Saturday, December 18, 2010

2016 Senate Predictions

Final Prediction: 
Current Senate: 54 R and 46 D 
Current Prediction: 52 D and 48 R
 Democrats to pick up IL, IN, NH, NC, PA, WI

(1/8/2015) Republicans now control the Senate 54 to 46. Long story short, given the current field Democrats have about a 50% chance of retaking control in 2016.

(12/18/2010) Forecasting Senate races six years ahead of time? Yep, that's what we do here. As of this writing, Democrats control the Senate 53 to 47. It is however likely that in either 2012 or 2014 Republicans will win control of the upper house of Congress. Presuming that the GOP has a modest majority in the Senate heading into the 2016 elections, the chances of Democrats winning it back are pretty good. Most of the vulnerable incumbents will be Republicans first elected in 2010.

If you'd like to read what I wrote about this same class of Senators the last time they were up for reelection in 2010, click here.

Races are categorized as either likely or unlikely to be competitive. This post will be updated continuously through election day.

Competitive races:

Rating: Leans Republican hold
: John McCain (incumbent) or state senator Kelli Ward
Democrat: Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick (likely)
Libertarian: Engineer John Lewis Mealer
Overview: (12/18/10) In 2000, John McCain was asked whether he might run for President in 2008. McCain's response: "by 2008, I think I might be ready to go down to the old soldiers home and await the cavalry charge there." McCain of course did run for President in 2008, and managed to win another Senate term in 2010. By 2016, will he finally be ready to go gently into that good night? I certainly hope so. McCain has long since gone from moderate, to conservative, to plain crazy. In an open seat race in Arizona, anything can happen. The state's electorate seems to have multiple-personality disorder, giving Barack Obama a healthy 45% of the vote in 2008, then turning around and electing loony xenophobe Jan Brewer as Governor by a comfortable margin in 2010.
(3/6/14) According to a new PPP poll, John McCain is America's least popular Senator, with an approval rating of 30%. The same poll suggests Hillary Clinton may carry Arizona as the Presidential nominee. Time to retire, John.
(1/29/15) McCain is "leaning" towards running for reelection. Arizona Republicans want him out, and are trying to clear a path for a single strong challenger to McCain in the GOP primary. While I expect a competitive race, it's hard to get my hopes up about this one. Even in a open-seat race, and even in an election where the Democratic Presidential nominee will probably be competitive in Arizona, the Republicans probably have the inside track. The Republican nominee will probably be someone experienced, well-known and well-funded while the Democrat will probably be a second-tier newcomer.
(5/26/15) The big news is that Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick is running. Democrats couldn't ask for a better candidate. Who will be the Republican nominee? Two Congressman have been talking about running (Matt Salmon and David Schweikert), although both seem to have lost interest, at least for the time being. Someone is bound to run against McCain the primary, though without Salmon or Schweikert in the picture, McCain will probably win. Meanwhile, polling indicates that Hillary Clinton is even money to carry Arizona at the Presidential level, meaning Democrats can expect a boost down-ticket. I'd almost call this race a tossup, but the person with the easiest path the victory is still John McCain.
(10/27/15) "But when I look at what’s happening in our federal government, I know Arizonans need new representation in the U.S. Senate, and that’s why I’m running. Failures of leadership have led to the problems we face in our state and our country: open borders, over 90 million Americans out of work, lost insurance and skyrocketing costs under ObamaCare, and a federal budget that only goes up. Failures of leadership have led to the problems we face in our state and our country: open borders, over 90 million Americans out of work, lost insurance and skyrocketing costs under ObamaCare, and a federal budget that only goes up." Meet state Senator Kelli Ward, who apparently can lie about anything. Illegal immigration from Mexico has plummeted, the number 90 million "out of work" includes the retired and high school students, people did not lose insurance or see higher costs under Obamacare, and the federal budget has been flat. Anyway, I see that an August poll shows Ward with a healthy lead over McCain for the GOP nomination. That's great news, as I think Kirkpatrick would likely defeat her.
(1/1/16) Apparently McCain's path to reelection is going to be pretty easy. Kelli Ward is turning out to be a dingbat unlikely to defeat him in the Republican primary. But her presence in the race is keeping out other legitimate candidates such as congressman David Schweikert. Schweikert might be able to edge McCain for the GOP bid, but not if he has to split the anyone-but-McCain vote with Ward. And Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick is unlikely to beat McCain. A wild card here is the Libertarian party, who managed to pull 4.5% of the vote in the 2012 Senate race in Arizona, and 4.7% the last time McCain ran in 2010. In theory, if Democrats win Arizona at the Presidential level and the Libertarians run a strong race (and take away some of the McCain vote), Kirkpatrick has a chance.
(3/30/16) McCain is in trouble. Start with an approval rating of 26%. Now factor in a poll showing Hillary Clinton tied with Donald Trump in Arizona, and McCain leading Kirkpatrick by only one point. Then consider that the Libertarian party usually pulls around 5% of the vote in statewide elections in Arizona, virtually all of which they would siphon from McCain.
(6/16/16) PPP is showing Kirkpatrick leading by 2. Also noteworthy: an April poll showed Clinton beating Trump by 7. Given that Trump was polling better in April than he is now, things are looking bleak for McCain.
(10/24/16) Since McCain won his primary, polls have showed him with a solid lead. One the other hand, the most recent WaPo polls shows Kirkpatrick trailing by only 3. A Democratic tidal wave might be enough to take out McCain, otherwise he's going to win.

