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Senate Democrats to retreat in Baltimore

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski

Senate Democrats, looking to regroup after turning the chamber over to a new Republican majority this week, will hold their annual policy retreat in Baltimore, Maryland's senators said Thursday.

The meetings give members an opportunity to escape the Capitol routine and talk privately about strategy and messaging for the year ahead. Senate Democrats last met in Maryland in 2013 in Annapolis.

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"When we talked about where to go, there are those who felt that our party has to …have a stronger public expression of support for cities," said Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski. "We thought it should be where there is a Democratic stronghold."

President Barack Obama often speaks at the Democratic retreats, though it's not clear whether he will do so this year. The president spoke to the Senate caucus when it met in Annapolis, though his remarks were not open to reporters.

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The retreat, scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, will come days before Obama is set to deliver the State of the Union address to a Senate now controlled by Republicans. GOP leaders have signaled areas of agreement with the White House but are also expected to take up legislation intended to draw distinctions with Obama.

Mikulski said the retreat agenda will be focused on the economy, the national political environment and how Democrats will approach their role in the minority.

"This is a city on the rise, facing challenges that illustrate what will be foremost on our Democratic agenda: How can we as lawmakers effectively ensure that the current job growth and economic recovery reaches every neighborhood, state and corner of our country?," Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin said in a statement.

Both parties have frequently held their retreats in Maryland, often in Cambridge. But Mikulski said she believes Senate Democrats have not traveled to Baltimore in more than a decade.

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Bringing the event to the city is also noteworthy for Mikulski herself, who is up for reelection in 2016. Polls show she remains the state's most popular politician, but speculation about her possible retirement has started to swirl, just as it did ahead of 2010. The fact that Mikulski, 78, lobbied to bring the retreat to her hometown could be read as an effort to head off at least some of that talk.

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