Washington (CNN) – Get ready for what could be another crucial and bruising 2014 Senate battle, this time in Arkansas, which could ultimately decide whether the Democrats keep control of the chamber.
Republican Rep. Tom Cotton plans next week to announce a 2014 bid for the U.S. Senate, according to a GOP operative in Arkansas, who asked to remain anonymous in order to speak more freely.
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Incumbent two-term Sen. Mark Pryor is considered one of the most vulnerable Democratic senators up for re-election next year.
Cotton, who served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is considered a rising star in the GOP, and is a favorite of many neo-conservatives. The representative, who was just elected to Congress this past November, has been a frequent guest on cable news channels, including CNN.
According to the operative, Cotton's announcement will come Tuesday night.
Next year, the Democrats will try to maintain their majority in the Senate, where they currently hold a 54-46 edge (including two independents who caucus with the party) over the GOP. They hope to expand that to 55-45 following October's special Senate election in New Jersey, which they are favored to win.
But they most likely will be defending 21 of 35 seats up for grabs in November 2014.
Republicans are optimistic about capturing seats in three states that vote red in presidential elections and have Democratic incumbents retiring: Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia.
If the GOP captures those three states, it only needs three more seats to reach the magic number of 51.
Republican eyes are focused on four Democrats facing tough battles next year: Pryor, Sen. Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, Sen. Kay Hagan in North Carolina, and Sen. Mark Begich in Alaska.
Take three of those four races and the Republicans will do what they couldn't do in 2010 and 2012: win back the majority. Democrats are also defending retirements in Iowa, where Sen. Tom Harkin is not running for a sixth term, and Michigan, where Sen. Carl Levin is not bidding for a seventh term. As of now, both of those seats appear to be safer for the Democrats.
Democrats hope to put Kentucky in play, where Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who's running for a sixth term, is facing a challenge from Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, and is also facing a possible primary challenge from a tea party-supported candidate. Democrats further hope to put an open GOP seat in Georgia (where Sen. Saxby Chambliss is retiring) into play.
GOP Sen. Mike Johanns is also retiring next year, but his seat in Nebraska seems safe for Republicans.