The Ten Senate Races Democrats Are Most Likely to Win in 2016

We’re not yet halfway through 2015 but the 2016 race for control of the U.S. Senate is starting to take shape. This week The Hill ranked the 10 most competitive races — and since then there has been a development in the race The Hill listed as likely to be the easiest pickup for Democrats.

Yesterday former Sen. Russ Feingold, the Democratic incumbent who was unseated by current Sen. Ron Johnson in 2010, announced he was entering the race. Johnson, a tea partyist, won by 5 percentage points in the tea party’s anti-Obamacare wave election after spending millions of his own money. The Hill quotes him as saying he won’t self-fund this year — which only means he’ll rely on his wealthy cronies to spend unlimited money anonymously to fund his campaign. The Hill cited a poll by PPP taken before Feingold’s announcement that found Feingold with 50 percent support against Johnson’s 41 percent. Wisconsin has voted for the Democratic candidate in every presidential cycle since 1984.

Within hours after Feingold’s announcement, Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts endorsed him, according to an email sent by the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee.

The Hill’s other nine most-competitive races are:

•   Illinois: Sen. Mark Kirk is another endangered Republican incumbent who was elected in a mostly blue state in the 2010 right-wing wave election. One likely opponent is Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth. Illinois has voted for the Democratic candidate for president in every elections since 1992.

•   Florida: Sen. Marco Rubio has opted out of running for reelection in order to pursue his campaign for the GOP vice presidential nomination, leaving the seat open. The Hill says tea party Rep. Ron DeSantis is the only declared Republican candidate so far, which, this being Florida, means he’s likely to win. Democratic Reps. Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson are considering getting in. Obama won Florida both times, but the Clintons appear to be very unpopular there.

•   Nevada: Minority Leader Harry Reid’s seat is up for grabs. Reid’s chosen successor is Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto. No Republicans have announced so far. Pres. Obama won Nevada in both 2008 and 2012.

•   Ohio: Former Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat with strong statewide name ID, will likely take on incumbent GOP Sen. Ron Portman. A Qunnipiac poll in April found Strickland with a 9 percentage point lead over Portman, which may explain why Portman is having fundraising troubles.

•   Pennsylvania: Democratic former Rep. Joe Sestak, a retired Navy admiral associated with the Clintons, is seeking a rematch against incumbent GOP Sen. Pat Toomey, a Club-for-Growther. Sestak lost by 2 percentage points in 2010. Democratic presidential candidates have won Pennsylvania in every race since 1988.

•   New Hampshire: Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who’s established a national profile as the third wheel in the bro-mance of war hawk Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, will likely face popular Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan. New Hampshire has gone with the Democratic candidate in the last three presidential cycles.

•   Colorado: Incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet won in an squeaker in 2010. The GOP believes he’s vulnerable, but no Republican has entered the race so far.

•   North Carolina: GOP Sen. Richard Burr, one of the dimmest bulbs in the upper body — so of course the Republicans made him chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee — could face former Sen. Kay Hagan, the Democratic incumbent who lost to tea party Sen. Thom Tillis by 2 points in 2012. If Hagan doesn’t run, it’s hard to know who else might, as North Carolina has a very thin bench of viable Democrats. Obama won the state by a few thousand votes in 2008 but lost decisively in 2012.

•   Indiana: This is another open seat because GOP Sen. Dan Coats is not running. A couple of no-name Republicans have entered the race but no Dems have announced so far. Obama won Indiana in 2008, but it is generally a red state.

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