Thursday, January 29, 2009

One post about two unanimous votes

Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies - The 23rd Psalm

Governor Rod and his staff, they offend me.
They preparest a felony before me and are their own enemies
- All 59 Illinois State Senators

First, I'd like to thank the Illinois state Senate for its unanimous vote today in removing Rod Blagojevich from office. New Governor Pat Quinn is a good man, and I wish him luck.

Second, I promise my next blog post will be about something other than, "here's some more reasons why the Republican Party is dying."

But I need to say a few more words on that subject, so here goes. Nate Silver of has published a couple of posts that I think neatly reiterate what I said about today's GOP in This Train Only Stops in Dixie.

In The Republican Death Spiral, Nate observes that in voting unanimously against the Stimulus Bill this week, House Republicans seem proud of themselves despite that fact that they haven't accomplished anything.
He astutely asks,

"what grander purpose does this strategy serve? The House Republicans are opposing popular legislation from a very popular President, and doing so in ways that stick a needle in the eye of the popular (if quixotic) concept of bipartisanship....Thus the Republicans, arguably, are in something of a death spiral. The more conservative, partisan, and strident their message becomes, the more they alienate non-base Republicans. But the more they alienate non-base Republicans, the fewer of them are left to worry about appeasing. Thus, their message becomes continually more appealing to the base -- but more conservative, partisan, and strident to the rest of us. And the process loops back upon itself."

Nate follows up these thoughts in The Republican Death Spiral, in Graphic Form in which he provides a good explanation of why the GOP seems to have lost any semblance of pragmatism:

"in the 109th Congress (2005-2007), about 3 out of every 10 Republican Congressmen came from swing or Democratic-leaning districts. Now, only about 1 in 6 does. The Republican conference is very very close, by the way, to being majority Southern. To the extent there are moderate voices in the conference, they are going to get drowned out. There is no possibility of revolt from the moderates; they don't have the ground forces."

Quite so. And they shall dwell in the House minority, (hopefully) forever.

Monday, January 19, 2009

GOP losing streak Part II: The browning of America

In my last post, I discussed how the Republican Party is being crippled by a wave of retirements among its incumbents, a crisis of leadership and an increasing tendency to attempt to appeal only to white Christian conservatives living in rural America.

As if it didn't have enough problems, there is another spectre that the GOP needs to fear: America's changing population demographics. If you have a few minutes, I recommend you watch two short clips from Fox News and read the accompanying articles here and here. The first clip is an editorial by Fox's John Gibson from last May, the second a follow-up from a few days later.

Gibson urges viewers to have more children. By growing the native population, he claims, we can reduce pressure to allow more immigrants into the county. We wouldn't want to become like Europe where, "they are inviting in more and more immigrants every year to take care of things and those immigrants are having way more babies than the native population, hence Eurabia." What does Gibson mean by "Eurabia?" He clarifies this in the second clip, "I'd rather live with the Christians here than live ... under Sharia law in Europe."

Gibson claims that he is not racist. He simply believes that more immigration into the U.S. represents by definition a threat to our way of life. I am unclear as to how this is not racist. Here's my point in discussing this controversy: Gibson is correct about one thing. Changing population demographics in the U.S. do represent a threat to Christian conservatives and their ability to continue to elect Republican majorities who will attempt to force their twisted values on the rest of us.

The idea that time is not on the side of the Republican Party was argued beautifully in 2002 by John Judis and Ruy Teixeira in The Emerging Democratic Majority. Publisher's Weekly summarizes the book well: "In 1969 a prescient Kevin Phillips published The Emerging Republican Majority, predicting the rise of the conservative Republican movement. Now (Judis and Teixeira) argue that, if current demographic and political trends continue, a new realignment of political power is inevitable, this time sweeping Democrats to power. In support of their thesis they argue that the electorate is becoming increasingly diverse, with growing Asian, Hispanic and African-American populations-all groups that tend to vote Democratic. On the other hand, the number of white Americans, the voting population most likely to favor Republicans, remains static. Further, according to the authors, America's transition from an industrial to a postindustrial economy is also producing voters who trend strongly Democratic...They also argue that other changes, specifically the growing educated professional class and the continuing "gender gap," will benefit Democrats, whose political ideology is more consonant with the needs and beliefs of women and professionals. Judis and Teixeira predict that all these elements will converge by 2008, at the latest, when a new Democratic majority will emerge. Wisely, they warn that their predictions are just that, and that events might overtake the trends. But their warning will bring little comfort to Republicans, who will find their well-supported thesis disturbing."

The first couple of elections following the release of TEDM were not particularly kind to Judis' and Teixeira's predictions. After the 2002 and 2004 campaigns, it looked like the Republicans might be able to continue to scare the populace into keeping them in office indefinitely, not the mention the fact that the Democrats looked like they might never get their act together no matter how favorable the environment might become to a possible resurgence of Democratic fortunes. In addition, the Bush team displayed quite a knack from the late 90's to the mid 2000's for building support among the fast-growing community of Hispanic voters. While in 1999 Hispanic voters showed a preference for the Democratic Party over Republicans by a margin of 58% to 25%, after the 2004 election that 33-point gap had shrunk to a 21-point, 49% to 28% advantage for Democrats. (Since then, dissatisfaction with the Bush regime has caused Hispanic support for Republicans to fall off the table. In the recent Presidential election, they preferred Obama over McCain 67% to 31% despite the fact that McCain hails from a the state with one of the highest percentages of Hispanic Americans.)

Last November's election vindicated TEDM's predictions. In a recent article in The National Journal entitled Demography and Destiny, Ronald Brownstein gives a great analysis of the 2008 vote:
"Start by considering the electorate's six broadest demographic groups -- white voters with at least a four-year college degree; white voters without a college degree; African-Americans; Hispanics; Asians; and other minorities.

Now posit that each of those groups voted for Barack Obama or John McCain in exactly the same proportions as it actually did. Then imagine that each group represented the share of the electorate that it did in 1992. If each of these groups voted as it did in 2008 but constituted the same share of the electorate as in 1992, McCain would have won. Comfortably.

That's because Obama's best groups are much larger today than in 1992. From 1992 to 2008, the share of the vote cast by African-Americans jumped from 8 percent to 13 percent. For Hispanics the share soared from 2 percent to 9 percent; for Asians and other minorities combined, from 2 percent to 5 percent. Meanwhile, the percentage of the vote cast by well-educated whites remained unchanged at 35 percent. The big losers were blue-collar whites -- those without college degrees -- whose share plummeted from 53 percent in 1992 to just 39 percent now.

That's a threat to the GOP because those culturally conservative, working-class whites are today its most reliable voters. McCain won 58 percent of them, and Obama just 40 percent. Obama, by contrast, won 95 percent of African-Americans, 67 percent of Hispanics, 66 percent of other minorities, 62 percent of Asians, and 47 percent of college-educated whites. Apply those results to the 1992 share of the vote for all six groups, and McCain beats Obama, 50.2 percent to 47.9 percent."

To summarize, yes, people are tired of voting for Republicans because of Bush. And yes, people voted for Obama because he is awesome and because the Democratic party is better organized than it used to be. But one of the biggest reasons why the Democrats now hold all the cards is because in 2009 your neighbor is less likely to be a high school graduate named Tom, Dick or Harry and more likely to be a graduate school student named Sanjay, Laticia, Roberto or Yasunari. And with today's Republican Party increasingly emphasizing anti-immigrant policies and pandering to rural whites, they may be out of power for a long, long time. Ahhh!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

GOP unlikely to stop losing streak

New Senate race updates 1/11, click here.

Since the NFL playoffs are on tv as I write this, I'm going to use some football analogies. The Democratic team got mauled pretty badly in 2002 and 2004. Our response was to shake if off and get back in there. 14 to zero is a common football score. It's also the number of Republican Senate seats we took away in the last two elections versus the number they took away from us. We also grabbed the Presidency and netted 58 seats in the House.

It's only been a short time since the end of the last (election) season, but I'm already noticing a lack of any burning desire to win on the part of the Republican Party. In fact I think we can be pretty confident that the GOP Elephants are on their way to losing efforts in their next couple of campaigns.

