This cycle, the strongest political fight is about the majority in the US Senate. Both parties are fighting desperately to have the majority after 2014 elections, and the things are close.
For 2014, according to my calculations, the Democratic Party is still favored to keep the majority by a little margin.
But here is not where the fight for a majority in the US Senate will end, because the cycles of 2016 and 2018 are promising a decent number of seats changing of hands. After 2018 the situation can become more stable. Then surely it is interesting to give a look at the overall picture of the three cycles: 2014, 2016 and 2018.
What party is favored to have the majority in the US Senate after 2018? This is what we can try to answer today.
The biggest political factor that will determine who can keep the majority after 2018 is without doublt the results of the presidential elections of 2016. If it is a good year for the Democratic party, 2018 can become a bad year. If 2016 is a bad year 2018 can become a good year.
At this point I see the Democratic Party, H Clinton, favored in the early polling for 2016. and it seems that the year can be good enough to cause a strong reverse of the senate results of 2010. If this is confirmed, I think the Democratic Party can be favored to have the majority in the senate after 2018.
Then the most likely scenario in these years would be:
-2014: Neutral year with a number of difficult seats to defend.
-2016: Good year with a number of favourable seats to pursue.
-2018: Bad year with a number of difficult seats to defend.
To win the presidential election also helps to keep the majority in the senate because the Vice President and President of the US Senate is also the tiebreaker in case of tie. It means that the winner party needs only 50 senate seats for a majority.
Roughly, for the Democratic party of today, the easier path to keep the majority after 2018 would be:
To have 50 seats + Democratic Vice President as tiebreaker:Both groups are not symmetrically balanced.
-46 senators from the 23 D+ states.
-2 senators from VA (EVEN)
-1 senator from OH (R+1): S Brown
-1 senator from FL (R+2): W Nelson
Minus the seats that the Democratic Party can lose between these 50 options in 2014, 2016 and 2018:
-WI-Sen 2018 : T Baldwin
-FL-Sen 2018: W Nelson
-VA-Sen 2018: T Kaine
-OH-Sen 2018: S Brown
-WI-Sen 2016: R Feingold? (R Johnson)
-IL-Sen 2016: M Obama? (M Kirk)
-PA-Sen 2016: E Rendell? (P Toomey)
-NV-Sen 2018: B Miller? (D Heller)
-NH-Sen 2016: M Hassan? (K Ayotte)
-NV-Sen 2016: H Reid
-IA-Sen 2016: T Vilsack? (C Grassley or Open by R)
-ME-Sen 2014: S Bellows (S Collins)
Plus other seats that the Democratic Party can win in less favourable states in 2014, 2016 and 2018:
-WV-Sen 2018: J Manchin
-AK-Sen 2014: M Begich
-NC-Sen 2014: K Hagan
-LA-Sen 2014: M Landrieu
-AR-Sen 2014: M Pryor
-MO-Sen 2018: C McCaskill
-ND-Sen 2018: H Heitkamp
-IN-Sen 2018: J Donnelly
-MT-Sen 2018: J Tester
-GA-Sen 2014: M Nunn (Open by R)
-KY-Sen 2014: A L Grimes (M McConnell)
-MT-Sen 2014: J Walsh
-AR-Sen 2016: M Beebe? (J Boozman)
-IN-Sen 2016: E Bayh? (D Coats)
-AK-Sen 2016 Open D (L Murkowski)
-FL-Sen 2016: Open D (M Rubio)
-AZ-Sen 2016: G Giffords? (J McCain or Open by R)
-TN-Sen 2018: P Bredesen? (R Corker)
-KY-Sen 2016: S Beshear? (R Paul)
-NC-Sen 2016: Open D (R Burr)
-MO-Sen 2016: J Nixon? (R Blunt)
-OH-Sen 2016: Open D (R Portman)
Note: The 23 D+ states (PVI) are HI, VT, NY, RI, MD, MA, CA, DE, NJ, CT, IL, ME, WA, OR, MI, NM, WI, MN, NV, IA, NH, PA and CO.
In the group of the most favourable races I only included the races with a potential of becoming a Toss-Up or worse (if there are not retirements). To have retirements in competitive states would be a source of troubles for the Democratic party, like we see this cycle in IA and MI, but, fortunately the current senators in the most competitive states are young enough (including W Nelson and H Reid) to continue, and I would not expect more retirements in competitive seats in these cycles.
