The Fix: Republican wins give Democrats hope

By Chris Cillizza
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 11, 2010; 11:20 AM

A series of developments over the last month (or so) have brightened Democrats' hopes in a handful of Senate races -- although the overall national landscape suggests the party is still headed toward losses in the fall.

Recent Republican primaries have been good to Democrats. Victories by tea party backed candidates like Sharron Angle in Nevada and Rand Paul in Kentucky mean those seats, once considered off the radar, are now back in play.

Friday Line

In the Pennsylvania primary, Democrats won by losing. Sen. Arlen Specter (D) was a terrible profile for Democrats to try to hold the seat in the fall -- a long serving politician who had openly admitted to switching parties to preserve his chances at re-election. Rep. Joe Sestak, who ousted Specter on May 18, has a considerably better profile as a short timer in Congress -- he was first elected in 2006 -- with a deep military resume and strong outsider credentials.

Then there's Illinois, where Rep. Mark Kirk (R) continues to struggle to explain inconsistencies between his military resume and his military accomplishments. Prior to Kirk's resume problems, the race had been dominated (and not in a good way) by state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D) and his family's failed bank. Now, Kirk has provided Democrats with plenty of ammunition to muddy the ethics waters.

All of the above is not to say that Republicans won't make Senate gains this fall. They will. And, they may well make significant gains -- including in places like Nevada, Pennsylvania and Illinois. But, Democrats' hand in each of those states has improved over the last month and given the party a path to victory that they may not have had before.

As always, the top ranked race on the Line is the most likely to switch parties in the fall. Kudos and critiques are welcome in the comments section.

To the Line!

Coming onto the Line: Ohio, Washington

Coming off the Line: Colorado, Florida, New Hampshire

10. Ohio (R): The Buckeye State Senate race got underway formally earlier this week when former Rep. Rob Portman (R) launched the first ad of the general election, a spot that touts him as an economic problem solver. Portman's financial advantage over Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher will allow him to have the airwaves to himself for some period of time but Democrats are confident (and Republicans are worried) that Portman's work as the U.S. Trade Representative in the Bush Administration is a silver bullet in this economically hard-up state. (Previous ranking: N/A)

9. Washington (D): Republicans got their best possible candidate against Sen. Patty Murray (D) when former state Sen. Dino Rossi (R) announced -- just before the state's filing deadline -- that he would run. Rossi is no longer the fresh face he was when he nearly beat Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) in 2004 but he is a skilled candidate and a proven fundraiser. This is a real recruiting success for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. (Previous ranking: N/A)

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