Sabato's Crystal Ball

That Wild and Wacky Senate

Some Updates on the Upcoming 2010 Senate Showdown

Larry J. Sabato, Director, U.Va. Center for Politics June 25th, 2009

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So much has happened recently in many of the 2010 Senate contests that you would think we were in the middle of the election year. We’re still seventeen months out from Election Day, yet the battles are turning white hot in many states.

Let’s take a look at what has occurred in recent weeks in more than a dozen states featuring the big showdowns of ’10. For a comprehensive outlook on Senate 2010, please see our earlier three-part series (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3).

It is important to start with what hasn’t changed. Democrats are nearly certain to maintain control of the Senate at the midterm election. At worst for them, Democrats will lose a couple seats from their current 59-member majority (soon to be 60 with the probable addition of Minnesota’s Al Franken over the summer), and at best they’ll gain several seats to reclaim the kind of majority they last enjoyed in the early years of the Carter administration. Republicans who hope for another 1994-style landslide are dreaming, absent a massive downturn in popularity for President Obama.

There are certainly Democrats in trouble:

This list may appear daunting for Democrats until the analysis goes further:

Still, with a few lucky breaks, the GOP might pick up a couple of these vulnerable Democratic Senate seats. That seems like good news for the GOP until one examines the other side of the ledger for 2010. Here are the Republican seats that are clearly endangered in November 2010:

Some of these Democratic opportunities will not materialize in the end, but Democrats in Missouri, New Hampshire, and Ohio are already threatening to capture Republican seats. It is simply impossible to see how the GOP could even reduce the Democratic margin by very much, much less recapture the Senate. And it is just as easy to plot a course for Democrats to add two or three seats to their already swollen total in 2012.

It’s still early, and we’ll keep watching the Obama poll ratings, but so far Republican fortunes seem very unlikely to be revived by the midterm Senate elections. The GOP will have to hope for more luck in the contests for U.S. House and the governorships.