On election night 2014 the usual dizzying array of election results will be buzzing over TV, radio and the Internet. There will be the various national races from around the country, the Michigan gubernatorial race, Michigan\u2019s U.S. Senate race, state Senate races, state House races, possibly a statewide ballot proposal or two, and numerous local races and ballot issues. From the perspective of Michigan Democrats, the result of the U.S. Senate race will be the most important race to watch. Democrats have held both of Michigan\u2019s seats in the U.S. Senate for the past 12 years. Keeping that domination intact is their \u201cPriority No. 1\u201d for 2014. Even the gubernatorial election is of a lesser importance to the Democrats. For the Michigan Republicans, the U.S. Senate race represents something they\u2019ve dreamed of having for more than a decade \u2014 a legitimate shot at winning a U.S. Senate seat. However, even if the Republicans fail to win the U.S. Senate seat, they still stand to benefit at the state level by just making sure the race is a close one. If they can keep that race competitive, the Democrats will be forced to spend money on it and use resources for it that might otherwise be available for other races. Those who understand this will be able to view election-year 2014 as many political professionals see it. This situation was set up when U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit, decided not to run for re-election. Considering that he has served more than 30 years in the U.S. Senate, no one can blame Levin for finally bowing out. Nonetheless, he is doing so in an election year that \u2014 at least on paper \u2014 could be problematic for the Democrats. In non-presidential election years, Michigan generally loses much of its blue shading. Turnout tends to favor neither the Democrats nor the Republicans. That\u2019s not always what happens \u2014 it\u2019s just what usually happens. However, voters can grow weary and dissatisfied with presidents and express that dissatisfaction in non-presidential election years. Recent examples of this were 2006, a great year for Democrats, and 2010, a great year for Republicans. With President Barack Obama in the White House, there\u2019s a better than 50-50 chance that the Republicans will do well in 2014. But keep in mind that no one knows that for sure. It could end up being a great year for either party or just an average run-of the-mill election-year. The point is that the Democrats have to plan for a worst case scenario \u2014 and that could spell \u201copportunity\u201d in other races for the Republicans. In spite of the fact that the 2014 election is still far off, it seems clear that the Democrats have already chosen their candidate to replace Levin. To put it bluntly, the field has been cleared for Congressman Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Hills to fill Levin\u2019s shoes. Peters represents Michigan\u2019s 14th Congressional District and can be expected to do well in Oakland County, a vitally important strategic factor in any statewide election. Prior to being elected to Congress, he barely missed being elected Attorney General, losing by a whisker to Mike Cox in 2002. In that statewide election, Cox received 48.85 percent of the votes to Peters\u2019 48.69 percent. On the Republican side, the picture of the U.S. Senate race seems less clear. Many people believe the best candidate would be Congressman Mike Rogers, R- Howell. But it seems that Rogers would prefer to hold onto his safe congressional district seat and his key committee assignments in the U.S. House. At the moment the current Republican front runner seems to be former two-term Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, who is actively pursuing the nomination. The fact that Land has won statewide elections twice bolsters her credentials for the slot \u2014 especially if the principle GOP goal is to at least keep the race close. On the campaign trail Land could hardly be considered as Ms. Excitement, but then again, Peters isn\u2019t exactly Mr. Excitement himself. Until recently the wild card of the race was Libertarian-leaning Republican Justin Amash, R-Cascade Twp., a two-term congressman serving Michigan\u2019s 3rd district. Amash, a darling of many grassroots conservatives, might have the greatest potential for sweeping to victory in both a GOP primary and the general election. However, Amash might also have the potential for giving Peters an easy win. Remember, to the Republicans the first goal in the U.S. Senate race is to keep it close. If they could actually win the race, that would be gravy, but keeping it close is what matters most to them. This explains why Amash received pressure from the top not to enter the race while he was receiving pressure and encouragement from grassroots conservatives to get in. Ultimately, Amash has to assess his own chances. Over the past few weeks he has clearly been stepping away from the idea of running for the U.S. Senate. There has also been talk of Congressman Dave Camp, R-Midland, taking a look at a U.S. Senate bid, but for the time being, it looks like Land is the most likely person to become the nominee. All of the potential GOP U.S. Senate candidates are probably reluctant to officially declare that they\u2019re not interested in the race. The possibly of 2014 turning into another 2010 \u2014 which would bode well for the chances of any Republican \u2014 has to be enticing. And that\u2019s the dilemma. It is tough to say \u201cyes\u201d or \u201cno\u201d when it\u2019s too early to accurately gage what next year\u2019s political environment will be. Peters\u2019 voted for Obamacare in 2010 and that will probably become an issue in the race. It could make him particularly vulnerable if the Democratic turnout is mediocre or weak. That\u2019s probably one of several reasons the Democrats were so determined to lock him in early as their candidate. Chances are that his campaign is already working hard to try to make sure the Democratic base understands what\u2019s at stake. In Lansing, the general feeling is that Peters is the favorite to win and keep Levin\u2019s seat in the hands of the Democrats. It always makes sense to bet on the side that\u2019s saying: \u201cWe\u2019re going to win this at all costs;\u201d especially when the other side isn\u2019t necessarily playing for the win. Jack Spencer is Capitol Affairs Specialist for Capitol Confidential, an online newsletter associated with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (MCPP). MCPP provides policy analysis. The political analysis represented in this column does not necessarily reflect the views of the Mackinac Center.