| Following up on my diary discussing the senate races almost certain to be contested, I've noticed that, as in 2012, most of the races tend to be Democrats in tough to hold seats. So, let me follow up with an in-depth look at the incumbent Republicans up for re-election, and why I think the Democrats could very conceivably fail to unseat any of them. First, a general note. In some ways, the senate picture for Democrats in 2014 could be even more difficult than the senate picture was for them at the beginning of the 2012 cycle. Relative to this class as it existed in 2006, Democrats only gained 2 new seats, Maine and Indiana (Massachusetts was, of course, won by Republicans in a special election in 2010, so relative to 2006, Massachusetts was actually a Democratic hold). I point this out because, in 2014, Democrats look likely to be facing an election cycle even more stacked against them, where offense is concerned. There is one legitimate pick-up opportunity if a Republican retires, but all the low-hanging fruit was plucked for this class in 2008, and most of the seats now held by Republicans would probably need an O'Donnellesque candidate to win a primary against far from Castlesque opposition to have a shot at picking them up. Now, this isn't to say that there won't be retirements, but I seriously doubt Democrats could actually benefit from them, with one important exception.
With that said, here's the race by race:
Alabama. Jeff Sessions will win comfortably if he runs for reelection. Given that he's sort of median age for a senator--in his late sixties--retirement seems unlikely here. If he did hang it up, Republicans have a host of candidates in an open seat, as every row office is now held by a Republican, as are most of the congressional districts. Among the house-members, I could see either Roby (AL-02) or Brooks (AL-05) looking for a promotion here, whereas the rest of the delegation (Bonner, Bacchus, Aderholt) might be a bit unwilling to give up seniority, and Bacchus probably couldn't win a primary. Democrats' best candidate in an open seat scenario just switched parties and moved away, and their second-best candidate just lost reelection to her row office (that's Artur Davis and Lucy Baxley respectively). Side note: with row officers named Luther Strange, Twinkle Cavinaugh and Young Boozer, Alabama totally wins in the best political names in the nation department.
Georgia. I mentioned Georgia previously as a seat Democrats would target, so let me skip straight to the retirement question. If Chambliss does hang it up--and I'm by no means convinced he will--Republicans' bench here is pretty deep. Tom Price has been mentioned a lot here, but I wouldn't entirely count out Secretary of State Karen Handel, if she doesn't end up primarying Nathan Deal, or Reps Austin Scott and Phil Gingrey. One person I don't think will or should run here, in the event of a retirement, is Herman Cain. Democrats' best candidate here is probably one of the gentlemen who lost to Roy Barns in the Democratic gubernatorial primary of 2010: Thurbert Baker, the former Attorney General, or state senator Dubose Porter. After fighting tooth and nail to keep his seat, I don't see John Barrow giving it up to run for senate, but he could surprise me and pull a Joe Donnelly. I don't think Barrow can win in a mid-term against any of the candidates I've mentioned accept maybe Cain.
Idaho. Jim Risch is planning to run again, but he's also 71, so should probably at least be on the retirement watch list. The biggest concern, in this eventuality, would be a clown-car primary. Butch Otter, Mike Simpson and Raul Labrador could all be possible candidates, and Education Super-Intendant Tom Luna has taken a pretty prominent role. Democrats' only conceivable credible recruit here is Walt Minnick. I don't really see him as either willing or able, but he's pretty much the only Democrat I know of who could be credible.
Kansas. Pat Roberts is apparently planning to run again, and already raising money for the run. At 78, Roberts could be one to watch for retirement, but even if he does, Democrats would have serious bench issues. Yoder, Jenkins, Huelskamp and Pompio could all run, and to the best of my knowledge, the only Democrat to run and win statewide in Kansas within the past ten years is currently serving as Obama's HHHS Secretary, which pretty much precludes a run. Dennis Moore's medical-related retirement in 2010 takes him out of the running, which means Democrats are probably looking at a state Senator with little name recognition. A Roberts retirement would almost certainly lead to a crowded primary, but I doubt the general election would be any more contested here than it was in 2010.
Kentucky. Mitch McConnell won't be retiring; the question is, do Democrats have anyone remotely capable of beating him. I hear a lot of talk about candidates here, from Steve Beshear to Allison Grimes. What I have yet to hear is a convincing explanation of why any statewide Democrat would want to run against McConnell when Rand Paul or the probably open governor's mansion in 2015 would both seem like more viable targets? Beshear might figure he's better off running for senate in a mid-term, but I'm still skeptical. Even if Democrats did get a top-tier recruit here, I really don't see Kentucky, a state which actually moved further away from Obama in 2012, as a state we can reasonably expect to send a Democratic senator to Washington in Obama's sixth year.
