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Is The Senate Actually Within Reach?

February 19th, 2010 by Kevin

It\’s become fashionable lately to wonder if the Republicans will retake the Senate this fall.  I\’ll admit it\’s not without some cause, after all national Democrats seem to be doing everything they can to stack the deck against themselves.  Republicans keep making gains and they\’ve been less incompetent that usual lately.  That\’s encouraging.  And Scott Brown\’s victory in Massachusetts was a shot across the bow to every Democrat up for election, every seat is in play now.

However, not all seats are created equal.  Just because Brown and his pickup truck won in Massachusetts, doesn\’t mean that will translate across the country.  For sure Republicans are likely to make some VERY significant gains in the Senate, but it\’s hard to imagine a scenario that involves the takeover of the Senate.  I see the Republicans getting to 49, maybe 50 seats, but after that the spigot runs dry.  We\’ll go through them state-by-state.  See if you can figure out where the Republicans are going to get that magical 51st seat.


Indiana – The latest of Democratic problems, Senator Evan Bayh just announced that he is retiring, supposedly because Congress is too partisan. Republicans have a top tier candidate with former Senator Dan Coats (R) running for Bayh\’s seat. Democrats were set to use the caucus system to appoint a candidate from the Democrat side. Then came Tamyra d\’Ippolito, who looked set to cement herself as the Democrat candidate by gathering enough signatures.  Turns out she didn\’t do it, so if she still wants the seat she has to go through the caucus process.

This is a fairly moderate state and Bayh was a good fit for it, so a caucus approach may not be the most succesful for the Democrats, as it\’s more likely to generate an far left candidate.  And with the anti-Democrat wave sweeping the country that could spell disaster for the Democratic party.  I\’d mark this one as a likely Republican takeover, first set of polls will tell us a lot or how the voters of Indiana are interpreting all this.

Nevada – This, along with Illinois and Delaware, represent the Senatorial Holy Trinity. Much like it was great to knock off Senator Daschle of South Dakota, defeating Majority Leader Harry Reid would be a big trophy for Republicans. And the way things have gone, this could be a relatively easy task. Harry Reid has been underwater on the polls for awhile now and the radical liberal agenda he has lead the Senate through isn\’t helping.

There are a number of Republicans vying for this seat and so far no clear front runner has emerged but they all poll ahead of Reid.  While Reid is an impressive fundraiser, I doubt it\’s going to help him out here.  Short of some major event, this is a Republican takeover.

Illinois – The Father portion of the Senatorial Holy Trinity, Obama\’s old seat is ripe for the picking.  Currently purchased warmed by Roland Burris.  State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, is the Democrat\’s candidate, but he\’s got problems.  Like virtually every other Democrat in Illinois he\’s tainted by corruption and ties to all sorts of unsavory characters, like Rezko and Blagojevich.

Meanwhile the GOP has a pretty solid candidate in Mark Kirk.  Nobody is under any illusions that Kirk is a solid conservative, he\’s a moderate on social issues, but conservative on defense and economic issues, and in this political climate the economy is all people care about right now.  Kirk is polling ahead right now and really the stars seem to be aligning for this one right now.  But expect Obama and the White House to become the 600-pound something in the room, whether that something is a bull in a china shop or a top-notch political machine remains to be determined, but this is looking like a likely Republican takeover.

Delaware – The Son of the Holy Trinity, is Vice Moron Biden\’s old seat, currently being held by Ted Kaufman.  The Democrats basically don\’t have anyone willing to stick out their neck here.  Even Biden\’s son, Beau, isn\’t putting his ass on the line for what sure to be a trouncing at the hands of Mike Castle, a moderate, whose views align pretty solidly with the state.

Not much to discuss here, solid Republican takeover, I\’ll put money on it.

North Dakota – Dorgan is out, Republican Governor John Hoeven is in, Republican takeover….any question?

Arkansas – Senator Blanche Lincoln is just about the only Democrat in the state that hasn\’t already jumped ship and retired.  Her polls numbers virtually spell death.  The only good thing you can say for Lincoln here, is that so far she doesn\’t have a top Republican opponent…yet.  Although, basically any Republican with a heartbeat is leading her by double digits in the polls.  Short of Republicans nominating a bran muffin, just to make things interesting, Lincoln is finished.  Republican takeover.

Pennsylvania – Irony, thy name is Senator Arlen Specter.  He switched parties to avoid a primary challenge.  And now he\’s got one as a Democrat and it\’s far from clear that Sestak won\’t beat him silly.  Not that it much matters because Pat Toomey is polling well against both Specter and Sestak anyway.  Normally I\’d leave it at that, and call this a solid Republican takeover, but Toomey is probably quite a bit more conservative than this state, so there\’s the possibility he won\’t gain traction.  But so far he seems to be doing well, so this gets a likely Republican takeover rating.

Colorado – Senator Michael Bennet is polling pretty awful.  It helps that he\’s never held elective office until he was appointed to this seat to replace Salazar.  He\’s got a primary challenge it\’s not clear he\’ll win.  But like Pennsylvania, it doesn\’t much matter, because Lieutenant Governor Jane Norton is the Republican candidate and polls well against both Bennet and any Democrat challengers.  Short of some major bumble by Norton, this is a Republican takeover.


Ok so, so far things like pretty cheery for the Republican Party right?  Problem is that even if Republicans achieved the rather spectacular feat of taking all these seats, it still only brings them to 49.  And that\’s assuming Republicans don\’t lose their own seats, which is far from certain (more on that later).  Republicans still need two more seats (to break the Biden tie-breaker) to take the Senate.  And those just don\’t look likely.

