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FiveThirtyEight

Politics

The pace of Senate polling has slackened this month as pollsters have turned their attention to next Tuesday’s elections as well as the continuing fight over health care. My attention, likewise, has been concentrated on those other areas. But for the sake of continuity, a very brief Senate rankings update is in order as the clock ticks down on October.

I am changing the status of only three races; in each case, I gauge the likelihood of an opposition-party takeover to have become somewhat higher.

The first is Delaware, where Republican Representative Mike Castle has entered, probably to face off against Beau Biden. Although this race is probably closer to a toss-up than advantage Castle, it still seems to feature the cleanest path for an opposition party takeover than any of the alternatives. With that said, the first four or five races — and really as many as the first seven or eight — remain hard to distinguish from one another.

Another upgrade comes in Pennsylvania, where there’s been some further polling to suggest the degree of trouble that Arlen Specter is in. I continue to be of the opinion that conservative opponent Pat Toomey may have a relatively difficult time getting from the 43-45 percent of the electorate that he has now to the 50% + 1 that he’ll need to take the contest. But clearly, Specter’s problems can’t be attributed to either short-lived dissatisfaction or an aberrant polling result here and there. On the other hand, Joe Sestak also seems to be catching up with Specter, and Sestak might be the superior option for Democrats from an electability perspective.

The final upgrade is in Florida, where Charlie Crist appears to be increasingly vulnerable to Marco Rubio, and where Rubio’s momentum could pick up significantly if Doug Hoffman wins in NY-23 (or comes close enough to trigger a recount, etc.) Now, by no means is Rubio unelectable — I think, in fact, he’d be a mild favorite against likely Democratic nominee Kendick Meek. But the nomination of Rubio would certainly put Florida back on the map as a potentially competitive race. It also might not be completely out of the question that some Democratic alternatives to Meek could be attracted back into the contest if it looks like Crist is going to lose the primary, although I certainly haven’t heard anything to that effect.

This makes the top 17 races as follows:

1. Delaware (D-Open)
2. Missouri (R-Open)
3. Nevada (D-Reid)
4. Ohio (R-Open)
5. Connecticut (D-Dodd)
6. Colorado (D-Bennet)
7. New Hampshire (R-Open)
8. Kentucky (R-Open)
9. Arkansas (D-Lincoln)
10. Illinois (D-Burris)
11. Pennsylvania (D-Specter)
12. North Carolina (R-Burr)
13. Texas (R-Open?)
14. Louisiana (R-Vitter)
15. Florida (R-Open)
16. Iowa (R-Grassley)
17. North Dakota (D-Dorgan)

Positions 18-38 are unchanged from last month.

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