Thursday, September 9, 2010

Senate Rankings: August is never good for Democrats

 Another August come and gone with Labor Day leaving too. This means that summer is officially over and if you live in the East Coast, you will agree. Everyone knows August as the month where people go on vacation and/or want to install air conditioners. August also has another name on it that not many people mention: the bad month for Democrats and/or Obama. In August of 2004, Kerry was down in the polls due to the swift boat ads. In August of 2006, the generic ballot was tied. In August of 2007, Hillary was crushing Obama. In August of 2008, Palin was nominated and tied the race (until she crashed of course but that comes later.) In August of 2009, people came to town hall meetings to parrot talking points by Republicans that denounced the healthcare bill and spread lies about death panels. Now August of 2010 is a month where Obama's poll numbers are low because the economy was supposed to recover in a day. Rome was built in a day too. Also, this August showed bad polling numbers for many of the Senate candidates.

Yes, I am finally getting to the subject of this post: Senate races. August is always a bad month people so we should not be too worried about losing the Senate because it always gets a little better. Still, my Senate rankings are going in the Republicans' favor because my rankings show the way the races stand now. Many races though will start seeing action soon but were quiet in August. Alaska is an exception where Lisa Murkowski (R) was primaried out by Joe Miller (R), a teabagger who makes the race closer. It is not close enough to put in the rankings though. Other races that are shifting are Florida Senate with Kendrick Meek (D) taking votes from Charlie Crist (I) who may caucus with the Democrats if he wins. Other races with movement include Pennsylvania and Ohio. I am not keeping Nevada on the list although some pundits suggested Republicans will vote for extremist Sharron Angle (R) holding their nose. As I see Republicans like Nevada's first lady Dawn Gibbons endorse Harry Reid (D), I just cannot put this race on the line. I have also removed Missouri from the list although Carnahan can make it closer once she reminds Missouri why 61% of the voters supported her in 2008. I am predicting a 6 seat pickup for the Republicans. Enough talk about the races though, here are the rankings with a description on each race:

1. North Dakota OPEN Bryon Dorgan (D)
North Dakota is known for electing personally popular politicians regardless of the party. Governor John Hoeven (R) is anything but an exception to this rule.
Ranking: Safe Republican
Previous Ranking: 1

2. Arkansas Blanche Lincoln (D)
One of the Democrats' last holdouts in statewide offices was Arkansas. Lincoln won a primary against Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter (D) when most pundits thought he would win. She will definitely not have the same luck while running against Rep. John Boozemen (R).
Ranking: Likely Republican
Previous Ranking: 2

3. Indiana OPEN Evan Bayh (D)
Bayh jumped out of the race as Dan Coats (R) jumped into the race. Coats is known as a former incumbent, a lobbyist and this is supposed to be anti incumbent year, right? Actually, it is an anti Democratic incumbent year. The Democrats nominated sheriff Brad Ellsworth (D) from Evansville in southern Indiana, a critical area for Democrats to win so they can win statewide. The campaign has not gotten into full mode. Although Ellsworth should narrow the margin a bit, it is the wrong year and he is not doing well enough in the urban areas.
Ranking: Likely Republican
Previous Ranking: 5

4. Delaware OPEN Ted Kaufman (D)
Rep. Michael Castle (R) is running against New Castle County Exec. Chris Coons (D) and due to Castle's  popularity, it looked like an easy win for him. Now the race suddenly got more interesting. The Tea Party Express which kicked out Lisa Murkowski (R) in Alaska now is supporting Christine O'Donnell (R) in the primary against Castle. They are going to pour in their money. Most polls show Coons winning against O'Donnell so if she wins the primary, expect the race to fall down the list. If Castle wins, Coons is still in trouble.
Ranking: Lean Republican
Previous Ranking: 4

