Can immigration reform pass? Five senators to watch.

Immigration reform will pass the Senate before the Fourth of July, Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D) of Nevada has vowed. Here are five key senators (or groups of senators) that will be pivotal during the two weeks of debate.

3. Four red-state Democrats

J. Scott Applewhite/AP/File
Sen. Mark Begich (D) of Alaska speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington earlier this year as Sen. Mark Pryor (D) of Arkansas listens.

While Republican struggles with the politics of immigration reform are front and center in the Senate debate, a quartet of Democrats from conservative states face similar challenges. Sens. Mark Begich (D) of Alaska, Kay Hagan (D) of North Carolina, Mary Landrieu (D) of Louisiana, and Mark Pryor (D) of Arkansas will all have to weigh a tough immigration vote with one eye toward their reelection campaigns in 2014.   

If Democrats are going to hold their Senate majority, they’re going to need some of this foursome to survive. 

Typically, vulnerable senators either defy their party’s wishes or are given a pass by political leadership to vote against the party line on tough votes. But the need to run up the vote total in the Senate means every vote is precious. 

This group of senators has, in general, shown a willingness to buck the party on key priorities. Both Senators Begich and Pryor voted against an expansion of background checks for firearm purchases earlier this year. Pryor and Senator Hagan were two of five Democratic senators who helped Republicans fight off the DREAM Act, which would have provided a path to citizenship for some young undocumented immigrants two years ago. 

That doesn’t suggest the group is set to defy their party on immigration, necessarily. 

The quartet isn’t averse to taking a tough vote for the team: all four voted for President Obama’s signature health-care law despite the potential political consequences. 

And just like on health care, it may be up to Mr. Obama to keep the red state Democrats – including those not up for reelection this cycle – in the fold. 

“President Obama has one job,” Republican strategist Ana Navarro told BuzzFeed. “Making sure the Red State Democrats are voting yes.” 

Every Democrat lost is one more Republican that needs to be wooed, making the red-state Democrats a key voting bloc.

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