Rating: Guaranteed Democratic hold
Democrat: State Attorney General Kamala Harris (incumbent Barbara Boxer retiring)
Democrat: Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez
Overview:(1/8/15) California is more of a Democratic stronghold than ever. Barack Obama won there in 2012 by a staggering 60% to 37% for Romney. This race will be competitive in name only.
(10/27/15) So far the Republican lineup of possible nominees is definitely third-tier. Looking good for the blue team.
(6/16/16) Democrats finished first and second in California's jungle primary. Harris will win in November.

Rating: Likely Democratic hold
Democrat: Michael Bennet (incumbent)
Republican: County Commissioner Darryl Glenn
Overview: Former school superintendent Michael Bennet was the surprise appointee to replace retiring Senator Ken Salazar in 2009. Bennet turned out to be a more adept politician than anyone expected, winning a full term in his own right in 2010 even though he was widely expected to lose to Republican Ken Buck. Note: Joe's Prediction forecast that Bennet would win.
(10/27/15) So far no big name Republicans have stepped up. Hillary Clinton should carry Colorado by at least five points. So far so good.
(1/1/16) Republicans have not been able to recruit a big name for this race, so it looks like they'll get Tea Party favorite state Senator Tim Neville. Bennet is favored.
(7/11/16) El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn won the Republican nomination with 37% of the vote over five other third-tier candidates. Why did no well-known Colorado Republican want this nomination after the GOP flipped the state's other Senate seat in 2014? Who knows? Bennet will win.

