As of today what we know about 2014 is there are 35 U.S. Senate races (2 specials: SC & HI) with 21 Democrats and 14 Republicans up for reelection. The most vulnerable seats are those of the seven Democrats representing states that Mitt Romney carried last November: Pryor (D-AR), Begich (D-AK), Landrieu (D-LA), Hagan (D-NC), Baucus (D-MT), Johnson (D-SD) and an open seat in West Virginia. The only Republican up in a state Barack Obama won is Susan Collins in Maine – and for the moment she looks pretty safe. It’s possible we might see one or two of these vulnerable D’s head to the sidelines before 2014 and join the other retirees we’ve seen in recent weeks (recap below). Overall the environment in the Senate provides a lot of opportunity for Republicans to get closer to gaining the six seats they need for a majority – although if you recall we’ve heard that story before. If Republicans don’t line up a large group of star QB’s (and soon) we could see a repeat of 2012.
West Virginia – Jay Rockefeller (D) does not plan to seek a sixth term to the Senate. Rockefeller was governor of WV prior to being elected to Congress in 1984. He now serves as Chairman of the Commerce Committee and Chair of Finance’s Subcommittee on Health Care. As a 75 year old public servant, the Senator has cited wanting more time to spend with his family. The open seat in WV poses a potential pick-up opportunity for Republicans – Mitt Romney won WV by 26 points last November. The graphic in this article demonstrates how WV has shifted from a blue to a red state over the past 40 years. However, it’s not an automatic lock for Republicans considering the governor’s mansion, the state legislature and the other Senate seat are all in Democratic hands.
Georgia - Saxby Chambliss (R) announced his 2014 retirement last Friday, stating the increased partisanship and lack of leadership in Washington as his reason for departure. Chambliss was a member of the “Gang of Six” and went out on a party limb conceding that tax increases may be necessary to solve the nation’s debt crisis, sparking several Republicans to begin weighing a primary challenge. Expect a crowded primary field and for the seat to remain in conservative hands, but it’s worth noting NC was the only other state Romney won by a smaller margin. Georgia’s rapid population growth has led to it becoming one of only 13 states that have a minority population of over 40%. Republicans’ inability to connect with minority voters could pose a challenge for them in the future.
Iowa - To the surprise of many, last Saturday Tom Harkin (D) announced he also would not seek another term in Congress. Harkin is Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and at age 73 said he is ready to step aside and let a younger crop of leaders serve. Harkin was not exactly an ally of the business community, receiving 0% on BIPAC’s P2 Voting Record for the 112th Congress. But his departure creates a competitive open seat that has both Republicans and Democrats in the state eyeing it closely. Iowa is considered a swing state, electing Barack Obama to the presidency twice, has a Republican governor, and split control in the state legislature.
*HI, SC, MA: It’s also worth noting the two departures in HI and SC have created special elections in 2014, and John Kerry’s (D) appointment as Secretary of State has created a special election in 2013 (primary 4/30 and general 6/25), the winner of which will run for another full term in 2014. All three of the departed/ing Senators from HI, SC and MA served on the Senate Commerce Committee.
The flurry of activity in the Senate is causing several members of Congress and other politicians to coyly posture themselves as they wait to see if there’s an opportunity to jump in a race (some not so coyly… Cory Booker anyone?). Democrats currently need a net of 17 seats to win control of the House, so unless a wave rolls through it looks like any significant changes will come from primary challenges, as well as open seats created as a result of Representatives hopping into Senate races or one of the 36 gubernatorial races. One Independent, 22 Republican and 13 Democratic governors are up for reelection in 2014, and 25 states have both U.S. Senate and governor’s races on the ballot. Expect to see a lot more shifting, scrambling and fleeing to the sidelines in the months to come… we’ll be keeping an eye on those 2nd and 3rd string players eager for their opportunity to come off the bench.