Democrats chances of holding onto their U.S. Senate majority in next year’s midterm election took another blow today with the announcement by Montana Sen. Max Baucus that he would retire rather than seek a seventh term.
Judging by its behavior in presidential elections, Montana is a red state, although it currently has two Democratic senators. Brian Schweitzer, a recent Democratic governor, is being mentioned as a likely Dem nominee for the vacant seat, and he might have a chance. It’s too soon to know about that. Lots of red states have sent Democrats to the Senate.
The overall picture looming for the 2014 is very promising for Republicans to substantially increase their current 45-seat minority.
For starters, the 35 seats up for election in 2014 include 21 currently held by Dems, which gives the Repubs most of the pick-up opportunities.
The lineup includes six states, currently represented by Democrats, that were carried by Mitt Romney in 2012, and that was an election in which President Obama carried all the really blue states and almost all of the swing states. Those six states are:
- Alaska, where Dem incumbent Mark Begich will seek a second term and starts the race rated as a tossup or slightly better.
- Arkansas, where Dem incumbent Mark Pryor will presumably face a very tough race.
- Louisiana, where Dem incumbent Mary Landrieu is in better shape than some of the others on this list, but still rated a toss-up or a slight Dem leaner.
- Montana, which was rated as a Dem leaner before Baucus’s announcement today.
- North Carolina, where incumbent Kay Hagan will face a tough race.
- South Dakota, where popular Dem incumbent Tim Johnson is also retiring.
- West Virginia, where long-time Dem incumbent Jay Rockefeller is also retiring.
In addition, long-time liberal lion Tom Harkin of Iowa is retiring, creating the first open Senate seat in a generation. Iowa is absolutely a swing state nationally and Iowa’s other senator is Republican Charles Grassley.
By contrast to the list of potential Dem trouble spots above, Republicans chance of at least holding the seats they now have looks like a cakewalk. They have 14 seats up, 13 of them in states Romney carried. The only exception is the famously moderate Susan Collins of Maine, who at the moment is considered a virtual lock for another term. The Repubs have only one of their incumbents retiring, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, which is nobody’s idea of a swing state.
Democrats faced a somewhat similarly daunting lineup in 2012 and managed to catch a lot of breaks and win a lot of close races, resulting in them actually increasing their majority from 53 to 55 (if you count the two independents who caucus with the Dems). As a gross generalization, Democrats tend to have better success during presidential election years and Republicans better in midterms.