Rating:Leans Republican hold
Republican: incumbent Marco Rubio
Democrat: Congressman Patrick Murphy or Congressman Alan Grayson
Overview: (12/18/10) What will it take to beat Rubio in 2016? It won't be easy. Maybe if Florida continues trending blue in national elections, and we nominate a strong candidate, and, -oh, I don't know-, maybe if by 2016 the Castro brothers are dead, and Cuba is free, so that the hispanic vote in Florida is less likely to vote Republican? Like I said, it won't be easy.
(6/19/13) A new poll shows Hillary Clinton leading Jeb Bush by 7 and Marco Rubio by 12 in the state of Florida, should either one of them be the Republican Presidential nominee. Obama beat Romney by 0.88% in Florida. This is intriguing, because if Hillary has the potential to put up a big win in Florida, then the Senate race starts tilting toward the Democratic nominee. How many Hillary voters are likely to crossover and support Rubio?
(3/24/15) Observers are confident that Rubio will run for President and retire from the Senate. Democrats already have a strong candidate in the person of Congressman Patrick Murphy. Murphy has a centrist record and is very good at politics in general. This being Florida, the Republicans have an army of potential top-tier recruits. That is both a strength and a weakness. If the GOP primary is crowded, it may be difficult for the eventual nominee to rally support in November.
(4/14/15) Rubio is out. I'm not sure what his appeal is supposed to be as a Presidential candidate. There are already a bunch of potential candidates on the GOP side. Democrats should hope that the GOP Presidential nominee is not Bush or Rubio; a favorite son at the top of ticket would be bound to help their senate candidate.
(10/27) Good news, A September poll showed Murphy with a big lead over both Republicans David Jolly and Carlos L√≥pez-Cantera. Bad news, another September poll showed Murphy trailing Alan Grayson for the Democratic nomination. Grayson has his good points, but I don't like him.
(1/1/15) Indications are that Murphy's campaign is going well while Grayson's is not. Good news.
(7/11/16) Marco Rubio promised he would not run for reelection. He told us repeatedly he did not like the Senate. As late as May 16, he was mocking those who begged him to run, tweeting, "I have only said like 10000 times I will be a private citizen in January." But of course he lied. It's pretty clear he's running again to help his viability for another Presidential campaign (groan). Any way, this race is more or less tied in the polls. The outcome will probably be determined by Hillary's margin over Trump in Florida. She beats Trump by 2%, Rubio has a good chance of winning. She beats Trump by 8%, Rubio is doomed.
(10/24/16) The Democratic party has pulled resources out of this race, signalling they don't think Rubio is beatable. Polls are all over the place, either Rubio has a huge lead, or the race is tied. A Democratic tidal wave (which, thanks to Trump, may be in the making) will take out Rubio, otherwise he'll survive.

Rating: Likely Republican hold
Republican: Johnny Isakson (incumbent)
Democrat: Businessman Jim Barksdale
Overview: (12/18/10) Isakson should be vulnerable. He's not particularly popular or well-known, but it's been many years since Democrats won a high-profile race in red-state Georgia.
(7/11/16) No high-profile Democrat wanted to challenge Isakson. The incumbent will win.

Rating: Likely Democratic takeover
Republican: Mark Kirk (incumbent)
Democrat: Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth
Overview: (12/18/10) Kirk squeaked into office in 2010 by defeating a damaged-goods Democrat in a very Republican year. He won't be able to count on that kind of good fortune in 2016, when Illinois will probably turn out much stronger support for Democratic candidates.
(2/29/12) Senator Kirk may be facing some serious health challenges, but there's no reason to believe that he can't continue to do his job. I'm pleased to see that he appears to already be making a lot of progress on his recovery.
(6/19/13) Apparently Kirk is running for reelection. He is not making any effort to moderate his views. If Hillary Clinton is the Presidential nominee, I expect her to carry Illinois by 15 points or more. I have no idea how Mark Kirk, who received only 48% of the vote in the super-Republican year of 2010, gets reelected given these facts.
(8/3/15) Unless there's some major change in this race, it's already over. Tammy Duckworth already has a healthy polling lead on Mark Kirk. Kirk was hoping that his comeback from health challenges would translate into votes, instead he's becoming more known for endless verbal gaffes and Republican leaders are starting to sound like they've already given up.
(7/11/16) Nothing changed here since I last commented on this race almost a year ago. Duckworth hasn't made any major mistakes, so she's going to win.

