It’s time for conservatives to get over it. That’s right—it’s time to move on. We need to stop moping around, pointing fingers over the 2012 elections and start planning for 2014, now. Conservatives need to learn what the progressives took to heart long ago: In America, the winners of the elections never stop campaigning and organizing.
If we really want to fix this nation’s debt and economic problems—and stop the Obama agenda—it starts with the 2014 US Senate races.
We can fire Harry Reid if we start planning right away. Planning now means setting up field offices and funding coalitions outreach in every state we can win, taking a page right out of the Obama playbook.
The Obama campaign was ultimately successful because it combined 21st data and technology with on the ground door knocking and talking with voters. Using real people and having real conversations and personal contact with voters, not robocalls and TV ads, conservatives must message to a wider range of audiences about the issues that are important to them.
The good news is that every incumbent Senate Republican running in 2014 is in a safe seat. If conservatives and Republicans develop volunteer, technological, and candidate infrastructure, we can pick up more than a dozen seats from vulnerable Democrat incumbents who will be on the ropes in a mid-term election.
Here are the races conservatives should target, starting with the most winnable first. They’re all incumbents, but there is a path to victory in each of these 13 races.
1. Mary Landrieu, Louisiana
- She voted for ObamaCare (remember the “2nd Louisiana Purchase?”), the Stimulus, TARP, and just about every bill Harry Reid wanted her too. In a state that rejected President Obama 58 to 41 percent, she’ll have some explaining to do. Though there are no indications that Governor Bobby Jindal would run against her, if he did, she wouldn’t stand a chance.
2. Kay Hagan, North Carolina
- Hagan was pulled across the finish-line by Team Obama’s 2008 victory in North Carolina. In 2014, President Obama’s support won’t help her re-election chances in the off-year election in a right-of-center state. She voted for all the major liberal bills, and a strong, well organized challenger should win.
3. Jay Rockefeller, West Virginia
- Republican Congresswoman Shelly Moore Capito has declared she’s running, and she’s already beating Rockefeller—a West Virginia icon—by four percent. Most suspect Rockefeller might call it quits after 36 years in the Senate. While West Virginia loves incumbents, a Republican can win this seat.
4. Mark Pryor, Arkansas
- The Arkansas Republican Party embarrassed itself in 2008 when no candidate filed to challenge the then-freshman Senator. In 2014, they won’t make that mistake again, and hopefully, they’ll field a strong candidate. If either Congressman Tim Griffin or Tom Cotton were to run against Pryor, it would be a highly competitive race and a strong pick up possibility. There are other dark horse candidates as well, including a young energy executive out of the south part of the state. Remember, Obama got trampled 61 to 37 percent in Arkansas this year, and Pryor has voted for every major Obama policy proposal, most notably ObamaCare.
5. Tim Johnson, South Dakota
- The last time Johnson had a serious challenger, 2002, he only won by 500 votes. After his two-decade long record of voting to the left of his constituents, Johnson will have a tough time against popular former Governor Mike Rounds—who announced his intent to run last Friday morning.
6. Jeff Merkley, Oregon
- Oregon is a generally liberal state, but Public Policy Polling, a Democratic pollster, shows Merkley trailing potential challenger Congressman Greg Walden. No one is paying attention to this seat yet, but we should.
7. Mark Begich, Alaska
- Don’t let Alaska fool you. It’s a conservative state, but its citizens love incumbents. Alaska is addicted to federal earmarks and will always vote with their pocketbook for the most bacon. Some conservatives think he’ll go down easily, but I’m not so sure. If Governor Parnell runs, we probably have the best chance. If former Governor Palin runs, it’ll be the most-watched race in the nation.
8. Al Franken, Minnesota
- Yes, he’s a joke, but Minnesota is known for loving goofy candidates. Either Pawlenty or Coleman will be our best shot, and voters may especially be sympathetic to Coleman, considering the seat was won by more-than-apparent fraud in 2008.
9. Mark Udall, Colorado
- With a wide array of decent challengers, this race has the potential to be close. Early polls show some challengers within four percent, so it’s worth paying attention to.
10. Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire
- Shaheen has raised the lowest amount of funds out of any incumbent, and she only won 52 percent of the vote in 2008. The GOP primary could be colorful, and some have speculated former Senator Scott Brown might change his residency (he has a house in New Hampshire).
11. Tom Harkin, Iowa
- Early polls put Congressman Tom Latham within the margin of error, should he decide to run. Iowa went for Obama, but in an off year, it’s much more red.
12. Mark Warner, Virginia
- Warner’s polling is strong, but if Governor Bob McDonnell runs, the race will be close. Both men are wildly popular in the state and could raise millions.
13. Max Baucus, Montana
- · Republicans have an outside shot at this Democrat incumbent in a heavily red state. As the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Baucus uses that excuse to rarely visit his “home” state, but it will take a strong candidate (which are hard to come by in Montana) to unseat him.
Keep in mind that we only need to win half of these races. Control of the Senate is Republicans’ to lose in 2014.
We must invest in better data, better technology and conservative infrastructure now, and we need to move into these states—even before the primaries—to start laying the groundwork against these incumbents and developing a network to mobilize our own people.
Grassroots wins elections. The trick is recognizing as Obama has that grassroots: coalitions, ethnic outreach, and targeting aren’t things you do in the four months leading up to an election. For conservatives, especially, we must start now and never stop.
Ned Ryun is the President and CEO of American Majority Action, a national grassroots organization. Learn more at AmericanMajorityAction.org.