I decided to simplify things a bit for 2010, dividing the races into two basic categories (uncompetitive and competitive) for starters.
Given how meaningless predictions are this far in advance of the elections, there's no benefit to trying to be more parsimonious until more information is available. Information such as the names of the candidates in a lot of races. You know, things of minor importance like that.
Last time around we introduced the uncompetitive races. There are 18 of those and they will produce a net gain of 1 seat for the GOP (the Dorgan retirement in North Dakota will be a cakewalk for GOP Governor John Hoeven). That leaves a very symmetrical 18 races in the competitive category. There is a lot of variance in this group, from just a bit competitive to too close to call. They will sort themselves out as the election progresses. Here they are with preliminary predictions:
A couple of these are particularly likely to get interesting. The open seat in Ohio may end up being the closest call in this election. Portman is a strong GOP candidate but his party is still a damaged brand name in the state. Neither of the Democratic candidates are great. However, the nominee (probably Brunner) will have a real chance to win. This will come down to turnout and how well the bases are motivated.
All of the previous statements about Ohio are doubly true in Illinois. Those races are eerily similar – popular young GOP Congressman running against mediocre Democrats in states in which the playing field is tilted to the left at the moment. I will believe a Republican winning a statewide race in Illinois when I see it, though, and not a second sooner.
I think the Florida race could become a wild one. If Charlie Crist was the nominee he would waltz to victory.
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However, he is down 20-30 points to Teabagger icon Marco Rubio in the GOP primary. That's great for winning the nomination, but there is a legitimate possibility that he's too nutty to win the general election. Kendrick Meek is not a strong opponent. This election, however, is going to be less about Rubio vs. Meek and more about Rubio vs. Rubio. Can he convince people he is a normal, quasi-mainstream politician or will he Teabag his way into oblivion? Rubio has the early lead; let's see how he does with more exposure.
Pennsylvania will be very competitive, especially if Sestak unseats non-Democrat Arlen Specter for the Democratic nomination. Colorado seems to be trending Republican but the party (as is always the case) can't even find a decent nominee to run against weak incumbent Michael Bennet. I have Missouri going blue simply because I've learned over the years never to bet against a Carnahan in that state. Harry Reid and Blanche Lincoln are both in big trouble, but incumbency is a powerful thing. At the very least, I think those races will get a lot closer than they are at the moment.
Is anyone else getting disproportionately excited? No? I guess that's just me.