Democrats could be in for a tough election cycle in 2014, defending a number of red-state Senate seats and facing a tough path to take back control of the House.
The smoke is still clearing from the 2012 election landscape, but both parties are already looking to the future.
Democrats will once again be defending many more Senate seats than the GOP, with 20 senators up compared to 13 for Republicans. Six of those Democrats hail from red states, while seven come from swing states. Republicans will need to pick up six seats to retake control of the upper chamber.
On the House side, Republican gerrymanders in a number of states will continue to minimize Democratic chances at winning seats.
Democrats managed to actually pick up Senate seats in 2012 despite playing more defense, and many of their seats will be defended by battle-tested veteran campaigners. But 2014’s election slate could prove even tougher than 2012, depending on GOP recruitment, retirements and what the political atmosphere is like in two years.
They are defending seats in the Republican states of Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia, and also have seats up in the swing states of Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina and Virginia. Republicans' only blue-state seat is in Maine, and if Sen. Susan CollinsSusan CollinsOvernight Healthcare: Ryan says key ObamaCare payments will continue during House lawsuit Pence breaks tie, allowing Senate to revoke Obama order on abortion provider funding Pence casts tiebreaking Senate procedural vote on funding for abortion providers MORE (R-Maine) runs for reelection, she's likely in good shape.
Sens. Mark PryorMark PryorMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm MORE (D-Ark.) and Mary LandrieuMary LandrieuMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Five unanswered questions after Trump's upset victory Pavlich: O’Keefe a true journalist MORE (D-La.), who have both said they’re running for reelection, are likely to face tough races in their conservative and Republican-trending states. Sen. Mark BegichMark BegichPerez creates advisory team for DNC transition The future of the Arctic 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map MORE (D-Alaska), who has been fundraising furiously, is also likely to face a strong challenge. Sen. Max BaucusMax BaucusGOP hasn’t reached out to centrist Dem senators Five reasons why Tillerson is likely to get through Business groups express support for Branstad nomination MORE (D-Mont.) is expected to run again, and could face a tough general-election race — assuming he wins his primary; former Gov. Brian Schweitzer is rumored to be interested in challenging him.
Democratic Sen. Tim JohnsonTim JohnsonCourt ruling could be game changer for Dems in Nevada Bank lobbyists counting down to Shelby’s exit Former GOP senator endorses Clinton after Orlando shooting MORE (S.D.) has not said whether he’ll run again, though he’s recovered well from a 2008 brain aneurysm. Former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds (R) has already formed an exploratory committee for the seat.
Sen. Kay HaganKay HaganLinking repatriation to job creation Former Sen. Kay Hagan in ICU after being rushed to hospital GOP senator floats retiring over gridlock MORE (D-N.C.), who is running for reelection, has already ramped up fundraising efforts for what could be a tough race in that swing state.
Sen. Jay RockefellerJay RockefellerObama to preserve torture report in presidential papers Lobbying world Overnight Tech: Senators place holds on FCC commissioner MORE (D-W.Va.), who is 76, is a top retirement possibility, and his June speech blasting the coal industry for opposing an Environmental Protection Agency rule was read by many as a sign that he has no plans on running again. Sens. Carl LevinCarl LevinSenate about to enter 'nuclear option' death spiral Devin Nunes has jeopardized the oversight role of Congress Ted Cruz wants to destroy the Senate as we know it MORE (D-Mich.) and Tom HarkinTom HarkinGrassley challenger no stranger to defying odds Clinton ally stands between Sanders and chairmanship dream Do candidates care about our health or just how much it costs? MORE (D-Iowa) are considered retirement possibilities, and if they retire, those seats could be in jeopardy for Democrats.
Freshman Democratic Sens. Mark UdallMark UdallGorsuch's critics, running out of arguments, falsely scream 'sexist' Election autopsy: Latinos favored Clinton more than exit polls showed Live coverage: Tillerson's hearing for State MORE (Colo.), Al FrankenAl FrankenTax reform an important part of pro-consumer energy policy We need congressional debate on Yemen The case against Gorsuch: It’s all about precedent MORE (Minn.), Jean Shaheen (N.H.) and Tom UdallTom UdallGovernment Accountability Office will review Mar-a-Lago security procedures The Hill's 12:30 Report Dems introduce MAR-A-LAGO Act to publish visitor logs MORE (N.M.) could also face tough races.
Another possible headache for Democrats: If Sen. John KerryJohn KerryFBI Director Comey sought to reveal Russian election meddling last summer: report Congress, Trump need a united front to face down Iran One year ago today we declared ISIS atrocities as genocide MORE (D-Mass.) winds up replacing Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonTrump's climate order a good first step toward ending war on coal GOP faces backlash over attack on internet privacy rules Freedom Caucus member: Passing healthcare bill would cost GOP majority MORE as secretary of State, defeated Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) could run for Kerry’s seat.
On the House side, while Democrats will have some opportunities at districts they missed out on in California and elsewhere, heavily gerrymandered GOP maps in states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin and North Carolina will continue to limit their opportunities.
Democrats tend to live in more urban areas, concentrating their votes into fewer congressional districts, and legally required “majority-minority” districts further pack Democrats into a few districts and make nearby districts more safely Republican.
According to a recent study by the Center for Voting and Democracy, Democrats start off with 166 safe districts while Republicans start off with 195. There are only 74 true swing districts where the presidential candidates won between 46 and 54 percent of the popular vote, down from 89 before redistricting.
That means the GOP needs to win less than one-third of competitive House seats to stay in control — something that shouldn’t be too hard to accomplish, barring a huge Democratic wave. In a politically neutral year Democrats are likely to have around 203 seats, a number that’s only slightly higher than the number they’ll have once the remaining 2012 races are called.