Democrats dodged a bullet with Sen. Chris Dodd's retirement, solidifying their hold on a seat that was sketchy at best. Connecticut is off the board.
That leaves two incumbent Senators whose polling suggests a 2010 loss. The first is Nevada's Harry Reid, who is currently lagging behind two no-name Republicans -- Sue Lowden (42-50 per Pollster.com composite), and Danny Tarkanian (43.1-48.1). Democrats would be far better off in Nevada with a Reid retirement, but the party (and Reid himself) continue to operate under the assumption that his dominant cash advantage and the machine nature of the state (the unions are strong) will be enough to pull off a victory. This isn't the kind of election where money can dictate results, but the machine may be enough. Maybe. In any case, the Senate majority leader isn't going anywhere, for better or for worse.
The other embattled incumbent is Arkansas Blanche Lincoln. Set aside her woeful handling of the health care debate for the moment, and let's just focus on her poll numbers:
Blanche Lincoln (D) 39
Gilbert Baker (R) 51 (the likely nominee)
Research 2000 for Daily Kos, 11/30-12/2/09:
Blanche Lincoln (D) 42
Gilbert Baker (R) 41
Zogby for the League of American Voters, 11/16-17:
Blanche Lincoln (D) 41
Gilbert Baker (R) 39
Zogby is probably the worst pollster in the biz, and the League of American Voters is a front group for big insurance and big tobacco (if there was ever an unholy alliance). Still, their numbers are little different than ours. Rasmussen is the GOP's favorite pollster, and his spin is utter horseshit. His numbers may be overly optimistic for Baker, but Lincoln is still at that same place, stuck around 40 percent. The DSCC released a poll for this race back in October showing Lincoln leading Gilbert 50-37. There's been nothing since, and you can bet they're polling it repeatedly. Their silence since October is quite telling. If the numbers were still that good, they'd be releasing them.
So you have Lincoln under 50 percent, which is relevant because incumbents under the 50 percent mark in reputable polling only have a 50 percent chance of being defeated in their reelection bids.
In the 2008 cycle, the following Senate races featured incumbents with at least one reputable independent poll showing them under 50 percent against their challenger: Alaska, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, and Texas.
Of those 11, the challengers won five: Alaska, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Oregon. That's a 45 percent success rate.
All other incumbents running for reelection, those who didn't suffer poll results under 50 percent, won handily. That's a zero percent success rate for their challengers.
In the 2006 cycle, the following Senate races featured incumbents with at least one reputable independent poll showing them under 50 percent against their challenger: Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington.
Of those 12, the challengers won six: Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia. That's a 50-percent success rate.
So over the last two election cycles, no Senate incumbent polling exclusively over 50 percent has lost his or her race. And of those polling at least once under 50 percent in a reputable independent poll, 47.5 percent of their challengers have been able to knock them off.
The closer those incumbents were to 50 percent, the more likely they were to survive. Lincoln, stuck at around 40 percent, is in dire straits. No incumbent dipping into the 30s survived in '06 or '08. Quite simply, she is unelectable.
Democrats have a thick bench in Arkansas, and could make a serious bid to hold the seat. But Lincoln won't pull it off. She's toast.
If Lincoln cares about her state and her party, she'll do the honorable thing like Chris Dodd and retire. Otherwise, let's hope Lt. Gov. Bill Halter forcefully retires her in a primary.
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