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New U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO) reacts after picking number one in the office lottery for all new House members of Congress in Washington, November 19, 2010.      REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS) - RTXUTKJ
Republican Rep. Cory Gardner's state sits atop our inaugural list.

Two months ago, we launched a new feature at Daily Kos Elections with our inaugural edition of the U.S. Senate "power rankings", a list of the ten most intriguing and competitive Senate races that everyone will be paying attention to come November. Last month, we followed up with a new set of power rankings for the three dozen or so gubernatorial races which will determine the chief executives of roughly three-fourths of the states in the Union.

This weekend, we take a bit more expansive view of things, with the maiden edition of the Daily Kos Elections Power Rankings for all 50 states. The competitiveness of the Senate and gubernatorial elections factor in here, as well. But they are supplemented by an examination of competitive U.S. House races, as well as casting an eye on the often overlooked (but no less critical) battles for the control of state legislative chambers across the country.

So, without further fanfare, if you head across the jump, you will find the ten states that, top to bottom, offer the most intriguing menu for the electoral junkie come November the 4th.

For those interested in the criteria, a full explanation is at the close of this summary of the top ten. Also, for those interested in having a little fun, our now customary quiz for the true election misfits in the crowd is as follows: there are a total of 11 states that have, at least at this moment, now apparently competitive contests. Try to identify as many as you can. Fun fact: two of those 11 states have at least ten electoral votes for president, so we aren't just talking about the smaller states in the Union.

Nor, as you will see, are the top ten states in the power rankings confined to just the "big states" in terms of population. As you will see, big things will come in small packages, come Election Day.

With that in mind, here is the list:

#10—ILLINOIS (18 points—Six competitive contests)

Few states had a more dramatic couple of cycles, in terms of competitiveness and flux, than the Land of Lincoln. After two coin-flip statewide races in 2010 (where the Democrats escaped with the control of the governor's mansion, but narrowly lost a tight U.S. Senate race), a rare Democratic-friendly remap led to a drubbing of several GOP U.S. House incumbents in 2012.

In 2014, the aforementioned gubernatorial escape artist (Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn) is back to see if he has another narrow win in him, and several of those first-term Democrats face competitive contests. For Democrats, their hope here is to hold onto that governorship (though polls on that are mixed, at best), and to hold steady in the U.S. House. In a dream scenario, the Democrats could even net a U.S. House seat here, as freshman Republican Rodney Davis is facing a tough re-election against Democrat Ann Callis.

#9—CALIFORNIA (18 points—Ten competitive contests)

California lacks a U.S. Senate race, and their gubernatorial race has yet to show signs of real competitiveness. Meanwhile, the only intrigue in the state legislature deal with the ability to maintain Democratic supermajorities, as their control of both chambers is assured for the foreseeable future.

So how did California make its way into the top ten? Because, courtesy of the state's independent commission, the state of play in the House will be largely defined by the Golden State. Democrats, as elsewhere, do not have a ton of opportunities for inroads here. But they have some, and their ability to make some headway in California, coupled with their ability to defend no less than a half dozen imperiled seats of their own in the state, will speak volumes about whether this cycle preps them well for 2016, or digs them into a deeper hole.

#8—ARIZONA (19 points—Five competitive contests)

I will be the first to admit it: the inclusion of Arizona in the top ten was a genuine surprise. And, admittedly, it might be a score that is a little bit inflated. Arizona got credit for a competitive state legislative chamber, because it will only take a small shift in the state Senate for the Democrats to seize control. Alas, a microanalysis of the contests in Arizona's upper chamber of the lege make it a bit tough to see where they cobble together the small handful of seats that they need. Not impossible, mind you, but less tempting a target than you would ordinarily consider a 17-13 GOP edge.

But that lone chamber of the lege is not the only reason why Arizona made the cut. You have two coin-flip U.S. House races (unfortunately for Democrats, both are being defended by their incumbents: Ann Kirkpatrick and Ron Barber). At the same time, you have one of the real sleeper races of the year: a largely undefined (as yet) gubernatorial race where polls have shown that the likely Democratic nominee (Fred DuVal) with a legitimate chance to snare the upset, especially if the late-developing GOP primary (scheduled for August) gets a little fugly.

