"Eleven months ago, still in the shadow of Barack Obama's presidential victory over Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Democrats looked likely to gain anywhere from two to as many as five additional Senate seats," Stu Rothenberg writes. "But since then, GOP recruiting successes and a change in the national political environment have shifted the outlook for next year's Senate contests. Suddenly, Democratic seats started to look more and more vulnerable. As 2009 draws to a close, Democrats now could lose seats, a dramatic change from January that could end the party's 60-seat majority in less than two years. And GOP gains could be large enough to sink any major Democratic initiatives not passed before Congress adjourns for the midterm elections."
ARKANSAS: The director of Arkansas Right to Life criticized Sen. Blanche Lincoln for her vote against an amendment to the Senate health care bill that would have prohibited the use of federal health insurance subsidies towards abortions except in cases of rape, incest or the mother's health. "We will do whatever we can to elect a pro-life candidate for her seat… [It] was not unexpected. She has never been with us on life issues," Arkansas Right to Live executive director Rose Mimms said.
CONNECTICUT: Vice President Joe Biden showered "effusive" praise on beleaguered Senator Chris Dodd in a Friday afternoon fundraiser, but Dodd wasn't there to hear it. "Connecticut's senior senator decided late Thursday to skip his own fundraiser so he could tend to congressional business in Washington. His wife, Jackie Clegg Dodd, accompanied the vice president instead."
The New York Times compares Dodd's fortunes to those of another Sen. Dodd: his father, Thomas, who was ousted from his seat in 1970 for a Republican. Despite the state's history of a "steady cast of political characters," this year could be "the most unsettled in four decades in Connecticut politics…with the eerie bookends of Dodd the Elder and Dodd the Younger."
FLORIDA: Gov. Charlie Crist told a Republican audience last night, "Listen, I am a fiscal conservative." Crist has been trying to shed his moderate image while battling primary opponent Marco Rubio, a poster candidate for the conservative Tea Party wing of the GOP. Crist told his audience of Sarasota Republican Party members that "when we get around to the time to decide who our candidates are going to be, we need to realize those who are really true -- those that are tried and true," Crist said.
The Tampa Bay Tribune sums up Crist's strategy in the Senate primaries: "[Crist] wants to take down rival Marco Rubio by casting him as a flip-flopper," accusing Rubio of changing positions on cap-and-trade and President Obama's stimulus package, despite Crist's own shift, supporting the plan but then denying his endorsement. "One thing comes out of his mouth and another thing is his record," Crist said, to which the Rubio campaign responded: "Whether it's endorsing President Obama's stimulus and then denying he did or raising taxes and then claiming he's anti-tax, Charlie Crist changes positions as easily as a chameleon changes its colors."
Despite his pledge that Republicans will "come after" GOP supporters of the stimulus package, RNC chairman Michael Steele did not condemn Crist, who faces a primary challenge from Marco Rubio. When asked about Crist, "Steele seemed sympathetic," The Hill writes. Steele: "being governor is not as simple as right or left or up or down. It's leadership and it takes a lot of hard work and you've got to balance a lot of things. I think Charlie Crist has spoken to the people of Florida about that and they get to judge it."
ILLINOIS: Mark Kirk and Alexi Giannoulias lead in their respective Senate primaries.
MASSACHUSETTS: The Boston Globe notes that "Massachusetts, a bastion of liberal politics and a pioneer in civil rights, is just now marking the milestone of nominating a woman as a Democratic candidate for Senate with Attorney General Martha Coakley's overwhelming victory in Tuesday's primary." But a Coakley victory would bring some momentum to women in Massachusetts politics: "It is not going unnoticed that a Coakley victory in the Jan. 19 special election would mean that two consecutive open congressional seats have been filled by women;" Rep. Nikki Tsongas won a special election in 2007.
OHIO: Secretary of State and Senate candidate Jennifer Brunner, who penned a Huffington Post op-ed against President Obama's troop surge in Afghanistan last month, was asked by progressive Ohio blogger Tim Russo whether she would vote against additional funding for the war. "The last thing I would ever do would be to short the troops the supplies and equipment they need to be safe and successful," Brunner answered.