[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/02/03/art.coats.gi.jpg caption="Two well respected non-partisan political analysts have changed their ratings of this year's Senate race in Indiana following Coats decision."]Washington (CNN) – Two well respected non-partisan political analysts have changed their ratings of this year's Senate race in Indiana, now that former Republican Sen. Dan Coats is taking the first steps towards challenging the incumbent, Democrat Evan Bayh.
Coats, who held the seat from 1989 to 1999, opened an exploratory committee Wednesday . Following that announcement The Cook Political Report moved it's characterization of the race from solid Democrat to lean Democrat. A solid rating means the contest is not considered competitive and not likely to become closely contested. A lean rating means the race is considered competitive but one party has an advantage.
The Rothenberg Political report also moved its ranking of the contest from currently safe to narrow advantage for the incumbent.
"Former Sen. Dan Coats' likely entry into the Indiana Senate race puts another seat into play for Republicans. Coats last served in the Senate a decade ago and Democrats are already attacking him for living in Virginia since then, but the Republican should be a credible alternative for voters who are dissatisfied with the direction of the country and the party in power," writes Stuart Rothenberg, editor and publisher of the Rothenberg Political Report.
Political analysts point out that Coats will need to quickly build a campaign structure to compete with Bayh, who had $13 million in the bank at the beginning of the year.
Rep. Coats was appointed senator in 1989, to replace Dan Quayle, who stepped down after his election as vice president. Coats won a special election in 1990 and election to a full term in 1992. He did not seek re-election in 1998. Bayh, Indiana's governor from 1987 to 1997, won the election to the senate in 1998 and grabbed 62 percent of the vote in his 2004 re-election.
The other Republicans, former Rep. John Hostettler and State Senator Marlin Stutzman, are also seeking the GOP Senate nomination.
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