New Partisan
State-By-State Breakdowns-The Senate
Brian Morreale | 11.3.2006

As of today, Democrats are favored to pick up six seats, just enough to win the Senate:

 
Safe = one party has virtually no chance of losing.
Likely = one party is probably going to win, but an upset isn’t impossible.
Leans = the race is competitive, and either party could win, but one party has a distinct advantage.
Tilts = the race is essentially tied, but developments during the race signal that one party has an edge.

Arizona
Incumbent:  Jon Kyl (R)
Rating: Leans Republican

Jon Kyl is very low-key and largely invisible compared to John McCain.  His approval ratings are fair, neither particularly good nor bad.  When Chuck Schumer and the DSCC were looking for a sixth Republican seat to possibly win the Senate, this race was one of the possibilities considered.  State party chair Jim Pederson is the nominee.  Democrats initially tried to get Governor Janet Napolitano (unlikely as she’s finishing her first term) or Attorney General Terry Goddard to run.  Pederson has a lot of money and has run an active campaign.  Still, he hasn’t managed to make the race fully competitive.  Some polls show him losing to Kyl by high single digits; others have him behind by larger margins.  As the Tennessee and Virginia Senate races have looked more promising for Democrats, the national Democratic Party has pulled back from investing resources here.  The result is that Kyl looks much stronger, and the race less competitive, than was the case a couple of months ago.

Update:  Polls now have Pederson coming back a little bit.  Kyl remains the favorite, but a Pederson win is not out of the question.  If Democrats are doing well everywhere else, it’s possible.  The rating has been changed from likely Republican to lean Republican.



California
Incumbent:  Dianne Feinstein (D)
Rating:  Safe Democratic

Feinstein is fairly popular throughout the state, although not overwhelmingly so.  California remains solidly Democratic; Republicans didn’t make any gains in Congress or the state legislature even when Arnold Schwarzenegger campaigned for Republicans in competitive seats in 2004.  Republicans don’t have the resources to challenge a Democratic incumbent in this state, either – except in rare cases, such as unusually unpopular officeholders like Gray Davis.

Update:  Former State Senator Dick Mountjoy won the Republican nomination.  He’s not a serious challenge to Feinstein.  In addition, Mountjoy is in trouble for misstating his military service.  This only makes him seem less credible, not that it matters.



Connecticut
Incumbent:  Joe Lieberman (D)
Rating:  Safe Democratic

Ned Lamont defeated Joe Lieberman in the Democratic primary, largely but not exclusively on the basis of Lamont’s opposition to the Iraq war and Lieberman’s continued support for it.  Lieberman had pledged to run as an independent if he lost the primary, and he’s carrying out that promise.  He has also said that if reelected, he will caucus with the Democrats.  Assuming he doesn’t change his mind, Democrats retain the seat regardless of whether Lamont or Lieberman wins.  The Republican nominee, Alan Schlesinger, is not a factor.  Polls have him in single digits, and Republican officials and donors are backing Lieberman.  Between Lieberman and Lamont, Lieberman has run a much more aggressive campaign since the primary, and polls have him winning among independents and Republicans.  Lamont has lost the initiative in the race, and Lieberman is a slight to moderate favorite now.  Lieberman has also been helped by the reduced focus on Iraq over the past few weeks; now that Iraq is apparently getting more media coverage, Lamont might get some momentum back.



Delaware
Incumbent:  Tom Carper (D)
Rating:  Safe Democratic

Carper is very popular in Delaware.  Republicans aren’t making any effort to challenge him; the nominee is unknown Jan Ting.  He is one of the safest Democratic Senators running for reelection.



Florida
Incumbent:  Bill Nelson (D)
Rating:  Safe Democratic

After 2004, Republicans thought this seat would be one of their best pickup opportunities.  Republican nominee Katherine Harris has been a disaster.  She’s on her fourth campaign manager, and other Republicans have called for her to drop out – first in private, and then in public.  Polls show Harris falling further and further behind Nelson.

Update:  Harris managed to win her primary, by a slightly margin than expected given how badly the campaign was going.  National and state Republicans are essentially ignoring her, though, and the Mitchell Wade scandal, where Harris was apparently peripherally involved, threatens to come back in the news again.  The only thing that may save Harris from doing worse than Bob Graham’s opponents in 1992 and 1998 – both of whom received well under 40 percent of the vote, is a good Republican GOTV effort.



Hawaii
Incumbent:  Daniel Akaka (D)
Rating:  Safe Democratic

The primary is the election here, as Republicans haven’t made effort to put up a serious candidate. Rep. Ed Case challenged Akaka, but lost by a larger-than-expected by a 54-45 margin that experts attributed to Akaka’s strong GOTV operation.  He’s now up against Republican State Rep. Cynthia Thielen, who stands no chance in this race, but may run for higher office again in the future; she’ll be one of the state’s best-known Republicans, given how few of them there are.


Indiana
Incumbent:  Richard Lugar (R)
Rating:  Safe Republican

Lugar is running for a sixth term.  No Democrat is running against him.



Maine
Incumbent:  Olympia Snowe (R)
Rating:  Safe Republican

Snowe is the most popular politician in the state, and the Democratic candidate is an unknown liberal activist.

Update:  In about the only poll done for the race, Snowe is ahead of Jean Hay Bright 74-14.



