Smith in the mix

How does Oregon Senator Gordon Smith’s race for re-election next year fit into the national picture of Senate races? Clearly, this is not a seat as at-risk for the Republicans as those up next year in Virginia or Colorado (or probably for the Democrats in Louisiana), but it’s definitely on the watch list.

Chris Cillizza, of the Washington Post‘s Fix report, took on just that question (if not exactly the one he was asked) in a Q&A released today. Here’s that part of it:

Arlington, Va: Collins, Smith, and Coleman: Tough incumbents. Collins is in the more liberal state facing a pretty tough opponent, but is the most liked among the three. Smith is still somewhat popular, but facing only a second-tier opponent. Coleman isn’t well-liked, but likely is facing a polarizing opponent with high negatives. If you had to guess, how many of these seats do Democrats pick up? You don’t even have to guess which ones!

Chris Cillizza: Great question.
I would throw New Hampshire Sen. John Sununu (R) into that mix as well. All four GOP incumbents sit in states carried by the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004 which makes them ripe targets.
Sununu is clearly the most vulnerable of the group as he faces former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen.
Judging from the body language of national Democratic strategists I would probably out Smith as the next most vulnerable; polling shows voters don’t have a firm view on the incumbent and are more than willing to consider and laternative [sic].
Collins and Coleman are tougher nuts to crack. Both are quite savvy politicians who understand the challenge before them. But, if 2006 tauight me anything, it’s that a national environment that strongly favors one party can overrwhlem even the most capable of incumbent campaigners.

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