Sunday, October 21, 2007

Senate Roundup: 2008

This week, Charlie Cook, at the Cook Political Report, changed his ranking of the Virginia Senate race to "Likely Dem Takeover." Virginia is the Senate seat that is most likely to change from red to blue in 2008. But there are many other possibilities. Personally, I don't think that the map justifies a lot of optimism about reaching a filibuster-proof majority (60 seats) in '08. but I do think that there is a good chance to reach 55 - 57. Bearing in mind that pre-2006, Democrats held 45 seats in the Senate this is a good situation for our party. Update on other possibilities:

New Hampshire: With former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen in the race, this is definately our second best pickup opportunity. She is leading Sen. John Sununu by double digits in most polls. This is not a good situation for an incumbent. Sununu was never a particularly good fit for New Hampshire, and I was somewhat surprised when he defeated Shaheen in 2002. That year was a disaster for Democrats and it is doubtful he would have won any other time. Since '02, John Kerry won NH, which turned out to presage a romp for Dems in the Granite state in 2006. Both GOP congressmen were defeated by relatively unknown Democrats. There were shifts in the state legislature, too. Point is: Sununu's state has gone blue on him, and he's likely toast.

New Mexico: If Bill Richardson loses the presidential nomination, a virtual certainty, he will have a choice to make. He can file to run for the vacancy created by the retirement of scandal-plagued longtime Sen. Pete Domenici or return to Sante Fe and wait on a call for a possible VP run. If he runs for Senate, this is a Dem pickup. If not, it's even at best. Both Cong. Heather Wilson and Cong. Steven Pearce are running for the GOP nod. The picture on the Dem side is less clear.

Nebraska: If Bob Kerry runs to reclaim his old seat, this will be a clash of titans between he and Agriculture Sec. Johanns. If Kerry declines to run, this seat will likely remain in the GOP column.

Colorado: Sen. Allard is retiring. The Democrat running, Cong. Mark Udall, is a slight favorite, and a victory by him would give Colorado two Democratic Senators for the first time Ben Nighthorse Campbell changed parties. Cong. Bob Shaffer is a conservative Republican who is a little behind Udall now. While this race is far from a done deal, having the Democratic convention in his backyard is not good news for Shaffer. If 2008 is a blue wave, Shaffer will likely be a casualty. For now, though, the outcome of this race is not certain.

Oregon: GOP Sen. Gordon Smith isn't the most conservative Republican in the Senate, but he is still an odd choice for Oregon. It's not too late for the DSCC to recruit a top-tier challenger, because currently announced Dem Jeff Merkely isn't of the ilk that will oust a two term Senator. This will be a lost opportunity if there is not an emergency recruitment intervention.

Minnesota: MN is the rare state that gave Democrats a better margin in 2004 than in 2000. Norm Coleman, the incumbent Republican, is an Iraq war supporter who won in 2002 because Sen. Wellstone was killed in an airplane crash and his funeral was offensive to a lot of swing voters. It was an aggressively partisan service, and Coleman narrowly bested emergency fill in former VP Walter Mondale. Mike Ceresi and Al Franken (yes, that Al Franken) are running better than expected campaigns, but I think that there must be better candidates in Minnesota who could take on Coleman. But, hey, on the other hand, this is the state that elected Jesse Venture. Maybe Franken would be a good fit...

Maine: If Cong. Tom Allen can successfully make this race about Iraq and George Bush, he will beat Susan Collins in a repeat of last year's Rhode Island race. Maine is a pretty blue state, but Collins in popular. Even though she pledged to serve only two terms, she will walk to a third term if Allen can't tie her to the war and the President.

Alaska: Ted Stevens is old and crooked. His house in Alaska was raided recently by the FBI. He used to be almost automatically reelected, but the dynamic has changed for this race. If Stevens runs, this will be a very competitive race. Democrat Ethan Berkowitz seems to be a stellar candidate. If Stevens retires, that actually helps the GOP keep the seat.

Louisiana: Bobby Jindal was elected governor tonight, avoiding a runoff and winning in what, pre-Katrina, were Democratic areas (Orleans parish e.g.). Mary Landrieu is in trouble. This could be our one loss in Senate races in 2008. It's not Landrieu's fault: she has been a decent Senator. The demographics of Louisiana changed in one week. As substantial out-migration due to the hurricane took place, so went a large portion of Landrieu's base. She can still pull it out- her GOP challenger, John Kennedy, was a Democrat until a few months ago. But this will be a tough race.

It's a good map for Democrats. However, we need some recruitment help in Oregon and Minnesota. Tom Allen must start now to tie Susan Collins to the war. Large amounts of money need to be budgeted by the DSCC for Colorado and Louisiana particularly. We are mostly playing offense, and that's a good indicator. We could realistically be looking at a 5 or 6 seat pickup.

The Friday Line - Senate race ranking from Cilizza at the Washington Post- 10/19/07

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