Assessing the Senate Races in 2016: The Northeast

While most eyes will be on the 2016 presidential race, equally important are the many Senate races that year where the script will be flipped and the Republicans will be playing defense.  This is an early take on those races starting in the more liberal Northeast.

Connecticut-  Democratic incumbent [mc_name name=’Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’B001277′ ] will seek reelection and be 70 years old in 2016 which is not that old for a Senator.  He enters the race in relatively safe territory since Connecticut is not exactly teeming with potential Republican candidates.  Blumenthal defeated the self-funded Linda McMahon rather handily in 2010 and we do not need a repeat of another McMahon run.  A better candidate, albeit in a likely losing role, would be Tom Foley who has the name recognition and would probably garner the most votes of any Republican mentioned.  Odds of Blumenthal victory: 85%

Maryland- [mc_name name=’Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’M000702′ ], the Democratic incumbent, has signaled that she will run for another term in 2016 at the age of 80.  If she decides otherwise, there is no shortage of potential Democrats ready to step in and run for that seat.  Seven of the state’s eight congresspeople are Democrats.  [mc_name name=’Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’S001168′ ] would seem the most likely candidate given his political pedigree in the state.  Recent redistricting was intended to increase his statewide profile although many believed it was a for a run for Governor.  That would occur in 2018.  I do not believe [mc_name name=’Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’E000290′ ] would be a serious choice and [mc_name name=’Rep. John Delaney (D-MD)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’D000620′ ] would leave a potential swing district open.  [mc_name name=’Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’V000128′ ] likes his leadership role lapping at Pelosi’s shoes too much to risk a Senate run.  There are also state officials like Heather Mizeur or Doug Gansler to consider.  And being the mayor of the state’s largest city, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has the high profile to propel her.

On the Republican side, only two names have been mentioned- Richard Douglas and Dr. Ben Carson.  Douglas came in second in the 2012 primary for Senate and Carson is a high profile potential candidate.  Carson would be an intriguing possibility if his presidential run dies. While many would certainly give the Democrats a head start in Maryland, anything is possible in an open race IF Mikulski retires.  Odds of Mikulski victory: 100%; Odds of Republican victory in open race: 30%

New Hampshire- To say that GOP incumbent [mc_name name=’Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’A000368′ ] has a target on her back would be an understatement.  She may face a primary challenge from the right, but that may not be such a bad thing.  And there is no shortage of Democrats willing to take her on.  The name most mentioned is Maggie Hassan, the current Governor, whose term expires (they only serve for 2 years).  However, it would be a calculated risk since Ayotte’s numbers in the state are decent and she polls ahead of Hassan this far out.  [mc_name name=’Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’S001170′ ] is also mentioned, but I see her running (again!) against Frank Guinta and that may be where the Democratic powers want to see her run.  Probably the most interesting name is Stefany Shaheen, the daughter of the other Senator from New Hampshire.  This race will be closely watched and how Ayotte performs as a Senator over the next two years will be very important.  Odds of Ayotte Victory: 60% only because there are too many questions and the swingish nature of New Hampshire politics.

New York-  Chuck Schumer is not going anywhere and the only question is who the Republican sacrificial lamb will be.  The only serious name mentioned is former NYC Deputy Mayor Joe Lohta who lost to Bill de Blasio in 2013.  How well he plays statewide is another story altogether.  Its unlikely any Republican congresspeople will step forward as they will be defending some vulnerable seats in the House and none are likely to make a major statement statewide.  Odds of Schumer victory: 100%

Ohio- Republican incumbent [mc_name name=’Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’P000449′ ] will run for reelection.  Although Ohio law permits it, he has ruled out a simultaneous run should he be a vice-presidential pick.  He has already ruled out a presidential run.  If that is the case, state treasurer Josh Mandel and congressman [mc_name name=’Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’S001187′ ] could be potential GOP candidates.  I have reservations about Mandel.  Regardless, Portman should draw a competitive Democrat as an opponent.

So far, state legislator Bob Hagan has filed papers to run although the Democratic field can get considerably crowded.  There are current and former House members and state level officials like Jennifer Brunner who would likely challenge.  The Democrats will be gunning for this seat, but Portman has positioned himself as sufficiently moderate enough to keep it.  It has been reported that former Governor Ted Strickland will announce his candidacy later this month.  Some consider him the most formidable opponent to Portman.  That may not be saying much, but this is a race to watch and if the rumors are true, Strickland would have to be the Democratic front runner at this early stage of the game.  Odds of Portman victory: 70%.  Odds of Republican victory in open race: 50%

Vermont-  Democratic incumbent, Pat Leahy,  will have an easy path to reelection.  His opponent could likely be state senator Phillip Scott.  The only chance for a GOP victory- or even close race- would be if something unforeseen happens.  Odds of Leahy victory: 100%

Pennsylvania– Pat Toomey will like face Joe Sestak, the Democrat he defeated in 2010.  Toomey has moderated of late and been rather low key.  Sestak will possibly have to face a primary challenge from Josh Shapiro, a Montgomery County official whom the Democrats are high on if not for this race then for a House seat.  These are the only two realistic Democrats in the race and hopefully Shapiro does enter the race and drain some of Sestak’s momentum.  There is the outside possibility that moderate former congressman Chris Carney could also challenge Sestak.

At heart, Pennsylvania is a blue state and Toomey seems like an outlier here and that is why the state is in the cross hairs of the Democrats in 2016.  However, Sestak is Pennsylvania’s old news and although Toomey won a close race in 2010 winning by only 80,000 votes of 4 million cast, he will not face any primary opposition and has six years under his belt.  If I were a GOP operative in Pennsylvania, perhaps I would be more worried about Shapiro at this point than Sestak.  Odds of Toomey victory: 55-60% against Shapiro; 65-75% against Sestak

Next: Races in the South