Democratic Senate Seats up for Re-Election in 2016

Republicans Have Little Hope For Growth in Tough Year

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) speaks at a press conference outside the U.S. Capitol April 2, 2014
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). Win McNamee/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Democrats have just 10 US Senate seats to defend in 2016, compared to 24 for Republicans. These seats were last up for election in the 2010 Republican sweep year, so the seats that survived that survived are mostly in good shape this year. In fact, 8 of the 10 states will start off as safe for Democrats. This is great news for Democrats as they can focus more attention and resources on either picking up Republican-held swing seats or on the Presidential election.

The Republicans will be playing defense, much in the way Democrats had to in 2010, 2012, and 2014.

All but two Senate races start as safe for Democrats. Retirements always open the possibility that Republicans could turn a blue state red, but it would take a really spectacular set of circumstances to make it happen. A concurrent Presidential election with a more even electorate makes such an upset that much more difficult. Only two states on the list are even considered swing states, but that is largely because Republicans won all the swing state seats from the current class, leaving Democrats victorious in mostly just heavily-Democratic areas.

Safe Democratic Seats up for Re-Election

California - Barbara Boxer is going to retire in 2016, leaving open a telephone book of candidates on the Democratic side. Democrats Kamala Harris (CA Attorney General) and US Rep Loretta Sanchez are the favorites.

Republicans have limited options and are not expected to be competitive.

Connecticut - Richard Blumenthal isn't a powerhouse incumbent, but Connecticut is a state Barack Obama won by nearly 20 points. The GOP may have some shot at the seat if moderate Republican Tom Foley fails in his Gubernatorial bid in 2014 and runs for the seat.

Hawaii - Brian Schatz will be running for his first full term after being appointed to the seat and running to fill the term in 2014. No reason to expect a competitive race.

Maryland - Barbara Mikulski will be 80 years old in 2016 and has decided not to run for re-election. US Reps Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards are battling for the Democratic nomination. There are no high-profile Republicans running yet.

New York - Chuck Schumer will likely run for re-election once again, and he will likely have little trouble once again. Wendy Long is the likely Republican nominee, and she won just 28% statewide in her last attempt.

Oregon - Ron Wyden has won three straight election by an average of 25 points. Democrats will not need to waste any resources here.

Vermont - Patrick Leahy's last competitive race was in 1980. The state's other US Senator is a socialist Bernie Sanders. Retire or not, this seat wont be joining GOP side anytime soon.

Washington - Patty Murray has been elected 4 straight times, but never with more than 60%. In 2010, she beat Dino Rossi by just 4 points. Topping that seems like a stretch for Republicans. Rossi was popular in the state and 2010 was quite favorable for a Republican shot at victory.

With likely less favorable circumstances in 2016, it's hard to imagine Murray being in much danger.

Toss-up Democratic Seats up for Re-Election

Colorado - Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet had a close call in 2010 and starts out as the most vulnerable incumbent on the Democratic side. A poll by Democratic firm PPP showed him underwater in approval. Republicans will actually have quite a few good options in 2016 as the state seems to be tilting more red with each passing year.

Nevada - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is retiring. Popular Republican US Rep. Joe Heck is the frontrunner on the Republican side and has polled well. 2010 loser Sharron Angle is also running again.


Early Prediction

Making any of the current safe seats even remotely competitive would be a big win for the Republicans, but they will likely be more worried about protecting their own incumbents.

Though Republicans remain in freak-out mode over the 2010 candidacy of Sharon Angle in Nevada, the seat was no more a sure pick-up then as in any other year. One needs to look no further than the 2012 slate of GOP establishment picks across the board in 2012, who all faced easier seats and lost. Colorado is probably the Republican's best hope. The Democratic Party seems to be losing a bit of footing in the state, though Barack Obama carried it once again in 2012. GOP will be glad to go 1-9 in these races, thrilled to go 2-8.