Don’t forget the red-to-blue possibilities

DON’T FORGET THE RED-TO-BLUE POSSIBILITIES…. Brian Beutler has a good report today on how this year’s Senate races are shaping up, and what next year’s Senate is likely to look like, given what we currently know. It’s a strong overview, but I think Brian missed a few races worth noting.

With nearly five months to go until Election Day, Republican hopes of retaking the Senate have dimmed and they’re privately lamenting their lost opportunity. Until just a few weeks ago, Republicans considered winning a Senate majority a long shot but by no means out of reach. But the euphoria over Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts in January seems a distant memory now, especially after the latest round of primary results last week.

Primary victories by Carly Fiorina in California and Sharron Angle in Nevada bolstered a growing national narrative that Republican candidates are lightweights, or too outside the mainstream, to survive in the fall, and that could harm even top tier Republicans.

“There’s now a path to ‘acceptable losses’ for Democrats,” notes one cautiously optimistic Democratic strategist.

“I totally see how the number stops at five to seven [Republican pickups]” says a Republican consultant, speaking of an optimistic scenario for the GOP.

Brian considers four states — North Dakota, Indiana, Arkansas, and Delaware — “obvious” pick-ups, and those seem like relatively safe bets, even though Indiana is running a D.C. corporate lobbyist who left the state more than a decade ago.

In the next tier, we see plenty of Democratic-held Senate seats that are in play, but which Dems are feeling relatively good about: Nevada, California, Washington, Wisconsin, and Connecticut.

States like Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Illinois — all currently held by Dems — are comfortably in the toss-up category.

Brian notes that Republicans “have a couple vulnerabilities of their own,” but I think he understates the case.

His piece notes that the increasingly liberal Charlie Crist is running fairly strong as an independent in Florida, and it no longer seems far-fetched to think he might caucus with Dems if he wins. There’s also Louisiana, where the scandal-plagued incumbent, Sen. David Vitter (R), is seeking another term, despite being caught with prostitutes after running on a “family values” platform, and despite doing the bidding on increasingly unpopular oil companies.

But the list of seats that can be flipped from “red” to “blue” shouldn’t end there. In Ohio, polls show Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher (D) in a competitive race against former Bush Budget Director Rob Portman (D). In Missouri, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan (D) is running even with Rep. Roy Blunt (R). It’s not unrealistic to think Rand Paul (R) will struggle in Kentucky. Richard Burr (R) isn’t a lock in North Carolina. And in New Hampshire, Rep. Paul Hodes (D) is clearly credible.

All of those seats are currently held by Republicans, and they’re in play as Democratic pick-up opportunities.