Wednesday, November 10, 2010

2012 Senate Races

Over the past couple of days, I've been going through each upcoming senate race in 2012 and rating each. Obviously, at this point, there is very little to go on, so I would like to start off by saying that it's quite possible that some of these predictions could end up being way off from the actual results. This is in part because these predictions are being made two years in advance and its moderately difficult to understand what the political climate is going to be for the GOP two years from now. That being said, there is some validity to what is posted. Enjoy!


Current Senate Make Up

Senate Ratings

Matt's Picks

  • Incumbent Senator: Jon Kyl (R)
  • Background Information: Popular three term senator Jon Kyl, who could possibly retire at the end of his term, holds a highly Republican senate seat that will likely not change hands in the next election cycle. The only high profile Democrat who would stand any chance at winning this seat would be former Governor Janet Napolitano, but she is currently tied up with her Department of Homeland Security duties. Kyl's retirement will signal little trouble for Republicans.
  • Possible Challengers: Terry Godard, Gabrielle Giffords, Ed Pastor
  • Race Rating: Safe Republican
  • Incumbent Senator: Dianne Feinstein.
  • Background Information: Dianne Feinstein remains popular in the blue state in California and will likely be reelected for another term if she so chooses to run. Unless the GOP fields a strong candidate and national Democrats remain unpopular, this senate seat will almost certainly remain in their hands in the next election cycle.
  • Possible Challengers: Meg Whittman, Tom Campbell
  • Race Rating: Safe Democrat
  • Incumbent Senator: Joe Lieberman (ID)
  • Background Information: With Joe Lieberman's approval rating at an all time low, it is highly unlikely that the soon to be senior senator from Connecticut will win a fifth term. If he chooses to retire, Democrats will easily pick up this seat, but a Lieberman reelection campaign could spell trouble for Democrats. If a perfect storm were to form by which a very strong Republican candidate would enter the race, Democrats could end up losing this once considered easy hold. That being said, Lieberman will likely siphon votes from both the GOP and Democratic candidates in an equal matter, having little to no real effect on the outcome.
  • Possible Challengers: Tom Foley, Jodi Rell
  • Race Rating: Lean Democrat
    • Incumbent Senator: Tom Carper (D)
    • Background Information: Delaware is rated as "Lean Democrat" because the entrance of outgoing Republican congressman Michael Castle could tip the race into the Republicans favor. If Castle does not run in 2012, Carper and the Democrats will easily hold this seat.
    • Possible Challengers: Michael Castle, Christine O'Donnell
    • Race Rating: Lean Democrat
    • Incumbent Senator: Bill Nelson (D)
    • Background Information: Other than Barack Obama, Bill Nelson will be Republicans' number one target in 2012. Nelson remains the only Democrat who holds major office in Florida and will likely need quite a bit of fundraising and luck to cruise to victory. Current Sen. George LeMieux, who plans to retire at the end of the 'lame duck session' is ardently considering a run against Nelson, having already raised $125,000 in the since the end of the last quarter. State Senate President Mike Haridopolos is also being discussed as well as U.S. Reps Vern Buchanan, who could easily self fund his own campaign, and Connie Mack, as well as Tom Rooney. Former Governor Jeb Bush has also polled evenly with Nelson, but is yet to mention any desire to run for the seat. Only will time will tell, but at this point, with Florida's decidedly red shift marked by the decisive election of Marco Rubio, Nelson will certainly face an uphill battle.
    • Possible Challengers: George LeMieux, Charlie Crist, Mike Haridopolos, Connie Mack, Jeb Bush, Vern Buchanan, Tom Rooney
    • Race Rating: Tossup
    • Incumbent Senator: Daniel Akaka (D)
    • Background Information: Daniel Akaka, who may retire at the end of his term, could leave his party with a hole to fill in the next election cycle. While the GOP could certainly field strong candidates in outgoing Republicans, Governor Linda Lingle, Lt. Governor Duke Aiona, and Rep. Charles Djou, it is unlikely that they will capture this seat. That being said, no high profile Democrat has emerged as the leading candidate to enter the race, providing the possibility of a contested race. That being said, Akaka could certainly run for another term and secure this seat for his party, and in a state that Obama won with over seventy percent of the vote in 2008, it is unlikely that the GOP will be a huge challenge.
    • Possible Challengers: Linda Lingle, Duke Aiona, Charles Djou
    • Race Rating: Safe Democrat
    • Incumbent Senator: Richard Lugar (R)
    • Background Information: Richard Lugar, who won reelection with nearly ninety percent of the vote in 2006, will likely run for an unprecedented seventh term. Nothing more needs to be said.
