Diary

2010 Senate Analysis

This is my first diary on RedState, though I’ve been around for quite some time. I’m usually a stalker, so please bear with me.

Following is what I believe to be a preliminary outline for the 2010 Senate Elections. I have tried to be fairly accurate in basing what I have written on reality instead of what I would like to happen. Many thing can happen between now and November 2010, so these rankings may change drastically.

Democratic Seats:

Nevada – Harry Reid

Who would have thought six years ago, when Sen. Harry Reid won reelection with 61% of the vote, that his seat would be the #1 pickup opportunity for Republicans in 2010? But just this week the Cook Political Report changed this race from Likely Democrat to Toss Up. This is largely because Reid has such huge negatives with one recent poll (Research 2000) finding his approval rating to be as low as 36%. In a late-August poll by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, Inc., Reid trailed two Republican challengers, Danny Tarkanian and Sue Lowden, by at least 5 points. Tarkanian led Reid by 11 points whereas Lowden led by 5. Tarkanian led Lowden in the primary race 33-14 with 47% undecided and 6% going to other candidates. The early-September Research 2000 poll showed slightly better numbers for Reid: Tarkanian only led by 45-40 while Lowden led 44-41

Chances are excellent that Republicans should be able to “Daschle” Reid even in a non-wave year. With 2010 shaping up to be a medium to large wave, I rate this as an almost guaranteed flip barring unforeseen complications.

Connecticut – Chris Dodd

Is it possible for Republicans to pick up a seat in ever-increasingly-blue New England? Connecticut provides the best chance this year, with severely tainted Sen. Dodd. Dodd has relatively low approval ratings (42% according to a late-July Quinnipiac poll). There hasn’t been much polling in Connecticut since July when former Rep. Rob Simmons, the front runner in the Republican primary (Simmons was at 42% with no other candidate breaking 5%), led Dodd 48-39. In fact, Simmons has led Dodd in every major poll except one since early March.

This would prove to be a shock pick-up, but it seems plausible. If 2010 turns into a wave year, Connecticut could turn red.

Arkansas – Blanche Lincoln

Sen. Blanche Lincoln could be one of many casualties of over-reaching Democratic control of the Legislative and Executive branches. A late August Public Policy poll found her approval at just 36%. She polls within the margin of error with several unknown Republicans: St. Sen. Gilbert Baker led 42-40, Curtis Coleman led 41-40, and Tom Cotton trailed by 40-39. There have been no primary polls conducted.

Sen. Lincoln will be a tough nut to crack. She won reelection back in 2004 with 56% of the vote. But a lot has changed. Specifically, Democrats have taken control of Congress and are doing many things that go against the grain in the South, even Arkansas.

Arkansas stands a good chance of turning turned red.

Delaware – Ted Kauffman (Retiring)

Delaware provides an interesting pick-up opportunity in a solidly-blue state, though with the sacrifice of the State’s sole House seat. This is the seat vacated by Joe Biden, and Ted Kaufman was appointed with the understanding that he would not seek reelection in deference to Vice-President Biden’s son Beau. Biden, Jr. has yet to announce, but there is little doubt that he will. However, Delaware seems to be a less enthusiastic about dynasty seats than Massachusetts, and Michael Castle, who has also not announced any intention of running, is beating him handily in all polls: a late-April poll by Susquehanna Polling and Research has Castle leading Biden 55-34. This followed an early-March Public Policy poll showing Castle leading 44-36. Christine O’Donnell has announced her intention to run for the Republican nomination but will most likely be destroyed by Biden. Castle’s House seat will almost certainly go Democratic if he does not seek reelection.

Castle has announced that there is a better chance of him running for this Senate seat than another term in the House. However, he has also hinted that he may retire from politics.

If Castle runs, rate this as an almost-assured pick-up. If he chooses not to run, it goes down to the bottom of the list.

Colorado – Michael Bennet (Appointed)

The Republican field seems to be a bit crowded, with no clear favorites. The only Republican leading Bennet in the polls is former Gov. Bill Owens by 44-41, but he has not announced whether he will run. Bennet leads all other Republicans: Ryan Frazier by 5 points, Ken Buck by 4, John Suthers by 6, Scott McInnis by 6, Josh Penry by 7, and Tom Tancredo by 9.

