Senator Lautenberg retirement marks another early announcement giving the DNC and RNC ample time to gear up for the 2014 election. So what does this mean for either side and the direction of the Senate?
Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., at 89 is the oldest member in Congress’ upper chamber and on Thursday became the fourth senator to announce he would not seek another term come the 2014 election. However, he does not see this as a final sendoff from public service. “I’m not announcing a retirement,” Lautenberg said during a press conference on Friday, “I’m announcing today that I will be continuing on my mission to do the right thing wherever I can.”
He added, “It’s an appropriate time to allow someone else to follow.” And that is exactly what Lautenberg is doing. He has cleared the pathway for popular Newark Mayor, Cory Booker, to go after the Senate and make his mark on Washington D.C. As The Cycle host Steve Kornacki pointed out in this week:
“Republicans will come up with a candidate too, but the Garden State GOP’s bench is thin and the state hasn’t sent a Republican to the Senate since (the very liberal) Clifford Case in 1972. Booker, with his broad popularity and limitless treasury, figures to be a reliable caretaker of that Democratic winning streak…This is his race to lose.”
However, this is not the case with the other senatorial races up for grabs. With the Republicans only needing six seats to win back the Senate, their best options are going after the states that Mitt Romney won in the 2012 election.
One viable option is Iowa. On Jan. 26, Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, announced that he would not be seeking a sixth term. He said “it’s just time to step aside” and that he wants to see a new generation of Iowa political leaders step forward.
By stepping aside he has made Iowa a viable option for Republicans to go after and hope to pick up in the 2014 Senate elections. National Republican Senatorial Committee executive director Rob Collins said on the day Sen. Harkin announced his retirement, “Today’s announced by Sen. Harkin immediately vaults Iowa into the top tier of competitive Senate races for next year.”
Another Senate seat that the Republicans are eyeing is being vacated by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., who announced his retirement in early January, when he said, “I know deep within me that the end of this term is the right time to recalibrate—to find a new balance for the thing that I love.”
Rockefeller is leaving the door wide open for a strong Republican candidate to come in and win a state that has pivoted away from going Democrat in recent presidential elections. However, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Co., believes that the Democrats can conquer West Virginia again. He said, “I am confident we can elect an independent-minded Democrat to his seat next November.”
Another seat where the Republicans are eyeing is in South Dakota. There, Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson has signaled a possible retirement, but has not formally announced plans to step down. During a conference call back in December he said,” If I run again, I will run a strong campaign is what I meant. But only if I run again, and it’s far too soon to make that statement.” However, with all the recent news of retiring senators will this push Sen. Johnson to make his announcement in order to give the Democratic party ample time to prepare to fight for a Republican state?
In Georgia, Sen. Saxby Chambliss, a Republican, has recently announced he will not be seeking a third term. In order for the Republicans to keep with their magic number six they have to hold on to Chambliss’ seat. As Kornacki pointed in his article, this should not be a problem but ”with a credible nominee – Rep. John Barrow, who continues to defy the odds in an increasingly GOP-friendly district, for instance – Democrats could capitalize on the nomination of Broun or Gingrey, or another similar candidate.”