Montana Democratic Sen. Max Baucus' retirement makes it likely Republicans will gain seats in the Senate next year, according to Republican strategist Karl Rove, who says the GOP also has a good chance of taking five other seats in November 2014.
There are 35 Senate seats to be determined in next year's election, 21 of them currently held by Democrats and 14 by Republicans, Rove writes in the Wall Street Journal
. In addition to Montana, voters in five of the states where Democratic senators are either retiring or up for re-election — Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, South Dakota, and West Virginia — leaned Republican in last fall's presidential race, choosing Mitt Romney.
"A GOP pickup of even three or four Senate seats would produce big changes," Rove said Thursday. "The ratio between Democrats and Republicans on committees would shift, and Republicans would be more likely to cobble together a majority on issues like spending and defense policy. Not every Democrat wants to go over the liberal cliff with Mr. Obama."
If Republicans take at least six seats and hold what they have, they can take overall control of the Senate.
Eleven of the 14 GOP seats are considered safe, Rove writes, but three others "need watching," including that of popular Maine Sen. Susan Collins. In addition, Rove said, the seat held by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky and the seat of retiring Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss also need attention.
Rove said he expects Republicans to be competitive in open seat races in Iowa, where Democrat Tom Harkin is retiring, and in Michigan, where Democrat Carl Levin is stepping down.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers is said to be considering a run for Levin's seat, which, Rove said, would greatly enhance GOP efforts there.
Rove, who helped former President George W. Bush win the White House, said big fundraising efforts would be key next year to nearly every race. He pointed out that Democrats outraised Republicans last year in the Senate races by $80 million, a situation he said that can't be repeated.
"Republicans won't make big pickups if there's a disparity like this in 2014," he said.
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