My post of this morning was published with a couple of Senate races not finally decided. But the Republican candidates (Rep. Denny Rehberg in Montana and Rep. Rick Berg of North Dakota) have now conceded to the victorious Dems. (incumbent Sen. Jon Tester in Montana and Sen.-elect Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota).
This nets out at a two-seat pickup for the Dems and a 55-45 majority heading into 2013 (assuming that, as expected, the Senate’s two independents, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Sen.-elect Angus King of Maine will caucus with the Dems). The net gain is especially impressive since the Dems had to defend 23 of the 33 seats that were up in 2012.
If you can stand to look ahead to 2014, it turns out that once again, the Dems will have to defend a much larger portion of the seats that will be on the ballot. Assuming that no deaths, resignations, special elections or party switches occur, 20 of the 33 Senate seats that will be up in 2014 are now held by Dems. And, if you look at the map of where those seats are located, it appears that there are more Dems in generally red states than vice versa. Minnesota will also have a Senate race and freshman incumbent Al Franken is likely to face a tougher challenger than Kurt Bills. It will be some consolition to the Dem planners that they will head into that cycle with a five seat margin in the Senate and, since the vice presidency (with its potential as a tie-breaking vote in case of 50-50 ties in the Senate) will remain in Dem hands through 2016, the Dems would have to make a net gain of six seats to gain control that year.
If you are wondering how it can be that the Dems can face such a tough map for the second cycle in a row, the answer that this is how the Dems got (briefly, for the few months between the recount-delayed swearing-in of Al Franken and the death of Ted Kennedy and subsequent special election victory of Scott Brown in Massachusetts) to a 60-seat filibuster-proof majority in 2009 — by winning a lot of tough races in both 2006 and 2008. The Repubs had a good year in 2010, winning 24 out of 34 Senate races. If we are still holding Senate election by the year 2016, the Repubs will have to defend those 24 out of 34, including seven current Repub senators in states that Pres. Obama carried yesterday.
It is a little ridiculous, I’ll acknowledge, to even be talking about elections two cycles ahead. I noted with a combination of horror and amusement as I watched the results last night that CBS had already prepared, and showed within a few minutes after calling the race for Obama, a list of potential Republican presidential candidates for 2016. All right, if you must know, it was Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and Paul Ryan.