Senate Democratic leaders have a message for their members unsure whether to run for re-election in 2014: Making an early decision will help the party keep control of the chamber.
Leaders of both parties don’t want to be caught off guard as Republicans were last year when Maine Senator Olympia Snowe announced her retirement just eight months before the Nov. 6 election. That helped scuttle Republicans’ to gain the Senate majority.
Two Democrats -- Iowa’s Tom Harkin and West Virginia’s Jay Rockefeller -- and one Republican, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, already have announced they won’t seek re-election in 2014. Political strategists in both parties are watching others, including Democrats Tim Johnson of South Dakota and Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey and Republican Susan Collins of Maine, for signs that they won’t run again.
“Strategists really want these incumbents to make a decision sooner rather than later so they can put the necessary plans in place to account for that,” said Nathan Gonzales, a political analyst for the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report in Washington.
Early notice of retirements is particularly important for Democrats, who will have 21 seats up in the Senate next year, compared with 14 for Republicans.
Democrats, who control 55 votes in the 100-member chamber, will be defending seats in seven states President Barack Obama lost last year: Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia. A loss of the Senate majority to Republicans would mean that party would control both houses of Congress during Obama’s last two years in office.