Below is the Fix’s first cut at potential retirements in both parties — a list compiled from conversations with Senate strategists, public statements from the senators and assessments of their political outlook in 2014.
To be clear: No one on this list has said he is planning to retire. Typically, the majority of those around whom retirement speculation swirls for extended periods of time do tend to bow out. But, every election features surprises — those who are expected to say sayonara stick around and one or two who didn’t seem to even be a remote retirement possibility decides to leave.
Caveats dispatched, let’s get to the list.
●Dick Durbin (Ill.): Opinion is deeply divided on what the Illinois senator does next. There are those who argue he will run again in order to serve all the way through President Obama’s second term since he and his former junior colleague have a close relationship. There are others who note that Durbin’s hopes of beating out Sen. Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) as the next Senate Democratic leader are dwindling, and that could hasten his exit. Durbin has said he hasn’t made up his mind on running again, but if he does, his $2 million-plus in the bank and the state’s Democratic lean make him a clear favorite.
●Tom Harkin (Iowa): Harkin is up for a sixth term in 2014 and has resisted making any public pronouncements about his plans. With Democrats retaining control of the Senate last month, Harkin retains his chairmanship of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee, which could keep him interested in sticking around. Even if Harkin does stay, Rep. Steve King (R) is making noise about seeking the seat in what would be a very high-profile race.
●Tim Johnson (S.D.): Last week, in the wake of the news that popular former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds (R) would run for the Senate, Johnson (D) equivocated on his own plans. “If I run again, I will run a strong campaign,” he told South Dakota reporters. “But only if I run again, and it’s far too soon to make that statement.” Johnson suffered bleeding on the brain in 2006 and has been slowed since. If he chooses not to run, Democrats are likely to turn to former representative Stephanie Herseth Sandlin.
●Frank Lautenberg (N.J.): If he stands for reelection in 2014, he will be 90 years old. But, there’s little outward sign he plans to step aside. “I’m going to stay as long as the job is not done completely,” Lautenberg told the Bergen Record’s Herb Jackson back in April. Due to his advanced age, however, Lautenberg has a permanent place on retirement watch until he makes his plans crystal clear. If he bows out, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a national star in search of a next step politically, likely runs and would be a clear favorite.