Mike Berman’s Washington Watch

June 26, 2009 11:57 AM

2010 Congressional Campaigns

The public's attitude toward the job being done by the Congress is almost exactly opposite their view about the job being done by the President. 57% disapprove of the job being done by Congress (58% approve of the Preident - Gallup), while 29% approve. This is about where the rating has been for most of the year. [NBC/WSJ]

President Obama came to office with a Congress, which at least on the numbers, has more members of his Party seated than the most recent President Bush did at any time during his tenure.

111th Congress (2009-11) 57/40/2/1 257/178/-
110th Congress (2007-09) 49/49/2 233/303/-
109th Congress (2005-07) 44/55/1 202/232/1
108th Congress (2003-05) 48/51/1 205/229/1
107th Congress (2001-03) 50/50 212/221/2

In the first mid-term election of the last 9 Presidents tenure, 5 experienced their Party losing U.S. Senate seats. [See April, 2009 Washington Watch].

At the moment, it appears that Democrats are likely to pick up Senate seats in 2010. But it is not a sure thing.

There is general agreement that the most vulnerable incumbent Democrat is Chris Dodd (D-CT). For a variety of reasons, his support has plumeted, and he trails former Republican Congressman Rob Simmons in early polling. However, in the most recent poll, Dodd trails Simmons by substantially less in earlier polling.

One other complication for Dodd is that he is the Chair of the Banking Committee, faced with a need for reregulation of the financial community. He is also the stand-in for Senator Kennedy as Chair of the Health, Education and Labor Committee, which has a key role in the healthcare debate.

There are two potential problems from this dual role. First, it is difficult to handle either of these Committees right now, and handling both of them raises the potential of not doing either very well. Second, those dual responsibilities have to limit the amount of time he has to spend in Connecticutt.

Going for Dodd is the fact that Obama won the state by 23 points.

There is little to say about the Illinois Senate race at this moment, except that the appointed Democratic incumbent will not be the nominee of the Democratic party. Roland Burris (D-Il) did not have a distinguished entry into the office, and is not likely to distinguish himself while in the office. It is not yet clear who the Democratic or Republican candidates will be, but it is hard to imagine losing the President's home seat unless his popularity has collapsed by November 2010.

In Kentucky, the will he-or-won't-he run for re-election question about incumbent Jim Bunning (R-Ky) is so perplexing that even the riskiest of Wall Street Traders would not create a derivative based on the outcome.

There are some interesting potential Democratic candidates but the fact remains that Obama lost the state by 17 points.

Missouri may provide one of the most interesting races of the 2010 season. Democratic Secretary of State, Robin Carnahan, is the putative Democratic candidate.

On the Republican side, incumbent Kit Bond (R-MO) decided not to seek re-election. The likely Republican candidate is Congressman Roy Blunt (R-MO). Blunt was #2 in the Republican House leadership through 2008, but decided not to seek re-election to that post in order to have the time to run for the Senate. There is some suggestion that part of the impetus for his move was that Congressman Eric Cantor was planning to challenge him for the leadership role and the outcome was not clear.

Obama had no special advantage in this state in the 2008 election.

With Senator Jud Gregg (R-NH) retiring, the New Hampshire seat is up for grabs. The likely Democratic candidate is Congressman Paul Hodes. On the Republican side, there are a number of possible candidates. Obama won by 9 points here, but this is still likely to be competitive.

George Voinovich, (R-OH) is not seeking re-election, so Ohio becomes another open Senate seat in which the Democrats may have a slight advantage; however, it is far too early to be sure.

Lee Fisher, the Democratic Lt. Governor, and Jennifer Brunner, the Democratic Secretary of State, are both in the queue at this point to be the Democratic nominee. Both lead the putative Republican nominee, Rob Portman, who was many formers: former Congressman, former head of OMB, former USTR.

Obama won the state by 4 points.

There are two other potentially interesting races.

In Delaware, Attorney General Beau Biden, currently serving in the military in Iraq, is expected to seek his father's vacated seat. The toughest candidate against him appears to be Mike Castle (R-Del). It is not clear that Castle will run. Polls taken early this spring suggest that Castle is favored over Biden. Obama won the state by 25 points.

And finally, the twists and turns of Pennsylvania. Arlen Specter (used to be R-PA/now D-PA) ostensibly will face a primary against Congressman Joe Sestak (D-PA) on his way to a match with former Congressman Joe Toomey (R-PA).

In early polls, Specter has a considerable lead over Sestak and a smaller lead over Toomey.

Had he remained a Republican, Specter would be facing Toomey in the Republican primary.

Obama won the state by 9 points.

The U.S. Senate

  • Democrats 57
  • Republicans 40
  • Independents 2 (caucus Dem)
  • Open 1
Here is how the 37 Senate elections (18 Democratic incumbents, 19 Republican incumbents) look to me at this time (underlining reflects retirement). (D=Dem incumbent in office, R=GOP incumbent in office, I=Ind. incumbent in office)

Safe Democratic (9) Leaning Democratic (7) Toss-Up (6) Leaning Republican (3) Safe Republican (12)
Arkansas California
Connecticut Florida
Delaware Colorado Illinois Louisiana
Hawaii Nevada
Kentucky No. Carolina Arizona
Indiana No. Dakota
Missouri   Georgia
Maryland Pennsylvania New Hampshire
New York (A) Washington Ohio
New York (B) Wisconsin   Kansas
Oregon       Oklahoma
      So. Carolina

      So. Dakota



  Democrats Republicans Ind
Seats not up in 2010 40 21 2
Safe in 2010 9 12 0
Leaning in 2010 7 3 0
Total 56 36 2
Toss-ups 6 (4R / 2D)    

If history is any indicator, Democrats can be expected to lose House seats in the 2010 election. Starting with, and other than, Roosevelt in 1934 and Bush II in 2002, the sitting President's Party has lost House seats in the mid-term election. [See April 2009 Washington Watch for details].

In the June Diego/Hotline poll, Democrats win the generic Congressional race 39-30. In the previous month, The Democracy Corps survey recorded a 52- 39 margin for the Democrats.

Generic results are just that, generic, and are not good indicators of what might happen in truly competitive seats. Charlie Cook points out that 49 Democrats now hold seats that were won by McCain in 2008. 39 Republicans hold seats won by Obama.

The U.S. House of Representatives

  • Democrats 257
  • Republicans 176
  • Vacancy 2

4/1/09 6/4/09
Total Dem 255 257
Solid Dem 204 198
Likely Dem 29 34
Lean Dem 20 21
Toss-Up 2 4
     D 2 4
     R 0 0
Lean GOP 6 6
Likely GOP 26 36
Solid GOP 147 134
Total GOP 179 176

[As always, thanks to the Cook Political Report, which is the best when it comes to analysis of Congressional races (as well as other electoral matters).]

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