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Thursday, March 31, 2005

2006 Senate Races to watch

Posted by Bob Brigham

Larry J. Sabato, Director, U.Va. Center for Politics, has identified (in alphabetical order) the following 14 Senate races to watch in 2006 ("moderately to very vulnerable"):

FL-Bill Nelson (D) MD-Open (D)

MI-Debbie Stabenow (D)

MN-Open (D)

MT-Conrad Burns (R)

ND-Kent Conrad (D)--only if GOP Governor
John Hoeven runs

NE-Ben Nelson (D)

NJ-Open (D)--only if Senator Jon Corzine is
elected governor in 2005

PA-Rick Santorum (R)

RI-Lincoln Chafee (R)

TN-Open (R)

TX-Open (R)--only if Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison runs for governor in 2006

VA-George Allen (R)--only if Governor Mark Warner (D) decides to run

WA-Maria Cantwell (D)

Sabato brings up some key points in his analysis of the 2006 battle for control of the US Senate:

On the surface, this appears to be an impressive total: 14 of 33, with another three potential retirees (mentioned in last week's email: Dianne Feinstein, Trent Lott, and Craig Thomas), which could bring the competitive total to 17 of 33--more than half! But let's look again. All three possible, additional retirees come from states that strongly favor the current party to retain control of the seat (CA, MS, WY). New Jersey would likely elect another Democrat to replace Corzine, and Texas would probably choose another Republican to succeed Hutchison. The incumbent senators, endangered though they are in FL, MI, MT, NE, PA, and RI, are all still favored to win. (We'd bet that a couple of them will be defeated in the end, but it is too soon to know which ones.) Tennessee may well elect another Republican to succeed Bill Frist, and Maryland will likely pick another Democrat to replace Sarbanes. Governor Mark Warner is actually unlikely to challenge Senator George Allen in Virginia. And Governor John Hoeven, the only real GOP hope, has not committed to challenging Senator Kent Conrad in North Dakota.

So what is left? The Senate seat in Minnesota may be the most likely to switch parties (from D to R), though we have a long way to go before reaching any definitive conclusion. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) is also vulnerable, not least because of GOP anger over a "stolen" Governor's election in 2004; however, Washington leans Democratic and the Republicans have not yet lined up an impressive candidate to carry the banner against Cantwell. Finally, there will be a few other incumbent defeats from our list (and maybe off it) that cannot be clearly projected two years out.

Does that add up to a change in party control in the U.S. Senate? It's very early, but so far the Sixth Year Itch is purely theoretical in Senate races. The Republicans could drop a couple of seats, or they could even add a couple of seats, but search as one might, it is tough to find the five net seats--six with Vice President Cheney's vote--that would need to go Democratic for the GOP to lose the Senate.

Sabato also notes that this is his, "snapshot at the starting gate" and there is great potential for major shifts that are difficult to identify this early in the cycle.

I recommend bookmarking Sabato's Crystal Ball.

Posted at 03:14 PM in 2006 Elections, 2006 Elections - Senate | Technorati