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2010: Deep Blue to Red?

September 29, 2009

Quick–give me the names of four powerful elected Democrats in Washington.

There’s a lot of names to pick from here, but you could do a lot worse than to pick President Obama, VP Biden, Harry Reid, and Chris Dodd.

What do these four men have in common? Each of their Senate seats is vulnerable to Republican takeover in 2010.

Now, all of these seats are located in states that voted for Obama in 2008, three of them (CT, IL, and DE) by landslide margins. Dodd and Reid are powerful incumbents that can raise massive funds, Joe Biden’s son will run for the seat in Delaware, and who knows, thousands of dead people may “vote” for the Democrat in Illinois. Yet a combination of anti-Democrat sentiment and strong Republican candidates makes each of this races winnable. We’ll detail them, in descending order of vulnerability.

1.) Reid, Nevada. The Senate Majority Leader has been surprisingly ineffective this year in guiding the filibuster-proof Democratic caucus. Republicans and moderates nationwide have long been skeptical of Reid; however, this disdain is now building in Nevada as well. A recent poll put Reid’s approval rating at just 36%, and showed him polling behind Republican opponents, a bad sign for an incumbent this early in the race. Nevada is a bellwether state, and with national public sentiment souring on Reid and Congress in general, it may be hostile territory for an incumbent in 2010. This Senate race is beginning to look eerily similar to one in 2004, when South Dakota swept then-Majority Leader Tom Daschle out of office.

2. Dodd, Connecticut. Chris Dodd is about as liberal as Senators come, but alas, Connecticut is about as liberal as states come. Yet the AIG controversy and the string of unpopular bailouts have sapped the Banking Committee chair of support, and his home state is now thinking it may be time for a change. Rob Simmons, a popular moderate Republican who was once a Congressman, had led Dodd in all polls since March and may be the right man to take him down.

3. Obama, Illinois. My, how times have changed. The thought of a Republican winning the president’s (now-open) seat was laughable in December, but thanks to Blagojevich, it’s entirely possible. Mark Kirk, a GOP Congressman, is polling well against Democrats and hails from the Chicago suburbs, the state’s “swing” region. If Kirk can win the counties surrounding Chi-town back from the Democrats, he stands an excellent chance at flipping this seat. Unfortunately, the President will undoubtably be pulling out all the stoppers to swing this seat to one of his Chicago-machine allies.

4. Biden, Delaware. OK, so a beloved six-term senator has left to become Vice-President, and his son, who happens to be Delaware Attorney General, is likely running to succeed him. In a state that went for Obama by 24 points. What hope do Republicans have here? Enter Mike Castle, a Congressman and former governor, who has won no less than 12 statewide elections, never with less than 55% of the vote. Castle is very popular in his home state, and leads Beau Biden in the polls by 21 points. The catch? Castle has yet to decide whether to enter the race, which is safely Biden’s if he does not run.

Normally, a party will go after the other party’s less-entrenched Senators, or those in “hostile” territory (e.g, Democrats in red states.) But that hasn’t worked lately for the Republicans, who haven’t knocked off a Democrat since 2004. So with these golden opportunities, why not take a shot at some of the Dems’ crown-jewel Senators?

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