The GOP has a fair chance of picking up this seat in purple Colorado, but we have to play our cards right. In a wave year, and with the right candidate, this could be a firm flip.

EDIT: Only Frazier, Buck, and Cleve Tidwell (possibly Norton and Wiens) are running for the Republicans. Bennet is facing a primary against Romanoff. A new Rasmussen poll tonight shows Frazier leading Bennet by 1 point.

North Dakota – Byron Dorgan

It must be made perfectly clear that the GOP has 0-chance of taking this seat if Gov. John Hoeven decides not to run. Dorgan won reelection in 2004 with 64% of the vote, and there are simply no other Republicans who could touch him. In a late-July Public Opinion Strategies poll, Hoeven leads Dorgan 53-36, almost guaranteeing the flip. However, the big question is: Will he run? He does not appear to be in any hurry to announce.

This is possibly our second-biggest pick-up opportunity (after Nevada) if Hoeven decides to run. If he passes, then it stays blue.

New York – Kirsten Gillibrand (Apointed)

After some work, Sen. Gillibrand has cleared the Democratic primary field and will almost assuredly win the party’s nomination. Sparse polling has been done on this race, but both Rudy Giuliani and former-governor George Pataki could prove to make reelection tough for Gillibrand. No polling has been done on Giuliani since January when he trailed Gillibrand by 2 points. But Pataki has led or tied Gillibrand in all but one poll since March. The latest, a Siena poll conducted in late August, has Pataki leading 42-39.

If Pataki or Giuliani run, this race could prove competitive. If they both decline, Democrats easily retain this seat even in a wave year.

Illinois – Roland Burris (Retiring)

Burris’s decision not to run for reelection has drastically improved Democrats’ chances of retaining this seat. In a late-April Public Policy poll, Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias leads all other Democratic challengers by more than 12 points. Rep. Mark Kirk led Peter Roskam in a mid-February Zogby poll by 5 points for the GOP nod.

In a mid-August Rasmussen poll, Kirk etched out a lead of 41-38 over Giannoulias.

In a wave year, we might stand a good chance of picking up this seat if we can overcome voter-fraud.

Pennsylvania – Arlen Specter (Party-Switcher)

Sen. Arlen Specter changed parties in early 2009 with the promise that he would avoid a primary challenge. Unfortunately for him, he’s getting one anyway. Rep. Joe Sestak is slowly gaining on Specter in the polls. He has narrowed Specter’s lead from 38 in early-May to just 15 by mid-August. The liberal wing of the Democratic Party is clearly trying “Lamont” Specter as they did Lieberman in 2006, but it is unclear if Specter would respond the same way Lieberman did by running as an Independent should he lose the Democratic nomination.

Specter still leads presumptive Republican nominee Pat Toomey. A mid-August Research 2000 poll found Specter leading 45-40 while an outlier Rasmussen poll from the same time found Toomey leading 48-36. The only thing we know for sure is that Specter’s lead is apparently narrowing.

Toomey leads Sestak 43-35 in the Rasmussen poll while trailing in the Research 2000 poll 42-41.

The best bet for Republicans here is for Sestak to beat Specter in the primary and Specter to run as an Independent. This would almost assure a Republican victory. However, in a wave year, we stand a minimally good chance of picking up this seat.

EDIT: PA has a Sore Loser law which would prevent Specter from running as an Independent if he loses his primary bid.

California – Barbara Boxer

There has been minimal polling on this race. Old polls show HP CEO Carly Fiorina leading St. Assemblyman Chuck DeVore for the Republican nomination, but it is possible that these numbers may have reversed. A mid-July Rasmussen poll showed Fiorina within striking distance of Sen. Barbara Boxer (45-41), but a mid-August Research 2000 poll showed that Boxer has reclaimed the a strong lead of 52-31. Boxer leads DeVore 53-29.

This is an extremely small chance that the GOP could pull this out, but the chances are getting smaller and smaller since DeVore and Fiorina seem intent on a brutal primary.

