The 2010 midterm elections are only seven months away. Like I did in 2008, Kylebell.com is going to track the projected outcomes of the election between now and election day. I’m going to be breaking up the projections into different regions. First up is the Midwest:
Incumbent: Evan Bayh (D) – Retiring
Challenger(s): Rep. Brad Ellsworth (Democrat), Former Rep. John Hostettler, Former Senator Dan Coats and State Senator Marlin Stutzman (Republicans)
Evan Bayh was elected in 1998 after serving two terms as Indiana’s governor. Dan Coats, who is considering a challenge to Bayh, retired in 1998 to avoid facing the popular Democrat in the general election. Bayh went on to win over 63% of the vote against the mayor of Fort Wayne. In 2004, despite President Bush beating John Kerry by over 20% in the state, Bayh was re-elected with 61%.
Since becoming Indiana’s junior senator, Bayh has taken a centrist stance (some would say even conservative). From 2001 to 2005 he was the head of the Democratic Leadership Council, which tries to push for moderate policies and candidates. Senator Bayh was one of three final picks to be President Obama’s Vice President (the other two being Tim Kaine and Joe Biden).
When I first wrote a draft of my prediction, I had this seat as “Leans Democratic”. That all changed when Senator Bayh announced in February that he would be retiring. The fact that a former senator is in the mix to win the Republican nomination and that Indiana has a conservative tilt make this a challenge for Democrats in the fall.
That said, they have recruited a top candidate in Brad Ellsworth, a former Sheriff of Vanderburgh County and a current Congressman from Southern Indiana. He won his seat handily in 2006, defeating incumbent John Hostettler, who lost his House seat in a rural part of Southern Indiana due to his far-right conservative views. As a candidate for the Senate, Hostettler would probably not fare much better statewide than he did in his former district.
Coats has already shown that he can win statewide, but that was over ten years ago. He has since been a lobbyist in Washington, a point that Democrats will drive home throughout the campaign. Another potential major downside to a Coats nomination for the Republicans is that he does not even live in Indiana anymore. He has been a resident of Virginia since he left the Senate. Ellsworth will certainly use that in television ads to paint Coats as a carpetbagger that only lives in Indiana when it is convenient.
Incumbent: Roland Burris (D) – Retiring
Challenger(s): State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (Democrat), Rep. Mark Kirk (Republican)
Prediction: Leans Democratic
This is a seat that should never have been even considered competitive. That is until the former Governor Rod Blagojevich tried to sell Barack Obama’s former Senate seat to the highest bidder. Before being impeached, Blagojevich appointed Roland Burris. At first, Democrats in the Senate refused to seat him and the Secretary of State in Illinois would not sign his certification. Ultimately he was allowed to be seated, but decided against running for a full-term due to poor fundraising and poll numbers.
Enter Republican Mark Kirk, a suburban Congressman from Chicago. Known as a moderate, he voted for President Obama’s cap-and-trade proposal only to say it was a mistake when voters within his own party chastised him for the vote. However, now that he has won the Republican primary, expect him to tack back to the center. Alexi Giannoulias is a young, telegenic politician, somewhat similar to Barack Obama. He currently leads in the polls by a healthy 8 points. Yet for a state as Democratic as Illinois, that isn’t all that comforting. The Blagojevich scandal and uncertainy surrounding the economy may mean that this race would be competitive. For now, it leans towards the Democrats.
Incumbent: Russ Feingold (D)
Challenger(s): Real Estate Developer Terrence Wall, Businessman Dave Westlake
Prediction: Leans Democratic
Russ Feingold campaigned in 1992 on a promise to rely on citizens from Wisconsin for his campaign contributions, that he would raise his children in Wisconsin and hire most of his staff with people from the state. When he ran for re-election in 1998, he imposed a spending limit of $3.8 million, which is one dollar for each citizen in the state. In 2001, he was the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act. He joined John McCain in 2002 to pass McCain-Feingold, a landmark campaign finance law that capped the amount political parties could raise from individuals.
All of these have made Feingold a target of the Republican Party. His liberal positions in a state that has been trending more towards the center (with the exception of 2008) make him vulnerable to attacks from the right. Yet he has survived, winning by 12 percent in 2004 as George Bush nearly carried the state. He even won counties that George Bush also won. Despite his liberalism, his connectedness to the state seems to have paid dividends. For that reason, Wisconsin leans Democratic in 2010.