For starters, Republican veterans and free agents are choosing to retire rather than sign new contracts with the team. Its been just ten days since I published my first edition of the 2010 Senate race predictions, and my post is already so obsolete that I've had to write a bunch of updates. Both Senator Bond of Missouri and Senator Voinovich of Ohio have announced that they will not run for reelection in 2010. Furthermore, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has announced he will not run for the open Senate seat in Florida, even though conventional wisdom suggests that he would probably have won that race.

The GOP is also having a hard time finding a new head coach. The candidates for the RNC chairmanship have turned the race into such a sideshow that they actually decided to ban the press from meetings lest the public see how silly they are.

Lastly, the Republican team seems more interested in keeping its season ticket holders happy than it is in building its fan base. As Talking Points Memo pointed out shortly before the recent election, "In recent weeks the McCain/Palin campaign and other Republicans have sought to "divide and conquer" an electorate that is slipping from their hands by repeatedly attempting to position themselves as representatives of some "real America" that includes small towns and conservative, White Anglo-Saxon Protestant values but excludes big cities full of liberal, cosmopolitan "elites." Real Americans, according to Sarah in those parts of the country Palin calls its "pro-America" parts, which obviously don't include Barack Obama's Chicago or Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco: "We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working, very patriotic, very pro-America areas of this great nation." In other words, unless you live within shouting distance of the Ozarks, the Appalachians, or a Mormon Cathedral, today's Republican Party is not really interested in trying to get your vote.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Predictions: Senate Races 2010

Most recent updates: 10/29/10: AK, KY, MO, NV and PA

Current US Senate, 111th Congress:
59 D, 41 R

Prediction: US Senate, 112th Congress:
 54 D, 46 R

This post will be updated continuously through election day 2010.

(1/5/10) The Democratic Senate caucus was on a roll for a long time, going from 45 seats in 2006 to a filibuter-proof 60 in 2009. On paper, a wave of Republican retirements in 2009 combined with vulnerabilities among some GOP incumbents should have given Democrats the chance to further build on their majority in 2010. Now it looks like it's not going to work out that way. Let's start by considering the advantages that the Republican party has going into November.
* Here's the big one: current polls demonstrate that conservatives are far more energized than progressives regarding the coming election.
* While the economy is growing again, unemployment is likely to remain high through 2010.
* Historically, the party that holds the White House loses seats in mid-term elections.

While the Democrats will be playing defense, they will also have some advantages:
* Democrats still have a small lead in the generic ballot, and their congressional leaders are more popular than the GOP's.
* While the percentage of Americans identifying themselves as Democrats has held steady or risen slightly over the past several years, the percentage identifying themselves as Republicans has plummeted, from 30% in 2004 to only 23% today.
* As I've noted in recent posts, the GOP is engaged in a "purity war" between its tea-party conservatives and more moderate elements. This "circular firing squad" wastes resources they could be using to attack Democrats.
* Speaking of resources, the Republican party is not currently raising the kind of money it needs to wage war on a large number of Democratic incumbents.

Competitive races:

Rating: Leans Republican hold (Murkowski)
Republican: Former Judge Joe Miller (incumbent Lisa Murkowski defeated for renomination)
Democrat: Mayor Scott McAdams
Write-in indepedent Republican: Lisa Murkowski (incumbent)
Overview: (1/1/09) Possibly competitive, but her strong showing versus Tony Knowles in 2004 makes me think she can't be beaten.
(8/26/10) Miller's apparent upset of Murkowski is stunning. People will be writing books about this one. Anyway, Democrats should not kid themselves. Miller is the next junior Senator from Alaska.
(9/26/10) Rasmussen polls skew conservative, but this one showing Miller with a comfortable lead is probably pretty accurate. Wow, is it really the case that the Democratic candidate can only get one Alaskan in four to vote for him, even with a nut like Miller running for the GOP?
(10/16/10) Murkowski's write-in bid has made this anybody's race. A poll from late September showed that nearly 40% of Alaska Democrats were planning to support Murkowski. But a more recent poll may change that. If it's really true that Miller has 33%, Murkowski 31% and McAdams 27% support, then Murkowski Democrats may wake up to the fact that McAdams can win.
(10/29/10) Miller's candidacy has collapsed under the weight of non-stop scandal. Murkowski is now favored, though a surprise McAdams win can't be ruled out.

Rating: Likely Republican takeover
Democrat: Blanche Lincoln (incumbent)
Republican: Congressman John Boozman
Overview: (9/2/09) Lincoln's poll numbers are anemic. Recently, she has taken President Obama's lack of popularity in Arkansas as a sign that she should move to the right. The race will be defined by the ability of Republicans to find a top-tier challenger, which at this point seems unlikely.
(9/20/09) Lincoln's position has been strengthened immensely as she has been named as the new Chair of the Senate Agricultural Committee. A rural state like Arkansas is not going to want to give up that kind of influence.
(1/23/10) Lincoln has moved to the right, and has alienated the Democratic base without actually gaining any support among independents or conservatives. Now, Arkansas' lone Republican congressman John Boozman is thinking of getting into the race. Our chances of holding this one are not good.
(3/6/10) Lt. Governor Bill Halter has jumped into the Democratic primary, running to the left of Democrat-in-name-only Blanche Lincoln. So what are our chances in this one? Well, Nate Silver says that Lincoln would need "a miracle" to win another term, while he feels that it's "quite unlikely" that Halter can win. I say we go with Halter.
(4/27/10) Blanche Lincoln was elected as a moderate Democrat in 1998 and reelected in 2004 in an increasingly conservative state. Now that she's facing a serious challenge within her own party, she's proving to be something of a paper tiger. Increasingly desperate to shore up support, Lincoln's campaign has lurched first to the right, then to the left. A poor performance against Halter in a debate hasn't helped either. While polls suggest she might still squeak out a victory in the primary, there's an increasing likelihood that she'll fail to get 50% of the vote, meaning she goes straight back into a runoff election with Halter. That kind of runoff strongly favors the insurgent over the incumbent. Are Halter's chances of winning this election in November increasing? Republican candidate Gilbert Baker certainly thinks so.
(5/19/10) Polls showed Lincoln leading Halter by 13% going into tonight's primary. She won by 0.8%. Halter is the favorite in the runoff.
(6/9/10) Lincoln has surprised pretty much everyone by winning the runoff. Democrats are out the millions of dollars they poured into Halter's challenge to Lincoln, and now they get to watch her get beaten badly in November by Boozman. The good news? There isn't any.
(6/29/10) Nate Silver today on Lincoln: "Our model now shows Blanche Lincoln's chances to be close to zero (technically, about 0.3 percent, which rounds down to zero)." I gotta admit, that actually made me laugh. 

Rating: Likely Republican hold
: John McCain (incumbent)
Democrat: Tucson councilman Rodney Glassman
Overview: (1/1/09) McCain says he's running again, but I think he might retire (I mean, have you seen him lately?). If he does retire, this race becomes one of our best chances to pick up a seat, as Republican prospects in Arizona are on the wane. Arizonans may also be in mood to vote Democratic in 2010 as they may be anxious to give the boot to new Governor (and right-wing Republican) Jan Brewer. Due to a quirk in Arizona law, former Secretary of State Brewer was automatically catapulted to the Governor's mansion this month when Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano resigned to become Barack Obama's Secretary of Homeland Security.
(6/9/09) McCain is definitely running. He has one challenger so far for the GOP nomination: right-wing kook Chris Simcox. At least a few people believe that McCain is actually vulnerable to this sort of challenge.
(12/31/09) Former Republican Congressman J.D. Hayworth has been sounding out party bigwigs regarding his viability in potentially challenging McCain for the GOP nomination. If gets it, this race becomes a toss up. Hayworth has a good gig as a radio jock, and we won't give it up unless he's really confident he can win both the nomination and the general election.
(1/23/10) Hayworth is in. If it looks like Hayworth might beat McCain in the primary, a top-tier Democrat could jump into the race.
(3/20/10) Polls from the Rasmussen organization are not trustworthy, but I think a Ras poll this week of the Arizona GOP Senate primary can at least be trusted this far: Hayworth does have a good chance of beating McCain. If Hayworth wins, any prominent Democrat should be able to beat him. If McCain wins, there's the possibility that disaffected conservatives will stay home on election day. Democrats need to get serious about this race.
(6/29/10) Check and mate: the contest goes to John McCain. A 2007 "free money from the government" infomerical has surfaced starring none other than Mr. Convservative - J.D. Hayworth.
(8/26/10) Six more years of the now completely-unprincipled John McCain.

