2012 Senate Election Update 3/4/11 Maryland and Massachusetts

Today we look at two deep blue states, one a safe seat for democrats and the other a toss-up.

Maryland – Ben Cardin (D)

Status – Incumbant Dem

Rating – Safe Dem

There is only two faint glimmer of hope in Maryland for republicans, and it isn’t enough to wrest this seat from “Safe” to “Likely”.  Cardin hasn’t announced whether he’ll run again, which makes things uncertain as to whether the seat will be defended by an incumbant or whether it will be an open contest.  We don’t see that making any measurable difference though.

Either Cardin runs and keeps his seat, or Van Hollen runs as the democrat.  On the republican side, former governor Ehrlich has announced he will not run, leaving former national GOP chair Michael Steele as the best hope for the GOP.

 

While Steele chaired the GOP during the wave year of 2010, many feel a grassroots (tea party) movement did more for the GOP than Steele, whose GOTV (get out the vote) lack of assistance frustrated GOP campaigners.  Steele also prioritized spending  for places like Guam, while candidates with razor close races lacked the funding to push them over the top.  (Some speculate that Steele sent money to areas so that he could be re-elected chair instead of prioritizing house races).  He also had a habit for mis-speaking and was eventually run out of his position by a vote of the committee.

Regardless of where one comes down on Steele, he divides his party.  Either Cardin or Van Hollen would start with a tremendous advantage in blue Maryland against a divisive Steele or un-recognizable alternative.  With Ehrlich out of this race, the democrats can sleep soundly in Maryland.

Massachusettes – Scott Brown (R)

Status – Incumbant GOP

Rating – Toss up.

As a republican, one can believe the glass is half empty in Massachusetts.  Republican Scott Brown will be fighting for his seat, a seat that is the most vulnerable GOP seat in the country.  And while Brown has done very well walking the tightrope between being a republican and working in a blue state, he won his election in part by defeating a flawed candidate.  (Coakley, the Atty Gen for Mass infamously couldn’t tell whether a star player was a Red Sox or not – pretty damnable in a state like Mass – and recklessly disregarded an assault that took place in front of her during the campaign.  A reporter was shoved to the ground by a member of Coakley’s entourage, and she denied seeing it.   Later, when video came out showing that Coakley DID see the assault and the assault appeared to be unjustifiable, Coakley had to walk back her previous statements).

Worse, there is talk of a challenge from within the party.  Tea party activists, hoping to replace a moderate to liberal republican, are making noise about running a conservative to take the seat.  It was a major upset to see Brown take Massachusetts for the GOP, but only he seemed to strike the ideological balance to make it happen.  If a primary opens up, the weakening effect on the GOP candidate going into the general would be a disaster in a blue state like Mass.  The dems have a lot of quality candidates that they could run, and any of them would likely have an advantage going into an election in a state where GOP voters are nearly non-existent.

So how might the glass be half full for republicans?  Well first, its amazing for the republicans to have a toss-up chance in a state like Massachusetts anyway.  Also, assuming that there is no primary Brown starts off with reasonably good popularity, a decent war chest of funds, and time to let the democrats fight in their own primary.  If Brown gets primaried, all bets are off.

We think the race right now is a toss-up with Brown having barely a hair’s chance of keeping the seat (a microscopic “Lean” GOP).  If he is primaried, the race will probably move to the “Lean” dem column.  If Brown loses a primary, the race will go to “Likely” Dem at a minimum, and possibly “Safe” dem.  Only unforseen circumstances could give a republican other than Brown a shot in such a deep red state. 

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