If I wanted to help GOP Senate candidates and had limited resources, I would be pouring my efforts into Colorado, where Cory Gardner is trailing a little too consistently considering the quality of the candidate and the overall GOP environment . . .
. . . and Michigan, where Terri Lynn Land has a one-point lead in the latest poll, but has otherwise trailed slightly.
Note that only Gardner is running against an incumbent. An incumbent senator in the mid-40s or lower is probably in deeper trouble, because the voters have known that senator for at least six years and the opinion is probably tougher to change. Right now, Senator Mark Udall of Colorado is at 45.5 in the RealClearPolitics average.
Surprises can happen, of course. Senator Harry Reid finished with 45.3 in the RealClearPolitics average in 2010, and won reelection with more than 50 percent of the vote. But that year Russ Feingold of Wisconsin finished with a RCP average of 45 percent, and finished with 47 percent to Ron Johnson’s 51.9 percent. Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas finished with an abysmal 35 percent in the RCP average and got 36.9 percent on Election Day. In Colorado, Michael Bennet finished with 46.3 percent in the RCP average, but his Election Day finish with 47.7 percent was enough for a narrow victory over Ken Buck.
Here’s the current RCP average vote percentage for some of the vulnerable incumbent Senate Democrats this year:
Mark Begich of Alaska: 42.7 percent.
Kay Hagan of North Carolina: 42.5 percent.
Mark Pryor of Arkansas: 42.2 percent.
Mary Landrieu of Louisiana: 38.7 percent (in an open primary).
Polls put Republican Senate candidates Dan Sullivan (Alaska), Thom Tillis (North Carolina), Tom Cotton (Arkansas) and Bill Cassidy (Louisiana) slightly ahead right now. For a challenger, if you’re enjoying a small lead in September over an incumbent polling in the low 40s, you’re in a pretty good place.
In case you’re wondering, here’s how some safer senators are performing:
Mark Warner of Virginia: 51 percent.
Jeff Merkley of Oregon: 50.3 percent.
Al Franken of Minnesota: 50 percent.
Dick Durbin of Illinois: 49.7 percent.
Cory Booker of New Jersey: 49 percent.
Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire: 47.7 percent.
There’s been some buzz among conservative blogs that Durbin and Booker are vulnerable. I suppose that depends upon how you define “vulnerable.”
UPDATE: Stu Rothenberg, moments ago:
While the current Rothenberg Political Report ratings don’t show it, I am now expecting a substantial Republican Senate wave in November, with a net gain of at least seven seats. But I wouldn’t be shocked by a larger gain.
That’s a scenario easy to picture: Republicans keep the red seats they’re defending (Kentucky, Georgia, and some would argue Kansas), take care of business in the three safe pickups (South Dakota, Montana, and West Virginia), and then clean up in the four red-leaning, Democrat-held seats listed above, Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, and North Carolina. That adds up to a seven-seat gain; Iowa, Colorado, and Michigan would be the most likely pickups after that.