In the group of the less favourable cases, I take not only the potential Toss-Up or better cases. In this case I go to Lean R territory with the goal of finding the cases with better potential of gains for the Democratic Party.
POTENTIALLY COMPETITIVE OR UNFAVOURABLE RACES IN THE 50 MOST FAVOURABLE SEATS (Minus)
WI-Sen 2018: T Baldwin is not specially weak, but her home state was the alone D+ state where a Democratic incumbent (R Feingold) has been deafeated in the last years (in a Republican wave). If the environment of 2018 becomes as hard as in 2010 this race can become a Toss-Up if the strongest Republicans run. At this point her strongest potential challenger can be the current governor S Walker.POTENTIALLY COMPETITIVE OR FAVOURABLE RACES IN THE 50 LESS FAVOURABLE SEATS (Plus)
FL-Sen 2018: W Nelson proved to be strong in Florida in 2012. The last year only J Bush polled enough well vs W Nelson to make the race a Toss-Up. If the Democratic senator retires not it seems difficult to see him endangered, even in a political environment worse than in 2012. The Republican bench in Florida is long but not too strong, because only a few of them have a statewide profile.
VA-Sen 2018: The Republican bench in Virginia is getting smashed in the last years, and in part thanks to T Kaine. Someone like J Kilgore can make the race competitive, but I'm not sure that he can make the race a Toss-Up.
OH-Sen 2018: S Brown can be challenged again. The Republican bench is stronger in Ohio than in Virginia, but maybe only the term-limited governor J Kasich or a recovered M DeWine can make the race a Toss-Up.
WI-Sen 2016: R Johnson is also very endangered. In the last days we even read about him involved in some scandal. Between the potential challengers R Feingold is polling the strongest, and the race can become easily a rematch. Again, in this race the Democratic Party would be favored (a Lean D situation) but if weaker candidates run in the Democratic side the race can also enter in a Toss-Up situation.
IL-Sen 2016: M Kirk seems one of the most endangered Republican incumbents and will need to run in a unfavourable state in a likely unfavourable environment. Between the potential Democratic challengers according to some polls M Obama would have the best results. More likely candidates like L Madigan are also polling well. Still the race can down to a Toss-Up situation with lower level Democratic challengers.
PA-Sen 2016: The bench of potential challengers for the Republican incumbent P Toomey is very strong, including E Rendell, J Sestak and K Kane, and the Republican incumbent is polling weak. The race is a Toss-Up and it is a serious chance for another gain in 2016 for the Democratic Party.
NV-Sen 2018: D Heller won in 2012 underperforming M Romney in a state that M Romney lost. He is fairly weak. The strongest potential challenger for him would be the former governor R (Bob) Miller. Running with the best the race would not be worse than a Toss-Up, and even more potential challengers can make it a Toss-Up.
NH-Sen 2016: The prospect of a gain for the Democratic Party is serious here. M Hassan and J Lynch can make this race a Toss-Up. K Ayotte is seriously endangered.
IA-Sen 2016: The race for this seat can be competitive for the first time in decades. T Vilsack, the former governor and current Secretary of Agriculture in Obama's cabinet and H Clinton are putting enough pressure over C Grassley to retire. But even if C Grassley retires not the race can be competitive with T Vilsack.
NV-Sen 2016: This seat can be a lose if H Reid retires. At this point only three politicians can keep B Sandoval out of the senate seat. H Reid, Robert (Bob) Miller, the former Democratic governor, and B Sandoval himself, running for President or for Vice-President in 2016.
ME-Sen 2014: Unfortunately is not being strongly challenged, and I think the Democratic Party can regret it. At this point the race seems a sure lose. My best wishes to S Bellows.
In a best case scenario, this group of races can end with only ME-Sen 2014 in the minus side. In a worst case scenario, that seems not likely, it can be 12. The best case scenario seems more likely. At this point only 7 of these seats are in Republican hands.
