Senate 2010 outlook

A whopping eight months since my last Senate roundup, I figured it was high time to survey the landscape again. Overall, things have gotten significantly better for the Republicans in the last year, though not nearly as overwhelmingly so as the drama-prone national media might have you believe.

A continued Democratic majority in the Senate is all but assured after November (and is still quite likely in the House as well). The probable range, IMO, is a Democratic caucus in the 112th Senate of between 54 seats at the low end and 58 seats at the high end.

Read a race-by-race analysis (with pretty maps) below the fold…


This is the playing field in 2010: Democratic open seats in North Dakota, Connecticut, and Delaware; Republican open seats in Florida, Ohio, Missouri, Kentucky, New Hampshire, and Kansas. And here is my (early) results projection:


I am fairly certain of Republican pickups in North Dakota, Arkansas, and Nevada at this time, while the true tossup races for now are in Colorado, Missouri, Ohio, Delaware, and New Hampshire. The Democrats remain very slight favorites to hold Illinois and Pennsylvania, and the Republicans retain edges in Florida, Kentucky, and North Carolina.

As always, seats are ranked by likelihood of flipping:

1. North Dakota (open) – Byron Dorgan (D) retiring after 3 terms

Outlook: Very Likely Republican pickup

Dorgan’s retirement is indeed a huge blow to the Democrats, though perhaps canceled out by Dodd’s bowing out in Connecticut. Gov. John Hoeven (R) is in and will almost certainly be the junior Senator from North Dakota.

2. Arkansas – Blanche Lincoln (D) seeking third term

Outlook: Likely Republican pickup

Lincoln’s numbers are getting uglier against all opponents (the best she does is an eight-point deficit) and show no signs of recovering. Barring an eleventh-hour miracle, her Senate career is over, it seems.

3. Nevada – Harry Reid (D) seeking fifth term

Outlook: Leans Republican pickup

Reid has such a fundraising advantage and some time left to up his approval ratings, but few longtime incumbents recover from these dismal numbers. Many Democrats are probably quietly hoping that Reid “pulls a Dodd” in the next few months.

4. Colorado – Michael Bennet (D) seeking full term

Outlook: Tossup

Bennet faces a tough challenge in the Democratic primary from former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, and neither candidate seems secure against ex-Lt. Gov. Jane Norton or any of the other Republican prospects. The Democrats definitely have a good chance to hold this seat, with neither candidate carrying much prior baggage, but I sense that this race will go however the national climate goes, and at this moment, that means it will go to the GOP.

5. Delaware (open) – Ted Kaufman (D) retiring after partial term

Outlook: Tossup

I know that most polls have shown longtime Rep. Mike Castle (R) leading state Attorney General Beau Biden (D), but I for one am fairly convinced this race will tighten and the trends go Biden’s way once he declares and the state’s Democrats start “coming home.” Interestingly, Castle will be 71 years old on election day, to Biden’s 41, so there will likely be a noticeable contrast in tone and style between these two highly familiar candidates.

6. Missouri (open) – Kit Bond (R) retiring after four terms

Outlook: Tossup

Polls here have been close but consistent, with Secretary of State Robin Carnahan (D) barely ahead of Rep. Roy Blunt (R), always within the margin of error. Still, considering the GOP-friendly trends elsewhere during the last several months, this seems a promising sign for the Show Me State Democrats. For now, this is the Dems’ best opportunity for a pickup.

6. Ohio (open) – George Voinovich (R) retiring after two terms

Outlook: Tossup / Leans Republican hold

Even with nationwide Republican advances of late, former Rep. Rob Portman (R) has never built a convincing lead against either Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher (D) or Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner (D). Fisher is favored to win the primary, and at the point I expect the race to become a tossup. If the election were today, Portman would win.

7. New Hampshire (open) – Judd Gregg (R) retiring after three terms

Outlook: Tossup / Leans Republican hold

Former state Attorney General Kelly Ayotte (R) has a slight lead over Rep. Paul Hodes (D) — grain-of-salt-worthy pollster ARG has her ahead 43-36, hardly a game-ending advantage. Like Ohio, Hodes should close the gap over the spring and summer, and if he doesn’t, we should be worried.

8. Pennsylvania – Arlen Specter (D) seeking sixth term

Outlook: Leans Democratic hold

Specter is in for a close fight (if he makes it to the general election) against former Rep. Pat Toomey (R), the hardline conservative who nearly unseated him in the GOP primary back in 2004. In the meantime, Rep. Joe Sestak is giving Specter reason to watch his left flank. But Specter has been careful to compile a fairly progressive record since switching parties last spring, and my own prediction is that this gives him a clear edge for the nomination. At that point, disaffected Democrats and moderate-minded Independents will gradually line up behind the incumbent in big enough numbers to carry him to victory over Toomey, especially if the winds shift back to the Dems over the summer.

9. Illinois (open) – Roland Burris (D) retiring after partial term

Outlook: Leans Democratic hold

The polls have been unclear about who has the advantage in a race between Republican Rep. Mark Kirk and Democratic state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, while (due to name recognition) Kirk polls well ahead of lesser-known Dems David Hoffman and Cheryle Jackson. Considering the state’s recent history, it’s hard to imagine Kirk winning on any but an exceptionally fortunate night for the GOP.

