Posts Tagged ‘senate’

Election Projection 2010: October 27 Senate Update

We are now in the final stretch of the midterm elections. We have looked at every Senate race in the country. Between now and Election Day we are going to make some revisions as needed.

Adjustments

Connecticut – Democrat Richard Blumenthal has opened a double-digit lead over Republican Linda McMahon. The multi-millionaire McMahon, who has put her own fortune into the race, is seeing firsthand how difficult it is for conservative Republicans to win in the Northeast. Even more striking is that it is a strong year for Republicans in other parts of the country. Perhaps the one exception in this region is New Hampshire, where Republicans may pick up as many as two House seats and retain control of retiring Republican Judd Gregg’s Senate seat. At any rate, Connecticut is moving from Leans Democrat to Likely Democrat.

Illinois – This is a race that should not have happened. Had it not been for the Rod Blagojevich deciding to try to sell a Senate seat (which resulted in a conviction of lying to the FBI), President Obama’s former seat would likely be held by a respected Congressperson like Jan Schakowsky or Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Instead, Democrats went through a messy ordeal where Blagojevich appointed sitting Senator Roland Burris, who decided not to run for the seat in his own right when he saw that he could neither raise the funds to mount a campaign nor win even if he had the fortune of Meg Whitman.

Democrats nominated the state’s Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, a young Obama protégé. Unfortunately for the party, he carried baggage from a family bank that went into federal receivership after it suffered from the same mortgage crisis that had gripped other banks nationwide. His Republican opponent, Congressman Mark Kirk, has a habit of lying about his military record and teaching experience, as well as flip-flopping positions. Needless to say, Giannoulias should be far ahead in the polls, but the fact that it is a Republican year and his family bank problems are dragging him down. It will be one of the closest in the country and could be decided by the support of third party candidates. The Green Party candidate could hand this seat to Mark Kirk and the Republicans. This race is moving from Leans Democrat to Toss-up.

Kentucky – Democrats had hoped that Kentucky would be one of the few potential Republican seats that they could carry. Their candidate, Attorney General Jack Conway, is the Southern Democrat that can win statewide elections. Republican opponent Rand Paul is a quirky conservative that is too far right for even many Kentuckians. The race was close and some polls even had Conway ahead. Then the Conway campaign released an ad questioning Paul’s religion, saying that in college he worshiped “Aqua Buddha”, a reference to a CQ article alleging Paul forcibly told a woman in college to bow down and worship a bong that they smoked from. The Paul campaign immediately attacked the ad and the candidate himself refused to shake the hand of Conway at a debate. If the latest polls are any indication, the ad seems to have backfired, even if it is true. This race is moving from Toss-up to Leans Republican.


Below is a map of the Senate races that we have covered with the above mentioned revisions:

Election Projection 2010: Northeast Senate Seats

We’re now just two weeks away from the midterm elections. Today, we’re going to have a look at the Northeast:

Connecticut
Incumbent: Chris Dodd (D) – Retiring
Challenger(s): Linda McMahon (R), Richard Blumenthal (D)
Prediction: Leans Democrat

Linda McMahon joins several other wealthy Republican businesswomen that have run for office this year (California’s Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina are the other two). Each of them appears likely to lose in Democratically-inclined states. McMahon made her wealth as an executive for WWE (yes, that McMahon). Blumenthal has made a point that the company’s health record is not all that great. In fact, it’s quite poor. Several wrestlers died either while McMahon was the leader of the WWE or shortly after leaving the company. Blumenthal has problems of his own, taking credit for serving in Vietnam, when in fact, he was only in the military at the time, but not stationed in Vietnam. Still, even though both candidates have character flaws, Connecticut is a Democratic state and will likely elect Blumenthal. Polls show him leading anywhere from five points to double digits.

Delaware
Incumbent: Ted Kaufman (D) – Retiring
Challenger(s): Christine O’Donnell (R), Chris Coons (D)
Prediction: Likely Democrat

Perhaps no Senate race has garnered more media coverage than Delaware. In a normal year, it wouldn’t get any attention at all. That was until political neophyte and Tea Party darling Christine O’Donnell knocked off Congressman and former governor Mike Castle, a moderate, to win the Republican Party’s primary. Castle was an overwhelming favorite to win the general election and give the Republicans a pick-up. Now the odds have flipped. Democrats are overwhelmingly favored to hold on to the former seat of Vice President Joe Biden. If Republicans manage to win 9 Senate seats this year, O’Donnell and the Tea Party will be vilified for handing the Senate to the Democrats.

