Council for a Livable World Reviews the 2010 Senate Elections

The landscape - last updated November 1, 2010

With two days to go before November 2010, the prospects for significant Republican gains on election day are very high. Indeed, the consensus is that Republicans take the House and Democrats retain narrow control of the Senate.

These results come after a series of unpredictable events and political surprises throughout the year.

In May, Sen. Bob Bennett (R) was denied renomination by his own party in Utah, Sen. Arlen Specter (D) was defeated in Pennsylvania and Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) was forced into a runoff in Arkansas (although she won the runoff in a close election). In addition, the establishment favorite of the Republican Party in Kentucky was overwhelmingly defeated by Tea Party candidate Rand Paul (R) and Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal's (D) image was dented by a major New York Times piece written about his "deceptions" related to his military service during the Vietnam War.

There have been other surprises. In Florida, Gov. Charlie Crist decided to run for Senate as an independent rather than as a Republican, throwing that contest into turmoil and a three way fight. Then, at the end of June, came the death of Sen. Robert Byrd (D) at the age of 92. In August, Sen. Lisa Murskowski (R) was stunned in her GOP primary and a few weeks later, Rep. Mike Castle ()R, long a fixture in Delaware politics, lost his primary to Christine O'Donnell (R)..

But that has been the pattern of the year: one unexpected development after another which makes predicting the outcome of the November elections difficult.

The year started with he unexpected upset victory of Scott Brown (R) over Martha Coakley (D) in the special election to replace the late Sen. Edward Kennedy. The bluest of states went for a conservative Republican in a repudiation of both Coakley and national Democrats.

Shortly thereafter, three senior Democrats, Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota and Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, announced their retirement. Moreover, the Vice President's son, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, decided not to run for Senate.

In this atmosphere, incumbents of both parties are running scared. But predictions of a wide Republican sweep in November have been undercut by the only two-party competition on May 18, a special election to replace the late Rep. John Murtha (D-A), which went Democratic by an unexpectedly large margin.

One more highly unpredictable element: Republicans have chosen tea party favorites -- i.e., candidates with very far right views -- in states such as Florida, Kentucky, Colorado, Delaware, Alaska and Nevada. They will either herald a new kind of Senate in 2011 or make their Democratic opponents more electable in November.

19 Democratic seats up for election

Evan Bayh (IN)(retiring)
Michael Bennet (CO)
Barbara Boxer (CA)
Roland Burris (IL) (retiring)
Christopher Dodd (CT) (retiring)
Byron Dorgan (ND) (retiring)
Russell Feingold (WI)
Kirsten Gillibrand (NY)
Carte Goodwin (WV), replacing Robert C. Byrd (WV) - died June 2010
Daniel Inouye (HI)
Ted Kaufman (DE) (retiring)
Paul Kirk (MA) - Scott Brown (R) elected in Jan. 19 special election
Patrick Leahy (VT)
Blanche Lincoln (AR)
Barbara Mikulski (MD)
Patty Murray (WA)
Harry Reid (NV)
Charles Schumer (NY)
Arlen Specter (PA) - Defeated
Ron Wyden (OR)

18 Republican seats up for election

Robert Bennett (UT) - Defeated
Christopher Bond (MO) (retiring)
Sam Brownback (KS) (retiring)
Jim Bunning (KY) (retiring)
Richard Burr (NC)
Tom Coburn (OK)
Mike Crapo (ID)
Jim DeMint (SC)
Chuck Grassley (IA)
Judd Gregg (NH) (retiring)
Johnny Isakson (GA)
George Lemieux (FL) - replacement for Mel Martinez (FL) (retiring)
John McCain (AZ)
Lisa Murkowski (AK)
Richard Shelby (AL)
John Thune (SD)
David Vitter (LA)
George Voinovich (OH) (retiring)

The battleground states

Alaska: Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) was stunned to lose the GOP primary against attorney Joe Miller (R), who was backed by former Governor Sarah Palin and the Tea Party Express. Miller called Murkowski too liberal. Murkowski decided to run as a write-in candidate in November, making this an unpredictable three-way contest, including Democrat Scott McAdams. Murkowski may be the first write-in Senate candidate to win in decades.

