GOP Set for Rebound in New England?

The six states of New England -- never a hotbed of conservative politics in the best of times -- have been particularly blue since the Republican bloodbaths of 2006 and 2008. The 22 House seats shared among Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts are all currently held by Democrats. Republicans hold only four of the twelve Senate seats there, including the recent upstart invasion of Scott Brown in the Bay State. But as Bob Dylan once mumbled, the times they are a changing, and this very blue region is showing signs of turning increasingly purple in 2010.

Connecticut may be leading the way in this tidal shift. In the 4th District, Democrat Jim Himes is sitting on an impressive $1.3 million war chest, but as many as five Republicans are vying for a chance to take him on, and Himes’ support may be far shakier than the raw fundraising numbers would indicate. The 5th District also has several GOP contenders, including Litchfield businessman Mark Greenberg, who has tuned into voter discontent on key issues by promising to eschew the plush congressional health care plan and refuse the government pension scheme if elected.

The Senate is another question, however. Chris Dodd is on his way out under a cloud of perceived scandals, but this has opened the door for Richard Blumenthal, who seems to enjoy popular support across the state. On the GOP side, Rob Simmons has seen his fundraising efforts cool in recent days and former WWE CEO Linda McMahon’s largely self-financed campaign has failed to generate a lot of heat.

That seat is something of a parallel to the governor’s race in neighboring New York. While Republicans have enjoyed the plunging approval numbers and scent of scandal surrounding David Paterson, his eventual exit will open the door for Andrew Cuomo. The attorney general currently rides a wave of roughly 70% popularity across the state.

Both of Rhode Island’s Democratic-held House seats appear to be teetering. In the state’s 1st District, Patrick Kennedy has already announced his retirement under the weight of sagging approval numbers, and retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. John Loughlin is showing serious signs of life as a Republican challenger.  On the other side of the state, it would be surprising if Mark Zaccaria were able to unseat incumbent Democrat Jim Langevin, but Langevin is facing a surprisingly well-financed primary challenge from Elizabeth Dennigan, and if that battle turns bloody enough, Zaccaria’s fortunes may begin to rise.

Meanwhile, in the always independent-minded New Hampshire, the GOP feels confident about their chances to hold on to Judd Gregg’s Senate seat after his retirement. The Granite State’s 1st District is already in turmoil for the Democrats. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter has seen her approval ratings sink to 35% and she trails in the polls to all perspective Republican challengers. Leading the pack is Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta, who whips her outside the margins with a ten-point lead. The 2nd District isn’t looking much better for Team Donkey. Charlie Bass leads both of the likely Democratic hopefuls in recent polling.