Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Whither the Senate?

Currently the Democrats hold a one vote majority in the Senate. This could very well change come next November. The Republicans are defending twice the number of seats as the Democrats and several of the seats are open because the incumbent is leaving.

Larry Sabato, writer of Sabato's Crystal ball says on his blog,
Look at recent history. The Senate has changed party control six times: in 1980 (D to R), 1986 (R to D), 1994 (D to R), 2001 (R to D), 2002 (D to R), and 2006 (R to D). This is no longer a rare event. And the Democrats now control the Senate by the slimmest of margins, 51 to 49. Surely, then, Republicans have a real chance to recapture Congress' upper chamber in 2008.

Surely not. While strange things happen in politics, and the election is almost a year away, it would be truly extraordinary if the GOP seized the Senate. In fact, Democrats have an excellent chance to expand their margin of control, perhaps significantly. Let's go to the states to see how.
Sabato believes that of the thirty-five Senate races in question, twenty-five of them are locks for the party that holds the seat (11 D, 14 R):
  • Alabama - Jeff Sessions (R)
  • Arkansas - Mark Pryor (D)
  • Delaware - Joe Biden (D) (we're guessing that presidential thing won't work out so well)
  • Georgia - Saxby Chambliss (R) (and this upsets me, I would like nothing more than for him to lose badly)
  • Idaho - the departure of Larry Craig (R) is leading to the running of the GOP Lt. Gov. of Idaho, Jim Risch, who will almost certainly be the next Senator (that's how things go there in Idaho)
  • Illinois - Dick Durbin (D)
  • Iowa - Tom Harkin (D)
  • Kansas - Pat Roberts (R)
  • Kentucky - Mitch McConnell (R) - there was a rumor that he was going to get a good challenge, but that has vanished.
  • Nebraska - Chuck Hagel is leaving the Senate and the Republican former Governor Mike Johanns should win.
  • Massachusetts - John Kerry (D) - oh, yeah, him.
  • Michigan - Carl Levin (D)
  • Mississippi - Thad Cochran (R)
  • Montana - Max Baucus (D)
  • New Jersey - Frank Lautenberg (D) - and very, very old in his second Senate career.
  • North Carolina - Elizabeth Dole
  • Oklahoma - Jim Inhofe (R)
  • Rhode Island - Jack Reed (D)
  • South Carolina - Lindsay Graham (R)
  • South Dakota - Tim Johnson (D)
  • Tennessee - Lamar Alexander (R)
  • Texas - John Cornyn (R)
  • West Virginia - Jay Rockefeller (D)
  • Wyoming - Mike Enzi (R)
  • Wyoming - John Barasso (R) - he was appointed to fill out the late Craig Thomas's term and should win on his own.
So what of the other ten elections?
  • Alaska - Ted Stevens (R) - Oh, that this race should be competitive. Stevens may face a primary challenge as well as a stiff opponent in the general election.
  • Colorado - Open seat - Wayne Allard (R) pledged to leave after two terms and is doing exactly that. The new "purple" state may very well give the Democrats a pick-up in 2008.
  • Louisiana - Mary Landrieu (D) has been targeted for poor performance post-Katrina, so she is in the bullseye of the Senate races. Given the swing to Republicans in the state (see Bobby Jindal's election as governor and the fleeing of the state of the democratic voting bloc), this race is a toss-up and may very well fall into the "red."
  • Maine - Susan Collins (R) is a dying breed in the Senate, a moderate Republican. She is facing off against Maine's lone Congressman and could get knocked off. Still rated as a toss-up.
  • Minnesota - Norm Coleman (R) - is Al Franken enough to put Paul Wellstone's seat back in the Democratic column? Remember, this is the state that elected Jesse Ventura governor.
  • Mississippi - Trent Lott (R) is taking his marbles and going home. While the Republican Governor of the state, Haley Barbour, has not yet said when the special election will be held, he will have appointed someone to sit in the Senate to gain the stink of incumbency. For that, this election is leaning Republican.
  • New Hampshire - John Sununu (R) is in big trouble in the Granite state, where Republicans are dropping like flies. He is running against popular former Governor Jeanne Shaheen and she will likely win for a Democratic pickup.
  • New Mexico - Open seat - Pete Domenici (St. Pete, as he is known in NM) is retiring due to illness. This seat will likely stay Republican unless Governor Bill Richardson can be persuaded to run when (note when, not if) his presidential campaign stalls.
  • Oregon - Gordon Smith (R) normally gets little opposition here. Since he is getting some now, the race is being noticed, but for the time being, he's safe.
  • Virginia - John Warner (R) is retiring. It is very likely that people will notice little difference as another Warner will likely slip into the seat. Mark Warner, Virginia's popular ex-Governor has announced and will likely face his predecessor in the Virginia state house, Jim Gilmore.
Gut check early prediction for the next Senate:
58 Democrats, 42 Republicans (note, that is still two shy of the presidential override margin, but a Democratic president should come along with it).

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