Arizona: Having recovered from running for President, Sen. John McCain (R) was challenged from the right in a GOP primary by former U.S. Representative J.D. Hayworth (R). Hayworth quit his job as a radio talk-show host to challenge McCain for being insufficiently conservative. McCain, who spent $21 million, easily turned back Hayworth 56% - 32%, and is overwhelmingly favored over Rodney Glassman (D) in the fall.

Arkansas: Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D), in something of an upset, came back in the runoff election to defeat her Democratic rival, Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter (D) 52% - 48%. At this point, the Republican nominee, U.S. Rep. John Boozman, who easily won over a number of challengers, is far ahead.

California: The nation’s largest state has become a battleground as ex-Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina (R) is challenging Sen. Barbara Boxer (D). Polls show a tight contest ahead. Fiorina easily won the June 8 primary with 56% of the vote against Assemblyman Chuck Devore (R) and former U.S. Rep. Tom Campbell (R), the 2000 nominee for Senate. Boxer had $11 million in the bank at the end of June but Fiorina can write her own checks.[Council for a Livable World has endorsed and fundraised for Boxer]

Colorado: Political newcomer Michael Bennet (D) was appointed to replace Sen. Ken Salazar (D), who resigned to become Secretary of Interior. Well-regarded for his performance as superintendent of Denver public schools, Bennet's political life was complicated by a primary challenge from ex-state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D). However, Bennet prevailed 54% - 46% in the August 10 primary. Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck (R) beat former Lieutenant Governor Jane Norton (R) in the GOP primary. Polls point to a close contest in the general election. [Council for a Livable World has endorsed and fundraised for Bennet]

Connecticut: Incumbent Sen. Chris Dodd (D) announced his retirement in early 2010. The decision was good news for Democrats. Dodd was considered a dead duck by many, hurt by his run for the presidency, his banking ties and allegations of sweetheart real estate deals. State attorney general Richard Blumenthal (D), who once worked for Dodd and is immensely popular, is running for Dodd's seat. Polls showed Blumenthal ahead of any Republican. Former World Wresting Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon (R) easily won the GOP nomination on August 10 over former Rep. Rob Simmons (R) and financial services executive Peter Schiff (R). McMahon may spend as much as $50 million of her own money. While the contest tightened earlier, Blumenthal remains the favorite.

Delaware: Sen. Ted Kaufman (D) is Sen. Joseph Biden’s former chief of staff. Upon taking office, he announced that he will hold the seat for only two years. Popular U.S. Rep. Mike Castle (R) ran, but Attorney General Beau Biden (D), one of Biden’s sons, surprised many by announcing he will not run. In Setember, Castle was surprised from the right by former Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell (R). New Castle County Executive Chris Coons (D) went from underdog to favorite. [Council for a Livable World has endorsed and fundraised for Coons]

Florida: This Senate contest for the seat of Sen. Mel Martinez (R) has taken many twists and turns. First, popular Governor Charles Crist (R) entered the contest in May 2009. Then Martinez quit early, and was temporarily replaced by George Lemieux (R). Former Florida state Speaker Marco Rubio (R) went from Republican underdog to overwhelming favorite. As a result, Crist decided to run as an independent. Democrats nominated U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek (D), who crushed billionaire real estate developer Jeff Greene (D) in a primary. Polls show Rubio running away with the contest.

Illinois: Former Governor Rod Blagojevich’s (D) appointment of Sen. Roland Burris (D) embarrassed state and national Democrats, but Burris announced he will not run in 2010. State treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D) won the Democratic primary on Februry 2 and faces suburban Chicago U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk (R). Polls show a very competitive contest. The Democrat's problems with a family-owned bank are are costing him at the polls. But Kirk's series of overstatements about his record have damaged him as well.

Indiana: Republicans, smelling blood in the water, convinced former Sen. Dan Coats (R) to challenge Sen. Evan Bayh (D). Then Bayh, who had been favored to hold his seat, surprised the political world on February 15 by announcing he would not run again. The Democratic Party apparatus, selecting a candidate because the petition filing deadline was February 16, settled on U.S. Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D), a former sheriff. On May 4, Coats won the GOP primary with 39% of the vote, and is favored in this Republican-leaning state.

