A couple months ago I addressed whether the Senate was truly in reach for Republicans this election, and since we\’ve seen a lot of interesting developments in some of the races I thought it would be worth taking another look. I wanted to wait until after Super Tuesday so my analysis wasn\’t outdated literally within hours after I wrote it. Now we at least know who the contestants are some of these races….and while Republicans will make major gains in the Senate, the ultimate prize, the majority, is outside of their grasp but there are some nice consolation prizes along the way.
Let\’s start with the easy ones
Indiana – Currently held Senator Evan Bayh (D), the last we looked at it I was pretty confident that a Republican would have a solid shot here, and it\’s moved far beyond that. This has long been leaning solidly Republican. Republicans Coats has held a solid lead over Democrat Ellsworth for awhile. Ellsworth\’s polling has never left the low 30s and while Coats support has drifted up and down between the high 40s and low 50s, it\’s always been at least a two digit gap, which is pretty much all you can ask for a non-incumbency race. This race ceased being interesting to anyone outside of Indiana awhile ago.
North Dakota – Pretty sure I said it best the first time around.
Dorgan is out, Republican Governor John Hoeven is in, Republican takeover….any question?
Delaware – The first of the Holy Trinity (Deleware, Illinois, Nevada) for Republicans in 2010. It being Biden\’s former seat is the old part interesting here. Otherwise it\’s simple. Republican Castle over Democrat Coons, done deal. I said I\’d put money on it then, the offer still stands.
Arkansas – The only thing interesting about this race was the primary. Would Senator Lincoln be removed by voters in favor of fellow Democrat Halter? Or would she survive only to be defeated in the general election by Republican Boozman? No matter how the primary turned out, a Republican was going to come away with the seat in the general election so the primary was purely academic. This will be Republican territory come November…and Lincoln can\’t blame anyone but herself….well, maybe Obama.
So those are four Democrat seats that should easily come to Republican territory…the score is now 45 – 53 – 2. After this, things get decidedly more fuzzy…I\’ll save the Republican held seats for last, because with one exception they aren\’t overly exciting now.
Nevada – Another member of the Holy Trinity, one Harry Reid and we finally know who his opponent is, the Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle. Now some would say Reid has returned from the dead and is ready to pull out a win. I disagree completely. The polls have closed and showed a tighter race too, but if you look at the history, Reid\’s numbers haven\’t changed in months. The dynamics of the polls have been people shifting back and forth between undecided and one of the three Republicans. Angle was arguably the one with the lowest name recognition. The fact that so many are still undecided indicates they aren\’t excited about voting for Reid and are willing to give Angle a chance. This is still looks like a likely Republican takeover….the score is now 46 – 52 – 2
Illinois – The final member of the Holy Trinity, President Obama\’s old seat, warmed over by Chicago-style corruption and now ready for a new occupant. The Republican candidate Kirk isn\’t the most conservative Republican in the country but he\’s solid where it counts and he is about as good as you can expect from Illinois. Meanwhile the Democrat Giannoulias, like every other Illinois Democrat, is plagued with corruption charges. And with the Blago trial kicking off, that\’s at the forefront of Illinois voters. On the other hand, Illinois Democrats are notorious for their (dirty) political machine and you can\’t discount them yet. In a fair world, this is an all but certain Republican victory, but I have to list it as leaning towards a Republican takeover…..the score is now 47 – 51 – 2
Pennsylvania – This seat has managed to raise more political drama than you\’d expect. This was supposed to be relatively simple. Flip-flopper Spector and Democrat Sestak battle it out, the winner eventually loses to Republican Toomey in the general election. Short. Simple. Not a whole lot to fuss over. And then came the news that the Obama Administration had tried to but Sestak off with a job offer. That story simmered for weeks and then now another Democrat Senate candidate is claiming the same thing. Insta-drama!! Not that it\’s helping Sestak, who beyond a short-lived bump in the polls after the outbreak of the latest scandal to plague the White House, is now solidly trailing Toomey. I fully expect to see that hold. Sestak lost the chance to capitalize on the scandal when he allied with the White House. Now there isn\’t much territory to wedge into to regain a lead. Likely Republican takeover….the score is now 48 – 50 – 2
Colorado – The other half of the scandal, and arguably the more important half. Before Romanoff, Sestak was an isolated case of political amateurism by the Obama Administration. Now Romanoff has Republican nationwide on a treasure hunt for more cases of political buyoffs by Obama & Company. But this race has more drama in it\’s own right. I had confidentially predicted Norton would defeat all Democrat resistance and take this seat. I\’m not exactly sure why but polling has shown it\’s neck and neck. Norton is still likely to be the Republican candidate, but the Democrat is less certain. Senator Bennet is currently leading in the Democratic Primary polls, which is nice because he\’s also polling pretty damn awful for the general election. If he wins the primary, this leans Republican takeover. If Romanoff manages to scratch out a win in the primary, this is a toss-up at best.
California – Yes Senator Boxer is batshit crazy, now onto new news, the results of the primary….Carly Fiorina is the Republican. Now she\’s been solidly behind in polling and she\’s not gaining traction either. Senator Boxer is polling in the mid to high 40s, so she\’s technically vulnerable but it\’s California….bat-shit crazy is a virtue there. Likely Democrat retention.
