In line with what Democratic insiders have been boasting, no seats currently held by Senate Dems will be turning red without a fight, according to the Wispolitics ratings of the Senate races I obtained.
Three incumbent Democrats are in tough reelection battles that are rated as "toss ups." They are Sens. Jim Sullivan (Wauwatosa), Pat Kreitlow (Chippewa Falls) and John Lehman (Racine).
Democrats and Republicans alike long-considered Sullivan the most vulnerable Senate Democrat, given his conservative district in the Milwaukee burbs. "Sullivan will lose," one Republican familiar with the Senate GOP campaigns told me very matter-of-factly. Now Democrats see his close race as a badge of honor, as well as a possible repudiation of his opponent, Rep. Leah Vukmir, who they consider a right-wing extremist.
The GOP now considers Lehman its top target. The dismal economy in Racine, combined with an unenergized Democratic base and a very energized talk radio constituency in Southeastern, WI makes Lehman a likely casualty of a GOP wave.
Kreitlow, who was swept into office in the 2006 Democratic wave, will lack the benefit of thousands of motivated UW-Eau Claire students coming out to the polls against the marriage ban this time around.
Nearby, however, Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) represents a glimmer of hope for the Democrats. Wispolitics rates the race long-considered the number two or three pickup opportunity by the GOP in the Senate as leaning Democratic.
Ed Thompson, who ran for governor as a libertarian in 2002 and did fairly well, has the benefit of his brother's legacy, as well as a straight-talk appeal. It remains to be seen whether voters see his anti-government rhetoric as endearing or crazy. A fact that cannot be avoided is Thompson's recent diagnosis with pancreatic cancer. Will voters sympathy and admiration for Thompson's fight against the disease make them more likely to support him?
The only realistic pickup opportunity for Democrats is the 1st Senate district, located in Door County. The seat is being vacated by long-time Sen. Alan Lasee, and is being sought by Lasee's distant cousin, Frank Lasee, a former state rep. The Democratic opponent is a local physician, Monk Elmer. A GOP source told me in August that Frank Lasee, who has gained infamy for pissing in yards and proposing arming school teachers, gives Democrats the advantage. However, that he shares a name with the incumbent might not hurt. And Door County is traditionally GOP territory, especially in a GOP year like 2010.