Three years after President Barack Obama admitted that his party took a “shellacking” in the midterm elections, Republicans are setting their sights on another political wave in 2014.  It’s a new battle, but the GOP is using the same old weapon, which is public skepticism over The Affordable Care Act.

In 2010, Republicans rode a wave of frustration, in this country, over the economy and the health-care overhaul, which resulted in recapturing control of the House of Representatives.  This time around, they’re focused on keeping that majority and attempting to make gains in the Senate by rely on the bungled HealthCare.gov rollout to fuel voter support.  Republicans have to score six seats to regain control of the Senate. Democrats would have to muster a net-gain of 17 seats to wrestle back power in the lower chamber.

As this disastrous website becomes more operational, the Democratic Party is hoping  that its late success is enough.  But some Democrats are keenly aware that the program’s poor debut could weigh them down in November.  It’s already lowered the President’s approval rating to an all-time low, and has helped distract from GOP failures during the shutdown.

There are seven close contests to watch in 2014.

Arizona
Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick lost her House seat in 2010 thanks to her vote for the Affordable Care Act before winning it back last fall.

This seat is only one of seven in the country held by a Democrat that also voted for the past three GOP presidential nominees (Romney, McCain and Bush) in the past presidential elections.

Arkansas
Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor and his GOP challenger, Rep. Tom Cotton, are locked in a bitter advertising air war over many issues including health-care reform.

Pryor has long been seen as the most vulnerable sitting Democratic senator, especially in a state where Obama earned only 37 percent of the vote in 2012.

Florida
The special election to replace the late Republican Rep. Bill Young is set for March 11 – just days before the enrollment deadline for the individual health-care exchanges.

Both parties are sure to use this race to redefine their 2014 messages. For Republicans, its Obamacare, and for Democrats it’s the GOP obstructionism and their inability in producing a budget.

Alex Sink is the Democratic candidate running in the special election for the congressional seat vacated by the death of U.S. Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla.

This Florida seat is one of the truest swing districts in the country.  In 2012, Barack Obama narrowly won the district, 50 percent to 49 percent, and Young won with 58 percent of the vote.  In 2008, Obama won it 51 percent to 48 percent.  But in 2004, it was President George W. Bush who carried the district, 51 percent to 49 percent over John Kerry.

Georgia
Maybe no race offers a better test of the GOP’s approach toward Obamacare than the crowded Republican Senate primary in Georgia.

One of the Republicans vying for the GOP nomination, Rep. Phil Gingrey, used his first television ad to showcase his vow not to seek a second term unless Obamacare is repealed during his first.

Rep. Paul Broun, the most conservative candidate whose candidacy worries national Republicans the most, because he didn’t vote for Rep. Fred Upton’s, R-Mich., bill to restore health-care coverage to those who were dropped by their insurance plans. And former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel has run radio ads in her opponents’ districts complaining about subsidies to enroll in the exchanges.

Rep. Jack Kingston, another Republican vying for the Senate seat, used a different tack last month, arguing in favor of trying to fix Obamacare and saying it would be irresponsible to simply let the law fail.  That approach might help Kingston with moderate Republican voters and independents, but his conservative challengers virtually crucified the congressman for the remarks.

Kingston’s words might not play in the GOP primary, but it could make him the most effective against the Democrats’ strong nominee, Michelle Nunn.

Louisiana
Sen. Mary Landrieu, a rare Democrat elected from a southern state, has spent her political career in Republican cross-hairs.

To the chagrin of some liberals, Landrieu led the charge to pass legislation to meet Obama’s promise that individuals could keep their health-insurance plans if they liked them.

This bid to distance herself from the Affordable Care Act during one of its first birthing pains reflects the relationship between vulnerable Democrats and this countries’ health care reform movement.

She did say, however, in an interview Wednesday that she would support the legislation again.

Her likely GOP opponent will be Rep. Bill Cassidy, and the outcome could be decided by how many independent voters that they attract.

Massachusetts
In this closely watched House district, Democratic Rep. John Tierney defied near-certain defeat in 2012.  But, unlike most vulnerable House Democrats, he did not break with his party to back the Upton bill last month.

Tierney managed to overcome a strong challenge from Republican Richard Tisei last cycle, boosted by a strong turnout in favor of Obama in deep-blue Massachusetts.  But  a rematch, between these two, will be without  presidential election support

Though the seat will still be difficult for Republicans to win, Tierney must also fend off a primary challenger this cycle.

North Carolina
With her first race for re-election to the Senate looming, Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., was the first to ask for a probe into the bungled Affordable Care Act launch and called for a full review.

She voted for the bill in 2010 and has defended her vote, but if problems continue, watchers will be interested in her response.

Look for Hagan and other vulnerable Red State Democrats to flee from defending the administration, if problems with the program continue.

Advertisements