Rating: Leans Democratic pickup
Republican:  Congressman Todd Young (likely) (incumbent Dan Coats retiring)
Democrat: Former Senator Evan Bayh
Overview: (12/18/10) Coats was a retired Senator turned lobbyist in 2010 when the GOP scraped him up to run after the surprise retirement of Democratic Senator Evan Bayh. This suggests that in 2016, he'll be ready to retire again. In a Presidential election year, Indiana is likely to go Republican, suggesting that even if this were an open seat race, Democrats would face an uphill climb.
(3/24/15) Coats is retiring, now Bayh is back in? Speculation is that Bayh, who is still sitting on the $10 million in campaign funds he had when he retired in 2010, might seek a return to his old seat. Democrats will hope that a horde of candidates will seek the Republican nomination, and that the eventually winner will emerge bruised from the primary season with limited support. And if the Republican nominee is an unelectable Tea Party nut a la Richard Mourdock, who fouled up what should have been an easy Senate race win for Republicans in 2012, all the better. Democrats might get some help from the Libertarian Party, who ate some of the Republicans lunch in that 2012 race with 5.7% of the vote.
(10/27/15) Two bland Republican congressmen are running, either one is a good bet to beat former Democratic Congressman Baron Hill in red-state Indiana.
(7/11/16) This certainly came out of nowhere: former Senator Evan Bayh is the Democratic nominee. The conservative Democrat was remarkably popular as both Governor and Senator; he won both his Senate races in Indiana by nearly two-to-one over his Republican opponents. Todd Young still has a very good chance of winning. Hillary Clinton is from Illinois and should get a strong turnout from the Chicago suburbs in Indiana, just as Barrack Obama did in 2008 in surprise victory over John McCain. On the other hand, Donald Trump is polling fairly well in Indiana and might beat Clinton by a large enough margin to help out Todd Young.
(8/18/16) Bayh's internal polls have been showing outlandish leads for him, finally we have a more genuine poll showing him up by 7. This is hardly a left-leaning poll; it also shows Trump leading Clinton by 11 in Indiana. Apparently the name Bayh has some kind of magic attached to it. Incidentally, I don't believe for a second that Trump has anything like a double-digit lead here.
(10/24/16) Bayh is being hounded with endless stories of his being a lobbyist who doesn't spend any time in Indiana. Somehow however, his poll numbers are holding up. The USS Trump has definitely hit an iceberg, and it seems unlikely that Republican Todd Young will avoid going down with the ship.

Rating: Leans Republican hold
Republican: Chuck Grassley (incumbent)
Democrat: Former Lt. Governor Patty Judge
Overview: (12/18/10) Grassley was first elected to public office in 1958, the same year Ford introduced the Edsel. Coincidence? Long a quiet, dignified and relatively moderate figure, by 2009 Grassley had become the point man for the Republican party's disingenuous, fear-mongering campaign to destroy health care reform. He's also started going a little nuts over any kind of criticism. If he retires, this race is a toss up.
(3/30/16) Grassley has lost considerable support due to his public refusal to consider hearings for President Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. He's probably unbeatable nonetheless. It's nice, however, to see this race as one more headache for Republicans rather than a cakewalk.
(6/16/16) PPP has a poll of this race showing Grassley leading by only 7. Also noteworthy is that the poll hardly leans to left; it also has Clinton leading Trump by only 3 and she'll certainly beat him by more than that. Still, only an absolute tidal wave in November will send Grassley to defeat.

Rating: Likely Republican hold
Republican: Rand Paul
Democrat: Lexington Mayor Jim Gray
Overview: (12/18/10): Paul is controversial enough to suggest that his reelection bid will be at least sort of competitive. A top-tier candidate like Democratic Governor Steve Beshear might be able to beat him, but the odds are always going to be against the blue team in Kentucky.
(4/16/13) Rand Paul may run for President. If he were to capture the GOP nomination, he would not be allowed to also appear on the ballot for Senate. So hey, we might be rid of him in three years. On the down side, if the GOP Presidential nominee in '16 is a Kentuckian, the chances of the Democrats grabbing this seat are very slim.
(8/18/16) Everyone's forgotten Paul's joke of a Presidential campaign already, and he will beat Lexington Mayor Jim Gray by double-digits. Too bad.

