Jay Rockefeller won't talk about it. Neither will fellow Democrats Tom Harkin, Carl Levin, Tim Johnson and Frank Lautenberg.
None of these senior senators will give a definitive answer about whether they're running for reelection in 2014.
"I'm very definitely going to make a statement about that -- but not yet," the 75-year-old Rockefeller, who saw a formidable Republican opponent enter his race Monday, told POLITICO. "Not until we get some other things set."
The retirement watch is in full swing on Capitol Hill as veteran senators weigh whether to endure another reelection grind, the endless demands for fundraising and the barrage of personal attacks -- all to serve another six years in a body known for its constant gridlock. On the Democratic side, the concern over retirements is more acute -- the senators most likely to leave come from red states like West Virginia and South Dakota or swing states like Iowa. On the Republican side, perhaps the most likely retirement centers on Thad Cochran, who presumably would be replaced by another GOP senator in deep-red Mississippi.
And just like in 2012, Democrats face an unfavorable electoral map, having to defend 20 seats to 13 for the GOP in a midterm election historically difficult for the party that controls the White House.
"Iowa is always a competitive state," Harkin said of the state he's represented since 1985. "It's about right down the middle 50-50."
Asked about 2014, the 73-year-old Harkin noted he had hired an Internet fundraiser, but punted on his plans: "I've got a lot of other things on my mind right now; there will be time for that later."
But not a whole lot of time.
Just like in 2012, Democratic leaders want the retirement decisions to come early -- probably by the middle of next year -- giving them plenty of time to recruit a new candidate, just as they did this past election cycle when seven Democrats retired.
The only Democratic-held seat the party lost in 2012 -- in Nebraska -- came after Sen. Ben Nelson announced in late December 2011 that he'd forgo a bid for a third term. Similarly, in the 2010 election cycle, late retirement announcements by Sens. Evan Bayh of Indiana and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota preceded the party's losses in those two states.
The same goes for the GOP. It was the late retirement of Maine's Olympia Snowe, who shocked her party's leaders in February, that led to the loss of the party's Senate seat. And even though just three Republican senators announced their plans to quit at year's end, the party ended up dropping two seats in the chamber, now relegated to seeing Democrats hold a 55-45 majority for the next two years.
Besides Cochran, most of the 13 Republican senators up for reelection are more firmly in the "yes" column to run again -- for now.
"I'm running hard," said Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi, dismissing speculation he'd quit.
"He is running," a spokeswoman to Sen. Pat Roberts said of the Kansas Republican.
Cochran, the powerful Mississippi appropriator who has served in the body since 1978, said it's "too early to decide."
"I'm not weighing anything," Cochran said when asked about the factors he's considering. "I'm serving to the best of my ability."
The money game can also provide clues into senators' thinking -- Cochran, Enzi, Idaho Sen. Jim Risch and Nebraska Sen. Mike Johanns each had less than $350,000 in their war chests through the end of the third quarter.
Still, several of these media markets are inexpensive and incumbent senators can raise money relatively quickly for their reelection bids.
"I imagine I will," Johanns said of running for reelection, "but I haven't said anything definitive because we've just had a very competitive Senate race. ... Now, nobody wants to hear about this."
There are surprise retirements every cycle, and some senators are cagey about their intentions this far away from the next election, even if they are widely expected to run.
"I'm definitely working hard to avert the fiscal cliff, focus on the tasks at hand right now, and that's what I'm focused on," said first-term Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina, when asked about her plans.
Others are sending clear signals they're running, including senior senators such as Democrats Max Baucus of Montana and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Republicans Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, John Cornyn of Texas and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Each reported a seven-figure campaign account through the past quarter.
Alexander, for one, barnstormed his state right before the election and warned voters they wouldn't like whatever deficit deal Congress reaches before year's end to avoid the fiscal cliff.
"I went to 25 counties in four weeks, and I told everybody that we had some hard, dirty work to do that nobody was going to like, that they know me and they elected me to do what needs to be done -- and I intend to do it," he told POLITICO. "They know that."
And Landrieu said she's not concerned having to run in a state where President Barack Obama lost by 17 percentage points to Mitt Romney.
"The people of my state aren't going to be voting for the president -- they're going to be voting for me," Landrieu said in an interview. "I think I've built a tremendous record of delivering big things for the state of Louisiana."
On the Democratic side, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin has been somewhat vague about his future. A retirement by the No. 2 leader in the Democratic Caucus would cause a significant shake-up in the Senate leadership hierarchy. His office pointed to a comment he made to Crain's Chicago Business earlier this month when he signaled he'd run but left open his options.
"I'm planning to run for reelection but I haven't made a final decision," Durbin, who had $2.5 million in the bank through Sept. 30, told the publication. He added that a decision would come in "a few months."
Johnson, the South Dakota Democrat who has served in the Senate since 1997, told POLITICO Monday: "I have no idea" when asked if he'd run in 2014.
Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, who ruled out a bid for the Democratic nomination for governor last week, wouldn't comment Monday on whether he'd run for reelection in 2014.
If some of these old bulls were to retire, they'd be giving up powerful positions in the Senate -- like Johnson's perch atop the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee or Levin's spot running the Armed Services Committee.
A spokeswoman for Levin said the senator is focused on the final stretch of the legislative year and will announce his decision in early 2013. Likewise, a spokesman for the 88-year-old Lautenberg said the senator is "focused on rebuilding New Jersey in the wake of superstorm Sandy, and retirement is the last thing on his mind."
If Rockefeller were to retire, Republican chances of winning West Virginia would significantly grow after Rep. Shelley Moore Capito entered the race on Monday. Rockefeller expresses confidence he can win, despite his battles with the West Virginia coal industry and his liberal leanings in a state where Obama is wildly unpopular.
"I think I could [win]," Rockefeller said when asked about speculation that he'd quit. "One is because I haven't been able to campaign for money the way I should, but money has never been a problem for me. And secondly, I'm confident I'd win."
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