Denied the Senate majority by Sarah Palin and Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R-S.C.), incompetent Tea Party candidates in places like Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware and Nevada, the GOP will get a second crack at the prize in 2012.
The most popular senator in the country, according to PPP, is Maine’s Olympia Snowe (R). Ironically, she is the second most endangered. Maine Republicans have taken a dramatic rightward turn, and there’s no chance she’ll survive a Republican primary. An independent or even Democratic bid would suit her best, as she remains most popular in her state among that set. So far, she is staying put.
Few other Republicans could be considered endangered. Aside from Snowe, there’s Scott Brown of Massachusetts, who saw his state revert to its solidly Democratic ways this November. He either becomes President Obama’s favorite Republican — and faces a Tea Party-fueled primary — or he sticks with DeMint and becomes a one-third-term senator. John Ensign of Nevada won’t be around in 2013. He’ll likely be taken out in a primary, but even if he survives, the seat will be fiercely contested. Arizona’s Jon Kyl could face difficulties if his state’s Latino community engages.
Utah’s Orrin HatchOrrin HatchWhen political opportunity knocked, Jason Chaffetz never failed to cash in Ginsburg pines for more collegial court confirmations Senate's No. 2 Republican: Border tax 'probably dead' MORE and Indiana’s Richard Lugar will likely face early retirement courtesy of the Tea Party, but those seats will remain in GOP hands.
On the other side, we can slot Nebraska’s Ben Nelson’s seat into the GOP column. No way he survives. The other Nelson — Bill in Florida — will be playing defense in a state that trended heavily against Democrats this November.
Debbie StabenowDebbie StabenowUSDA to ease school meal standards Medicare’s coverage decisions need more input from physicians Members help package meals at Kraft Heinz charity event in DC MORE in Michigan has a tough 38-50 approve/disapprove rating, according to recent PPP polling. She’ll be a tough hold, as will Missouri freshman Claire McCaskillClaire McCaskillFive takeaways from the Georgia special election Picking 2018 candidates pits McConnell vs. GOP groups Potential McCaskill challenger has .7M: report MORE, with an even rougher 40-53 approval rating. Three other freshmen Dems — Montana’s Jon TesterJon TesterDem senator to appear with Romney: report Battle begins over Wall Street rules Dems hunt for a win in Montana special election MORE, Ohio’s Sherrod BrownSherrod BrownTrump talks big on trade, but workers need action Dems crowd primaries to challenge GOP reps Battle begins over Wall Street rules MORE and Virginia’s Jim Webb — will be prime targets. Republicans dominated all five states this year.
Will Kent Conrad run again in North Dakota? Even if he does, survival will be tough. West Virginia’s Joe ManchinJoe ManchinDems struggle with abortion litmus test Senators push 'cost-effective' reg reform Congress nears deal on help for miners MORE won his state’s special election this year against a terrible candidate. How will he fare in a presidential year against top-notch competition? He won’t get a pass. Herb Kohl just saw his colleague Russ Feingold get the boot in Wisconsin, and he’ll face similarly tough opposition. And I’m not resting easy if I’m Bob CaseyBob CaseyDems struggle with abortion litmus test Dems crowd primaries to challenge GOP reps GOP fundraiser enters crowded primary for Pa. Senate seat MORE in Pennsylvania.
Jeff Bingaman in New Mexico, Dianne FeinsteinDianne FeinsteinDemocrats exploring lawsuit against Trump Overnight Finance: Dems explore lawsuit against Trump | Full-court press for Trump tax plan | Clock ticks down to spending deadline Comey to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee MORE in California and Maria CantwellMaria CantwellUnited explains passenger removal to senators Report: GOP lawmakers selling access to top staffers Bipartisan group demands answers on United incident MORE in Washington state all sport solid approval numbers, but much can change.
At the end of the day, Democrats have a realistic shot at Massachusetts, Nevada and Maine, if Snowe is primaried into oblivion. They might have an outside shot in Arizona. Beyond that? Bleak.
Republicans will likely pick up Nebraska, and have top-tier pickup opportunities in Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and maybe even Pennsylvania.
For the Democrats, the tough math is the price they’ll pay for their sweeping (and oftentimes narrow) wins in 2006.
Moulitsas is the founder of Daily Kos and author of American Taliban: How War, Sex, Sin and Power Bind Jihadists and the Radical Right.