WV-Sen 2018: Despite WV is becoming a difficult state, the Republican bench is so short. WV-Sen 2014 (Open by D) and WV-Gov 2016 (Open by D) are making this bench shorter. Still some serious candidate can be ready for this race. I think the Republicans will fight the race like they are fighting every race in R+ territory. But it seems the easier option of the group at this point.I always like to give to the people the chance of giving their oppinion in my diaries in some related poll. We have today the chance to let the people talk about many future elections. I would like to include all the options in the poll, but the system only allows to include 15. Then this time I will include the last 15 options in the poll.
AK-Sen 2014: M Begich, the young Democratic senator from AK, is becoming surprisingly resistant to the Republican challenge. At this point my rating gives Lean D to this race. But still there he will need to fight very much until november.
NC-Sen 2014: There is a tough outside campaign since the begin of the cycle against K Hagan. Until now this campaign of outside money has not been enough contested. I hope it changes, and with a more balanced spending this race can be a pure Toss-Up until the end, just like NC was in the lasts presidential campaigns.
LA-Sen 2014: M Landrieu also is being strong enough to keep the race very competitive. She is also in Toss-Up in my numerical rating. The electoral system of LA with the run-offs and the need to come very close to a 50% in order to win the seat, makes she needs an aditional effort, but at this point it seems that she can do it.
AR-Sen 2014: The race is a Toss-Up at this point in my rating chart. M Pryor is in a difficult situation, but some people is assuming that the race is lost and this is not rigth. It will be necessary to fight very hard to keep the seat, but also it will be necessary to fight very hard to to defeat the incumbent.
MO-Sen 2018: In 2012 C McCaskill proved to be a smart woman and it is not easy to defeat her despite to be not the most popular politician. Her chance for the re-election will depend of how bad can be the environment in 2018. The bench of potential candidates that have the Republicans is enough to make the race competitive.
ND-Sen 2018: H Heitkamp is the firts of the group of Democratic senators that win in 2012 in R+ states by narrow margin. No doubt. This will be a difficult race. The environment in 2018 can be worse than in 2012 but the they will be incumbents. Surely the best case that we can expect is a AK-Sen 2014 situation with M Begich stronger than expected. The bench of Republicans in ND is so big and strong thanks to a good number of statewide elected offices in Republican hands. E Schafer can be the strongest of them.
IN-Sen 2018: Again the same history for J Donnelly but in a little more favourable state. Indiana is the kind of state where an incumbent not unpopular cand defend himself. The most likely situation would be a Toss-Up race. Also the Republican bench is so strong in Indiana with M Daniels as the most difficult potential challenger for J Donnelly.
MT-Sen 2018: J Tester is not in his firts term but after two narrow dictories, this race can go by the same way also in 2018. The situation can be very close to the previous cases (MO, ND or IN). It would be a Toss-Up if the Republicans have a decent candidate. The Republican bench in Montana is the shortest of the states in this situation, but they also have the strongest potential challenger in all these states with M Racicot, who can be favored over J Tester.
GA-Sen 2014: The race for the Open by R seat is becoming competitive thanks to the efforts of M Nunn. I would not tell that she is favored. The race is rated as Lean R in my rating chart, but the Republicans have a so unpredictable situation here. Still GA is a state where they win habitually in the statewide elections of the last years.
KY-Sen 2014: The Republican leader in the Senate, M McConnell is showing weakness to win in his home state. He has a serious primary challenge (in 2010 the Republican stablishment lost the primary vs the Tea Party style candidate) and also has a serious challenger from the Democratic side. Again I would not tell A L Grimes is favored, the race is rated as LeR in my rating chart, but this race can be a big headache for the Republican stablishment all the year.
MT-Sen 2014: The last Democratic incumbent, and surely the most endangered, J Walsh, has a serious challenger this year, and until now he seems not favored in the race. Again this race is rated as Lean R in my rating chart but with worse numbers than GA-Sen 2014 and KY-Sen 2014. J Walsh is also the alone Democratic incumbent that is not leading the fundraising side of the race.
AR-Sen 2016: At this point surely only M Beebe can endanger the re-election of the Republican senator J Boozman. We know not exactly if M Beebe is popular enough to defeat him, but I would not rule out it. Also H Clinton running for President can help to the Democratic prospect in this race.
IN-Sen 2016: This is another seat that can be endangered for the Republicans if a strong Democratic challenger emerges. D Coats seems not too strong, but habitually a Republican is favored in Indiana. Until now, the strongest Democratic challenger in Indiana seems the former senator E Bayh, despite to be unpopular in other places.
