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Retirements make 2014 harder for Democrats

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By USA Today
Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013, 9:12 p.m.
 

With barely a moment to celebrate an increase in their Senate majority, Democrats have a steeper challenge in keeping control of the chamber in 2014, thanks to the surprise retirements of two senior Democratic senators, Iowa's Tom Harkin and West Virginia's Jay Rockefeller.

Those departures mean that in 2014, Democrats must try to hang onto two open seats in addition to defending 18 incumbents — and seven of the 20 races are in states that voted Republican in the presidential election. The Red-State senators on the 2014 ballot include Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Begich of Alaska, Max Baucus of Montana, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Kay Hagan of North Carolina.

Republicans will have 13 senators up for re-election, all but one — Susan Collins of Maine — from Red States.

Democrats — counting independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont — hold a 55-45 advantage over Republicans in the Senate.

The map is daunting for Democrats, but the math is hard for Republicans, said Matt Canter of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

To take the majority in the Senate, Republicans must win six of the seven Red-State Democratic seats. “Republicans essentially have no room for error if they're going to actually contest the majority,” he said. “This is a difficult map for Democrats, but Republicans face a very steep climb, and I don't think the retirements this week dramatically change the map where we sit today.”

Rep. Bruce Braley, a fourth-term Democrat from the northeastern part of Iowa, said in a statement Sunday that he is considering running for Harkin's seat. “While Senator Harkin's shoes are impossible to fill, in the coming days my family and I will carefully weigh a possible candidacy for Senate,” Braley said on Facebook.

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