    • Possible Challengers: No Clear Challenger
    • Race Rating: Safe Republican
    • Incumbent Senator: Olympia Snowe (R)
    • Background Information: Highly popular liberal Republican Olympia Snowe will almost certainly face an extremely strong Tea Party primary challenge. The race really to watch is that very Republican primary, for it will decide the election at large. If Snowe prevails passed the stages of the primary, she will easily go on to win another term. A Tea Party primary victory could spell a Democratic pickup, but if Snowe were to pull a Lisa Murkowski and run as a third party candidate, she would, ironically, hurt the Democrat more than the Republican in the process. Overall, this race completely hinges on the GOP primary.
    • Possible Challengers: John Baldacci, Chellie Pingree, Mike Michaud
    • Race Rating: Tossup
    • Incumbent Senator: Ben Cardin (D)
    • Background Information: Maryland remains the only southern state to remain decidedly Democratic. This phenomenon will only come to help first term Democrat Ben Cardin, who will face less of a challenge than most of his counterparts in his party. Unless a Republican pulls a Scott Brown, this seat will easily remain in Democrats hands.
    • Possible Challengers: Bob Ehrlich, Wayne Gilchrest
    • Race Rating: Safe Democrat
    • Incumbent Senator: Scott Brown (R)
    • Background Information: Despite Massachusetts decidedly liberal electorate, Scott Brown remains the most popular statewide official. His chances for reelection are both promising and grim. Brown, who has been successfully networking and raising money, will need the full support of his party as well as of independents, who make of the vast majority of Bay State voters to win a full term. If he does prevail in 2012 and then again in 2018, he has the seat for life.
    • Possible Challengers: Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Michael Capuano, Stephen Lynch
    • Race Rating: Tossup
    • Incumbent Senator: Debbie Strabenow (D)
    • Background Information: The midterms saw Republicans dominate the rust belt, winning nearly a quarter of their House gains solely in this geographic region. In addition, Republicans took control of the governorship, both state legislatures, the house delegation, and every other major office. This all spells trouble for Debbie Strabenow, who will likely run for a third term. A recent opinion poll has her in a statistical tie with former Republican Governor John Engler. No matter who her challenger is, the GOP, at this point, stands a good chance of picking up this seat.
    • Possible Challengers: Peter Hoekstra, John Engler
    • Race Rating: Tossup
    • Incumbent Senator: Amy Klobuchar (D)
    • Background Information: Amy Klobuchar remains the second most popular incumbent in the 2012 election cycle. Because of this, she has an outright advantage coming in. That being said, Republicans recently captured both legislatures as well as another House seat, making Klobuchar's reelection not a sure call. While obviously different, Joe Manchin, who was highly popular, barely defeated his Republican opponent,  so it is possible for popular candidates to experience difficulty and even defeat in the election process.
    • Possible Challengers: Norm Coleman, Tim Pawlenty
    • Race Rating: Lean Democrat
    • Incumbent Senator: Roger Wicker (R)
    • Background Information: Mississippi's decidedly red turn (like it wasn't a red state already) in 2010, with the defeats of both Gene Taylor and Travis Childers, puts Roger Wicker in a good situation coming into to 2012. That being said, if Taylor, a conservative (not a moderate, a conservative) Democrat, who admittedly voted for John McCain in 2008 could really give Wicker a run for his money. Other than Taylor, Mississippi Democrats have little hope in capturing this seat.
    • Possible Challengers: Travis Childers, Gene Taylor
    • Race Rating: Leans Republican
    • Incumbent Senator: Claire McCaskill (D)
    • Background Information: The election sweep by Democrats in 2006 saw Claire McCaskill win one of Missouri's senate seats by a slim margin. This coming election, she faces an uphill battle. With high disapproval, mostly because of her strong support for the Obama agenda, she will likely lose in her bid for another term. In fact, it's very possible that Jim Talent, the man she defeated in 2006 could ouster her this go round.
    • Possible Challengers: Jim Talent, Matt Blunt
    • Race Rating: Tossup
    • Incumbent Senator: Jon Tester (D)
    • Background Information: Montana's decidedly red nature spells trouble for Democratic incumbents like Jon Tester. Despite his slightly more moderate stances on many issues, Tester is one of the most vulnerable Democrats this election cycle. Having won by a razor thin margin in 2006 to less than popular incumbent Conrad Burns, Tester must prove his independence to Montana voters in the coming two years.
    • Possible Challengers: Conrad Burns, Deny Rehberg
