Saturday, August 7, 2010

Senate Race Rankings: August Edition: Republican Pickups but how many?

 Welcome to the Dog Days of August everyone. Besides many people enjoying themselves on vacation, we also have many races enjoying vacations too. Therefore, there will not be too many Senate Ranking changes here...at least in the Senate races higher up the list. Although this is definitely a Republican year (at least for the House of Representatives,) Republicans may be picking up less seats in the Senate than they hoped. In my opinion, the chance of the Republicans picking up the Senate is an absolute no no. It is not because they will not steal ten seats from the Democrats, it is because Democrats may obtain some seats previously held by Republicans. The rhetoric this year is anti incumbent. For some places though, it is just anti Democratic Party (or Democrat party as conservatives will say.) For example, Delaware is looking to elect Michael Castle (R) who has served as Governor and U.S House Representative in Delaware for a very long time.

Also, Republicans are losing chances for pickups due to strong Democratic candidates or Republican candidate imploding. Nevada is the most famous example with Sharron Angle. First she thought we should get rid of social security and the Department of Education. She will not stop making gaffes either. She said she will only take questions from people who like her. Even on Fox News, she faced some trouble answering their questions. Another example of Republicans falling into problems is the Colorado Senate race. Ken Buck (R) has gone to the right to beat Jane Norton (R) as he says women do not have the right to an abortion even in cases of rape and incest. In a state that rejected a measure by 46 points to "define life from the moment of conception," these views should not play too well. Also, many of the Democratic candidates are good campaigners but have managed to close gaps or take leads because campaign season has not started yet. If you are looking for a race where a Democrat has a shot at making it close due to campaign skills, look at races like Indiana or Delaware. I expect Republicans to win those races but if the Democrats make them close, do not be surprised.

Now off to the rankings:

1. North Dakota OPEN Byron Dorgan (D)
North Dakota is known for electing candidates who are well known to voters like Democrats Kent Conrad, Earl Pomeroy and Byron Dorgan. Apparently, this applies even more strongly to Republican Governors who are named John Hoeven who are running for Senate in 2010.

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 indications clearly show that Boozmen is ahead by double digits. Barring a major gaffe or a big burst of luck, Boozmen will be Arkansas's next Senator.

Ranking: Likely Republican

3. Florida OPEN George LeMieux (R)
Mel Martinez (R) resigned so then popular Governor Charlie Crist (R) appointed LeMieux to hold Martinez's Senate seat. Now Crist wants the seat so he ran for it. Unfortunately, he learned that saying something positive about Obama's stimulus is suicide for a Republican stimulus. Marco Rubio (R) ran as the teabagger and kicked Crist out of the primary. At the beginning of the race though, a poll showed Rubio down by 53 points. Now Crist is running as an independent and most polls show him ahead of Rubio by the mid single digits. The Democratic primary is a big circus too. Kendrick Meek (D) from Miami is running against Jeff Greene, a corrupt billionaire. As Meek's chance of winning shrinks, many Democrats like me are switching to Crist because he may decide to caucus with the Democrats. The race might get closer but expect Crist to win.

Ranking: Lean Independent

4. Delaware OPEN Ted Kaufman (D)
At first, this seat looked like an easy hold for the Democrats. Beau Biden, Joe Biden's son would run and that would be that. When popular Rep. Michael Castle (R) decided to run, Beau Biden decided not to. 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 in Presidential 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
 
5. 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. If Ellsworth does not start closing the gap in September when voters get to know him, then he is toast.

Ranking: Lean Republican

6. 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. Almost 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. In many races, I believe it will get better once the Democrat starts campaigning. In this race though, Portman will be able to spend his money but the unions will be able to help Fisher due to their power here. 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

7. Pennsylvania OPEN Arlen Specter (D)
This race is another shape shifter that finally seems to have settled. First, Specter was a Republican who would face a primary against closeted conservative Pat Toomey (R) from Allentown. Specter switched parties and got another primary challenge, this time from Joe Sestak (D) from Delaware County. Specter lost the primary and gave a not so stirring concession speech. Sestak however was excited and energetic in his speech. He should be able to transfer that energy into the general election campaign. The issue is that Toomey is running to the center so he does not get Santorumed for being too conservative. Being more of an economic conservative, Toomey should have a shot at picking up suburban Philadelphia voters which Democrats must have to win in Pennsylvania. There is just one little problem: Sestak's base is in suburban Philadelphia. This is one of those races that will be very close and to win, Sestak must hold on to the suburbs.
Ranking: Toss Up

8. Colorado Michael Bennett (D)
Bennett is facing a tough primary from the not so stellar fundraiser Andrew Romanoff (D). At first, I thought this was a race the Republicans would eventually win. Then like Virginia 2006, Montana 2006 and Nevada 2010, the Republicans made some mistakes. Ken Buck (R) is facing Jane Norton (R) in the primary. He called birthers (in case you do not know, birthers are people who believe Obama was not born in this country even if a newspaper announces Obama's birth in Honolulu, Hawaii when Obama was born) dumba*ses which should play well in the general election (but not in the primary.) Also, the Governor's race has imploded for the Republicans too. Tom Tancredo (R) is running as an Independent because Scott McInnis (R) plagiarized and this should split the Republican vote. The implosion may spread to the Senate race too so stand by for further developments.
Ranking: Toss Up/Tilt Democratic

9. Missouri OPEN Christopher Bond (R)
 In a year like 2006 or 2008, this seat would be an easy pickup for the Democrats. Even in a neutral year, the Democrats would probably win this seat. The Democrats nominated Robin Carnahan (D), Missouri's Secretary of State who won by 26 points in 2008 (she also received the largest number of votes for a candidate in Missouri history.) She did well in rural areas in that election and she has rural roots. If a Democrat wants to win in Missouri, he/she must keep down Republican margins in rural areas so urban areas allow Democrats to pull through in Missouri. Also, Carnahan is a good campaigner so it appears she is the best candidate the Democrats can find. She is the best candidate but the Republicans nominated Roy Blunt from conservative southwest Missouri. Yes, the Roy Blunt who was the Majority Whip during the Bush Administration. Most polls though show Blunt leading by a few points and this is probably because of Missouri's conservative trend. Even Obama did not win the state while winning big in the St. Louis area and doing well near Kansas City too. Also, the recent statewide primary showed high Republican turnout and low Democratic turnout. Although Carnahan should make the race closer once she starts campaigning, this race looks more and more like a Republican hold.

Ranking: Toss Up/Tilt Republican

10. Kentucky OPEN Jim Bunning (R)
I considered taking this race off the list but I have decided to keep it here because the race could shift toward the Democrats quickly (although this seems less and less likely.) After winning a bruising primary against Daniel Mongirado (D), progressive Jack Conway (D) hopes to beat Rand Paul (R) who soundly beat the establishment's favorite Trey Grayson (R). At first, Paul resembled a gaffe machine by saying he hopes to repeal part of the Civil Rights Act. Kentucky is a conservative state (Obama only won 41% of the vote here) but even here, Conway has been able to make the race close. Paul however has zipped his lips and is not making anymore gaffes. Conway is a strong candidate but he seems to have difficulties winning in the eastern Kentucky coal counties. For a Democrat to win in Kentucky, he/she must do extremely well in eastern Kentucky and carry the 5th Congressional district to offset Republican margins in western Kentucky. Overall, this appears to be just the wrong year for Conway. If Rand Paul makes a few more gaffes though...

Ranking: Toss Up/Tilt Republican

Overall, expect Republicans to pick up 2-5 seats in the Senate. Also, do you agree or disagree with the rankings? Do you have any rankings you want to share? Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts.

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