Hardball with Chris Matthews, 4/23/14, 9:14 PM ET

New polls show tight races in Southern states

A Republican takeover of the Senate may not be certain anymore. New poll numbers show that the races in four Southern states may actually be closer than conservatives think. Howard Fineman and Michael Tomasky discuss.

A GOP Senate majority in the fall may not be such a sure thing

To Republicans hoping for a chance to take over the Senate in November: not so fast.

A new New York Times/Kaiser Family Foundation poll released Wednesday says that the Senate races in four Southern states are closer than early predicted–a development that could put a Republican majority on hold. 

According to the poll, Republican candidates in Kentucky, North Carolina, Louisiana, and Arkansas do not hold as wide of a lead as pollsters may expect: In Arkansas, incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor, a Democrat, currently holds a 10-point lead over his Republican challenger, Rep. Tom Cotton. Louisiana’s Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu also currently holds a wide lead over the field of potential Republican candidates. In North Carolina, Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan holds a slight lead over the Republican front-runner, State Rep. Thom Tillis, and in Kentucky, Sen. Mitch McConnell is effectively tied with Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes. 

The new poll numbers are particularly surprising considering that President Obama lost all four of those states in 2012, and as Hardball guest Howard Fineman noted Wednesday night, the most remarkable part of the turnaround all has to do with the one issue Republicans have been hammering the president on for years: Obamacare.

“While [Obamacare] still might be a problem in some of the Southern states, for sure, it’s not quite the political disaster that it looked like last October when the Republicans staked their entire philosophy and game plan on opposing it,” Fineman said.

He added, “In Arkansas and Kentucky, the popular Democratic governors accepted the expansion of Medicaid,” which has helped Sen. Mark Pryor and Alison Lundegan Grimes.

Republicans would need six states to take the Senate majority this fall, and while they’re likely to take open Democratic seats in West Virginia, South Dakota, and Montana, they still need at least three more wins. 

A GOP Senate majority in the fall may not be such a sure thing