Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- Republican prospects in next year's Senate races are not good, with most analysts forecasting deeper GOP losses, though they could be offset by some Democratic upsets.

Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut is running behind in the polls as a result of the role the Banking Committee chairman played in the housing-bubble debacle and the sweetheart mortgage deal he got from a pal in the mortgage industry he oversees.

And in Pennsylvania, Democratic convert Arlen Specter's recent party switch may be backfiring on him, as Democratic voters reconsider the longtime Republican's voting record and cool to his candidacy, according to recent polls showing only 28 percent say he deserves re-election. The prospects of a party primary challenge further endangers Specter's bid for survival and gives Republican hopeful Pat Toomey a chance for an upset.

But trouble may be brewing for Republicans in Florida where the Club for Growth, a conservative anti-tax group, is seriously considering running ads in the GOP's primary race against Gov. Charlie Crist for supporting higher state taxes and President Obama's $800 billion economic-stimulus spending plan.

Crist's opponent for the GOP's Senate nomination next year is former state Speaker of the House Marco Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants and a young, up-and-coming party leader running on cutting government spending and taxes where Crist may be especially vulnerable.

Rubio secretly met here recently with the Club for Growth, which has a reputation for defeating liberal-to-moderate Republicans in party primaries with its aggressive ad campaigns.

"We recently interviewed Marco Rubio and were impressed. We are very concerned about the two major tax increases Charlie Crist recently signed and believe there's no excuse for his active support of the Obama big-government stimulus spending bill," said David Keating, the Club's executive director. "We are actively considering the race."

Rubio is largely unknown among the state's voters, and head-to-head polls show the popular governor with a large early lead over the former state representative. But Rubio told me in a recent interview that in a state that has no income tax, Crist is beatable on fiscal and tax issues once his record is more widely known.

Polls show that voters have grown more doubtful about Obama's big-spending stimulus and are especially worried by the massive government debts that they fear will short-circuit any economic recovery. And that's the dynamic that Rubio now thinks will turn next year's primary contest into a close race.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.