Rating: Likely Democratic hold
Democrat: Barbara Boxer (incumbent)
Republican: Businesswoman Carly Fiorina
(3/20/10) A new poll shows Boxer in a dead heat against either Campbell or Fiorina. California, welcome to the competitive races list. Ok, here's why I think Boxer is still a safe bet for reelection. First, California has continued to trend blue in the last several years. While John Kerry beat Bush by only 10% in 2004, Obama beat McCain by a staggering 24% in 2008. Second, the best way for the GOP to win this race would be to settle early on a consensus candidate. Clearly that isn't going to happen, as Campbell and Fiorina are more or less tied in the Republican primary race.
(6/9/10) Fiorina is the Republican nominee. Is California ready for a Senator who opposes reproductive rights, same-sex marriage and taking action on climate change? Seems unlikely.
(7/28/10) Polls show that Boxer has a modest lead in this race, with few voters still undecided. This one's probably over.
(9/30/10) The Republican Senate Committee has cancelled its ad buys for Fiorina. That means they are conceding this race.

Rating: Leans Democratic hold
Democrat: Michael Bennet (appointed incumbent)
Republican: District Attorney Ken Buck
Overview: (1/11/09) Superintendent of the Denver public school system Michael Bennet is the dark horse appointee to replace Ken Salazar, who has left the Senate to become Secretary of the Interior. Whether or not Bennet will be the nominee in 2010 is unknown. Republicans have fared poorly here in highly profile races in recent cycles, and currently lack a big name for this race.
(1/27/09) Scratch the GOP's biggest name, Attorney General John Suthers, from this race. He's decided to run for reelection, and Republicans are peeved that he's not aiming higher.
(5/5/09) Bennet's approval numbers are weak, but if the GOP is going to beat him, they're probably going to need a higher profile candidate that Ken Buck.
(9/2/09) Former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff is poised to run in the Democratic primary. Romanoff would be a much stronger candidate in the general election than Bennet. Meanwhile the GOP is still searching for a credible candidate.
(9/20/09) Good news for Republicans, this right-leaning poll suggests that former Lt. Governor Jane Norton could be a very strong candidate in this race. Bad news, some voters are apparently confusing her with former Bush administration official Gale Norton, who is the subject of a Federal corruption investigation.
(1/7/10): Jane Norton goes Michelle-Bachmann-style-crazy: "And what I believe is the fact that the rights of terrorists are more important in this administration than the lives of American citizens. And we are seeing it in the criminal field. We are seeing it in the health care bill. We are seeing it in almost every, every area that we are looking at." Wow, is this nut really the likely GOP nominee? The Democratic ticket for 2010 is getting stronger, with unpopular Governor Bill Ritter dropping out to be replaced by a more popular candidate.
(3/20/10) Score another one for the repellent Jane Norton, who has announced that Social Security is a fraudulent "Ponzi Scheme." Meanwhile the race for the Democratic nomination remains a tossup, with either candidate having a 50% chance or better to defeat Norton.
(6/20/10) Sometimes slow and steady wins the race. A new poll shows Ken Buck now leading Jane Norton.
(6/29/10) He wants to terminate social security, student loans and the separation of church and state. I'll pass, Mr. Buck.
(7/17/10) The plagiarism scandal of Scott McInnis (the likely Republican candidate in the gubernatorial race), should give Bennet a boost.
(8/11/10) Appointed incumbent Michael Bennet has gotten a vote of confidence from his party by winning the Democratic primary in convincing fashion. He has the advantage over outsider candidate Ken Buck, who narrowly won the GOP primary.
(9/30/10) A new poll (albeit a partisan one) gives Bennet a 2-point lead. Still one of the closest races in the country.

Rating: Leans Democratic hold
Democrat: Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (Chris Dodd retiring)
Republican: Businesswoman Linda McMahon
Overview: (3/17/09) Current polling suggests that Dodd is in trouble. Connecticut Yankees are apparently not thrilled that Dodd resettled his family in Iowa while pursuing his quixotic Presidential campaign in 2008. On the other hand, I'm not sure I believe that an incumbent Democrat in a blue state is going to lose to a Republican with close ties to George W. Bush, who also faces a tough primary battle.
(7/25/09) Wow, Connecticut voters are down on Dodd, with a new poll showing him trailing Simmons by 9 points.
(7/30/09) Depending on whom you want to believe, Dodd either did or did not know that he was given preferential treatment for a mortgage loan. In any case, the damage is done and the path to Dodd's reelection just got that much more difficult.
(9/20/09) Dodd has been cleared of ethics violations, and his poll numbers have seen an uptick. Pro-wrestling executive Linda McMahon is entering the race on the GOP side. McMahon is a smart, successful businesswoman who is not to be underestimated.
(12/22/09) Poor Chris Dodd. Two years ago he was running for President. Today his poll numbers are so poor, there's speculation that he may actually retire from the Senate rather than try to win another term in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly two-to-one. If Dodd does give it up after five terms, the seat should be an easy hold for the blue team, with state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal the likely Democratic candidate.
(1/5/10) And so Dodd will in fact retire.
(1/18/10) Polls indicate that Blumenthal will run away with this one. Now we just have to find a Democrat to replace Joe Lieberman.
(5/18/10) So, did Blumenthal lie about serving in Vietnam in a 2008 speech, in furtherance of a long-time pattern of deception of the issue? Or did he actually characterize his service correctly in the speech, and the NY Times wrote a poorly-researched hit piece full of half-truths and distortions? Or is the answer somewhere in the middle? If this were a closer race, this controversy might be the tipping point. But Blumenthal has consistently showed a 30-point lead over his Republican opponents, and he will probably recover from this.
(5/25/10) Republicans have pushed aside former Congressman and highly decorated veteran Rob Simmons in favor of Linda McMahon, who has zero political experience. Draw your own conclusions.
(8/10/10) McMahon has won the GOP primary, but not in very convincing fashion. Rob Simmons got 29% of the vote, despite dropping out of the race some time ago (but then saying he was back in, sort of). Barring any major new developments, Blumenthal will win.

Rating:Likely Democratic hold
Democrat: County Executive Chris Coons (Ted Kaufman retiring)
Republican: Businesswoman Christine O'Donnell
Overview: (1/24/10) Wow, what an incredible comedy of errors on the part of the Democrats:
Jan. '09: Joe Biden becomes Vice President. Instead of appointing a Democrat who can run as an incumbent for the remainder of Biden's term in 2010, Democrats instead choose placeholder Ted Kaufman, under the assumption that Joe's son Attorney General Beau Biden will run for the open seat in 2010. In any case, Democrats figure that the seat is safe, as the only Republican who could conceivably win is Congressman and former Governor Mike Castle, whom they assume will not run due to age and health concerns.
Oct. '09: Surprise! Castle is running, making the race a toss up.
Jan. '10: Senator Robert Menendez, D-N.J., the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, assures worried Democrats that Beau Biden will run.
Jan. '10: Surprise! Biden isn't running.We sure are trying hard to lose this one.
(2/5/10): Chris Coons is a good candidate, Delaware is a blue state and Castle is the kind of moderate Republicans who doesn't appeal to today's teabaggers. None of this is likely to matter, it's Castle's race to lose.
(7/17/10) This race is not over yet. Castle's lead had shrunk from about 25 points to 11 according to Rasmussen. Since Ras polls lean to the right by about 5 percent, Coons may be within striking distance. Castle has been forced to vote very conservatively in Congress this year in order to hold off a tea party challenge to his nomination in this race. In a state where Obama beat McCain nearly two to one, voters are beginning to question whether they really want a somewhat frail and increasingly right-wing Mike Castle to hold this seat for the next four years.
(7/28/10) Castle's other problem: his Republican primary opponent, Christine O'Donnell has been racking up endorsements from the tea party world. If O'Donnell somehow pulls off an upset and wins the nomination, this race is in the bag for the blue team.
(9/15/10) Hooray! Democrats finally get a break! Idiot Republicans in Delaware have rejected the appealing, sure-fire winner Congressman Mike Castle for right-wing nut O'Donnell. THANK YOU TEA PARTY!

