What Colorado’s Bennet Faces as Senate Democratic Campaign Head

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U.S. Senate Michael Bennet claims victory in the midterm elections in Denver's City Park on Nov. 3, 2010 in Denver.

Here’s one word that doesn’t describe Michael Bennet’s new job as chairman of the Senate Democrats’ campaign organization:

Easy.

Bennet, a Colorado Democrat announced today as the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, is taking over an organization that has 20 of its members up for re-election in 2014 compared to 13 Republicans.

Democrats will defend their expanded Senate majority, set to be 55-45 when the 113th Congress convenes next month, at the midpoint of President Barack Obama’s second term. In midterm elections, the party controlling the White House usually loses ground in Congress, partly because more of the opposition shows up in a lower-turnout year.

Of the 13 Republicans whose terms expire at the end of 2014, only Susan Collins of Maine represents a state that voted for Obama on Nov. 6. And she beat a Democratic congressman in 2008, a good Democratic year, with 61 percent of the vote.

Seven Democrats up for re-election in 2014 represent states carried by Mitt Romney, including Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and Tim Johnson of South Dakota, who have already drawn top-flight Republican opponents.

The outcomes will depend on a range of factors that are difficult to predict, including the national political environment, Obama’s approval rating, candidate recruitment and fundraising. Republicans would need to make a net gain of six seats to win an outright majority for the first time since the 2004 election.

And there will be unexpected twists and turns over the next 23 months, as the 2012 Senate campaign showed. Republicans seemed to be in a strong position at the end of the 2010 campaign, when Obama had mediocre approval ratings and Democrats faced the unwelcome prospect of defending 23 Senate seats on 2012 ballots compared to just 10 for Republicans.

Yet Democrats were aided by Republican setbacks including the unexpected retirement of Olympia Snowe of Maine, the defeat of Richard Lugar in an Indiana primary and self-inflicted wounds by Richard Mourdock in Indiana and Todd Akin in Missouri.

Strong campaigns by Democrats in Romney-friendly states, including Sen. Jon Tester in Montana and Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota, also helped Democrats hold on to 22 of their 23 seats — the most successful holds by a party in Senate elections since 1964.

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