With last week’s announcement that Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR-4) would challenge Sen. Mark Pryor (D), thus setting the Arkansas field for 2014, it is a good time to check the national US Senate picture.
In 2014, 35 Senate races are on tap, including campaigns in Hawaii and South Carolina to affirm political appointments. Of the 35, the following 18 senators currently have little or no pending opposition for 2014:
Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Mark Udall (D-CO), Chris Coons (D-DE), Jim Risch (R-ID), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Susan Collins (R-ME), Ed Markey (D-MA), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tom Udall (D-NM), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tim Scott (R-SC), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Mark Warner (D-VA).
Alaska: Despite the potential of former Gov. Sarah Palin (R) running here, the likely 2014 pairing is first-term incumbent Sen. Mark Begich (D) and Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell (R). This will be a tight race, but Alaskans don’t often unseat incumbents.
Arkansas: The match is already set – Sen. Mark Pryor (D) vs. Rep. Tom Cotton (R). Arkansas is now trending Republican, but unseating an incumbent – especially one who ran unopposed in the previous election – is never easy.
Georgia: Michelle Nunn (D), the daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn (D), will be her party’s nominee. The Republican side is a free-for-all among five candidates, all of whom could conceivably win the nomination. The Republican general election candidate should have the advantage, but this primary battle could turn nasty.
Hawaii: Appointed Sen. Brian Schatz is drawing serious Democratic primary opposition from Rep. Colleen Hanabusa. The Dem primary, which must be rated a toss-up, will determine who wins the general election. No serious Republican has yet come forward.
Iowa: Rep. Bruce Braley already appears to have the Democratic nomination clinched. Republicans have a weak field of candidates. If former US Attorney Matt Whitaker or ex-Grassley chief of staff David Young develops, this could become a competitive race. Otherwise – and it hasn’t happened yet – Braley appears to have the inside track to succeed the retiring Sen. Tom Harkin (D).
Kentucky: Sen. Mitch McConnell faces both Republican primary and significant general election competition. Hedge Fund executive Matt Bevin is challenging the Senate Minority Leader for his party’s nomination and both men are already running attack ads. Democrats will field Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. Expect this to be one of the most active campaigns in the country. Despite what will likely be intense competition, Sen. McConnell still must be rated the favorite to return to the next Congress.
Louisiana: Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) defends her seat for the third time, in this instance against Rep. Bill Cassidy (R). The congressman is impressive on the fundraising circuit. He’s already raised $3.4 million for the Senate race, of which he maintains $3.2 million in his campaign account. Louisiana voters almost never defeat an incumbent regardless of party affiliation, so Cassidy has his work cut out for him.
Michigan: With Sen. Carl Levin (D) retiring, Rep. Gary Peters will become the Democratic nominee. Former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land is already in the GOP race. House Ways & Means Committee chairman Dave Camp (R) says he is considering entering the race. A Camp candidacy should make the campaign against Peters more competitive. The Detroit Democratic congressman begins as at least a slight favorite.
Minnesota: Sen. Al Franken (D) was the closest winner of the 2008 election cycle, but Republicans surprisingly only have marginal candidates to challenge him in his first bid for re-election. Businessman Mike McFadden (R) may be able to self-fund, which could mean his candidacy might develop. A Republican victory here is already looking like a long shot.
Montana: With Sen. Max Baucus (D) retiring and former Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) not running, that means the Republicans are well positioned to convert the seat. Lt. Gov. John Walsh may now be the Democrats’ best option, but he has yet to enter the race. All eyes are on at-large Rep. Steve Daines (R), but he hasn’t moved either. Expect Daines to run, and likely win.
Nebraska: Sen. Mike Johanns (R) is already retiring after one term. Former state Treasurer Shane Osborn and University president Ben Sasse appear to be the strongest Republicans to enter the race to date. The GOP winner will hold the seat, as Democrats do not yet appear competitive for the general election.
New Jersey: Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D) is poised to win the upcoming special election to replace the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D). If he does prevail in both the special Democratic primary and general elections, he will cruise to a full-term win in 2014.
North Carolina: So far, the Tar Heel State could be the Republicans’ biggest recruitment disappointment as first-term Sen. Kay Hagan (D) appears highly vulnerable. Unless something major happens, state House Speaker Thom Tillis will claim the Republican nomination. North Carolina should be primed to vote Republican in 2014, but it remains to be seen if Tillis will be strong enough to deny Hagan.
South Carolina: Much talk has occurred for the past several years that Sen. Lindsey Graham would draw a serious Republican primary challenge in 2014. Whether Navy veteran and author Nancy Mace or former congressional candidate Richard Cash can become such a challenger is yet to be determined. Right now, Sen. Graham appears poised to win a convincing re-election.
South Dakota: Sen. Tim Johnson’s retirement will yield another Republican conversion opportunity. Former Gov. Mike Rounds (R) is looking strong. Democrats are only fielding a former senatorial aide, Rick Weiland, though the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee leadership is still looking for a more robust candidate. Rounds is likely the next senator.
West Virginia: With Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D) retiring, the Democrats have yet to field any serious candidate. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R) already looks like the next senator. This is the top GOP conversion opportunity in the country.
Wyoming: Though the seat is in no danger of moving toward the Democrats, Sen. Mike Enzi does have serious Republican primary competition from Liz Cheney, the daughter of former vice president and Wyoming congressman, Dick Cheney. The race begins solidly in Enzi’s favor, but it is a campaign to watch all the way to the August ’14 primary.