The Battle For The Senate: Republican Momentum Continues (Add Pennsylvania)
Republicans continue their momentum in the battle for control of the Senate, as
Just over three weeks since my last review of the 37 Senate contests at stake in November and, if anything, the Republican position has improved -- the results in Delaware notwithstanding.
Despite losing an excellent shot at picking up the Senate seat long held by Joe Biden -- that happened when Christine O'Donnell beat Mike Castle in the Sept. 14 primary -- trends seem to be moving in the Republicans' direction.
Currently, I have four Democratic seats leaning Republican, while no GOP seat seems at risk of switching. There are also six Democratic seats listed as Tossups. For the Republicans to win control of the Senate -- they need a net gain of ten to accomplish that -- they need to hold the first four and win all of the remaining six, an unlikely task. (Or maybe they can pick up nine seats and convince some Democrat, say, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, to switch?)
But there are also two other Democratic seats, in Connecticut and West Virginia, that according to reports have suddenly tightened. If that's true, then there may be more opportunities for GOP gains than I thought.
In any event, if I had to come up with a number, I'm saying the Republicans finish plus-seven.
Here's the latest on some individual contests.
Two open Republican seats that I had labeled Tossups -- Ohio and Florida -- now appear to be settling in the GOP column.
In Florida, two recent events caught my eye. Charlie Crist, the governor and former Republican now running as an independent, has been endorsed by former Rep. Robert Wexler (D), a strong liberal from south Florida who is currently the president of a Mideast think tank and long active in pro-Israel causes. Another endorsement came from Charles Whitehead, the former Democratic state chairman. To me, that indicates not every Democrat is exactly what you would call enthralled with their nominee, Rep. Kendrick Meek. And as Crist moves left in pursuit of votes, it seems that it will be GOP candidate Marco Rubio who benefits the most.
In Ohio, polls continue to show former Rep. Rob Portman (R) with a steady lead over Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher (D), sometimes in double digits. That too goes from Tossup to Republican Retention.
And one Democratic seat that long been on my Tossup list -- Pennsylvania, where Rep. Joe Sestak (D) and former Rep. Pat Toomey (R) are vying for the seat currently held by Democratic switcher Arlen Specter -- now seems to be heading towards Toomey.
The Keystone State now joins Arkansas, Indiana and North Dakota as states where Republicans are expected to oust the Democrats from control.
There are still six other Democratic seats that I am keeping in the Tossup column: California, Colorado, Illinois, Nevada, Washington and Wisconsin. Illinois and Nevada still seem dead even. I think the Democrats are nominally ahead in California (Sen. Barbara Boxer over Carly Fiorina) and Washington (Sen. Patty Murray over Dino Rossi). But Republicans might have a slight edge in Colorado (Ken Buck over Sen. Michael Bennet) and Wisconsin (Ron Johnson over Sen. Russ Feingold). Nonetheless, all remain Tossups.
And what to make of the apparent closing of the contests in Connecticut, where state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (D) had long been thought to hold a considerable lead over former wrestling executive Linda McMahon (R), and in West Virginia, where Gov. Joe Manchin (D) was considered safe against businessman John Raese (R)? I'm going to keep them as Democrats ahead, but wow.
I'm also moving Alaska from Safe Republican to Republican Favored. Polls indicate that Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R), who lost her primary battle to Tea Party favorite Joe Miller, may be catching up to Miller with her write-in effort. But there's a difference between telling a pollster that they want Murkowski and actually showing up at the polls and willing to write her name in. So we'll see about this one.
Here are the latest ratings on all 37 Senate seats up in 2010. Click on our Election Scorecard to see how my picks in every Senate, gubernatorial and key House race compare with other analysts.
SAFE DEMOCRATIC (6): Hawaii (Daniel Inouye), Maryland (Barbara Mikulski), New York (Charles Schumer), New York special (Kirsten Gillibrand), Oregon (Ron Wyden), Vermont (Patrick Leahy).
DEMOCRAT FAVORED (3): Connecticut (open seat - Chris Dodd retiring), Delaware special (open seat - Ted Kaufman will not run), West Virginia (open seat -- Carte Goodwin will not run).
TOSSUP DEM SEATS (6): California (Barbara Boxer), Colorado (Michael Bennet), Illinois (open seat - Roland Burris will not run), Nevada (Harry Reid), , Washington (Patty Murray), Wisconsin (Russ Feingold).
EXPECTED DEM LOSSES/GOP PICKUPS (4): Arkansas (Blanche Lincoln), Indiana (open seat - Evan Bayh retiring), North Dakota (open seat - Byron Dorgan retiring), Pennsylvania (open seat - Arlen Specter lost primary).
EXPECTED GOP LOSSES/DEM PICKUPS (0): None at the moment.
TOSSUP GOP SEATS (0): None at the moment.
REPUBLICAN FAVORED (8): Alaska (open seat -- Lisa Murkowski lost primary), Florida (open seat - George LeMieux will not run), Kentucky (open seat - Jim Bunning retiring), Louisiana (David Vitter), Missouri (open seat - Kit Bond retiring), New Hampshire (open seat - Judd Gregg retiring), North Carolina (Richard Burr), Ohio (open seat - George Voinovich retiring).
SAFE REPUBLICAN (10): Alabama (Richard Shelby), Arizona (John McCain), Georgia (Johnny Isakson), Idaho (Mike Crapo), Iowa (Charles Grassley), Kansas (open seat — Sam Brownback retiring), Oklahoma (Tom Coburn), South Carolina (Jim DeMint), South Dakota (John Thune), Utah (open seat - Bob Bennett denied renomination). Copyright 2010 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.