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Here are the top seven races I'll probably write the most diaries on:

1. Mark Begich (D) of Alaska.  


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Begich knows he has a tough race ahead of him but he is ready to fight and always runs like he's 15 points behind.  There are a number of Republicans lining up to take him out and one them is Tea Party clown Joe Miller in his effort for a comeback.  Begich has assured Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid he is ready to take some tough votes that might hurt him but David Nir has compared Begich to Senator Jon Tester (D. MT) which is a good thing because Tester had a glorious re-election.  Nir has also pointed out two factors that could work in Begich's favor.  First, it's not a Presidential year so this will give Begich a chance to make the race about issues he cares about.  Second, despite being a red state, Obama received a higher number of votes than he did in 2008.  Also fellow kossacks, Begich did vote for the public option so please remember that when Election time draws closer.

2.  Kay Hagan (D) of North Carolina.


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Hagan is the definitive moderate Senator.  I don't like that she voted against the DREAM Act but she did vote against the bad deal in 2010 to extend all the Bush tax cuts for another year.  She also has a high ranking for supporting the middle-class and has become a strong voice for both women's reproductive rights and has been very outspoken against North Carolina's Gay Marriage Ban.  Obama lost North Carolina this year and with Republicans taking the governorship, the GOP is frothing at the mouth to take this seat.  PPP showed that Hagan's approval is down but leads any generic Republican.  Rumor has it that North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis is the early Republican favorite due to his strong ties to newly-elected Republican governor Pat McCrory but Hagan is a terrific campaigner and just held her 100th “Conversations with Kay” where she has been meeting personally with her constituents since 2009.  This could work in Hagan's favor because she defeated Elizabeth Dole (R) by using Dole's horrible attendance record in the Senate and lack of attendance in North Carolina.  Ground game will be key for Hagan.

3.  Tom Harkin (D) of Iowa.  


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Harkin has always been one of the good guys and he deserves our dedication to his re-election.  Obama won Iowa but Iowa is a weird state and has the highest number of registered Independents.  Republicans have been trying to put this state back in the red category and will be gunning for Harkin.  However, Rep. Steve King (R) is the only candidate right now seriously looking at the race.  This would be a dream come true because of Harkin's long history of taking out Republican congressmen in elections and we would finally be rid of Steve King.  Plus this race would be quite entertaining to watch.

4.  Mark Pryor (D) of Arkansas.  


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Pryor is certainly not the smartest Democrat in the Senate.  See his interview in Bill Maher's Religulous to see what I mean.  He's also not my favorite Democrat either.  He's not Blanche Lincoln but close.  Arkansas has been trending pretty red and already Republican congressmen like Tim Griffin are eying this seat.  Pryor didn't have an opponent in 2008 and he might be able to pull off a victory if the GOP field gets too crowded and nasty.  I will have to see how Pryor votes before I give him support but I look forward to the GOP primary.

5.  Mary Landrieu (D) of Louisiana.


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Like Pryor, Landrieu is another Democrat I'm not a big fan of.  She was a pain in the ass to deal with during the health care reform process but she has been voting the right way on a number of things lately including the DREAM Act and President Obama's Jobs Act.  This excellent diary from ArkDem14 makes a great argument for Landrieu's re-election, you should give it a read:

http://www.dailykos.com/...

Landrieu has always had tough races and who knows which far right-wing congressman might run against her.  Supposedly it's Rep. Bill Cassidy (R) but who knows.  Either way, ArkDem14 has made a great argument for Landrieu and I might hold my nose and help her get re-elected.

6.  Max Baucus (D) of Montana.  


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If I write any diaries about this race it will probably mainly be about Baucus' opponent who will certainly not be Denny Rehberg (R) who lost to Baucus in 1996 and recently to Tester.  Baucus has the campaign cash to pull a come back and has been in tight races before.  He was considered vulnerable in 1996 for voting for President Clinton's plan to raise taxes and yes he was an asshole during the health care debates and for voting against the DREAM Act.  But like Tester, Baucus voted against extending the Patriot Act and Baucus has been very vocal about getting our troops out of Afghanistan so those might be reasons enough to argue for his re-election.  He was also instrumental in helping Tester get re-elected and shares a strong relationship with Tester.  Plus Brian Schweitzer (D) has no interest in challenging Baucus.  I think Schweitzer will make a run for President in 2016.  Baucus knows he's in trouble and has already started releasing campaign ads.  Plus I wouldn't be surprised if Jim Messina came back to help him.  Baucus and Messina share a father-son-like relationship.  If Baucus can continue his efforts to push Obama to pull more troops out of Afghanistan, I will write diaries supporting him.

