Senate 2010: GOP Eager for Any Gains
The Senate races in 2010 could provide a lift for Republicans. Even a few advances that chip away at the sizeable Democratic majority would give the party a needed boost and maybe even a new star or two. Here's how the field is shaping up...
Democrats now control the Senate, 59-40, with the contested Minnesota seat now in the court's hands. There are 36 Senate races in 2010 as of now, with half currently in the hands of each party.
Republicans would need a miracle to win back control, but if the economy remains stuck and Obama's approval ratings fade, they could manage to keep Democrats from the 60 seats they need to shut off filibusters.
Hot races to keep an eye on:
Florida: The GOP clearly got a boost with the announcement that Republican Gov. Charlie Crist will run to replace retiring Sen. Mel Martinez, R. Crist will have a primary fight against one or two and possibly more Republicans, but we give Crist good odds to prevail and to win next November in the general election. The Democratic field looks weak at this early stage, and it may remain so with Crist running strong in statewide polling.
Connecticut: Incumbent Chris Dodd looks today to be the more vulnerable Democrat next year. He's taken hits for his major role in the banking bailout and AIG bonus fiasco, and he didn't win any friends in Connecticut when he moved his family to Iowa for several months to further his presidential bid. Plus his fundraising is meager. He'll most likely have to turn back a bid by Republican ex-Rep. Robert Simmons. Dodd rates a slight advantage for now.
llinois: Appointed Sen. Roland Burris, D, has plenty to fret about in his bid for election, assuming he decides to run. He may not have the support of the national Democratic Party, state Democratic officials or from senior Sen. Dick Durbin, D, who remain critical of his decision to accept the appointment from scandal-plagued and impeached former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, D. If he does win a primary, he'd likely face a strong general election challenge from Rep. Mark Kirk, R, with Kirk having the early odds of winning.
Kentucky: Among the most vulnerable Republicans is Jim Bunning, R, who has meager fund-raising and who has fallen out of grace in some Republican circles for controversial comments and for repeatedly not being a team player in the caucus. Still, he is a hard campaigner and some Kentuckians like his thorniness. If he wins the primary, he'll have a strong Democratic challenge, either from Attorney general Jack Conway or Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo.
Pennsylvania: After switching to the Democratic party, Arlen Specter, a veteran among moderates, rates a better chance of winning reelection than were he to stay a Republican, although it's unclear to what degree he will pick up Democratic base support in the state, especially if he proves to be a thorn in the side of the Democratic caucus this year and next. His chances of reelection improved considerably when former GOP Gov. Tom Ridge said he would not run against Specter. That probably leaves former Rep. Pat Toomey, R, as his GOP challenger. Toomey may be too conservative for this increasingly blue state.
Delaware: Appointed Sen. Ted Kaufman, D, won't run for election. This should be a safe win for Democrat Beau Biden, the state attorney general and the son of Vice President Joseph Biden. What may make it interesting, though, is a possible bid by Rep. Michael Castle, R, who has long represented the state's one district in Congress and also as governor.
New York: Appointed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D, could face primary trouble from Reps. Steve Israel of Long Island or Carolyn Maloney of New York City. And whoever the Democratic candidate is, she or he could face former Gov. George Pataki, R, in the fall. Even with Democrats holding an edge in state registration, Pataki would be formidable.
Missouri: A close match-up any way you look at it to replace retiring long time Sen. Kit Bond, R. Democrats will settle on Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, daughter of the late Gov. Mel Carnahan and Sen. Jeane Carnahan. Republicans will most likely settle on Rep. Roy Blunt, R, the father of former Gov. Matt Blunt, R.
Ohio: Both parties have large fields of potential Senate nominees for now. Figure on a close general election race in any event in Ohio - a state that is nearly evenly divided and that Democrats have made gains in recently but do not dominate. Republicans best chance may be former Rep. Rob Portman. Democrats could lean to Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher.
New Hampshire. Sen. Judd Gregg, R, is retiring. Democrats should be able to pick up the seat, unless former Sen. John Sununu, R. decides to go for the seat. Sununu is seriously considering a run and remains well known statewide. Democrats could settle on Rep. Paul Hodes.
Nevada: Majority Leader Harry Reid, D, is looking fairly good for reelection now, but only because Republicans have yet to field a major candidate. Reid has a history of very close elections, and being majority leader often makes a senator appear more partisan than other incumbents.