In the aftermath of this election there seems to be a movement towards a grand re-examination of the party’s ideals. Individuals have claimed that looking ahead to ’06 or ’08 is meaningless unless the party manages to redefine itself. While a re-evaluation of the fundamental doctrine of the party may (or may not) be warranted, the simple fact is that we ignore ’06 at our own peril. The Republicans already lead in the Senate 55-44-1 and will be in no danger of losing that majority. There are seventeen Democratic seats, fifteen Republican and Jeffords’ up for re-election in ’06. The next Republican goal is the ‘super-majority’ of a 60-40 split. Should the GOP reach that ‘filibuster-proof’ number, the nation would be in great danger. Imagine what Bush might choose to do with such a majority and no concern about ever having to run for office again. As such, the midterm elections are paramount and we must be focused on them, even as we undertake a re-examination of the party’s ideals. Here’s a detailed look at the Senate races we’ll be paying attention to over the next two years (in order of importance / intensity / chance of ‘flip’):
Incumbent: (D) Bill Nelson
Likely Opponent: Rep. Katherine Harris
2000: (D) Nelson 52%, (R) McCollum 47%
Summary: Lets get ready to ruuuuuuuuuumble, this is the main event! Republican insiders will push Jeb Bush (who faces a term limit) to run for the seat but Jeb seems intent to leave public life. Even if he doesn’t the GOP will be anxious to knock Nelson off. The Senator is ambitious and may win a position on the ticket in ’08. One other possible candidate should Bush not run is Katherine Harris. Another campaign which is likely to be extremely expensive, Nelson is in for the fight of his life and the Republicans are desperate to control the state for ‘08. Nelson has over $2 Million raised already, Harris has $800K. This race will be vital to establishing dominance in the state prior to ’08.
Incumbent: (R) George Allen Jr
Likely Opponent: Governor Mark Warner
2000: (R) Allen 52%, (D, Incumbent) Robb 48%
Summary: Yet another Senator with Presidential ambitions, Allen was the Chairman of the NRSC. However, it would appear quite possible that he will face a contest from another top-tier candidate – Governor Mark Warner. The Governor has Presidential ambitions himself but faces a term limit and cannot run again. If he is to run for President in ’08 he will need some sort of elected post and rumours are swirling that he will run for Allen’s seat. In fact, these same rumours suggest that hypothetical polls have already been commissioned and show Warner with a narrow lead. However, Senator Allen is a big fundraiser and may be able to raise as much as $25 Million (he has $1.2 Million right now). A major test for both candidates, the winner is likely to get massive national exposure and prove himself to the party – possibly becoming the front-runner for ’08. Even if Warner does not run the DNC has pledged to go after Allen, so no matter what we will have a vicious fight in Virginia.
Incumbent: (R) Bill Frist – not seeking re-election
Likely Candidates: (R) Bob Corker vs (D) Harold Ford Jr.
2000: (R) Frist 66%, (D) Clark 33%
Summary: The Senate Majority Leader has pledged to retire, in which case this would be an open seat in a red state. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D) desperately wants a Senate seat and if he runs the race could be very competitive (he has $1.2 Million on hand). The Republican candidate will likely be Bob Corker, the popular Mayor of Chattanooga who appears to have beaten out other Republicans even before the primary. Should Ford run, the race will be very high profile, very expensive and very competitive.
Incumbent: (D) Mark Dayton
Likely Opponent: Rep. Mark Kennedy
2000: (D) Dayton 49%, (R) Grams 44%, (I) Gibson 6%
Summary: Perhaps the most vulnerable Democrat, Dayton is an anemic fundraiser ($200K on hand). He was forced to personally finance his bid in 2000 and although he did unseat the incumbent his fundraising has not improved. He has been unable to raise funds, thus far, for his re-election and appears to be in the fight of his life. Representative Mark Kennedy has been prepping for this race for years and will be very well funded ($500K on hand). 2006 being a non-Presidential year will harm the Democrats. This race is a toss-up, we’re in a lot of trouble here.
Incumbent: (D) Ben Nelson
Likely Opponent: Governor Mike Johanns
2000: (D) Nelson 51%, (R) Stenberg 49%
Summary: Nelson managed to retain an open Democratic seat in 2000, but Nebraska is a solidly red state and Nelson is likely to face a stiff test in Governor Mike Johanns. There has already been a poll commissioned in this race, showing Nelson with 41% and Johanns at 38%. 21% were undecided. Obviously this is going to be a tight race and a difficult one for us to hold on to. Two experienced politicians will raise a lot of money for small state like Nebraska – Nelson has almost $2.5 Million already.
Incumbent: (D) Maria Cantwell
Likely Opponent: Unknown, Nethercutt might run again.
2000: (D) Cantwell 49%, (R) Gorton 49% (Cantwell won by 2,229 votes)
Summary: Despite voting Democrat for President, Washington is incredibly divided when it comes to the Senate. The 2000 vote was ridiculously close and the 2004 race was mired in a recount. Opponent is unknown, but this is going to be a tight race down to the end. Cantwell’s campaign is currently in debt over $2 Million, she needs money worse than Dayton. Leans Democrat because Cantwell has the advantage of being an incumbent, but who knows with this wacky Northwest state.
