Here at Daily Kos Elections, we're going to start regularly updating our race ratings each week from now through election day. Our first big batch of moves involves changes to 12 races, 10 of which are in the GOP's favor. You can find links to our permanent ratings charts in the Elections sidebar or blogroll, or just click here: Senate | Gubernatorial | House.
• MO-Gov (Likely D to Lean D): Dem Gov. Jay Nixon has done everything right and is probably in as strong a position as he could hope to be as he seeks re-election in this red state. But when Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, a true train-wreck of a candidate, decided against a gubernatorial run, that opened the doors for wealthy businessman Dave Spence, a blank slate who's been spending freely. A spate of recent polls have shown Nixon hovering around or below 50%; while the incumbent still has the edge, Spence has the ability to make this race a lot closer than Kinder likely would have.
• AR-04 (Likely R to Safe R): One of Democrats' biggest recruitment fails all cycle was in AR-04, though to be fair, Rep. Mike Ross's unexpected retirement put Team Blue behind the eight-ball (and screwed us in redistricting, to boot). But excuses aside, Sen. Gene Jeffress is still running a campaign out of the '70s... the 1870s, that is. Jeffress did, remarkably, finally enter the 20th century with the launch of his campaign website—in August. But while he might finally have an online presence, what he doesn't have is any chance. It's impossible to see the DCCC wanting to spend here, especially since Republicans have accorded near rock-star status to their nominee, Iraq and Afghanistan vet Tom Cotton. Also, this.
• CT-05 (Lean D to Tossup): After an extremely expensive and bruising primary, Democrats probably wound up putting their best foot forward in the form of ex-state Rep. Elizabeth Esty, though it's hard to say how strong of a candidate she is, since State House Speaker Chris Donovan had a wide lead in the polls before his campaign was brought low by a fundraising scandal. Republicans also waged a high-priced and messy battle, but—in a rare move for the GOP—they wound up nominating the candidate who is unquestionably their strongest choice, state Sen. Andrew Roraback. Roraback's moderate profile will definitely aid him in this district, Connecticut's least-blue, though his fundraising has been a fraction of Esty's. Nevertheless, this one looks like it'll be a serious fight until the end.
• FL-02 (Lean R to Likely R): Democratic recruiters figured state Rep. Leonard Bembry would fit nicely into the mold of Allen Boyd, the Dem who held this conservative-leaning seat until Republican Steve Southerland beat him in 2010's red wave. But Bembry never raised much money and he lost the primary to the even-more-underfunded state Sen. Al Lawson, who rode name rec from a nearly successful primary challenge last cycle to victory. National Democrats don't seem like they're going to spend on this race, making it very unlikely to flip.
• MA-06 (Lean D to Tossup): If Massachusetts Democrats had been smarter, they'd have given Rep. John Tierney a safer seat in redistricting, because he could use the help. Instead, measured by Obama's 2008 performance, MA-06 is actually the reddest CD in the Bay State. And unfairly or not, Tierney is still heavily weighed down by a tax evasion scandal that sent his wife to jail, for helping her brothers dodge taxes in connection with their offshore gambling business. Tierney has long denied any knowledge of this sordid affair, and no one has any evidence to the contrary, but local media seem determined to tar Tierney with this mess anyway—as, of course, do Republicans. And they've also managed to recruit their best possible candidate, "moderate" former state Sen. Richard Tisei. Tisei's raised a ton of money (indeed, he pulled in more than Tierney last quarter), and his moderate credentials are burnished by the fact that he's gay and uses that fact to distance himself from the national GOP. This race looks like it will be very tight indeed.
• NC-09 (Likely R to Safe R): When GOP Rep. Sue Myrick retired, creating an open seat here, we slotted this race as Likely R just on the off chance that lightning struck for Democrats. Team Blue didn't fare too badly in recruiting Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jennifer Roberts, but the GOP wound up with wealthy ex-state Sen. Robert Pittenger, who has already spent $2 million on his bid (most of that for winning his party's nomination). And since Republicans gerrymandered this district just as perfectly as they did the rest of the state, there's no reason to think this race might be competitive.
• NJ-03 (Likely R to Lean R): Shelley Adler, the widow of former one-term Rep. John Adler, is looking to defeat the man who beat her late husband in 2010, Republican freshman Rep. Jon Runyan. We wanted to take a wait-and-see approach when we issued our first set of ratings: Adler outraised Runyan in the first quarter, but was it low-hanging fruit? Well, she went and outraised the incumbent again in the second quarter, so Adler evidently has some chops. The GOP shored up this seat a bit in redistricting, and Runyan definitely has the edge, but this looks like a real race.
• NJ-05 (Likely R to Safe R): Democrats failed to land their top recruits here, Rep. Steve Rothman and legendary New York Giants hall-of-famer Harry Carson. We had some hopes that the guy Carson endorsed, Marine vet Jason Castle, might show a bit of spark, but unfortunately, he lost the primary to Teaneck councilman Adam Gussen, who apparently hasn't even filed an FEC report. Next.
• NY-23 (Lean R to Likely R): We may have gotten a little too excited about Democratic prospects in the redrawn 23rd District, especially after it was revised to include the liberal college town of Ithaca. But there've been no signs that either party really thinks this seat is up for grabs (the NRCC just made TV ad reservations in four upstate New York districts, but not this one). Dems wound up with a potentially interesting candidate in the form of Tompkins County legislator Nate Shinagawa, but he's raised relatively little money and had to spend most of it on winning the primary, while GOP freshman Tom Reed has a fair chunk of change ($800K-plus) in the bank.
• SC-07 (Likely R to Safe R): South Carolina's open, brand-new 7th District was always going to be a longshot for Democrats, but (believe it or not) it's actually the second-bluest (or perhaps "least red") seat in the state. So state Rep. Ted Vick looked like he might give Dems some kind of a chance here, but his candidacy imploded shortly before the primary when he was arrested for drunk driving with both an unlicensed firearm and a female college student in his car. Hopes then turned to young attorney Preston Brittain, who had actually been outraising Vick, but the nomination went to Gloria Tinubu, a former state legislator... from Georgia, who twice ran for mayor of Atlanta on the Green Party ticket. Suffice it to say, she's about as bad a fit for this district as possible.
• WA-01 (Tossup to Lean D): Initially, dramatic redistricting plus an open seat made this look like potential trouble for the Dems. They had a huge pileup of hopefuls while the Republicans quickly coalesced behind one candidate with unique appeal in the rural parts of the district: Snohomish County Councilor and dairy farmer John Koster. The state's top-two primary, though, is often a good barometer of how November will go, and the Aug. 7 vote showed the Dems in strong position. The very conservative Koster turned out to have almost no appeal in the suburbs of King County, getting only 44% of the vote district-wide, while all the race's Dems combined for 53%, results not too different from what we saw in the theoretically much-safer WA-06 and WA-10. The Dems also nominated their most imposing candidate, Suzan DelBene, who performed solidly against Dave Reichert in WA-08 in 2010 and who can self-fund as needed. (David Jarman)
• WV-03 (Safe D to Likely D): After sitting on his ass for the first part of the year, Republican state Rep. Rick Snuffer finally appeared to get his campaign off the ground in the second quarter with an unspectacular but unignorable $200K haul. And while lists are cheap, the NRCC did go to the trouble of slotting him into their top-tier "Young Guns" programs. An unanswered poll from veteran Dem Rep. Nick Rahall showed the incumbent leading by 30 points, but given West Virginia's rapid reddening, we're putting this race on the board out of an abundance of caution.