Five states where GOP might pull another Brown

Republican Scott Brown's win in Massachusetts provides a boost for the GOP's momentum for the 2010 midterm elections. Here are five states where Republicans might pick off Senate seats this November.

Charles Krupa/AP
Massachusetts State Sen. Scott Brown, R-Wrentham, celebrates in Boston, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2010. Some say other current blue states may be going red in the next election.

Republican Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts should be an “air raid siren” for Democrats, alerting them to the possibility of further tough Senate seat losses this fall.

That’s what veteran political prognosticator Charlie Cook wrote Friday in National Journal – and he’s not alone in making such a prediction.

Brown’s upset win provided the GOP more than just a 41st vote to disrupt President Obama’s agenda, according to Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. It’s also given Republicans momentum, and a big boost in morale.

Democrats will probably retain control of the Senate following the November vote. The GOP would need a net gain of 10 seats to reach 51, and many experts still don’t see that happening.

Mr. Sabato, for instance, predicts Republicans will gain three to five seats. But as he notes in his most recent "Crystal Ball" analysis, Brown’s win will help GOP leaders recruit better candidates for races that might previously have been dismissed as unwinnable.

“As some independents sour on the Democratic Party, the possibility for a GOP majority can no longer be dismissed out of hand,” writes Sabato.

Here are five states where Republicans might take a Senate seat from the Democrats this fall, in order of most to least likely to go GOP:

Arkansas. Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) of Arkansas is the most endangered Senate incumbent of either party. John McCain won big here in 2008 and Senator Lincoln’s job approval rating has been trending down – a Mason-Dixon survey released this week found that fewer than 40 percent of Arkansas voters have a favorable impression of her. Former GOP state Sen. Gilbert Baker might constitute a tough, Brown-like opponent.

Nevada. Sen. Harry Reid (D) of Nevada should be unbeatable. He was elected to the Senate in 1986 and has won reelection three times since. But the state’s tourism-dependent economy is in the tank. As majority leader, Senator Reid is vulnerable to charges that he is neglecting constituents. Earlier this month, a Mason-Dixon poll found that 52 percent of respondents viewed Reid unfavorably. In the survey, Reid trailed three possible GOP foes, including former University of Nevada-Las Vegas basketball player Danny Tarkanian.

Pennsylvania. Five-term Sen. Arlen Specter (D) of Pennsylvania was welcomed with open arms by Democrats when he announced last April that he was switching parties. Senator Specter’s got lots of cash on hand and is girding for an expected race against Republican and former Rep. Pat Toomey, who almost toppled him in the primary in 2004. But the party-switch might not save Specter’s seat: he hasn’t gained as much among Democratic voters as he has lost among those who lean Republican.

Colorado. Sen. Michael Bennet (D) of Colorado is an incumbent who was appointed to the office after Ken Salazar resigned his senate seat to become secretary of the Interior. Senator Bennett is an electoral neophyte; his reelection bid will be his first actual run for office. Right now his approval ratings are mediocre and he is likely to draw a strong challenge in the primary. If he wins that, he might face former GOP Lt. Gov. Jane Norton in the fall.

Delaware. In Delaware, Joe Biden’s old seat is up for grabs this fall. The question is, will the vice president’s son, the state's Democratic Attorney General Beau Biden, try to win it back for his family? Given what happened to Democratic Attorney General Martha Coakley in Massachusetts, some experts now think Beau Biden might opt to stay where he is. After all, the likely GOP candidate, US Rep. Michael Castle, is formidable. He’s a nine-term congressman, former governor, and moderate who’s been a pillar of Delaware politics for a generation.

Bonus Extra. Unlike the five states listed above, North Dakota has a seat in play this fall that is almost certain to switch sides. Three-term incumbent Sen. Byron Dorgan (D) is retiring, and this rural, heavily Republican state is likely to elect a GOP senator to replace him.


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