Senate Democrats reached majority status after the 2006 midterms and, defying the odds, held on to their majority for eight years. Now that they’re in the minority, they’re naturally looking to reclaim what they had.
By structural standards, Dems have reason for cautious optimism about the 2016 cycle. Though all kinds of factors will contribute to the outcomes, we know before a single vote is cast that the landscape does not tilt in the Republicans’ favor: there will be 34 Senate races next year, and the GOP has to defend 24 of them. That’s not easy under the best of circumstances.
But to take advantage of the opportunity, Dems will need the strongest possible candidates. Roll Call had a good piece yesterday noting that when it comes to candidate recruitment, Democrats are exactly where they want to be.
With New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan’s entrance into the Granite State Senate contest, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has secured nearly every top-tier recruit it sought for 2016 – when Democrats will attempt to net the five seats necessary to regain control of the Senate.Aside from Hassan in New Hampshire, the DSCC secured strong candidates in Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The DSCC also scored wins with Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick’s decision to run for Senate in Arizona, as well as three Democratic senators from red states forgoing gubernatorial bids in 2016.
It’s not a perfect map for the party – Dems have struggled to find a top-tier challenger in North Carolina – but the Roll Call piece quoted one party strategist saying, “I think the DSCC pitched close to a perfect game on recruitment.”
Some of the Democratic candidates who enjoy party backing still face primary campaigns, some of which may disrupt the DSCC’s game plan, but if the party is going to have any chance of reclaiming the Senate majority in 2017, it will have to build a strong foundation.
And so far, Democrats have done that. The fact that the 2016 electorate will be larger and more diverse than the 2014 electorate only helps boost Dems’ confidence.
Postscript: It’s a tangential angle, but I consider worth emphasizing that many of the would-be Democratic senators are women, including the Dem candidates in Arizona, California, Illinois, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and possibly Maryland.
Of the 100 senators currently serving, only 20 are women. If Democrats have a good year next year, that total may go as high as 24 or 25 by the start of the next Congress.