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Outlook promising for GOP to pick up seats in U.S. Senate

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.

Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 04/23/2013 - 10:48 am.

    I Suppose I COULD Be Worried

    But I’m not.

    I’m currently convinced that the “conservative” (Tea Party) wing of the Republican Party will ensure, in each of these states, that the candidate the GOP runs is so far to the right that the Democrat will win, despite the states “red”-ness.

    That doesn’t mean the Democratically-controlled senate will work smoothly, however, since the conservative Democrats who are likely to win these races will likely be far to the right,…

    of those we used to call “moderate” Republicans back in the 1950s – 1970s.

    …and the gridlock in Washington will go on,…

    and on,…

    and on,…

  2. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 04/23/2013 - 11:20 am.

    Democratic majority useless

    I’m glad to hear DINO Baucus is retiring. Baucus has warmed his Senate seat long enough. I know a lot of people will not miss him. He is the 21st century’s version of the Dixiecrat which retarded civil rights and other progressive policies in the 20th century. Baucus is the guy responsible for the “filibuster-proof” majority because of his refusal to even consider a public option, much less single payer health care, in the ACA. His vote against mandatory background checks is an enduring disgrace to someone who calls himself a Dem. I blame him and his fellow DINOs for holding up all of the federal judicial and other appointments in the Senate. If Baucus leaves, there are plenty of other pols claiming to be Dems who will remain to sabotage progress in the name of “bipartisanship.”

  3. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 04/23/2013 - 12:22 pm.

    The majority party

    usually loses some seats in an off year election.
    But probably not enough to lose control of the Senate.
    Note: statewide elections are harder to gerrymander.

  4. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 04/23/2013 - 06:45 pm.

    I’m not persuaded

    that Mr. Kapphahn is correct about right wing loonies dragging the GOP to an orgy of self-destruction. Mr. Baucus is a serviceable example. You don’t have to be right wing loony, or even a Republican, to be venal, shallow, and a shill for corporate governance. Baucus has been in the pocket of corporate interests for years, and my own hunch is that, regardless of official party affiliation, his replacement in the Senate will, sadly, follow in his corporate-toady footsteps, and so will most of the Senators, current or new, on Eric’s list of possibilities.

    Eric’s broader point is well-taken. Should control (at least on paper) of the Senate go to the forces of reaction, Obama will not just be a lame duck, he’ll be a paraplegic duck, unable to do much of anything except make speeches and, on very rare occasions, veto especially bad Republican legislation. His veto will be overridden in some instances, but there won’t be much he can do about it.

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 04/23/2013 - 09:41 pm.

      So How’s That Different?

      And how would that be different from now? Harry Reid wimped out on filibuster reform. Then watered-down gun legislation is “defeated” when more than 50 Senators vote in favor of it.

      Obama opens budget negotiations by offering concessions, just like he did with healthcare reform.

      If Obama gets to appoint someone to SCOTUS, look him to pick a moderate so the GOP doesn’t oppose him. They’ll fight him tooth and nail anyway.

      Unless the GOP wins a 60 seat majority, little will change. Obama is the Appeaser In Chief.

  5. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 04/23/2013 - 08:25 pm.


    of the Senate has a different meaning today.
    Under current Senate rules, it effectively takes 60 votes to pass a bill.
    So until either one party can muster a 60% majority on important votes, or the rules are changed, we’re in for more gridlock. And I don’t think that it’s likely that the Republicans will gain enough to command 60% of the Senate.
    And I agree with Greg that the Tea Party is the best immediate hope for the Democrats. So — no big change.

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