Here’s the basic math on the 2014 Senate elections: Republicans need a net gain of six to take control of the upper chamber. Tim Johnson (a Democrat) from South Dakota is out, and his seat will almost assuredly flip. That takes the number down to five needed, net-gain wise. There are various theories on who the most in-trouble Democrats are — Mary Landrieu of Louisiana is often near the top of these lists, and we’ve talked about Pryor vs. Cotton in Arkansas — and in all this, one name you hear a lot is Kay Hagan (North Carolina), who beat Elizabeth Dole back in 2008 (the first Obama win) but now is dealing with the reality of a state that’s becoming more Republican (I’d link to a few things here, but politically, the blue — > red shift of NC has been detailed almost everywhere).
Conventional wisdom says Hagan is doomed, but that might be entirely incorrect. The Republican primary is on May 6 (a week from this Tuesday). Thom Tillis has a 3-to-1 fundraising edge over other GOP candidates, so presumably he’s going to emerge as the challenger to Hagan. He’s tied to the Koch Brothers and “dark money,” which should terrify people. Problem is, even with all his money flowing in, Tillis can’t separate from the pack: look at these aggregate numbers. In many ways, he’s running about even with “Undecided,” which doesn’t seem to be the safest place. If he can’t clear the majority, there’s a second run-off in mid-July, which would mean the state GOP would need to spend another two months battling each other as opposed to targeting Hagan. That’s an advantage for Hagan. Another advantage? If Greg Brannon — the Tea Party candidate in the primaries — manages to break through into the general election. Hagan is running at 42-40 (her advantage) vs. Tillis right now, a gap that would increase if he needs to spend an additional 60 days trying to fend off the Tea Party. The numbers are relatively similar vs. Brannon.
2014 is going to be a weird mid-term in historical context: anti-incumbent attitudes are at a record high, but not a ton of seats are likely to actually flip. (I could be massively wrong about that.) Regardless of what happens, though, the time for Kay Hagan’s professional obituary has not dawned yet.