The 2014 map is ripe for Democratic pickups. But first, Democrats have their eye on Virginia, where a 2013 pickup is looking like an increasingly likely possibility.
The high-profile commonwealth race moves up our latest list, with polls showing Democrat Terry McAuliffe leading, and the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce throwing its support behind him.
Elsewhere, Illinois moves up the Line, and Pennsylvania continues to hold the No. 1 spot.
And now, to our list of the 15 seats most likely to change party control. As always, No. 1 is most likely to flip.
15. Minnesota (Democratic-controlled): The crowded Republican field to face Gov. Mark Dayton (D) will begin to get sorted out next month, when the state GOP conducts a straw poll at its fall meeting. Now, straw polls generally aren’t that important, but in Minnesota, the state party’s endorsement has generally carried plenty of weight, and this could be en early indicator of that endorsement. (Previous ranking: 15)
14. Massachusetts (D): Attorney General Martha Coakley (D) is one of the most popular pols in the the Bay State. But has she learned some lessons from her disastrous 2010 Senate campaign? If so, she is the clear front-runner in this race. It helps her that Rep. Michael Capuano (D) isn't running, too. The likely Republican nominee is businessman Charlie Baker. (Previous ranking: 13)
13. Arizona (Republican-controlled): Secretary of State Ken Bennett (R) took advantage of the state’s newly relaxed “resign to run” law, announcing last week that he will run for governor. Bennett could be the front-runner, though the field is still taking shape – not to mention the fact that Gov. Jan Brewer (R) hasn’t ruled out challenging the state’s term-limits law and running again. On the Democratic side, state House Minority Leader Chad Campbell decided not to run, leaving former Bill Clinton White House aide Fred DuVal with a pretty clear path to the nomination. (Previous ranking: 14)
12. Wisconsin (R): Democratic officials and strategists like the idea of Mary Burke running against Gov. Scott Walker (R). But even if she does, Walker has proven to be a political survivor. He's going to have lots of money and enthusiastic support from conservatives. In short, he's going to be tough to unseat regardless of who Democrats nominate. (Previous ranking: 12)
11. Connecticut (D): Things are starting to get interesting real quick in this rematch between Gov. Dan Malloy (D) and Republican former ambassador to Ireland Tom Foley. Foley last week accused Malloy and his administration of ethical lapses, which prompted Malloy to again bring up Foley’s arrest record, calling on him to release more information about two arrests, including one that led to Foley spending a night in jail. Charges in both cases were dropped. (Previous ranking: 10)
10. Colorado (D): An August Quinnipiac University poll showed Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) (1) could have a real race on his hands and (2) is not winning much support with his policy on guns. The recall this month of two state senators over their votes for a gun-control bill Hickenlooper signed should also cause some alarm in Democratic circles. A lackluster GOP field, though, suggests Republicans have a ways to go here. (Previous ranking: 11)
9. Ohio (R): Gov. John Kasich (R) on Thursday announced he would donate more than $20,000 in campaign contributions from a businessman who was recently indicted on nine counts, including conspiracy to violate campaign finance laws. The charges against Benjamin Suarez have nothing to do with donations to Kasich, but the case is worth keeping an eye on. The likely Democratic nominee is Cuyahoga Country Executive Ed FitzGerald (D). (Previous ranking: 9)
8. South Carolina (R): Gov. Nikki Haley’s reelection campaign launch a month ago was a sight to behold. It included Govs. Rick Perry (Tex.), Bobby Jindal (La.) and Walker – all, as it happens, potential presidential candidates. You can bet Haley will benefit from plenty more of that in advance of the 2016 presidential campaign in a key primary state. But with the state's unemployment rate being high, and Haley's poll numbers being shaky, Democrats believe she's going to need all the help she can get. (Previous ranking: 7)
7. Michigan (R): Gov. Rick Snyder (R) launched a new advertising campaign this week, playing off his “One Tough Nerd” slogan from the 2010 campaign. Democrats noted that a governor putting up TV ads 14 months before the election isn’t exactly a sign of strength. Snyder is certainly vulnerable, but he’s been surpassed by some other names on this list in recent months. Michigan moving down the line is on this list is a reflection of Virginia and Illinois moving up. (Previous ranking: 5)
6. Illinois (D): Bill Daley's decision to drop out was good news for unpopular Gov. Pat Quinn (D). It means he is all but certain to be the Democratic nominee. It's also good news for Republicans looking forward to running against him. Quinn's is proving to be a survivor, and the Republican field has some question marks, so Republicans should by no means count on winning here. But we know now they are going to get to run against the opponent they want. (Previous ranking: 8)
5. Virginia (R): Polls in this race are starting to suggest that McAuliffe is now the front-runner, but we still see this one going down to the wire. Republicans think there’s plenty of traction to be gained by pointing to McAuliffe’s record at GreenTech Automotive. We’ll see, but for now, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) seems to be the one with bigger liabilities. (Previous ranking: 6)
4. Arkansas (D): Former congressman Mike Ross appears to stand a pretty good shot at holding a Southern state for Democrats, but much remains to play out in this race – specifically, the Republican primary between former congressman Asa Hutchinson, businessman Curtis Coleman and state Rep. Debra Hobbs. Hutchinson is the favorite. (Previous ranking: 4)
3. Florida (R): 2010 Democratic nominee Alex Sink's not running, which means the stage is set for a likely showdown between Charlie Crist (D) and Gov. Rick Scott (R). It should be one of the most heated and expensive races on the map next year. (Previous ranking: 3)
2. Maine (R): The big question here is how much support independent Eliot Cutler will pull. Early polling suggests likely Democratic nominee Mike Michaud can win even with Cutler in the race. It seems that Republican Gov. Paul LePage's only hope might be that Cutler catches fire and steals support from Michaud. (Previous ranking: 2)
1. Pennsylvania (R): State Treasurer Rob McCord (D) officially jumped into the race this week, which could complicate the life of Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D). Still, Gov. Tom Corbett (R) remains the most vulnerable governor in the country and holding his seat will remains a tall task for the GOP no matter how competitive the Democratic field gets. (Previous ranking: 1)