Rating: Likely Republican hold
Republican: State Treasurer John N. Kennedy? (incumbent David Vitter retiring)
Democrat: Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell or Attorney Caroline Fayard?
Overview: (12/18/10) Here's what I wrote about Vitter heading into the 2010 elections. It's still a pretty good summary of the Senator and his future prospects: "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 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)."
(7/17/13) Vitter will apparently forgo a reelection bid to seek the Governor's office in Louisiana. I think it's possible that Hillary Clinton could carry Louisiana as the Presidential nominee. That might give a boost the Democratic nominee in this race.
(1/1/16) Vitter is out after his embarrassing loss in the gubernatorial race last November. A small army of Republicans will run; three of Louisiana's GOP congressmen are already in and other top-tier candidates are giving it consideration. The Democrats' only chance would be if exactly two Democrats ran, and they somehow managed to win the top two spots in the election day "jungle primary" for the December runoff. For example, if the results were Democrat #1 - 20%, Democrat #2 - 20%, Republican #1 - 19%, Republican #2 - 18%, then the two Democrats would face each other in the runoff.
(7/11/16) This is sort of playing out the way I described in the comment above. There are two Democrats polling around 15% each. Six Republicans have declared. Unfortunately, state Treasurer John N. Kennedy is polling at around 30%, with everyone else far behind. Unless the other Republicans start eating his support, he'll win this race.

Rating: Likely Democratic hold
Democrat: Congresswoman Chris Van Hollen (Democrat Barbara Mikulski retiring)
Republican: State Representative Kathy Szeliga?
Overview: (3/11/15) Thank goodness Senator Mikulski is retiring in a Presidential election year. While Maryland may be just about the bluest state in the country, Republicans there have handed Democrats a number of stinging defeats in mid-term elections. The real race here is the Democratic primary, which will likely pit Donna Edwards true-blue liberalism versus Chris Van Hollen's strong fundraising abilities.
(8/18/16) Donna Edwards might have better Democratic candidate, but in any case Van Hollen will cruise to victory.

Rating: Toss up
Republican: Roy Blunt
Democrat: Secretary of State Jason Kander
Overview: (12/18/10) Let me be blunt on Blunt. He's probably the most conservative member of the Senate. Blunt is a "birther," a distinction even the rabidly-right wing Jim DeMint doesn't have. In 2010, I thought the Democratic candidate, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, would probably be able to beat him. But Carnahan ran a surprisingly bad campaign, and Blunt defeated her by a huge margin. He will not be easy to defeat in 2016.
(3/11/15) I've been blunt on Blunt, now let me express my candor regarding Kander. The Democratic Secretary of State is popular and well-known; in 2012 he won a squeaker of an election on the same night when Barack Obama was beaten in Missouri by almost 10 points. Can he beat Blunt? Probably not. But it's nice to see a somewhat-competitive race here. In too many parts of the country, Democrats have just given up.
(3/30/16) Roy Blunt's approval rating has cratered at just 25% in one poll, and 38% in another. There are no recent polls of this race or of Clinton vs. Trump in Missouri, but Kander's chances are improving.
(8/18/16) One recent poll shows Blunt leading by four, another shows him leading by seven even with two right-leaning independents in the race. Donald Trump's campaign may be imploding, but probably not enough to help Kander. Barring a major change in this race, Blunt will win.
(10/24/16) Astounding. That "major change in the race" I mentioned? Yeah, it's happened in the form of the total collapse Donald Trump's candidacy. Kander has caught Blunt in the polls, and is now narrowly forecasting Kander to win.

