The Republicans in the Senate faced challenges in 2008 without having simple numbers stacked against them – by the luck of the draw, more of their seats were on the line to begin with, and the problem was exacerbated by retirements and adverse political conditions. The numbers start out much more favorably next time around, but they still have more turf to defend. And now the retirements are coming again, costing the party the power of incumbency. The latest announcement comes from George Voinovich (R-OH).
Other Republicans not coming back next cycle include Mel Martinez (R-FL), Kit Bond (R-MO) and Sam Brownback (R-KS). There is the additional strong possibility that Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) will exit the Senate to pursue the governorship of her home state. Missouri, Florida and Ohio are battleground states, and a Republican opportunity to preempt a battle in Florida has withered on the vine as former Gov. Jeb Bush has declined to run (although popular Gov. Charlie Crist could keep the seat in Republican hands). On the other hand, Kansas would figure to remain in Republican hands, but Democrats may be able to mount a strong challenge for the seat if they can recruit popular Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sibelius as a candidate.
Additionally, Republicans in very blue states figure to draw Democratic attention, particularly Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Judd Gregg (R-NH).
Democrats, however, are not without vulnerabilities either. Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Blanche Lincoln (R-AR) are representing red states, and Evan Bayh (D-IN) represents a state that is almost always red during presidential elections, 2008 excepted.
RBR/TVBR observation: States with hot congressional contests will benefit from an extra helping of political spending, and that will be especially important next time around, when there is no presidential campaign diverting money away from more locally-focused campaigns.