Election Projection 2010: West Coast Senate Seats

We’re getting closer to the midterm elections. As such, I will be posting my projections more frequently. Today, we’re going to have a look at the West Coast:

Alaska
Incumbent: Lisa Murkowski (R) – Defeated
Challenger(s): Joe Miller (R), Scott McAdams (D)
Prediction: Toss-Up

What a difference a few weeks make. Not even two weeks ago, Lisa Murkowski was ahead by double digits in the polls and was expected to cruise towards re-election. That ended after a week of ballot counting in which Sarah Palin-backed Tea Party candidate Joe Miller narrowly defeated Murkowski by 1,100 votes. Miller is a far-right candidate that has stated he wants to eliminate Social Security, that President Obama is “bad for America”, and that he will refuse earmarks to Alaska. Traditionally, Alaska has enjoyed nearly two dollars back for every one dollar that they send to Washington. While it’s popular to talk about deficit reduction, most voters back home expect you to bring home the bacon, especially in small states like Alaska. If this race is going to be close, which I expect it will be, it will be solely because the Republicans nominated an extremist candidate. Democratic nominee Scott McAdams, like Joe Miller, has no statewide experience.

Arizona
Incumbent: John McCain (R)
Challenger(s): Rodney Glassman (D)
Prediction: Leans Republican

John McCain dispatched of former Representative J.D. Hayworth quite easily in Arizona’s GOP primary. With nearly 60 percent of the vote, McCain more or less ensured his re-election, even though he spent over $20 million to win the primary. The Democrats nominated a city councilman in Rodney Glassman. Whether this race becomes the least bit competitive will depend on if the national party decides to spend in Arizona, which seems unlikely given the number of other competitive races across the country. Still, McCain’s image has been badly tarnished since the presidential campaign just two years ago.

California
Incumbent: Barbara Boxer (D)
Challenger(s): Carly Fiorina (R)
Prediction: Leans Democrat

At least one thing is sure: two females will continue to represent California in the U.S. Senate. Barbara Boxer has a long streak of tough races and she survived in 2004, a rough year for Democrats. Her opponent, Carly Fiorina, is the former CEO of HP (she was terminated by the board of directors). While Fiorina brings a strong resume to the table, the fact that she is anti-abortion in a state that hasn’t elected a statewide anti-abortion candidate in decades does not bode well for her. On the plus side, she brings a lot of money to the table in a highly expensive state. If Meg Whitman can manage to buy the governor’s mansion with the $100+ million that she’s spent so far, Fiorina might manage to win this Senate seat. At this point, though, it’s still leaning towards Boxer.

Hawaii
Incumbent: Daniel K. Inouye (D)
Challenger(s): Cam Cavasso (R), Edward Pirkowski (R), John Roco (R)
Prediction: Likely Democrat

Not much to say for Hawaii’s Senate race other than it will probably have the nicest Election Day (weather-wise) of any of the races in the country. Daniel Inouye will win re-election easily.

Nevada
Incumbent: Harry Reid (D)
Challenger(s): Sharron Angle (R)
Prediction: Leans Democrat

Sharron Angle is the best thing that happened to the Democratic Party in Nevada. Her statements have ranged from crazy to downright bizarre (she claimed that the news media exists to report the news as she wants them to – this even confused the Fox News reporter conducting the interview). She called a bill that Congress passed to ensure that teachers and police officers were not laid off “laundered” money. She supports abolishing the Department of Education, privatizing Social Security and Medicare, and believes that the United States should withdrawal from the United Nations. Much like the other Tea Party candidates across the country, Angle is her own worst enemy. Even with an approval rating below 40 percent, Harry Reid just might manage to squeak by with the help of the Tea Party.

Oregon
Incumbent: Ron Wyden (D)
Challenger(s): Jim Huffman (R)
Prediction: Likely Democrat

Ron Wyden is a popular and reasonable senator that garners a lot of respect from both Republicans and Democrats. He will win re-election easily.

Washington
Incumbent: Patty Murray (D)
Challenger(s): Dino Rossi (R)
Prediction: Leans Democrat

Patty Murray was seen as a shoe-in not too long ago. Now that two-time Republican gubernatorial nominee Dino Rossi is challenging her, it could be a close fight (he lost both races by small margins). President Obama won Washington with 57 percent of the vote and has been a fairly reliable state for Democrats for the past couple decades. In fact, a Republican hasn’t held Murray’s seat since 1986 and the state hasn’t voted for a Republican at the presidential level since Ronald Reagan’s 1984 rout of Walter Mondale. It could be relatively close, but Murray is still the favorite. If Republicans have any hope of taking back the Senate, which is extremely unlikely, they would have to knock down incumbents like Boxer and Murray.

Adjustments

As we move along throughout the election cycle, I am going to continue to add new races to our list. While I do that, I am also going to make adjustments along the way to races where significant movement is seen.

Arkansas – Conservative Democrat Blanche Lincoln is badly trailing her Republican challenger Congressman John Boozman. While it was already expected that she would lose, the race is being moved from Leans Republican to Likely Republican. Polling shows Lincoln not just trailing by double digits, but nearly 30 points. It’s no longer a question of “if” Senator Lincoln loses, but instead “how much” she loses by.

Florida – Democratic candidate Kendrick Meek disposed of billionaire challenger (and former Republican) Jeff Greene 57 to 31 percent in the primary. Despite this, he is only garnering around 15 percent in the polls. Independent Charlie Crist’s main problem is not that he is an incumbent governor (he’s actually quite popular), but that he is relying on winning a sizable portion of Democrats, independents and Republicans. It’s not an easy task, but he has a far better shot of doing it than Meek, who has never even faced a challenger since he was elected to Congress in 2002. Polling has shown a tightening of the race, essentially a tie between Crist and conservative Republican Marco Rubio. This race is moving from Leans Democrat (assuming Crist was to caucus with the Democrats) to Toss-Up.

Wisconsin – Russ Feingold was caught off guard when public polling showed a close race against a no-name challenger. Interestingly, shortly after the Gulf oil spill disaster, the Republican candidate suggested that he would support oil exploration in Lake Michigan. Feingold was quick to criticize him with a TV ad highlighting his position on drilling in one of Wisconsin’s biggest tourist attractions. While Feingold will likely ultimately succeed in winning re-election, current polling suggests that we should move the race from Likely Democrat to Leans Democrat.

Below is a map of the Senate races that we have covered so far:

Map

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