I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Tim Pawlenty will be the Republican candidate for President in 2012. If he does get the nomination I think he'll have an 80% chance of winning the Presidency. More than that, he'll have a large GOP majority in the House and the Senate will also be run by the Republicans. I suspect the GOP will pick up at least seven seats in the Senate in 2012 and as many as ten which would give them 57.
The following Senators are vulnerable in 2012. (I've rated them from most to least vulnerable).
1)Sherrod Brown. One of the most liberal senators ever, there are a ton of potential GOP challengers in Ohio.
2)Claire McCaskill. Missouri went deep red last night and will do so again in 2012.
3)Ben Nelson. One of the most unpopular politicians in Nebraska, he has no chance of winning in 2012.
4)Bob Casey. A little more conservative than the average Senate Democrat he'll have a decent shot at retaining his seat but the if the economy continues to flounder he'll be really vulnerable.
5)Debbie Stabenow. This very liberal Michigander is a colorless legislator who has to be deeply worried now that a Republican won the governorship by twenty points. There are a number of potential GOP challengers.
6)Amy Klobuchar. Minnesota is a blue state but Klobuchar is an average campaigner and her GOP opponent will be able to run against her and an unpopular President. If the Republicans pick the right candidate she'll lose.
7)Jim Webb. I don't think Senator Webb will run again. If so, the GOP will almost certainly pick up this seat.
8)Jon Tester. This Montana Democrat narrowly won in 2006 and has established a fairly moderate record in the Senate. He'll have to run away from his health care vote (like every single other member of his caucus) in a year when heavy turnout in Montana will favor the GOP.
9)Kent Conrad. This North Dakota politican has tried to fashion himself as a "deficit hawk" and a bit of a maverick, much like Russ Feingold of Wisconsin. Now, having been exposed as a big spender he may end up unemployed like Feingold.
10)Maria Cantwell. Elected by two thousand votes in 2000, she'll be vulnerable if the right Republican jumps in the race.
11)Kirsten Gillibrand. Even though she won 61% of the vote last night she has to run again for the full six-year term in 2012. I think this is why people like George Pataki chose to sit out his time. Better to wait and run just once for the full six years instead of having to campaign twice in two years.
12)Bob Menendez. A scandal-plagued Democrat from Jersey (well, who isn't?), he'll be tough to beat in this blue state but the Democratic Party will have to spend time and resources defending this seat.
13)Joe Manchin. If he's as good as his word he'll be perhaps the most conservative Democrat in the Senate for at least ten years. Like Gillibrand he's going to have to run for the full term in 2012 so he'll have to watch every vote he takes because West Virginia Republicans will be.
Others to watch:
14)Herb Kohl. I suspect he'll retire in 2012 having achieved nothing in twenty-four years.
15)Jeff Bingaman. This old bull may hang it up-especially if he sees that the GOP is going to conrol the Upper Chamber for the next couple of years.
16 and 17)Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders. Who knows what these old guys are going to do. If Lieberman retires the GOP would have a puncher's chance to win the seat.
You'll probably see a number of Democrats in the House and Senate retire instead of run in the next cycle. Faced with the prospect of being in the minority even if they survive what promises to be a tough election cycle, they may choose to hang up and go home instead of facing the prospect of a humiliating defeat.
People are wondering how the GOP didn't capture the Senate as long as the House last night. Simply put, there just weren't enough vulnerable Democrats defending seats. In 2012, 22 Democratic and Independent seats will have to be defended and the GOP will pick up a bunch.