State of the Senate races
Rothenberg came out with its Senate race ratings, last week, and the news is, of course, good for the Democrats. Even so, I have some quibbles.
Likely Takeover (1 R, 0 D)
* VA Open (Warner, R)
Lean Takeover (1 R, 0 D)
* NM Open (Domenici, R)
Toss-Up (3 R, 1 D)
* CO Open (Allard, R)
* Coleman (R-MN)
* Landrieu (D-LA)
* Sununu (R-NH)
Rothenberg also gives narrow advantages to Republicans Gordon Smith in Oregon, and Ted Stevens in Alaska. I disagree.
Smith's approval rating is under 50%, and the Democrats have two formidable challengers, in Jeff Merkley and Steve Novick. Smith is wealthy, and can self-finance, but he's never faced a well-financed opponent. Six years ago, the national committees all but ignored his race, even though Bill Bradbury's internals showed him competitive, if he could get his message out. Terry McAwful was so intent on throwing away tens of millions in a futile attempt trying to defeat Jeb Bush, in Florida, that he couldn't spare the few million that might have given Bradbury a chance, in a much less expensive market. This time, the national committees will be more helpful. I would rate this a toss-up.
I also think New Hampshire is Jean Shaheen's to lose. Until her husband's asinine swipe at Barack Obama, she'd been polling ahead, then dropped, but is back ahead in the most recent survey. All the electoral dynamics favor Shaheen, and if Obama makes a stop or two to campaign on her behalf, she should be the solid favorite. I expect Obama to do so. It would be a terrific show of class, and immensely helpful to the Party.
The Colorado race polls as a toss-up, but given the probable overall dynamics of this year's campaign, I think you have to give Udall a slight edge. This is a purple state that has been trending blue, and Udall should benefit from that.
Minnesota is also looking good, with Al Franken now polling ahead of Norm Coleman. This is another state that leans blue, and another incumbent who is under 50%.
In North Carolina, Elizabeth Dole polls solidly ahead of Kay Hagan, but Dole is under 50% both in the head-to-head and in her approval rating. The same dynamic pertains to Mitch McConnell, in Kentucky. Even John Cornyn, in Texas, can't feel secure.
The only trouble spot, for the Democrats, is Louisiana, where Mary Landrieu shows the same vulnerabilities as Dole and McConnell. She has a history of pulling out close races, and the national trends may also help her, but the New Orleans diaspora will add to her electoral difficulties. This appears to be the only Democratic Senate seat that will be at all competitive.
Overall, unless there are dramatic national changes, the Democrats stand to pick up a total of 5 or more Senate seats, and the very real possibility of a national tidal wave could put them over the magical 60 mark.