Maryland
Incumbent: Barbara Mikulski (D)
Challenger(s): Eric Wargotz (R)
Prediction: Likely Democrat

Not a whole lot to say about Maryland’s Senate race. Incumbent Democrat Barbara Mikulski will easily get re-elected over Republican challenger Eric Wargotz. The only question is by how much. The real race to watch in Maryland is for governor, where incumbent Democrat Martin O’Malley finds himself in a rematch with the man whom he defeated in 2006, former governor Bob Ehrlich.

New Hampshire
Incumbent: Judd Gregg (R) – Retiring
Challenger(s): Kelly Ayotte (R), Paul Hodes (D)
Prediction: Leans Republican

New Hampshire was a state that was trending towards the Democrats. While George W. Bush won the state in 2000, John Kerry picked it up in 2004, and Barack Obama improved upon that in 2008. Democrats won both House seats and the governor’s mansion in 2006 and a Senate seat in 2008, yet polling shows that Republicans are likely to pick up at least one (possibly both) of the state’s House seats and hold on to their remaining Senate seat. Paul Hodes, the Democratic Congressman running for the Senate, is trailing New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte by anywhere from 5 to 15 points. Hodes saw a mini-surge in his standing when former Alaska governor Sarah Palin endorsed Ayotte, but it does not appear to have helped him enough.

New York (A)
Incumbent: Chuck Schumer (D)
Challenger(s): Jay Townsend (R)
Prediction: Likely Democrat

New York is having two Senate races this year: one is the seat held by Chuck Schumer and the other is the former seat of Hillary Clinton, now held by Kirsten Gillibrand. Both Democrats are expected to win quite easily. Schumer has over $24 million in the bank and his Republican opponent has not even raised $100,000. If Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid goes down in November, Schumer has shown interest for his job and would likely face off against Illinois Senator Dick Durbin.

New York (B)
Incumbent: Kirsten Gillibrand (D)
Challenger(s): Joseph DioGuardi (R)
Prediction: Likely Democrat

Kirsten Gillibrand is an upstate New York politician and the incumbent Senator of her seat. She was appointed by Governor David Paterson to fill Hillary Clinton’s seat after she resigned to become Secretary of State. Gillibrand is conservative by New York standards, but has moved to the left since joining the Upper Chamber. As a former member of the House, she road the Democratic wave of 2006 to victory. While Gillibrand is the favorite over former Congressman Joseph DioGuardi, this will be a closer race than Schumer’s. Nonetheless, national Republicans are not putting any money into the race.

Pennsylvania
Incumbent: Arlen Specter (D) – Retiring
Challenger(s): Pat Toomey (R), Joe Sestak (D)
Prediction: Toss-up

There have been many odd races across the country so far this year. Pennsylvania was one of the first. Senator Arlen Specter, at the time a Republican, switched parties after he learned that he would face a challenge from far-right conservative Pat Toomey, a former congressman that challenged Specter in 2004. Toomey lost that race, but not by much, and was favored to beat Specter the second time. Specter switched parties and ran as a Democrat, hoping that no one would notice his voting record. While Specter voted reliably with the Democrats following his switch, Democratic voters had a choice of electing a real Democrat when Joe Sestak jumped into the race. Sestak had run in 2006 and won a Philadelphia area district. He was the underdog throughout most of the race, but brilliantly used ads showing Specter talking about he switched parties to be re-elected. Now Sestak finds himself in the underdog position yet again. However, polls have shown a tightening of the race with a couple even showing Sestak in the lead. Sestak also has a money advantage over Toomey in these final weeks.

Adjustments

Since our last update we have seen several changes in the Senate outlook, each of them at the expense of Democrats. Some states, such as Wisconsin, have moved from Leans Democrat to Toss-up. West Virginia, which was rated as Likely Democrat, is now Leans Democrat. Nevada is moving from Leans Democrat to Toss-Up; Florida Toss-Up to Leans Republican; North Carolina from Toss-Up to Leans Republican; Ohio from Toss-Up to Likely Republican; Arizona from Leans Republican to Likely Republican; Colorado from Leans Democrat to Toss-Up; and Missouri from Toss-Up to Leans Republican. We’ll detail a few of these changes below:

Colorado – Appointed Senator Michael Bennet has struggled to fend off a challenge from Tea Party candidate Ken Buck. The outspoken Buck has said that he opposes abortion in all cases, including rape and incest. He has also said that being gay is a choice, not something that you are born with. Candidates like this would not normally win in a state like Colorado, but with a bad economy, voters are desperate.

