After a fabulous night of eating popcorn and chortling at the TV, I had a good night's sleep and floated through the next day. But now that the 2012 election has come and gone, time to look ahead to 2014.
The Democrats pulled off a miracle in the 2012 Senate races. In a normal cycle control of the Senate might have been lost. Retirements of sitting Democrats left seven seats open, but the Democrats put up strong candidates who ran top notch campaigns and held the seats. Daniel Akaka - HI to Mazie Hirono, Herb Kohl - WI to Tammy Baldwin, Jeff Bingaman - NM to Martin Heinrich, Kent Conrad - ND to Heidi Heitkamp, Jim Webb - VA to Tim Kaine, and the odious Joe Lieberman - CT to Chris Murphy. Only Bob Kerrey lost in Nebraska, by 16 points. He was the best possible recruit, but Nebraska was just too red to really have any chance of holding retiring Ben Nelson's seat.
Joe Manchin in WV and Kirsten Gillibrand in NY followed up special election wins with solid holds. Of the other defending incumbents Claire McCaskill should have been a dead duck, but Todd Akin started talking about legitimate rape and his campaign promptly imploded. Jon Tester in MT did a solid job and held on for a narrow win. And the rest won more or less comfortably.
On the offensive side there was two solid pick up chances. Elizabeth Warren knocked off special election winner Scott Brown for Ted Kennedy’s old seat. And Angus King easily won the Maine seat that opened after Olympia Snowe’s retirement. The next best pick up try was Richard Carmona against Jeff Flake for the seat Jon Kyle was retiring from in Arizona. Carmona trailed early but had caught up when a gaffe in a debate doomed him. And Shelley Berkley was hurt by a trumped up scandal and couldn’t close on Dean Heller in NV. There shouldn’t have been any other chances, but Dick Lugar went down to Tea Partyier Richard Mourdock in the Indiana Republican primary. Mourdock was holding a small lead over Joe Donnelly when Mourdock started talking about god’s rape babies and his campaign promptly imploded.
When all was said and done the Democrats had picked up seats in Maine, Massachusetts, and Indiana, while losing only in Nebraska for a miraculous net gain of two seats (assuming Angus King caucuses with them).
But what does 2014 hold?
Class 2 of the Senate will be up for election (along with any special elections). The current split is 20 Democrats and 13 Republicans. It should be a slightly easier situation (fewer defenses, more pick up opportunities) than the most recent election, but is it really?
The sitting President's party usually looses seats in the midterm election, the preponderance of Democratic seats will give the Republicans targets to go after, and the Republican seats that are up are deep red.
Here are the Democratic Senators who will be running (or not) in 2014 and a quick analysis.
Mark Begich - Alaska (red state, battleground)
Mark Pryor - Arkansas (red state, but popular, maybe battleground)
Mark Udall - Colorado (blue state, likely hold)
Chris Coons - Delaware (blue state, likely hold)
Dick Durbin - Illinois (blue state, likely hold)
Tom Harkin - Iowa ( blue state, likely hold if he runs, he will be 75)
Mary Landrieu - Louisiana (red state, battleground)
John Kerry - Massachusetts (blue state, solid hold for any Dem)
Carl Levin - Michigan (retiring, open seat, blue state, maybe battleground)
Al Franken - Minnesota (blue state, but GOP hates him, expect top tier challenger backed by tens of millions)
Max Baucus - Montana (red state, but popular, maybe battleground)
Jeanne Shaheen - New Hampshire (blue state, likely hold, but small state could draw moneyed contender)
Frank Lautenberg - New Jersey (blue state, he will be 90, likely hold by any Dem)
Tom Udall - New Mexico (blue state, likely hold)
Kay Hagan - North Carolina (red state, battleground)
Jeff Merkley - Oregon (blue state, likely hold)
Jack Reed - Rhode Island (blue state, likely hold)
Tim Johnson - South Dakota (red state, but popular, maybe battleground, lost if he retires for health (stroke) )
Mark Warner - Virginia (blue state, likely hold)
Jay Rockefeller - West Virginia (red state, but popular, likely hold if he runs, he will be 79)
Assuming nothing catastrophic happens, there will be about six Democratic Senate seats in toss up battles. So a loss of three seats would be the norm.
Now a look at pick up opportunities among the GOP’s 2014 seats.
Jeff Session - Alabama (deep red state, strong hold)
Saxby Chambliss - Georgia (red state, likely hold)
Jim Risch - Idaho (red state, likely hold)
Pat Roberts - Kansas (deep red state, strong hold)
Mitch McConnell - Kentucky (red state, likely hold)
Susan Collins - Maine (blue state, but she is popular, GOP hold if she runs)
Thad Cochran - Mississippi (deep red state, strong hold)
Mike Johanns - Nebraska (deep red state, strong hold)
Jim Inhofe - Oklahoma (deep red state, strong hold)
Lindsey Graham - South Carolina (deep red state, strong hold)
Lamar Alexander - Tennessee (red state, likely hold)
John Cornyn - Texas (deep red state, strong hold)
Mike Enzi - Wyoming (deep red state, strong hold)
Pick up opportunities? Probably none. Maine, if Collins retires. President Obama polled somewhere in the mid 40s in Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina. If the GOP candidate starts talking about rape in one of those states, a Democrat might lose by only single digits.
Bottom line: the Democrats are likely to loose 2 to 4 Senate seats in 2014, but they should keep control thanks to the GOP implosion this year. And Joe Biden is the tie breaker if need be. Looking even further ahead, 2016 will be a growth year for the Senate Democrats as the seats are split 10 - 24 with several vulnerable targets to go after.
4:47 PM PT: Quick update. Amy Klobuchar easily crushed some putz named Bills (Oh No, Mr Bills) in Minnesota. This is because the Republicans could not field a quality candidate. All top tier Republicans knew that Klobuchar would beat them handily and decided to save their energy to take out Senator Al Franken or Governor Mark Dayton in 2014.
The Minnesota Republican Senate primary will be a dog fight. Hopefully they will tear each other apart. All of them will be confident that they can beat a comic who won by only 312 votes. Heck, Franken was losing votes to the Lizard People. The Republicans also think that a Political Science degree Cum Laude from Harvard can be found on the back of a cereal box.
But make no mistake. The Republicans hate, hate, HATE Al Franken. They probably have direct orders from Rush Limbaugh to destroy him. Franken has angered just about every big money backer on the right. You can expect that whoever the Republican challenger is that they will have tens of millions in outside backing. Sherrod Brown got hit by $40 million in outside attack ads. I expect Franken to face about the same.
The Minnesota Senate race will be a bloodbath. Minnesota is very blue, but it will be a battleground state because of the intensity the Republicans will bring.
But Franken is smart, and so are most Minnesotans. In fact they get insulted when outsiders meddle. Take a look at the two constitutional amendments that went down to defeat. A tidal wave of outside money might actually turn people against the Republicans. Expecially since they have been rocked by sex and money scandals over the last year.
Minnesota should be rated a "likely hold". But with the special circumstances I would call it a "somewhat likely" hold for 2014.
One more note, looking further ahead. One of the potential pick ups in 2016 is Mark Kirk's Illinois Senate seat. Kirk suffered a major stroke and has been rehabbing, so it is hard to guess Kirk's plans. But that is Obama's old seat. I wonder if he would want it back.