Diary

Senate 2010 Analysis (late-September)

This is a continuation of my previous diary regarding what I believe the realistic status of various races is. Some of these races that I consider competitive may become less-competitive while some that I see as uncompetitive may become competitive. A lot can happen in 13 months.

Please feel free to give feedback, updates, and notes in the comments section. This proved quite helpful for some corrections I needed to make last time.

Democratic Seats:

Nevada – Harry Reid

Things seem to have gotten slightly darker for poor Sen. Reid since early September. A new Rasmussen poll, taken on September 14, shows him now losing to Republicans Danny Tarkanian by 7 points (50-43) and Sue Lowden by 10 points (50-40). There have been no new Republican primary polls, but Tarkanian was leading Lowden in an old poll from mid-August by 19 points.

This is still Republican’s best opportunity for a pick-up. It seems, at this point, all but guaranteed to flip.

Connecticut – Chris Dodd

New polls from Rasmussen and Quinnipiac both confirm that Dodd is still in trouble. Rasmussen has Republican Rob Simmons leading Dodd 49-39 while Quinnipiac shows his lead at a more modest 44-39. Quinnipiac also shows Simmons leading the Republican Primary field with 43% percent, while no other challenger tops 5%.

This is still an excellent opportunity for a pick-up, but I’m hesitant, since Connecticut is such a dark blue state, to call it as good as Nevada.

Colorado – Michael Bennet (Appointed)

The Republican field is more crowded now than it was last month with the entrance of Lt. Gov. Jane Norton. Shortly after her entrance, Rasmussen Reports released a poll showing Norton leading Sen. Bennet 45-36. An earlier Rasmussen poll had Ryan Frazier also leading Bennet by 1 point (40-39). The same poll showed Ken Buck trailing Bennet 43-37. There has been no primary poll conducted since Norton announced her entrance.

Also since last month, House Speaker Andrew Romanoff has declared a primary challenge to Miachael Bennet. There are no primary polls, but Norton leads Romanoff 42-34 in Rasmussen’s poll from mid-September.

This race is being bumped up as I now consider it a better pick-up chance than Arkansas.

Arkansas – Blanche Lincoln

Sen. Blanche Lincoln is a tad better positioned now than she was a month ago.

A recent Research 2000 poll from mid-September shows her now leading all challengers: Gilbert Baker (44-37), Curtis Coleman (45-37), Kim Hendren (47-28), and Tom Cox (46-29). For comparison, a late-August Public Policy poll had her polling under both Baker and Coleman while Cotton trailed by only 1 point.

Arkansas is still winnable, but it seems less so than last month. I’ve knocked this down on my list as I see several others as more winnable now.

Delaware – Ted Kauffman (Retiring)

No new polls have been released yet, and Delaware still provides an seemingly good chance at a pick-up if Rep. Michael Castle runs. He hasn’t announced yet, but neither has Beau Biden. Castle has said 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.

North Dakota – Byron Dorgan

No new developments in North Dakota, which actually may prove to be a development in itself. It is clear that the GOP has 0-chance of taking this seat if Gov. John Hoeven decides not to run. An ancient Public Opinion Strategies poll has Hoeven leading Dorgan 53-36, but the longest-serving governor won’t announce his intentions.

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)

Sen. Gillibrand still appears vulnerable, but both Peter King and Rudy Giuliani have declined to run. The only remaining Republican who could challenge the interim Senator is former governor George Pataki. A late-August Siena poll has Pataki leading 42-39.

If Pataki runs, this race could prove competitive. If he declines, Democrats easily retain this seat even in a wave year.

Illinois – Roland Burris (Retiring)

There is no new polling available. My rating is the same as last month:

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)

No new information is available since last month when Sen. Arlen Specter led Rep. Joe Sestak in the Democratic primary race by 15 points, and presumptive Republican nominee Pat Toomey by 5 points in the general election.

California – Barbara Boxer

The latest Rasmussen poll from mid-September shows Sen. Barbara Boxer leading Carly Fiorina 49-29 and Chuck DeVore 46-37. There are no new primary polls.

California is slipping away as an authentic possibility for a pick-up.

Hawaii – Daniel Inouye

No new developments in Hawaii. Gov. Lingle has yet to announce her intentions.

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.

Indiana – Evan Bayh

Former Schererville Representative Dan Dumezich may decide to jump in soon. However, as of yet there is no polling data to consider this race competitive.