Florida – Democrat Kendrick Meek and Governor Charlie Crist, a former Republican turned independent, have been nuking each other over the airwaves. Republican Tea Party favorite Marco Rubio has benefitted from this sniping and will probably squeak by with less than 50 percent of the vote. It isn’t possible for a divided left to win in a swing state like Florida. All Rubio needs to do is carry the Republican vote heavily and he wins.

Ohio – Ohio is a state that has simply gone out of reach for Democrats. Lt. Governor Lee Fisher is the Democratic candidate and Rob Portman the Republican, a former Congressman and Budget Director in the Bush administration. Fisher is a poor campaigner and fundraiser, while Portman has benefitted from the Bush donor list. National Democrats have pulled the plug on their financial support of Fisher, putting it in states where they think they can win (like Colorado and nearby Pennsylvania). On the other hand, Democratic hopes have improved in Ohio’s gubernatorial race. Incumbent governor Ted Strickland has at least a 50/50 chance of winning re-election over Republican John Kasich.

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

Map

Delaware and New Hampshire GOP Senate Primary Results

9:10 p.m. (9/15): Lamontagne has conceded the race for the GOP’s Senate nomination. In other news from yesterday’s primaries, a new poll out of Delaware shows that Democrat Chris Coons leads Republican Christine O’Donnell 50-34. That’s a bigger lead than he had in previous polls and may seem to indicate that even some Mike Castle voters are backing Coons.

2:54 p.m. (9/15): Well, it’s the day after the primary. Ayotte has been declared the winner by the Secretary of State in New Hampshire, even though counting continues. Ovide Lamontagne has until 5:00 pm to decide whether he will seek a recount. The margin is 1,500 votes.

1:24 a.m.: Kelly Ayotte’s lead has expanded to over 1,200 votes. It seems that she will eke it out after all. This will be the last post of the night. What an exciting end to the primary season!

Ayotte – 38.4% (42,538)
Lamontagne – 37.3% (41,301)
Binnie – 14.0% (15,491)
Bender – 8.6% (9,526)

1:00 a.m.: The lead has changed in New Hampshire. Kelly Ayotte has pulled ahead of Ovide Lamontagne by 700 votes. Ayotte is winning every county in the state except for the two largest: Rockingham and Hillsborough. Both of these counties are along the Massachusetts border. Ayotte’s strongest counties are along the sparsely populated Vermont border. At the current rate, it appears that she will probably pull it out, but it is still too close to call.

Ayotte – 38.4% (36,865)
Lamontagne – 37.7% (36,150)
Binnie – 13.8% (13,619)
Bender – 8.5% (8,416)

12:50 a.m.: The Tea Party takeover of the Republican Party seems almost complete. Christine O’Donnell’s victory over Mike Castle raises an interesting question: will the Tea Party decide the Republican nominee in 2012? Of course there are many more offices for them to run in as well, but right after the midterms end, the focus will shift to the presidential election. With huge victories across the country inside the Republican Party for Tea Party candidates, directly against the wishes of party leaders, it is reasonable to conclude that the same thing could happen to their presidential nominee. They certainly are not going to nominate another moderate like John McCain. At any rate, Democrats should feel even more confident in their chances of re-electing Barack Obama.

12:30 a.m.: Chris Coons, the Democratic candidate for Senate in Delaware, has released the following statement:

With Christine O’Donnell, we face an ideology rather than a record. One of Sarah Palin’s newest “Mama Grizzlies,” O’Donnell will fight to roll back a woman’s right to choose and lead the charge against stem-cell research, falsely claiming that this ground breaking research exploits women. She has a record of supporting discrimination against gays and lesbians, and pressing for public schools to teach creationism.

Even more shocking is that despite the fact that she has no plan for putting Delawareans back to work and wants to open our coastlines to more dangerous off-shore drilling risks, she truly believes that she’s the right candidate for Delaware.

