- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 5, 2009

If you want to understand what is really happening in American politics today, the latest Rothenberg Political Report on the 2010 Senate races is an eye-opener.

Barely a year after Democrats took back the White House and further strengthened their grip on Congress, President Obama’s public approval score has dropped to near 50 percent or less, at least two dozen or more Democratic House members are in danger of upsets, and for the first time in this election cycle, more Senate Democratic seats than Republican seats are vulnerable.

“With the landscape changing noticeably over the summer, Democrats can no longer assume that they will have a net gain of seats in next year’s midterm elections,” veteran elections handicapper Stuart Rothenberg told his newsletter subscribers this week.

“Of the 13 Senate seats now regarded as seriously ‘in play,’ seven of them are currently held by Democrats,” Mr. Rothenberg said.

Just three months ago, Mr. Rothenberg wrote that Democratic Senate gains “in the order of 2-4 seats certainly seem reasonable.” Now he says that “gains of that magnitude are still possible, of course, but the most likely outcome is somewhere between a Republican gain of two seats and a Democratic gain of two seats.”



Clearly, there has been a significant and surprisingly rapid change in the country’s political climate, led by a truly grass-roots rebellion against the Democrats’ big spending, big government, high tax policies that threaten to add trillions of dollars to the nation’s ballooning national debt.

This week’s off-year elections were just a warm-up for what’s to come. With 10 percent-plus unemployment looming in 2010, an anemic, jobless economy at best, and trillion dollar deficits as far as the eye can see, the Democrats, and the nation, are in for a wild and bumpy ride.

Among the most dramatic changes in Mr. Rothenberg’s Democratic Senate election ratings:

c He has moved Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s open Delaware Senate seat into the “lean takeover” column as a result of popular Republican Rep. Michael N. Castle’s candidacy that has “dramatically changed the outlook for this race.” Mr. Biden’s son, state Attorney General Beau Biden, is expected to run for his father’s seat, but has still not revealed his plans.

c Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s polls in Nevada have been plunging like a rock, where his brand of big government liberalism has turned off his state’s conservative voters in droves. His favorables fell to 35 percent last month, and polls show two of five potential Republican rivals beating him. Mr. Rothenberg has moved the race to a “toss-up.”

c Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, who ran Denver’s public schools until he was appointed by Gov. Bill Ritter Jr. in January to fill a vacancy, has never run for elective office, and it shows. A Rasmussen poll in September showed former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton beating him. He is now given only “a narrow advantage” at this stage.

c Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Louisiana, who Mr. Rothenberg says “looks increasingly at risk,” trailed all four of her Republican rivals at the end of September. She, too, is given only “a narrow advantage for incumbent party.”

c Five-term Sen. Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut remains on the toss-up list as a result of the sweetheart mortgage loans he received from Countrywide Financial. The Senate ethics panel cleared him of wrongdoing, but the Countrywide investigation has been reopened by the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, which keeps the damaging issue alive. Former Republican Rep. Rob Simmons is leading him in the polls by five points.

c Also threatened by turnover is Mr. Obama’s former Senate seat in heavily Democratic Illinois, where polls now show Republican Rep. Mark Steven Kirk beating the Democrats’ early front-runner, state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias. In a state where the word corruption has become a synonym for the Democrats, this race is a toss-up.

c Another upset is brewing in Pennsylvania, where Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-Democrat Arlen Specter has been trailing former Club for Growth president Pat Toomey, the Republican Party’s likely nominee. Mr. Toomey has been a relentless crusader for pro-growth tax cuts, a jobs message that resonates in Pennsylvania’s dismal economy. Mr. Specter, who has yet to convince doubtful Democrats that he is now one of them, is mired in a divisive primary fight with Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak.

There is an impatient, angry mood in the country that continues to grow amid increasing doubts that trillions of dollars in new spending and taxes will put us on the path to economic prosperity. All of the early political signs - including Tuesday’s stunning Republican victories in Virginia and New Jersey - suggest increasing losses for Mr. Obama’s party.

“There is a significant anti-Washington mood out there and significant anti-incumbent mood,” Texas Sen. John Cornyn, chairman of the Republican Party’s Senate campaign committee, told Roll Call. “But clearly the Democrats have the tougher time of it because they are clearly in charge and there seems to be considerable pushback to their policy proposals on health care and otherwise.”

But forget about the campaign poll numbers for now. The numbers that are really driving this election cycle are 3.5 million lost jobs, a record $1.4 trillion budget deficit, $12 trillion in added government debt and a mountain of new taxes that threatens to bleed our economy dry.

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.

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