Dems may expand Senate majority in '08

Senate Democrats will have a wider field of possibilities and probably more open seats available to expand their majority in 2008, though Senate Republicans will have several chances to pick off red-state Democrats.

Senate Democrats will have a wider field of possibilities and probably more open seats available to expand their majority in 2008, though Senate Republicans will have several chances to pick off red-state Democrats.

Of the 33 seats up for election two years from now, 21 are held by Republicans. Eight of those 21 were elected with 55 percent of the vote or less in 2002, and in seven of them the incumbent is a freshman. The party also faces several retirement questions.

Democrats might not lose any incumbents to retirement now that they are in the majority — a crucial first step to maintaining and growing that majority.

Two big Democratic retirement risks, 82-year-old Sen. Frank Lautenberg (N.J.) and 69-year-old Sen. Jay RockefellerJay RockefellerOvernight Tech: Trump nominates Dem to FCC | Facebook pulls suspected baseball gunman's pages | Uber board member resigns after sexist comment Trump nominates former FCC Dem for another term Obama to preserve torture report in presidential papers MORE (W.Va.), intend to run again in 2008, according to their offices. Sen. Tom HarkinTom HarkinDistance education: Tumultuous today and yesterday Grassley challenger no stranger to defying odds Clinton ally stands between Sanders and chairmanship dream MORE (D-Iowa), who turns 67 on Sunday, could announce whether he will run for a fifth term by the end of the week, his office said.

Harkin, Sen. Carl LevinCarl LevinTrump and GOP wise to keep tax reform and infrastructure separate Former senator investigated man in Trump Jr. meeting for money laundering Dems abuse yet another Senate tradition to block Trump's agenda MORE (D-Mich.), 72, who has not decided, and Sen. Max BaucusMax BaucusHealthcare profiles in courage and cowardice OPINION | On Trump-Russia probe, don’t underestimate Sen. Chuck Grassley Lawmakers: Leave advertising tax break alone MORE (D-Mont.), 64, who did not respond to inquiries, may be re-energized by capturing prized committee chairmanships. Levin will lead the Armed Services Committee, Baucus will run the Finance Committee and Harkin will head the Agriculture Committee.

All five of those seats would be attractive to Republicans if they were open, though Harkin has never garnered more than 55 percent of the vote in his four campaigns, and his seat will draw Republican attention regardless of whether he stays or goes.

Lautenberg’s decision to run again is particularly important for Democrats because he already retired once, in 2000, only to run again in 2002; does not have a chairmanship because his seniority was not restored; and could face tough opposition from Tom Kean Jr., the Republican candidate this year, who ran strongly even though he was defeated.

Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Political Report expects Democrats to skate into 2008 with all five of these potential retirees. “Given that Democrats have the majority, I don’t expect anybody to retire,” Duffy said. “I think Harkin was thinking about it, but now that he has Ag, what’s his incentive to retire? Maybe Rockefeller was thinking about it, but now he’s got Intelligence, so what’s his incentive?”

On the Republican side, Sens. Pat RobertsPat RobertsOvernight Healthcare: McConnell warns Senate not to block repeal debate | Insurers knock Cruz proposal | WH tries to discredit CBO | Lawmakers propose .1B NIH funding boost Trump: I’ll be ‘very angry’ if Senate doesn’t pass ObamaCare repeal bill Trump: Putin preferred Clinton in the White House MORE (Kan.), 70, Pete Domenici (N.M.), 74, and Ted Stevens (Alaska), who turns 83 on Saturday, have all told The Hill they intend to seek reelection. But speculation is rampant about Sens. John Warner (Va.), 79, and Wayne Allard (Colo.), who is at the tail end of a two-term-limit pledge.

Warner spokesman John Ullyot said the senator generally decides whether to run about a year and a half before an election. Allard, who has raised the least and has the second-least cashonhand ($120,000) of the 33 senators up for reelection in 2008, will wait until after the New Year to decide, spokeswoman Laura Condeluci said.

Both states would be prime pickup territory for Democrats, who will hold the other Senate seat in each come January. Allard’s seat is a target whether he runs or not, and Democrats already have a strong candidate in Rep. Mark UdallMark UdallDemocratic primary could upend bid for Colorado seat Picking 2018 candidates pits McConnell vs. GOP groups Gorsuch's critics, running out of arguments, falsely scream 'sexist' MORE, who declared for the race in March 2005 and had more than $1 million on hand as of October.

