Senate Seat Series – The Long Game

The problem with winning too many seats in the Senate is that sooner or later you have to defend those seats. Every two years fully 1/3 of the Senate has to be renewed. Each state gets two senatorial seats. This serves to equally represent states with small populations. For example, Wyoming, the state with the smallest population gets two Senators, the same representation as California, the state with the largest population. Since 1913, Senators have been elected to equally represent their states. In fact, there are seven states that have more Senators than representatives. Prior to 1913, Senators were appointed.

I'm just a Bill

The Senate is probably the most important governing body in the nation. It’s the last pit-stop for legislation consideration on the way to the President’s desk. Some might argue that the Supreme Court is such an important body and I probably could agree that’s true in some circumstances (Gore vs Bush and Citizen’s United come to mind).

Nate gave a really comprehensive review this weekend regarding the chances for a Senate turnover to the Republicans in 2012. We’ve already discussed how Democrats have 23 seats to fill next to the Republicans 10. This lopsided circumstance was due to the mid-2000’s when public sentiment turned back towards the Democrats.

Nate delves into statistical modeling of the Cook Report for several previous Senate races and concludes that a Republican takeover of the Senate in 2012 is likely, but not all that likely. In fact, there seems to be a small chance of Democrat seat pick-ups. We will discuss these in future Senate Seat Series articles.

Let’s look a little further ahead to 2014. The same scenario awaits Democrats where Democrats are expected to defend 20 seats and Republicans will have 13 seats up for election. Of course, 2014 Senate seats are dependent on circumstances happening now. We don’t know who will retire, quit, die, change affiliations, or decide to run for other office between now and then but assuming none of that happens, Democrats will still be defending the bulk of the seats. Here is the 2014 race as it currently stands:

Democrats seeking re-election

  • Mark Begich of Alaska
  • Mary Landrieu of Louisiana
  • John Kerry of Massachusetts

Democrats who may seek re-election

  • Mark Pryor of Arkansas
  • Mark Udall of Colorado
  • Chris Coons of Delaware
  • Dick Durbin of Illinois
  • Tom Harkin of Iowa
  • Carl Levin of Michigan
  • Al Franken of Minnesota
  • Max Baucus of Montana
  • Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire
  • Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey
  • Tom Udall of New Mexico
  • Kay Hagan of North Carolina
  • Jeff Merkley of Oregon
  • Jack Reed of Rhode Island
  • Tim Johnson of South Dakota
  • Mark Warner of Virginia
  • Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia

Republicans seeking re-election

  • Mitch McConnell of Kentucky

Republicans who may seek re-election

  • Jeff Sessions of Alabama
  • Saxby Chambliss of Georgia
  • Jim Risch of Idaho
  • Pat Roberts of Kansas
  • Susan Collins of Maine
  • Thad Cochran of Mississippi
  • Mike Johanns of Nebraska
  • Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma
  • Lindsey Graham of South Carolina
  • Lamar Alexander of Tennessee
  • John Cornyn of Texas
  • Mike Enzi of Wyoming

Why does this matter? President Obama’s agenda lives or dies depending on how many seats are held in the Senate in 2012. If he loses the Senate but wins re-election he may well be relegated to ‘Veto’ in chief. President ‘No’. If the Democrats lose more seats in 2014, the President may well be the last bastion of hope against the corporatocracy before 2016. Then it’s anyone’s guess as to what happens.

I don’t think the Senate will change all that much in 2012. It may flip to the Republicans by one vote. The one vote may be the Vice President and that depends upon who wins the next presidential election. That could be whomever President Obama picks as his Vice President or on the offhand chance whomever wins a Republican presidency in 2012.

Senate Seat Series update: Nevada. Shelley Berkley has announced a run for John Ensign’s seat in 2012.

About Mr. Universe

Mr. Universe is a musician/songwriter and an ex-patriot of the south. He currently lives and teaches at a University in the Pacific Northwest. He is a long distance hiker who has hiked the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. He is also an author and woodworker. An outspoken political voice, he takes a decidedly liberal stance in politics.
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22 Responses to Senate Seat Series – The Long Game

  1. Mr. Universe says:

    Many sci-fi fans probably know this but today is the date that SkyNet takes over the world. Been nice knowing you guys!

  2. 10kzebra says:

    There are 7 states with more senators than congressmen. AK, MT, WY, ND, SD, DE, VT… just sayin’.

  3. Kylopod says:

    Ironically, if history is any guide, Dems have their greatest chance of picking up Senate seats in 2014 if a Repub wins the 2012 presidential election.

    It’s rare for the party controlling the White House to gain seats in Congress during midterm elections, but it’s rarer still for this to happen during the president’s second term. Even in 1998, when this happened with House seats, the Senate stayed the same. Not since 1906–before the passage of the 17th amendment–has a president’s party gained Senate seats during the president’s second term.

  4. Mr. Universe says:

    ooooh, good catch on the typo, Zebra. Don’t know what I was thinking as I grabbed it right off the Internets. My mind read seven, my fingers typed five.

  5. rgbact says:

    Little change in the Senate? That seems very unlikely.

    1) Big freshman classes seem to fare badly. 1986 and 2000 were bad for GOP.
    2) 50% retention in vulnerable seats since 2000. Hard to see it above 60% unless economy booms. Dems have 15 of these. Incumbency is not what it was.

    Anyway, I think GOP picks up 6 seats, just based on this

    Does anyone know when retirement deadlines? Keep waiting for Bill/Ben Nelson to hang it up.

