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Long slog to 2014 election begins for Senate's 'red state' Democrats

Three Senate Democrats from states where Obama lost in 2012 – and who are up for reelection themselves in 2014 – voted this week against their own party's fix for the 'sequester.' Will such votes hamstring Obama's legislative agenda?

By Staff writer / March 2, 2013

Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., speaks during a hearing in Washington in 2011. Twenty months away from next year's election, a national conservative group recently launched the first 2014 campaign attack against Pryor with a television ad that derides the Arkansas lawmaker as President Barack Obama's "best ally" in the state.

Alex Brandon/AP

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Washington

The agony of the 2014 election cycle has already begun for incumbent Democrats from "red" states.

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That became apparent Thursday, when three Democratic senators from conservative-leaning states – Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana – rejected their own party's fix for the budget-crimping “sequester.” It included $55 billion in tax hikes on the rich alongside cuts to farm subsidies and the Pentagon.

Earlier in the week, two powerful conservative groups had pegged Senator Pryor as a top 2014 election target. 

That vote was only for political show, and thus not one that could make or break President Obama's agenda. But it nonetheless signals an uncomfortable reality for red-state Democrats: Votes on the president's agenda for the current congressional session – immigration reform, higher taxes for the wealthy, firearms legislation – could put them into a difficult spot with constituents back home, a majority of whom cast their ballots for someone other than Mr. Obama last November. 

The GOP's Mitt Romney carried seven states where Senate Democrats will be up for reelection come 2014. Democrats are going to need to protect many of those to keep their Senate majority.

Last year, that need to protect red-state Democrats from taking unpopular votes is believed to be a key reason the party's Senate leaders bottled up a budget resolution, allowing them to avoid taking a stand on federal spending priorities. 

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