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Looking Ahead: Senate Races 2012-2014

A Commentary By Larry J. Sabato

As the most recent Crystal Ball ratings showed, Democrats are benefiting from the equal split of Senate seats up in 2010. Even though Democrats have a large majority of senators, it just so happens that both Democrats and Republicans are defending 19 seats each in the upcoming midterm election, which makes it exceedingly difficult for the GOP to gain enough seats to capture the Senate. However, the balance shifts dramatically in 2012 and 2014, when Democrats have 24 and 20 seats on the ballot to the GOP's 9 and 13 seats.

The chart below is a list of the seats on the ballot in 2012 and 2014.

Clearly, Democrats will need a strong performance by President Obama in his 2012 reelection race if they are to avoid losing seats. Moreover, if there's a second Obama presidential term, the "sixth year itch" in 2014 could be a doozy. When one combines both 2012 and 2014, Democrats will have to defend 44 Senate berths, while Republicans will be much freer to roam the landscape on offense, having only half as many seats (22) to worry about.

Larry J. Sabato is the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

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