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« '09 Results May Push Ehrlich Toward Re-Match | Blog Home Page | TX Gov Poll: Perry Retakes Commanding Lead In Primary »

A Senate Trifecta the Dems Want to Avoid Losing

While Democrats face competitive Senate races in a number of states carried last year by President Obama, three in particular could send shock waves through a party that stormed back to control Washington the last two cycles: President Obama's former Illinois seat, Vice President Biden's Delaware seat and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's seat in Nevada.

Based on recent polling, a shifting national mood and excellent candidate recruitment by the GOP, Republicans could be in position a year from now to win seats once held by three of the four most powerful elected officials in Washington. Should that happen, it wouldn't be at all surprising if states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Connecticut and Florida -- all of which Obama won last year -- elected Republicans as well.

In Illinois, the National Republican Senatorial Committee succeeded in recruiting Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) to give up his congressional district to run statewide. Meanwhile, Democrats -- including the White House -- were unable to convince state Attorney General Lisa Madigan (D) to run, as she eventually opted for re-election. Running instead are Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, Chicago Inspector General David Hoffman and Chicago Urban League president Cheryle Jackson, who previously served as press secretary for disgraced governor Rod Blagojevich. Obama's appointed successor, Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.), opted not to run for reelection.

Limited polling in the state has shown Giannoulias ahead of his primary opponents and statistically tied with Kirk, who is expected to win the GOP primary. Whoever wins the Democratic primary will likely receive substantial support from the White House and Democratic National Committee, as the prospect of losing the president's former Senate seat two years after he was elected president would be embarrassing.

Republicans scored a coup in Delaware with the recruitment of Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.), who has won 11 statewide races including two for governor (in 1984 and 1988) and the past nine for the state's lone House seat. Biden won the seat for the seventh time in November 2008 -- when he was also elected vice president -- and Sen. Ted Kaufman (D-Del.), Biden's longtime chief of staff, was appointed to replace him. It was widely rumored that Kaufman, who will not run next year, would serve as a placeholder for Biden's son, state Attorney General Beau Biden, until the 2010 special election.

Castle has led Biden in the four polls released this year. However, the most recent one -- a DailyKos/Research 2000 survey out last month -- found Castle up by just a single point.

The third race of what could be a crushing trifecta for Democrats is in Nevada, where recent polling shows Majority Leader Harry Reid to be among the most vulnerable incumbent senators, despite the amount of power he wields in the Senate. Both of his potential Republican opponents -- former state party chair Sue Lowden and Danny Tarkanian, son of a famed UNLV basketball coach -- lead Reid by more than 5 points in general election matchups, and have led him in every poll that has been released.

Whoever takes on Reid will need to raise serious money in order to compete statewide, as Reid has a national network of donors and $8.7 million in the bank.

Still, the GOP is targeting Reid in hopes he will become the second Democratic leader in the Senate in six years to be defeated, following then-minority leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota, who was knocked out of office in 2004 by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.).

Losing these three seats would be particularly embarrassing to President Obama and his party just two years after capturing the White House and expanding majorities in Congress. Beyond the humiliating symbolism, however, the defeats would deliver a serious blow to the party's advantage in the Senate -- and more than likely be just a few of the Democratic losses on Election Day 2010.