Democrats are salivating at the prospect of recapturing the Senate in 2016. With 24 of the 34 seats up in this cycle currently held by Republicans, the Dems are hoping to make up for the ground they lost in 2010 and 2014 in the upper chamber. The decisions of Sens. Dan CoatsDan CoatsMcCain says he hasn't met with Trump since inauguration Oversight committee asks White House, FBI for Flynn records Live coverage: FBI director testifies to Congress MORE (R-Ind.) and Marco RubioMarco RubioSenators introduce new Iran sanctions Senate intel panel has not seen Nunes surveillance documents: lawmakers With no emerging leaders, no clear message, Democrats flounder MORE (R-Fla.) not to seek reelection whets their appetites further.
But not so fast! A close analysis of the seats in play shows that the composition of the 2017 Senate is not likely to be much different from its current makeup.
Republicans might lose the Rubio seat in Florida, but the possible loss could be offset by a GOP victory for the Nevada seat being vacated by Democratic Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidThis obscure Senate rule could let VP Mike Pence fully repeal ObamaCare once and for all Sharron Angle to challenge GOP rep in Nevada Fox's Watters asks Trump whom he would fire: Baldwin, Schumer or Zucker MORE. Florida and Nevada are genuine toss-up states. President Obama beat Romney in the Sunshine State by only 0.9 percent of the vote, the smallest margin of victory for the president in any state. Republican Gov. Rick Scott won reelection two years later by only 1.1 percent. Florida could go either way.
And so could Nevada. Republican Brian Sandoval won the governorship in 2010, defeating Rory Reid — Harry’s son — by 53 percent to 42 percent. In 2014, he was reelected with 71 percent of the vote. While Obama carried the state in both elections, Nevadans in 2012 elected Republican Dean HellerDean HellerRed-state Dems in Supreme Court pressure cooker This week: House GOP faces make-or-break moment on ObamaCare Shutdown politics return to the Senate MORE to the Senate, albeit by only 1.2 percent of the vote.
Beyond these two toss-up states, the best Democratic hope for a pickup is Illinois, where Republican Sen. Mark KirkMark KirkObamaCare repeal bill would defund Planned Parenthood Leaked ObamaCare bill would defund Planned Parenthood GOP senator won't vote to defund Planned Parenthood MORE is handicapped by the possible lingering effects of a stroke he suffered early in his tenure. Kirk’s efforts to sanction Iran, however, give him a great issue to take into the election. Still, Illinois is a quintessentially Democratic state and could revert to form in 2016.
But Republicans could well offset any losses by winning in Colorado, where Michael BennetMichael BennetUnder pressure, Dems hold back Gorsuch support The Hill’s Whip List: Where Dems stand on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Senators introduce new Iran sanctions MORE, the surprise winner of a tight race in 2010, is up for reelection. Having won by only 1.7 percent, despite a terribly flawed campaign by Tea Party favorite Republican Ken Buck, Bennet should be in Republican crosshairs this year. Sen. Cory GardnerCory GardnerRepeal of Obama drilling rule stalls in the Senate Colorado Dem at the center of Gorsuch confirmation fight Gorsuch sails on day one, but real test is Tuesday MORE’s (R-Colo.) upset win in 2014 and two Republican gains in the House in 2010 could indicate a swing to the right in this formerly reliable Republican state.
And don’t forget — as Democrats tend to — Washington state, where Sen. Patty MurrayPatty MurrayInspector general reviewing HHS decision to halt ObamaCare ads Dems mock House GOP over lack of women in healthcare meeting The Hill’s Whip List: Where Dems stand on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee MORE (D) survived a strong challenge from Republican Dino Rossi, with 52 percent to 48 percent. In the two weeks before the 2010 election, Rossi was running even or slightly ahead of Murray, forcing her to turn to slashing negative ads in the final days. Rossi, ineptly, failed to answer the attacks, and they did their damage. But Murray is no shoo-in this time around.
Wisconsin could pose a problem for Republicans as Sen. Ron JohnsonRon JohnsonLawmakers share photos of their dogs in honor of National Puppy Day GOP targets Baldwin over Wisconsin VA scandal The Hill's Whip List: 36 GOP no votes on ObamaCare repeal plan MORE (R-Wis.) seeks to turn back a challenge from Russ Feingold, whom he defeated in 2010 by 5 points. With Gov. Scott Walker’s increasingly successful runs in the state and Johnson’s record as senator, it is hard to see Wisconsin electing Feingold.
Sen. Rob PortmanRob PortmanOvernight Finance: Senators spar over Wall Street at SEC pick's hearing | New CBO score for ObamaCare bill | Agency signs off on Trump DC hotel lease GOP senators offer bill to require spending cuts with debt-limit hikes Vulnerable Senate Dem: Border tax concerning for agriculture MORE (R-Ohio), elected in 2010 with 57 percent of the vote, faces former Gov. Ted Strickland, who lost to Gov. John Kasich by 2 points in 2010. Portman should be able to keep his seat.
Democrats hope that Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa) or Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteFEC commissioner to Trump: Prove voter fraud Live coverage: Day three of Supreme Court nominee hearing Lewandowski saw no evidence of voter fraud in New Hampshire MORE (R-N.H.) could prove vulnerable, but it’s not very likely.
So Democrats could lose Nevada and Colorado. And the Republicans could lose Illinois and Florida. The more things change, the more they remain the same.
Morris, who served as adviser to former Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and former President Clinton, is the author of 17 books, including his latest, Power Grab: Obama’s Dangerous Plan for a One Party Nation and Here Come the Black Helicopters. To get all of his and Eileen McGann’s columns for free by email, go to dickmorris.com.