Monday, May 19, 2008

Senate Forecast

Kos breaks down some of the potential party-switching Senate races by the latest batch of Rasmussen polling:

1. Virginia (R-open): 5/8 - Gilmore (R) 37, Warner (D) 55

Still the DSCC's best recruiting success, giving us as close to a sure thing in the Senate this fall.

2. New Mexico (R-open): 5/14 - Pearce (R) 37, Udall (D) 55: Wilson (R) 36, Udall (D) 57

The Udall-Wilson numbers look even better than the Gilmore-Warner numbers above, but Pearce is likely to win the Republican primary so this race gets slotted second. And if my Unified Theory of Primaries holds (the winning primary candidate closes the gap against a foe with a cleared primary field), then this will ultimately be a tighter race. Of course, when you have an 18-point advantage, "tighter" is relative.

3. New Hampshire (R-Sununu): 4/30 - Sununu (R) 43, Shaheen (D) 51

The first two races spoil us, making a "mere" 8-point lead against an incumbent look anemic. Well, it's not. Still, we are out of "sure thing" territory.

4. Alaska (R-Stevens): 4/12-14 - Stevens (R) 43, Begich (D) 48

Alaska number four on the list? Well, a Rasmussen poll conducted at the same time gave Begich a 2-point lead, suggesting that the long-time Senate institution, "Tubes" Stevens, is truly running out of steam. In reality, Colorado below is probably a stronger bet than Alaska, but that's not to diss our chances in this state. Alaska's chances of going Blue this year are real.

5. Colorado (R-Open): 4/16 - Schaffer (R) 43, Udall (D) 45

New polling on this race would likely show a bigger Udall lead. Schaffer has been hit with connections to Abramoff and had a widely reported and ridiculously embarrassing moment when a mountain identified in one of his ads as Colorado's Pikes Peak turned out to actually be Alaska's Mt. McKinley.

6. North Carolina (R-Dole): 5/8 - Dole (R) 47, Hagan (D) 48

Fresh off her primary boost, Dems have a solid candidate in Hagan, and Republicans are stuck with that "R" next to their names. I would slot this race below Minnesota if I was ranking by chance of success, but this one is at worst a pure toss-up.

7. Texas (R-Cornyn): 5/5-7 - Cornyn (R) 48, Noriega (D) 44

These shocking results confirmed a previous Rasmussen poll also showing a mere 4-point deficit. Noriega's problem is money -- he's been less than adept at raising it and Cornyn has lots. And Texas is an expensive state. If Noriega can overcome the money problems, it's clear there's a yearning for change in the Lone Star State that he can tap into.

8. Oregon (R-Smith): 5/7: Smith (R) 45, Merkley (D) 42; Smith (R) 47, Novick (D) 41

Will whoever wins the Democratic primary get a primary boost against Smith? Either way, this race is starting to show some sign of life when it once seemed to slip away from contention.

9. Minnesota (R-Coleman): 5/12-15: Coleman (R) 51, Franken (D) 44

Franken is going through a rough spot, having been busted with tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid state taxes from gigs and projects all over the country. He's paid that stuff off, and the question is whether it's merely a blip or a longer-term problem. I'd guess the former.

10. Mississippi (R-Wicker): 12/10-12/7: Wicker (R) 47, Musgrove (D) 39

Okay, the poll is hopelessly out of date, but I've got my second poll of this race coming out either late this week or next Monday. We can adjust Mississippi's place on this list according to those results. Given the results of last week's House special election, I wouldn't be surprised with some tightening.

11. Maine (R-Collins): 5/14: Collins (R) 52, Allen (D) 42

Collins is well liked in the state, but even she's starting to bleed support from huge early leads she previously enjoyed. Bush and his war in Iraq are proving a drag on anything they touch, and Collins remains an enthusiastic supporter of the war in Iraq. Collins is still over 50, and hence considered safe, but the trendlines aren't looking good for her.

12.) Kentucky (R-McConnell): 5/7-9: McConnell (R) 48, Lunsford (D) 36; McConnell (R) 47, Fischer (D) 35

The Republican Senate minority leader under 50 percent? Oh my! Perhaps it might have something to do with his anemic 48-45 approval rating. McConnell dodged a bullet when the Dems two top choices -- Rep. Ben Chandler (who will win Kentucky's open seat in 2010) and State Auditor Crit Luallen -- passed. But he won't be out of the woods until he can consistently get over that 50 percent hump.

13. Lousiana (D-Landrieu): 3/26-4/9: Landrieu (D) 50, Kennedy (R) 38

There's been just a single good poll on this race the entire 2008 calendar year, this one, so we have no proof that this will shape up to be the competitive race the GOP hopes it'll become. With Democrats picking up a House seat two weeks ago in a district Bush won by 19 points in 2004, it seems that even Red-trending Louisiana is in little mood for Republicans. Throw in an energized black electorate with Obama at the top of the ticket, and this becomes an even tougher slog for Republicans.

Kennedy switched parties at the wrong time in history, it would seem, though it's too early to be counting our lucky stars. There's still plenty of time for this to develop into a real race.

14. Kansas (R-Roberts): 5/3: Roberts (R) 52, Slattery (D) 40

Really, what the hell is Kansas doing on this list? Well, if these numbers stay static in the next couple of months, then Roberts will be safe. But for a Republican that won with 83% of the vote in 2002, Roberts is not used to being tested, and Slattery hasn't even started campaigning. This is still a likely Republican seat at the moment, but it's far closer than it should, by rights, be. We may have a surprise brewing here.

15. Nebraska (R-Open): 5/15: Johanns (R) 55, Kleeb (D) 40

I polled this race last November and Johanns, the wildly popular former governor of the state (who won his last election with 69 percent of the vote) was crushing Kleeb 59-28. This last poll shows that we may have more of a race on our hands. I've got my second Nebraska poll due out late this week, so we'll see if Rasmussen's numbers are confirmed, or if they're too optimistic.

A 15-point deficit is "optimistic"? It's a fantastic result, and one that shows that this race could be truly competitive before all is said and done. And given that Obama trails by only 11 points in the state (compared to 23 points with Clinton), and we have another state were Obama at the top of the ticket gives our Senate candidate a fighting chance.


Here's some context: Look at what Rasmussen said at roughly this point in time two years ago about the races Democrats picked up in 2006:

Minnesota - Actual: Klobuchar 58, Kennedy 38; 4/27: Klobuchar 45, Kennedy 43

Missouri - Actual: McCaskill 50, Talent 47; 5/8: Talent 43, McCaskill 40

Montana - Actual: Tester 49, Burns 48; 5/11: Tester 48, Burns 44

Pennsylvania - Actual: Casey 59, Santorum 41; 4/20: Casey 51, Santorum 38

Rhode Island - Actual: Whitehouse 53, Chafee 47; 4/26: Chafee 44, Whitehouse 41

Virginia: Actual - Webb 50, Allen 49; 4/4: Allen 50, Webb 30

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