    • Race Rating: Tossup
    • Incumbent Senator: Ben Nelson (D)
    • Background Information: Ben Nelson's vote for Obamacare struck a dagger through the heart of his reelection chances. According the recent opinion polls, Nelson trails Republican Governor, David Heineman in a hypothetical match by over thirty points. The GOP will jump on this opportunity. That being said, Heineman has said that he does not plan to enter the race, creating a lack of a high profile candidate for the race. Nonetheless, the seat will likely tip over to GOP hands in 2012.
    • Possible Challengers: David Heineman, Lee Terry
    • Race Rating: Lean Republican
    • Incumbent Senator: John Ensign (R)
    • Background Information: After it was discovered that Ensign had an affair with a campaign staffer, his already average approval ratings plummeted to extreme lows. If Ensign runs for reelection, he will likely lose to any high profile candidate. That being said, Nevada Republicans did this last year oust the incumbent Governor in the primary, so the very same situation could repeat itself, giving Republicans a strong chance at keeping this seat in their hands. Only time will tell.
    • Possible Challengers: Rory Reid, Shelley Berkley
    • Race Rating: Tossup
    New Jersey
    • Incumbent Senator: Bob Menendez (D)
    • Background Information: New Jersey could shape up to be an interesting race. Bob Menendez's approval ratings are in the gutter and are unlikely to rebound, creating a rare opportunity for Republicans. That being said, Republicans haven't held a senate seat in the Garden State. A second Senate run by Tom Kean Jr. could prove fatal to Menendez's reelection chances, but at this point, he is the close favorite.
    • Possible Challengers: Tom Kean Jr., Chris Smith
    • Race Rating: Lean Democrat
    New Mexico
    • Incumbent Senator: Jeff Bingaman
    • Background Information: Jeff Bingaman continues to be one of the most popular Senators and will easily win reelection if he so chooses to run. With that decision up in the air, Republicans are cautious to commit time and money to this race. His retirement could create a close matchup between both parties in this purple state. Nonetheless, this race slightly favors Democrats at this point due to the possibility of Bingaman's reelection campaign.
    • Possible Challengers: Heather Wilson, Susana Martinez
    • Race Rating: Lean Democrat
    New York
    • Incumbent Senator: Kirsten Gillibrand
    • Background Information: Kirsten Gillibrand's reelection in 2010 further reinforced Democratic dominance in the Empire State. She will certainly be back in force in 2012 and will almost definitely win a full term because of her combine city and up state support. Obama's reelection campaign will only play out to help Gillibrand, drawing on New York Democrats, who outnumber the state GOP member base by nearly three to one.
    • Possible Challengers: No Clear Challenger
    • Race Rating: Safe Democrat
    North Dakota
    • Incumbent Senator: Kent Conrad (D)
    • Background Information: Long time Democrat Kent Conrad may have seen the Obama writing on the wall. After supporting nearly every major legislative bill set forward by national Democrats, he will likely be very vulnerable and decide to retire. Nevertheless, his continued decent approval rating does put him in a good situation if he so chooses to run again in 2012. This seat will be a sure pick up if Conrad elects to retire.
    • Possible Challengers: Wayne Stenehjem, Jack Dalrymple
    • Race Rating: Tossup
    • Incumbent Senator: Sherrod Brown (D)
    • Background Information: It's safe to say that Sherrod Brown is one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents in 2012. His decidedly liberal voting record does not bode well in the purple state and will likely face a strong challenge from a plethora of GOP possibilities. Brown's best chance for reelection is a low profile GOP candidate entering the race. However, his destiny is still up in the air.
    • Possible Challengers: Pat Tiberi
    • Race Rating: Tossup
    • Incumbent Senator: Bob Casey (D)
    • Background Information: Bob Casey, who defeated Rick Santorum by over fifteen points in 2006, is one of the more vulnerable candidates and could very easily be unseated. Republicans who recently captured the governorship and the other senate seat as well as both legislatures and a handful of house seats, are yet to step forward with a defined challenge to Casey. As this race nears, Republicans will likely poor money into the GOP campaign similar to 2010.
    • Possible Challengers: Tom Corbett, Phil English, Joe Scarnati, Melissa Hart
    • Race Rating: Tossup
    Rhode Island
    • Incumbent Senator: Sheldon Whitehouse (D)
    • Background Information: Sheldon Whitehouse defeated liberal Republican and Independent Governor-elect Lincoln Chafee by six points in 2006. Unless Chafee enters the race as an independent, he should face even less difficulty in his bid for a second term.
    • Possible Challengers: Don Carcieri, John Robitaille