#7—NEW HAMPSHIRE (19 points—Six competitive contests)

The unique nature of New Hampshire, as it happens, almost permanently nets them points for the competitiveness of the state legislature. With roughly a shit-ton seats in the state House (actually, the real number is 400) and just 24 in the state Senate, both of them are subject to flipping in virtually every election. This time around, with Democrats sitting in the vicinity of around 225 seats in the House, and down just 13-11 in the Senate, both chambers are something close to a coin flip.

Of course, that's not why most of the political press is casting an eye northward. For them, the Granite State is all about Shaheen-Brown. And while it is intriguing to see the former Massachusetts extreme Southern New Hampshire Republican vie to see if he has a political second act in his new home, I'd actually put that one behind not just the showdown for control of the state lege, but also the two U.S. House races, which (as always) promise to be very closely contested.

#6—MINNESOTA (19 points—Eight competitive contests)

Minnesota's inclusion on the list, quite frankly, is more about volume than anything else. As it happens, there is nary a tossup in the fairly broad list of competitive contests in the state, which is certainly a departure from recent history, when the state has been responsible for some of the closest contests in the nation.

Two of those very narrow winners, as it happens, are seeking re-election this year. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and Democratic Sen. Al Franken are not absolute locks for re-election, but one has to think they're in a better position now than they were in 2010 and 2008, respectively. There are also four House seats that could be worth watching (with the Duluth-area showdown between freshman Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan and GOP businessman Stewart Mills in MN-08 appearing to be the most competitive of the bunch). Finally, while the Democrats have majorities in both legislative chambers that appear pretty sound, the GOP has held sway there in the very recent past, and a competitive battle for control cannot be completely discounted.

#5—MICHIGAN (22 points—Seven competitive contests)

Most of the attention in Michigan, as readers of our two other power rankings already knew, is centered on those gubernatorial and U.S. Senate contests that have been more or less solidified since the winter. And for good reason: the gubernatorial race has tons of potential, and while Democratic Senate hopeful Gary Peters has edged ahead of Republican Terri Lynn Land in the most recent polling, that one is still very much a priority for both the DSCC and the NRSC.

As has been the case in the past couple of cycles, the state also houses a handful of competitive U.S. House races. Primaries here, candidly, will go a long way toward determining just how competitive the House landscape in Michigan will be. If there is a ray of light for Democrats here, it is that they are entirely on offense in Michigan: all four competitive races are currently held by Republicans. Also, Republicans control the state lege (hence the fairly brutal gerrymander here), but that control, in the House at least, is close enough to be an alluring target for the Democrats.

#4—NEW YORK (23 points—Eight competitive contests)

New York makes the list despite having no statewide race that promises, on the surface, to be truly captivating. However, as readers here at Daily Kos Elections already know, that may not be the case for long. There is the pending question (which will be resolved, in all probability, this weekend) of whether the Working Families Party will spurn Cuomo and offer their own candidate for governor. If that happens, recent polling has shown that Cuomo's current polling lead, which stands at roughly 30 points over Republican Rob Astorino, will be cut by more than half. And even if he is shed of the headache of the WFP issue, he still may have another headache awaiting him, as his handpicked choice for Lt. Governor (former Congresswoman Kathy Hochul) may well receive a primary challenger to her left.

Elsewhere, there is a lot to grab the attention of election junkies. The Empire State has more tossup U.S. House races than any other state in the nation: three. The bad news for Democrats? They hold two of them (Tim Bishop's Long Island seat in NY-01, and the upstate seat in NY-21 held by the retiring Bill Owens). The good news for Democrats? Though it is a tossup, it is becoming harder and harder to see how Staten Island's Mike Grimm wins in NY-11, seeing how he continues to politically disintegrate. Meanwhile, the most interesting electoral story of them all in New York may well be the control of the state Senate, which is only in Republican hands courtesy of a renegade band of "Democrats" that bolted the caucus in a power-sharing arrangement. Not only are Democrats looking to earn a clean majority this time around, but they are also targeting some members of the so-called "IDC" (Independent Democratic Conference) with high-profile primary challenges. This one is going to get fun a long time before November.

