The Road to the Republican Senate Majority is Easier than You Think

by Nathan L. Gonzales May 20, 2013 · 9:30 AM EDT

Republicans don’t need to win a single state that Barack Obama won in 2012 in order to have a majority in the Senate after the midterm elections.

That means all of the analysis about Republicans’ inability to appeal to swing voters or wooing moderate Democrats in blue states could be pointless. Republican candidates need to identify the voters who supported Mitt Romney over Barack Obama, in what ended up being a comfortable Democratic win, and get them to support GOP Senate nominees. If that happens, the game is over for Democrats.

Democrats are defending seven states that President Obama lost in 2012 and Republicans need a net gain of six to reclaim the majority. That also means in the very unlikely event that Democrats somehow knock off Maine Sen. Susan Collins, the only Republican senator up for re-election in an Obama state, the GOP could be in the majority without her by sweeping the Romney states currently held by a Democrat.

Republicans do have to worry about nominating candidates who are less popular than Romney and, in some states, deal with Democratic incumbents who are more popular than President Obama.

But Republicans have considerable room for error.

President Obama lost six of the seven states with a Democratic senator by an average of 19 percentage points. Some of the states were uglier than others for the President, including West Virginia (Obama minus 27 percent), Arkansas (minus 24 percent), South Dakota (minus 18 percent), Louisiana (minus 17 percent), and Alaska and Montana, which he lost both by just under 14 percent.

The outlier is North Carolina, where Sen. Kay Hagan (D) is running for a second term and President Obama lost by just a couple of points last year.

The red path to the Republican majority would require holding states such as Georgia and Kentucky and defeating at least three incumbents, which would be equal the number they have defeated in total in the last decade.

But the GOP would not need to win any of the Democrats' open seats in Michigan, Iowa, and New Jersey.