North Carolina: The Democrats are hoping to unseat Senator Richard Burr in 2010 and continue to build on their momentum in the Tar Heel State. They did after all manage to capture the state for the first time since 1976 (and only the second time since 1968). Democrats have historically done well in North Carolina on a state level, the state has only had one two term Republican governor in its history (and he was elected for the first time in 1984, riding the coattails of Ronald Reagan).
The seat occupied by Burr has seen quite a bit of turnover since the retirement of Democratic Senator Sam Ervin in 1974 with Burr as the 7th Senator to occupy that seat in just 35 years. Of the seven Senators to occupy the seat, two were Democrats (Terry Sanford and John Edwards). It's worth nothing that since Ervin's retirement, no one has won re-election to his seat.
One hinderance to the Democrats could prove to be Governor Bev Perdue's approval rating. It currently sits at just 25%. Her popularity was caused by some controversal budget cuts that she had to make in order to keep the state functioning and the diversion of funds from the North Carolina Education Lottery away from education and into the general state budget in order to help cover expenses. The lottery is extremely controversial in North Carolina and was only passed in 2000 because of a promise that it would help fund schools. Perdue's popularity could prove to be a problem for Democrats throughout North Carolina.
Another hinderance could be the on-going investigation into former Governor Mike Easley's potential abuse of power in getting his wife Mary a lucrative job at North Carolina State University and his potential use of taxpayer dollars to fund lucrative trips (he traveled WITH his wife unlike his neighbor to the south). A grand jury recently convened to investigate Easley's dealings.
Also a hinderance is the fact that NOBODY of note is running against Richard Burr. The Democrats have yet to name a big name challenger and the top 5 choices for the national Democrats have all shown little interest. Even favorite Heath Shuler denied any interest in running. While there are candidates in the race, almost all of them lack name recognition. Of course, it's worth nothing that Kay Hagan was just a state senator with no name recognition who ended up defeating Elizabeth Dole by 9 points. The biggest name mulling a run at the Senate seat is Rep. Mike McIntyre of the 7th Congressional District. However, while extremely popular in southeastern N.C., he lacks name recognition statewide. Kay Hagan proved that name recognition isn't everything so it'll be interesting to see if anyone can duplicate what she pulled off in 2008.
Verdict: The Democrats stand a chance in the Tar Heel State if they can distance themselves from Governors Perdue and Easley. It would be wise of them to go ahead and rally behind a candidate because none of the announced candidates have name recognition and with the Democrats no longer as popular in NC as they once were, name recognition and the building of trust between the candidate and the voters will be extremely important.
New Hampshire: Historically a Republican stronghold, the Granite State has trended Democratic recently starting with John Kerry winning the state in 2004 (the only formerly Bush state to switch parties). In 2006, the momentum really picked up as Paul Hodes and Carol Shea-Porter defeated Republican incumbents to become New Hampshire's two United States Representatives and the Democrats even took control of the New Hampshire House of Representatives for the first time since 1923.
Governor John Lynch enjoys great popularity throughout the state, the latest polls have his approval rating at 63% so he will certainly be no problem to any potential Democratic Senators.
With incumbent Judd Gregg retiring, this becomes an open seat. As of now, Democratic congressman Paul Hodes of the 2nd Congressional District and former Republican Attorney General Kelly Ayotte are the leading candidates in their parties. Ayotte presents a great challenge to Hodes as she is popular statewide and could potentially reverse the momentum of the Republicans in the state. The New Hampshire Republican Party recently put former Governor John H. Sununu in charge in hopes of doing just that. This will be Sununu's first election as party chair so it'll be interesting to see if he has any effectiveness.
Recent polls have shown that a large number of voters remain undecided in a Ayotte/Hodes race. A poll conducted by Research 2000 showed Ayotte leads Hodes 39%-38% with 21% of the electorate undecided.
Verdict: This is a wide open race. Both candidates have name recognition so the Democrats in NH aren't fighting the same battle as the Democrats in NC. With a popular governor and increasingly Democratic populace, it'll be Hodes' challenge to try to keep the wave of momentum that he rode into the House going and let it carry him to the Senate. If Ayotte wins this race, it could mark the end of the Democratic wave and the start of a Republican revival. The Senate race in New Hampshire will certainly be one to watch.
I'll possibly do more of these in future. I may use different states or possibly continue to update you guys on the North Carolina and New Hampshire Senate races. If you have any suggestions, post them in the comments section.
UPDATE- I've decided to do different states each post until I've completed all of the Republican held seats. Then I may either switch to Democrats or just do updates. Next up will be South Carolina and Florida. Any comments about my analysis are welcome.