Lots of great stuff on this, a big news day for the Senate… – krempasky

Several major changes have taken places in the last month in the world of 2010 Senate elections. The biggest legislative event probably significantly helps Republican chances of gaining seats in 2010: Obamacare passed the Senate along party lines.

Unfortunately, most of the other developments have not been as positive for Republican hopes. Last month, I discussed how the outside chance of Republicans retaking the Senate was, for the first time, alive even if it was still extremely remote. This month, the chances of a Republican Senate in 2011 are even remoter. But they aren’t quite dead yet.

Here is my updated analysis for the 2010 Senate races. I’ve generally ranked them in order of most likely to flip to least.

Democrat Seats:

Nevada – Harry Reid

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is still in trouble as his opponents numbers slowly rise and his continue to shrink.

An early-December Rasmussen poll still shows Reid losing to both Sue Lowden and Danny Tarkanian by 43-49. A MaisonDixon/LVJR poll from the same time showed Lowden leading 51-41 and Tarkanian leading 48-42. The two are virtually tied for the Republican nomination in the same poll: Lowden edges Tarkanian 25-24.

My last update from late-November had Nevada as our number one pick-up opportunity, and that continues with the same caveats: Reid is the most powerful Democrat in the Senate, and his war chest is extensive.

I’d feel more comfortable with this one if either Republican candidate were consistently polling above 50%, but I’m still fairly upbeat that this is our best pick-up opportunity. Reid could still turn this one around; we’ll see how things develop in the next few weeks and months.

North Dakota – Byron Dorgan (Retiring)

With Sen. Byron Dorgan’s recent retirement announcement, this seat is almost a guaranteed pick-up for Republicans. I haven’t rated it as highly as Nevada because we don’t technically know the candidate for either party yet. Governor John Hoeven will make this an assured pick-up, but he may choose to stay with his job and/or run against Sen. Kent Conrad in 2012. On the Democratic side, Rep. Earl Pomeroy could seek a promotion. That would be a gamble for him since he would lose his incumbency advantage and may risk flipping both seats red if he fails. However, he has been elected state-wide several times, so if he decides to run and Hoeven does not, he becomes the slight favorite against any generic Republican.

Whoever the eventual nominees are, Republicans stand an extremely decent shot of picking up this seat.

Colorado – Michael Bennet (Appointed)

Rasmussen polling from early-December is good for Republicans in Colorado. Former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, the front-runner for the nod, leads Sen. Bennet 46-37 while Ken Buck leads him 42-38 and Tom Wiens leads 42-41.

Since Norton announced her entrance into the Republican primary, there has only been one primary poll, Tarrance Group poll from mid-September. She led her closest rival, Ken Buck, by 45-15.

Sen. Bennet isn’t yet guaranteed his nomination, though he does lead his challenger, former Colorado State House Speaker Andrew Romanoff 41-27 in that same poll.

Fortunately for Republicans, even if Romanoff does defeat Bennet in the primary, all of the Republican candidates beat him as well. In the Rasmussen poll from early-December, Norton leads Romanoff 45-34, Buck leads him 41-39, and Wiens leads 41-40.

I’d still like to see one of the Republicans scratch 50% before I rest assured that this is a pick-up for Republicans, but I’m feeling fairly good about it right now.

Arkansas – Blanche Lincoln

Sen. Blanche Lincoln is still clinging on to her slight advantage over her Republican rivals, although there haven’t been any polls since her vote for Obamacare. An early-December Rasmussen poll shows St. Sen. Gilbert Baker leading Lincoln 47-41 but a Research2000 poll from the same time has Lincoln etching out a 42-41 advantage. St. Senate Minority Leader Kim Hendren and Curtis Coleman have similar situations: both lead the Senator 46-39 and 44-40 respectively in the Rasmussen poll but both trail 30-46 and 39-44 in the Research2000 poll.

I’d like to see polling become more consistent before this race either improves or drops off the radar. I feel certain that Sen. Lincoln’s vote for Obamacare will not be taken too kindly in Arkansas, so her numbers may sink drastically in coming polls.

Of course she could also decide to follow Sen. Dorgan’s lead and take early retirement. That may actually hurt Republican chances at taking this seat if one of the Blue Dog Representatives decides to seek a promotion.

Delaware – Ted Kauffman (Appointed – Retiring)

Still no confirmation from St. Attorney General Beau Biden on whether he will run. This seems bizarre, but it’s impossible to know whether his delay means that he is more likely to run or less likely.

If he decides to run, Democrats will still have to spend money to win. Rep. Michael Castle leads him in an early-December Public Policy poll 45-39.

Whoever the eventually Democratic nomination is, be sure that Deleware will receive a lot of visits both from President Obama and Vice-President Biden.

I still rate Delaware as a fairly good pick-up opportunity, but it would be a lot easier if Biden decides not to run.

Pennsylvania – Arlen Specter (Party-Switcher)

Early-December polls have finally stopped the bleeding for Sen. Arlen Specter in the Democratic primary match-up between him and Rep. Joe Sestak. A Rasmussen poll shows Specter leading 48-35 while a Quinnipiac U poll has him 53-30. Sestak may still pull this one out, but his chances are grimmer than they were a month ago.

