A new Quinnipiac poll shows that New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand is leading her potential GOP opponents by about 20 points. New York Republicans have failed to get a big-name candidate (Giuliani, Pataki) to take on Gillibrand, and her seat is generally considered to be one of the few Democratic seats that Democrats don't have to worry about in 2010.
But the Quinnipiac poll shows a couple of signs that the race could become competitive after the September 14 GOP primary. First, Gillibrand is polling below 50 percent against each potential GOP candidate--never a good sign for an incumbent:
- 44 - 26 percent over Bruce Blakeman;
- 45 - 24 percent over David Malpass;
- 43 - 28 percent over Joseph DioGuardi.
The "don't know enough" factor for each of the three Republicans ranges from 76 percent to 85 percent. "Who are those guys who want to run against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand? In match-ups, each of the three gets the generic Republican vote. But most voters don't know much about any of them," Carroll said.
Of course, Republicans will need a credible candidate to win the primary, and it will take a good chunk of cash for a Republican to compete in New York. But Gillibrand has her own vulnerabilities. Not only is she a lock-step Democrat in an anti-Democratic year, Gillibrand came out in support of the Ground Zero mosque. Another Quinnipiac poll found that New Yorkers are strongly opposed to the mosque.
If the New York race becomes competitive it would be the 14th vulnerable Democratic seat this cycle.
After surveying the polls at RealClearPolitics' Senate race map, there seem to be at least 13 other Democratic Senate seats in play.
In my opinion, there are four likely pick-ups for Republicans: Arkansas, North Dakota, Indiana, and Delaware.
Two seats lean Republican: Pennsylvania and Colorado.
Five seats are toss-ups: Nevada, Illinois, California, Washington, and Wisconsin.
Two seats lean Democratic: Connecticut and West Virginia.
For Republicans to win a majority (51 seats) in the Senate, they'll need to win 10 of these 13 Democratic seats and win all of the competitive races for open Republican seats (Florida, Ohio, Missouri, Kentucky, and New Hampshire). It's a tough, but not impossible, task.