Iowa: Sen. Chuck Grassley's (R) armor has been a bit dented by some of his wild statements on health care reform, but he remains in front of his potential challenger. 1982 Governor nominee Roxanne Conlin (D) easily beat ex-state senator Tom Flegen (D) and ex-state representative Bob Krause (D) in the June 8 primary with 78% of the vote. Grassley had $5.7 million in the bank at the end of June while Conlin has $851,000. Polls show a strong Grassley lead. [Council for a Livable World has endorsed and will fundraise for Conlin]

Kansas: Sen. Sam Brownback (R) , currently serving his second term in the U.S. Senate, kept his promise to retire after two terms. U.S. Rep. Jerry Moran (R) turned back U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R) in the August primary, 49% - 45%. The Republican primary winner is the general election winner; Democrats have not won a Kansas Senate seat since 1932.

Kentucky: Two-term incumbent Sen. Jim Bunning (R) announced at the end of July 2009 that he would retire at the end of his term. Secretary of State Trey Grayson (R) had establishment support, but he was overwhelmed in the May 8 primary by U.S. Rep. Ron Paul's son Rand (R), an eye surgeon. State Attorney General Jack Conway (D) won a close primary over Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo (D). While Kentucky is a generally Republican state, Paul's tea party views may cause him problems. Immediately after winning the primary, he expressed controversial views on 1960's civil rights laws and the Americans for Disability Act. [Council for a Livable World has endorsed and fundraised for Conway]

Louisiana: Democrats have been targeting Sen. David Vitter (R) (Mr. Family Values) since his name was found in the D.C. Madam’s list of prostitutes’ customers. U.S. Rep. Rep. Charlie Melancon (D) is behind, but still providing a strong challenge to the incumbent. Vitter had $5.5 million in the bank at the end of June, compared to $2.3 million for Melancon. Vitter had no problem turning away a primary challenge from retired Supreme Court Justice Chet Traylor (R) 88% - 7%.

Massachusetts: State Attorney General Martha Coakley (D) won the December 8 primary in the special election to succeed the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D) but then on January 19 lost to State Sen. Scott Brown (R) in an amazing upset that only developed in the last few weeks of the campaign. The election was a repudiation of both Coakley and Obama policies.

Missouri: Sen. Kit Bond (R) , who survived a series of credible Democratic challengers over the years, has announced his retirement. Secretary of State Robin Carnahan (D), the daughter of a recent governor and senator and sister of a congressman, is the Democratic nominee. Polls show her running behind Republican U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt (R); this is a toss-up race. Blunt had a $4.5 to $3.6 fundraising lead over Carnahan at the end of June. [Council for a Livable World has endorsed and fundraised for Carnahan]

Nevada: In 2004, Republicans upset Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle and hope to repeat that victory by defeating Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid (D) in 2010. While Reid triumphed handily in 2004, he won by only 428 votes six years earlier, and many polls showed him trailing in this election. But at the end of June, Reid had $8.9 million in the bank. While state GOP chair Sue Lowden (R) had establishment support, she ran a dismal campaign and was beaten in the June 8 primary by ex-Assembyperson and tea party favorite Sharron Angle (R) (40% - 26% and 23% for a third candidate). While Angle might be slightly favored at this point, some of her far right positions make her ripe for attacks. She had only $1.8 millon in the bank at the end of June but then had a very strong fundraising quarter.. [Council for a Livable World has endorsed and fundraised for Reid]

New Hampshire: This state has been voting increasingly Democratic as evidenced by the defeat of both Republican House members in 2006 and Sen. John Sununu in 2008. Democrats are optimistic about winning another Senate seat in 2010, particularly after Senator Judd Gregg (R) announced his retirement. Rep. Paul Hodes (D) is the Democratic nominee. Former New Hampshire attorney general Kelly Ayotte (R) won the September 14 Republican nomination by a narrow margin over ex-gubernatorial candidate Ovide Lamontagne (R).. Polls show Ayotte running well ahead of Hodes. [Council for a Livable World has endorsed and fundraised for Hodes]

New York: Gov. David Paterson selected little-known U.S. Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) from upstate New York to replace former Senator and now Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Gillibrand is an effective fundraiser and a formidable campaigner, but not well known across the Empire state. The state’s Democratic leanings make her the overwhelming favorite, and she had $7.2 million in the bank at the end of the second quarter of 2010. A number of Democratic and Republican candidates considered running, but backed away.

