Our Views: A retirement helps the GOP

With the retirement of South Dakota’s senior senator, the battle for control of the U.S. Senate in 2014 got a lot tighter.

And Democrats face a little steeper hill to climb to keep their current majority.

Democrat Tim Johnson of South Dakota had suffered from health problems and declined to seek a fourth term, so the seat is likely to change party hands in that usually staunchly Republican state. A former GOP governor, Mike Rounds, is considered a leading contender to replace Johnson.

Another state that went heavily Republican in last year’s presidential vote is West Virginia, where U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller is retiring. That is also a seat where Republicans have high hopes of winning.

Still, the GOP needs to pick up four more seats in the 2014 election to gain a majority in the Senate. One of the targets is in Louisiana, where U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu seeks a fourth term.

But Landrieu is, as Bloomberg News commented, only one of several “wily politicians” among the Democratic incumbents. It’s far to soon, even with a couple of auspicious retirements, for the GOP to celebrate on Capitol Hill.