Getting to Ten
For several months, political insiders have predicted a new Republican majority for the House of Representatives. The GOP leadership laid out a course of action in the Pledge to America. But, controlling one chamber takes them only so far. Controlling the Senate as well would place the GOP in a much better position to set the nation’s agenda – and recapture the presidency in 2012.
Republicans need to pick up ten Senate seats to gain a majority. If the hoped-for Red Tsunami is as broad as projected in generic ballot and “wrong-direction” poll results, the GOP may just make it.
Can they realistically get there? The answer: “Yes, with a little luck”. Here is how…
The GOP picks up eight seats in these races:
1) North Dakota – Democrat incumbent Senator Byron Dorgan is retiring. The Republicans nominated popular Governor John Hoeven to face Democrat Tracy Potter. Polls have consistently put Hoeven up 40% plus. This seat goes to the GOP.
2) Arkansas – Democrat incumbent Blanche Lincoln had a tough time beating Lt. Governor Bill Halter in her primary. Halter said Lincoln was too conservative to win re-election. In Arkansas? So now, Lincoln trails conservative Republican Congressman John Boozman by nearly 20%. This race goes Red on Election Day.
3) Indiana — Incumbent Democrat Senator Evan Bayh chose retirement over re-election citing disgust with current Beltway politics. Former Senator and current GOP nominee Dan Coates has been above 50% for a few months while Democrat Congressman Brad Ellsworth can’t seem to rise above 35%. Despite a clear Obama victory in the Hoosier State in 2008, polls show widespread disapproval with the president. Short of a scandal, Coates seems assured of returning to the Senate.
4) Pennsylvania — The biggest beneficiary of the party switch by incumbent Senator Arlen Spector may be Republican nominee Pat Toomey. Written off as too conservative to win the state in the 2004 Republican primary against Spector, Toomey now seems just right to Keystone State voters in a general election matchup with Democrat Congressman Joe Sestak. Spector read the tea leaves and saw he would have trouble in a rematch with Toomey, so with the promise of assistance from the Obama White House, Spector switched parties and ran against Sestak in the Democrat primary. Despite the offer of a federal job for his withdrawal, Sestak stayed in the race and easily bested the octogenarian Spector. The Real Clear Politics (RCP) average of +6.6% for Toomey in a still-Blue state makes this look like a GOP pickup.
5) Wisconsin — If uber-liberal Democrat incumbent Senator Russ Feingold is in trouble in Wisconsin, you know the party is facing a bad Election Day 2010. The RCP average gives Republican challenger Ron Johnson a +9% lead. Obama visited the state twice — and both times Feingold was nowhere to be seen. That speaks volumes of the president’s standing in the Badger State. This one seems lost to the GOP.
6) West Virginia – Even the death of long-time Senator Robert Byrd was not considered a threat to a Democrat hold of this seat. Popular Democrat Governor Joe Manchin seemed poised for an easy route to the United States Senate. But, the unpopularity of President Obama in the Mountaineer State, threw a monkey wrench into the gears. Republican John Raese holds an RCP average +4.5% advantage. Manchin has begun stressing his differences with the Obama agenda — primarily on coal and health care — to try to save this seat. So far, it is not working.
7) Colorado – I still cannot figure why RCP calls this a toss-up. Republican Ken Buck has enjoyed a 5-8% lead in all polls except the one by Dem-leaning Public Policy Polling (PPP). And, PPP only had Buck down by 1%. Democrat incumbent appointee Senator Michael Bennet has loudly proclaimed he is no rubber stamp for President Obama and asked the Prez to stay out of Colorado. His internal polls – and his gut – must be telling him something is amiss. This seat should tip to the GOP.
8) Nevada – Can there be a more delicious prospect than Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid being voted out of office? Republican Sharon Angle surprised many by winning the GOP primary. Conventional wisdom was Reid would coast to victory over the Tea Party favorite. Not so fast. Despite a blitz of negatives ads and media, Angle seems to benefit from Nevadans anger over their dreadful economy. The two most recent statewide polls show Angle +2% to +4% while Reid still has not cracked the 45% mark. That may eventually doom Reid and send the given-up-for dead Angle to Washington DC.
Here is where a little luck is would help:
9) Alaska – The GOP hold the seat currently, but, intra-party fighting may swing this race. Republican Joe Miller beat incumbent appointee Senator Lisa Murkowski in a close primary. After failing to make a deal with the state’s Libertarian Party, the too moderate for Libertarians Murkowski decided to run a write-in campaign. Miller held slim leads over Murkowski in recent Rasmussen and CNN polls while Democrat Scott McAdams appears to be a non-factor. Miller has the advantage, but bad blood may make it close. If Murkowski wins, which party will she caucus with?
10) Illinois – Democrat incumbent and tainted Blagojevich appointee Roland Burris is not on the ballot. Normally, Illinois would be a solid hold for Democrats. But, they chose to nominate alleged Mob-connected failed banker and State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias for the race. The Republicans went with liberal Congressman Mark Kirk. Kirk has his own baggage including overstating his military service and being the bane of Land of Lincoln conservatives. This race has been nasty and remains very close. The two most recent polls show Kirk +2% to +4% and the RCP average is Kirk +1.2%. The result may well rest on how many Illinois conservatives refuse to pull the lever for Kirk. If they hold their noses and vote for Kirk, he may just sneak by with a victory.
11) Washington – Democrat incumbent Senator Patty Murray has a well-deserved reputation for exposing her ignorance. It may finally be catching up with her. Murray is in a close race with a candidate who has experience with razor-thin losses in this Blue State, Republican Dino Rossi. Two recent polls show Rossi up 3-6% on Murray and that has dropped the RCP average to a virtual dead-heat. Over 80% of Evergreen State voters mail-in their ballots… early. So, Rossi may be surging at the right time. Assuming Democrat-controlled state election officials do not steal a third statewide victory from Rossi, some pundits think this race may decide control of the Senate.
12) California – Democrat incumbent Senator “Don’t Call Me Ma’am” Barbara Boxer holds a 3-4% lead over Republican challenger Carly Fiorina. Boxer held a big lead throughout most of the year, but, the race has narrowed as she cannot seem to break the 50% mark. The fact that a Democrat is in danger in Blue State California is indicative of the public’s general frustration. Low turnout among traditionally Democrat minority voters may allow Fiorina to win this one.
Wins in two of the four states above put the Senate in GOP hands at 51-49. Three weeks out, Alaska and Illinois seem the better bets. But, Washington is right there in case. While California is not out of the question, it seems the least likely of the four.
If the Red Tsunami is truly national, winning both Washington and California is still possible. That would give the Republicans +12 for a 53-47 majority. Then it is up to Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to corral enough Republican votes to put an end to Obamaism.
That may prove tougher than winning the Senate majority.
© 2010 by kens*ten. All rights reserved.