North Carolina: North Carolina was carried by Barack Obama in 2008 and elected Sen. Kay Hagan (D) over incumbent Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R). Democrats have turned their sights on Sen. Richard Burr (R). In the May 4 Democratic primary, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall (D) won 36% of the vote and ex-state Senator Cal Cunningham (D), an Iraq War veteran, 27%. Attorney Ken Lewis received 17%. Elaine Marshall easily won the runoff over Cunningham 60% - 40%. Polling show Burr ahead of Marshall and he had $6.3 million in his campaign account at the end of June. But he may be subject to the anti-incumbent tide across the country, and is not that well known in the state. Marshall's major problem is fundraising.

North Dakota: Sen. Byron Dorgan (D) unexpectedly announced at the beginning of 2010 that he will not run again. Popular Governor John Hoeven (R) entered the contest and is heavily favored to win. Polls show Hoeven way ahead of State Sen. Tracy Potter (D).

Ohio: Ex-U.S. Rep. and ex-Office of Management and Budget director Rob Portman (R) declared his candidacy immediately after the announced retirement of Sen. George Voinovich (R). He ran unopposed for the GOP nomination. In the May 4 Democratic primary , Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher beat Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner. While early polls showed a close contest, Portman is now strongly favored to win. Portman led with a solid $8.9 million in his campaign treasury at the end of June compared to only $1.3 million for Fisher. [Council for a Livable World has endorsed and fundraised for Fisher]

Pennsylvania: Incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter’s (R turned D) surprising party switch in April 2009 totally shook up this contest. Threatened with defeat at the hands of former Conservative Club for Growth president Pat Toomey (R), who almost defeated Specter in a 2004 primary, Specter decided to run as a Democrat. But U.S. Rep. Joseph Sestak (D) derailed Specter's hopes for a sixth term in a convincing 54%-46% primary victory on May 18. At this point, it is a toss-up between Toomey and Sestak. [Council for a Livable World has endorsed and fundraised for Sestak]

Texas: Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) has decided to remain in the Senate until the end of her term in 2012 despite her earlier pledges to step down no matter whether she won or lost in her attempt to be come Governor. She lost.

Utah: This is a state where Democrats need not apply, but Republicans sometimes have intra-party brawls. In a May 8 Republican convention, Sen. Robert Bennett (R) was denied renomination after three terms. The challengers charged that Bennett was not sufficiently conservative and had "gone Washington." In a June 22 primary, attorney Mike Lee won over businessman Tim Bridgewater 51% - 49%. This is a heavily Republican state and Lee is the next Senator.

Washington: Dino Rossi (R), a two-time candidate for governor and therefore well-known in the state, is challenging incumbent Sen. Patty Murray (D) in a major recruiting success for the GOP. This contest is one of the closest in the country. [Council for a Livable World has endorsed and fundraised for Murray]

West Virginia: The death of Senator Robert Byrd (D) at the age of 92 created a vacancy. Popular Governor Joe Manchin (D) appointed his former general counsel, Carte Goodwin, who will serve until a special election later this year. Manchin (D) is running in the special election to be held November 2; he is narrowlyi favored over wealthy businessman John Raese (R).

Wisconsin: Entrepreneur, small business owner Dave Westlake (R) and businessman Ron Johnson (R) are challenging Sen. Russ Feingold (D). Johnson appears to be the GOP frontrunner, and won 64% of the vote at the May state GOP convention. He is a founder of the Oshkosh Tea Party. The contest has trended toward Johnson. [Council for a Livable World has endorsed and fundraised for Feingold]