#3—ARKANSAS (24 points—Five competitive contests)

After a few cycles of only mild interest (the big headline here in 2012 was the claiming of the state legislature by the GOP for the first time since shortly after the Earth cooled, or something), Arkansas suddenly becomes the hot destination for races this Fall.

At the top of the list are a pair of tossup statewide battles. In the battle for control of the U.S. Senate, arguably one of the most-watched races involves incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor, as he has to defend his seat against GOP "rising star" Tom Cotton. Meanwhile, the term-limited exit of popular Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe sets the stage for a coin-flip battle between two former members of the House: Democrat Mike Ross and Republican Asa Hutchinson. Add to that a pair of Republican-held open House seats where Democrats recruited quite well (AR-02 and AR-04), and very narrow GOP control of the state House, where Republicans won't have the benefit of an unpopular Democratic president atop the ticket this time, and there is a ton on the table to attract attention in Arkansas.

#2—IOWA (24 points—Eight competitive contests)

Iowa has enough "holy crap" electoral intrigue that it was actually the subject of a piece a month ago. Yes, folks, any political reporter who waits until 2016 (err ... okay ... 2015) to worry about Iowa is missing the point. Big time.

Simply put, in 2014, Iowa has it all. A race that could be categorized as a sleeper (the gubernatorial race, where longtime GOP Gov. Terry Branstad could be in for the race of his life), plus a close race that everyone already has on their radar (the open-seat U.S. Senate race to replace veteran Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin). In addition, every single House seat in the state is competitive, to some extent. Add to that the fact that either state legislative chamber can flip with just four seats or less changing hands, and you have political junkie paradise, right there near the center of the country.

#1—COLORADO (27 points—Six competitive contests)

Come November, Colorado, like Iowa, promises to have a little bit of everything to attract the attention of the electoral observer. If the battle for control of the U.S. Senate is the biggest headline of the evening, Colorado may well have the closest contest on the docket. It is hard to find a poll between incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall and challenger Cory Gardner (who represents the easternmost part of the state in the U.S. House) that doesn't rate the race as a tossup. Meanwhile, there is also a very interesting gubernatorial contest on tap (preceded by a pretty interesting GOP primary to establish the identity of the challenger to sitting Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is seen as the slight favorite for November).

Downballot, there is a lot of action on tap. One could make a compelling argument that the best pickup opportunity for the Democrats in the nation can be found in Colorado's 6th district, where veteran GOP Rep. Mike Coffman has to contend with Democratic former state House speaker Andrew Romanoff. And while Democrats control both chambers of the state legislature, those majorities are far from overwhelming. What's more: recall elections in 2013 shaved the state Senate majority down to a single seat. That is a battle that will be well worth watching over the next few months.


The criteria for the state power rankings was based on a fairly simple point system. States were awarded points on the following basis (race ratings were culled from our DKE ratings for the House, Senate, and gubernatorial races):

  • 8 points for a gubernatorial/U.S. Senate race deemed a tossup.
  • 5 points for a "competitive" state legislature
  • 4 points for a gubernatorial/U.S. Senate race deemed as "leaning" to a party.
  • 4 points for a U.S. House race deemed a tossup.
  • 2 points for a gubernatorial/U.S. Senate race deemed as "likely" for a party.
  • 2 points for a U.S. House race deemed as "leaning" to a party.
  • 1 point for a U.S. House race deemed as "likely" for a party.
For those eager to see how well they know the truly uncompetitive electoral environments, here is your answer to our quiz question. The eleven states that failed to log a single point in this month's power rankings are: Alabama, Delaware, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, and Wyoming.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Sun Jun 01, 2014 at 08:59 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Happy to see Arizona on the list! (13+ / 0-)

    Yes, the gubernatorial race will be entertaining, to say the least. The Republicans will try to out-crazy one another, and there is some real crazy to work with! People sometimes forget that we do elect Dem. governors -- Babbitt, Napolitano. And Goddard probably would've beaten Brewer in 2010 if SB 1070 wasn't in the mix. We're also probably the only state that's sent an openly bisexual atheist to congress -- Sinema. I've known Dem. gubernatorial candidate Fred DuVal a long time and have invited him to the Phoenix meet-up on July 27. Stay tuned.  