California – Senator Boxer is batshit crazy to be sure, but that\’s not even tabloid worthy in California.  Yeah, she\’s facing her biggest contest since someone decided to slice bread.  Yeah, she\’s under 50% in the polls.  Although she\’s still polling above all three of her potential Republican opponents, but just barely and she only gets about 48%.  Yes I realize we are now in the age of Scott Brown taking Massa-fucking-chusetts, but come on people….it\’s California.  They invented the concept of damn dirty hippies.  They still raise them on communal farms out there.

Besides, the peripherals don\’t bode well from Republicans.  Turnout will be high as Californians seek to replace Arnold.  Plus Obama is still popular out there, so the anti-Democrat fever isn\’t quite as pronounced.  There is still the possibility that California\’s budget troubles creates an anti-Democrat wave, but that\’s looking unlikely so far.  I stick to my original opinion on California, that our best bet is that a massive earthquake swallows up the entire state and rids us of them forever….because that\’s the only way I don\’t see this as a Democratic retention.

New York – Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is polling something awful, and her party hasn\’t united behind her yet.  Again the problem is the Republicans, they haven\’t come up with a solid candidate yet.  So far Gillibrand polls ahead of them all.  The elephant in the room is former Governor Pataki and he hasn\’t shown clear signs towards running.  And the longer he waits, the less likely it is.  New York is an expensive state to run in, you got a lot of big media markets you have to afford.  Fundraising becomes a real issue here.  At this point it\’s a solid Democrat retention, unless Pataki jumps in soon.

Wisconsin – Senator Feingold is struggling, especially against potential Republican opponent Governor Tommy Thompson.  Problem is Thompson doesn\’t seem particularly inclined to run.  Although it does mean Feingold is potentially vulnerable.  But that\’s only if the GOP can get a top-tier candidate to step forward.  Unless the Wisconsin GOP get\’s it\’s act together, this is a Democrat retention.

Washington – Senator Patty Murray isn\’t particularly an impressive Senator even in a good year.  But she\’s not in an particular danger either.  Her state has trended to the left ever since she won it, and nothing here really signals danger for her.  Solid Democrat retention.


Yeah, there are other Democrat Senate seats up for election, but seriously….not even worth writing about.

And remember Republicans have their own seats to defend…

Ohio – Ohio is solid purple and is a toss-up in the best of conditions.  Republicans have picked Rob Portman, Bush\’s OMB director and Trade Rep.  This is a really odd choice for this state.  Either Ohio has a really shallow pool of talent GOP-wise or Portman has pictures of someone with a goat.  That said, so far he\’s leading in the polls, although I\’m guessing the general anti-Democrat feeling around the country is the only thing making that happen.  Right now this is slightly leaning towards Republican retention, with the ability to go toss-up at any moment.

Kentucky – This SHOULD be an easy seat for Republicans, but they\’re doing their best to screw it up.  The biggest factor here is the presence of Rand Paul (Ron Paul\’s son) in the race.  He leads Secretary of State Trey Grayson in the primaries, which is a bad thing.  Kentucky is not a state that\’s likely to take to libertarianism, in fact it\’s pretty much the inverse.  Look for Democrats to lay low and let Paul take the nomination, and then start explaining to Kentucky what libertarianism really is.  If Grayson can pull out the nomination it\’s a likely Republican retention, but if Paul takes the nomination this is a toss-up.

Missouri – Again this should be a fairly easy win for Republicans, but they\’re doing their best to screw it up.  Obama polls awful here, although that\’s not surprising as this state stayed red in a very anti-red year in 2008.  Republicans are going with a rather uninspiring Roy Blunt, who has flirted with the birthers, although hasn\’t fully embraced them.  Fortunately Democrats apparently agreed with the theme of making the election and snoozefest and went with Robin Carnahan.  On one hand she\’s managed to really pull in votes in elections past, on the other hand the dynamics or this race don\’t favor her.  This one goes as slightly leaning Republican retention.

New Hampshire – This state has bounced back and forth in the way it leans politically for years, currently trending left to right so that\’s a plus for Republicans.  For this open Senate seat, Attorney General Kelly Ayotte (R) leads Rep. Paul Hodes (D) in the polls by a fair margin but she\’s still under 50%, so it\’s hard to be confident.  Plus Ayotte is facing a lot of competition in the primaries, so this race is a lot more competitive than Republicans should be comfortable with.  Leaning Republican retention.


So there you go, Republicans can pretty easily make some major gains and get to 49….but the road to 51 is pretty ugly.  I just can\’t see enough stars aligning to make it happen.  There would have to be some pretty major shifts yet in these races.  Keep in mind that the voter\’s mood right now is anti-incumbent….not necessarily anti-Democrat.  So Republicans are just as in danger as Democrats are.

Republicans can generally feel good about making some gains in 2010, but not about regaining the Senate.

[Crossposted at True North]

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Posted in 2010 Elections, True North | 5 Comments »

5 Responses

  1. Brent Says:

    I don’t understand yours on Kentucky when the polls indicate that Paul would do just as good if not better than Grayson against the Democrats.

    And he is not his father, he is not as libertarian as him (he supports Gitmo, after all). He’d probably end the war in Iraq, sure, but as far as I can tell he thinks we should declare a war on Afghanistan.

    So… just a little confused.

  2. Kevin Says:

    Polls indicate he’d do well right now, but once they learn more about Paul, that’ll change.

    Kentucky is generally more on the fiscally liberal and socially conservative side of things.

    Paul can still win there, but Grayson is by FAR the better choice.

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