Importance of Senate ControlControl of the US Senate would be a major victory for the Republican Party should they be able to take control with 51 seats (VP Joe Biden would hold the tie-breaker in a 50-50 Senate). From a legislative standpoint, control of the US Senate would enable conservatives to better pass legislation in coordination with the US House and force more (or even any) compromise from the White House. Having 51 seats also gives the GOP more power during confirmation proceedings. The Democratic Senate is already threatening to bypass or alter rules in the chamber that give certain rights to the minority. But winning the US Senate removes that problem altogether. In the case of a vacancy in the Supreme Court, we would be assured that no pick by President Obama would be confirmed without legitimate scrutiny.
Goal 1: Maintain Current SeatsDespite having 14 seats to defend in 2014, this goal appears to be the easiest to accomplish. Mitt Romney carried 14 of those seats with ease, while Maine Republicans have Susan Collins with a stronghold on the seat in the bluish state. Democrats think they can defeat Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, but we have yet to be convinced of that. Most of the interesting stuff with these seats will happen in the primaries. Liz Cheney has announced a primary challenge in Wyoming, while conservatives are hopeful that challenges could pop up in other states including in Tennessee (Alexander) and South Carolina (Graham).
Goal 2: Pick Up "Should Wins"There are a three seats currently held by Democrats that the GOP "should" win without much effort. In Montana, both the incumbent Democrat and their best hope - a former popular Governor - have opted not to run. The refusal of the latter to run has been labeled a "gift" and now the Republicans need to land a top quality candidate to take home the gold. In South Dakota, all the big name Democrats declined to run and popular former governor Mike Rounds looks like a sure bet so far. And in West Virginia, longtime Republican Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito is the clear frontrunner to takeover for retiring Senator Jay Rockefeller.
Goal 3: Split the Toss-Ups
If the GOP can accomplish their first two goals - and given their general lack of competence in elections that could be a big if - then they must pick up an additional three seats, some of which a borderline should wins, with other being borderline should lose, and others being pure toss-ups. Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, and North Carolina are states where Democratic Senators are doing their best impressions of being "conservative" Democrats. There is little doubt that all of these Senators would have lost big had they been up for re-election in 2010 following their "aye" votes for Obamacare. There only hope now is that voters have a short memory, and that they do not draw strong challengers. As the Obamacare mess continues to unfold, it's safe to say that there will be a lot of ads targeting these four Senators, and it would not be a shocker to see them all get the boot.
Ideally, the GOP would pick up the final 3 victories from the above four states. Romney won all of them, and Louisiana, Arkansas, and Alaska by wide margins. But other states provide pick-up opportunities as well. In Michigan, former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land declared and led in two of three early 2013 polls against the likely Democratic nominee, Gary Peters. Iowa, New Hampshire, Minnesota, and Colorado all seem like reaches, but could be competitive depending on what recruits jump in. As of July 2013, there have not been any strong challengers to offer themselves as a candidate yet in those states.