Republicans hoping to take over the U.S. Senate got some welcome news Wednesday, when Charlie Cook, the author of the widely-read Cook Political Report issued new ratings on a handful of Senate races.
The Democrats, who now hold 53 seats in the chamber outright and have two independents who caucus with them, need to limit Republican gains to five seats or fewer in the mid-term elections later this year, but Cook and his team of analysts on Wednesday said that the road is looking increasingly rocky for the current majority.
Cook moved a pair of races that until now had been considered favorable to Democrats into the “toss-up” column, and demoted another from a “likely” Democratic win to the less certain “leans Democratic.”
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) is one of the sitting senators whose race was moved into the toss-up category. Landrieu, the daughter of a politically connected Louisiana family, has been elected three times, but now faces a tough challenger in Rep. Bill Cassidy, a Republican Congressman whose district includes the state capital, Baton Rouge.
Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) is the other incumbent whose race Cook re-classified as a toss-up. Hagan, a one-term Senator who defeated Republican incumbent Elizabeth Dole in 2008, is running practically even in opinion polls with Thom Tillis, speaker of the North Carolina State House of Representatives.
Less worrisome for Democrats was the news that Sen. Jean Shaheen of New Hampshire had her race moved into the “leans Democratic” category. Shaheen, a first term senator and former governor, seems likely to face former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown in her reelection bid. Shaheen’s history in the state, and the likelihood that Brown will be seen as a carpetbagger in New Hampshire, combine to make her less vulnerable than her colleagues.
The news was not all bad for Democrats. The seat held by retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia was moved from the “leans Republican” category to the “tossup” list. The Republican primary field in Georgia is currently battling for the right to represent the party, while Democrats appear to have coalesced behind non-profit executive Michelle Nunn, who happens to be the daughter of former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn.
Sen. Thad Cochran (R- MS) saw his race downgraded slightly from “solid Republican” to “likely Republican” based on a primary threat from the extreme right.
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