Senate battle, now and then

Amain storyline in the 2012 congressional elections is the battle for control of the Senate. There is much riding on the result. 

One Senate win could prevent or bolster the dismantling of President Obama’s healthcare law. The majority party will control the Senate floor, as well as committee hearings. Both are effective tools against the president of an opposing party.

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But while the Senate results of November do have huge implications, their ripple effect in 2014 has been underestimated.

This November, there are 23 Democrats defending their seats and only 10 Republicans. In 2014, Democrats face another difficult map, having to defend 20 to the GOP’s 13. The disparity is attributable to the successful years Democrats enjoyed in 2006 and 2008. 

The quickest way for either party to lose seats is for incumbent members from swing states to retire. There are at least a couple Democrats up in 2014 (Sens. Tom HarkinTom HarkinDistance education: Tumultuous today and yesterday Grassley challenger no stranger to defying odds Clinton ally stands between Sanders and chairmanship dream MORE of Iowa and Jay RockefellerJay RockefellerObama to preserve torture report in presidential papers Lobbying world Overnight Tech: Senators place holds on FCC commissioner MORE of W.Va.) who have indicated, through words and/or actions, that this term could be their last.

Should Democrats retain their majority come November, it will be harder for on-the-fence Democratic senators to retire during the next Congress. But if Republicans capture control of the upper chamber, that decision might be a lot easier, because the road back to the majority would look long and arduous.

In 2004, one of the key reasons for GOP gains in the Senate was because that handful of Democrats from red-leaning states retired. Two years later, Senate Democratic leaders successfully leaned on their colleagues to run for reelection and took advantage of a major shift in the political winds to make Sen. Harry ReidHarry ReidDraft House bill ignites new Yucca Mountain fight Week ahead: House to revive Yucca Mountain fight Warren builds her brand with 2020 down the road MORE (D-Nev.) majority leader.

Most of the Democrats up in 2014 are expected to run again, or have already announced they will, including Sens. Max BaucusMax BaucusChanging of the guard at DC’s top lobby firm GOP hasn’t reached out to centrist Dem senators Five reasons why Tillerson is likely to get through MORE (Mont.), Al FrankenAl FrankenWhat killing net neutrality means for the internet Overnight Tech: Net neutrality fight descends into trench warfare | Zuckerberg visits Ford factory | Verizon shines light on cyber espionage Franken, top Dems blast FCC over net neutrality proposal MORE (Minn.), Mark WarnerMark WarnerHollywood, DC come together for First Amendment-themed VIP party IT modernization bill reintroduced in Congress Want to grow the economy? Make student loan repayment assistance tax-free. MORE (Va.) 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 (S.D.).

The GOP’s presumed top targets that year will include Sens. Mark BegichMark BegichPerez creates advisory team for DNC transition The future of the Arctic 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map MORE (Alaska), 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 (N.C.), 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 (La.) and 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 (Ark.). 

Republicans who are in cycle in 2014 include Sens. Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellStudy: Trump tops recent GOP presidents in signing bills in first 100 days Senate passes stopgap funding bill to avert shutdown Let’s never talk about a government shutdown — ever again MORE (Ky.), John CornynJohn CornynSenate's No. 2 Republican: Border tax 'probably dead' McConnell: Senate will pass short-term funding bill to avoid shutdown The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (Texas), Susan CollinsSusan CollinsThe Hill's 12:30 Report Overnight Energy: Lawmakers work toward deal on miners’ benefits Schumer: Senate Russia probe moving too slowly MORE (Maine) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamTop admiral: North Korea crisis is 'worst I've seen' Comey to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee Overnight Defense: US moving missile defense system to South Korea | Dems want justification for Syria strike | Army pick pushes back against critics of LGBT record MORE (S.C.). All four are good bets to get reelected. 

History shows that the winner of the 2014 election will likely be the loser this fall. If Obama wins a second term, it is highly likely his party will suffer losses in the midterm. Likewise, should Mitt Romney triumph, Democrats would probably pick up House seats and hold their own in the Senate.