Outlook: Toss up
Democrat: Former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (incumbent Harry Reid retiring)
Republican: Congressman Joe Heck
Overview: (12/18/10) The 2010 Nevada Senate election was the greatest show in politics. First came Democrats suggesting that Senate Majority Leader Reid was so unpopular, he couldn't be reelected no matter who the Republicans nominated. Next came a likely opponent in the form of Republican Sue Lowden, who suggested that people should attempt to pay their medical bills by bartering chickens. Finally, The GOP nominated Sharron Angle,  a nutty, Scientology-friendly lightweight who once endorsed bringing back prohibition of alcohol. On election day, Nate Silver, the most respected prognosticator in the business, gave Angle an 83% change of winning. Joe's Prediction, however, correctly called the race for Reid. Ah, the memories. Ok, on to 2016. Reid will never be popular, and he's not getting any younger so this will likely be one of the most competitive races of the year.
(4/16/13) Reid says he intends to run in 2016. He survived 2010, so there's every reason to think he can win in the should-be-much-easier-for-Democrats year of 2016.
(4/14/15) Goodbye Harry. Nevada is a swing state. While George W. Bush was President, Democrats did very well in elections there. With Obama in office, Nevada has swung to the right, and there are many strong potential candidates on the GOP side. Republicans will be hoping this race will look like the 2012 Senate race, when a lot of voters supported the Democratic Presidential candidate, but didn't vote for the Democratic Senate candidate. In 2012, Obama won Nevada 531K to 463K, but the GOP won the Senate race 457K to 446K. As I predicted, the Democratic, Shelley Berkley, outperformed the polls, but still lost by 1% - almost one voter in 10 voted for Obama, but did not voter for Berkley.
(8/3/15) Republicans got the candidate they wanted in the person of Congressman Joe Heck, and a recent poll shows him with a big lead on Cortez Masto. The best pickup opportunity for the GOP.
(8/18/16) A new poll shows this race tied while also showing a 2% lead for Clinton over Trump. Obama won here by 6% four years ago, and I'm confident that as usual Nevada Democrats have better support than the polls indicate. Cortez Masto has momentum.
(10/24/16) Eight recent polls of this race; four showing Cortez Masto leading, three showing Heck ahead, one tie. However, Democrats are dominating the early voting in Nevada, and, (I can't say this enough times), Democrats always outperform the polls there. Barring a change in this race, I'll be calling it for the blue team.

New Hampshire
Rating: Leans Democratic takeover
Republican: Kelly Ayotte
Democrat: Governor Maggie Hassan
Overview: (12/18/10) Ayotte ran an impressive campaign in New Hampshire's open-seat race in 2010. In 2016, she'll first have to fend off challenges from the right to win renomination. Next, there's the fact the that 2016 is a national election year, and the last time New Hampshire had one of those, the Democratic Presidential nominee won by nearly 10%. To win, Ayotte will probably need some voters to split their ticket.
(10/27/15) Democrats have their dream nominee in popular Governor Maggie Hassan. Polls show a dead heat, but I don't see how Ayotte wins with Hillary versus either Trump or Rubio at the top of the ballot.
(8/18/16) Hassan is leading all polls, Clinton leads Trump here by nine points in one recent polls and by seventeen (!) in another. Ayotte circling the drain...
(10/24/16) Hassan leads narrowly in the polling aggregate.

North Carolina
Rating: Toss up
Republican: Richard Burr (incumbent)
Democrat: Former state representative Deborah Ross
Overview: (12/18/10) North Carolina is the state that likes to replace its Senators rather than reelect them. Due to a series of deaths, retirements and electoral defeats, Burr is the seventh man to hold this seat since 1975. And if 2008 is any indication, North Carolina is now a swing state in national elections. Burr however rallied from poor polling numbers to win in 2010, and he probably has the inside track in 2016.
(10/30/15) Deborah Ross is polling within 4 points of Burr, which is encouraging for a little-known candidate. I can see a path to victory for Ross, but it's a narrow one. Barack Obama carried North Carolina in 2008, and Hillary Clinton might do the same in 2016. That means some Clinton supports would have to crossover and support Burr for him to win. We can hope for some kind of scandal to drag Burr down, but he's likely too boring for that.
(3/30/16) Notes from a recent PPP poll summarize this one perfectly: "The Senate race is tight, with Richard Burr holding just a 5 point lead over Deborah Ross at 40/35, with Libertarian candidate Sean Haugh pulling 7%. To put the current state of the race in perspective Elizabeth Dole led Kay Hagan by 5 points on our first poll after the primary in 2008 too, so Ross is starting her upset bid in a very similar place to where Hagan started hers." The same poll shows Clinton leading Trump by two in North Carolina. Burr still has the advantage here, but only just barely.
(8/18/16) Ross has a 2% lead in the NBC/WSJ/Marist poll. The same poll shows Clinton leading Trump by 9%; that seems unlikely. It's too early to call this race anything other than a tossup, but Ross has a very good chance to win.