Incumbent: (R) Jim Talent
Likely Opponent: Unknown
2002 Special Election: (R) Jim Talent 50%, (D) Jean Carnahan 49%
2000: (D) Mel Carnahan 51%, (R) John Ashcroft 49%
Summary: This will be one of the biggest targets on the board. There is a great deal of lingering from 2000 when a dead man beat incumbent John Ashcroft. Jim Talent defeated Mel Carnahan’s wife in a special election in 2002. The Senator is not popular with blacks at all. There is no obvious choice for the Democrats, although retiring Lt. Governor Joe Maxwell is a possibility. Mel Carnahan’s kid was just elected to the House and might be a long shot candidate. Likely to be a very competitive race, but not nearly as expensive (Talent only has $300K on hand) or visible as others.
Incumbent: (R) Conrad Burns
Likely Opponent: Unknown
2000: (R) Burns 51%, (D) Schweitzer 48%
Summary: Burns got a scare from well funded rancher Brian Schweitzer in 2000, he has taken steps to protect himself this year ($650K already) but this could still be a tight race. The Democrats don’t have anyone lined up for the race just yet, but Montana has a history of supporting conservative Democrats so this state could be in play. Precisely who the Democrat might run is a mystery, but one of the state’s Representatives would be a likely bet. 2000 opponent Schweitzer was recently elected Governor.
Incumbent: (R) John Ensign
Likely Opponent: Unknown
2000: (R) Ensign 56%, (D) Bernstein 40%
Summary: Ensign won a vacant seat quite handily in 2000, but he appears destined for a much tougher contest this time around. The Democrats have ear-marked this race as one they believe they can win (Ensign has only $450K on hand) and thus will be willing to throw a lot of money at the race. Ensign is a reasonable Republican, and thus far there are no indications of who might run against him. Likely a Republican hold.
Incumbent: (D) Debbie Stabenow
Likely Opponent: Reps. Mike Rogers and Candice Miller
2000: (D) Stabenow 50%, (R) Abraham 49%
Summary: Michigan is a critical swing state and Stabenow will face a tough race with growing clusters of Republicans in the North and in the West of the state. Voter turnout in Detroit will be critical. Stabenow recently served as the vice-Chair of the DSCC and is a growing power within the party. The Republicans seem intent to take her out before she becomes a real power, but Stabenow has almost $2 Million on hand. Likely hold, unless things go really bad.
Incumbent: (R) Rick Santorum
Likely Opponent: Unknown, see below.
2000: (R) Santorum 53%, (D) Klink 46%
Summary: Pennsylvania went Democrat Presidentially in 2000 and ’04 but has two Republican Senators. Santorum is incredibly right wing and notorious for his anti-gay actions. He is one of the most conservative members of the Senate and he has his eyes set on the White House. The Democrats will be desperate to take him out before the election. Prominent Democratic candidate would be a requirement to winning this seat. Nobody obvious, although Rendell might be convinced to leave the Governor’s mansion, Chris Heinz might want to run for his father’s seat or Hoeffel might want to give it on more shot. Santorum does not appear to be one of the most vulnerable Republicans up for re-election ($1.5 Million on hand) but this is one that the Democrats will really ‘want’ to win.
12.) New York
Incumbent: (D) Hilary Clinton
Likely Opponent: Giuliani or Pataki
2000: (D) Clinton 55%, (R) Lazio 44%
Summary: This race could move way up on the list if a top tier candidate runs against her. There were rumours that Giuliani or Pataki might consider a run, but those seem to have died down since Bush’s election. Pataki is better positioned to run for President from the Governor’s mansion and Giuliani is more likely to take a cabinet post and try to make a run for President from there. Should either run in a tough campaign against Hilary and lose, all Presidential aspirations would be done. Thus, discretion is the better part of valour for them here. This seat is only competitive if a big name runs, Clinton has almost $5 Million in cash on hand, so she will have a big head start in fundraising. Still, Republicans hate Hilary and are likely to throw money at the race in a desperate effort to “get her”.
Seats Where Incumbent May Resign:
New Jersey – (D) Corzine – likely to run for Governor, if he does then this race would move up into the list above.
Wisconsin – (D) Kohl might retire, we should be able to hold this seat either way, but if he retires and Thompson runs it will be tough to hold.
Indiana – (R) Richard Lugar – really old (74 in 2006), seat would lean Republican.
West Virginia – (D) Robert Byrd – even older (he’ll be 88 in 2006), would lean Dem.
Texas – (R) Kay Bailey Hutchinson – may run for Governor, would lean Republican.
Hawaii – (D) Akaka – Really old, but just means that some young Democrat wins.
Utah – (R) Orin Hatch – Old, but the state is very very very Red.
Note: Dianne Feinstein, Trent Lott and Teddy Kennedy have confirmed they are running again. There had been some speculation that those three might retire.