Rating: Likely Republican hold
Republican: former House Speaker Marco Rubio (George Le Mieux retiring)
Democrat: Congressman Kendrick Meek
Independent: Governor Charlie Crist
Overiew: (1/1/09) Freshman Martinez has decided that one (terrible) term in the Senate is enough. It's rare that a party's chances of holding a seat improve when their incumbent retires, but it's true in this case. Democrats will need to find a great candidate to compete in conservative Florida.
(1/11/09) Turns out former Governor Jeb Bush will not run. Bush would have been a good bet to win, so it's more bad news for the GOP.
(5/12/09) Crist is in. The popular Governor is definitely the favorite to win the election. The good news for Democrats is that it appears that Crist will face a divisive primary election against rising conservative star Mark Rubio, and that the Florida Gubernatorial race is now wide open.
(6/9/09) Former New Hampshire Senator Bob Smith needs to find something productive to do with his time. For some reason, he's decided to enter the GOP primary in Florida. Hopefully, after he loses he'll choose to renew his former flirtation with the right-wing Constitution Party, get himself on the ballot, and steal a lot of votes from the Republican nominee.
(11/14/09) Rubio has gone from little-known challenger to conservative darling, and has a good chance of shocking the GOP establishment and capturing the nomination. While he would not be as strong a candidate as Christ in the general election, he would still have a good chance of winning as the blue team will likely field a second-tier candidate.
(2/23/10) Crist is sinking fast in the polls. His response? To infuriate Republican activists by continuing to praise the Democratic stimulus package. Next, his campaign aides start heading for the exits. Could it be that Crist is thinking of a party switch? He certainly won't get the nomination as a Republican.
(4/13/10) Crist has promised not to run as an independent. I promise he will lose to Mark Rubio. Will he run again in two years against Democratic Senator Bill Nelson? That would be just what Democrats don't need.
(4/25/10) On April 8, the Crist campaign said it wanted to, "completely and utterly put to rest any of the unfounded rumors coming from the Rubio campaign that Governor Crist would run as anything other than the Republican that he is." Eleven days later: "Gov. Charlie Crist said today he may quit his GOP primary race and run for the Senate as an independent." How did one of America's most respected Governors become such a gibbering fool? If Crist does run as an independent, it's anybody's race, although Rubio would still have the inside track.
(4/29/10): Al Cardenas (former Republican state Chairman) on Crist's announcement that he will run as an independent: "We need to rebuild our party. And if a governor who's so well-known and liked by many decides to run as an independent, it would have serious long-term negative effects on our party."
(5/18/10) Crist is moving hard to the left on the issues, and has refused to return money he received from Republican donors. His strategy is clear: he wants to be the Democratic candidate. It makes sense. Nobody running for Senate switches parties or drops their party for an independent candidacy so they can join the minority caucus. The Crist gambit has had one immediate impact: Kendrick Meek, the actual Democratic nominee, is watching his campaign fade away.
(6/20/10) There's a fascinating new twist in this race. Democrats may abandon establishment candidate Kendrick Meek in the Democratic primary in favor of former Republican Jeff Greene...just so they have an excuse to then abandon Greene and support Charlie Crist. Crist meanwhile continues to run to the left.
(8/26/10) Meek's strong showing in the primary vs. Greene is bad news for Democrats. Every vote that Meek picks up is a vote Crist loses, and thus more help for Rubio.
(9/26/10) Crist should have run for the Democratic nomination. Did he think he could win just on charisma? Anyway, this one's over.
(9/30/10) I still think this is over, but there's an interesting new development: The Democratic Party is now targeting Crist. The idea is get all the Democrats who've been supporting Crist to come home to Kendrick Meek, and hope that Crist can draw off enough Repulicans to keep Rubio from winning.

Rating: Likely Republican hold
Republican: Johnny Isakson (incumbent)
Democrat: State Commissioner Michael Thurmond (likely)
(1/1/09) Isakson is not particularly popular or well-known, but it's been many years since Democrats won a high-profile race in red-state Georgia.
(4/17/10) Welcome Georgia to the competitive races list! Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond has announced plans to challenge Isakson. Democrats are probably sorry they waited this long to crank up a serious challenge to the incumbent Republican. Isakson's approval rating is a dismal 36%, and he's also had some health concerns that question whether he's ready for another six-year term. While Thurmond is unlikely to unseat Isakson, his being on the ticket will help the Democratic turnout and give a boost to former Governor Roy Barnes, the Democrat who is making a surprisingly strong challenge to recapture his old office. A victory for Barnes would be a huge coup, as it would keep Georgia Republicans from having complete control of the state's 2011 decennial redistricting of its congressional seats (Georgia will be going from 13 seats to 14).

Rating: Leans Democratic hold
Democrat: Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias
Republican: Congressman Mark Kirk
Overview: (1/27/09) Disgraced Governor Rod Blagojevich has managed to appoint former Attorney General Roland Burris to the seat for the two years remaining on Obama's term. The Blagojevich mess may prove to be the one thing that could actually revive the Illinois GOP, which hasn't been much of a force in the Land of Lincoln for a long time. It is doubtful Burris can win the Democratic primary. Assuming he does not, whomever is the Democratic nominee should still be a good bet to win in 2010.
(4/11/09) Alexi Giannoulias looks to be the front-runner on the Democratic side so far. He seems to have the quality most needed to run a campaign for Senate: he can raise money like crazy.
(5/12/09) Things are awfully quiet on the GOP side in Illinois. There are few elected Republicans with high name recogintion in Illinois these days, and those the GOP does have, such as Congressmen Mark Kirk and Pete Roskam, seem uninterested in jumping in to this race. On the Democratic side however, the list of potential candidates keeps growing. They might even get a Kennedy in the race.
(7/9/09) Burris is out, thank goodness. My former employer Attorney General Lisa Madigan is out. Congressman Mark Kirk is in. This will be a competitive (and very expensive) race. I'll believe that the GOP can still win a statewide race in Illinois when I see it.
(7/30/09) This race is off to an odd start. After first indicating he would run, it appeared that Kirk was out after being snubbed by GOP big-wigs in favor of Illnois GOP Chair Andy McKenna. Now McKenna's stepped aside, so Kirk is back in.
(12/22/09) The conservative Rasmussen poll finds Giannoulis clinging to a small lead.
(2/5/10) Kirk has a pretty good chance of winning this thing, especially if Illinois Democrats continue with stunts like this: nominating a serial domestic abuser for Lt. Governor.
(3/6/10) Two pieces of good news for Giannoulias. One, a new poll shows him with the lead. Two, state Senator Bill Brady just won the GOP nomination for Governor by 139 votes out of 767,000 cast. Brady is expected to make a fairly weak challenge against incumbent Governor Pat Quinn, meaning that for Kirk to win, he'd have to get a lot of crossover votes from people voting for Quinn but not supporting Giannoulias. Seems unlikely.
(4/25/10) The Illinois bank owned by the Giannoulias family has been seized by federal regulators. I've long believed that Giannoulias had enough momentum to win this race, but only if nothing else bad happened to him. On the positive side, the bank story is old news, and it's possible that it's already done all the damage it can to him. On the other hand, if we start seeing polls that Giannoulias is sinking, there will be more calls for him to get out of the race. I think there's a presumption among Democrats that Obama will campaign in Illinois later this year, and that will be enough to boost the ticket to victory despite problems among its candidates at every level.
(6/9/10) Now it's Kirk's turn to sweat. It turns out he's been lying for years about his military record, the awards he's received, and a lot of other things. His campaign now stands somewhere between seriously damaged and totally wrecked.
(9/26/10) This race is deadlocked. It's all about turnout now. Unless there's some change in this contest, I'll still be calling it for Giannoulias on election day. Republicans don't win in statewide races in Illinois unless there's great enthusiasm for their candidacy. And that's exactly what Kirk doesn't have.

Rating: Leans Republican takeover
Democrat: Congressman Brad Ellsworth (Evan Bayh retiring)
Republican: Former Senator Dan Coats
(2/5/10) It was looking like Bayh was going to be the one Democratic incumbent in a red or purple state to get a pass this year. Now it appears he will face a serious challenge from former Senator Dan Coats, who's spent the last decade living comfortably in Virginia and working as (surprise surprise) a high-powered lobbyist. Bayh is rich, he's been around forever, Indiana has been trending blue...will all that be enough to save him? Not necessarily. "Centerist" Democrats like Bayh are falling out of favor with the party. Bayh is less annoying than some of the Blue Dogs, unfortunately, Democrats-in-name-only like Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson are giving the Blue Dogs a bad name. There's a difference between being "moderate" and deliberately sabotaging the party's most important initiatives.
(2/15/10) Bayh is retiring due to the "excessive partisanship" in the Senate. Take a look in the mirror, Evan, you're the one who's been stalling Democratic legislation.
(3/6/10) Ellsworth gets to bide his time while the Republicans fight it out.
(5/8/10) Well, blue team I'm afraid the Republicans got every break in this one. First that colossal jerk Evan Bayh had to sabotage his party one last time by waiting until late in the game to announce his retirement, then the most electable Republican got the party nomination because the right-wing-nut vote was split between two other candidates. The Indiana Democratic Party is one of the best parties in the country, shocking everyone in 2006 by picking up three seats in the House, and again in 2008 by delivering the state for Barack Obama. Sorry guys, you deserve better.

