Colorado tops Politico’s 2010 Senate ‘races to watch’; Salazar sitting pretty

Democrats stand to increase the party’s majority in the Senate in the next election, Politico reported Wednesday, pointing to several vulnerable Republican-held seats and a lack of serious challengers to incumbent Democrats, including Colorado’s Sen. Ken Salazar. While Colorado tops the political news site’s list of 10 “races to watch,” Salazar’s prospects are bright because “the GOP talent pool is shallow,” Politico’s Josh Kraushaar wrote.

Even if the recount in Minnesota and runoff in Georgia leave Democrats short of a 60-vote supermajority in the Senate in January, the party stands to pass that threshold in 2010, in part because Republicans will be defending 19 seats and the Democrats only 16. Four Republican-held seats — in Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana and Pennsylvania — are rated as toss-ups or leaning, according to the Cook Political Report, while none of the Democrat-held seats fall in those categories. Salazar, who won election in 2004 with 51 percent of the vote — the slimmest margin of any Democrat elected that year — has been pegged as vulnerable, or at least as vulnerable as any Democrat might be next election, but Politico begs to differ:

Following is a list of Politico’s top 10 Senate races to watch for in 2010.

1. Colorado

Sen. Ken Salazar’s victory in 2004 foreshadowed Colorado’s Democratic wave, which culminated in Obama’s statewide victory this year.

As Salazar seeks to win a second term, Republicans don’t have much of a bench to speak of. Former Rep. Bob Beauprez, who ran a lackluster campaign for governor in 2006, outgoing Rep. Tom Tancredo and state Sen. Josh Penry are all possible challengers.

Fact is, there’s even less of a bench to speak of than Politico found, as none of its named potential GOP candidates are likely Salazar challengers. Beauprez made some noise recently about considering a rematch with Gov. Bill Ritter but would be a long shot even for that race after the historic drubbing he suffered in 2004. Tancredo makes no secret of his plans to take on Ritter, and Penry generates buzz as another gubernatorial challenger, but neither have made moves toward a Senate race.

Rounding out Politico’s list of 10 most interesting Senate races are Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

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