    • Race Rating: Safe Democrat
    • Incumbent Senator: Bob Corker (R)
    • Background Information: Unless outgoing Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen challenges Bob Corker, Republicans will likely retain this seat. It is somewhat probable that Bredesen could run in 2012, but he would still be at a disadvantage, running in a red state during presidential election year. While Corker will likely keep his seat for another term, he is not sure bet.
    • Possible Challengers: Phil Bredesen, Lincoln Davis
    • Race Rating: Lean Republican
    • Incumbent Senator: Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R)
    • Background Information: While many have combated that Texas has moved decidedly right during this last election cycle, Rick Perry failed to win the governorship by the same  large margin. In addition, unsuccessfully Democratic hopeful Bill White, who lost to Perry, remains highly popular throughout the state and could win in a bid to succeed outgoing Kay Bailey Hutchinson if now prominent GOP candidate emerges. With the announced retirement of Kay Bailey Hutchinson, money, resources, and a strong candidate all on the GOP side will decide this race.
    • Possible Candidates: Michael Williams, Elizabeth Jones, Roger Williams, Joe Barton, David Dewhurst, Tom Leppert, Florence Shapiro
    • Possible Challengers: Bill White, John Sharp
    • Race Rating: Lean Republican
    • Incumbent Senator: Orrin Hatch
    • Background Information: While Orrin Hatch will likely retire or lose in a Tea Party primary challenge, the effect that either would have on this seat would be little to nothing. Utah is by far the most conservative state and will remain that way in 2012.
    • Possible Challengers: Jim Matheson, Sam Granato
    • Race Rating: Safe Republican
    • Incumbent Senator: Jim Webb (D)
    • Background Information: Jim Webb defeated Republican incumbent George Allen by less than a percentage point in 2006. While this race is rated as a tossup at this point, the shear closeness of 2006 coupled with Webb's ardent backing of Obamacare and other progressive initiatives have tarnished his record and without an overall Democratic rebound, Webb will likely fall in defeat to any high profile GOP candidate in 2012.
    • Possible Challengers: George Allen, Tom Davis, Bill Bolling
    • Race Rating: Tossup
    • Incumbent Senator: Bernie Sanders (I)
    • Background Information: Vermont's recent blue streak in the past three decades has created a true Liberal stronghold. Bernie Sanders, the state's popular independent socialist junior senator is heavily favored to win a second term. Unless the GOP coaxes highly popular former governor, Jim Douglas, and Democrats as well as Progressive Party officials field candidates, creating a three split in the liberal vote, Sanders will remain in Washington.
    • Possible Challengers: Jim Douglas, Brian Dubie
    • Race Rating: Safe Independent
    • Incumbent Senator: Maria Cantwell (D)
    • Background Information: Dino Rossi's near victory against Patty Murray showed the GOP's continued presence in the blue Washington state. Maria Cantwell will likely not face as tough a challenge as Murray had, but this seat is certainly far from a sure Democratic hold.
    • Possible Challengers: Dino Rossi, Rob McKenna, Sam Reed, Doc Hastings
    • Race Rating: Lean Democrat
    West Virginia
    • Incumbent Senator: Joe Manchin (D)
    • Background Information: After winning a 2010 special, the popular Joe Manchin will almost certainly be elected to run for a full term in the 2012 cycle. This race is rated as "Lean Democrat" simply because, while the former governor remains highly popular, if he has a decidedly liberal voting record siding with Obama and the Senate Democrats, his chances of winning a full term will be greatly diminished. That being said, on the flip side, if Mr. Manchin decides to deliver on his promise to remain a conservative, yet pragmatic voice for West Virginia, he will easily win in a landslide during next election cycle.
    • Possible Challengers: John Raese, David McKinley, Shelley Moore Capito
    • Race Rating: Lean Democrat
    • Incumbent Senator: Herb Kohl (D)
    • Background Information: Russ Feingold's defeat to Ron Johnson showed Wisconsin Democrats' vulnerability. If Herb Kohl so chooses to retire, Republicans could see themselves possibly winning the second Wisconsin senate seat. That being said Kohl still remains a neutral figure in terms of popularity and will likely run a strong reelection campaign if he so chooses to.
    • Possible Challengers: Scott Walker, J.B. Van Hollen
    • Race Rating: Lean Democrat
    • Incumbent Senator: John Barasso (R)
    • Background Information: John Barasso, who won a 2008 special, will easily win reelection in 2012. Wyoming, similar to Utah, is one of the most conservative states in the nation and very little from now until 2012 will change.
    • Possible Challengers: Dave Fruedenthal
    • Race Rating: Safe Republican

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