Rating: Likely Republican hold
Republican: Chuck Grassley (incumbent)
Democrat: Roxanne Conlin (likely)
Overview: (9/2/09) Long a quiet, dignified and relatively moderate figure, Grassley has recently become the point man for the Republican Party's disingenuous, fear-mongering campaign to destroy health care reform. His popularity is probably low enough to make him vulnerable to a top-tier challenger, but Grassley's been winning elections in Iowa since 1958.
(11/14/09) Attorney Roxanne Conlin is Grassley's likely opponent. Since it's unlikely anyone can beat Grassley, our nominee might as well be Conlin. She at least can raise a lot money and drive Grassley crazy with negative ads. For someone who's held elective office for over 50 years, Grassley is incredibly thin-skinned. He goes a little nuts over any kind of criticism.
(5/8/10) If this poll is to be believed, Conlin trails Grassley by only 9 points. A miracle! Am I getting excited about this race? Ah, no. The suggestion that Grassley could actually be defeated reminds me of words of former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards, "The only way I can lose this election is if I'm caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy."

Rating: Likely Republican hold
Republican: Congressman Jerry Moran (Sam Brownback retiring)
Democrat: University administrator Lisa Johnston
Overview: (1/1/09) Okay, quiz question: Who was George McGill? Answer: Mr. McGill was the last Democrat elected to the Senate from in Kansas. That was in..get ready...1932! Kind of discouraging, eh?
(2/1/09) Republican Congressmen Moran and Tiahrt will both be running. Good. This means that there will be a bitter primary battle on the Republican side, and, given that the ultra-conservative and ultra-corrupt Tiahrt should lose to Moran, we'll be rid of him.
(3/7/09) Popular Democratic Governor Kathleen Sebelius will not be running as she is joining Obama's Cabinet. Our chances of winning this one just fell off the table.
(3/6/10) Wow, one year since I commented on this race. Thanks for nothing, Kansas Democrats.
(8/20/10) Moran will be the next Senator from Kansas. Democrats get a consolation prize: sleazy Congressman Todd Tiahrt is out of a job, having lost the GOP race for the nomination.

Rating: Toss Up
Republican: Dr. Paul Rand
Democrat: Attorney General Jack Conway
Overview: (1/1/09) Everyone knew six years ago that arch-conservative Jim Bunning was already senile when he narrowly defeated Daniel Mongiardo (who was then a political unknown) for reelection in 2004. Now Bunning is six years older, and yet he's sworn to run again despite widespread talk of his retirement.
(1/27/09) Mongiardo wants a rematch! The GOP is pushing Bunning to quit. If it's Mongiardo versus Bunning again in 2010, the Democrat will win.
(3/7/09) Bunning has declared total war on his own party. He's threatened to sue them for withholding support, and even threatened to resign and let the Governor appoint a Democrat. The GOP is praying Bunning will come to his senses and retire.
(4/11/09) AG Jack Conway is getting support from most of the state Democratic Party's big names in his newly announced bid for this seat. I think Mongiardo would do well to avoid a primary battle with Conway and run for reelection for Lt. Governor.
(7/30/09) So after promising more times than I can count that he would run for reelection, Bunning is out. I think that this race will most likely be Conway for the Democrats and Grayson for the GOP. A recent poll showed a small lead for Conway for that particular match up. Kentucky however is a red state that is not overly fond of our President. This race is a true toss up.
(9/2/09) Dr. Rand Paul, son of Texas' Ron Paul, is running for the GOP nomination. Dr. Paul is cast in the same mold as his libertarian father, meaning he will bring a lot of grassroots support to his campaign. Both parties can now expect to see closely-contested primaries.
(12/22/09) Paul has staked out a big lead in the polls. Apparently, the GOP is ready to give the nomination to someone with no real political experience. If they do, there's a good chance we'll get to watch him make more rookie mistakes like this one: Paul's chief spokesman just resigned over accusations of racism.
(5/19/10) Conway edged Mongiardo in the primary. He is likely the better candidate against Paul, who crushed Grayson to get the GOP nomination. Something tells me the Kentucky Republican establishment isn't going to work very hard to help Paul win in November. Why would Mitch McConnell and company want a Republican Senator who trash talks them all the time?
(7/28/10) Paul is slipping in the polls. His biggest problem: polls show that a high percentage of voters don't yet know the candidates in this race, but among those who do, Conway has a substantial lead.
(8/20/10) Finally, a bright spot for Democrats: Conway now leads in the Braun poll. Paul just can't open his mouth without putting his foot in it. This time, it's astonishing the state's law enforcement community be claiming that illegal drugs are not a "pressing issue" in Kentucky.
(10/29/10) A lot has happened in this race in the past two months, but it looks like Paul all the way.

Rating: Likely Republican hold
Republican: David Vitter (incumbent)
Democrat: Congressman Charlie Melancon (likely)
Independent: Mike Spears
Overview: (1/1/09) Vitter is the only Republican ever to be popularly elected as a U.S. Senator in Louisiana. The principal obstacle to Vitter's reelection bid is the recent revelation that during the 1990's through about 2001, he was enjoying the services of a number of prostitutes. And by prostitutes, I mean women who had sex with Vitter for money, not K Street Washington lobbyists. Another Christian conservative holier-than-thou hypocrite. The good news is that possibly Vitter will face a stiff primary challenge, and even if he survives he might be too damaged damaged to win another term. The bad new is that Louisiana is the one red state that is arguably getting redder, and Vitter's approval numbers really aren't that bad (in Louisiana it seems, corruption in politics is like hot sauce in New Orleans cuisine). I'm also not encouraged by fact that so far no high-profile Democratic candidate has said he or she is ready for this contest.
(3/7/09) A new poll shows that Vitter could be in serious trouble against potential opponents next year. The problem is the "potential" part. It's not yet clear that Vitter will get a top-tier challenger from either party.
(6/19/09) Some great news today as Democrats will get their consensus first-choice candidate in this race: Congressman Charlie Melancon. Louisiana will be losing a House seat in 2011, and there had been recent indication that the state legislature has targeted Melancon's district for elimination. There's a good chance that the GOP is going to be sorry that they helped push Melancon into this Senate race, because he has a proven record of getting votes outside of the Democratic base. In 2004, Melancon won a surprising victory to replace retiring Republican Congressman Bill Tauzin, in an election that also saw George Bush carry the 3rd district over John Kerry by 17 points.
(7/7/09) I'm intrigued by this article. It suggests that in any close congressional race in Louisiana, if one candidate is Cajun and the other is not, the Cajun will win. This bodes well for Melancon.
(2/23/10) Apparently, Louisiana voters really do like the repellent David Vitter. Melancon is getting no traction in this race. Sorry, Charlie; I'm about ready to put this one to bed.
(4/25/10) Businessman Mike Spears is launching an independent right-wing candidacy for Senate. I'd like to believe that Spears will erode support for Vitter, but that's probably wishful thinking.
(7/17/10) Some minor-league scandals have caused Vitter to get a late-arriving primary challenge in the person of former Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Chet Taylor. Anything that shakes up this race is good for Melancon.

Massachusetts (Special 1/19/10)
Rating: Leans Republican takeover
Democrat: Attorney General Martha Coakley (Paul Kirk retiring)
Republican: State Senator Scott Brown
(1/10/10) Senator Kennedy may be finding it difficult to rest in peace knowing that the Democrats may be about to blow the special election for the last two years of his last term. This race features an energized Republican making a shockingly strong challenge against a somewhat sleepy Democrat. Polls this week showed the race within the margin of error, but it's possible that Brown has already passed high tide. This weekend brought revelations of his Playgirl-style layout in Cosmopolitan, and a bizarre incident in which he asked a high school to let him speak before the student body, then proceeded to call out individual students and criticize them (with some very salty language) for making fun of him on
(1/18/10) I wish I could predict a Coakley victory, but I can't. Well, here's one seat Democrats can win in 2012.

