Through the midterms — but not necessarily through the end of the year.

Why would Democrats want people to know that Holder won’t be stepping down before voters go to the polls? Hmmmm.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has decided to stay in his job through the fall midterm elections but he will not commit beyond the end of the year, according to Justice Department officials familiar with his plans…

A medical scare in February added to the sense that Holder’s departure might be imminent. During a staff meeting, he felt faint and was taken by ambulance to a hospital where he was treated for an elevated heart rate. Holder told close friends that it was “spooky” and that he felt like it was a “sign” that he should spend more time with his family.

But Justice Department officials and others close to Holder, 63, said that several initiatives he has cared about deeply for a long time are underway, and that he is not in a hurry to leave…

Holder has indicated that he does not want to remain attorney general through President Obama’s second term.

He told the New Yorker in February that he planned on staying “well into 2014,” which the magazine took as a hint that he’d be gone before New Year’s. (The DOJ disputed that.) The reason Dems might want him out sooner rather than later is obvious: If/when they lose the Senate, confirming new cabinet members becomes much harder — and hardest of all will be confirming someone to replace the GOP’s least favorite administration official. If he quits now, Reid can ram someone new through without difficulty. That’s also why some lefties are eager for Ginsburg and Breyer to step down from the Supreme Court this summer.

On the other hand, if Holder quits now, it’ll hand the GOP a platform to revisit his various fark-ups right in the middle of a congressional campaign — Fast & Furious, spying on the press, refusing to turn over documents, the contempt charge in the House, and so forth. It’ll also be seen by Democratic incumbents as a sign that the White House really does think the Senate’s going to fall in November. That’s a bad message to send when O’s busy trying to convince them to run on ObamaCare, and it’s unduly pessimistic given that Obama’s job approval has rebounded (a little) and at least one statistical model gives Democrats a 51 percent chance of holding the Senate. So Holder, it seems, is going to compromise on the timeline. To show confidence that the party will hold onto at least 50 seats this fall, he’s postponing his resignation until after the vote. But maybe not long after the vote — if he resigned the day after election day, I suppose it’s possible that Reid could try to confirm a replacement during the lame-duck session. Michael Mukasey, for instance, was confirmed as AG less than two months after he was nominated by Bush. Would Reid be willing to keep the Senate in session late into December, though? Could he do it even if he wanted to given inevitable attempts by the GOP to delay?

As for replacements, Deval Patrick’s name has been mentioned for years. His term as governor of Massachusetts ends at the end of this year and he’s not running for reelection so there’s no dilemma about him quitting one high-profile job to take another. If he’s the pick, that might also help explain why the White House is in no rush to push Holder out. Patrick has prior DOJ experience as the head of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division and he’s the twice-elected first black chief executive of one of the original 13 states; O might figure, probably rightly, that there won’t be 51 votes to oppose someone with that background even in a GOP-controlled Senate. Another possibility if it’s not Patrick is Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York (a.k.a. Manhattan) who’s known for prosecuting insider-trading cases. O might dare the GOP to Bork him knowing that, if they do, Democrats can try to turn it into a “they’re defending Wall Street fatcats!” narrative. They’re constantly looking for income-inequality angles to run on; if they could turn a confirmation hearing into some sort of referendum on that, they’d be happy.