By contrast, the early movement is a clear sign that Republicans view this midterm cycle, with President Obama in charge for the next four years, as a more inviting environment than 2012. Not only are Democrats defending more seats than Republicans (20 to 13) – after all, that did little to help them this November – but many of the most vulnerable Democratic senators hail from some of the most conservative states in the country, where Obama and Democrats have struggled badly over the last several years.

After losing two seats, newly-minted NRSC chairman Jerry Moran now needs to net six seats to win back control of the Senate. The formula is simple, but challenging: Win six of the 7 Democratic-held seats in states Romney carried (Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota, West Virginia), or expand their wiggle room by ousting a vulnerable Democrat like Minnesota Sen. Al Franken. Republicans hardly face any exposure: Even with prospective primary challenges, only Maine Sen. Susan Collins is even remotely at risk this cycle against a Democrat. All told, the 2014 map is even more encouraging for Republicans, provided they land the right candidates…

Another encouraging sign for Republicans: Capito jumped in the race early, seemingly unconcerned about the threat of a primary challenge from the right. That’s a shift from last cycle, when party operatives speculate that recruitment suffered because enough prospective candidates passed on bids, wanting to avoid the risk of facing a more-ideologically pure primary opponent. When brand-name Republicans, like Tommy Thompson or George Allen aren’t deemed kosher by party activists, it makes it tougher for a lesser-known congressman with a few wayward votes to risk their job and, in turn, the nomination. (Think ex-Missouri Sen. Jim Talent or Rep. Jo Ann Emerson in Missouri; Reps. Jim Gerlach or Pat Meehan in Pennsylvania).