By Alexander Bolton – 07/21/13 02:15 PM ET
President Obama talked earlier this year of a Democratic takeover of the House, but instead his party is now in danger of losing the Senate.
The latest blow to their hopes of keeping the upper chamber came from former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D),who opted out of a race to replace retiring Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.)
Schweitzer’s decision deflated the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s annual retreat on Martha’s Vineyard, where many senators heard the news.
“People were very upset,” said a Democratic donor who was there.
That party seems likely to lose seats in Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia, where it cannot find find strong candidates.
The GOP will probably need to capture six Democratic seats in 2014 to grab the majority, as Newark mayor Cory Booker is well positioned to win the seat held by interim Sen. Jeff Chiesa (R-N.J.) in a special election. Democrats hold a 54 to 46 advantage, counting two independents who caucus with them.
But they must also defend four vulnerable incumbents and the seat soon to be vacated by Sen. Tom Harkin (D) in Iowa, a swing state.
Sens. Mark Pryor and Mark Begich, Democrats from Arkansas and Alaska, where Obama lost badly in 2012, are in greatest danger. Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), a three-term survivor perpetually on the GOP target list, and Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), who had a solid lead in a recent Public Policy Polling survey, will also have competitive races.
Pryor is seen as the most vulnerable, though Begich is a close second.
The Arkansan has taken hits from the right and the left this year as the anti-tax group Club For Growth and Mayors Against Illegal Guns, have aired attack ads against him. A late-June poll commissioned by the Senate Conservatives Fund showed him in a dead heat with freshman Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.).
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