10. Florida (open) – George LeMieux (R) retiring after partial term

Outlook: Leans Republican hold

Gov. Charlie Crist has long been the favorite for this seat in a general election, as his cross-partisan popularity remains high, but his biggest problem will be winning the GOP primary against conservative former state House Speaker Marco Rubio. If Rubio beats Crist, as many now expect (though his momentum could always stall), expect a competitive and expensive race between Rubio and Rep. Kendrick Meek (D).

11. North Carolina – Richard Burr (R) seeking second term

Outlook: Leans Republican hold

I’ve been surprised by the sporadic polling in this race. Burr faces a reputable challenger in Secretary of State Elaine Marshall (D), even if this is a Southern state in a GOP-leaning election cycle. Burr is far from universally popular or even universally recognized, but for now the DSCC clearly has to prioritize defense.

12. Kentucky (open) – Jim Bunning (R) retiring after 2 terms

Outlook: Leans Republican hold

The Democratic primary between Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo and state Attorney General Jack Conway has been nasty, while “small government conservative” Rand Paul has by several accounts taken the upper hand in the GOP primary against Secretary of State Trey Grayson, the establishment choice. Considering Kentucky’s traditional balance of social conservatism with economic liberalism, Paul would seem an unorthodox general election choice, but polls show he would do well against the Democrats. Definitely a primary to watch, even if either Republican is clearly favored in November.

Just below competitive:

– California for the Democrats (Boxer clearly ahead of Carly Fiorina, but not quite out of the woods)

– Gillibrand (New York B) for the Democrats (against anyone but Rep. Peter King, who might keep the race competitive, Gillibrand should win easily, assuming she wins the primary)

– Louisiana for the Republicans (Vitter leads Rep. Charlie Melancon, but his personal issues make it hard for me to rate him as “safe”)

The Democrats should be fine in Connecticut (Blumenthal trouncing Simmons/McMahon/Schiff), as should the Republicans in Kansas (either Tiahrt or Moran). Meanwhile, Republican incumbents seem solid (in the general election, at least) in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah. Democratic incumbents should win without trouble in Hawaii, Indiana, Maryland, New York (Schumer), Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.

30 thoughts on “Senate 2010 outlook”

  1. *Dorgan is retiring in ND, not Conrad.

    *The Rasmussen poll in CO was for governor, not senator.

    *What evidence is there that Bennet is a goner in the primary? Most analysis I’ve seen says that he faces a competitive race but not a death sentence.

  2. I would bet any amount of money that Paul Hodes will be a Senator in 2011. And I’m almost certain that Roy Blunt, Rand Paul, and Jane Norton won’t be.

  3. And came up with a 58-42 projection. Also, I realized that in order for the GOP to win back majority of the Senate, they’d actually have to clean up against folks like Boxer, Bayh, and Gillibrand. For some reason, I thought it’d be slightly easier than that.

  4. will put Burr in trouble in NC. His numbers a poor and have been for a long time. Between 1/3 and 1/2 of NC residents don’t even know who he is because he is so low profile. Burr is a carbon copy of Liddy Dole, only without the high profile name.

  5. you and a lot of other people are way too pessimistic, making roadkill out of Dems like Blanche Lincoln, Harry Reid, and Paul Hodes. Polls, are nothing but snapshots in time, and only reflect how the loudmouths are feeling in December 09 and January 2010.  When the voters wake up next October and realize how many more of them are going to have reliable health insurance, and when the economy starts to look a little better and the unemployment levels start to decrease, the chances are going to look a lot better for our Democratic candidates, believe me.

  6. Too many tossups right now but unless the economy gets worse again (despite the Decemeber jobs report which isn’t great but isn’t terrible either) I don’t think under 56 is at all likely.

    Favored D

    Indiana (Bayh)

    Washington (Murray)

    Wisconsin (Feingold)

    California (Boxer)

    New York (Gillibrand)

    Connecticut (Open)

    Lean D


    Pennsylvania (Specter)

    Illinois (Open)

    Delaware (Open)

    Nevada (Reid)

    Colorado (Bennet)

    Arkansas (Lincoln)

    Missouri (Open)

    New Hampshire (Open)

    Ohio (Open)

    Kentucky (Open)

    Lean R

    North Carolina (Burr)

    Favored R

    Florida (Open)

    Louisiana (Vitter)

    Iowa (Grassley)

    North Dakota (Open)

    Kansas (Open)

    Arizona (McCain)

    I think IL and PA will be leaning D before election day and if Biden gets in I think he will beat Castle in DE.

  7. all going either one way or another?

    Will that conventional wisdom hold in ’10? In other words, will we lose 6 or perhaps gain 3? (+/- 1)

    Is it unlikely that we’ll get to the mean (average) prediction, aka lose maybe 1-3 net?

  8. There’s been alot of talk in recent days of former representitive Susan Molinari considering running against Gillibrand. She was a real rising star in the GOP in her day and she gave the keynote speech at the 1996 republican national convention.

    She left congress in 1997 to work for CBS. Sice then she’s been doing some behind the scenes work in reoublican cirles, mostly concerning moderate conservatism.She’s pro-choice and pro-gay rights so she may just be taylor-made for a blue state. For the year thats in it, her biggest threat may be being scozzafaved in the primary.

    I think she’s the one real chance of making this race competitive esp. if king refuses to enter.

Comments are closed.