Make no mistake — Sarah Palin, Jim DeMint, Michelle Bachmann, and the Tea Party Express will invest to make sure O’Donnell joins them in Washington. We cannot let Joe Biden’s seat fall into ultraconservative hands – into the grasp of a candidate who is out of touch with Delaware and the challenges we face.

12:28 a.m.: Even the Republican Party is writing off Christine O’Donnell. Fox News reporter Carl Cameron states that the NRSC will not spend any money on the Delaware Senate race.

11:24 p.m.: Here’s a little nugget for the upcoming general election race between Chris Coons and Christine O’Donnell. The Tea Party candidate faces a steep uphill battle against the Democrat according to polling firm PPP. They posted this information on their Twitter feed:

@ppppolls: Only 31% of Delaware voters think Christine O’Donnell is fit to hold public office
@ppppolls: And O’Donnell’s fav/unfav is 29/50
@ppppolls: Castle primary voters supports Coons over O’Donnell 44-28 in general election

The only people in the state that seem to like O’Donnell have just voted for her in the primary. Coons will win almost all Democrats, a substantial number of independents, and a decent amount of Republicans.

11:14 p.m.: Tea Party candidate Carl Paladino has defeated former Congressman Rick Lazio in New York’s GOP primary for governor. With 47 percent of precincts reporting, Paladino leads Lazio 67-33%. All of that fear-mongering over the “9/11 mosque” didn’t help Lazio one bit.

11:00 p.m.: Here’s an update from New Hampshire. Tea Party candidate Ovide Lamontagne’s lead is down to just 5 points after initially leading by about 20 points when the night began. In raw votes, the difference is only 2,000 with many left to be uncounted. Not all of Lamontagne’s lead is shifting to Ayotte, though. Binnie has seen a 4 percent rise in the past few hours and Bender a little over 1 percent. Their votes may very well play spoiler.

Lamontagne – 41.8% (18,959)
Ayotte – 37.1% (16,806)
Binnie – 11.8% (5,351)
Bender – 7.9% (3,597)

23.3% of precincts reporting

9:49 p.m.: Here are the final results from Delaware. Let the civil war in the Delaware GOP begin.

Mike Castle – 46.9% (27,021)
Christine O’Donnell – 53.1% (30,561)

100% of precincts reporting

It’s hard to see how Castle’s voters could turn around and vote for O’Donnell in November. Given the swift negative turn that this campaign took and the vicious nature of the attacks, these wounds are not going to heal in a little over a month’s time. Election day is fast approaching and this primary will be fresh on the minds of Castle’s supporters. Expect Democratic nominee Chris Coons to have a field day with the material that the Republican Party used against O’Donnell.

9:25 p.m.: Pundits will begin to question how it was possible for Mike Castle to lose this race against a woman that is currently unemployed and has no experience. Look no further than last year’s town hall meeting where a constituent confronted him over President Obama’s birth certificate. The Republican Party has moved to the far right extreme, even in traditionally Democratic states like Delaware. This should be a wakeup call for national Republicans. They may have a good year yet in 2010, but long-term, this is not the foundation you want to build your party on. Watch the video below:

9:16 p.m.: The AP has reported that Tea Party candidate Christine O’Donnell will be the winner in the Delaware GOP Senate primary against Mike Castle. That makes her the 8th Tea Party candidate to defeat mainstream Republicans in Senate primaries across the country. In my updated Election Projection later tonight, Delaware will move into the Likely Democrat column.

9:11 p.m.: The numbers are going in the right direction for the Congressman, but with over 3/4 of the vote already counted, Mike Castle is quickly running out of time to gain on Christine O’Donnell. Her lead is nearly 4,000 votes.

Delaware

Mike Castle – 46.1% (21,683)
Christine O’Donnell – 53.9% (25,331)

77.5% of precincts reporting

In New Hampshire, Kelly Ayotte is losing her home county of Hillsborough 54-31 with over a quarter of precincts reporting. The race is slightly closer statewide, but still a blowout at this point in time.

New Hampshire

Lamontagne – 50% (8,564)
Ayotte – 33.1% (5,670)
Binnie – 9.2% (1,581)
Bender – 6.6% (1,132)

7.3% of precincts reporting

8:36 p.m.: Updated numbers out of Delaware show O’Donnell maintaining her roughly ten point lead over Congressman Mike Castle with 13.8 percent of precincts now in. The numbers in New Hampshire remain unchanged.

