Hottest Senate Races in 2010

Washington Matters

Hottest Senate Races in 2010

Ready for the 2010 elections? The jockeying has begun, and with Democrats close to the magic 60 they need to truly block filibusters, the competition will start early and be intense. The current breakdown is 58 Democrats to 41 Republicans with the Minnesota race between Sen. Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken still tied up in litigation. Republicans can't even dream of taking control of the Senate, but they do hope to pick up some gains and at least keep Democrats from doing so.  

Democrats have 17 seats to defend (including four with appointed senators -- Illinois, Delaware, New York and Colorado. Republicans have 19 seats up (including four that will be open because of retirements: Florida, Ohio, Missouri and Kansas). There may also yet be more retirements announced in the coming months. 


First, let's look at the Democrats:


Harry Reid, Nevada. The Republican Party will recruit and spend heavily to oust the Democratic leader, whose position makes him come off as more partisan than he'd like. That hurts him among independents and moderate Republicans in the state.


Chris Dodd, Connecticut. The chairman of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee is in the hot seat for not preventing the AIG bonuses and for playing a central role in unpopular bank bailouts. He also didn't win any home-state friends when he moved his family to Iowa for several months to campaign in the Iowa presidential primary. He's likely to face former GOP Rep. Rob Simmons, who will be a tough challenger.


Roland Burris, Illinois. Appointed amid great controversy by impeached former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, D, Burris will have a hard time winning election, if he chooses to run against the wishes of leading state party officials. He'd face a tough primary and possibly a tougher general election in the aftermath of the Blagojevich scandals, and it is unclear whether he'll get national party support.


Kirsten Gillibrand, New York. Appointed to replace Hillary Clinton, Gillibrand could face a close race against former Gov. George Pataki, who is already doing some early work and is likely to run. Gillibrand will need to carry New York City by a large margin, which could prove tough, given her less-than-liberal voting record.


Ted Kaufman, Delaware. He was appointed to take Joe Biden's seat and says he won't seek election in 2010.  State Atty. Gen. Beau Biden, D, the vice president's son, could face a tight race if Rep. Mike Castle, R, decides to run against him.


On the Republican side, vulnerable seats include those held by:


Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania. One of a small band of Republican moderates, Specter will likely face a tough primary battle from a more conservative challenger, possibly former Rep. Pat Toomey, who nearly beat Specter in 2004. The general election may have Gov. Ed Rendell for Democrats. Specter will be 80 in 2010 and will be in his 30th year in the Senate.


Christopher Bond, Missouri, (retiring). Expect another very competitive race in an evenly divided state pitting Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan against Rep. Roy Blunt, R. Each has wide family name recognition, and each will be well funded next year.


Mel Martinez, Florida, (retiring). With former Gov. Jeb Bush, R, saying...for now... that he won't run, this could be a Democratic pick-up, especially if popular Gov. Charlie Crist, R, doesn't run either. Crist may rather run for reelection as governor instead and remain one of the most influential governors in the country.


Jim Bunning, Kentucky. There's a lot of personal friction between Bunning and Senate Republicans, many of whom are urging him to quit after numerous gaffes and confrontations. He may not, though. A close rematch is possible against Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo, whom Bunning barely beat last time, or against State Atty. Gen. Jack Conway. Bunning is arguably the most vulnerable Republican incumbent.


George Voinovich, Ohio. (retiring). This open seat race will be very competitive. Democrats have done well statewide in recent elections. Ohio is struggling with particularly high unemployment and grim layoff announcements, especially in manufacturing. It may come down to which party Ohio voters blame most next year if the state continues to struggle and lags in a recovery longer than other regions.


Retirement watch. Daniel K. Inouye, Hawaii, chairman of the Appropriations Committee and also first elected in 1962, will be 86, if he runs for a 9th term in 2010.  Among Republicans, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Texas, is considering running for governor, which would give Republicans another seat to defend.


Two Democrats not up for reelection have serious health problems that could force them to step down:  Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts, is battling brain cancer. Robert Byrd, W.Va., the longest serving senator in history, is not up for reelection, but he is in declining health at age 91.