7.  John Kerry (D) of Massachusetts.


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I for one would love to see Kerry become Defense Secretary.  He has solid credentials for the job especially as the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations.  Plus Kerry has long supported pulling troops out of Afghanistan and he could be approved for the job by both Democrats and Republicans.  I know people are fretting about another special election and fear that Scott Brown (R) could make his triumphant comeback but we also have a big bench of candidates ranging from Martha Coakley to Joseph Kennedy III to Governor Deval Patrick to Newton Mayor Setti Warren.  Yes, Kennedy was just elected but The Fix points out that Kennedy is a fundraising juggernaut plus I'm sure MA voters would love to have another Kennedy in the Senate.  Deval Patrick is my personal favorite choice but there are rumors that he might be joining the Obama Administration after his term is done.  Setti Warren might get his second chance at this race but he has to prove he's ready for the big leagues.  We will have to wait and see but I actually look forward to this race and will remain optimistic.  Plus Harry Reid sounds very confident that no matter what happens in Massachusetts, we'll be fine and ready:

"We feel very comfortable -- if, in fact, something does happen -- we feel comfortable about Massachusetts," Reid said. "I think that I've already told you how I feel about Scott Brown." - Huffington Post, 11/4/12
These are the races to watch that I will have a few diaries on:

1.  Jeff Merkley (D) of Oregon.  


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Like Harkin, Merkley is one of the good guys and a rising progressive star in the Senate.  He's the only Senator to grill Jamie Dimon hard at the Senate hearings and Wall Street will spend big to defeat him.  Merkley deserves our undying dedication and loyalty so get ready to fight for him.  Oregon is deep blue but Merkley has so-so approval ratings.  He should be safe but keep an eye on this race.

2.  Al Franken (D) of Minnesota.  


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Franken won his recount and has been a great Senator.  Minnesota is solid blue but I wouldn't be surprised to see former Senator Norm Coleman (R) who Franken defeated in 2008 try to make a come back.  Franken is our generation's Paul Wellstone and 2014 could be similar to 1996 where Wellstone went up against Rudy Boschwitz (R), the same man he defeated in 1990.  Coleman like Boschwitz will have a heavily-funded campaign and the right would love nothing more than to get rid of Franken but we are not going to let that happen.  I wouldn't bet on Tim Pawlenty or Michelle Bachmann to make a run for this seat but Aaron Blake at The Fix thinks Rep. Erik Paulsen (R) might be a likely candidate because he hails from "the best place to live in the entire country", Eden Prairie, MN.  Either way, I am ready to fight for Franken.

3.  Jeanne Shaheen (D) of New Hampshire.


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New Hampshire is always competitive but Shaheen has decent approval ratings and strong support.  However, according to Aaron Blake at The Fix, Shaheen might have her third race against the Club Of Growth's own John Sununu, Jr. (R).  Sununu is New Hampshire's Pat Toomey (R. PA), a Tea Party ideologue backed by Wall Street.  Shaheen doesn't have a lot of campaign cash on her right now but expect fundraising emails soon.

4.  Mark Udall (D) of Colorado.


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Udall, like Merkley and Harkin, is one of the good guys who deserves our support.  Yes, he supports a Balanced Budget Amendment but he has been both a loyal vote for Obama and progressives on several issues and Udall is the lead Democrat fighting to overturn the NDAA and the Patriot Act.  Udall also supports gay marriage, the DREAM Act and has been a big supporter of medicinal marijuana and letting states legalize and regulate marijuana.  Especially now that Colorado has legalized marijuana, this could help Udall fend off any Republican challenger from former Lt. Governor Jane Norton (R) or GOP rising star Rep. Cory Gardner (R).  However, it might be too soon for Gardner to run for this seat and Michael Bennet (D) might be more vulnerable in 2016 than Udall in 2014.

5.  Tom Udall (D) of New Mexico.  


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I can't really think of any reason why Udall would be vulnerable.  Can't think of any top Republican challenger.  Maybe Governor Susana Martinez (R) but she will also be facing re-election.  I'll keep my eye on this race though.

Here are the possible retirements and I will have a fair share of diaries on these races, especially during their primaries:

1. Dick Durbin (D) of Illinois.  


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It was recently brought to my attention that there are rumors floating around that Senator Durbin might retire.  pistolSO recently posted a diary about this with a link to an Illinois blog that listed several potential candidates for the position.  You can read it here:

http://www.nbcchicago.com/...

One them is my personal choice and yours, progressive Congresswoman Jan Schakowsy (D).  You can cast your vote for her in pistolSO's diary:

http://www.dailykos.com/...  

2.  Jay Rockefeller (D) of West Virginia.  


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It's been long speculated that Rockefeller would retire, especially now that he's standing up to big coal and PPP showed him trailing Congresswoman Shelly Moore Capito (R) by four, grant it it's in the margin of error.  If Rockefeller retires, I say Governor Earl Ray Tomblin (D) might be our best choice but Rockefeller can fund his own campaign and he won't go out without a fight.

