for the GOP at “yellow alert.”

“Yellow alert is where threats are not immediately evident, but vigilance is required lest one gets caught with one’s pants down or, like ‘Capt. Kirk in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,’ with his ship’s shields down,” they say.

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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