Hope for Democrats in 2010: Possible Red-to-Blue Senate SeatsConventional wisdom is that the ruling party generally loses seats in the first midterm election after a presidential race. I'm not arguing against this logic and do think that Democrats will lose house seats, though not control of the house. According to cqpolitics race ratings, there are currently 9 toss-up senate seats: 5 of which are Democratic, while 4 are Republican.
The superiority of Democratic policies over Republican ones, from favoring environmental protection to ushering in new, landmark health care reform bill, are not in question. The recurring problem for Democrats has been an inability to articulate our policies in clear, unambiguous ways -- soundbites that present a somewhat unified policy equivalent to, say, the Republicans call for limited government. But a pragmatist must also concede that historical forces and national mood sometimes trump policy superiority; the midterm elections could be rough.
Not all is lost, though. These Republican-held senate seats are definitely winnable for Democrats:
1). Kentucky. Attorney General Jack Conway is running against Tea Party extremist Rand Paul. Kentucky, on a local level, still has many Democrats in power, and this race will be one that reflects local issues and concerns -- not as much a national race. Conway comes across as downright moderate compared to Paul's philosophy on social security and corporate protectionism. Recent polling even has the race tied. If this race is a referendum on Paul, then Conway wins.
2). New Hampshire. Congressman Paul Hodes is the Democrat running against former state Attorney General Kelly Ayotte. Obama won New Hampshire by 10 points, and the state has been trending Democratic in every major election in recent years. Hodes is relatively popular, and the Republican Party is a tarnished brand in the Granite State. Ayotte is a conservative on cultural issues, which doesn't bode well once voters get to know her views better.
3). Ohio With Senator Voinovich's retirement, this open seat, a race between Republican Rob Portman and Democratic Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher, becomes perhaps the most competitive in the nation. Portman was a Bush foot soldier and represents some very unpopular right-wing policies; he has amassed an impressive campaign chest thus far, though. Fisher needs to remind voters that Republican policies helped send Ohio manufacturing jobs overseas and ensure that he and Governor Strickland have a unified Democratic ticket.
4). Missouri Here, Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan is running against Congressman Roy Blunt for Senator Bond's open senate seat. Carnahan has the name recognition in this state which recently elected a female Democrat for its other senate seat. Bond has a lobbyist history that should hurt him, too.
Other Republican-held seats that Democrats should target: 1) Florida. Even if Crist wins, he could be persuaded to vote with the Democrats. 2). North Carolina. Elaine Marshall is a strong candidate in this state which has voted Democratic in recent years. 3) Louisiana. Charlie Melancon is a strong candidate in his challenge to David Vitter.