Cook’s Out with First 2010 Senate Ratings

The Cook Political Report has released its first 2010 Senate Race Ratings, and it includes some discussion-worthy items.  Overall, the theme is clearly: Democrats largely safe, several Republican-held seats vulnerable.  Again.On the Democratic side, Cook sees Blanche Lincoln (AR), Chris Dodd (CT), whoever succeeds Joe Biden (DE), Daniel Inouye (HI), whoever succeeds Barack Obama (IL), Evan Bayh (IN), Barbara Mikulski (MD), Chuck Schumer (NY), Ron Wyden (OR), and Pat Leahy (VT) as “Solid D.”  I’d agree with all of those except, possibly, Inouye in Hawaii, only because of the popular Republican Governor, Linda Lingle, should she run if Inouye retires.  Whoever succeeds Obama in Illinois could risk vulnerability given that the successor would be appointed by Rod Blagojevich, who is extremely unpopular at the moment.Cook also sees Barbara Boxer (CA), Ken Salazar (CO), Harry Reid (NV), Byron Dorgan (ND), Patty Murray (WA), and Russ Feingold (WI) as “Likely D.”  All fine by me.

On the Republican side, Cook sees three Republican seats starting off in “Toss Up” status: Mel Martinez (FL), Jim Bunning (KY), and David Vitter (LA).  Sounds right, given Martinez’s unpopularity, Bunning’s unpopularity, and Vitter’s lingering prostitution scandal.  The only saving grace in any of these is the Louisiana Dems’ relatively shallow bench (for which I would have ranked this one race a bit safer “R,” though Vitter could still get primaried – stay tuned).

Cook puts Arlen Specter (PA) in “Lean R,” and Sam Brownback (KS) and Tom Coburn (OK) as “Likely R.”  All three sound correct to me; and, the two seats in “Likely R” becoming more competitive or less competitive is 100% contingent on whether or not those states’ respective Democratic Governors enter these two Senate races.

Cook ranks the remaining thirteen Republican-held seats as “Solid R”: Dick Shelby (AL), Lisa Murkowski (AK), John McCain (AZ), Johnny Isakson (GA), Mike Crapo (ID), Chuck Grassley (IA), Kit Bond (MO), Judd Gregg (NH), Richard Burr (NC), George Voinovich (OH), Jim DeMint (SC), John Thune (SD), and Robert Bennett (UT).

There are a few big quibbles here, especially since Cook is clearly ranking some states on the potential of retirements or Democratic entries.  Polling has shown Governor Janet Napolitano beating John McCain, and other polling has shown Democrats running very competitive against potential retirees Kit Bond and George Voinovich, so none of those three should be in “Solid R” (or even “Likely R” for that matter).  Also, given Republican Senate losses this past cycle in New Hampshire, North Carolina, and potentially Alaska, Judd Gregg, Richard Burr, and Lisa Murkowski should be at least one notch more competitive.

Senate Guru will likely be out with its first race ratings shortly after Thanksgiving.  Stay tuned for that.  Where do you disagree with Cook’s ratings?

Click here for the new senate guru blog…

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