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  • Sen. Chuck Schumer (NY): The number three Democrat in the Senate, Schumer figures to be a key player on any efforts to revive immigration and gun reform measures.
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA): A potential presidential contender from the party’s progressive wing, look for Warren to continue her efforts to rein in the big banks and combat inequality.
  • Sen.-elect Cory Booker (NJ): The Newark mayor’s media savvy figures to keep him in the spotlight once he enters the Senate, but his efforts to curry favor with Wall St. have annoyed some progressives.
  • Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV): The Senate leader could play a pivotal role in coming showdowns over the budget and the debt ceiling–and  progressives are pressing him to take another run at fixing the Senate gridlock, after a half-measure earlier this year.
  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (NY): Gillibrand has been talked about as a 2016 contender, though she’s unlikely to run if Hillary Clinton does. Gay rights and stopping military sex assaults are among her signature issues.
  • Sen. Pat Leahy (VT): The veteran liberal chairs the Judiciary committee, which means he’ll play a key role in the push to strengthen the Voting Rights Act in response to the Supreme Court ruling last summer.
  • Sen. Mark Pryor (AR): Pryor, a top Republican target in next year’s midterms, will be eager to play up his conservative credentials and distance himself from President Obama—which could cause headaches for Harry Reid.
  • Sen. Michael Bennet (CO): As chair of his party’s Senate campaign committee, it’s Bennet’s job to maintain Democrats’ slim majority next fall. Most analysts give Dems about even odds of holding on.
  • Sen. Joe Manchin (WV): Perhaps the Senate’s most conservative Democrat, the former governor went out on a limb by taking a leading role on gun control legislation—but he doesn’t sound eager to keep pushing the issue.
  • Alison Lundergan Grimes (KY – candidate): The 34-year-old Kentucky secretary of state is carrying some heavy expectations: She’s  challenging GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell, who’s up for re-election next fall, and who Democrats would love to knock off.
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Key Senate Democrats to watch

Updated

With the U.S. House of Representatives paralyzed by the GOP’s Tea Party caucus, the Senate could play a crucial role in finding ways to break the gridlock and taking the lead on key legislation for the rest of President Obama’s tenure in office. Not to mention that some of the potential 2016 presidential contenders who are generating the most buzz right now—from Elizabeth Warren to Ted Cruz—are denizens of the upper chamber. And as if that weren’t enough, the battle for control of the Senate figures to be the major storyline of next fall’s midterms, with most analysts predicting a down-to-the-wire race that could hinge on one or two contests.

That’s why it’s worth getting to know some of the key Senate players on both sides—as well as a few of the candidates who may soon be joining them. With a view to 2014 and beyond, here are some of the Democrat senators—plus one high-profile candidate—to keep an eye on.

You can view our accompanying list of Republicans here.

For more feature photography, go to msnbc.com/photography