Rating: Leans Republican hold
Republican: Congressman Roy Blunt (Kit Bond retiring)
Democrat: Secretary of State Robin Carnahan
Overview: (1/11/09) Bond's retirement is more good news, as the four-term incumbent would have been hard to beat. Odds makers are currently betting on Robin Carnahan as the Democratic nominee, if she runs the race is probably ours to lose.
(2/3/09) Carnahan is in. Current polling numbers show her leading potential Republican opponents.
(3/7/09) More good news, a vicious primary battle is shaping up on the Republican side: former Treasurer Sarah Steelman vs. Congressman Roy Blunt.
(8/1/09) I can only conclude that likely Republican nominee Roy Blunt is out of his mind. Yes, even more than most Republican Congressman. His latest campaign tactic: constantly trashing Medicare. It's 14 months to election day, but barring a major change in the dynamics of this race, this one's in the bag for the blue team.
(3/31/10) Looks like I underestimated Blunt. I originally saw him as a niche candidate without broad appeal. If elected, he might be the most conservative member of the Senate. Blunt is a "birther," a distinction even the rabidly-right wing Jim DeMint doesn't have. Lucky for Blunt, the Ozarks are one of those places that really doesn't like President Obama, and might be prepared to turn out in a big way to support the most conservative candidates they can find this fall.
(6/20/10) It's hard to find out what's going on in this race because no one's polling it but Rassmussen. Anyway, if Ras is to be believed, Blunt had an 8-pt. lead in May, but now leads by only 1. Since Rasmussen polls have a "house effect" that tends to give Republicans an extra 5.5 points in the polls, I guess that means Carnahan actually leads by 4.5 points.
(7/28/10) This race is in the part of the country where Republicans can realistically expect a boost for their candidates due to the relative unpopularity of President Obama. A recent poll shows Blunt with a 6-pt. lead. I'm not optimistic on this one.
(8/20/10) Carnahan is lunging to the right by endorsing extension of the Bush tax cuts for the super-wealthy. This campaign doesn't know what it's doing. A huge disappointment.
(10/29/10) This race is so over, the Republicans have quit advertising. Carnahan ran a surprisingly bad campaign.

Outlook: Leans Democratic hold
Democrat: Harry Reid (incumbent)
Republican: former state Assemblywoman Sharron Angle
Independent: Businessman Jon Ashjian
Overview: (10/11/09) I continue to believe that Harry Reid is going to be reelected because (1) a small state like Nevada is not going to give up having the Senate majority leader, (2) Nevada has been trending Democratic for years, and (3) the Republicans don't have a big name candidate. But it's a fact that every story I read on this race suggests that it's going to be a hot one next year simply because Reid is about as popular as swine flu. For the record, I don't like the guy either. When people talk about how spineless the Democrats are once they get into power, they're talking about Harry Reid.
(1/10/10) It was revealed this week that last year Reid made a not-politically-correct remark about Barack Obama during the 2008 campaign. Chris Bowers at OpenLeft has declared that Reid is now unelectable. I'm not so sure. In two months, we'll know who the nominees are going to be. Come election time, the powerful employees unions in Utah are going to deliver the vote for the Democratic nominee, and if the Republican nominee is a political unknown (as currently appears likely) Reid may still carry the day.
(2/15/10) Teabaggers in Nevada apparently didn't get the message that the movement would stay within the Republican party and not support independent candidates. If the Tea Party of Nevada candidate siphons off some Republican votes, Reid might have a path to reelection.
(2/23/10) Ok, this is weird: the Nevada Tea Party may be a fake, created by Democrats to split the conservative vote. If the Party is a ruse, apparently it's having the desired effect, a new poll that includes the Tea Party shows Reid with a chance of actually winning!
(3/20/10) One of the things that made the environment so toxic for Republicans in 2006 was a string of embarrassing scandals that seemed to intensify the closer the country got to election day. The biggest of course was Florida Congressman Tom Foley, who had a taste for teenage male congressional pages. Well, speaking of Congressmen who like sex with people who work for them, the Justice Department has just issued subpeonas in the Nevada Republican Senator John Ensign scandal. Senator Ensign, it seems, had an affair with a married staffer, then abused his office to pay everybody to keep quiet. Ensign also happens to be the Chair of the Republican Senate Committee. This whole mess will not help the GOP win Harry Reid's seat this year. Although it certainly gives Democrats a good shot at Ensign's seat next time around.
(4/13/10) One of the reasons I haven't written Harry Reid off completely is that his likely opponent, Sue Lowden, is a complete idiot. "I think that bartering is really good. Those doctors who you pay cash, you can barter, and that would get prices down in a hurry. And I would say go out, go ahead out and pay cash for whatever your medical needs are, and go ahead and barter with your doctor." Thanks, Sue. The next time I go for a check up, I'll try to pay with a chicken.
(4/29/10) Will Reid be the Harry Truman of 2010? After being written off completely in his reelection bid, he's now pulled more or less even with Republican front-runner Lowden, undoubtedly thanks to her "chickens-for-checkups" health plan. Even Lowden's rival for the GOP nomination Danny Tarkanian is attacking her on the issue.
(5/12/10) The chickens have come home to roost all right. Lowden now trails Reid. Does this mean Tarkanian will now have a chance to catch Lowden in the race for the Republican bid? Stayed tuned.
(6/9/10) Former state legislator Sharron Angle is the surprise nominee for the GOP. Does Harry Reid deserve to be this lucky? While polls show the race more or less tied, it's hard to imagine Reid losing to a nutty, Scientology-friendly lightweight like Angle. What kind of candidate runs in Nevada on a platform of bringing back prohibition of alcohol?!
(7/17/10) Reid now leads comfortably in this race, and can probably even use his millions to help other candidates if he wants to. Just last month, respected columnist Stu Rothenberg said, "It will be difficult for Reid to make the election about Angle, whose demeanor doesn't seem scary to voters, than about Obama, the unpopular Congress, the economy and the Democratic agenda. And that's why Harry Reid is still more likely than not to lose." Man, what is that guy smoking?
(10/16/10) I oversold the strength of Reid's position the last time I commented on this one, as the polls show it to be a dead heat. But I'm confident that he's going to win because #1, he has a get-out-the-vote organization that Angle can't match and #2, Sharon Angle is insane.
(10/29/10) Nate Silver now says there's a 76% chance Angle will win. I think I'm going to predict that Reid will win anyway.

New Hampshire
Rating: Toss Up
Republican: former appointed Attorney General Kelly Ayotte (incumbent Judd Gregg retiring)
Democrat: Congressman Paul Hodes
Overview: (1/1/09)The days of rock-ribbed Republicans controlling the political scene in New Hampshire are long gone. Democrats captured the state legislature and both of the state's congressional seats in 2006, as well as New Hampshire's other Senate seat in 2008.
(2/28/09) Judd Gregg announced that he was abandoning this seat to join Obama's cabinet, then changed his mind, but has pledged not to run in 2010. This means that the Republicans are already playing catchup, as they don't have a strong candidate for this race, while the Democrats do: Congressman Paul Hodes. In 2006, Hodes won election to a district that had been Republican-held for 12 years.
(4/11/09) The silence is deafening on the GOP side of this race. It's beginning to look like the Republicans may not get a top-tier candidate into the mix at all, and may just concede this one.
(7/7/09) Kelly Ayotte has resigned as New Hampshire's Attorney General so that she can "explore" this race. While she might sound like a formidable candidate, the AG in New Hampshire is appointed by the Governor. Given that she has no experience in running for office, I think Hodes still has the edge.
(10/11/09) This conservative poll suggests that Ayotte is leading is the early going of this race. I continue to believe that the New Hampshire GOP is too much of a shambles to hold this seat.
(3/31/10) This one is getting frustrating for the blue team. Hodes is trailing in the polls, and should be doing a lot better considering he's facing an opponent who's never won an election.
(5/12/10) Democrats are trying to gin up an Ayotte scandal involving the deletion of emails in the Attorney General's office. So far, I don't see anyone caring about this outside of the Democratic blogosphere.
(7/28/10) A new poll shows this race within the margin of error. Here is Hodes' path to victory: Kelly Ayotte is an anti-choice candidate on reproductive rights trying to win election in a pro-choice state. For this reason, among others, she has received the ringing endorsement of Sarah Palin. A plug from Palin will help Ayotte seal the deal for GOP nomination, but it hurts her with the public at large. By a two-to-one margin, voters in New Hampshire say they are less likely, rather than more likely to support a Palin-endorsed candidate.
(9/15/10) Ayotte narrowly won the GOP primary last night against a surging Ovide Lamontagne. Conservatives who backed Lamontagne may be reluctant to support Ayotte in November. Hodes' chances of winning this one for the Democrats may have improved, but he still faces an uphill climb.