Wisconsin – Well this has changed quite a bit since I last looked at this race. Governor Thompson is definitely out so that goes Republicans best chance at stealing this seat. Newcomer Johnson was endorsed on the first ballot at the Republican convention, but there isn\’t much polling history between him and Senator Feingold. Feingold has always polled just under 50 so technically he\’s vulnerable, and the polling shows that he\’s running neck and neck with Johnson. However, independents tend to fall towards Feingold, so unless Johnson can really play up ObamaCare, which polls horribly, and Feingold supported, this is a Democratic retention.
Washington – Senator Patty Murray is polling sub-50 which technically makes her vulnerable. And Republican Dino Rossi is polling neck-and-neck. But Washington is a blue state and has been trending bluer, so I have to give the tie-breaker to Murray, but we\’ll call this one a toss-up for now. Until the election gets closer, I\’d say Murray\’s incumbency trumps Rossi\’s close polling.
New York – Last time I listed Senator Kirsten Gillibrand as potentially vulnerable, that has most certainly changed. None of the top-tier Republican candidate materialized and Gillibrand is now polling over 50 against all her potential Republican opponents. Solid Democrat retention and not worth further study.
Ok now let\’s wander into Republican territory…because even in this year of the Great Republican Feeding Frenzy of 2010, there are some Republican seats that show signs of weakness.
Florida – Ok maybe not weakness as much as pure political theater of the worst kind. Crist was the establishment candidate for the Republicans. He had fundraising, he had party support, he had a solid campaign staff….one problem, nobody liked him. Marco Rubio took over as the Republican candidate and Crist became an independent as bitterly as possible. Oh and there is a Democrat candidate Meeks, whom nobody seems to be paying attention to, including the Democrats as the Democrats have adopted Crist by sending their best staffers to him. Crist in return has made a jackass out of himself at every opportunity and established him as the most pathetic form of principle-less flip-flopper there is. Polling shows things pretty tight but I expect that to change. Meeks will slowly fall out of the picture and it\’ll be Crist vs Rubio, with Rubio eventually taking it. I\’d say this leans Republican retention at this point.
Missouri -This should be an easy win for the Republicans, but they had been trying their best to screw it up. Polling had turned around for Republican Blunt since the new year and he was solidly ahead until just recently. Democrat Carnahan has been trying to link Blunt to the oil industry, and by proxy the disaster in the Gulf. That appears to be gaining some traction. Looking at the specifics of the polling, despite his lead, I would say Blunt is in serious trouble. The passion index is solidly in Carnahan\’s favor and the state has a popular Democratic Governor. We\’ll call this a toss-up at this point.
Ohio – This was already a worrisome state for Republicans and it hasn\’t gotten any better. Republican Rob Portman has lost his lead, and is polling neck and neck with Democrat Lee Fisher. The specifics of the poll slightly favor Portman, but not by much and the trend is definitely in favor of Fisher. I\’ll be optimistic and call this a toss-up.
Kentucky – Well Rand Paul is the Republican candidate, and my fears about him are being confirmed. And his missteps have hurt him bad. He\’s holding on to a solid lead at the moment, but let\’s hope he\’s stopped the bleeding or else Republicans will lose this seat. If they can hold the line, they\’ll keep this seat….barely. Working against Rand Paul is that he\’s been so high profile that very few are undecided on him, so he doesn\’t have much room to gain ground. Let\’s call this leaning Republican….as long as Rand Paul keeps his mouth shut.
New Hampshire – I was a little concerned about this seat last time, but I\’m feeling better now. Attorney General Kelly Ayotte (R) leads Rep. Paul Hodes (D) by a solid margin in the polls and has cracked 50 a couple times. Even Ayotte\’s closest competitor in the Republican primary beats Hodes, although not by much. This is quickly becoming uninteresting. Likely Republican retention.
North Carolina -I hesitated included this because I\’m pretty confident this will stay in Republican hands, but Burr has shown far more weakness than a Republican has any right to in this political climate. There is no political reason for it, so it\’s hard to get a sense of it. Not helping matters is the fact that pollsters have pretty much ignored this race, with the exception of PPP which with it\’s large Democrat clientele has a vested interest in showing Burr weaker than he is. Probably not a race that has to be at the top of your radar screen but any incumbent that can\’t break 50% is worth keeping an eye on.
Arizona – This I mention merely to poke fun at the Non-Maverick-Formerly-Known-As-A-Self-Titled-Maverick. McCain has only himself to blame for all his troubles in this primary and it couldn\’t happen to a more deserving guy. JD Hayworth is still giving McCain fits and McCain\’s TV ads have gained a comically desperate tone to them. That said McCain still maintains a solid lead over Hayworth in the primary, but both maintain a lead over their Democratic opponent. Solid Republican retention.
I see the final results coming out to be 48 Republicans, 50 Democrats, and 2 Independents (caucusing with Democrats), although if Republicans can pull off Colorado 49 for both Republicans and Democrats. But even if Lieberman decides to caucus with Republicans, that only makes it 50 – 50 with Biden as the deciding vote. Barring some major event, the majority of the Senate remains out of reach for Republicans.
[Crossposted at True North]