The numbers tell why Democrats are preparing to essentially put all of their Georgia hopes in a soft-spoken, bespectacled candidate who has never held elective office — and how much will have to break their way to win. Assuming a special Senate election in New Jersey this fall goes Democratic, Republicans will have to win six seats in 2014 to take the Senate.
Democrats start in deep trouble in three Republican states with retiring Democratic veterans — West Virginia, South Dakota and Montana. Two incumbent Democrats, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Mark Begich of Alaska, face tough re-election fights against credible opponents in Republican states. If all five flip, Republicans would need one more in a tough-but-broad playing field that includes North Carolina, Louisiana, Michigan and Colorado.
If Democrats could take a Republican seat, it would provide much-needed insurance. But only two seem remotely possible. One, in Kentucky, is occupied by the wily, well-financed Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell. The other is in Georgia, a state where a growing urban, minority and immigrant population has been coveted by Democrats, but where Mitt Romney beat Mr. Obama comfortably, 53 percent to 46 percent, in a high-turnout election.