Meanwhile, things are looking worse for the dear Senator in the general against former Rep. Pat Toomy. The Quinnipiac poll shows them tied at 44% while the Rasmussen poll actually has Toomy leading 46-42.

Should Sestak succeed in the primary, Toomy leads him by 5 points in the Quinnipiac poll and 7 in the Rasmussen poll.

This isn’t a sure-fire pick-up, but Republicans stand a moderately good chance of picking this seat up. Toomy needs to consistently poll better than Specter in non-Rasmussen polls before I’ll feel comfortable rating this one any higher.

Illinois – Roland Burris (Appointed – Retiring)

Alexi Giannoulias still appears to be the front runner in the Democrat primary. A mid-December Chicago Tribune has him leading his closest rival, Cheryl Jackson, 31-14. None of the other candidates scratch 10%. The same poll has Rep. Mark Kirk claiming 41% for the Republican nod while none of the other candidates even get 5%.

Sadly, this race seems to be slipping away from Republicans. The latest, an early-December Rasmussen report now shows Giannoulias leading Kirk 42-39. This is almost the converse polling from the same Rasmussen poll last August. Kirk’s lead has never been strong and it seems it’s slowly dissipating now.

And, of course, this is Illinois, so Republicans would have to be polling more than 5% more than Democrats to actually beat the voting-fraud in Chicago.

A lot could develop here, but I think President Obama’s old senate seat is no longer a plausible pick-up for the Republicans.

Connecticut – Chris Dodd (Retiring)

Sen. Chris Dodd’s decision not to run for re-election was the worse thing that could have happened to Republican’s chances of taking this seat. There are no clear front-runners for the Democratic nod, so we won’t really know the status of this election for at least a month or two.

Meanwhile, the Republican nomination became a lot more doubtful with the release of a mid-December Moore Information poll which showed, for the first time, CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment Linda McMahon beating both former Representative Rob Simmons by 37-35 (Peter Schiff gets 4% of the vote). Simmons had been polling over 50% against Dodd and was clearly the stronger candidate. However, since Dodd will no longer be on the ballot, there’s no telling what this change in the Republican field could mean.

I’ve down-graded Connecticut from our third-best pick-up opportunity to one of our last. That’s not to say we don’t stand a good chance; we won’t know that for at least a few more weeks. But we certainly aren’t as strong as we were 48 hours ago.

New York – Kirsten Gillibrand (Apointed)

Republican Rudy Giuliani decided not to run for anything in 2010, seriously damaging Republican’s chances of being able to beat Sen. Gillibrand. Still, former Governor George Pataki has been polling even with the Senator and in a wave year could pull this one off. Representative Peter King has also changed his mind (again) about a possible run and may decide to challenge Sen. Gillibrand after all.

I doubt this seat is a realistic pick-up opportunity anymore. However, this could change if polling numbers for either Pataki or King come out strongly in their favor. Or, of course, someone could dope-slap Giuliani to help him realize what an idiot he’s being by not helping his party out.

California – Barbara Boxer

Former CEO of Hewlett-Packard Carly Fiorina and St. Assemblyman Chuck DeVore are still locked in their tight primary fight to see who will challenge Sen. Boxer. Nothing has changed since my last update in which a mid-November Rasmussen report shows Boxer leading Fiorina 46-37 and DeVore 46-36.

This race is a phantom pick-up opportunity for Republicans. Unless something major happens in the next few months, Boxer is safe for the next six years.

Hawaii – Daniel Inouye

No new developments in Hawaii. Gov. Lingle has yet to announce her intentions.

Indiana – Evan Bayh

Sen. Bayh’s Obamacare vote may come back to haunt him, but so far there hasn’t been any polling.

We do have four Republian candidates: Former Congressman John Hostettler, State Senator Marlin Stutzman, business owner Richard Behney, and businessman Don Bates Jr.

I keep seeing posts here at Redstate and other conservative blogs alluding to the belief that Sen. Bayh may be in trouble, but I still don’t rate this rate as a high Republican pick-up opportunity unless the Bayh decides to follow Sen. Dorgan’s lead and call it quits.

Massachusetts – Paul Kirk (Appointed – Retiring)

Despite polls showing St. Sen. Scott Brown within 9 points of Democratic candidate Martha Coakley, this race isn’t a realistic Republican pick-up opportunity. It may, however, be a significant factor to the November races if Brown comes within a few points of Coakley.

Other:

Sens. Patty Murray (WA), Ron Wyden (OR), Barbara Mikulski (MD), Pat Leahy (VT), Russ Feingold (WI) and Chuck Schumer (NY) all seem safe but these seats might become competitive in the future.

Republican Seats:

Missouri – Kit Bond (Retiring)

For the fourth time, I rate Missouri as the Republicans’ least secure seat. A mid-December Rasmussen shows the race virtually unchanged since last January (2009): Democrat Sec. of State Robin Carnahan leads Republican Rep. Roy Blunt 46-44

However, the same caveat as always applies to this race: Republicans usually do better than predicted in Missouri, the only swing state to go to McCain in 2008.

