Speed Reads

2014 midterms

What tonight's key Senate races will tell us about 2016

North Carolina is "ground zero for the forces shaping 2014," Gerald F. Seib says in The Wall Street Journal. It's also an incubator for the 2016 presidential race that will inevitably pit short-term trends that favor Republicans against long-term demographic changes that tilt Democratic.

Facing off in North Carolina are mainstream Democratic incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan and mainstream conservative Republican Thom Tillis. As of Monday night, Hagan was ahead by 2 percentage points.

North Carolina is one of the four "truly fair battleground" states — including Iowa, Colorado, and New Hampshire — because it doesn't obviously lean one way or another, Seib says. President Obama narrowly won the state in 2008 and then narrowly lost it in 2012. Several of the other states up for grabs tonight, including Montana, West Virginia, and South Dakota, are typically red states that Obama lost in both elections.

As for North Carolina, the demographics in the state have for the past 20 years been on a consistently upward Democratic trend — thanks to growing Hispanic and urban populations. More recently, however, Obama's poor standing in North Carolina and the South in general help give Republicans the edge.

The results of North Carolina's Senate race — like Iowa's, Colorado's, and New Hampshire's — will either expose some Democratic weakness that will threaten their chances in 2016, or prove that Republicans' influence has its limits in swing states that will figure prominently in the next presidential run.