With three retirements in just the past two weeks, the 2012 Senate landscape is quickly starting to take shape, and so far it’s mostly welcome news for Republicans aiming to take back the Senate majority next year.
The GOP needs to pick up just four seats in 2012 for control of the upper chamber and the party has a total of 23 targets to choose from, while only needing to defend 10 of its own seats.
The best news so far for the GOP — the decision of Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), who announced his retirement just one day before Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said he wouldn’t seek reelection in 2012.
Conrad’s retirement just about hands Republicans a Senate seat in North Dakota next year — a state where the GOP scored two big wins in 2010 and Democrats don’t have much of a bench to speak of.
“North Dakota was very good news for Senate Republicans,” said Brian Walsh, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, who added that the committee fully expects more Democrats to bow out before 2012.
Last week, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) began the string of Senate retirements ahead of a cycle that could be littered with them. The question that looms when the Senate returns for business next week: Who’s next?
A handful of other Democratic senators could also opt for retirement in 2012, decisions that, in most cases, would be a boon for GOP hopes of regaining the majority next year.
Sens. Jim Webb (D-Va.) and Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.) are two of the biggest names still outstanding. While Republicans are poised to contest both of those seats in 2012 regardless of whether the incumbents decide to run again, open seat races would likely favor the GOP in both states.