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A Republican Hot Streak?

A full update to our Senate race rankings is going to have to wait another day or two, but for the first time since we started this project, five of the top ten races will consist of Democratic-held seats. That’s because of the turn of events which has unfolded in Illinois, where Lisa Madigan now says she won’t run for Senate (this isn’t that surprising; that she won’t run for governor either is) and IL-10 Republican Mark Kirk, who was none-to-subtly waiting for Madigan’s decision, now says he will.

Kirk is probably still an underdog against the eventual Democratic nominee — most likely State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, a 33-year-old friend of Barack Obama’s who has considerable political upside. But the race is now going to be competitive, whereas if Madigan had run, or Kirk hadn’t, it probably wouldn’t have been. And this isn’t the only recruitment coup that the Republicans have had of late. Earlier this weak, New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte said she’d challenge Paul Hodes for Judd Gregg’s seat in New Hampshire, which substantially improves the Republicans’ chances of holding on. And of course, Charlie Crist is running in Florida (even if half of Republican establishment wish he weren’t). Meanwhile Roy Cooper, the Democrats’ preferred candidate in North Carolina, won’t be running there.

By no means have Republicans batted 1.000. They missed a big opportunity in Pennsylvania when Tom Ridge declined to run. Meanwhile, it looks like they may get a serious race in Louisiana when they were hoping to avoid one, with U.S. Rep. Charlie Mealncon apparently set to challenge David Vitter.

Increasingly, however, the Republicans have a bit of momentum in the Senate picture. And the White House’s decision to recruit both Janet Napolitano and Kathleen Sebelius into their cabinet — two women who were uniquely qualified to mount competitive races in Arizona and Kansas, respectively — is looking increasingly suspect.

Nate Silver founded and was the editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.