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Monday, October 03, 2005

2006 Senate Outlook

Posted by DavidNYC

[With AnthonySF's permission, I am reposting in full his excellent Senate outlook diary. Anthony blogs at RemoveRepublicans.com.]

Last week I posted a diary similar to this that got a lot of support but not a lot of recommends. I'm hoping this one will change that, and I'm thinking about making it a recurring series.

As many know, the current Senate makeup is 55-44-1 (or basically 55-45). As I see it, there are 11 seats that could potentially be in play; the rest are pretty much guarantees. Of those 11 only 4 are ours (WA, MD, NE, MN), and if I were a betting man (and I am), I would say only MN has a solid chance of flipping.

The GOP, on the other hand, must play strong defense on 7: PA, RI, MT, OH, TN, MO, and possibly AZ. In other words, it is entirely feasible for us to retake the Senate. At any rate, a decent pickup count seems likely.

A complete analysis follows (and the links take you to each Senator's page on my site with even more info). Please, if you are a constituent of one of these Senators and have more info on the races, post corrections and comments below.

These are the Democratic seats we should hold without worry:
Senator State Party App/Dis Top Candidate Notes
Hillary Clinton NY Dem 61%/35% Jeanine Pirro, Westchester DA This is Hillary's to lose. If she wins with ~65%, it's a sign she might be ready for the Presidency. If she stalls at 55%, New York will hafta do.
Dianne Feinstein CA Dem 54%/34% None yet Di-Fi in a cakewalk. Despite her moderate stances, she remains the most popular politician in the state.
Jim Jeffords VT Ind Open Bernie Sanders, Congressman The socialist Sanders will wipe the floor with prior challenger Greg Parke, Lt. Governor Brian Dubie, or whoever else they throw at him.
Ted Kennedy MA Dem 61%/33% None yet The GOP may not even field a challenger this time 'round.
Thomas Carper DE Dem 66%/22% Colin Bonini, State Senator Bonini is a sacrificial lamb in this Dem-leaning state that will surely retain the services of Carper.
Daniel Akaka HI Dem 56%/32% None yet Akaka is safe -- but angry that Frist keeps denying his Native Hawaiian recognition bill a floor vote.
Robert Byrd WV Dem 65%/29% Hiram Lewis, Veteran Shelley Capito, who would be the logical choice, has trailed Byrd significantly in every poll. She was the GOP's best bet and last hope.
Debbie Stabenow MI Dem 46%/38% Keith Butler, Reverend While Stabenow won't be voted Miss Popularity, the GOP again failed to recruit a decent candidate. They are stuck with a kooky clergyman.
Kent Conrad ND Dem 69%/25% None yet Karl Rove had been lobbying for Gov. Hoeven to enter the race, but he declined. Only with him in it would this've become a toss-up.
Bill Nelson FL Dem 48%/31% Katherine Harris, Congresswoman Harris will blaze through the primary and flare out in the general.
Herb Kohl WI Dem 55%/33% Mark Neumann or Robert Lorge Both are prior Congressmen; the former ran a losing campaign against Russ Feingold in 1998.
Jeff Bingaman NM Dem 59%/26% David Pfeffer, Santa Fe City Council Rep. Heather Wilson ("You KNEW you wanted to build a BUZZZZ") isn't running, leaving a little-known placeholder who was a Dem as recently as last year.
Joe Lieberman CT Dem 68%/24% None yet No primary challenge, no big GOP names yet, just a bitter cup-o-Joe.
Jon Corzine NJ Dem Open Bob Menendez, Congressman Long story: Corzine's running for Governor, will probably win, and thus will pick his successor, rumored to be Dem Rep. Bob Menendez.

These are the Democratic seats I'd consider a weak hold:
Senator State Party App/Dis Top Candidate Notes
Maria Cantwell WA Dem 47%/37% Mike McGavick, Safeco CEO Though this will likely stay in our column, Cantwell is only leading McGavick 49%-39% -- the closest race of all sitting Dems.
Ben Nelson NE Dem 63%/27% Don Stenberg, prior challenger All of the top Republicans are running for Governor, leaving loser Stenberg, Nebraska GOP head David Kramer, and Ameritrade COO Pete Ricketts to duke it out.
Paul Sarbanes MD Dem Open Ben Cardin or Kweisi Mfume Republican Lt. Governor Michael Steele will probably fall just short of either the NAACP's Mfume (with romantic issues) or Rep. Cardin (with blandness issues).