Maine. I'll admit this is the seat which scares me the most. Susan Collins is 61, which is around or below median for a senator, but has already served three terms, and I'm a bit worried she'll follow Olympia Snowe out the door. If Collins leaves, Democrats could probably win with either Pingree or Michaud. The best-case scenario would be for Governor John Baldacci to run and win the primary, or for a three-way race with an independent not named Angus King. Republicans' bench here looks a lot like 2012: Charlie Summers, Bill Schnider, Kevin Raye. Bottom line: if Collins retires, this is a likely pick-up for Democrats.
Mississippi. This is Thad cochran's sixth term, and he'll be 76 in 2014. If he runs again, he wins. If he retires, I think Reps Stephen Pelazzo, Greg Harper and Allen Nunnelee, as well as the three statewide officers: Delbert Hoseman, Tate Reeves and Stacy Pickering, are all potential candidates. Reeves and Nunnelee seem like the most likely to me; Reeves is perceived as ambitious and Nunnelee was a quite powerful figure on the Appropriations Committee of the Mississippi senate before he moved to congress in 2010. Democrats' best recruit would be AG Jim Hood, but I'm not sure he's interested in D.C. or could win an election with national implications. Hood's a very effective populist politician, but I don't know how receptive Mississippi would be to any Democrat for senate.
Nebraska. I'd be totally shocked if Mike Johanns retired, and even more shocked if this seat was even remotely competitive. There really isn't much to say here. If, for some reason, Johanns did retire, I have to think Bruning would run again, if Dave Heineman didn't jump in.
Oklahoma. Jim Inhoffe is widely rumored to be on retirement watch, and he will be 79 at the close of his third term in 2014. If he does retire, current Rep. James Langford, former Rep. J.C. Watts or Governor Mary Fallin seem like plausible candidates. Newly-elected Reps Markwayne Mullen and Jim Bridenstine, and Speaker of the house designate T.W. Shannon all seem like candidates with potentially bright futures who could be credible here, but don't seem likely. Democrats could run either Drew Edmundson, to my knowledge the only democratic Attorney General to join the lawsuit against Obamacare, or retired Rep. Dan Boren. Either could run strongly, but I question whether either could win, or would want to try in a mid-term.
South Carolina. I've covered this one before, but to update, State Senator and Ron Paul backer Tom Davis looks very likely to primary Lindsey Graham here. Could Davis pull a Mourdock on us? Yes, but I'm not sure how likely it is. For one thing, Graham seems to be taking the challenge much more seriously than Lugar did. For another, Democrats don't have a Joe Donnelly equivalent readily apparent. State Senator Vincent Shaheen ran an unexpectedly good race against Nikki Haley, but I don't know that Democrats have a bench beyond him. Even with Davis, who I think probably won't win his primary, I'd call this one likely R.
Tennessee. Lamarre Alexander is planning to run for reelection. I suppose he could face a primary here, but given conservatives' tendency to divide themselves and allow more moderate candidates to conquer in Tennessee, I'd have to give the edge to Alexander in any such scenario. If Alexander does hang it up, which I doubt, Black, Blackburn, Jimmy Duncan and maybe even Fincher could all possibly run. For Democrats, either Bretteson or Cooper would be the recruits of choice. I frankly don't see either of them as all that interested, but they certainly might surprise me in an open-seat scenario.
Texas. Of everyone on this list, Mike Johanns is the senator I'm most supremely confident of seeing back in 2014 (given my track record at predictions, of course, he'll announce his retirement within the month). However, John Cornyn's in a fairly close second. He's served two terms, is in his mid sixties, and Texas has been really tough for Democrats, despite repeated bursts of optimism. If Cornyn did retire, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst would be a potential candidate. I don't know which, if any, of the Texas house delegation might run for an open seat, but if Dewhurst bows out, at least one of them would probably run. Democrats' bench looks...pretty much the same as their bench has looked for the past couple of election cycles in Texas.
Wyoming. Mike Enzi will be finishing up his third term and turning 70 in 2014. He would win in a walk if he opted to run again. If he retires, Rep. Cynthia Lumis, State Auditor Rita Myer, and current governor Matt Mead would be the most likely candidates. Democrats only hope would be to convince former governor Dave Freudenthal to come out of retirement and run in an up-hill race against a Republican with statewide name recognition in a mid-term election.
The bottom line for all but one of the Republican seats up for reelection in 2014 is that these are really red states. True, some of them have had Democratic governors in the past, but getting these governors to run for senate would be about as difficult as getting Republican governors like Donald Carcieri, Jody Rel or Jim Douglas to run for senate. Even if they did run, as Linda Lingle did in Hawaii, the prospects of winning a senate race in a state which leans toward the other party nationally as strongly as these states do is pretty daunting. Ultimately then, for Republicans, we can probably play pure offense in 2014 as long as we convince Susan Collins not to retire.