Long before he was sentenced to 10 years in prison on racketeering charges, a former governor of Louisiana once said:
The only way I can lose this election is if I'm caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy.
With that scenario in mind today I'd like to present to you our 12 toughest Senate races this year.
Remember, there are 18 GOP seats up, and now 19 DEM seats up in the Senate this year. In 2012 and 2014, the numbers skew much harder against us with many more DEM seats on defense. Rassmusen and other pollsters of questionable credibility may paint a grim picture regarding our chances this year, but I believe now's our chance not just to maintain our 59 seats in the Senate, but to gain seats.
We have excellent opportunities all over the map, but we may need the imprisoned governor's scenario above to play out to have a shot at winning some of these toughest seats ...
Right now Kendrick Meek is relegated to third place status against newly Independent Charlie Crist and Republican Marco Rubio, but a lot can happen in a three way race. A big scandal on Crist and/or Rubio's part could sure help Meek's chances. Crist and Rubio will surely be spending a ton of money on oppo research against each other and the juiciest morsels are best saved for the end, so there's still a possible path to victory here. Meek is actually a strong candidate if he can just find enough oxygen to get his message out.
John McCain has been running hard to the right to beat out right-wing talk radio host JD Hayworth in the Republican primary. If he wins on August 24, he might try to tack back to the middle to reclaim his mavericky mantle. With immigration and anti-incumbency in the air, it'll be interesting to see if the younger, taller, more studious, and more handsome Rodney Glassman can give the septuagenarian a run for his money and possibly send McCain back to one of his many, many (How many?) homes.
Sarah Palin has endorsed Lisa Murkowski's Republican opponent Joe Miller. Palin is also the person who toppled Murkowski's father from the governor's mansion. If the Republican race bloodies up Murkowski much, Democratic candidate Scott McAdams could have a shot in the fall. McAdams is currently the mayor of Sitka, has a strong handle on issues important to Alaska, and would bolster Democrats' facial hair cred in the Senate.
When Democrat Mike Thurmond announced that he was running against Johnny Isakson, he seemed like an interesting candidate in an interesting year. Obama only lost Georgia by five points in 2008, so Georgia could be swingier than most people give it credit for. Unfortunately thus far Thurmond hasn't been the most visible candidate and he hasn't raised much money (a little over $100,000 so far). Political neophyte RJ Hadley seems to be working harder to win the Democratic primary even if his chances are slimmer. Assuming Thurmond pulls out the primary on July 20, he'll have to really pound the pavement and talk up his jobs credentials as Georgia's Commissioner of Labor to make this competitive in November. A scandal on Isakson's part sure wouldn't hurt either.
#8: NORTH DAKOTA
Here's the only seat on my list that is currently held by a Democrat. After Byron Dorgan announced his retirement, the current Republican Governor of North Dakota, John Hoeven, announced his intention to run. Hoeven is heavily favored to win, but at least Democrats have fielded a candidate. Tracy Potter won the Democratic primary. He's currently a state senator and seems comfortable talking about issues. You can watch his low budget home made videos on his web site to get an idea of our chances here.
When Barack Obama named Governor Kathleen Sebelius to be his Secretary of Health and Human Services our potential for the open seat in Kansas took a big hit. But that doesn't mean we're just giving up. Among the candidates that Democrats are fielding are journalist Charles Schollenberger and State Senator David Haley who will face either Republican Congressmen Todd Tiahrt or Jerry Moran (polls indicate that Moran has the edge in the primary). Haley's 16 years of political experience will likely help him win the nomination as a Democrat, but gaining the momentum to win in the general will be no small feat in the Kansas plains. Interesting fact: Before Sam Brownback held this seat, it was Bob Dole's for more than a quarter century. Another interesting fact: Jerry Moran made headlines for receiving below-market rates for his rented room at the C Street house in Washington.
Republicans have already voted out incumbent Bob Bennet in favor of Tea Party fave Mike Lee who used to clerk for Samuel Alito. The Tea Party has already dimmed Republican chances in Nevada and Kentucky, but that extreme right-wing platform might not be enough to give Democrats a chance here. Utah remains a very red state afterall. Democrat Sam Granato seems like an amusing guy for what it's worth and he says he can win.
Is it possible to have so much money that it becomes a liability? Could Democrat William G. Barnes run, let's say, a radio ad, a TV ad and a targeted web ad in the closing week or two of the election that says something like, "My opponent has $17 million for his campaign. Alabamans can't trust someone who's accepted that much money from big business. He'll fight for the millionaires, I'll fight for you." If not, you can imagine how tough this race will be to beat Richard Shelby even with oil lapping up on the shore. Barnes is a Vietnam vet and an attorney. He calls himself "the people's candidate" for U.S. Senate.
In the ruby red home state of Larry Craig, even a scandal of "live boy" proportions wasn't enough to hand his seat to Democrats last cycle. So it may take more than that to take down Republican Mike Crapo who's running for a third term. Democrats have a well spoken and photogenic candidate in Tom Sullivan who's making hay out of Idaho's extreme Republican Party platform that currently advocates taking away voters' rights to elect their own Senatators, asks Republican candidates to swear a loyalty oath, and calls for the elimination of the Department of Education. Does Glenn Beck vacation in Idaho much?
Republican Tom Colburn only won with 53% of the vote in 2004 when he first ran for the seat, but without a serious scandal it's unlikely that we'll give him much of a scare this year. The Democratic primary will be on July 27, and Democrat Mark Myles is running against a guy named Jim Rodgers who has a Santa Claus beard and apparently runs for office a lot. Myles says he entered the race because no other serious Democrat was in it and he thinks Oklahomans deserve a choice. His bio says he worked at IBM for over twenty years, he's been a volunteer for the Red Cross and a consultant for Junior Achievement, and most recently he's been a lawyer practicing criminal, administrative, and family law. If for some reason the debate comes down to a smile contest, Myles has the edge on Colburn.
#2: SOUTH CAROLINA
If Republican Jim Demint were running against Forrest Gump instead of Alvin Greene at least Democrats would have a likeable candidate who wasn't facing obscenity charges brought by a college student. When Greene won the primary our chances in the state slipped from slim to none. If you're knocking on doors in South Carolina, better to do it for Rob Miller who's running for SC-02 against Joe "You Lie" Wilson.
#1: SOUTH DAKOTA
John Thune is the only Senate Republican running uncontested this cycle. Since the governor in South Dakota is also a Republican, even if Thune were to die this year we'd still have zero chance of taking this seat. If we could've brought Tom Daschel or anyone else out of retirement, we could've at least made Thune spend some money, but the filing deadlines have come and gone. Tough is an understatement here.