Hawaii – Daniel Inouye

Sen. Inouye won reelection in 2004 with 76% of the vote. The only Republican who could give Sen. Inouye a run for his money would be Gov. Linda Lingle, but even she trails him 52-40 in a mid-June Research 2000 poll. Something unexpected may happen, but barring that Inouye will win in a landslide, which could be decreased to only a few points if Gov. Lingle runs.

Washington – Patty Murray

Sen. Murray will not win with as big of a margin as she did in 2004, but she will cruise to reelection unless Dino Rossi runs. That is highly unlikely and so is flipping this seat red.

Wisconsin – Russ Feingold

Sen. Feingold seems to be facing no serious challenges this year.

Indiana – Evan Bayh

Sen. Bayh seems to be facing no serious challenges this year.

Oregon – Ron Wyden

Sen. Wyden seems to be facing no serious challenges this year.

Maryland – Barbara Mikulski

The only possible way to make this seat competitive would be for former Gov. Bob Elrich or RNC Chairman Michael Steele to run. Neither seem interested. This seat is safely Democratic for now.

Vermont – Pat Leahy

The only possibility of making this seat competitive is if Gov. Jim Douglas decides to run. A mid-January Research 2000 poll had Sen. Leahy leading Douglas 58-36, so the chances are unlikely.

New York – Chuck Schumer

Sen. Schumer seems to be facing no serious challenges this year.

Republican Seats:

Missouri – Kit Bond (Retiring)

Rep. Roy Blunt seems to have the Republican nomination all but sewn up while Sec. of State Robin Carnahan is the only announced or rumored Democratic candidate. This is currently rated as the best Democratic pick-up opportunity because of Sec. Carnahan’s recent electoral success (she garnered more votes in 2008 than any other candidate in the history of Missouri). The latest poll, a Democracy Corps poll from late April, shows Carnahan leading Blunt 53-44.

This is the Democrats best chance of a pick-up, but Republicans can make interesting comebacks in Missouri. With a medium to major Republican wave, this seat could stay Republican.

Ohio – George Voinovich (Retiring)

Former Rep. Rob Portman appears to have a cinch on the Republican nomination while Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher and Sec. of State Jennifer Brunner are locked in a close race for the Democratic nod. Unfortunately for us, the latest Research 2000 poll, taken in early-July, shows Brunner leading Portman 40-36 while Fisher leads Portman 42-35. This shows a increase of 4 and 2 points for Portman against Brunner and Fisher respectively since a Public Policy poll in mid-June.

The Democrats have a real chance to take this seat even in a minor Republican wave. However, the Republicans also have a good chance of retaining the seat if the Ohio GOP gets its act together. Here’s hoping we pull this one out.

New Hampshire – Judd Gregg (Retiring)

When Judd Gregg announced his retirement, it switched this seat to an almost automatic Democratic pick-up for Rep. Paul Hodes. However, when Attorney General Kelly Ayotte announced her candidacy in early July, it brought back hope to the GOP. Ayotte led Hodes 39-38 in a mid-July Research 2000 poll. However, an older Granite State Poll from late June had her leading 39-35.

At this point, this race could easily go either way. Unless we see a Democratic wave, I expect to see this seat stay Republican. However, if there isn’t a Republican wave, it could possibly be lost.

North Carolina – Richard Burr

Democrats would like to turn this seat competitive because of a mid-June Public Policy poll showing Sen. Burr losing to a generic Democrat by 3 points. However, in an early-August Public Policy poll, Burr leads Democratic Sec. of State Elaine Marshall 43-31, former St. Sen. Cal Cunningham 43-28, and Kenneth Lewis 43-27. In a wave year for the Democrats, this seat might be in play. However, it seems likely that Burr will eventually solidify support.

Louisiana – David Vitter

There is a lot of speculation about who will be the eventual nominees for both parties in 2010. Sen. Vitter cannot count on a free pass since he was involved in a prostitution scandal two years ago. Vitter led the Republican primary back in a Research 2000 poll from early-March, but there are several Republican contenders who could beat Vitter in a primary. Fortunately they all poll as well or better than he does against any Democratic challengers.

Currently, Rep. Charlie Melancon looks likely to get the eventual nod from the Democratic party. In a mid-July Public Policy poll, Vitter led Melancon 44-32.

Unless the Democrats have a serious wave, this seat does not seem to be in serious play for the Democrats. It could materialize, but at this point it leans heavily toward the Republicans.

