In 2010, the Senate Democratic caucus might not lose a single seat. Let’s break it down.
If I were Blanche Lincoln, I’d be seriously considering going back into nursing. As a moderate, I’m not happy about that. But the Arkansas senator hasn’t come across lately so much as moderate as bipolar. Her primary opponent, the more liberal Bill Halter, is a base-energizing, money-razing machine. The Republican field is strictly junior varsity.
The Republican in the Colorado fight had to spend money as fast as she raised it just to get through the primary, and you can expect the big guns to come out from the administration to protect appointed incumbent Michael Bennet’s seat. (And for those wags who are saying, “Yeah, for all the good that did in Massachusetts,” I say, the White House learned from Massachusetts. They won’t let Colorado unravel like that.) Right now, Colorado is a neck-and-neck race.
So are Illinois and Indiana. The GOP has bigger leads in Nevada and Pennsylvania, but what does that mean in April? Harry Reid suffers from having a tough job — and doing it in such a way that it looks even tougher. No style points for this guy, but his political obituary has been written before, and majority leaders aren’t easy to unseat. Arlen Specter is unlikely to be back next year, for any number of perfectly good reasons. Pat Toomey can throw the mob all the red meat it can frenzy-feed on but, when the dust clears, retired Vice Admiral Joe Sestak is moving from the House to the Senate.
The GOP is likely to pick up at least one or two of those seats, of course. And if the Republicans could throw all their resources into the Democrats’ court, then maybe they’d be able to pick up more. But they can’t just play offense. Defense is going to be quite a trick too.
Florida’s Charle Crist belongs in the same category as George H.W. Bush or Walter Mondale: a better office-holder than candidate. He took positions that weren’t out of the playbook and he will pay for that. Marco Rubio will beat him in the primary and the base will turn out for him. Problem is, the base isn’t as big as it is loud. The portion of the Sunshine State that elected a Democrat to the first open congressional seat since health reform passed is likely to turn out for Kendrick Meek. I’m not saying Rubio can’t beat him. I’m just saying he can’t afford to coast.
Much the same is happening in New Hampshire. Judd Gregg’s open seat is the Republicans’ to lose. But tell that to Dede Scozzafava.
Kentucky is wide open. They got primaries on both sides of the aisle. Good news is that nobody — Republican, Democrat or ZANU (ruling party in Zimbabwe) — could be worse senator than Jim Bunning.
Louisiana: David Vitter leads his Democratic challenger by double digits right now. But he’s getting primaried by a porn star. Let’s see if he can get past Stormy Daniels unsullied before we see how he does against Charlie Melancon.
Missouri is a dead heat between two very well-known candidates. George Voinovich’s open office in Ohio is a dead heat between on well-known candidate, Republican Rob Portman, and a Democrat to be named later. Not all name recognition is good name recognition, and the last thing anyone wants to be known as is George W. Bush’s budget director. (“Go ahead. Fight as many wars simultaneously as you like. Don’t worry about paying for them — just keep those tax cuts coming.”)
Republicans looked vulnerable in South Dakota and North Carolina for a spell, but at this point I expect John Thune and Richard Burr to win through. But that leaves the GOP with six competitive races that they must win to have any hope of even incremental gains in the Senate.
Good luck with that.