Nate Silver Ponders Democrats' Chances of Taking Kay Bailey Hutchison's Senate Seat

There's no shortage of names being tossed out there as would-be replacements for Kay Bailey Hutchison, who yesterday announced she won't run for re-election to the U.S. Senate. Top o' the list, of course, is Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, who made his intentions clear Thursday afternoon on his blog: "I fully intend to explore running for the United States Senate, and should I run, I will run with the intention of winning and continuing to serve the people of Texas just as I have done throughout my career."

Problem is, writes noted psephologist Nate Silver on his New York Times blog, Dewhurst and the rest of the potential G.O.P. paraders don't "look like superstar talents." Silver writes that perhaps Dems might have "a better-than-average opportunity" to gain some traction in the race for Kay Bailey's seat. But which Dem? Silver offers one possibility:

The Democrats' best bet might be [Bill] White, who before switching into the gubernatorial race had been interested in running for Senate when it looked as though Ms. Hutchinson might retire prior to 2010. Polls showed that a plurality of voters were left with a favorable impression of Mr. White even as he was defeated, and although his race against [Rick] Perry had been expected to be closer, it was not an embarrassing result considering how poorly Democrats performed throughout the country last November.

A poll conducted in February 2009 found Mr. White trailing Mr. Dewhurst by 5 points in a hypothetical matchup, which would certainly suggest a wide-open race. But the political climate was relatively favorable to Democrats then, and that is probably what would determine whether they have more than a puncher's chance in 2012.