Kentucky – Jim Bunning (Retiring)

In late July, Sen. Bunning announced that he would not seek reelection. This dramatically increased Republicans’ chances of keeping this seat red. A late-August Research 2000 poll showed Sec. of State Trey Grayson currently leading Rand Paul (son of Ron Paul) 40-25. Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo currently leads Attorney General Jack Conway by 37-30 for the Democratic nod.

Grayson leads Mongiardo by 4 points and Conway by 6. Paul trails Mongiardo by 5 and Conway by 4.

Unless libertarian Republicans pull a surprise primary upset and hand the nomination to Rand Paul, this seat easily stays Republican.

Florida – George LeMieux (Retiring)

This seat will likely stay Republican unless the primary gets particularly nasty or the Democrats see a wave year. The real question is: Which Republican will win it? In a mid-August Rasmussen poll, Gov. Charlie Crist led former Speaker of the St. House Marco Rubio 53-31. Rubio is gaining points against Crist, but it is unclear if he will gain enough in time. Rep. Kendrick Meek currently leads in the Democratic primary polls.

According to various polls, Crist crushes all Democratic challengers by no less than 19 points while a mid-August Rasmussen poll shows Rubio leading Meek 43-30.

Kansas – Sam Brownback (Retiring)

Republican Reps. Todd Tiahrt and Jerry Moran are statistically tied for the nomination. The only Democrat who could make this race competitive is former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. However, she is likely not as popular as she once was in Kansas since accepting a position in President Obama’s cabinet. Whoever wins the Republican primary should go on to win this Senate seat.

Arizona – John McCain

The only Democrat who could make this race competitive is former Gov. Janet Napolitano. However, she is likely not as popular as she once was in Arizona since accepting a position in President Obama’s cabinet. Sen. McCain should cruise to reelection.

Alaska – Lisa Murkowski

Sen. Murkowski seems cruising to reelection against whoever the eventual Democratic nominee is.

South Dakota – John Thune

Sen. Thune leads potential rivals Tom Daschle 53-40 and Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin 51-39.

Oklahoma – Tom Coburn

In a mid-May Public Policy poll, Sen. Coburn leads Gov. Brad Henry 52-40 and Rep. Dan Boren 53-36. Coburn should cruise to reelection.

South Carolina – Jim DeMint

Sen. DeMint seems to be facing no serious challenges this year.

Georgia – Johnny Isakson

Sen. Isakson seems to be facing no serious challenges this year.

Alabama – Richard Shelby

Sen. Shelby seems to be facing no serious challenges this year.

Utah – Robert Bennett

Any Republican would crush a Democratic candidate in scarlet-red Utah. Sen. Bennett may face a tough primary match, but no polls have been taken. However the primary turns out, this is a solidly red seat.

Iowa – Chuck Grassley

Sen. Grassley seems to be facing no serious challenges this year.

Idaho – Mike Crappo

Sen. Crappo seems to be facing no serious challenges this year.

Synopsis:

Republicans stand to make moderate gains in Democratic-held Senate seats in 2010, with Nevada, Connecticut, and Arkansas all already favoring Republicans. We could also easily take Delaware, North Dakota, Illinois, and New York (Gillibrand) with the right recruits. Pennsylvania and Colorado are more up-hill fights, but it is possible to turn them red. California and Hawaii are the long shots while Washington, Wisconsin, Indiana, Oregon, Maryland, Vermont and New York (Schumer) seem out of the question.

Meanwhile, Republicans playing defense look much safer than they did in 2008. the GOP faces up-hill battles in Missouri and Ohio, but these seats are winnable in a wave year. Seats that are on the verge of being competitive include New Hampshire, North Carolina, Louisiana, and Kentucky. Republican seats seem safe in Florida, Kansas, Arizona, and Alaska but could turn competitive if things head south for the GOP. South Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Utah, Iowa, and Idaho seem locked up for the Republicans.

In a massive Republican wave year, we could gain up to 9 seats while protecting all our endangered seats. In a moderate Republican wave, we will gain between 4 and 6 seats with the possibility of losing 1 or 2 for a net of between 2 and 6.

We should do no worse than gaining 1 seat.