Senate outlook - 20 seats to watch this fall

My current projection of Senate seats suggests the GOP has to pick up another couple of points in the polls and a better campaigning job in Nevada.  I’m projecting that the GOP will pick up 8-14 seats.   This may be a best case scenario, but it is entirely possible.  Contrary to the pundit’s popular point that everything must break the GOP’s way, the GOP has multiple paths to a majority, and could lose 3 of these 20 and still steal the majority.

Last, even if the GOP does not take the majority this year, anything close to it puts the Dems in a horrible position as they have twice as many seats up for reelection over the next two cycles, in 2012 and 2014.

1.  ND – Gov. Hoeven is poised to slaughter whatever scrub the Dems put up, bringing the total to GOP +1.

2.  DE – Rep. Mike Castle is poised to take over Biden’s old seat, bringing the total to GOP+2.

3.  AR – Rep. Boozman is outpolling Sen. Lincoln in a year where, except for the Governor’s office, the entire state is trending to the GOP.  Total = GOP +3

4.  PA –  Club for Growth’s Pat Toomey has opened up a respectable lead over Rep. Sestak, where the GOP looks likely not only to win the Senate seat but Sestak’s formerly secure seat in the House.  Total = GOP+4

5.  NH – Kelly Ayotte has opened up a 5-10 point lead in the polls and it appears the entire NH delegation which is running this year is looking to come back to the GOP.  GOP HOLD

6.  IL – In a mudslinging election and a Democrat state in a GOP year, this continues to be a tough race to handicap, but the polls are close.  POSSIBLE GOP PICK UP.

7.  OH – Recent Democrat donor scandal in the Buckeye state probably do not help their Sen and Gov candidates who are trailing in the polls already.  GOP HOLD

8.  WA – Patty Murray is neck and neck with GOP contender Dino Rossi.  POSSIBLE GOP PICK UP.

9.  WI – Russ Feingold is trailing GOP’s Ron Johnson.  I rate this as leaning GOP and GOP Pick Up = GOP +5

10.  NC – Though there was formerly noise about the Dems making a run at Sen Burr’s seat, it looks very unlikely now as he holds a double digit lead in a GOP state in a GOP year.  GOP HOLD.

11.  NV – Sen Reid’s mudslinging has given him a slight edge over Sharon Angle.  That said, he had been polling in the 30s against 4 different candidates for a long time, so its probably not that Nevadans like him.  His entire campaign is the politics of personal destruction and demonization of Angle.  The tea party needs Angle to win and have broad grassroots support.  While she needs to do a better job campaigning, this is still likely to turnaround and become a GOP Pick up, which = GOP +6

12.  FL – Charlie Crist has taken a small lead over Marc Rubio by running as an independent.  At some point, Crist needs to be forced to choose between being either a Democrat or a Republican.  He cannot continue to march forward as a centrist when all the major issues are so polarized.  Either he runs to the left and loses his old GOP support (which is still a significant portion of his eclectic backing) or he runs to the right and the GOP holds the seat in the caucus even if he wins.  I think Rubio has some hard work to do, but still think its his race to win or lose based upon what strategy he moves forward with.  I’m rating this as a GOP HOLD.

13.  CO – Sen Bennett acknowledged his health care vote might cost him his seat, and he appears to be true to his word.  The GOP looks ready to propel Ken Buck into the Senate, who holds a commanding 48-39 lead over the freshman Senator.  GOP Pick Up = +7

14.  MO – The Blunt and Carnahan dynasties square off again, with the polls giving a 5-10 point advantage to Blunt.  GOP HOLD.

15.  CA – Sen. Boxer is in trouble in CA.  Though I never would have thought it possible, CA just might start electing more Republicans now that its Democrat led spending policies have reduced their credit status to junk, led to deep cuts in public services, and nothing but more spending cuts, less services, and higher taxes on the horizon.  The polls are close.  POSSIBLE GOP PICK UP

16.  KY – Rand Paul looks like he will hold on to Sen. Bunning’s old seat for the GOP.  GOP HOLD.

17.  WV – While Gov. Manchin is very popular in WV, his positions are not.  He starts this race a 15 point favorite, but Obama’s health care bill, energy policy, and other positions have made him very unpopular in this state.  Challenger John Raese is still relatively unknown, but has a warchest of millions with which he could reap the ample harvest of issues to take to the good people of the Mountain state.  POSSIBLE GOP PICK UP.

18.  HI – Though I would not wish harm to anybody, it cannot exactly be taken for granted that Sen. Inouye, despite a 68-20 lead in the polls, is in pristine health at the age of 86.  In a year that has seen the passing of Senators Byrd and Kennedy, here is another Senator approaching 50 years of service in the Senate.  POSSIBLE GOP PICK UP.

19.  IN – Looks like a sure pick up for the GOP, which = GOP +8.

20.   CT – Lieberman – Though not up for reelection, there is a chance he may caucus with the GOP if he is frustrated enough with his poor treatment by the Democrats and their new, less than friendly, approach toward Israel.  If there is 50-50 chamber split, he could give control to the GOP.  POSSIBLE GOP PICK UP.