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Campaign rarity: No open Senate seats (yet) in 2018 election

This analysis was first available to Bloomberg Government subscribers.

The 2018 election could be one for the record books.

Senators are either staying put or putting off a retirement decision. The result could be the fewest voluntary departures in more than seven decades.

Of the 33 senators whose terms expire at the end of next year, none has yet announced plans to leave. The last time that happened at a comparable point in the election cycle was in 1981, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Government.

Most senators announce their political plans in the first half of the odd-numbered year. At a similar juncture in the previous cycle, four senators had announced their retirement intentions. There were six in 2013 and eight in 2011.

At least four senators have retired in every election cycle since 1992. The post-World War II low is two.

Senators up for new terms in 2018 include 23 Democrats plus two independents who caucus with them. Five are seeking re-election from states Trump won by at least 18 percentage points in 2016: Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), and Claire McCaskill (Mo.).

They’re planning to run because “they’ve got important work to do here,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said in an interview.

This campaign cycle is a tough one for Democrats. They’re the defending party in 25 Senate elections compared with eight for Republicans. Not since the 1964 election has one party had to defend that many more seats than the other party.

As forbidding as the map is for the minority party, Trump’s mediocre political standing and the historical trend of the White House’s party underperforming in midterm elections may be mitigating factors. Trump’s approval rating was 38 percent from Aug. 4-6, according to Gallup.

Feinstein Undecided

The only Democrat who may retire is Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.).

Feinstein, who would turn 91 before completing another six-year term, said that she’ll decide “in the fall” whether to seek a fifth full term in 2018.

That timetable “gives me a year-plus to campaign,” she said in an interview. Feinstein had $3.6 million in her campaign account on June 30 after raising $630,000 in this year’s second quarter.

California is so strongly Democratic that Feinstein’s retirement probably wouldn’t jeopardize her party’s hold on the seat or change the balance-of-power math.

Longest-Serving Senator

On the majority side, the person to watch is the longest-serving GOP senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), 83.

He had $4.1 million in his campaign account on June 30 after raising more than $1 million in this year’s second quarter.

Hatch said he plans to run, and if he changes his mind he’d announce that decision by the end of the year or “shortly thereafter” to give others a chance to organize a campaign.

“My wife doesn’t want to do it again, but she’s never wanted to,” Hatch said in an interview. “She sees the wear and tear and, I think, is really worried about me.”

The post Campaign rarity: No open Senate seats (yet) in 2018 election appeared first on Bloomberg Government.

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