Delaware

Mike Castle – 45.3% (3,378)
Christine O’Donnell – 54.7% (4,081)

13.8% of precincts reporting

8:28 p.m.: The first results are in out of Delaware and it’s not looking good for Mike Castle:

Delaware

Mike Castle – 43.7% (769)
Christine O’Donnell – 56.3% (991)

4% of precincts reporting

8:13 p.m.: Tonight is a big night in determining whether Republicans will even have a chance at winning the Senate this fall. In order to do so, they need to hold their Senate seat in New Hampshire and pick-up Joe Biden’s former Senate seat in Delaware. Both seats were seen as leaning towards the GOP, but that goes into doubt if Tea Party candidates win. Below are early results from these two states.

New Hampshire

Lamontagne – 52.7% (6,047)
Ayotte – 31.8% (3,643)
Binnie – 7.8% (897)
Bender – 6.7% (764)
Lamare – 0.7% (83)

5.3% of precincts reporting

Republican Party Sues Tea Party Candidates

The Republican Party has begun an offensive push against Tea Party candidates across the country. The Tea Party has defeated more mainstream Republican Senate candidates that were backed by the party. After the upset victories of Tea Party candidates in Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Kentucky and other states, Republicans have decided to resort to litigation and complaints with federal election regulators.

The first case comes out of Delaware, where moderate Congressman Mike Castle is fighting desperately to avoid a similar upset that Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski just suffered a few short weeks ago to a far-right Tea Party opponent. The Republican Party in Delaware filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, accusing Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell of illegally collaborating with the Tea Party Express. As CQ Politics is reporting it:

The complaint alleges that the O’Donnell campaign is “knowingly accepting illegal campaign contributions from the Tea Party Express PAC.” It cites two “alarming” instances:

– O’Donnell has knowingly accepted excessive contributions from the Tea Party Express that were directly solicited on behalf of the O’Donnell campaign, according to the filing.

– O’Donnell has accepted illegal excessive contributions from the Tea Party Express by engaging in a statewide coordinated communications effort in support of her campaign. This means, according to the complaint, that every advertisement that is being run by the Tea Party Express in support of Ms. O’Donnell is a violation of Federal law.

The Chairman of the Delaware Republican Party said that she “needs to immediately call upon her third party supporters to cease and desist this illegal behavior.” With the primary coming on Tuesday, there is no chance that the FEC will make a ruling in time, which makes this complaint quite odd. If O’Donnell wins the nomination and the FEC finds wrongdoing, sanctions against her campaign would undercut her ability to win a general election campaign. Tea Party voters could easily see this as Republican Party leaders bullying their candidate (Sarah Palin endorsed O’Donnell on Friday). The fact that such an unusual complaint would be filed just a few days before the primary suggests that Republicans are extremely worried about Castle’s prospects on Tuesday.

The second complaint comes out of Colorado, where the Republican Party is attempting to prevent bomb-throwing former Congressman Tom Tancredo from appearing on November’s ballot for governor. Tancredo decided to run after the Republican nominee, Dan Maes, refused to drop out. The deadline for dropping out was today, leaving no chance for a new nominee. With all of this in-fighting going on, Republicans may be the worst enemy of Republicans right now.

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

Tea Party Candidate Defeats Alaska Senator Murkowski

One week after the Alaska Republican Senate primary we have a winner. Senator Lisa Murkowski conceded defeat in a phone call to her Sarah Palin-backed far-right challenger. Joe Miller, who led by 1,668 votes after last week’s primary, was leading by 1,100 votes once counting resumed today. Some 16,000 votes had yet been counted as of last Wednesday, mostly mail-in absentee ballots and disputed ballots.

Murkowski’s defeat is the latest in a string of upsets for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, who has also seen more traditional and mainstream Republican candidates lose or forced out in Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, Nevada and Utah. The Tea Party victories jeopardize three Republican-held seats (Florida, Kentucky and now Alaska) and Democrat-held pick-up opportunities in Colorado and Nevada.

Palin-Backed Candidate Leading Senator Murkowski in Alaska

Joe Miller, a political unknown supported by Sarah Palin and the Tea Party, is leading Senator Lisa Murkowski in Alaska’s Republican Senate primary by 3 points. With 84 percent of precincts reporting, Miller is ahead with 51.45% (45,188 votes) to Murkowski’s 48.55% (42,633 votes). While Miller is on-track to defeating Murkowski, the race remains undecided until some 16,000 absentee ballots are counted.