Other:

Sens. Patty Murray (WA), Ron Wyden (OR), Russ Feingold (WI), Barbara Mikulski (MD), (Pat Leahy (VT), and Chuck Schumer (NY) all seem safe but these seats might become competitive if future developments pan out just right.

Republican Seats:

Missouri – Kit Bond (Retiring)

The latest Rasmussen poll from mid-September shows Republican Rep. Roy Blunt Democrat Sec. of State Robin Carnahan tied at 46%. This is good news for Blunt who trailed by 9 points last month.

This is still the Democrats best chance of a pick-up, but Republicans have a strong history of making surprising comebacks in Missouri, and this race may not even be on the table next year.

Ohio – George Voinovich (Retiring)

The latest Rasmussen from late-September report shows former Rep. Rob Portman leading both Democratic challengers. He leads Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher 41-40 and Sec. of State Jennifer Brunner 40-38. This is better than an mid-September poll by Quinniapiac which showed Portman trailing Brunner 39-34 and Fisher 32-31. The Rasmussen poll may be an outlier.

The Democrats have a real chance to take this seat even in a minor Republican wave.

New Hampshire – Judd Gregg (Retiring)

Attorney General Kelly Ayotte seems to be solidifying support as a mid-September Rasmussen poll finds her leading Democrat Paul Hodes 46-38.

North Carolina – Richard Burr

The latest Rasmussen poll from mid-September shows incumbent Sen. Richard Burr leading all Democratic challengers. He leads Kenneth Lewis 48-32, Elaine Marshall 48-38, and Bob Etheridge 48-34.

I would feel more comfortable if Burr could poll above 50%, but I feel confident than the Republicans should have no problem defending this seat unless we see a surprise wave year for the Democrats.

Louisiana – David Vitter

No new polling available, but Sen. Vitter looks well positioned against Rep. Charlie Melancon (D). Vitter could be facing an interesting primary, but no polling has been done.

Kentucky – Jim Bunning (Retiring)

No serious movements have been made and no new polls released since last month. I still place Sec. of State Trey Grayson as the favorite to beat out both Rand Paul in the Republican primary and Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo in the general.

Florida – George LeMieux (Retiring)

No new polls have been released, and Gov. Charlie Crist still leads former Speaker of the St. House Marco Rubio for the Republican primary. Whoever wins this race will almost assuredly win the general election.

Kansas – Sam Brownback (Retiring)

No new polls means that Republican Reps. Todd Tiahrt and Jerry Moran are still statistically tied for the nomination. The winner will go on to win the general.

Arizona – John McCain

A mid-September Public Policy shows Sen. McCain crushing Chris Simcox for the Republican nomination. He will almost certainly win both that and the general.

Utah – Robert Bennett

Sen. Robert Bennett is facing several more conservative challengers in the Republican primary. No polling has been done, but this could become competitive since Sen. Bennett seems determined to be considered a ‘moderate’ but represents the deepest of red states.

Other:

Sens. Lisa Murkowski (AK), John Thune (ND), Tom Coburn (OK), Jim DeMint (SC), Johnny Isakson (GA), Richard Shelby (AL), Chuck Grassley (IA), and Mike Crappo (ID) all seem safe but these seats might become competitive if future developments pan out just right.

Synopsis:

Republicans still stand to make some gains in Democratic-held Senate seats in 2010, with Nevada, Connecticut, and Colorado all already favoring Republicans. We also stand good chances in Delaware, North Dakota and New York (Gillibrand)with the right recruits. Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Arkansas are all doable but will prove to be more up-hill fights. California is a long shot. Hawaii may become competitive but is probably safe Democratic, as is Washington, Wisconsin, Indiana, Oregon, Maryland, Vermont and New York (Schumer). .

Meanwhile, Republicans playing defense look better than they did even a month ago. Missouri and Ohio are the most possible to switch parties, but recent polling is looking better for Republicans in these states. New Hampshire also looks to be solidifying for the Republicans. North Carolina, Louisiana, and Kentucky might become competitive later, but for now are safe, and Republican seats are safe in Florida, Kansas, Arizona, Alaska, South Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Utah, Iowa, and Idaho.

The basic change stats are the same as last month: In a massive Republican wave year, we could gain up to 9 seats (NV, CT, CO, DE, ND, NY, IL, PA, and AR), while protecting all our endangered seats (MO, OH, NC, KT, and LA).

Realistically at this point, I see Republicans gaining between 4 and 6 seats with the slimming prospect of losing 1 or 2 for a net of between 2 and 6.

We should do no worse than gaining 1 seat.