Rating: Leans Republican hold
Republican: Former Congressman Rob Portman
Democrat: Former Governor Ted Strickland
Overview: (12/18/10) In 2010, Ohioans elected former President George W. Bush's budget director as their Senator. Sort of like electing a pyromaniac as your Fire Chief. Any way, Ohio votes Republican more often than not, meaning Portman will probably win another term.
(3/11/15) Democrats have a top-tier recruit in the person of Former Governor Ted Strickland. Strickland was popular enough as Governor that he only lost his 2010 reelection bid by 2% in a very Republican year. Portman will not be easy to beat; he's an incredibly adept fundraiser. This race will be close, but Democrats will need all the breaks to win.
(10/27/15) Strickland has a small but consistent lead in the polls.  Assuming Hillary Clinton carries Ohio by at least three points, Stickland will probably win.
(3/30/16) Three recent polls show Clinton leading Trump by an average of 6% in Ohio, and the two most recent polls of this Senate race show Strickland leading by 1% and 2%. Portman is the better fundraiser, but Strickland has the edge in this race.
(8/18/16) This may be the one that got away. Portman is running an outstanding campaign; Strickland, not so much. Polls that showed Strickland with a narrow lead early this year now show Portman ahead. It's possible that Trump's sinking ship will take Portman down with him, but right now it looks like Portman is a good bet to win.

Rating: Leans Democratic pickup
Republican: Pat Toomey (incumbent)
Democrat: Former Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Katie McGinty
Overview: (12/18/10) 2010 saw a lot of painful defeats for Democrats. On election night, it looked like Democrat Admiral Joe Sestak was going to win a surprise victory in Pennsylvania. But when all the votes were counted, Pat Toomey, former President of the anti-sanity PAC Club for Growth, won the day. Republicans however cannot count on 2016 being as favorable to them as 2010 was. Toomey is vulnerable to any top-tier Democratic recruit.
(5/20/13) Sestak has declared for a rematch against Toomey. I don't normally go out on a limb this early, but I think Sestak is going to win. Consider: Toomey beat Sestak only 51% to 49% in that most Republican of years, 2010. In 2016, the Democratic nominee for President is likely to win by 6 points or more. There is probably not enough cross-over support from Democrats for a far-right candidate like Toomey to beat a well-known, top-tier candidate like Sestak. Toomey also has lackluster approval ratings, and I think he looks like kind of a jerk for somehow finding a way to blame President Obama for Toomey's own failure to get Republican Senators to support background checks for gun ownership.
(10/27/15) The picture here is cloudy. Democratic state party leaders don't like Sestak. McGinty is running to the left, and while that might resonate in 2016, she is not well-known.
(6/16/16) Katie McGinty is polling 3 points behind Toomey. That's pretty good considering her late entry to the race and low name recognition. Curiously, a new poll shows Clinton leading Trump by only 1 point in Pennsylvania. I'm sure Clinton will win by at least 6, probably more. Toomey may survive, but the odds are against him.
(8/18/16) McGinty is leading in all recent polls, Trump trails Clinton by double-digits in same. Barring a big change in this race, McGinty will win.

Rating: Guaranteed Democratic hold
Democrat: Patty Murray (incumbent)
Republican: Former state Representative Chris Vance
Overview: (12/18/10) Republicans talked a good game about beating Murray in both 2004 and 2010, then nominated terrible candidates to run against her. Murray should win a fifth term without a problem.
(8/18/16) When the nominee is the former Republican state party Chairman that means they're not even trying. Congratulations, Senator Murray.

