The GOP’s Top 10 Best Opportunities To Pick-Up Senate Seats In 2010

Today, the Democrats have 59 seats in the Senate. That means they only need one solitary Republican to go along with the Democrats to have a filibuster proof majority on any issue. However, those almost overwhelming numbers appear poised to start braking back towards the GOP in November of this year. Here’s a comprehensive breakdown of the races where the GOP has a chance to pick-up seats this year.

Wild Cards:

New York: Kirsten Gillibrand or Harold Ford vs. ?: Rudy Giuliani would have had a better than even shot of winning this seat, but he decided not to run. If Peter King or George Pataki decide to get in, this could turn into a real horse race. But, at the moment, it’s a Democratic gimmie.

Indiana: Evan Bayh vs. Dan Coats or John Hostettler: Mike Pence could have made this a toss-up, but Coats or Hostettler could conceivably pull off an upset.

10) State: Washington
2008 Presidential numbers: Obama 58% vs. McCain 41%
Currently held by: Patty Murray
Ranking: Likely Democrat Hold (90% chance of Dem hold) — unless…

Analysis: Murray’s favorability ratings are right around 50%, but in a leftward leaning state with no blue chip candidate to go against her, Murray’s seat is probably safe. That is, safe unless Dino Rossi decides to run.

According to a GOP polling firm, two-time Republican candidate for governor, Dino Rossi, was beating Murray 45% to 43%. Could Rossi pull off a victory? Yes, he could. Will he run? That’s hard to say. However, if Rossi were to run, this race would turn from a likely Democrat hold to a toss-up.

9) State: Wisconsin
2008 Presidential numbers: Obama 56% vs. 43% McCain
Currently held by: Russ Feingold
Ranking: Likely Democrat Hold (90% chance of Dem hold) — unless…

Analysis: At the moment, the GOP has a couple of weak contenders going up against Feingold, whose approval ratings have slipped just below 50%. Their chances of beating Feingold look slim.

However, Rasmussen has former Republican Governor “Tommy Thompson edging incumbent Russ Feingold 47% to 43%.” If Thompson were to get in the race, this goes from a likely Democratic hold to a toss-up. Now the question is: Is Tommy Thompson willing to throw his hat in the ring or is he once again getting Republican voters in Wisconsin excited, just to let them down again?

8) State: California
2008 Presidential numbers:
Currently held by: Barbara Boxer
Ranking: Leaning Democrat (75% chance of Dem hold)

Analysis: Normally, attempting to knock off Barbara Boxer would be a futile endeavor for the GOP, but she’s polling less than 50% against 3 separate candidates: Hewlett-Packard’s RINO CEO Carly Fiorina, grassroots favorite Chuck Devore, and conservative Congressman Tom Campbell (Lifetime ACU rating 91.5).

Although the NRSC has been quietly backing the moderate Fiorina, there’s no objective evidence that shows she’d be a stronger : candidate than Devore or Campbell and how much money she’s willing to put in her campaign is an open question.

Long story short, if one of these candidates can make it through the primary without fracturing the party’s base and can run a strong campaign, it’s possible that:  he/she : can defeat Boxer.

7) State: Illinois
2008 Presidential numbers: Obama 62% vs. McCain 37%
Currently held by: Roland Burris
Ranking: Edge to Democrat (60% chance of Dem hold)

Analysis: RINO Mark Kirk is generally considered to be a strong candidate for the seat held by Barack Obama until he became President and he’ll be going toe-to-toe with State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias. Giannoulias isn’t considered a blue-chip candidate, is only 33 years old, and has unsavory connections to Tony Rezko and a shady bank. Polling the race between the two has been fairly tight up until this point and it looks like it’s anybody’s ball game.

6) State: Colorado
2008 Presidential numbers: Obama 54% vs. McCain 45%
Currently held by: Michael Bennet
Ranking: Toss-Up (50/50)

Analysis: Bennet is a replacement for Ken Salazar and he has a primary challenge from former Democratic Speaker of the State House, Andrew Romanoff. Both candidates are losing by double digits to the leading Republican candidate, former Lieutenant Governor, Jane Norton, who’s slugging it out with Tom Wiens for the Republican nomination. Ken Buck is also in the Republican race, but his anemic fund raising numbers will keep him from being competitive unless he can turn it around.

