Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Look At Senate Races

One thing is certain in the upcoming election --- No matter won wins the Presidential election, he will have to deal with a Democratic Senate. The only question is how big will the Democratic majority be. The biggest problem Republicans face is the fact that they have to defend twice as many seats as do the Democrats, and they have a number of long term Republican Senators who have decided not to run in 2008.

The current make up of the Senate is 49 Republicans, 49 Democrats, and two Independents. The two Independents, Bernie Sanders (VT) and Joe Liberman (CT) caucus with the Democrats, thus giving them a 51 to 49 majority.

There are thirty-five of the 100 seats up in the 2008 election. Thirty-three are for full six year terms, and two are for partial terms. Let's take a look at the races.

Republican Safe Seats (13)

Susan Collins (ME), Lindsey Graham (SC), Saxby Chambliss (GA), Jeff Sessions (AL), Thad Cochran (MS), Lamar Alexander (TN), John Cornyn (TX), James Inhofe (OK), Pat Roberts (KS), Mike Johanns (NE), Mike Enzi (WY), John Barrasso (WY), Jim Risch (ID).

Democratic Safe Seats (14)

John Kerry (MA), Jack Reed (RI), Frank Lautenberg (NJ), Joe Biden (DE), Jay Rockefeller (WV), Mark Warner (VA) [Pick-Up], Mary Landrieu (LA), Blanche Lincoln (AR), Carl Levin (MI), Dick Durbin (IL), Tom Harkin (IA), Tim Johnson (SD), Max Baucus (MT), Tom Udall (NM) [Pick-Up].

Leaning Republican (2)

Roger Wicker (LA), Mitch McConnell (KY).

Leaning Democrat (3)

Mark Udall (CO) [Pick-Up], Mark Begich (AK) [Pick-Up], Jeanne Shaheen (NH) [Pick-Up].

Toss-Up (3)

Norm Coleman (R) and Al Franken (D) (MN), Gordon Smith (R) and Jeff Merkley (D) (OR), Elizabeth Dole (R) and Kay Hagan (D) (NC).

Not a single Democratic seat is vulnerable. Republicans have problems due to the retirements and unpopularity of several incumbents. Let's look at some of the hot races and Democratic pick-ups.

Mark Warner (D), the former Governor of Virginia has consistently polled 20 points ahead of former Governor James Gilmore (R). This seat is currently held by long time Senate Republican (no relation) John Warner. Tom Udall (D) has also never trailed Steve Pierce (R). This seat is being vacated by the retirement of New Mexico's Pete Domenici, a Senator since 1973. This means a definite pick-up of two for the Democrats.

Three more seats look very good for the Democrats. Mark Udall (D) (cousin of Tom) should beat Bob Schaffer (R) and pick up the Colorado seat held by retiring Republican Wayne Allard. Jeanne Shaheen (D) looks very strong against incumbent John Sununu in a rematch of the 2002 New Hampshire Senate race. Mark Begich (D) will have to wait to see what happens in the Ted Stevens (R) federal criminal trial. If the longest serving Republican Senator in history is found guilty, Begich will be representing Alaska come January. If Stevens is acquitted, this race may need to be changed to "Lean Republican."

The three tighest Senate races involve all incumbent Republicans --- Norm Coleman (R-MN), Gordon Smith (R-OR), and Elizabeth Dole (R-NC). All three have tough opposition, and if Obama wins by more than a few points nationwide, I would not be surprised to see the Democrats sweep all three seats.

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