Senate Democrats have long awaited the 2010 tea party wave to splash back on Republicans during the 2016 election cycle.
That moment is almost here.
After two years of obsessive focus on the teetering reelection prospects of red-state Democrats, the attention is about to shift in a major way to blue-state Republicans. Six of them who rode anti-Obama sentiment to office in 2010 are up in two years, and they’ll face the dual challenge of a more diverse electorate and potentially Hillary Clinton atop the Democratic ticket.
The leftward-tilting map means a GOP-controlled Senate could be short-lived if the party prevails on Tuesday. Even in the best-case scenario for the party, a Republican majority is certain to be slim.
A half-dozen first-term Republicans are up for reelection in states President Barack Obama won in both 2008 and 2012: Mark Kirk of Illinois, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Rob Portman of Ohio, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Marco Rubio of Florida. Obama also twice carried Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Iowa, but the longtime incumbent would be much tougher to dislodge.
Add it all up and it’s basically the mirror image of 2014.
“We shift the ground from where it was this time — seven Democrats were running in states that Obama didn’t carry — to an environment where seven Republicans are running in states that Obama did carry,” said Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, a member of GOP leadership up for reelection in 2016.
Republicans are trying to look at the bright side of the intimidating terrain. If the GOP proves itself a responsible steward of Congress over the next two years, Republicans believe voters will be less inclined to oust vulnerable GOP incumbents.
“If there’s an advantage to Republicans in the 2016 campaign … it’s the chance that you had to finally make the case,” said Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, the current National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman.