Thanks for once again taking a look at my monthly series about the 2008 Senate elections known as "The Big Board." As always, this massive ranking of all 34 Senate Seats that are in play come November 2008 is a reflection of my opinion based on news, polls and past electoral history.
The rankings are made from a least-likely to change party affiliation, to most-likely. As always, I appreciate any criticism or comments below.
For last months results, click here.
This month there wasn't much movement at the bottom of the list, but up top there was certainly some re-shuffling with a newcomer into the Top 10.
The Big Board:
No. 34 Jack Reed (D-RI) Last Month: 34
Still nothing going on in this race that makes Jack Reed's bid for reelection anything but a sure thing. Reed has been a symbol of Democratic pride during these turbulent months of Senate capitulation.
No. 33 Mike Enzi (R-WY) Last Month: 33
Once again, not only does Enzi not have a declared challenger, but in the event a prominent Democrat (Ahem - Gov. Freudenthal) does make a run at the Senate, he or she would be more likely to take on recently-appointed Senator John Barasso.
No. 32 Jeff Sessions (R-AL) Last Month: 32
With all the big names (Ron Sparks and Arthur Davis) balking this time around, it seems as though Sessions is safe.
No. 31 Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) Last Month: 31
Still all quiet in the Peach State. It looks like the Georgia Dems are still licking their wounds and trying to recover from the endless beatdown they have sustained since the beginning of the 21st century.
No. 30 John Kerry (D-MA) Last Month: 30
Is there more to Ed O'Reilly's primary challenge than meets the eye? As I mentioned last month, a poll published by revealed The Hill that 56 percent of Mass. residents believe John Kerry should step down. Combine that with the fact that Kerry was a dysmal 47 Percent in Survey USA's latest approval polls and this one has the potential to get interesting. However, thus far I've seen nothing out of O'Reilly that indicates he is capable of defeating the good Senator.
No. 29 Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) Last Month: 29
Rockefeller's reelection bid seems to be in Cruise Control still. He's got an opponent, but not a tremendous threat in businessman John Raese. Raese was recently destroyed by Senator Byrd in 2006, in addition to losing his other Senate bid to Rockefeller in 1984.
No. 28 Dick Durbin (D-IL) Last Month: 28
Durbin should have no reason to sweat out reelection in 2008. After winning with 60 Percent of the vote during a solid Republican year in 2002, the Illinois Senator should have no problem fending off his eventualy GOP opponent in 2008. The Illinois GOP is among the most struggling Republican organizations in the country.
No. 27 Thad Cochran (R-MS) Last Month: 26
Still nothing new on the Thad Cochran retirement watch. My take is that the smart money is still on him running for reelection. Additionally, even if he does step down, it's going to be a monumental task for state Democrats to win this seat in a Presidential election year.
No. 26 Pat Roberts (R-KS) Last Month: 25
Since bottoming out at 48 percent in April's Survey USA approval rating poll, Roberts has been slowly climbing back over the midway point. This month he sits at 54 percent and it appears as though Kansas Dems may have missed their opportunity. With Roberts floundering any candidate could have seized his or her opportunity to gain some momentum, but alas still nobody has stepped up. It's not too late now, but you have to believe that unless the state party can grab Kathleen Sebelius, the eventual Democratic candidate will have a monumental task in front of themselves.
No. 25 Lindsey Graham (R-SC) Last Month: 27
South Carolina's GOP is not pleased with Lindsey Graham right now. Last week a motion to Censure Graham due to his stance on immigration, failed by a single vote. There have also been grumblings of a Primary challenger to Graham, which if it manifests itself, could give Huckleberry a real challenge in 2008. Either way, the Censure vote should wake up Democrats and get them motivated to run a tough campaign in 2008 as a GOP Primary could weaken Huckeberry's chances in the general election.
No. 24 Joe Biden (D-DE) Last Month: 24
While Joe Biden continues his longshot bid for the presidency, there has been no indication from the Senator that he is planning on relenquishing his seat. However, in the off chance that he does resign in favor of a cabinet position, his often-rumored successor and son Beau Biden may not be able to take his place. Recent news says that Beau may be deployed to Iraq in 2008.
No. 23 Carl Levin (D-MI) Last Month: 23
I don't think I've heard any positive news about Carl Levin in all 2007 so far. Whether it was his moronic Washington Post column that argued in favor of keeping the troops in harms way to support them or his recent attack by Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Maliki for his criticism of the PM, Levin can't seem to catch a break. Though this doesn't seem poised to hurt him, Michigan has shown that it has no problem voting Republican as evident in their congressional delegation. However, in a Presidential election year Levin should be able to skate by.
No. 22 Mark Pryor (D-AR) Last Month 22
With Arkansas seemingly in play during next years POTUS race, Pryor's reelection chances get a lot better. Interesting bit of trivia for you readers, Arkansas is one of two other states that have two Democratic Senators and a Dem Governor that has not voted Democratic in the last two POTUS races, can you name the two others?
No. 21 Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) Last Month: 21
All signs point to Senator Lautenberg heading full-speed into reelection in 2008, and from what I've seen from the Senator he hasn't lost any of the spark. Recently Larry Sabato of the Crystal Ball indicated that he believed New Jersey could be in play in 2008. While there may be a sliver of truth to that, unlike in other states the POTUS election should not exert much influence into the senate race. Don't forget, New Jersey hasn't sent a Republican to the Senate since the late 1970s, so while the rest of the nation was going gaga over Reagan, Garden Staters were still voting Democratic at the state-level.
No. 20 John Barasso (R-WY) Last Month: 19
Wyoming's newest Senator hasn't wasted any time assuming his rightful place in wingnuttery. Though he fell under early criticism from Gov. Freudenthal, it appears as though criticism is all it was. Freudenthal may be the only state Democratic with a real chance of winning this seat, and he has given no indication that he's interested in making the run.
No. 19 Max Baucus (D-MT) Last Month: 18
America's "Shittiest" Senator seems to have an easy road towards reelection thus far. With Rep.
DannyDenny Rehberg opting out of this race, Baucus doesn't appear to have any real challengers in 2008.
No. 18 Larry Craig (R-ID) Last Month: 16
Speculation contiues as to whether or not Larry Craig will run for reelection in 2008, while Larry LaRocco continues to impress on the campaign trail. However, with no polling done thus far on this race it's hard to get a real grasp on how successful LaRocco's message has been thus far. Once the polls start trickling out from this one, we'll get a real good idea on where this race should really be ranked.
No. 17 Lamar! Alexander (R-TN) Last Month: 15
All's quiet in Tennessee where after Mike McWherter announcement that he will form an exploratory committee, not much more has happened. Last week Nashville Attorney threw his hat in the ring on the Democratic side, but McWherter is the real prize here for Dems. For those readers who don't know, McWherter is the son of former Tennessee Governor Ned McWherter - easily one of the most popular executives in the state's history. Both Doherty and fellow Dem Bob Tuke have said they will step aside if McWherter runs. Keep your eyes on Nashville this weekend, as McWherter said a decision could come as early as Labor Day Weekend.
No. 16 Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) Last Month: 14
It appears as though for the first time since his election to the Senate in 1984, Tom Harkin could break 55 percent in November. His recent Survey USA approval rating has him at a solid 57 percent - a 12-month high. Combine that with the fact that he has yet to draw a top-tier Republican challenger, and things are looking good for Harkin in the Hawkeye State.
No. 15 "Pajama" Pete Domenici (R-NM) Last Month: 13
It appears as though Pajama Pete has weathered the US Attorney-gate controversy storm. Though the incident has brought his approval rating significantly down from the 60 percent plus that it was earlier in the year, Domenici has been seriously aided by the New Mexico Democratic Party's inability to recruit a top-tier candidate so far. US Rep. Tom Udall has stayed away from the race and though speculation earlier existed that Bill Richardson might jump into the race if his Presidential campaign bottom's out, it appears as though this was simply speculation.
No. 14 Jim Inhofe (R-OK) Last Month: 20
Jim Inhofe, of the "Earth-is-flat" Republican party suffered the biggest fall in popularity this week as he plummeted six spots. The reason? The entrance of State Senator Andrew Rice into this race. Rice is young, charasmatic and has a tremendous head on his shoulders - in short, everything that Inhofe lacks. The Inhofe people have got to be nervous as they are facing a real challenge to a guy who has made the rantings and ravings of Ted Stevens look pseudo-intellectual. Are Oklahomans embarrassed enough by Inhofe to head to the polls and vote him out? Only time will tell, but the Democrats absolutely have a tremendous candidate in Rice.
No. 13 Chuck Hagel (R-NE) Last Month: 18
With a jump up to the rankings that is second only to Inhofe, Chuck Hagel's Nebraska Senate seat looks primed to switch hands. Apparently former US Senator Bob Kerrey is so confident that Chuck Hagel is going to retire, that he is strongly considering a run at his seat. While Kerrey certainly draws the ire of many Democrats due to his conservative nature and past pro-Iraq war remarks, he's a proven comodity that can win in Nebraska. For a great analysis on Kerrey's potential entry, please read Kos' story from last week.
No. 12 Tim Johnson (D-SD) Last Month: 12
Oh boy, the mud slinging is starting already in this one. Anybody who had thoughts that the South Dakota GOP would take it easy on the ailing Johnson better come back down to Earth. Not that anybody should be surprised by NRSC Chair John Ensign's announcement earlier this month that it was now acceptable to go after Johnson. Johnson has had some tough reelection battles in his career, including a 400 vote victory over now-Senator John Thune in 2002. I certainly wish Johnson the best of luck, because with all the slime that the GOP's is prepared to throw, this one could get nasty very soon.
No. 11 Liddy Dole (R-NC) Last Month: 10
The North Carolina Senate race falls out of the top 10 this month for two reasons: competition with Kentucky and the lack of a declared candidate. Grier Martin
remains the Tar Heel State's best hope in defeating Dole, however he has not officially made the decision to jump into the race yet. Polling earlier this summer shows that if Martin were to enter the race, it would certainly become competitive. However, until Martin makes it official, this race will fall outside the top 10.
No. 10 Mitch McConnell (R-KY) Last Month: 11
This race cracks the top 10 for the first time today as it appears though Kentucky Dems finally have a serious candidate in Attorney General Greg Stumbo. Combine his pending entry with the fact that McConnell is growing increasingly more toxic at home (his latest SUSA rating is a terrible 50 percent and falling), and we have the potential to go Tom Daschle all over the GOP in 2008. Also, McConnell has decided to throw his support behind embattle Governor Ernie Fletcher's 2007 reelection campaign. If Democrat Steve Beshear is able to obliterate Fletcher, we may see a wave that wipes out McConnell as well.
No. 9 Ted "Tubes" Stevens (R-AK) Last Month: 6
Ted Stevens is in trouble, there's no doubt about that. After the FBI raided his Alaska home to check on his connection to oil giant VECO, there is reason to believe that Stevens may not even be around to seek reelection in 2008. Though many readers have pointed out that Alaska has not been kind to Democrats over the years, this corruption will be tough to ignore. Furthermore if Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich decides to jump into this race, we may really see Tubes sweat.
No. 8 John Cornyn (R-Texas) Last Month: 8
Rick Noriega scored a major victory earlier this month when he was able to get prominent Republican Massey Villareal to back his bid. Additionally, it appears as though the state Dems are lining up behind Noriega as he prepares for a possible primary battle with San Antonio Lawyer Mikal Watts. If Watts opts out of this race, Noriega has a real chance to take down Cornyn. A primary against Watts is going to be long and expensive, with ability to sink Noriega before he even squares off against Cornyn. Watts has every reason to run, but for the sake of the party we might be better off if he dropped out.
