There are 21 US Senate seats up for re-election in 2014 that are currently held by Democrats, with more than half of those being vulnerable. These seats were won during the 2008 sweep year when President Barack Obama brought millions of new first time voters to the polls, and helping many of the down-ticket candidates along the way. While the Republicans are defending 14 seats in mostly conservative states, Democrats are defending a mixture of liberal, moderate, and conservative seats. The GOP would need to swing 6 seats to take control of the US Senate
Likely Safe Democratic Seats
There are nine seats that will probably stay safely in Democratic hands: Delaware - Chris Coons; Illinois - Richard Durbin; Massachusetts 2013 Special Election - Open; Hawaii - Special Election; New Jersey - Frank Lautenberg (Retiring); New Mexico - Tom Udall; Oregon - Jeff Merkley; Rhode Island - Jack Reed; Virginia - Mark Warner.
There could be changes to this list. John Kerry's seat was initially in this section, but after he left to become the Secretary of State it gave Scott Brown a decent shot at the seat. The seat was moved to vulnerable... until Brown bowed out of the special election being held in 2013. Iowa's Tom Harkin was leaning safe until he opted for retirement. The retirement of Max Baucus also shifted his seat into "vulnerable" territory.
Vulnerable Democratic Seats
Alaska – Mark Begich won by 1-point in 2008 after Republican Ted Stevens was convicted of minor crimes just days before the general election. The conviction was later thrown out when it was later discovered that the prosecution had hidden key evidence that would have likely led to a non-guilty verdict. Without the prosecutorial misconduct, the US Senate outcome would have likely been different. Begich provided the 60th vote for Obamacare.
Arkansas – Mark Pryor didn’t face opposition in 2008, which was odd given the conservative tilt of the state. This will be his first time facing the voters since voting for Obamacare supporting most of the Obama agenda since. Democrat Blanche Lincoln lost by 21-points in 2010 after facing the voters for the first time and the GOP is hoping to repeat that performance against Pryor.
Colorado – Mark Udall won with 53% of the vote in his first contest and would be the favorite to win re-election. But there are a number of candidates who could make the race competitive for Republicans.
Iowa – Tom Harkin won by a healthy 26-point margin in 2008, but he decided not to seek re-election in 2014. Republicans have a fairly wide pool of candidates for a possible takeover.
Louisiana – Mary Landrieu has won election to the US Senate by an average of just 3 points in three elections. She remains one of the few Democratic senators in the south and, along with Pryor, will face voters for the first time since voting for Obamacare. Her blue-dog claims may be less convincing this time. So far, Congressman Bill Cassidy has has declared his candidacy for the GOP side and has raised considerable cash. (Full Louisiana 2014 analysis)
Michigan - The retirement hits keep coming for the Democrats as sure bet Carl Levin announced he would also retire in 2014. Both the GOP and Democratic fields are wide open and each side has recent victories to brag about. President Obama and Debbie Stabenow both won the state in 2010, but the Governor's mansion any many statewide races flipped to the Republicans previously
Minnesota – “Comedian” Al Franken won by the slimmest of margins in a highly controversial outcome in 2008. Minnesota has trended blue, but Obama did not run away with the state in 2012, having picked up just 52% of the vote. So far, the GOP hasn't had much luck finding a candidate. Former Governor Tim Pawlenty and US Senator Norm Coleman have passed on a run.
Montana - Max Baucus announced he was retiring after his current term expires in this red state. Now it is up to the Republicans to find a candidate who can put the state in the win column. Former Democratic Governor Brian Schweitzer would be the best hope for Democrats. Mitt Romney carried the state by double digits in 2012.
New Hampshire – Jeanne Shaheen is one for two in this US Senate race but won't be going up for round three against John E. Sununu. Sununu won by 5 points in 2002, while Shaheen won by 7 in 2008. New Hampshire is very unpredictable electorally. So far, there is no clear frontrunner to challenge Shaheen.
North Carolina – Kay Hagan enjoyed upset victories in 2008 along with Democrat Governor Bev Purdue and President Obama. Obama lost the state in 2012 and Purdue didn’t even try to run for re-election given her unpopularity (Subsequently won handily by the GOP ticket). Polls show Hagan is upside down in job approval and she will see no shortage of potential opponents.
South Dakota – Tim Johnson is another “moderate” Democrat in a heavily Republican state who announced is retirement rather than face the voters after voting for Obamacare. Former GOP Governor Mike Rounds announced his candidacy and the state’s lone congresswoman Kristi Noem, who just won re-election state-wide by 15 points, is considering a run. The Democrats best (and perhaps only) chance at keeping the seat rests with former congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, who lost to Noem by just over 2 points n 2010.
West Virginia – Jay Rockefeller has decided not to run for re-election, giving the GOP a decent chance at finally winning a Senate seat in supposed-to-be-really-conservative West Virginia. Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito is running for the Republicans and very early polls have given her a healthy lead against potential Democratic opponents.