These are the Republican seats they should hold without worry:
Senator State Party App/Dis Top Candidate Notes
Olympia Snowe ME GOP 77%/18% None yet There were brief rumors that she'd retire, but nothing's official yet. I bet she stays around and coasts to an easy victory.
Craig Thomas WY GOP 60%/25% None yet We need to be more competitive in the cheap seats.
John Ensign NV GOP 53%/31% None yet Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman is reportedly eyeing the Governorship. The remaining bench is shallow and Harry Reid is handling Ensign with "kid gloves."
Orrin Hatch UT GOP 55%/33% Pete Ashdown, web guru Hatch is getting a primary challenge from State Legislator Steve Urquhart -- and Ashdown may do a little damage -- but Hatch is too popular.
Trent Lott MS GOP 60%/32% Erik Fleming, State Rep. Lott has hinted he may retire, but many doubt Fleming's ability to run a strong race. Dem Rep. Gene Taylor or Atty Gen Mike Moore might fare better.
Richard Lugar IN GOP 59%/27% None yet Democratic party man Tim Roemer bailed early, the only (slim) hope we had of taking out Lugar.
Kay Hutchison TX GOP 57%/29% Barbara Ann Radnofsky, attorney Our lawyer probably doesn't stand a chance against the Texas GOP machine.
George Allen VA GOP 52%/33% None yet Gov. Mark Warner is shamefully out, leaving former Dem Rep. L.F. Payne, former Navy Secretary James Webb, former Lt. Gov Don Beyer, and former famous actor Ben Affleck.

These are the Republican seats I'd consider a weak hold:
Senator State Party App/Dis Top Candidate Notes
Conrad Burns MT GOP 48%/42% Jon Tester, State Senator There are a few other Dem names in the mix, but Tester strikes me as the most genuine and competitive. I expect the polls to reflect this soon.
Jon Kyl AZ GOP 49%/33% Jim Pederson, Dem Party Chair While this seat will likely remain Republican, Pederson has a war chest and 2006 could be a Dem wave. Kyl is very blah.

These are the seats of either party, open or incumbent, that I'd consider a toss-up:
Senator State Party App/Dis Best Bet Notes
Mark Dayton MN Dem Open Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin DA Klobuchar is the favorite for the Dem nomination over children's advocate Patty Wetterling, and I bet she ekes out a slim win over GOP Rep. Mark Kennedy.
Lincoln Chafee RI GOP 55%/37% Sheldon Whitehouse, former Atty Gen Whitehouse leads Sec of State Matt Brown for the Dem nod, and although both trail Chafee in the polls (as does GOP primary challenger Steve Laffey), I bet this one flips our way.
Mike DeWine OH GOP 42%/43% Paul Hackett, Iraq Vet This is quite possibly our dream candidate in our dream situation, and I hope to do work on his campaign.
Bill Frist TN GOP Open Harold Ford, Congressman There's crowded primary fields on both sides of the aisle, but I bet all this Frist ethics stuff takes its toll.
Jim Talent MO GOP 48%/39% Claire McCaskill, State Auditor McCaskill narrowly lost a race for the Governor's chair, but her name recognition is high and could do serious damage to no-Talent.

This is the seat I'd consider a genuine pickup:
Senator State Party App/Dis Best Bet Notes
Rick Santorum PA GOP 42%/46% Bob Casey, State Treasurer The big enchilada -- and most divisive race among the netroots -- will land solidly in our favor if current polls hold.

Posted at 07:14 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate | Technorati

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What looked like another ugly year for us in the Senate races six months ago is perking up now. Here are my early thoughts on the potentially competitive races:

Arizona--It would take a 1994-in-reverse to topple Kyl, but it's heartening to see the Dems pour money into Pederson. Kyl's enough of an ideologue to where his softer supporters may think twice if his record is laid out in enough 30-second soundbytes.

Florida--I think Mark Foley would be a more formidable opponent than Harris. Isn't he from the Gold Coast, potentially diluting Nelson's base? Whether it's Harris or Foley, this one makes me nervous considering Nelson's softer-than-I-woulda-thought support. Plus vote for CAFTA is likely to lose him far more votes than it wins him.

Maine--Any chance of Snowe switching parties in the event of a 50-50 Senate?

Maryland--I don't know much about Steele, but am relatively surprised at his relative poll strength in Democratic Maryland. Cardin seems the safe bet and hopefully numbers will prevail, especially considering the Rasmussen poll showed him with a five-point lead over Steele even with only 51% support of blacks, a figure that we know will increase considerably come Election Day.

Michigan--I was worried that Stabenow could be vulnerable, but am very pleased with the abysmal GOP challenger. Unless Butler turns out to have Paul Wellstone-style outsider charisma, Stabenow should prevail.

