Okay, it may be a bit early yet, but in a week of bad legislative news, where health care is socialized purportedly to save our economy with more deficit spending, despite strong public opposition, and Obama plows his way through a blizzard to decry global warming, there is a silver lining. The silver lining is that in America, elected officials are still accountable, and we can give them an electoral smackdown that will have pundits start talking about the 2010 landslides and forget about 1994. By my count, there are about 20 Senate seats of interest in this go around. Without further ado:
1. CT – Senator Dodd (D) is down 48-35 in the latest (12/7) Rasmussen Reports poll to Simmons (R). This would be pick up number 1.
2. DE – Rep Castle (R) outpolls Beau Biden (D) in nearly every poll, including the recent Democrat run PPP poll, (11/30-12/2), by 45-39 margin. This would be pick up number 2.
3. FL – While Marc Rubio is gaining, and perhaps has already caught fellow Republican Gov. Crist in the primary polls, both Republicans outpoll likely Dem nominee Rep. Kendrick Meeks. See http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2010/senate/2010_florida_senate_race.html. Rubio is likely to increase in support in the primaries as momentum is on his side, and while he is not currently polling as high as Crist in the general, his momentum is moving in the right direction and he has a broad base of support. This hold be a GOP hold.
4. IL – Giannoulis (D) leads Kirk (R) by a few points, and although this is too close to call, I doubt Kirk would be able to pull this out without some luck in the electoral tides. This would be a Democrat hold.
5. MO – Carnahan v. Blunt – Two political dynasties in MO square off once again. This is a toss-up, with the most recent Rasmussen poll putting it at 43-41 in favor of Carnahan. In the spirit of well-founded optimism given recent elections and unpopular Democrat party moves, I am going to rate this as a GOP hold.
6. NH – Kelly Ayotte (R) has a tough one to hold the NH Senate seat against Paul Hodes (D), but I am rating it as a toss up.
7. NY – Giuliani would apparently slaughter Sen. Gillibrand’s reelection bid, which would be GOP pick up number 3.
8. OH – Rob Portman is running strong against multiple Democratic challengers, with Rasmussen putting his lead at anywhere from 2-7 points depending on the opponent. Perhaps the strongest candidate from either party in terms of fiscal sense, I put this as likely Republican, and I rate it another GOP hold.
9. PA – Turncoat Specter (D, former RINO) faces a tough primary challenge from Joe Sestak, and I am not so sure he will survive it. Having lost over a quarter century of seniority after Democrats broke yet another promise that he could keep it, Specter is a forgotten and ill-loved stepchild of the Democratic party, a rented vote for health care and cap & trade. Republican Pat Toomey (R), favorite son of the Club for Growth, should be well positioned to take the seat as fiscal issues come to dominate down the stretch. He is currently polling ahead of both Specter and Sestak, and I rate this GOP pick up number 4.
10. NV – Majority Leader Reid (D) looks to be going the way of Tom Daschle. Multiple GOP candidates are running ahead of him with Reid’s polling lagging anywhere from the high 30s to low 40s. I rate this as GOP pick up number 5.
11. ND – Senator Dorgan, long one of my favorite Democrat Senators for his passion regarding deficit reduction, seems to have caved on his principles on the monstrosity health care bill, deeply unpopular in his deep red state. Gov. Hoeven (R) has a huge 20+ point lead, which, if Hoeven enters the race, makes this challenger campaign a “Safe (R)” and GOP pick up number 6.
12. CT – Senator Lieberman, Independent from Connecticut, is not up for reelection until 2014. Nevertheless, he has got to be pissed as all get out by his treatment by the Democrats, and if the GOP are close enough to 50, he may caucus with us. If he does, that would be GOP pick up number 7.
13. NE – Senator Nelson, though he caved on abortion rights legislation, was again at odds with the Democratic party. He held out long, (longer I dare say than certain Republicans would have in his shoes) and with the cover of GOP membership, I am confident he would have voted against the health care monstrosity. He is not likely to win another election as a Democrat, and if the GOP gets close to Senate control, he is another possible party switcher. If this plays out, he would be GOP pick up number 8.
14. AR – Senator Lincoln polls behind 4 relatively unknown challengers and looks to be toast if her challenger’s campaign is adequately funded. This could be GOP pick up number 9.
15. CO – Freshman appointee Sen. Bennett (D) has publicly commented he would vote for health care even if it costs him his seat. He has done so, and now he might pay that very price. Polls show him in trouble, and he could be GOP pick up number 10.
16. CA – Senator Boxer (D), whose crazy comments range from calling for prosecution of the climategate whistleblowers rather than investigation into frauds, to saying the right to life does not begin until a mother brings a baby home from the hospital (one wonders about the car ride home), is facing a tough reelection from either Chuck Devore or Carly Fiorina. This is a likely Democratic hold, but again, like Kirk in IL, favorable circumstances could push the GOP nominee over the top.
17. KY – Sen Bunning (R)’s retirement leaves open a seat in a red state, which in a likley dominant GOP year should remain as another GOP hold. I would have been more worried had he not retired.
18. NC – Senator Burr faces reelection against a yet unknown Democratic challenger, but polls show him leading all challengers. I rate this as another GOP hold.
19. HI – Sen. Inouye is running for reelection at the age of 86. Though I wish him no ill, at that age health concerns are inevitable and Gov Lingle (R) could affect this seat in two ways. One, she could appoint a GOP replacement should health concerns require him to step down or should he pass away. Two, she is term limited and her gubernatorial reign ends in 2010. She would be a formidable candidate. Still, this is a likely Dem hold, and perhaps the longest shot of any of the 20 mentioned here for the GOP.
20. IN – Sen Bayh is a Reid-Pelosi pawn who won last election cycle with 64% of the vote. With the right challenger, he could be vulnerable in the red state of Indiana, especially after the health care vote. Nobody is polling this race right now, but I am convinced the opportunity is there, should the right candidate emerge, perhaps a nationally known Republican willing to locate to Indiana. At this stage, however, in the absence of such a known candidate or polls, I rate this as a likely Dem hold.
In summary, I predict the GOP has 8 seats it could easily win away from Democrats this cycle, another 3 which could become more interesting for the GOP (CA, IN, IL), 2 incumbent Senators who could switch to the GOP if a landslide occurs, and 6 likely GOP holds. If the election were today, I think the GOP would pick up 5 or 6 seats, which would force bipartisanship or at least stall the socialist drive of the Democrat leaders. Further, while 18 GOP and 18 Dem Senators are up for reelection in 2010, only 22 GOP and 42 Democrats are up in 2012 and 2014. Anything close to 50 portends a future GOP Senate majority in 5 years time.