5. Pennsylvania OPEN Arlen Specter (D)
First, the Senate race that kept changing was Florida. Although Florida does keep shifting, so does Pennsylvania. First, Specter switched parties and became a Democrat. Then congressman Joe Sestak (D) from the Philadelphia suburbs challenged him. Sestak won by 8 points, shocking the Philadelphia establishment. Sestak won by using an ad blitz but now he is sinking the polls against Pat Toomey (R). Toomey primaried Specter in 2004, ran as a conservative and lost. Toomey is now running to the center and Sestak is doing...nothing. He plans to do an ad blitz really close to election day. I do not think it will work this time though because most voters will have made up their minds.
Ranking: Lean Republican

6. Colorado Michael Bennett (D)
Bennett (D) faced a challenge from the left and Bill Clinton in Andrew Romanoff (D) in the primary. Bennett survived, defying a late surge for Romanoff. Now Bennett faces Ken Buck (R). Although Buck is leading by a few points, he is a prone gaffe machine who rivals Sharron Angle. Buck said that the difference between Jane Norton (his primary opponent) and him was that he did not wear high heels. Also, Buck said he liked the education system of the 1950's. He did not say which part of the country's education system. Did he mean the South? Bennett has not spent much time defining Buck yet which Bennett needs to do if he wants to win.
Previous Ranking: 8
Status: Toss Up/Tilt Republican

7. Illinois OPEN Roland Burris (D)
This race is another one where the leader in the polls keeps switching. First, Mark Kirk (R) from the Chicago suburbs was winning against Alexi Giannoulis (D). Then Kirk lied about his military credentials...more than once. Giannoulis though has problems with his family's bank. Therefore, both candidates are tied. Kirk is a moderate and it is a Republican year. Giannoulis though will get the support of the strong Democratic party in Chicago and Illinois's Democratic lean. This is a race that should have a recount if there is one but I expect Giannoulis to win by 1-2 points.
Status: Pure Toss Up
Previous Ranking: Not on top 10

8. Florida OPEN George LeMieux (R)
This race used to be much higher up in the rankings. Now with Kendrick Meek's (D) primary win, this race is shifting in Marco Rubio's (R) favor. Charlie Crist (I) used to be leading in the polls but Meek received a post primary bounce. It also though could be a permanent boost. Whatever it was, Crist lost his lead in the polls and is now a few points behind Rubio. It may be a temporary bounce for Meek but even so, Crist is getting squeezed from both sides of the aisle.
Status: Toss Up/Tilt Republican
Previous Ranking: 4

9. Washington Patti Murray (D)
I had a diary on the county baselines of Washington recently where I mentioned how Washington State is the New Jersey of the west. Here, Republicans always think they finally have the candidate but the voters always side with the Democrat. In New Jersey though, that trend broke with Chris Christie (R) winning the Governorship last year. Now former moderate Dino Rossi (R) is vying for statewide office for the third time. Rossi first ran for Governor and lost after a long recount in 2004. He ran for Governor again in 2008 and lost by a not so recountable margin, 53%-47%. Washington State has an interesting primary system where all candidates regardless of party run and the top two vote getters advance to the general election. Murray got 46% in that election and since it was not a high turnout election for Democrats, this looks like a close race.
Status: Toss Up/Tilt Democratic
Previous Ranking: Not on Top 10

10. Kentucky OPEN Jim Bunning (R)
I was going to put a race like Wisconsin in for this spot but this morning, I saw a poll showing the two candidates Rand Paul (R) and Jack Conway (D) tied. Although Conway is not from the crucial coal counties in east Kentucky, he is a strong candidate from Louisville which Democrats rely on now to win in Kentucky. Paul is well known for outrageous comments like suggesting businesses should decide whether African Americans can come and that Kentucky has no drug problem. Although Paul is a poor candidate and Conway is a good one, the year and Kentucky's Republican lean is probably too strong for Conway to beat.
Status: Toss Up/Tilt Republican
Previous Ranking: 10

Do you agree or disagree with the rankings? Do you have any you want to share? Do you want more information on a certain race? Please feel free to comment on this post.

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