GOP momentum on the rise

Long Island Republican Congressman Peter King, one of only two Republicans remaining in the Empire State's House delegation, is reconsidering a run for the Senate seat held by appointed Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Momentum is building.

A Rasmussen Report poll shows Republican Scott Brown is in striking range of Democrat Martha Coakley for the January 19 special election for the Senate seat in Massachusetts This new TV ad for Scott Brown might help him. John Fund in the Wall Street Journal reports that Democratic insiders believe the GOP would win control of the House if the elections were held today:

"How worried are Democrats about the mid-term voting only 10 months away? "If the election were held today, we'd lose the House," Democratic campaign consultant Tom King told the Huffington Post this week, expressing a view that HuffPo says is echoed by a number of Democratic strategists in off-the-record conversations."

Despite Democrat dominance of New York, King must see encouraging signs. Gillibrand has never run statewide and has faced the voters in only one congressional district in the state (fewer than 4% of the state's voters), just like King. Rudy Giuliani announced a week ago that he would not run for the seat, though he held a solid lead over Gillibrand in early poll match-ups.

King trailed Gillibrand in polls last summer when he announced he would not run for the Senate. But with the growing prospects of a wave election in 2010, King may think this is the best shot he will get.

If he runs, this seat will be competitive, and force Democrats to spend tens of millions defending it, money that could be used to defend other vulnerable Democratic held Senate seats in Nevada, Connecticut, Arkansas, Delaware, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Colorado. 

One factor that could play into the New York Senate race is that Attorney General Andrew Cuomo may run against Governor David Paterson for the Democratic nomination for Governor.  The White House clumsily has asked Paterson to step aside, figuring Cuomo is the much stronger candidate to win in November.  Cuomo is a virtual certainty to defeat Paterson if they both stay in the primary race. This could result in a reduced turnout by African American voters in the fall, helping a GOP candidate for the Senate.  

If King runs, there will be at least 8 Democratic held seats in play, not counting California, where Democrat Barbara Boxer remains about ten points ahead in recent polls. Should North Dakota Governor John Hoeven decide to make a run against Democratic incumbent Byron Dorgan, that seat would likely shift  to the GOP (Hoeven is 22% ahead of Dorgan in a recent poll), putting 9 Democratic seats in play. 

If the wave is coming, one sure sign is that very strong candidates decide to make a run for different and generally higher offices.  Hoeven and King will be barometers on this.