*This column has been updated (Sept 2011). After reading this one, click HERE to view the update!
Back on November 4, 2010, while some folks were dissecting the results from the election on November 2, here at The Western Word (TWW) I developed a list of the 10 Most Vulnerable Senators for 2012.
Ironically, that column has been one of the most widely read and linked columns ever written here at TWW. Thanks to my faithful readers from around the world!
Since it’s now March 2011, let’s take a look at the November list, do some editing and come up with a more up to date one! To refresh your memory, here is my list from November 2010:
1. Jon Tester (D-MT)
2. Ben Nelson (D-NE)
3. Bill Nelson (D-FL)
4. John Ensign (R-NV)
5. Scott Brown (R-MA)
6. Claire McCaskill (D-MO)
7. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
8. Kent Conrad (D-ND)
9. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
10. Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
Kent Conrad and John Ensign decided not to run again. Conrad would have had a tough time winning and Ensign would too, but for different reasons. So they are off my list.
The staff at The Western Word, which in my humble opinion has the greatest political minds of anyone in the Rocky Mountain West, has been busy checking websites, polls, newspapers, and we’ve watched most of the political shows on TV, while compiling this extensive report.
So, without waiting any further here’s the new list with #1 being the most vulnerable:
10. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine)
9. Dick Lugar (R-Indiana)
8. Scott Brown (R-Massachusetts)
7. Maria Cantwell (D-Washington)
6. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)
5. Bill Nelson (D-Florida)
4. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)
3. Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri)
2. Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska)
1. Jon Tester (D-Montana)
Let’s take a look at a few of the Top 10 Most Vulnerable Senators:
#10. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine:
A new one on the list is Senator Snowe! The Tea Party may get to Snowe before she even gets to a general election against a Democrat. The Tea Party recently elected a Governor in Maine, so they are now after Snowe. Snowe made the list because she is a moderate Republican and moderates are on the politicians’ endangered for defeat list in 2012.
#9. Richard Lugar, R-Indiana:
Dick Lugar is also new to this list! Will the Tea Party take Richard Lugar out of the race in a primary? Lugar has been a senator since 1977 and won his 2006 election with 87% of the vote and he is fourth oldest serving senator. He has been kind of in the face of the Tea Party folks and has not changed his moderate voting record.
#8. Scott Brown, R-Massachusetts:
We have a book tour complete with a 60 Minutes interview and some other interviews and we have the release of some deep dark secrets – what better way to kick off a re-election bid! Scott Brown dropped from #5 to #8 because he has been out and about nationally. But being a Republican in Massachusetts still makes one very vulnerable!
#5. Bill Nelson, D-Florida:
Somewhere the far-right wing tea party folks in Florida are looking for another Marco Rubio…meanwhile Senator Nelson has the Vice President doing fundraisers for him. It will take about $25 million to run for Senator in Florida. Ouch. Marco…
#4. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah:
Sen. Hatch probably wakes up in a cold sweat every night after he dreams about his fellow Utah Senator Bob Bennett being taken out by the Tea Party in 2010. Hatch has been toeing the Tea Party line ever since Bennett was defeated, but will it be enough? Hatch is tied to the Wall Street bailout – something the Tea Party folks hated and it is reported that his fellow Utah Senator (Mike Lee) will not endorse him. All these things make Hatch very vulnerable.
#3. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri:
Oh Claire! The big mover on the list is Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri. She has now moved up from #6 to #3 on my list. Part of the reason for the big move is because of the “damn plane“ and the taxes on it. It just seems she and her campaign may be misfiring some in these early stages. But it all depends who decides to run against her from the Show Me State. We do know that her foe in 2006, Jim Talent, has backed out of a rematch. The Missouri GOP smells blood in the water and took out a full-page ad in a Springfield (MO) newspaper attacking McCaskill after the plane issue. McCaskill is writing checks these days – for back taxes.
#2. Ben Nelson, D-Nebraska:
Some folks believe that Ben Nelson is the most vulnerable Senator in 2012. A political junkie friend of mine in Nebraska tells me that Nelson can’t win. We heard about the “Cornhusker kickback” and Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) named him the Porker of the Year for 2010. It looks pretty tough for Senator Nelson of Nebraska. Already, Nebraska’s Republican attorney general, Jon Bruning, has announced his candidacy for the Senate.
#1. Jon Tester, D-Montana:
Montana Senator Jon Tester is still ranked as the #1 most vulnerable Senator in 2012. With Congressman Denny Rehberg jumping into the race and recent polls showing Tester in a statistical dead heat with Rehberg, he holds on to the top spot on my most vulnerable list – but just by the length of a hair from his flat-top haircut.
Rehberg started his campaign off by hitting a few bumps, but he has been helped with high gas prices and high unemployment that reminds Montanans that Obama and Tester are linked. Tester started fighting back and is using social media to get his message out, plus Tester has most of the print reporters in Montana on his side.
One veteran campaign observer told me that it looks like Rehberg is a little “rusty” as a campaigner although he’s been campaigning every two years (for the past 10 years) as a congressman, but that former Congressman Rick Hill (who is running for Governor in 2012) seems to have his campaign ducks in a row and has hit the ground running.
It’s still very early but Rehberg needs to get his ducks (and campaign staff) in a row for a long drawn-out, not to mention, nasty race.