As long as extreme candidates like Todd Akin keep winning GOP nominations, more welcoming faces like Scott Brown will always be fighting an uphill battle.
After back-to-back disappointing Senate elections in 2010 and 2012, Republicans (and others) are looking at 2014 and wondering not just how similar, but perhaps, how different, they could be. Two years ago, Republicans gained six Senate seats, but that gain was disappointing compared with what they could have won but weren't able to because of exotic candidates (see Colorado, Delaware, and Nevada), and compared with the 63 seats their party was able to gain in the House. In the election just past, Republicans were unable to knock off a single Democratic incumbent, and the only Democratic seat they did manage to win was in Nebraska, one that most Democrats long ago gave up for lost. Adding insult to injury, Democrats captured three GOP-held seats, beating incumbent Scott Brown of Massachusetts and winning open seats in Indiana and Maine (counting independent Angus King as a Democrat).
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A major similarity between the 2012 and 2014 cycles is the disproportionately large number of Democratic seats up for grabs: 23 Democrats to 10 Republicans in the former and an expected 20 to 13 in the latter. What is likely to be a major difference in 2014, however, is Democratic performance against Republican incumbents. This past election, Democrats managed to capture three seats from the GOP in states that Barack Obama won in 2008 (Indiana), or in both '08 and this year (Maine and Massachusetts). As unlikely as it was that Democrats would manage to gain seats in 2012 against the odds (I believe only the hyper-audacious Chuck Schumer ever predicted a net Democratic gain), the chances of them beating the point spread in three consecutive elections seems even tougher.
Of the 13 Republican-held seats up in 2014, only one is in a state that Obama carried: Susan Collins in Maine. Indeed, Obama wasn't even close in any GOP-held seats in other states. Other than Maine, the best Obama performances were minus 13 points in Alabama (Jeff Sessions), minus eight in Georgia (Saxby Chambliss), minus 12 in Mississippi (Thad Cochran), and minus 12 in South Carolina (Lindsey Graham). The other states ranged from minus 16 in Texas (John Cornyn) to minus 32 in Idaho (James Risch) and minus 34 in Oklahoma (James Inhofe).