Senate rankings: The map expands for Democrats

The presidential primaries are heading towards a not so climactic conclusion and so the time has come to focus some attention on the congressional races. I haven't updated the rankings since January and a lot has changed in the past 5 months, starting with the resolution of contested primaries in Oregon, Nebraska, North Carolina and probably Minnesota. Both parties have gone through final recruitment pushes, with the GOP playing a tragicomedic farce in New Jersey and suffering through one more round of failures in South Dakota and Iowa.

Meanwhile, a number of seats that had remained relatively quiet up to now have been seeing more action in the past few months. In Colorado, Bob Schaffer had been holding unexpectedly strong for most of 2007 but he was hit by a scandal over his ties with Jack Abramoff. In Oregon, the DSCC decided it had to soften Gordon Smith early to have a chance in November and started airing an attack ad against the incumbent. In Minnesota, it was Democrats who took a hit when it was revealed that Al Franken had trouble with taxes. And in Alaska, Mark Begich officially jumped in the Senate race -- though it had been many months that his candidacy had become clear.

But it is the lower ranked seats that created the most wave in the first half of 2008. It has become increasingly apparent that Democrats are successfully expanding the map, putting the dream of a filibuster-proof (however unlikely it still is) back on the table. As poll after poll show that seats like North Carolina, Texas and even Kansas -- not to mention Mississippi and Alaska, which were barely on the table back in the fall but which are not first-tier races on their own right -- are within Democrats' reach, the Senate picture is becoming increasingly nightmarish for the GOP. The NRSC is not in quite as big a financial hole as their House counterpart, but the Republicans have to be prepared to have their resources stretched thin. The DSCC is sending staffers to organize in Oklahoma, a clear sign that they are determined to put as many states in play as possible. For now, they are succeeding beyond even their expectations.

The full and newly-written rankings, with race-by-race descriptions, are available here.


  • Taniel,

    Thank you! I like what I've read on your analysis.

    Right now I rank it as the following:

    Likely Takeover:
    (1) Virginia
    (2) New Mexico

    Leaning Takeover:
    (3) Colorado
    (4) New Hampshire


    (5) Alaska
    (6) Mississippi

    Lean Retention:

    (7) Oregon
    (8) Minnesota
    (9) Louisiana
    (10) Maine

    Likely Retention:

    (11) New Jersey
    (12) Texas
    (13) North Carolina
    (14) Oklahoma
    (15) Kentucky

    Thes rest, at least to me, is safe.

    I place Colorado ahead of NH because Colorado is an open seat, and Sununu may be helped by McCain's popularity.

    I have Mississippi #6 because I believe Obama will help Musgrove in this state immensely (higher turnout by Dems than usual).

    I have Oregon at #7 because the Dems have picked a solid candidate against Gordon Smith. As republicans go, Smith is not too bad to me. He's moderate, and he reminds me a lot of John Breaux (centrist).

    I have downgraded Louisiana because Kennedy's social views will not help him with the GOP constituents.

    Anyway, I think your analysis is strong. I think the Dems will pick up 5 or 6 seats, but may lose a seat with a possible Lieberman defection.

    By Anonymous Jim West, At 23 May, 2008 08:34  

  • I don't consider Louisiana a toss-up. The biggest positive for the GOP in this race is their total lack of other options. They may decide to spend $10 million here hoping to not be shut out for a second cycle in a row. But that could cost them several other close races.

    By Anonymous C.S.Strowbridge, At 23 May, 2008 13:43  

  • I think that Landrieu is a very good fit for Louisiana--a conservative/moderate Senator that keeps a low profile. I think Kennedy has a bad stigma for changing parties, having lost the 2004 election, and being to moderate for the GOP base.

    I think that the Dems may be in trouble in NJ. I think the electorate for NJ has lost faith in incumbents in general. Lautenburg is old, and he's not very popular for a senator who's been around for a long time. I believe that this state may become closer than Louisiana later in the election cycle.

    The sad part for the GOP is South Dakota. Tim Johnson winning by a landslide in a red state is an embarrassment for the Republicans. I also believe the GOP should have challenged in Arkansas--that was a major shocker.

    By Anonymous Jim w, At 23 May, 2008 14:51  

  • Safe Takeover:
    (1) Virginia

    Likely Takeover:
    (2) New Mexico

    Leaning Takeover:
    (3) New Hampshire
    (4) Colorado

    (5) Alaska
    (6) Minnesota
    (7) Mississippi-B

    Lean Retention:
    (8) Oregon
    (9) North Carolina
    (10) Louisiana
    (11) Maine

    Likely Retention:
    (12) Texas
    (13) Nebraska
    (14) Oklahoma
    (15) Kansas
    (16) Idaho

    Safe Retention: Remaining 19 races

    Outlook: DEMs pick up 6-8 seats
    Prediction: DEM+7 = 58 DEM, 42 GOP

    (Note: The 58 DEMs consist of a caucus of 56 Democrats, 1 Independent, & 1 Lieberman.)

    By Blogger KELL, At 23 May, 2008 22:53  

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