    Arizona meet-up, July 27 in Phoenix. Meet Navajo! Send me Kosmail.

    by Mother Mags on Sun Jun 01, 2014 at 09:20:32 AM PDT

  •  This. This right here.... (9+ / 0-)

    This is why the STFU pie-throwers will never drive me from this place.

    And for once, my Flor-i-Duh didn't make either list!

    Good Day, Sunshine!

    I am Joe's Steven......

    by Joes Steven on Sun Jun 01, 2014 at 09:21:13 AM PDT

  •  Making donations (10+ / 0-)

    I have budgeted money for quite a number of races, through websites. On the other hand I have been very reluctant to say yes to phone calls or E-mails. I have concentrated on Senate races and have not yet made plans on House races. I cannot donate impressive amounts, but if more people would do the same ...
    This time my own state of Texas has 2 races worthy of attention: Letitia Van de Putte for Lieutenant Governor and, of course, Wendy Davis. Remember that the Texas Lt. Governor is unusually powerful as presiding officer over the Senate. Do you want Dan Patrick?

    Censorship is rogue government.

    by scott5js on Sun Jun 01, 2014 at 09:27:46 AM PDT

  •  In MI the contest to fill retiring Sen. Carl (6+ / 0-)

    Levin's seat is about money and GOTV.  Terri Lynn Land, the former lackluster SOS, has wealthy AFP, Koch and Amway DeVos family money behind her and she has considerable personal wealth.  But Land is a blank billboard that the rightwing can project all of their desires onto.  Gary Peters has his US House record to stand on.  If Dems show up at the polls he will win.  The Dems were in a great position to get turnout with the citizen referendum to raise the minimum wage, but the GOP lege stole their thunder by passing a weak and diluted minimum wage bill in an effort to make the referendum moot.  The backers of the referendum may go to court in order to hold a place on the November ballot.
    The governor has very low approval ratings but could win again if his Dem opponent Mark Schauer doesn't do more to boost his name recognition and political agenda and to GOTV.

    Building a better America with activism, cooperation, ingenuity and snacks.

    by judyms9 on Sun Jun 01, 2014 at 09:28:36 AM PDT

  •  I hate seeing so many (6+ / 0-)

    important races - against real RWers - in CO. Especially this year.

    It's going to be a long season...

    “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.” Thomas Edison, 1931

    by nzanne on Sun Jun 01, 2014 at 09:33:57 AM PDT

    •  The Colorado gop is so extreme and so are there (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Maverick80229, wishingwell

      candidates. No amount of ads or money can help these extremists win in November. Plus the personhood amendment being on the ballot again will get out the let wing, especially womens vote.The Latino vote will help in the Senate race the way it did in 2010. Senator Bennett credited the Latino turnout in 2010 for helping him win.

  •  IN New York as we now know (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Patango, llywrch, slothlax

    the statewide races will be non-issues. Republicans can't compete here statewide. They only cling to any power at all in the state because of the IDC coalition in the Senate. I believe its days are truly over.

    There will be several highly competitive State Senate races this year including the challenges to IDC members.

    Republicans have little reason to turn out with no chance of winning the Governorship, AG or Comptroller races.

    Democrats have credible challengers and good chances against short term incumbent Republicans in NY-19 with Sean Eldridge and NY-23 with Martha Robertson as well as the NY-11 race. Hanna, Collins and King are the only safe Republicans and really only Collins holds a safely republican seat. All the others can be won by Democrats with the right effort.

    "Do what you can with what you have where you are." - Teddy Roosevelt

    by Andrew C White on Sun Jun 01, 2014 at 10:17:28 AM PDT

    •  The NY Senate situation is not great (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      See my comment about about districts 41 and 46 -- it will be tough to hold both -- lose one and the Rethugs have the majority without the IDC. There are few obvious Dem takeover targets thanks to the gerrymander other than district 60, a 57% Obama district where the Republican who won is a former Democrat who may have been to the left of the Dem who had the Conservative line in 2012.

