What’s the Outlook for the 2014 Midterm Elections?

Mr. Geoffrey SkelleyNovember is quickly approaching and control of Congress is up for grabs. What will be the state of play in the U.S. Senate and House as well as gubernatorial races? The real drama in this cycle will be the battle for control of the Senate, where Republicans need to win a net gain of six seats to win a majority in Congress’ upper chamber. Mr. Geoffrey Skelley spoke at the Wednesday, October 8, 2014 SSV meeting, which was moderated by SSV President Robert McGrath. A podcast of his remarks can be found here.


Geoffrey Skelley joined the staff of the Center for Politics in November 2011. Working as a political analyst, Skelley is the associate editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the Center’s weekly political newsletter. He also serves as the center’s media relations coordinator, helping manage its communications.

A native of Harrisonburg, VA, Skelley received an M.A. in Political Science (with a focus on the European Union) from James Madison University in 2011, and is a graduate of the University of Virginia, receiving a B.A. in History in 2009.

Program Summary

Geoffrey Skelley presented an overview of the state of play—the environment this election will be taking place in—and a review of the races, particularly the Senate where most of the drama is in this election cycle. Although Mr. Skelly is often asked what the most important issue is in this election, there really isn’t one thing that overhangs: foreign policy, the Middle East, immigration, the healthcare law, the economy. So at the end of the day, the most important aspect of this election is President Obama. The president’s party rarely does well in midterm elections, and this is compounded by Obama’s approval falling into the low 40s.

There are 36 Senate seats up, 21 held by Democrats and 15 by Republicans. Republicans should do well because of the geography (more rural) and the Democrats hold the majority of the seats presenting a lot of opportunity for the Republicans to win the six seats or more that they need to win a majority. There are seven states that Mitt Romney won that have Democratic incumbents who are up this cycle (Alaska, Montana, South Dakota, Arkansas, Louisiana, West Virginia and North Carolina).

There are nine toss-up races with seven incumbent Democrats and two Republicans. The outcomes of three of these races may not be known on election night—Alaska because of the time zone and its sparse, spread out population; Louisiana because nine candidates running which may end up requiring a run-off election on December 6; and Georgia where a majority is required and if it is not attained, a run-off election would be held on January 6, which is three days after Congress is supposed to convene!

At the moment, Mr. Skelly projects that the Republicans would gain between five and eight seats in the Senate. Five would be insufficient for the Republicans to gain a majority leaving a 50/50 tie with the Democrats maintaining control given Vice President Biden’s vote.

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