In purple Virginia, former Gov. Mark WarnerMark WarnerGoogle announces million initiative for displaced workers Overnight Tech: House GOP wants to hear from tech CEOs on net neutrality | SEC eyes cryptocurrency | Elon Musk, Zuckerberg trade jabs over AI | Trump says Apple opening three plants in US Overnight Finance: House votes to repeal arbitration rule | Yellen, Cohn on Trump's list for Fed chief | House passes Russia sanctions deal | GOP centrists push back on border wall funding MORE (D), who decided against a presidential bid recently, would be a strong candidate to replace Republican Sen. John Warner.

The most vulnerable incumbents are Allard, Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) and Sen. Mary LandrieuMary LandrieuCNN producer on new O'Keefe video: Voters are 'stupid,' Trump is 'crazy' CNN's Van Jones: O'Keefe Russia 'nothingburger' video 'a hoax' Trump posts O'Keefe videos on Instagram MORE (D-La.), according to the Cook Political Report. No races are yet listed as tossups. 

Along with Landrieu, Baucus and 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 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 (D-S.D.) give Republicans four possible red-state pickups. Landrieu, who intends to run for a third term, is listed as “lean Democratic,” while the latter three and Harkin are “likely Democratic.”

But Republicans failed to field strong challengers against red-state Democrats Ben Nelson (Neb.), Kent Conrad (N.D.) and Robert Byrd (W.Va.) this year, drawing their biggest recruiting successes in blue states Maryland and New Jersey. They did not pick up any Democratic seats.

For Democrats, Allard and Coleman are listed as “lean Republican,” while four other Republicans — Susan CollinsSusan CollinsTrump’s attacks stun Republican senators Dems don’t want to help GOP improve repeal bill Bare bones repeal plan gains steam in Senate MORE (R-Maine), John Sununu (R-N.H.), Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.), and James InhofeJames InhofeMcCain absence adds to GOP agenda’s uncertainty GOP signals infrastructure bill must wait Lobbying World MORE (R-Okla.)  — are listed as “likely Republican.”

Dole, a 70-year-old freshman and outgoing head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, intends to run again, according to her office. Inhofe, who turns 72 on Friday, did not respond to requests for comment but has talked about assuming the Armed Services chairmanship in 2009, suggesting he expects to be around after 2008.

Roberts, 70, intends to seek reelection, according to his office, and Sen. Thad CochranThad CochranOvernight Finance: GOP offers measure to repeal arbitration rule | Feds fine Exxon M for Russian sanctions violations | Senate panel sticks with 2017 funding levels for budget | Trump tax nominee advances | Trump unveils first reg agenda Senate committee ignores Trump, House budgets in favor of 2017 funding levels Overnight Finance: CBO finds 22M more uninsured under Senate health bill | GOP agrees ObamaCare taxes must go | Supreme Court to look at Dodd-Frank whistleblower protections | More tax reform hearings | Green light for partial travel ban | MORE (R-Miss.), 68, will make a decision a year from now, spokeswoman Jenny Manley said. Sen. Chuck HagelChuck HagelPentagon withholding nuclear weapons inspection results: report Lobbying World The US just attacked Syria. So where's Congress? MORE (R-Neb.), 60, has not decided, but has expressed interest in running for president.

Two Democratic senators, Joseph Biden Jr. (Del.) and John KerryJohn KerryIn the fight between Rick Perry and climate scientists — He’s winning Obama cyber czar: Trump State Department needs cybersecurity office Kerry on Trump’s military transgender ban: ‘We’re better than this’ MORE (Mass.), may retire and run for the White House. Biden’s office said he is taking the necessary steps to run for Senate, and Kerry’s presidential prospects took a hit this month when his “botched joke” appeared to insult the intelligence and education of soldiers in Iraq. Kerry later apologized.

Republican Rep. Mike Castle (Del.), who just won statewide reelection by 18 points in his at-large House seat, would have a strong shot at succeeding Biden, but both Delaware and Massachusetts are blue states.

Biden will lead the Foreign Relations Committee, and Kerry will lead the Small Business Committee. Another blue-state Democrat, Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinDems don’t want to help GOP improve repeal bill Mnuchin: Trump administration examining online sales tax issue Senate Dem: We’re trying to block a recess appointment to replace Sessions MORE (Ill.), who didn’t face a strong challenge in 2002, will be assistant majority leader.

Early retirements within the realm of possibility include: Hawaii, where Democratic Sens. Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka will both be 84 on Election Day; Pennsylvania, where Republican Sen. Arlen Specter, 76, has battled Hodgkin’s disease; and Wyoming, where Republican Sen. Craig Thomas, 73, last week revealed he has leukemia. Thomas and Akaka were both reelected last week, and Akaka will now chair the Veterans Affairs Committee.

Amy Sherman and Madeleine Scinto contributed to this report.