• AR-Sen: Tossup to Lean R. For a long time, it's been evident that Sen. Mark Pryor is the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent up for re-election in 2014, and the reason is simple: demographics. Arkansas is simply playing catch-up with the rest of the South, which preceded it in galloping to the right. In 2010, five of the state's six members of Congress were Democrats; now Pryor is the last standing. And it wasn't merely that year's towering GOP wave that did the party in: Republicans took control of both chambers of the legislature in 2012, despite brand-new Democratic gerrymanders.
Republicans also landed a top-tier recruit in freshman Rep. Tom Cotton, a Harvard-educated attorney who served in Afghanistan and Iraq with the Army. Cotton's also been fortunate to avoid any tea party-fueled primary opponents. Pryor, meanwhile, is simply hampered by the fact that he sports a "D" after his name, and unhappiness over Obamacare is a difficult thing to contend with in Arkansas, given how red the state is.
The race certainly isn't over yet, and the national mood could still improve. But the polling has never been any good for Pryor, who is stuck in the low 40s at best. However, at this point, the incumbent is now the decided underdog, and if Pryor manages to win a third term, it would be an upset.
Head below the fold for our other six changes, including Kentucky.
• KY-Sen: Likely R to Lean R. We've struggled with Kentucky's Senate race all cycle. On the one hand, the polls have shown Republican Senate Minority Leader pretty much tied with his Democratic challenger, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. On the other hand, it's Kentucky, an almost implacably red state on the federal level and one that's particularly hostile to Barack Obama. But it's possible for longtime politicians to wear out their welcome even in the most hospitable environs, and there's evidently a deep undercurrent of disgust toward McConnell among many voters.
Grimes is still not an especially experienced candidate, though she's shown some pretty serious fundraising chops. If the race were about her, she'd have no hope, but luckily for Grimes, it's really all about McConnell, and that's a serious problem for the incumbent—enough for us to move this to Lean R. At this point, though, McConnell's still the favorite, thanks to Kentucky's demographics, and Grimes has a much bigger hill yet to climb to get this race to tossup status, but it's not impossible.
• TX-Sen: Race to Watch to Safe R. Steve Stockman, we hardly knew ye. Visit again soon!
• HI-Gov: Safe D to Likely D
Race to Watch. Hawaii is a notoriously difficult state to poll, but several different surveys have shown Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie looking strangely weak for re-election. The thing is, we're not ready to move this to Likely D simply because he doesn't have a single declared general election opponent, and a Some Dude just isn't going to get it done. However, Abercrombie does have a Democratic primary challenger, state Sen. David Ige. Ige is little-known and doesn't have much money, but polling has also shown him surprisingly close to the governor. As such, we're slotting this in as a "Race to Watch," our designation for races where incumbents face potentially serious primaries. And if former Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona or former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hanneman (both of whom have said they might run against Abercrombie in the general) gets in, we'll probably shift this contest to the "Likely D" column.
UPDATE: Sneaky, sneaky. As Skaje points out, former Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona, the 2010 GOP nominee who had said a while back that he was considering a rematch, did very quietly launch his campaign in recent weeks. It doesn't speak well of Aiona that he managed to do so without netting a single bit of news coverage (Nexis and Google News both come up with nothing), but nevertheless, Abercrombie's soft polling suggests this race can't be taken for granted. The incumbent remains the heavy favorite, just thanks to Hawaii's deep blue hue, but we'll be keeping an eye on this one.
• WI-Gov: Likely R to Lean R. The Democrats' very disappointing performance in the 2010 Wisconsin recall had us soured on the party's chances of knocking off GOP Gov. Scott Walker in this fall's regularly scheduled election. But even though all the big names were scared off, Democrats managed to land a pretty solid recruit in Madison School Board member Mary Burke, who has the ability to self-fund. Polling has shown the race quite tight, and perhaps even more notably, the RGA has already started to advertise here on Walker's behalf. It could merely be a pre-emptive move rather than a true sign of worry, but even if it's the former, that still indicates there's something going on.
That said, the recall really seemed to polarize Wisconsin voters sharply in terms of their feelings about Walker, and it's very hard to imagine that anyone's truly undecided at this point. Still, this contest is feeling more competitive than we'd initially anticipated.
• CA-16: Likely D to Safe D. Democrat Rep. Jim Costa is one lazy sonofabitch, nearly losing in 2010 to an unheralded Republican and costing Democrats a seat in 2012 by refusing to run in the new district that contained the vast majority of his former constituents and instead seeking a safer seat. So he's not someone you can ever trust, which is why we started him off in the Likely D column this year. But even Costa probably can't screw this one up, given how feeble his Republican opponents look. Though don't worry: If it looks like he might, we'll be sure to change our rating back.
• WV-03: Lean D to Tossup. West Virginia's 3rd Congressional District is confounding. On the one hand, when it comes to state and local races, it's the most ancestrally Democratic of the state's three seats, and deeply so, even today. It was also Sen. Joe Manchin's best district in 2012; he won it 65-32. On the other hand, it's galloped rightward on the presidential level, going for Mitt Romney by a punishing 65-33 margin. The question for Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall was always where on the wide Manchin-Obama spectrum he'd fall this year.
Without Obama at the top of the ticket, it was plausible to imagine that the 3rd would return to form and embrace Rahall once again after his unusually close 8-point shave last cycle. But that doesn't seem to be the case. Republicans convinced state Sen. Evan Jenkins to switch parties, giving them their strongest candidate against Rahall in many a year, and a recent GOP poll showed Jenkins with a 14-point lead. He probably isn't up by that sort of margin, but Rahall glaringly refused to share his own internal polling data while merely insisting it didn't look like Jenkins'.
That's typically a big tell, the political equivalent of Sherlock Holmes' dog that didn't bark. Democrats haven't given up on Rahall yet, but as in Arkansas, the times are a-changin' in West Virginia. Rahall's going to have a very tough time remaining in office, but even if he does survive this fall, this seat will flip to the GOP one day soon.