Miller credited the support of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin for his possible upset. “I’m absolutely certain that was pivotal,” he said. Not surprisingly, Senator Murkowski had a different take on Palin’s support for her opponent. “I think she’s out for her own self-interest. I don’t think she’s out for Alaska’s interest,” Murkowski said.

Senator Murkowski and Sarah Palin have a history of conflict. In 2006, Palin resoundingly defeated Murkowski’s father in the GOP primary for governor. Frank Murkowski came in third place during that primary and received only 19 percent of the vote. Coincidentally, he had appointed his daughter to the Senate seat that he left empty upon assuming the governor’s office in 2002.

If Miller pulls off the victory, he could put this seat into play for the Democrats. Murkowski was seen as a safe choice, but with a far-right political unknown taking the Republican Party’s nomination, it is possible that Democrats could make this race competitive. It was only two years ago that Mark Begich defeated incumbent Senator Ted Stevens, the longest serving Republican member at the time.

Election Projection 2010: Great Plains/Mountain West Senate Seats

We’re getting closer to the midterm elections. As such, I will be posting my projections more frequently. The last projections that I published looked at races in the Midwest and South. Now we’re going to have a look at the Great Plains/Mountain West:

Colorado
Incumbent: Michael Bennet (D)
Challenger(s): Ken Buck (R)
Prediction: Leans Democrat

Colorado is likely to be the only real competitive race in this entire region. That said, Democrats have a slight advantage with the defeat of the party’s pick, Jane Norton, to Tea Party candidate Ken Buck. Like other Tea Party candidates across the country, Buck is a weaker candidate in the general election and could help Democrats hold seats that were otherwise vulnerable. Senator Michael Bennet, who had never held elected office before, was appointed after President Obama nominated Ken Salazar to the Department of the Interior.

Idaho
Incumbent: Mike Crapo (R)
Challenger(s): Tom Sullivan (D)
Prediction: Likely Republican

The last time Mike Crapo was up for re-election, in 2004, he won 99 percent of the vote. The other 1 percent went to write-in candidates. No Democrat challenged him that year. While Crapo has a challenger this year from Democrat Tom Sullivan, polls have shown the incumbent with a 40 point lead. This seat is safe for the GOP barring a Larry Craig-like controversy.

Kansas
Incumbent: Sam Brownback (R) – Retiring
Challenger(s): Rep. Jerry Moran (R), Lisa Johnston (D)
Prediction: Likely Republican

Incumbent Republican Sam Brownback is retiring from the Senate in order to seek the governor’s mansion in Kansas. His likely replacement is Representative Jerry Moran, who defeated Representative Todd Tiahrt. Sarah Palin endorsed Tiahrt and was featured in some of his campaign ads, yet it was not enough. No Democrat has held a Senate seat in Kansas since the 1930s.

North Dakota
Incumbent: Byron Dorgan (D) – Retiring
Challenger(s): Governor John Hoeven (R), Tracy Potter (D)
Prediction: Likely Republican

One of the early signs that Democrats were in trouble came when Senator Byron Dorgan, a moderate from North Dakota, decided to retire instead of face a tough re-election battle to the state’s popular Republican governor. With Dorgan out of the race, Republicans are all but assured of picking up the seat. Democrats had managed to hold the two North Dakota Senate seats since 1987 and at least one of the seats since 1960.

Oklahoma
Incumbent: Tom Coburn (R)
Challenger(s): Jim Rogers (D)
Prediction: Leans Republican

Tom Coburn was elected to Congress as 1994’s “Republican Revolution”. He moved to the Upper Chamber in 2004 with 53 percent of the vote. Coburn’s seat has been held by Republicans since 1968. The last time a Democrat held a Senate seat in Oklahoma was in 1994, before James Inhofe assumed it from retiring Senator David Boren. Expect Coburn to crush his Democratic competition in November.

South Dakota
Incumbent: John Thune (R)
Challenger(s): No Challenger
Prediction: Likely Republican

There is no uncertainty around South Dakota’s Senate seat in 2010. John Thune will cruise to re-election as no Democrats have filed to challenge him. Thune, a possible candidate for president in 2012 or 2016, defeated Democratic Minority Leader Tom Daschle by a slim margin: 51-49%. The only person that could have even made this race competitive would have been Daschle, but seeing as he had tax woes and this election cycle seems to be favoring Republicans, even he would have had a difficult time unseating Thune.

