Politics 2012: 10 Most Vulnerable Senators (Final Update)

Right after the November 2010 elections, I wrote and published a column I called, “Politics 2012: 10 Most Vulnerable Senators” which has been widely read – in fact it’s the most read column of all time from The Western Word (and we’ve been in business here since January 2005).

That column was updated in March 2011 and again in September 2011. Since we are under 50 days until Election Day, I will take a final look at my “10 Most Vulnerable Senators” which has been narrowed down to just a few! Enjoy the read…

First, let’s take a look at the November 2010 initial list:

10. Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
9. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
8. Kent Conrad (D-ND)
-Conrad decided to retire at the end of this term
7. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
6. Claire McCaskill (D-MO)
5. Scott Brown (R-MA)
4. John Ensign (R-NV)
-Ensign resigned from the U.S. Senate
3. Bill Nelson (D-FL)
2. Ben Nelson (D-NE)
1. Jon Tester (D-MT)

Second, let’s take a look at the March 2011 list:

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)

Third, let’s take a look at the September 2011 list:

10. Maria Cantwell (D-Washington)
9. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine)
 -Snowe decided to retire
8. Bill Nelson (D-Florida)
7. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)
6. Dick Lugar (R-Indiana)
-Lugar was beaten in the primary
5. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)
4. Scott Brown (R-Massachusetts)
3. Jon Tester (D-Montana)
2. Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri)
1. Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska)
-Nelson decided to retire

Finally, here are the remaining Senators from the lists up for re-election, with my thoughts about each race:

7. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)

Hatch is not vulnerable anymore; he fought back a primary challenge and is safe. He will win another term.

6. Maria Cantwell (D-Washington)

Cantwell is safe and will win another term.

5. Bill Nelson (D-Florida)

President Obama has a slight lead over Mitt Romney in Florida and Nelson appears to have a solid lead over Republican Connie Mack.

Nelson should win the race.

4. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)

This race should go to Sherrod Brown.

President Obama has a slight lead over Mitt Romney in ever-important Ohio and Brown has been leading his opponent, Josh Mandel, slightly but also outside the margin of error.

Drum roll…Here are the three most vulnerable Senators up for re-election:

3. Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri)

McCaskill’s Republican opponent, Todd Akin, probably saved her from losing due to his comments about rape. About eight different polls showed her trailing until Akin’s remarks and now the last five polls show her leading the race.

It will be close, but now it is McCaskill’s to lose. It all depends on turnout with Akin getting support from rural areas and McCaskill winning the vote around St. Louis and Kansas City.

2. Jon Tester (D-Montana)

First-term Senator Jon Tester has been at or near the top of my most vulnerable list since November 2010, but Team Tester is running a very strong race against challenger Congressman Denny Rehberg. The last poll shows Tester with a two point lead (within the margin of error).

The Tester campaign has fought off Rehberg tying Tester to President Obama pretty well. The Tester campaign has managed to make Tester look more like a quiet worker who plods ahead doing what is right for Montana (even if he takes a lot of money from lobbyists and carries beef in a roller suitcase from Montana to D.C.).

A year ago I thought Tester was toast (but that’s why they play the game!). During these tough economic times, Rehberg should be way ahead in this race, but he has fumbled and stumbled terribly and he has not run a very good campaign. Rehberg has had to fight off issues such as saying he should have been a lobbyist, to praising their work, to supposedly flipping off a cameraman, to a lawsuit against firefighters, to voting against a bill that contained language to keep the F-15 mission at the Montana Air National Guard in Montana. Plus, he’s still living with the boating accident issue, and a myriad of other issues. Montanans may be growing tired of the rich boy persona that Rehberg symbolizes – and Tester has helped define.

The X-Factor in this race is Libertarian candidate Dan Cox who might take enough votes from Rehberg to give the race to Tester. He pulled 8% in the last poll.

This race will come down to the wire, but the closer it stays the more it will lean toward Tester winning. Additionally, according to some polls Romney may not have that many coattails for Rehberg to latch onto in Montana to help.

1. Scott Brown (R-Massachusetts)

Moderate Senator Scott Brown may not lean far enough to left in Massachusetts to hold on to his seat. If he had a “D” instead of an “R” as his party designation, he might win this race.

Elizabeth Warren is running a very good race (although her speech at the Democratic Convention was not that good); I expect her to beat Scott Brown.

Follow Jack on Twitter @TheWesternWord

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