Minnesota--Hands-down the race with the highest level of excitement. Kennedy has profound regional advantages. Klobuchar has profound regional advantages. Being the popular Hennepin County Attorney, I expect Klobuchar should be able to score 60% in Hennepin County. If she does, it would be a cakewalk to win statewide despite Kennedy's expected dominance in most of the suburbs. Furthermore, if this turns into a referendum on George Bush (as it likely will), I have a hard time believing Minnesotans will choose in favor of sending a second rubber stamp for the Bush administration to the Senate. On the other hand, if Wetterling tops Klobuchar in the primaries (and Wetterling just came out today setting a timeline in which we should withdraw troops from Iraq, a ploy that will warm her up to Minnesota's left-wing Democratic primary voters), Kennedy's chances are looking much better.

Missouri--I think it would take a 1994-style romp for Talent to be defeated in increasingly Republican Missouri, but I hear the GOP may be feeling something of a backlash down in the Show Me State. Bush's latest approval ratings in MO were only 40%, indicating Missourians may finally be starting to catch on. Still, I have to say advantage-Talent here.

Montana--Early polling has not been good, but Burns could be neck-deep in the Abramoff scandal next year at this time. A populist like Jon Tester could sneak in with a well-run campaign.

Nebraska--Nelson has dodged so many bullets in this race and his approval ratings are stratospheric. I'd be inclined to say he's on way back to Washington, but remembering the outcomes of the last two races he's been involved in gives me definite pause. Even against a weak opponent in Nebraska, I say Nelson will be lucky to squeak out a victory. Not that we'd miss him too much personally if he went away.

Nevada--I harbored a little bit of hope here, but it doesn't look as though the Dems are mounting a very serious challenge. The only thing that could work to the Dems' advantage here is saying that Ensign stands in the way of Reid becoming Majority Leader, which would enable Nevadans to be at the front of the line. Still, quite a longshot.

New Jersey--Assuming Corzine wins the Governorship, I have faith that anti-Bush New Jerseyians will side with the Dems once again and elect Menendez over whoever the GOP challenger is likely to be (perhaps Forrester?)

New York--Just my personal thoughts here, but I think Hillary would get destroyed in the Presidential election. It may be best for the Dems if she barely eked out a victory here, leaving the field open for Presidential candidates who have a prayer of winning.

North Dakota--Hoeven would have given Conrad a run for his money...probably would have even won. Without Hoeven, I think Conrad's safe.

Ohio--I had no idea DeWine's approval ratings were so soft. I never considered this seat to have much potential for us until a few days ago. Either Hackett or Brown would give DeWine a helluva run for his money. Both candidates have their strengths and weaknesses, but I'm leaning towards Hackett.

Pennsylvania--Santorum seems poised to go down, but don't get too cocky. Casey's anti-choice credentials cedes the Dems advantage among upper middle-class Philly suburbanites (the new must-haves for Dems in PA) and a booming steel industry could give socially conservative steelworkers little reason to change teams. I'm confident about victory here, but not as confident as AnthonySF.

Rhode Island--Chaffee's numbers are likely to go down in a state where Bush has an approval rating of 30%. It's gonna be a tough sell to get rid of him, but if current trends continue, 2006 could be the year. And even if he does win, I wouldn't rule out the prospect of him switching parties if it means changing the hands of leadership.

Tennessee-Ford has a huge challenge in increasingly conservative Tennessee. Who's his likely opponent? I wish now that Ford had prevailed over Pelosi in the bid to become House Majority Leader. Ford's too DLC for my taste, but is charismatic and his higher profile could have improved his odds for this Senate run. Then again, that close of an association with the national party may have hurt his chances in TN.

Vermont--I forgot that Bernie Sanders was running for Jeffords old seat. Looks like there will be another asterik on the list of Democratic members for years to come. If it meant the difference between a Senate Leader Sam Brownback or a Senate Leader Harry Reid, do you think Sanders would become a Democrat?

Washington--I continue to be nervous about Cantwell's prospects for re-election, but considerably less so since Dino Rossi doesn't plan on running.

West Virginia--Byrd's chances improved with Capito out of the race, but the combination of his age and his ornery opposition to the Bush administration in an increasingly bright-red state continues to worry me a little.

Posted by: Mark [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 3, 2005 08:54 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

If Virginia Governor Mark Warner gets pursuaded not to run for President, he'd present a strong challenge to George Allen.

Posted by: mikesnoo [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 3, 2005 11:07 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment