Winning the Senate?

Josh Marshall links to a CBS News story indicating that Democrats have a shot of taking back the Senate this fall. The CBS story cites Alaska, Colorado, and Pennsylvania as states where Republicans could lose a seat. The American Enterprise Institute’s Norm Orstein is even quoted as saying

“Look at the run Bush has had in last month. If Bush has a run of bad luck and missteps in October anything like what he has had lately, then a narrow Democratic Senate is not out of the question.”

Well and good. But there’s another state where the Democrats have a shot: Illinois. The very conservative Peter Fitzgerald is retiring and there are currently seven Democrats and eight Republicans vying for his seat. Illinois’ other senator is Dick Durbin, a center-left senator who, as far as I can tell, is popular in Illinois; moreover, Gore handily carried Illinois in 2000 (55% – 43%). Overall, I think Democrats have a decent shot at another Senate seat in Illinois, perhaps more of a chance than in Pennsylvania.

In Illinois, the Republican candidate will be Jack Ryan. The Democratic primary appears to be a tight race between Barack Obama and Blair Hull, with Obama leading 28% – 23%. I couldn’t find any poll results on hypothetical general election matchups, however. Obama is a state senator and Hull’s a businessman (he’s also having problems stemming from a messy divorce in 1998). Beyond that, I don’t know much about either one — knowledgeable readers are invited to comment.

In the general election, Republican Jack Ryan may suffer somewhat as a result of sharing a last name with the unpopular and corrupt (but death sentence commuting) former governor George Ryan. On the other hand, Jack Ryan can always run ads saying “What rhymes with Obama?”

On a related note, there’s not much hope for the House.


UPDATE: See comments by Goldberg and Jeffrey Miller for some local insight into the race for junior senator from IL (thanks!). In a nutshell, the almost-sure Republican candidate, Jack Ryan, looks beatable. Both potential Democratic candidates also look good. Obama because he’s extremely smart and qualified; Hull because he’s got a very large personal fortune and he’s willing to use it (see Corzine, Jon.)

CORRECTION/CLARIFICATION. I’ve modified this post because Illinois has too many Republican Ryans. There’s former Gov. George Ryan, former Illinois Attorney General and 2002 Gubernatorial candidate Jim Ryan, and current Republican US Senate candidate Jack Ryan, who’s never held public office before. (Thanks for clarifying, Mark.) On the bright side, this means that candidate Jack Ryan shares a last name with two unpopular Illinoisans: former Gov. George Ryan, and 2002 loser to Blagojevich, Jim Ryan. For more on Jim and George, but not Jack, see Talkleft’s post, It’s Ryan v. Ryan in Illinois.