I still think, in the end, Republicans will win this seat. Still, I’d feel more comfortable if Blunt’s numbers improved significantly in the next few months.

Ohio – George Voinovich (Retiring)

An early-December Rasmussen poll confirmed Republican Rep. Rob Portman slight edge over Sec. of State Jennifer Brunner (40-33) and Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher (38-36).

As with Rep. Blunt, I’d breath easier if Portman’s numbers improved drastically in the next few weeks and months, but I feel fairly confident that we’ll pull this race out in the end.

New Hampshire – Judd Gregg (Retiring)

A late-December American Research Group poll confirmed that Republican Attorney General Kelly Ayotte has a fairly solid lead over Democratic challenger, Rep. Paul Hodes (43-36).

As with Reps. Bond and Portman, I’d fell better if Ayotte polled above 50%, but I’m fairly confident this race is ours in the end.

Kentucky – Jim Bunning (Retiring)

A late-December Public Policy poll confirmed that Rand Paul is now the front-runner for the Republican nomination. He leads Sec. of State Trey Grayson by 44-25.

Meanwhile, the same poll showed a surprise twist in the Democratic primary as well with Attorney General Jack Conway beating Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo for the first time in any poll 37-33.

Greyson leads Conway 40-33 and Mongiardo 44-35 while Paul leads Conway 42-36 and Mongiardo 42-36.

I’m breathing much easier about this race than I was last month. Rand Paul seems to have become a major candidate over-night and he’s now polling comfortably against both Democratic candidates as well as Treyson.

North Carolina – Richard Burr

A mid-December Public Policy poll still found Sen. Burr edging all Democrat candidates: Kenneth Lewis 43-37, Elaine Marshall 42-37, and Kevin Foy 45-36.

Once again, I would feel still like Burr to poll above 50%, but I feel confident than the Republicans should have no problem defending this seat unless we see a surprise wave year for the Democrats.

Louisiana – David Vitter

No new polls here means that we have no idea whether Sen. Vitter is considered safe in the Republican primary or if Sec. of St. Jay Dardenne may take over for him next January. Whatever the case, a Republican will almost certainly be elected in Louisiana next November

Florida – George LeMieux (Retiring)

A mid-December Rasmussen poll has, for the first time, former Speaker of the St. House Marco Rubio tying Governor Charlie Crist for the Republican primary. This might have had Democrats rejoicing since, until that time, Rubio seemed the weaker candidate against presumed Democratic candidate Rep. Kendrick Meek.

However, the same poll found Rubio leading Meek 49-35 while Crist only leads 42-36.

This race is almost assured to stay in Republican hands whoever the final winner is of the primary.

Kansas – Sam Brownback (Retiring)

An early-December Survey USA poll finds Rep. Jerry Moran topping Rep. Todd Tiahart for the Republican nomination 37-34. Both are solid conservatives, and either should hold the seats for the Republicans.

Arizona – John McCain

Whatever the final decision of former Rep. J.D. Hayworth, Sen. John McCain seems destined for another six years in the Senate. An early-December Tarrance Group poll shows McCain beating Hayworth 56-36.

Utah – Robert Bennett

Sen. Robert Bennett is facing several more conservative challengers in the Republican primary. The candidate will be chosen at the generally conservative Convention, so Bennett could be in trouble. Because the nomination will not be done through a primary, race, no polling has been done

Other:

Sens. Lisa Murkowski (AK), John Thune (SD), Tom Coburn (OK), Jim DeMint (SC), Johnny Isakson (GA), Richard Shelby (AL), Chuck Grassley (IA), and Mike Crappo (ID) all seem safe but these seats might become competitive in the future.

Synopsis:

Republicans are poised to make significant gains in the Senate. While our outlook has slightly decreased since last month (especially in CT and NY), we still stand to be able to take a significant number of seats from the Democrats.

Republicans should be able to hold all of our competitive seats: MO, NH, OH, and KY.

We now stand excellent chances of picking up 3-6 seats: NV, CO, ND, AR, DE, and PA.

IL, NY, and CT could still come into play, but at this point these seats are looking less possible than they were a month ago.

We should also keep our eyes on WI and IN for retirements that could make these seats competitive.

Last month I discussed how the road to 51 Republican seats in the Senate was possible (though a bit too optimistic) for the first time. The path is a little rockier this month, but it is still possible. It would require Republicans to sweep NV, CO, ND, AR, DE, PA, IL, NY, CT, and pick up two more seats either in IN, WI, CA, or with a party-switch, most likely Lieberman or Nelson (NE). The likelihood of a party-switch was drastically reduced when both Lieberman and Nelson voted for Obamacare.

Republican chances in ND have been significantly increased since last month while our chances in CT, IL, and NY have been considerably decreased.

Realistically, I see all of the Republican seats eventually coming home (with MO being the most doubtful). This should become evident before summer. In addition, Republicans stand a better than 50% chance of taking NV, ND, and CO, about a 50% chance of taking AR, DE, and PA, and a less than 50% chance of taking IL, NY, and CT.

Conclusion: Republicans stand an excellent chance of gaining at least 3 seats, a good chance of taking 4-6, and a slim chance of taking 7+.