No. 7 Mary Landrieu (D-LA) Last Month: 9
As I was writing this earlier today I had Landrieu prepped at No. 9 once again. However, the news that Karl Rove was able get State Treasurer John Kennedy to switch parties in an apparent bid to run against Landrieu has made this race a little more interesting. Landrieu has never been dominating in Louisiana. She won election in 1996 by under 900 votes and reelection in 2002 with only 52 percent (link here). This one is going to be very tough people.
No. 6 John Warner (R-VA) Last Month: 7
Former Governor Jim Gilmour seems to believe that Senator John Warner is going to retire after this term, as he boldly announced last week that he would seek to replace the Senator in 2008. This is terrible news for US Rep. Tom Davis (who was all but appointed as Warner's successor over the past few years), but terrific news for Democrats. If John Warner is out, than there is a very good chance that former Governor Mark Warner would be in. Mark Warner has said for a while that he did not want to challenge John, but with him out of the way the Democrats would have an inside track in this one. Get ready folks, because John Warner said that a decision on whether or not he would seek reelection will come some time in September.
No. 5 Susan Collins (R-ME) Last Month: 4
With the exception of Susan Collins crying about being video taped while campaigning (seriously, what kind of career politician complains about being video-taped?)this race has been relatively quiet over the past month. Tom Allen has proved to be a terrific fundraiser and if he's equally capable on the road, he'll have a real chance come Nov. 2008. If I were to make a prediction as to how this race will pan out, I'd say that it'll be like Missouri's 2006 race. Neck and neck most of the way with not much change in the polls until election day.
No. 4 Gordon Smith (R-OR) Last Month: 5
Gordie is still in trouble. Not only did Oregon Dems finally snag the big name candidate they were looking for in State Speaker of The House Jeff Merkley, but the new numbers out are not very good for Smith. His August approval rating fell slightly to an even more aenemic 46 Percent, and a recent poll released shows that with a majority of Oregon voters undecided Smith only leads Merkley 38-19 percent.
No. 3 Norm Coleman (R-MN) Last Month: 3
Everyone's favorite weasel is still in trouble out in Minnesota. Though he regained a little ground in this month's SUSA Approval Rating Poll (Coleman is now at 47 percent, up from 43 last month) he is still far from where he needs to be to consider his reelection chances stellar. Last month's polls showed Coleman's two biggest opponents Mike Ciresi and Al Franken within single digits of him. This is going to be a terrific primary contest, and I can only hope that no matter who comes out of it, MN DFLers can rally around their candidate.
No. 2 John Sununu (R-NH) Last Month: 2
We are possibly days away from finding out whether or not John Sununu's political career is officially dead. Sometime in September former Governor Jeanne Shaheen is scheduled to decide whether or not she will challenge Sununu in 2008. This race has been teetering on the border of No. 1/No. 2 for over a month now, and if Shaheen jumps in than it goes No. 1. Already a handful of polls conducted show Shaheen not just beating Sununu, but drubbing him. In each of these polls (which you can check out here) Shaheen is over 50 percent as well. Sununu is weak, but against Shaheen it's game over.
No. 1 Open Seat (R-CO) Last Month: 1
Once again back at No. 1 is the battle for retiring GOP Senator Wayne Allard out in Colorado. The Democrats got their candidate right away when Congressman Mark Udall decided to throw his hat in the ring. The Republicans got their candidate not long after when former Republican Congressman Bob Schaeffer decided to step up. Though, these two have been declared for quite some time, I have yet to see any polls released. Once the polls start coming out we'll get a real sense of how much of a challenge Mark Udall will have.
As always, you can find this piece cross-posted at my blog, An Enduring Democratic Majority.