5) State: Pennsylvania
2008 Presidential numbers: Obama 55% vs. McCain 44%
Currently held by: Arlen Specter
Ranking: Edge to Republicans (60/40)

Analysis: This time around, the GOP is united around Pat Toomey, a savvy, conservative candidate who’s having success at raising money. On the other hand, the Democrats have a competitive primary between turncoat Arlen Specter and lesser known far left-winger, Joe Sestak. Specter is generally considered to be the tougher candidate, but after switching parties in a transparently cynical attempt to save his job, that may not ultimately be the case. At a minimum, Republican voters would probably be more motivated to vote and contribute money to beat Specter than Sestak.

Whatever the case may be, at the moment, the latest polling data looks very good for Toomey: “Toomey holds a 45% to 31% lead over Specter among Pennsylvania voters. Toomey also leads Representative Joe Sestak, D-Penn., 41% to 19%.” Given that Pennsylvania voters know Specter so well, those are frightening numbers for Democrats.

4) State: Nevada
2008 Presidential numbers: Obama 55% vs. McCain 43%
Currently held by: Harry Reid
Ranking: Edge to Republicans (60/40)

Analysis: It’s normally very difficult to knock off a Senate Majority Leader and Reid will probably have little difficulty raising money. Moreover, the GOP looks to have a competitive primary battle shaping up between Jerry Tarkanian’s son, Danny, former state GOP chairwoman Sue Lowden, and former state Assemblywoman Sharron Angle. That primary may get even more crowded if Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki enters the race.

On the other hand, Harry Reid’s approval numbers are in the low thirties in Nevada and he’s losing in head-to-head polling against the Republicans. Moreover, Democratic Congressman Dana Titus has said, “Reid is done; he’s going to lose.”

At this point, the odds are probably against Reid, but if the GOP in Nevada can unite behind a single candidate after the primary and that candidate has the money to compete, we have a great opportunity to pick up this seat.

3) State: Delaware
2008 Presidential numbers: Obama 62% vs. McCain 37%
Currently held by: Ted Kaufman
Ranking: Likely Republican Takeover (90/10)

Analysis: Delaware is very a Democratic state and under normal circumstances, the Dems would have a great chance to hold it. However, the environment is strongly favoring the GOP, which managed to recruit a blue chip candidate: the very popular Mike Castle, who unfortunately, is right out of the Susan Collins/Olympia Snowe mold.

Moreover, former Joe Biden aide Ted Kaufman and Joe Biden’s son, Beau, have both confirmed they’re not running for the seat. In a state as liberal as Delaware, you can’t count the Democrats out, but with a strong GOP candidate, no blue chippers in the running for the Dems, and a great political environment for Republicans, things are looking pretty good at the moment.

2) State: Arkansas
2008 Presidential numbers: McCain 59% vs. Obama 39%
Currently held by: Blanche Lincoln
Ranking: Likely Republican Takeover (90/10)

Analysis: Lincoln’s numbers weren’t very good before she supported Obamacare, but afterwards? She has a “27% approval rating, and a 62% disapproval rating.

At the moment, Lincoln’s only hope seems to be that the GOP won’t be able to field a decent opponent. However, blue-chipper John Boozman (Lifetime ACU rating 92%) has an “important announcement coming on Feb 6th and it’s likely that he’s entering the race. Current polling data has him beating Lincoln by more than 20 points and he would be highly likely to knock her off.

1) State: North Dakota
2008 Presidential numbers: McCain 53% vs. Obama 45%
Currently held by: Byron Dorgan
Ranking: Likely Republican Takeover (90/10)

Analysis: Byron Dorgan is retiring and the GOP has a blue chip candidate: Gov. John Hoeven. In a state that leans Republican, in this environment, with a strong candidate contending for an open seat, the GOP is really sitting pretty.

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