These are my first rankings of any set of seats for the 2010 Congressional elections. The Senate outlook for the Democrats was at first good (this was early 2009.) Then it became poor as fall hit but now the Democrats have a stronger shot in the Senate. Still, the Republicans will pick up seats but the Democrats will still have a majority in the Senate. I am expecting the Republican to pick up 5 seats and they should lose one or two so I am looking at a 3-4 seat gain for the Republican. This is more optimistic than other rankings I have seen but Republican candidates made some mistakes and/or Democrats found the right candidates. Unfortunately, with the economy starting to slump again, the climate will be less favorable to the Democrats. Still, in many races, it is the candidate and not the climate that people are thinking about when they cast their ballots. This at first looks good for the Democrats but it actually helps the Republicans in a few states such as Illinois where Obama and Democrats are popular but Republicans are waging tough races. Enough chatter about Senate races, to the rankings!
1. North Dakota OPEN (D)
Byron Dorgan (D) retired so popular Governor John Hoeven (R) is running. The race was over before it even started.
Ranking: Safe Republican
2. Arkansas Blanche Lincoln (D)
Blanche Lincoln held off the unions (which were never powerful in Arkansas,) the progressives and Bill Halter (D) when she won the Democratic primary with the help of Bill Clinton. Although Blanche Lincoln came from behind to win, that should not happen this time. Rep John Boozmen (R) from the northwest portion of the state (where Wal Mart was started) is running. All recent polls show Boozmen with a lead about 20 points. Although this race has not been polled for a couple of weeks, all indications clearly show that Boozmen is ahead. Barring a major gaffe or a big burst of luck, Boozmen will be Arkansas's next Senator.
Ranking: Likely Republican
3. Delaware OPEN Ted Kaufman (D)
The Democrats have had bad luck with this seat. First, Michael Castle (R), Delaware's popular representative threw his hat in the ring and Beau Biden (D), Joe Biden's son who was supposed to run jumped ship. Now Democrats nominated New Castle County (Wilmington) executive, Chris Coons (D) to run for Senate. It should be noted that New Castle County is a bellwether so Coons already has an advantage. Michael Castle though is a moderate and is well known throughout the state but if people get fed up with all the incumbents...Still, expect a Michael Castle win.
Ranking: Lean Republican
4. Indiana OPEN Evan Bayh (D)
Bye Bayh, after being a popular Governor and Senator, Bayh left open a seat the Democrats should have held. Dan Coats (R) is a former Republican Senator and lobbyist who won the primary with only 40% of the vote. He faces Brad Ellsworth (D), the moderate and popular Congressman from southern Indiana, filled with rural swing voters. Although Ellsworth is moderate and should do well with rural voters, Dan Coats has a strong lead. Ellsworth just got out an effective ad attacking lobbyists (not explicitly mentioning the one running against him.) This is helpful but he also needs to appeal to urban voters who were key to Obama's winning coalition in 2008. I think due to the Republican lean of the state and the year's climate, Coats will win by about 5 points.
Ranking: Toss Up/Tilt Republican
5. Colorado Michael Bennett (D)
Michael Bennett was the former School Superintendent for Colorado and he was appointed by Bill Ritter (D) because Ken Salazar (D) was pulled out to become Secretary of the Interior. Now Republicans Ken Buck and Jane Norton are challenging Bennett. Also, Bennett faces a challenge from Andrew Romanoff (D) who is the former speaker for Colorado's House. Although the Republicans are not very moderate, Bennett keeps trailing them by a few points and Romanoff trails them too. Ken Buck though, the leader in the primary favors strong cuts to the Department of Education and Norton favors eliminating it. This could come back to haunt them. Most polls show Bennett winning the primary but I do not have a good feeling about this race.
Ranking: Toss Up/Tilt Republican
6. Missouri OPEN Christopher Bond (R)
I was debating whether I should put Ohio here but in the end, I decided that this spot belonged to Missouri. Christopher Bond, one of the dwindling group of reasonable Republicans is now retiring. A not so reasonable Republican, Roy Blunt (R) from southwest Missouri is running to replace Bond. Blunt is the former House Majority Whip under the Bush Administration. The Democrats found a good candidate in Robin Carnahan (D), a member of a strong political family and the Secretary of State. A recent Rasmussen poll shows Blunt with a 5 point lead but Rasmussen is known to be biased toward the right. The latest non Rasmussen poll was in March and it showed Blunt with a 4 point lead. Missouri has a strong rural conservative base but Carnahan has her advantages. She won by 26 points in 2010, losing only 10 counties so she proved she can win rural areas. Also, her family owns a farm so she can highlight her rural roots. This is why I believe that once Carnahan starts campaigning, the race will become very close.
Ranking: Toss Up
7. Ohio OPEN George Voinovich (R)
Voinovich is another reasonable Republican who is retiring. After a bruising primary against Jennifer Brunner (D), Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher (D) won. He is facing Rob Portman (R) who is a former congressman and official during the Bush Administration. Every poll since March that is not Rasmussen shows Fisher with a lead although most of the leads are by a few points. Fisher's main jobs will be to tie Portman to Bush, remind people how bad Bush was (because everyone is blaming Bush's problems on Obama) and Fisher should highlight how he will create jobs. Also, Fisher needs to step up the fundraising. Also, Portman is from southern Ohio while Fisher is from Northeast Ohio. On election night, you should expect a map similar to 2004 except Fisher may get a few Ohio river counties. I still believe that if one race leads to a recount, it will be this one.
Ranking: Toss Up
8. Illinois OPEN Roland Burris (D)
Really good candidates, especially those whose names are spelled L-I-S-A M-A-D-I-G-A-N decided not to run so we have Alexi Giannoulis (D) who is the State Treasurer. He is young but his family's bank problems are not. Mark Kirk (R), the moderate Republican from Chicago suburbs and candidate for Senate appeared to have an advantage because of this. He still did not think that gave him a strong enough lead so he decided he could woo voters by bragging about military credentials...he forgot he did not have. Now the race is closer and I think due to the Democratic lean of the state, Giannoulis will win by a couple of points.
Ranking: Toss Up/Tilt Democratic
9. Nevada Harry Reid (D)
The Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid will be facing Sharron Angle (R) a State Senator from Washoe County. Harry Reid is very unpopular in Nevada but neither is Sharron Angle. Her beliefs range from wanting to eliminate social security, the Department of Education, support of Scientology and that Abraham Lincoln lost all his elections but President (he lost only one election is his whole lifetime.) Also, Angle faces another problem because as of last month, Harry Reid has $12 million COH (cash on hand) and Angle has only $138,000. Recent polls show this race close because many people have not heard about Angle just yet. She is trying to hide her opinions though by saying Harry Reid cannot quote them and she seems shocked that people are monitoring everything she says. Angle...welcome to the world of campaigning. Harry Reid is still unpopular but I expect him to win by a few points. In Nevada, you can vote for "None of these candidates" and I would not be surprised if they won.
Ranking: Toss Up/Tilt Democratic
10. Kentucky OPEN Jim Bunning (R)
Once Bunning realized he had a poor shot at hitting a home run and winning again, he decided to bail out of the race. Rand Paul (R), the son on Ron Paul (R) is now running against Jack Conway (D). At first, it appeared that teabagger Paul would win this race until he revealed how much he hated big government. He thought that government could not prevent businesses from discriminating. Then he flip flopped and believes the U.S needs to use government spending to build a border fence. Conway is a good candidate but Kentucky is too conservative for him and this is not a good year for Democrats.
Ranking: Toss Up/Tilt Republican.
Do you agree or disagree with the rankings? What are yours? Please feel free to share your thoughts.