Republicans in solid shape to take control of Senate next year

An early spate of Democratic Senate retirements has put Republicans in solid shape to retake the majority in the upper chamber next year.

The first edition of The Hill's 2012 race ratings puts five Democratic-held seats in the toss-up column. Republicans need a net gain of at least three seats to win the Senate.

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Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) are the two incumbents that top of the list of vulnerable Senate Democrats in 2012. And, thanks to retirements, another three Democratic-held seats are toss-ups -- the ones held by Sens. Kent Conrad (N.D.), Jeff Bingaman (N.M.) and Jim Webb (Va.).

On the House side, Democrats need to pick up 25 seats to win back the majority and, as a starting point, Dems are targeting 14 of the most Democratic-leaning House seats held by Republican lawmakers.

Among them are freshmen Reps. Allen West (R-Fla.), Robert Dold (R-Ill.), Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) and Ann Marie Buerkle (R-N.Y.). All occupy districts won by both Obama in 2008 and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in 2004; and all begin the cycle in our toss-up category.

The major caveat on the House side is redistricting, which will change the electoral landscape substantially ahead of next year, potentially squeezing out several members and setting up incumbent vs. incumbent match-ups in other states.

The House and Senate lists are sure to be flux with the potential for additional retirements in both chambers and recruiting efforts on the House side largely on hold until new district lines are set, but here's an early look at the 2012 landscape.