3.  Tim Johnson (D) of South Dakota.  


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No word about his possible retirement due to his health but his work in the Senate on Veterans Affairs is what's keeping him a house hold name in South Dakota.  Now Johnson, whether he retires or not, has a serious opponent, former Republican Governor Mike Rounds.  Haven't seen any polling yet about how Johnson would do against Rounds but hopefully if he chooses not to retire, this race won't be like the 2010 North Dakota Senate race.  Johnson is no stranger to winning close races.  He narrowly defeated incumbent Senator Larry Pressler (R) in 1996 and current Senator John Thune (R) in 2002.  So far I haven't been able to come up with a great Democratic opponent if Johnson retires.

4.  Mark Warner (D) of Virginia.


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Rumor has it Warner might step down to run for his old job as governor of Virginia and polls show that Warner would win by a landslide.  Polls also show him safe for 2014.  I hope he doesn't retire because he's our best shot at holding this seat and it wouldn't cost us anything to hold this seat.  But of course Attorney general Ken Cuccinelli is planning on running for governor and he is neck and neck with Terry McAuliffe (D) who Warner gave the ok to file for paper work.  Warner might be keeping his options open.  Personally I think he should stay in the Senate and not give us a headache.  We need to win more governor races but I think this could be McAuliffe's year to win.  If Warner sits this race out, we could always try to draft former Congressman Tom Perriello (D) for Senate.  

5.  Carl Levin (D) of Michigan.  


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No word yet about Levin's retirement but expect him to make a decision by early next year.  Not sure who would be the best pick to run for Levin's seat.  Personally I would love to see former governor Jennifer Granholm (D) run for Senate but that would involve her getting out of her contract with Current TV.  If Levin retires, I say we start a petition drafting Granholm to run for Senate.  If Granholm doesn't want the job, God knows we there will be a number of Michigan Democrats ready to run for that seat.

6.  Frank Lautenberg (D) of New Jersey.


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This really shouldn't be a surprise to anyone.  Lautenberg would be 90 years old if he ran for Senate.  Newark Mayor and rising star Cory Booker (D) is looking to run against Chris Christie but I believe he should run for Senate in New Jersey.  I think that's a seat he can easily win.  Christie is harder to defeat.  If not Booker, I'm sure we will land an excellent candidate in New Jersey but Booker would be the best pick.

Now there aren't a lot of Republican pick ups this year but here are the four Republican seats to watch, a few diaries here and there:

1. Susan Collins (R) of Maine.  


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The last moderate Republican Senator but she has been voting in lock step with her party on a lot of things.  She's popular now but she could get a primary challenger from the right or she might follow in the foot steps of her old colleague, Olympia Snowe (R).  If Collins goes to far to the right or retires, I say we draft Chellie Pingree for the U.S. Senate.

2.  Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina.  


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Graham is willing to buck his party by voting for immigration reform but of course he is blaming Obama for Beghazi which may or may not save him from whoever the Club Of Growth drafts to challenge him.  My guess is it will be Joe "You Lie!" Wilson.  Not sure what Graham's best option is.  Graham could end up being the Orrin hatch (R. UT) of 2014 and luck out from any Tea Party threat.  He won't switch parties and not sure if running as an Independent like Charlie Crist did would work but it's a race to keep your eye on.

3.  Mitch McConnell (R) of Kentucky.


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It's great to see Kentucky Democrats get fired up about this race and they have a long bench of candidates but they all face an uphill battle against Kentucky's most powerful Republican.  McConnell has $6 million on on hand and is gearing up a big run and he won't have the Tea Party to bother him because Rand Paul will be helping him.  Still, candidates from Lt. Governor Jerry Abramson to Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes are all potential candidates.

4.  Saxby Chambliss (R) of Georgia.  


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This is a long stretch but I hate Chambliss the most out of all the Senate Republicans.  I'll never forgive him for what he did to Max Cleland (D) in 2002.  As long as it's not Zell Miller, any and all suggestions for this race are welcome.  However David Nir pointed out yesterday that Rep. Tom Price (GA-06) might try to challenge Chambliss in the primary.  So my hatred for Chambliss and the possibility of Chambliss getting a legit challenger make this race worth watching.

So there you have it folks, my Senate breakdown.  I can already tell that Begich and Hagan will be my top two Senate candidates to write about.  I am also hoping to be writing diaries about possible Senate candidates Cory Booker, Jennifer Granholm and Jan Schakowsky but lets see what next year has to bring.  Thank you all as always for reading my diaries and I leave with this pleasant picture of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) with the new Democratic Senators of 2012:


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You must enter an Intro for your Diary Entry between 300 and 1150 characters long (that's approximately 50-175 words without any html or formatting markup).

10:44 AM PT: I didn't include Chris Coons (D) of Delaware or Jack Reed (D) of Rhode Island because those are two of the safest seats on Team Blue in 2014.

11:13 AM PT: Roll Call released an article about Colorado Senator Michael Bennet (D) becoming the new DSCC Chairman.  I like the idea but with a  few reservations.  Roll Call also listed Senator Amy Klobuchar of MN, Kristen Gillibrand of NY and Sheldon Whitehouse of RI as possibilities,  


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