538’s Silver: Republicans have slim chance of picking up Salazar’s seat

Colorado Republicans have only a 15 percent chance of winning the Senate seat held by Democrat Ken Salazar, according to an analysis by polling analyst extraordinaire Nate Silver of the FiveThirtyEight Web site. Weighing approval ratings and the state’s political climate, Silver pegs Colorado as the 12th most likely seat to switch parties in the 2010 Senate elections, but after a handful of hotly contested races at the top, turnover chances drop like a stone. Overall, Silver predicts Democrats should pick up between one and three seats out of 37 contested races in the next election.

12. Colorado (D-Salazar)
This remains one of the theoretically more viable pickup opportunities for Republicans, especially if the background political environment beings to swing in their favor, but Colorado is another state that’s turning blue in a hurry, and there’s no one Republican opponent that Colorado Democrats seem particularly worried about. Ex-Gov Bill Owens might be the closest thing to an exception, but he’s declined his last couple of chances to run for national office.

By contrast, Silver tallies a 43.5 percent chance the Republican-held Senate seat in neighboring Kansas could shift parties, with the highest chances accorded a run by retiring Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to fill outgoing Sen. Sam Brownback’s seat. Following Kansas, the next most likely state to shift is Pennsylvania, with a 41.5 percent chance.

The least likely to switch hands are the New York seat held by Democrat Charles Shumer and the Idaho seat held by Republican Mike Crapo (“pronounced Cray-poh, so you can take your Larry Craig jokes elsewhere,” Silver notes), both at 0.1 percent or less.

“Even if momentum has swung somewhat against the Democrats by 2010,” Silver summarizes, “they remain in a strong position to gain seats in the Senate.” Noting that the staggered calendar for Senate races puts more Republicans at risk in 2010 — and that Democrats will face a simiilar headwind in 2012, Silver finds consolation for Democrats who hoped to reach a filibuster-proof super-majority in the recent election. “Overall, our guesstimate is that the Democrats will pick up 3-4 Republican seats and the Republicans 1-2 Democratic seats, for a net swing of 1-3 seats for the Democrats, potentially placing them beyond the 60-seat threshold.”

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