Incumbent: George Voinovich (R) – Retiring
Challenger(s): Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner and Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher (Democrats), Former Rep. Rob Portman (Republican)
Ohio is the ultimate swing-state. It is a true microcosm of the United States. The Buckeye State has big cities, medium sized cities, small cities, small towns and rural farmland. While most of the state would consider themselves to be Midwesterners, Southern Ohioans have a drawl more common in the South. It has college towns, beaches, farmland and declining manufacturing centers.
It also has volatile politics. Ohio went slightly for George Bush in 2000 and 2004, but swung towards the Democrats in 2006′s midterm elections as they captured House seats and a Senate seat, along with the governor’s mansion. Barack Obama defeated John McCain in Ohio, ensuring a sweep of the entire Midwest. If there is a Republican comeback of any sort, it will have to start in Ohio defending this seat.
This is an expensive state to compete in. With major markets like Cleveland, Cincinatti and Columbus, along with medium-sized cities like Toledo and Dayton, the two parties could easily spend a good $15-$20 million here. Democrats spending money on a seat currently held by Republicans can help draw funds away from their vulnerable incumbents such as Harry Reid, Blanche Lincoln and others. It doesn’t hurt that Republicans will use spending as a major campaign theme. Their leading candidate, Rob Portman, presided over record deficits as the budget director for George Bush.
Incumbent: Chuck Grassley (R)
Challenger(s): Lawyer Roxanne Conlin, Former State Legislator Bob Krause
Prediction: Likely Republican
While President Obama sailed to victory in both the Iowa Caucus and general election in 2008, this year’s Senate race is going to be a tough one for Democrats to pull off. “As a good farmer, Senator Grassley must recognize that 51 years, or 58 years at the end of his term, is a long time to go without rotating crops,” Krause told supporters in Des Moines. Chuck Grassley has been around for five terms and shows no signs of retiring.
Grassley famously participated in healthcare “negotiations” during the summer with Democratic Senator Max Baucus, only to spread malicious falsehoods about the legislation when he met with voters during townhall meetings. This doesn’t seem to have hurt his support any. His Democratic challengers will undoubtedly be vastly outspent in campaign ads and the state party will be focused on retaining the governor’s mansion in the state.
Incumbent: Kit Bond (R) – Retiring
Challenger(s): Secretary of State Robin Carnahan (Democrat), Rep. Roy Blunt (Republican)
The Carnahan family is to Missouri what the Bayh family is to Indiana. Governor Mel Carnahan served from 1993 to 2000 and decided to run for the Senate. Unfortunately, shortly before the election, he died in a plane crash. Yet his name remained on the ballot and amazingly he managed to win against incumbent Senator John Ashcroft (yes, the guy that George W. Bush would name Attorney General). Mel Carnahan was the first person to be elected posthumously to the United States Senate.
They still needed to fill the sit, though, so the new governor appointed his wife, Jean Carnahan. Ultimately she decided to run in a special election in 2002 to fill out the remainder of Mel’s term. She lost to Jim Talent by approximately 20,000 votes and provided Republicans with their Senate majority after the 2002 midterm election. Four years later, in 2006, Senator Talent lost to Claire McCaskill as the Democrats reclaimed their majority status.
Robin Carnahan is attempting to keep the family name alive in her run for Senate this year against Republican Representative Roy Blunt. Like Ohio, Missouri is a bellweather state. What happens at a national level is often felt in these two states. Missouri has been trending slightly more Republican at the national level than other states in recent years, giving their electoral votes to President Bush in 2000 and 2004, as well as John McCain in 2008 by fewer than 4,000 votes.
However, Democrats have managed to win statewide office frequently. In 2006, aside from picking up a Senate seat, they also won the governor’s mansion back from Roy Blunt’s son, Matt Blunt, who decided to not run for re-election. The fact that Robin Carnahan comes from a political dynasty in Missouri should help her chances of winning this seat from the Republicans. Her campaign is distancing itself from the Democratic Party, highlighting her independence and ability to work across the aisle. This will be one of the closest elections of 2010. You can bet on that.