  6. Mr. Universe says:


    You could be right. I’m not ready to call it yet for certain. Maybe after we do a rundown on a few more of the candidates. I don’t think there are hard and fast rules for retirement but we’ll be watching the Nelson Bros. closely.

    Which seats do you think will go red?

  7. rgbact says:

    Mr U-

    Be a total guess at this point,since retirements are a huge part. Dodd, Dorgan, and Bayh didn’t retire till early 2010—and that accounted for 1/3 of GOP pickups.

    A total guess would be

    1) MT, ND, MO,OH, VA.
    1) NV

    Key retirements that might give say 2 more for GOP are Ben/Bill Nelson and Herb Kohl.

  8. Mr. Universe says:


    yep, all close races. Really on the NV call? Do you think Heller stands a better chance of winning now that Ensign has resigned? How do you feel about Berkley’s chances?

  9. 10kzebra says:

    I’m gonna say yes to NV too… Sharon Angle polled with a wide lead and lost. I think polling under-represents the blueness of the state, plus the young vote that turns out during the presidential years.

    Now the question of whether the miserable economy in Nevada is going to push the vote redder or bluer… My guess is bluer, but I’ll think about it and gladly consider all your thoughts.

  10. rgbact says:

    Mr U-

    Based on your recent photo of Berkley….I like Heller’s chances very much. That said, people underestimate the blueness of Nevada. Its more blue than Pennsylvania–especially now that we have more racial issues going. Then their might be some Ensign backlash too.

    I don’t see Dems beating Snowe since she won big in 2006 in a big Dem year. And Scott Brown seems like a winner unless the Dems get Joe Kennedy to run. AZ will be tough unless they can get Janet Napolitano or a Giffords miracle. I guess Luger could be primaried….but who is on the Dem bench in Indiana?

  11. Mr. Universe says:

    Based on your recent photo of Berkley….I like Heller’s chances very much

    well, that says a lot about the shallowness of your political platform. Berkley is extremely popular in NV despite not being a pageant winner. I worked Nevada in 2008, I may work there again in 2012.

  12. Brian says:


    I don’t think the Dems are going to need to beat Snowe. There’s a good chance she gets primaried out by a Tea Party type. She could run as a Democrat or an Independent and win though. Same with Scott Brown.

  13. 10kzebra says:

    I agree with Brian… not the first time, but it’s been a while.

    Remember me, Brian? I used to be “Brian” before we realized there were two of us on Nate’s site, so I changed mine?

    /that was you, right?

  14. Brian, it would be a shame for Snowe to get primaried from the right. But I wouldn’t be that surprised if it happened.

  15. mclever says:

    I agree, Michael.

    Where’s Mainer? Is it really possible that Snowe would get primaried? She’s one of the few truly sensible politicians from either party.

  16. rgbact says:


    You may be right. Hopefully they realize its fruitless after the Alaska debacle as Snowe is very likely to run independent although Maine seems to be showing a conservative side lately, at least for a Northeast state

    If they primary Scott Brown I’m personally going to torch Tea Party headquarters.

    Looks like Heller will get apponted to Ensign’s seat. Nate has a discussion of this today and whether it helps in 2012.

  17. filistro says:

    @rgb… If they primary Scott Brown I’m personally going to torch Tea Party headquarters.

    So.. what specific type of incendiary device are you planning to use? Because I can tell you, there’s not much love for poor ol’ Scott over at the headquarters of the Tea Party Express.

  18. dcpetterson says:


    Quite a change from a year ago. Scott “The One” Brown was being spoken of as a 2012 Presidential candidate, that he was going to carry the Republicans into the White House with the Trumpets of Gabriel behind him. We tried to warn the Millennialists that a Massachusetts Republican isn’t a normal Republican. And to remind them that Brown didn’t even once mention that he was a Republican while on the campaign trail.

  19. rgbact says:


    J/K on the torching. Primarying Brown would be the dumbest move since……the Dems tried primarying Blanche Lincoln. Brown is a vote against PPACA—anything more is gravy imo. Anyway, I’m damn sure there’s almost no GOP bench in MA so unless Curt Schilling jumps in as a Tea Partier—Brown is it. So the Freepers best go beat up on some other moderate.

  20. If they primary Scott Brown I’m personally going to torch Tea Party headquarters.

    Here’s to hoping for them primarying Scott Brown…

  21. shiloh says:

    Actually, there were at least (3) Brians/brians at Nate’s old blog. Remember one brian who was anal retentive re: word definitions ie he parsed every word in the Dem opposition’s post(s) as part of his debating “style”.

    Remember (2) conservative brian’s and the liberal Brian above. So ends my discussion re: 538’s brian’s. 😛


    Re: Heller, as a general rule, appointees are toast when up for re-election, exceptions being how liberal/conservative said state may be.

    Bennet ~ CO, probably would have lost in the wave Rep mid-term, but he was running against one of mama grizzly’s inane teabaggers, Buck, as Buck managed to grasp defeat from the jaws of victory in “purple” CO. 🙂

    Again, thank you TP’ers! 😀

    You Bet’cha!

  22. rgbact says:

    FYI Shiloh-

    I was one of the conservative Brians on your 538 scorecard. I sure hope I wasn’t the “word parser” as I hate when people pull that on me!

    “Appointees are toast” seems to be off unless you’ve got new data. If you do, please post in other thread.

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