January 31, 2009

GOP 2010 journey begins here - Part 1

How long will it take for the GOP to get itself out of it's current mess? 2010? 2012? 2024? What are the factors that could influence the comeback? This 4 part series will look at the factors that will impact the success or failure of the resurgence of the GOP in the short term, specifically, 2010.

What a wonderful place to be starting from - at least there doesn't seem to be much place worse to end up.

The way back from the wilderness depends on several key factors which can be classified into 2 key types, controllable and uncontrollable. The controllable factors consist of three things; money, message and demographic targeting. The uncontrollable consist of things that cannot be changed no matter what. In this category there are two key factors - (i) which seats are up for election in 2010 and (ii) what is the potential effect of the previous round of redistricting? Of course there is the 800 lb. gorilla in the room in the form of an unknown - what will happen to the economy between now and Nov 2010? That will play a pivotal role as well, and is essentially an uncontrollable - particularly from a Republican perspective.

Part 1 and 2 will focus on the uncontrollable factors in the Senate and House respectively. Part 3 and 4 will focus on the controllable issues.

Senate 2010

At first glance, 2010 appears to shape up no less daunting for conservatives than was 2008. The GOP has to defend 19 seats while the Democrats only need to defend 17 (apparently there is a special election in Delaware, so make that 15). However, each race is a unique case and must be viewed on it's own merits.

Which seats are in play? At a quick glance below, are the results of an early high level analysis. These assessments will change or firm up over the next 18 months.

Republican Seats

Alabama - Shelby (safely Republican).

Alaska - Murkowski (safely Republican unless oil suddenly becomes obsolete this year).

Arizona - McCain (he's going to continue in the state and his only credible opposition would have been Napolitano, who is busy in Obama's cabinet. Safely Republican, though RINO Republican unless McCain's mavericky-ness can now be properly directed towards the teeming Democrat majority).

Florida - Martinez/open (Martinez is retiring. The GOP should enlist the popular Jeb Bush and keep it safely Republican, a somewhat controllable portion (who) of the uncontrollable aspect (which seats) situation.

Georgia - Isakson (moderately safely Republican).

Idaho - Crapo (safely Republican).

Iowa - Grassley (safely Republican unless Grassley decides to retire).

Kansas - Brownback (He's retiring, so this will be open. Sebilius will be a challenge but despite what 538 says, this should remain leaning Republican).

Kentucky - Bunning (Bunning is not wildly popular but this is still moderately safely Republican, in the conservative-leaning state).

Louisiana - Vitter (safely Republican).

Missouri - Bond (A tough hold, but leaning Republican).

New Hampshire - Gregg (Despite Gregg being the sole Republican survivor in NH, his popularity is decent and NH might not be ready to abandon it's independent stature by going 4-0 Democrat. Moderately safe Republican).

North Carolina - Burr (this seat will require a defensive hold-the-line position for the GOP. Burr is no more popular than any of his predecessors, who've had a dismal win-loss record. This seat is effectively neutral and could go either way).

Ohio - Voinovich (the Democrats are probably excited about picking up this one, along with Specter's seat. Of the two, this one is safer and I'd classify it as leaning to moderately safely Republican).

Oklahoma - Coburn (safely Republican, even if the Democratic governor runs against Coburn, the RNC could counter with strong backing).

Pennsylvania - Specter (Specter has health, is a RINO in a blue state, and is vulnerable in the primaries against any conservative Republican, his support is broad enough but shallow. This is a seat begging for a Democratic pick-up. My take is that Specter should be beaten in the primary by a more conservative candidate and then the RNC should work on a grassroots campaign and fight tooth and nail to retain the seat. Tough, but not impossible, especially if the Democrats throw a dud like Chris Matthews at the race).

South Carolina - DeMint (reasonably safely Republican - Democrats have provided no real opponents in South Carolina).

South Dakota - Thune (safely Republican).

Utah - Bennett (safely Republican, unless Bennett becomes ill or retires).

Democrat Seats

Arkansas - Lincoln (Lincoln is popular but the state is trending redder. This should be another target, albeit a tough one).

California - Boxer (unless Arnold tries to run against her, it's safely Democrat, and if he does, she still has the edge. Besides, I can't see Schwarzeneggar leaving California for colder climes).

Colorado - Salazar (this guy is beatable, especially if the economy continues to tank through '09 and into '10. While pundits will say the state is trending Democrat, that is not as black and white an issue as it is portrayed. A quality candidate could take this seat for the GOP).

Connecticut - Dodd (if the GOP can do a better job of connecting Dodd to the scandals that belong with him, this could be an upset pick-up in 2010. It wouldn't be easy, but it'd be worth it - a moral victory in addition to an electoral one. Moderately safely Democrat - for now).

Delaware - Kaufman/Open (no matter how ugly the Democrat appointment may have been or who they run, this is safely Democrat territory).

Hawaii - Inouya (He's getting old and could retire, but Hawaii is Obama's back yard, so it's a pretty sure bet it's safely Democrat no matter who runs).

Illinois - Burris (This seat is tainted, but it's Obama's other back yard, it's Democrat territory. I think unfortunately, Burris is probably safe).

Indiana - Bayh (safely Democrat).Maryland - Mikulski (safely Democrat - Steele might have been able to win, but he's otherwise occupied).

North Dakota - Dorgan (safely Democrat).

Nevada - Reid (Reid will be taking flack from all sides over the next two years, this is a state where if Michael Steele can get organization turned around, the GOP can get the right candidate to run, would be a wonderful pickup. Reid is not popular but the state is slowly trending blue. Still, it's a matter of ground game, and considering Steele's intentions to court Hispanics, this could be an upset. Leaning Democrat).

New York - Schumer (safely Democrat; Guiliani might have made a race of it if he ran. A tanking economy could certainly hurt a high profile Democrat like this as well, but there is a governorship and a weaker NY Democrat senator that the GOP will focus on).

New York - Gillibrand (Given Patterson's appointment of an independent looking Democrat, Guiliani won't run here either now, and is probably looking at the governorship instead. Safely Democrat).

Oregon - Wyden (safely Democrat).

Vermont - Leahy (safely Democrat unless Leahy retires).

Washington - Murray (reasonably safely Democrat).

Wisconsin - Feingold (this one would be nice to take for Republicans but it will take a strong GOP candidate and a weak 2 years in the economy for the popular Feingold to falter).

Tallying the score it looks like this:

Safe Republicans 12, vulnerable Republican 7, Safely Democrat 14, vulnerable Democrat 3.

It would seem fate is still on the side of the Democrats, even given my optimistic view on some of the races. But it's still early, and a tanking economy means that more Democratic seats could become vulnerable. Right now over at the ultra-liberal KOS, they were already salivating last year with anticipation at 2010, given the potential further Democratic shift.

It would seem the Republicans will still have an uphill battle in the Senate in 2010. Congress is a tougher beast to analyze, which Part 2 will touch upon. But there are some silver linings for 2010 that also need to be considered for the GOP in both houses, and we'll look at those in Part 2 also.

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