Senate Overview: Retirements and Primaries Matter for Majority

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Nathan L. Gonzales April 17, 2015 · 3:04 PM EDT

A year and a half before Election Day, the battle for the Senate is well underway.

GOP strategists are spending the first part of the cycle encouraging their incumbents to run for re-election while Democratic strategists are recruiting challengers to vulnerable Republican senators running for re-election in competitive states.

In the first three months of the year, four senators announced their retirements: California Democrat Barbara Boxer, Maryland Democrat Barbara Mikulski, Nevada Democrat Harry Reid, and Indiana Republican Dan Coats. A fifth senator, Florida Republican Marco Rubio, is giving up his seat to run for president.

At this point, only Coats’ retirement has the potential to expand the field of competitive races. Republicans are unlikely to seriously challenge in California and Maryland, except under extraordinary circumstances. Reid and Rubio were vulnerable incumbents as the cycle began, so Nevada and Florida were already among the Senate battlegrounds. But depending on the national political environment and the party nominees, Indiana could become a serious headache for Republicans. 

If history is a guide, there should be at least another couple of retirements. Over the last 35 years, an average of seven senators retired each election cycle. Republicans likely…

2016 Senate Overview (April 17, 2015) Alabama - Kansas

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April 17, 2015 · 3:03 PM EDT

ALABAMA – Richard Shelby (R) elected 1986 (50%), 1992 (65%), 1998 (63%), 2004 (68%), 2010 (65%). The only mystery is what Shelby will do with the $18 million in his campaign account when he doesn’t have a serious race. Safe GOP.

ALASKA – Lisa Murkowski (R) appointed Dec. 2002, elected 2004 (49%),…

2016 Senate Overview (April 17, 2015) Kentucky - New Mexico

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April 17, 2015 · 3:02 PM EDT

KENTUCKY – Rand Paul (R) elected 2010 (56%). Paul announced his presidential campaign earlier this month but is planning to simultaneously run for re-election. Paul’s allies in the Legislature have been unable to change state law, which would prohibit him from doing that. But the GOP state central…

2016 Senate Overview (April 17, 2015) New York - Wyoming

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April 17, 2015 · 3:01 PM EDT

NEW YORK – Chuck Schumer (D) elected 1998 (55%), 2004 (71%), 2010 (66%). It took Schumer a few hours to wrap up the leadership race after Harry Reid announced his retirement. Now, Schumer will run for re-election and be the next Democratic leader in the Senate. The only question is whether he will…