North Carolina
Rating: Likely Republican hold
Republican: Richard Burr (incumbent)
Democrat: Secretary of State Elaine Marshall state Senator Cal Cunningham
Overview: (1/1/09) North Carolina is the state that likes to replace its Senators rather than reelect them. Democrat Kay Hagan defeated the powerful Elizabeth Dole for North Carolina's other Senate seat in 2008. Due to a series of deaths, retirements and electoral defeats, Burr is the seventh man to hold this seat since 1975. Burr is also polling quite poorly.
(5/15/09) The top Democratic prospect, AG Roy Cooper, has decided he's not interested in this race. The blue team will now be hoping for a repeat of 2008, when they easily knocked off incumbent Senator Liz Dole with a lesser-known candidate, state Senator Kay Hagan.
(9/20/09) Secretary of State Elaine Marshall is in, and a new poll shows her to be the strongest Democratic candidate.
(11/14/09) Democrats have been courting Congressman Bob Etheridge for this race, but he has demurred. Looks like we'll be going with a second-tier candidate, either Marshall or state Senator Cal Cunningham.
(5/12/10) Marshall and Cunningham are in a tightly contested runoff for the Democratic nomination. Either one has a good chance of beating Burr.
(6/29/10) Marshall won the runoff in convincing fashion, is polling well, and cleaned Burr's clock in a debate last week. The bad news: Burr's money advantage will be very difficult for Marshall to overcome.
(9/26/10) Marshall is getting crushed in the polls. Sorry Elaine, better luck next time.

North Dakota
Rating: Guaranteed Republican takeover
Democrat: State Senator Tracy Potter? (Byron Dorgan retiring)
Republican: Governor John Hoeven
Overview: (2/5/10) "Senator John Hoeven." Get used to it, you're going to be hearing it for the next several decades. Oh well, we had a pretty good run; Democrats have held both Senate seats in red-state North Dakota for three decades. Oh, and Hoeven's a closet Democrat: "I have worked closely with and developed great respect for Democratic-NPL Party leaders. I believe the Party supports small business, quality jobs, education and a safety net for those who need it."

Rating: Leans Republican hold
Republican: Former Congressman Rob Portman (George Voinovich retiring)
Democrat: Lt. Governor Lee Fisher
Overview: (1/1/09) Up until 2006, Republicans had dominated statewide races in Ohio for many years. Three years ago however, a Democratic sweep at the ballot box signaled an end to good times for the GOP. In 2008, Barack Obama carried Ohio and Democrats continued to make gains all over the state.
(1/11/09) Voinovich is retiring. Another major setback for the GOP.
(3/7/09) The Democrats already have two strong candidates in this race, as Fisher and Brunner have both won statewide office in Ohio. Hopefully the battle for the nomination on the Democratic side will not damage the eventual winner. Either Fisher or Brunner would probably enjoy at least a small polling lead heading into the general election. Portman, who is already the likely GOP nominee, has relatively low name recognition.
(11/14/09) Bad news, a recent poll shows Portman now with slight leads over the Democratic candidates.
(2/23/10) Portman hasn't made any big mistakes, he faces no serious opposition for the GOP nomination, and his most likely opponent Jennifer Brunner has no money. Yet somehow, this race is a dead heat. Hope Brunner can come up with some cash, she's running a great campaign.
(3/6/10) Portman recently spoke at a fundraiser for an anti-tax group that refers to the state legislature as "nazis." Nice going, guy.
(4/29/10) If Lee Fisher doesn't make any serious mistakes, and the Republican wave this year doesn't overwhelm him, he has a clear path to win this race. He's pulled far ahead of Jennifer Brunner to get the Democratic nomination. A new poll shows him leading Portman, and the same poll shows incumbent Democratic Governor Ted Strickland with a 6-point lead in that race. If Strickland really does win by six points, there's probably no way that Portman can get enough "crossover" support from Strickland voters to beat Fisher.
(8/20/10) The Reuters poll shows Portman leading by 7. Not looking good.

Rating: Leans Republican takeover
Democrat: Congressman Joe Sestak
Republican: Former Congressman Pat Toomey
Overview: (1/1/09) Time is not on Arlen Specter's side. He'll be 80 next year, and he's been fighting lymphoma since 2005. Even if he doesn't retire and somehow manages to remain healthy, he may face a stiff primary challenge.
(3/7/09) Pat Toomey, who challenged and nearly defeated Specter for the GOP nomination in 2004, has apparently decided he wants a rematch. Toomey, who is President of the anti-sanity PAC Club for Growth, was leaning against another shot at Specter until Specter voted in favor of the Stimulus bill. Specter's polling numbers are very poor. The chances of him winning another term seem to be diminishing.
(5/5/09) So Specter thinks he can switch to the Democrats, act Republican all the time, and still win the Democratic primary in 2010? Yeah, we'll see about that. Hopefully, Sestak will get into the race and clean Specter's clock. In any case, this seat is liable to remain in the hands of the Democratic caucus, pushing the GOP that much further into irrelevancy.
(8/13/09) Sestak is running, pitting his grassroots Democratic support against Specter's decades of clout. Specter probably still has the inside track to the nomination, although polls show that Sestak is gaining ground as his name recognition builds. On the GOP side, Toomey is turning out to be a more competitive candidate than most people expected. This race will be a wild one.
(3/6/10) A reliable poll shows Specter with a prohibitive lead to win the Democratic primary, and a 7-point lead over Republican Toomey. Specter has moved far enough to the left to get the support of the Democratic base. Wish I could say the same for our Democratic Senators in Arkansas and Nebraska.
(5/12/10) Sestak is running even or better against Specter. There's a good chance that he's about to end the political career of Mr. Magic Bullet Theory. Sestak also seems to be the stronger candidate against Toomey.
(5/19/10) Sestak beat Specter in convincing fashion to win the Democratic nomination today. Specter has promised to help Sestak win in November. Toomey, you may recall, came within a few votes of beating Specter for the Republican nomination in 2004, so I'm sure Specter will enjoy getting in a few jabs against him before the curtain falls on his long career.
(8/20/10) Recent polls in Pennsylvania have not been kind to Sestak or to Democrats in general. With the Republicans also holding a substantial lead in the gubernatorial race, Toomey may be holding all the cards in this one.
(9/3/10) Time was, mainstream Republicans were asking Toomey to get out of politics. Too extreme to ever win you see. Not in 2010. Barring a complete turnaround in the trajectory of this race, Toomey wins.
(10/29/10) Sestak is closing very strong, but the odds favor Toomey.

South Carolina
Rating: Guaranteed Republican hold
Republican: Jim DeMint
Democrat: Armed Forces veteran Alvin Greene
Overview: (8/1/09) Senate Guru noted this week: "Since November 2006, the Senate Republican caucus has been decimated in terms of institutional memory. Just since Election Day 2006, consider the list of Republican Senators that have, through defeat, retirement, resignation, Party switch, or tragically passing away, departed the Senate GOP caucus or will depart the caucus by swearing-in day in January astounding 27 U.S. Senators that have left or will leave the Senate GOP caucus in the period between Election Day 2006 and swearing-in day in January 2011, more than one-quarter of the Senate. Those 27 Senators took with them a staggering 411 years of Senate service. " No question about it, the door has opened for new leadership in the Republican caucus. Enter freshman Republican from South Carolina, Jim DeMint. DeMint has established himself as the Senate's most conservative member, and, to my mind, the most repellent as well. Among his many charming beliefs is the idea that gays should not be allowed to teach in public schools. DeMint recently made headlines by suggesting that the GOP should go all out to make sure that Obama's health care reform fails, saying, "If we're able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him."
(9/2/09) DeMint's path to reelection, alas, is getting easier rather than harder. His most credible potential challenger, state Senator Brad Hutto, is not running. Furthermore, ambitious Democrats in South Carolina are now more likely to run for the open Governor's seat.
(6/20/10) The story behind no-name candidate Alvin Greene is an interesting one, but what would have been more interesting is the South Carolina Democratic Party actually trying to beat Jim DeMint.

