In the beginning of the year Senate Dems looked to be in the position of strength – the political meme was that the House would be more vulnerable in 2010. Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Bob Menendez was savoring the prospect of five retiring GOP senators, four three in states that trended blue for Obama in 2008: Ohio, Florida, Missouri* and New Hampshire. And several other Republican incumbents looked potentially vulnerable: the scandal-plagued David Vitter in Louisiana, Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania, Richard Burr in North Carolina and the gift that keeps on giving to the Dems: Jim Bunning in Kentucky.
But then came the Roland Burris/Blago fiasco that has left Dem prospects of holding Obama’s seat in Illinois dicey. Chris Dodd was in melt down mode well before his AIG bonus flap. Democrats are doing everything they can to plaster Mike Bennet’s virtually unknown face all over Colorado. Kirsten Gillibrand is facing primary challenges and the same name recognition issues as Bennet. And Harry Reid has the worst approval ratings of the lot, with just 34% of Nevadans liking the job he’s doing. All of which translates to defending five Democrat incumbents with approval ratings below 50% (not to mention Barbara Boxer who’s hovering @ 52%). Menendez is going to have his hands full on defense now, as well as offense, making for a much more interesting than anticipated 2010 Senate season.
*May bad, McCain won Missouri narrowly last year.