The retirement of Sen. Daniel R. Coats of Indiana puts a Republican-held seat in play for Democrats seeking to recapture a Senate majority, The Washington Post reports.
Coats' announcement on Tuesday that he will step down after this term does not guarantee that a Democrat will succeed him: Indiana is a solidly Republican state, with the GOP holding both U.S. Senate seats, seven of nine U.S. House seats and the governorship.
Election forecasters cited by the Post on Tuesday said the race still favors Republicans — although one, the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report, loosened the seat occupied by Coats from "Safe Republican" to "Republican favored."
The question is whether Democrats have a strong enough candidate to move the needle any further left.
Speculation immediately fell on the last Senate Democrat from Indiana: Evan Bayh, who declined to seek re-election in 2010, opening the way for Coats to come back.
The two have played musical chairs in the U.S. Senate going back several years, with Coats in the seat from 1988 to 1999, followed by Bayh until 2010.
A top Indiana Democrat told Politico
after the Coats announcement that Bayh "is not a candidate for United States Senate in 2016," but he declined to categorically say that Bayh would never be a candidate for 2016.
In a reversal of circumstances from the 2014 midterm election that saw the Senate flip to Republicans, the GOP will now have to defend many more seats than Democrats — 24 versus 10.
Democrats would need a net gain of gain four seats to reclaim a Senate majority just one term after losing it. A gain of five seats would also offset a Republican winning the White House and having the vice president break Senate ties.
President Barack Obama won Indiana narrowly in 2008, and lost the state in a landslide in 2012 to Mitt Romney.
An Indiana Democrat running for Senate in 2016 might conceivably get a boost from a strong Democratic presidential candidate. But Coats himself told the Indianapolis Star
that he likes his party's chances of retaining the seat.
"We have a deep bench and there probably hasn't been a better time to do this," said Coats.
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