Rating: Leans Republican hold
Republican: Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst or Attorney General Greg Abbott? (Kay Bailey Hutchison possibly retiring)
Democrat: Houston Mayor Bill White or former Comptroller of Public Accounts John Sharp?
Overview: (5/12/09) Hutchison may resign to run for Governor, forcing a special election in late 2009 or early 2010. If that happens Democrats will have a good shot at grabbing this seat. Bill White is an amazing fund-raiser, while the Republicans looking at this race have have limited name recognition and even more limited funds.
(7/30/09) Hutchison has announced that she will be resigning in the fall to focus on her gubernatorial campaign. Governor Perry will then appoint a replacement who may or may not be the Republican candidate in a special election for the remainder of Hutchison's term.
(11/14/09) Hutchison promised up and down that she would retire in 2009 to run against Texas Governor Perry in next year's GOP primary. Now Hutchison has gotten cold feet and says she won't resign until after the March primary. Translation: Hutchison has realized that her chances of beating Perry are not all that good. Now she can lose the primary to Perry and still have a job.
(3/6/10) Hutchison lost badly this week in her challenge to Governor Perry. Presumably, her promise to resign this year is just as big a lie as her promise to resign last year, and she'll stay put.
(3/31/10) Sure enough, Hutchinson has announced she will finish her term in the Senate. Some people just have a hard time keeping their promises I guess.

Rating: Likely Republican hold
Republican:  Mike Lee (Robert Bennett denied renomination)
Democrat: State Commissioner Sam Granato
Overview: (1/10/10) Any open seat race automatically goes onto my "competitive" list. Yes, even in Utah where voters will probably observe our sun going red giant before they elect a Democrat in a statewide race. Utah uses a convention system for its nominations, and strangely enough it's possible that three-term incumbent Senator Bennett will not win the GOP nomination. Although Bennett opposed the 2009 health care reform bill the same as every other Republican, earlier in 2009 he indicated that he might actually be willing to support some kind of health care reform. GASP! Clearly it's time for the kooky Club for Growth to turn its guns on Bennett.
(4/27/10) If the polls are to be believed, incumbent Bob Bennett is going to lose the GOP nomination to Mike Lee. That would set up an open seat race this fall between two young political newcomers, Lee and Democrat Sam Granato. Would that race be competitive? Yeah, dream on. This is Utah. (Note: I like linking to Sam Granato's wikipedia page, and I am its author.)
(5/8/10) Well whaddya know. Senator Bennett is out, having not even come close to getting renominated at today's GOP convention. I wonder if Congressman Tim Matheson, Utah's only really prominent Democrat, now wishes he'd jumped into this race? Anyway, the dream scenario is now that Bennett will make good on a threat to run as a write-in candidate, split the Republican vote and achieve the impossible: electing a Democrat to statewide office in Utah.
(5/25/10) Bennett will not run as a write-in candidate. Darn, there goes the funnest race of the year.

Rating: Likely Democratic hold
Democrat: Patty Murray (incumbent)
Republican:  Former state Senator Dino Rossi or former NFL player Clint Didier
Overview: (1/1/09) Republicans saw Murray as a target in 2004, but she won reelection easily. I expect the same result in 2010.
(5/25/10) "no leading political watchers are predicting Murray's defeat." Those were the words of the Seattle Times today in response to Rossi's entry into this race. The GOP has been begging Rossi for months to challenge Murray, though I'm not sure why they find him so appealing. Why would a party that's had such a hard time finding charismatic new leaders turn to a candidate who's already lost two statewide races? Wait, I just answered my own question.
(6/20/10) Republican enthusiasm for Rossi is tepid at best. The faithful may prefer Tea Party favorite Clint Didier.
(9/15/10) For what is allegedly one of the hottest contests in the country, this has been a very quiet race. Most polls have shown Murray with a small lead. Washington state (my home) has not seen the same downturn in the economy that many other places have, and I just don't see the same voter anger that other regions of the country are talking about. We had elections here in Seattle in 2009, and Democrats and progressive candidates did very well.

West Virginia
Rating: Leans Democratic hold
Democrat: Governor Joe Manchin (likely) (Robert Byrd passed away, appointed incumbent Carte Goodwin not running)
Republican: Florida businessman John Raese
Overview: (7/11/10) Senator Robert Byrd will be deeply missed by the progressive community. Conventional wisdom suggests that popular Governor Manchin will not have difficulty holding this seat in this fall's special election. In 2004 Manchin beat his Republican opponent in the gubernatorial race by 30 points even though Bush beat Kerry by 13 at the top of the ticket. On the other hand, we didn't think we were going to lose Ted Kennedy's seat this past January. But so far, the GOP hasn't indicated any interest in sinking their resources into this race.
(7/17/10) There's no way the GOP makes this race competitive when they don't even have a candidate this late in the game.
(7/28/10) Perennial candidate John Raese will be the GOP nominee. They must have decided not to waste their resources on this one.
(9/26/10) Raese has closed the gap in the polls. I'm still inclined to say that Manchin has the get-out-the-vote resources to pull this one off, but it will be close. President Obama is about as popular in this state as an abandoned coal mine.
(10/13/10) Every campaign that falls behind in the polls hopes for what's known as "a macaca moment," that is, a single mistake by their opponent that turns everything around. Machin may have found his macaca moment in the form of a Raese ad calling for actors with a "hicky" look to play West Virginians. Some have also noticed that Raese is definitely a resident of Florida and not of West Virginia. These revelations has given Raese a net-negative approval rating, and he now trails in the PPP poll.

Rating: Toss up
Democrat: Russ Feingold (incumbent)
Republican: Businessman Rob Johnson
(9/3/10) So it's come to this. Russ Feingold, one of the smartest, most decent members of the Senate might lose to Rob Johnson, a man with no public policy experience who lies about his own background as he accepts the federal handouts that he claims to despise. What more is there to say?
(10/13/10) The Ipsos/Reuters polls shows Feingold trailing by 7, while his internal poll shows a tie. Can anything save the Democratic ticket in Wisconsin? Feingold likes to point out that all the pundits on Crossfire predicted that the would lose in 1998, and he won anyway. Yeah, this ain't 1998. I just wish that if Russ is going to lose, it didn't have to be to such a completely meritless candidate.

Races unlikely to become competitive:

Alabama: Republican Richard Shelby incumbent. Outlook: Elected as a Democrat in 1986 and 1992, switched parties in 1994. What a jerk.

Hawaii: Democrat Daniel Inouye incumbent. Outlook: (5/8/10) Old Dan gets a free pass as popular Republican Governor Linda Lingle (who is term-limited out of office this year) has decided not to run.

Idaho: Republican Mike Crapo incumbent. Outlook: With a name like Crapo, it has to be good.

Maryland: Democrat Barbara Mikulski incumbent. Outlook: Might get interesting if Mikulski retires, but this seat shouldn't be difficult to hold.

New York: Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand appointed incumbent. Outlook: The chances of the GOP winning a Senate race in New York are negligible.

New York: Democrat Chuck Schumer incumbent. Outlook: Schumer has become one of the most respected and powerful Senators in party history. 

Oklahoma: Republican Tom Coburn incumbent. Outlook: (6/4/09) Crazy Senator Coburn and his crazy state were made for each other. Coburn's refusal to do any fundraising had recently fueled speculation that he was retiring. No such luck, although he has promised to retire in 2016. Coburn doesn't need to raise a dime, he can sleepwalk to reelection. 

Oregon: Democrat Ron Wyden incumbent. Outlook: Republican fortunes in Oregon aren't likely to improve any time soon.

South Dakota: Republican John Thune incumbent. Outlook: Democrats would love to beat the Republican who unseated Tom Daschle in 2004. Unfortunately, Democrats with a lot of name-recognition in South Dakota are few and far between.

Vermont: Democrat Pat Leahy incumbent. Outlook: Leahy is a big fan of the Grateful Dead. Any attempt to defeat him for reelection will also be dead on arrival.