Blumenthal scandal opens door wider to possible GOP takeover of the Senate

Jon Ward Contributor
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Richard Blumenthal’s sudden troubles in Connecticut have increased the possibility that Republicans will retake the Senate this fall.

The GOP needs a net gain of 10 seats to regain control of the Capitol’s upper chamber. Republicans currently hold a 41-seat minority in the Senate, while Democrats hold 57 seats and the chamber’s two Independents both vote with them as well.

Before the Connecticut attorney general took a body shot from the New York Times late Monday, putting the seat being vacated by Sen. Chris Dodd in play, Republicans had their eye on 10 other races as their best shot to victory. Now that list has expanded to 11.

“The chances of Republicans gaining control in the Senate just substantially increased,” Newt Gingrich, the former Republican House Speaker from Georgia, told the Daily Caller Tuesday.

Chris Matthews, host of “Hardball” on MSNBC, said late Tuesday: “It looks like [Democrats] could lose 10 seats now.”

Here is the breakdown of how Republicans could conceivably reach the mountaintop.

-First, Republicans face tight races in five states where GOP senators are retiring: Missouri, New Hampshire, Kentucky, Ohio and Florida. They must hold on to each of those seats.

-There are four retiring Democrats whose seats are vulnerable, in North Dakota, Indiana, Delaware and Illinois.

-There are four incumbent Democrats (three who may lose their primaries) who the GOP thinks they can defeat, in Arkansas, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Nevada.

-Finally, there are the outliers, the three races that are a reach but which could go to the Republicans if the national climate is truly toxic for Democrats. These include incumbent Democrats in California and Washington (if Dino Rossi decides to run as the Republican candidate), and then Connecticut.

Blumenthal has had a large lead over a Republican field that includes Linda McMahon, the former pro wrestling CEO, and former congressman Rob Simmons. However, McMahon has narrowed his lead from 29 points in a March 2 Rasmussen Reports survey to 13 points in a May 4 poll.

“He was already becoming less of a sure thing,” one Republican operative said of Blumenthal Tuesday.

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