2012 is shaping up to see major changes in the US Senate. Just as 2006, 2008 and 2010 brought a lot of new faces through retirements and defeats of incumbents, 2012 will probably be very similar. North Dakota's Kent Conrad is hanging it up after 24 years in the Senate and Texas' Kay Bay Hutchinson is also going to leave after 19 years in the Upper Chamber. Facing high negatives in Connecticut, Joe Lieberman is also hanging it up after 24 years in the Senate.
I suspect strongly that Jim Webb and Jeff Bingaman will also decide not to run again which will put both states in play for the GOP. The Republicans will be the odds-on favorite to win in Virginia whether Webb stays in or not; they'll be a lock to flip the seat if he does leave. If Bingaman does decide to retire the GOP will have a 50/50 chance to pick up another seat. If he stays in the Republicans will have almost no shot at winning.
Conrad's retirement puts the GOP in the driver's seat in North Dakota. The Republicans have plenty of politicians will statewide name recognition who will jump at the chance to win the seat. The Democrat's bench in the state is very slim and I suspect we'll see the GOP flip the seat.
Will Herb Kohl retire? After 24 years of doing very little in the Senate I suspect he'll hang up his cleats and head back to Milwaukee. Especially now that national health care has passed I don't think Kohl and several of the other liberal old timers will stay to go through yet another grueling reelection campaign. Right now I see the GOP picking up at least 7 Senate seats with a possiblity of matching their 1980 total of 12.