The Top 10 Senate Races To Worry About

| Fri Sep. 10, 2010 6:45 AM PDT

Months ago, the political commentariat's position was that the Democrats' hold on the Senate was inviolable; only the House was in play. But in recent weeks, the story line has changed: maybe...the Senate, too. It does seem a heavier lift for the GOPers, but with the economy still in the tank and many polls suggesting the Dems are heading for a cliff, the Senate Democrats have become more vulnerable. NBC News' "First Read" newsletter today put out a handy guide to the ten Senate races where there's a good shot of a pick-up. Note that there's not one Democratic possible gain on this list:

First Read’s Top 10 Senate Takeovers: Chew on this: Right now, Republicans have a better chance of flipping West Virginia’s Senate seat than Democrats have in picking up the one in Ohio. In fact, this is our first Top 10 Senate takeover list this cycle where we don’t have a single Dem pick-up opportunity. According to this list, Republicans—right now—would gain a minimum of five seats. Yet to take control of the chamber, they’d need to win all 10 on the list (or win a substitute outside the Top 10). The number in parentheses is our ranking from last month.

1. North Dakota (1): Get ready to ho-down with Republican John Hoeven (R); yes, we're running out of Hoeven puns. Ranking: Solid GOP.

2. Delaware (2): Does Mike Castle (R) survive his primary against Christine O’Donnell (R)? The GOP’s likelihood of winning this seat depends on it. Ranking (with Castle as nominee): Probable GOP.

3. Arkansas (3): Bill Clinton campaigned this week for incumbent Blanche Lincoln (D), but it’s unlikely to change the dynamics of her race against John Boozman (R). Ranking: Probable GOP.

4. Indiana (4): Speaking of being able to change the dynamics, Brad Ellsworth (D) hasn’t caught up to Dan Coats (R). Ranking: Probable GOP.

5. Pennsylvania (5): After being dormant for the last couple of months, Joe Sestak’s (D) campaign has become more active, with Biden and Obama set to stump for him later this month. Right now, though, this is Pat Toomey’s (R) race to lose. Ranking: Lean GOP.

6. Illinois (7): The Alexi Giannoulias (D)-vs.-Mark Kirk (R) contest remains what we consider to be the truest 50%-50% race out there. Ranking: Toss Up.

7. Colorado (unranked): The Ken Buck (R)-vs.-Michael Bennet (D) race is close to being a pure 50%-50% race, too. Which force will be greater -- the overall political environment, or the GOP’s woes in the state? Ranking: Toss Up.

8. Nevada (8): Now we enter the contests where Democrats might have an advantage by a fingernail. But the Harry Reid (D)-vs.Sharron Angle (R) race is going to close. Fasten your seatbelts. Ranking: Toss Up.

9. Wisconsin (unranked): As was the case in ‘98, Russ Feingold (D) is fighting for his political life. What makes this time more difficult for him is that this political environment is much different than ’98 was. Ranking: Toss Up.

10. Washington (10): If Republicans indeed catch a wave on Election Night, we’ll be pulling an all-nighter watching the returns from the Patty Murray (D)-vs.-Dino Rossi (R) race. Ranking: Toss Up.

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