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Scott Brown wake-up: Could Democrats lose the Senate?

January 20, 2010 | 10:57 am

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid heads to elevator Dec. 10, 2009 

The prospect of a little-known Republican state legislator besting the Democratic establishment in liberal Massachusetts was considered unlikely as recently as a month ago.

Then Tuesday night Scott Brown walloped Martha Coakley in the bluest state in the nation, and now some are wondering if the unthinkable is possible again. If voters are still angry in November, could Republicans recapture the Senate this year?

Handicappers think it unlikely. But given the volatility of public opinion, we thought it would be fun to run the numbers.

Right now, Democrats hold a 59-41 advantage, meaning Republicans would have to pick up nine seats to tie and 10 to win the Senate.

Political watchers have seven states in the toss-up camp. In Nevada, Majority Leader Harry Reid is in the race of his life. In Arkansas, Blanche Lincoln is in trouble. In Pennsylvania, Republican-turned-Democrat Arlen Specter is in a contest. Keeping Colorado for little-known Michael Bennet could prove difficult. Open seats could also pose a challenge -- retirements by Christopher Dodd of Connecticut and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, and contests in which caretaker terms are ending in Delaware (Vice President Joe Biden's old seat) and Illinois (where President Obama once served).

That still leaves Republicans a few short, meaning that even if they ran the table in all those races, they would still have to recruit some big-name candidate to challenge Kirsten Gillibrand in New York, or hope that Carly Fiorina survives the Republican primary and challenges Barbara Boxer in California, or go after Evan Bayh in Indiana, or target Russ Feingold in Wisconsin or Patty Murray in Washington.

"Even with Scott Brown's victory, I just don't think the Democratic majority in the Senate is in play," Nathan Gonzales of the Rothenberg Political Report, told the Ticket. 

Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Political Report also thinks it's unlikely. But she told Ticket: "If voters in Massachusetts are venting their anger, certainly the voters of Nevada are equally capable."

But even is a Republican takeover is unlikely, Brown's victory will likely give the GOP a boost in recruiting big-name candidates. Already, rumors are floating that Mike Pence, a prominent House Republican who chairs the GOP Conference, is thinking of challenging Bayh in Indiana.

Watch this space.

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid heads to the elevators in December. Credit: Associated Press

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