AK-Sen 2016: The last election for this seat makes see all the weakness of L Murkowski in a Republican primary in her home state. It is possible to see another similar situation in 2016. The race at this point is so unpredictable and L Murkowski can even switch party. In the last years, M Begich proved that a success of the Democratic party is possible. After him, Clark Gruening is the former candidate to high level elections with better performance in his last race.
FL-Sen 2016: M Rubio is flirting (too much) with a bid for president in the year when he should run for reelection. At this point the chance of an open seat seem low, but M Rubio is weak enough to be considered a good goal for 2016. The Democratic bench in Florida is not too strong. In the last years the strongest Democrat (after W Nelson and C Christ) running for high level office was B Castor. A Sink, considered one of the strongest potential challenger lost recently a race of a lot lower level.
AZ-Sen 2016: The first polling numbers are showing J McCain very weak. G Giffords is performing the best between the potential Democratic candidates, leading over him, in a situation that can be a Toss-Up. In states like Arizona it is not easy ton know if is better to have a dammaged incumbent or to have an open seat.
TN-Sen 2018: The weakness of B Corker and the strength of the Democratic former governor P Bredesen can give to the Democratic Party some chance for this seat in 2018. The environment will be worse than in 2012, but still maybe possible to bid. If P Bredesen rule out a bid, the chance of the Democratic party decreases strongly.
KY-Sen 2016: Again a popular Democratic politician can create some trouble to a Republican senator, in this case R Paul. As in the case of M Rubio, I think not that this seat will be open. And in the case of being open it would be difficult to win the seat in Kentucky with R Paul in the top of the ticket, even with H Clinton in the Democratic Party. Not an easy prospect but maybe some chance, and surely a competitive race.
NC-Sen 2016: R Burr is not a specially weak incumbent but NC is not as hostile state. Taking into account the prospect of a favourable year in 2016 with H Clinton as candidate, we can not forget this seat. The Democratic bench is good. There is a decent number of Democratic statewide eleccted officers, but in NC there is not a local strong star like in other states (Beebe, Bayh, Bredesen, Beshear,...).
MO-Sen 2016: The Democratic Party would have a strong challenger also for R Blunt. There is not reason to think that R Blunt is weak, but J Nixon is fairly popular and can make the race competitive. The current governor of MO is term limited in 2016 and to challenge R Blunt can be a natural step in his political career, taking into account that C McCaskill holds the other seat in MO.
OH-Sen 2016: The last case of this list of potential options for the Democratic Party in R+ states (PVI), would be the seat that today hold R Portman. Some of his recent positions can make him vulnerable in the Republican primary, but still, with T Strickland ruling out the race, the Democratic bench can be a little weaker than in other commented states. In the other side the nature of the state is more favourable.
In the other side, at this point 12 of these seats are in Democratic hands (including WV-Sen 2014 and SD-Sen 2014).
I encourage you to vote in the poll for we can find together the best options in the path for a Democratic majority after the 2018 elections. And if you get interested, I encourage you to find the monday a new diary related to this that will include the winner options of today's poll with more options of this diary unpolled today. You will see it easily in the frontpage of DKE (DailyKos Elections). This also can help us to see where is more necessary to fight this cycle.
RANKING THE SEATS IN THE PATH TO A DEMOCRATIC MAJORITY AFTER THE 2018 ELECTIONS
Taking into account the previous analisys, we would be leaving 38 senate seats in an area of relative confort (at least Lean D in a worst case situation, but wihtout retirements in competitive states). We would have 34 seats in the lists, and we would be leaving 28 seats in the very low hope area (29 with ME-Sen 2014).
In the following days, with the readers votes, we can rank the seats listed with some polls in a short series of diaries. At this point this would be the rank:
38.- seats in the area of relative confort
72.- 29 seats in the area of very low hope (including ME-Sen 2014).
Mon Apr 07, 2014 at 9:37 AM PT: I updated the diary to include FL-Sen 2018, IL-Sen 2016 and WI-Sen 2016 as favourable races where there is some chance of see the race as a Toss-Up thanks to some strong potential Republican challenger (FL) or some weak potential Democratic challengers (IL and WI). The update has not influence in the poll of the diary.