  •  Also in Iowa (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    slothlax, Amber6541

    As has been covered on DK here

    Des Moines Register

    Her ( Joni Ernst ) support from 36 percent of likely GOP primary voters, which doubles Jacobs' 18 percent, would be enough to win Tuesday's five-person primary outright. The victor needs at least 35 percent.
    Joni Ernst has been endorsed by Romney , now Rubio this week , and many others

    "The next cat out of the bag " about this will be that this lady is basically a

    " Todd Akin "

    T Bagger , yet she gets the support of the main stream GOP , all because she is a woman IMO

    Hopefully  when this info explodes this summer , it will have a positive effect for progressives in the rest of the state and fed elections  

    The GOP will now try and walk back all the extremist positions she has put forth the last year , it is up to US to make sure the msm hear all about them

    Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers

    by Patango on Sun Jun 01, 2014 at 10:36:28 AM PDT

  •  NY Senate is difficult (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    slothlax, Amber6541

    It has 30 Republicans and 33 Democrats. Subtract the 5 IDCers plus one Dem who sits in the Republican caucus and remove two corrupt pols from the Dem caucus and the control now is 36-25-2.

    But even if you can coerce the IDC back into line, the 33-30 nominal majority came last year after election night, as two seats were reversed and became Dem wins only after counting absentee and provisional ballots. One was a win in district 41 by 2,096 votes, and another was a win by 18 votes in district 46 where the Republican incumbent actually was sworn in for another term before the final results reversed the outcome. Obama carried those districts with 54% and 55% and the Obama turnout that won't be there this fall was a big difference. The Republicans are targeting both.

  •  How does MS not even get a single point (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    when it is 50-50 whether Cochran makes it out of the R primary, and where a former Democratic congressman is poised to give McDaniels a tough fight if he beats Cochrane?

    In reality, laws are always useful to those with possessions and harmful to those who have nothing. - Rousseau, The Social Contract, note 5

    by James Allen on Sun Jun 01, 2014 at 12:36:15 PM PDT

  •  CO has all mail ballot this year (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    We should see much less drop off than some other states, which is one reason I actually don't think Gov - and maybe not Sen either - will be close. Also, R's have no chance in State House. Senate they do, but not a large one as they are giving one of their recall Senate seats back, maybe both.

    •  Thanks ColoDem, I was about to post this about our (0+ / 0-)

      CO.  Put a fork in Gardner, he's an idiot and will show his true colors. For the rest, I got three words for ya:

      Mail. In. Ballots.

    •  Colorado (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      is not as close as the MSM wants it to be...we know the gop/baggers, and they are extremist losers...the issue that is going to be a big one is the Local Control debate...the state wants to let Big OandG do what they want...Governor Hick is a big friend of Big OandG...We the people, on the other hand, want to not have to drink poisoned water, breath poisoned air, and all the other negative aspects of Drilling and Fracking...this may be the "defining" issue in '14...

  •  Minnesota (0+ / 0-)

    I actually think the state house is the marquee event in Minnesota. Both Dayton and Franken are vulnerable but in the driver's seat. Same with the congressional races. But the state house should be considered a true tossup. At 73-61, it only takes a flip of 6 seats to make a tie and 7 for GOP control. There were a lot of closes races that DFLers won in 2012 that could easily flip in a midterm.

    Republicans have an interesting strategic choice in MN. While the house might be their path of least resistance to relevance at the state level, they are still thinking of a complete takeover. If that's their goal, they probably need to go in more on the gubernatorial race since their field needs more help and they need to flip that if they want to control state government any time before the 2018 elections. They have another shot at the house in 2 years (when the state senate is up). But no matter what happens this year, the DFL senate majority is intact until 2016.

    So the question they face is do they want to go for the more unlikely control option after the 2016 elections, or just go for the relevancy option right now. The other complicating factor is that they could flip the house in 2014 and lose it again in 2016 (and fail to flip the senate). Which means that without winning the gubernatorial race they are very likely facing a DFL trifecta again after 2016 even if they flip the house in 2014.

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