Rating: Leans Democratic takeover
Republican: Rob Johnson (incumbent)
Democrat: Former Senator Russ Feingold
Overview: (12/18/10) This one is painful for me to write about, so I'll just quote myself from my comments on 2010's race between incumbent Democrat Russ Feingold and Rob Johnson: "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? ...I just wish that if Russ is going to lose, it didn't have to be to such a completely meritless candidate."
(4/22/13) According to one source, there has been "speculation among Republicans that Johnson might not run in 2016 because his "direct approach to policy problems sometimes seemed to clash with the culture of the Senate."" This is a polite way of saying they don't like him and hope he doesn't run again. Johnson seems to be principally known for his pointed attacks on the State Department over the Benghazi affair, which he insisted on making despite the fact that he hadn't bothered to attend the briefings that might have given him the answers he claims are so important to him. A recent PPP poll put Johnson's approval rating at 37%, compared with 41% disapproval. Former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold led Johnson 52% to 42% in a hypothetical rematch. I have mixed feelings about Feingold seeking the nomination again. He's never really been that strong of a candidate. In 1998, a good year for Democrats, he barely squeaked by with a 50% to 48% reelection win. In 2010, he became the first Democratic incumbent Senator to lose a reelection bid in a blue or purple state in many years. On the other hand, he would seem to be going into the 2016 race with the wind at his back. His signature issue, campaign finance reform, is much more in the public spotlight since the Citizens United decision. And the Republican nominee, whomever he or she is, is going to need a lot of crossover support from Democrats. The Democratic Presidential nominee will probably win Wisconsin by at least 7%.
(3/11/15) A new PPP polls shows Feingold leading Johnson 50% to 41%. Johnson is now mired in accusations that he misled Congress and the public on the VA medical scandal. I see that Republican Governor Scott Walker's approval rating has also dropped. It's just possible that Wisconsin's recent love affair with right-wing Republicans is beginning to cool off. Hard to see how this race doesn't go blue in 2016.
(10/27/15) No one has stepped up to challenge Johnson on the Republican side, and polls show Feingold with a double-digit lead. Bye, bye, Johnson.

Races unlikely to become competitive:

Alaska: Republican Lisa Murkowski incumbent. Outlook: Unbeatable. Lost the GOP primary to Tea Bagger Joe Miller in 2010 and won the election as a write-in. Forget about it.

Alabama: Republican Richard Shelby incumbent. Outlook: Elected as a Democrat in 1986 and 1992, switched parties in 1994. What a jerk. Shelby will be 82 in 2016, but even if he retires, Alabama isn't exactly trending blue.

Arkansas: Republican John Boozman incumbent.
Outlook: (12/18/10) Boozman is a formidable politician, to say the least. One thing Republicans have not done well in the last few elections cycles is to offer serious challenges to incumbent Democratic Senators, yet Boozman stomped Blanche Lincoln by an incredible 21 percent in 2010.
(8/3/15) Democrats have no lack of well-known potential candidates here, mainly because so many Democrats have been voted out of office in Arkansas during the past few years. Boozman's not invincible; polls show former Governor Mike Beebe could beat him. Beebe's made it clear he's retired. But who knows, this race may yet come off the non-competitive list.

Connecticut: Democrat Richard Blumenthal incumbent. Outlook: Blumenthal has made some controversial statements that have threatened to derail his career, but he's a pretty safe bet to win another term.

Hawaii: Democrat Brian Schatz incumbent. Outlook: Schatz managed to fend off a primary challenge from a more conservative Democrat in the 2014 primary for the remaining two years of the late Dan Inouye's term. This seat is probably now his for life.

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

Kansas: Republican Jerry Moran incumbent. Outlook: Quiz question: Who was George McGill? Answer: Mr. McGill was the last Democrat elected to the Senate from Kansas. That was in..get ready...1932!

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

North Dakota: Republican John Hoeven incumbent. Outlook: Even as a freshman Senator running for reelection, Hoeven is probably the safest bet of the year.

Oklahoma: (1/8/15) Republican James Lankford incumbent. Outlook: Oklahoma is a one-party state now. Forget it.

Oregon: Democrat Ron Wyden incumbent. Outlook: The Oregon GOP has been on life support for a number of years now.

South Carolina: (1/8/15) Republican Tim Scott incumbent. I would think that Democrats could make this race competitive. Unfortunately, the blue team has been so devastated in some southern states they're just not taking statewide elections seriously any more.

South Dakota: Republican John Thune incumbent. Outlook: Democrats didn't even bother to field a candidate against Thune in 2010.

Utah: Republican Mike Lee incumbent. Outlook: Why does Utah even bother to hold statewide elections?

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.