Senate rankings: GOP prospects improve, with Democrats still in the driver's seat

It has been more than two months since my last Senate rankings. With the presidential primaries on every one's mind, congressional races are looking less urgent, not to mention that there was just very little news coming out of down-the-ballot contests during the holiday period. But a lot has changed since the beginning of November -- starting with the number of Senate elections that will be decided in 2008. Trent Lott's shocking decision to prioritize lobbying over holding the position he was elected to a year before has added a 35th race to our rankings, and has expanded the map for Democrats with an unexpected opportunity.

But Republican prospects are looking up outside of Mississippi. After months of good news for Democrats, the GOP has pushed back and improved its situation in several races, starting with Kentucky and Nebraska where a series of Democratic recruitment failures have diminished the party's chances of shocking Republicans in red territory. Dems still have hope that Andrew Horne and Scott Kleeb could make things competitive there, but both races look like long-shots right now. Meanwhile, polls in Colorado show that the conventional wisdom that the open seat would be an easy Democratic pick-up might have been a bit too hasty, while Republicans are looking stronger than they did three months ago in Maine and even in New Hampshire.

Yet, Democrats are still in the driver's seat of next year's elections. Eleven of the twelve most vulnerable seats are held by Republicans -- and it will be very hard for the GOP to save Virginia and New Mexico. Meanwhile, Democrats have to be happy with the way things are shaping up in Alaska, a state that was in few people's radar screens at the start of the cycle but where polls are now shaping entrenched but ethically challenged Senator Stevens trailing. Over the next few weeks, the recruitment process will come to a close, we will know what to expect in the Mississippi special election and get a feel of how things are shaping up in races where news has been rather slow.

Read the full rankings here.