Utah
Incumbent: Bob Bennett (R) – Defeated in Primary
Challenger(s): Mike Lee (R), Sam Granato (D)
Prediction: Likely Republican

You can hardly get more Republican than Utah. The real race in this state was not the upcoming general election but instead the Republican primary. Conservatives ousted sitting Senator Bob Bennett, a mainstream conservative who voted with the party over 90 percent of the time. Conservative voting records only go so far for the Tea Party crowd when you vote for bank bailouts as Bennett did in 2008.

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.

North Carolina is one of those states. Senator Richard Burr has suffered from poor approval ratings throughout his first term. Nearly every current poll has him under 50 percent support, some as low as 39%. While he continues to lead his Democratic opponent, Elaine Marshall, the gap between them is fast dwindling. This race is being changed from “Leans Republican” to “Toss-Up”. As we previously noted, Senator Burr voted against an extension of unemployment benefits in a state that has nearly double digit unemployment. This is not likely to play well with voters in North Carolina.

Illinois is moving from “Toss-Up” to “Leans Democrat”. Alexi Giannoulias has taken a slight lead in the polls. Republican Mark Kirk had led or tied Giannoulias in the polls until revelations that he exaggerated his military service emerged. Kirk claimed that he received a military award that he did not. Kirk also claimed that he was a nursery school teacher. However, a member of the school said that, “he was never, ever considered a teacher,” but instead played with the children. Given that this is Obama’s adopted home state and the Democratic tilt of Illinois, Giannoulias should manage to win, although it will be somewhat close.

Below is a map of the Southern, Great Plains, Mountain West and Midwestern Senate races as described in these first three election projection updates:

Map

Bennet and Buck Win in CO, Lamont Loses in CT

The anti-incumbent “wave”, which I pointed out has only swept away six out of 282 incumbents so far this year, failed to topple appointed Democratic Senator Michael Bennet. The Obama-backed Bennet faced party insider and former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff. Interestingly, former President Bill Clinton endorsed Romanoff against the White House’s wishes, but his candidate still lost anyway.

On the Republican side, Tea Party favorite Ken Buck is leading Washington favorite Jane Norton, a former Lt. Governor. Buck possibly hurt his chances with his Tea Party base when he called them “dumbasses” for making Obama’s birth certificate an issue in the campaign. Not exactly the way to close a campaign. At either rate, Norton was the favorite and she now trails. Finally, Republican Dan Maes leads Scott McInnis in the GOP’s primary for governor. McInnis was recently caught plagiarizing work that he was paid $300,000 for.

Colorado Senate Primary

Michael Bennet (D) – 54.3%
Andrew Romanoff (D) – 45.6%

Ken Buck (R) – 51.6%
Jane Norton (R) – 48.3%

Colorado Gubernatorial Primary

Dan Maes (R) – 50.1%
Scott McInnis (R) – 49.8%

Ned Lamont, a liberal favorite and victor over Joe Lieberman in the 2006 Democratic primary for Senate, lost his bid for governor to Democrat Dan Malloy 58-42. Republicans nominated Tom Foley with 42 percent of the vote. Democrats see Connecticut as a key pick-up opportunity. On the Senate side, Republicans nominated WWE Linda McMahon beat former Congressman Rob Simmons 49-28. Democrats nominated Attorney General Richard Blumenthal for the seat of retiring Senator Chris Dodd.

Connecticut Gubernatorial Primary

Tom Foley (R) – 42%
Michael Fedele (R) – 39%
Oz Griebel (R) – 19%

Dan Malloy (D) – 58%
Ned Lamont (D) – 42%

Connecticut Senate Primary

Linda McMahon (R) – 49%
Rob Simmons (R) – 28%
Peter Schiff (R) – 23%

Ellsworth Runs First Ad in Indiana Senate Race

Democratic Senate candidate Brad Ellsworth is up with his first television ad of the election cycle. The video starts with him talking about his experience as a sheriff as he walks around an abandoned warehouse. He describes how Washington politicians have failed to solve the problems that the American people face, including outsourced jobs. He takes a clear jab at Republican candidate Dan Coats, a former lobbyist, by saying that “the special interests and lobbyists already have enough senators on their side.” Watch it below:

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