Maryland
Incumbent:  None (Paul Sarbanes is retiring)
Rating: Leans Democratic

Republicans got their best candidate, and one of their few recruiting successes for the cycle, in Lieutenant Governor Mike Steele.  He’s the state’s first African American LG, and Republicans think that he can win minority votes in Baltimore and in Prince George’s County (which has many middle class African American voters).  These are voters who usually vote for Democrats and who have helped Democrats win races that they otherwise would have lost.  

Democrats nominated Ben Cardin over Kweisi Mfume and numerous other candidates including businessman Josh Rales and AU professor Alan Lichtman.  Cardin was viewed as a stronger candidate than Mfume, as he’s viewed as more moderate and doesn’t have any ethics baggage.  Cardin also has the advantage of representing the 3rd Congressional district.  Both Paul Sarbanes and Barbara Mikulsky represented the district before getting elected to the Senate.  

Maryland is always a tough state for Republicans.  In the past two decades, Republicans have only won two of the 27 statewide elections that have been held, and both by small margins against weak Democrats.  This year in particular, a Republican win is unlikely.  Republicans recognize that, and have been much less optimistic about the race as time has gone on, and a Cardin nomination becomes more likely.

Update:  Recent polls show Cardin leading by double-digit margins.  If the numbers are accurate and they hold up over the next several weeks, the NRSC will probably give up on the race.

Further Update:  Steele has been doing everything he can to win, including doing very well in a televised debate with Cardin and organizing a big GOTV effort for him in Prince George’s County.  He’s kept the race competitive, but probably not even his best effort will be enough.



Massachusetts
Incumbent:  Ted Kennedy (D)
Rating:  Safe Democratic

In 2002, Republicans failed to put up a candidate for a Senate race here for the first time ever.  This year, the sacrificial lamb  is Ken Chase, who ran for Congress in 2004.  People barely recognize that there is a Senate race this year.



Michigan
Incumbent:  Debbie Stabenow (D)
Rating: Leans Democratic

Michigan is one state where anti-incumbent sentiment is directed towards Democrats, rather than Republicans.  This is mostly because of the state’s economy, which isn’t good.  

Early in the election cycle, Republicans assumed that while Gov. Jennifer Granholm was probably unbeatable due to her popularity and charisma, they could use the anti-incumbent mood to take out Debbie Stabenow, who had a lower profile.  As the cycle wore on, though, it became evident that Granholm was actually more vulnerable than Stabenow.  The majority of Republicans’ resources, and their best candidates, turned towards the Governors race.  For Senate, Republicans tried to convince Rep. Candice Miller, the former Secretary of State, to run.  She decided not to, but Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard decided to run and defeated Rev. Keith Butler in the primary.  

Oakland County is one of the key swing counties in the state, helping Bouchard, but the focus on the Governors race hurts.  Some polls show the race within single digits; others have Stabenow ahead by larger margins.  Given the national mood and the fact that Republicans don’t have the resources to match both Granholm and Stabenow, Republicans would be happy just beating Granholm and coming within ten points or so of Stabenow.



Minnesota
Incumbent:  None (Mark Dayton is retiring)
Rating: Likely Democratic

At the start of the election cycle, this was the seat that Republicans were most optimistic about picking up.  Mark Dayton hadn’t decided whether he would run for reelection, and Republicans (rightly) thought he could be beaten.  Probably thinking that he couldn’t win, Dayton decided to retire.

Even before that, U.S. Rep Mark Kennedy, who beat a Democratic incumbent in 2000 and represents a swing part of the state on the outskirts of the Twin Cities, entered the race.  Most people watching the race agreed that Kennedy was definitely the favorite.  Hennepin County (Minneapolis) DA and Democrat Amy Klobuchar entered the race, and other candidates like Coleen Rowley joined it briefly or considered doing so.

Initially Democrats and experts were skeptical about Klobuchar’s chances, but she has been a very effective candidate, far surpassing expectations.  Kenneduy’s campaign also hasn’t met expectations, and he waited to start advertising and attacking Klobuchar.  That allowed her to define herself in ads.  She gained a name recognition and poll lead over Kennedy, and he’s been trying to catch up with her for months.  Some polls have shown Klobuchar with leads of up to 20 points.  Republicans are increasingly pessimistic about the race, and have looked to other seats for better pickup opportunities.

Update:  Republicans have essentially given up – Republicans are only looking at a couple of Democratic seats to offset their potential losses, and this isn’t one of them.



Mississippi
Incumbent:  Trent Lott (R)
Rating:  Safe Republican

Most people thought that Lott would retire, as his home was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, but he decided to run again at the last minute.  Even some state Democratic organizations endorsed him, and his opponent is LaRouchite Erik Fleming.



Missouri
Incumbent:  Jim Talent (R)
Rating: Tilts Democratic

This is possibly the closest of all the Senate races.  It’s one of the seats Democrats need to win in order to have shot at winning the Senate, so it’s gotten a lot of attention.  Jim Talent was first elected in 2002, defeating Jean Carnahan in a tough race where polls showed the lead constantly swinging back and forth.  Jim Talent hasn’t given the state a reason to replace him.  Additionally, the state has moved sharply towards Republicans between 2000 and 2004, making any win for a Dem in a statewide race more difficult.  Those are Talent’s advantages.

Talent faces a challenge for several reasons.  First, his opponent is State Auditor Claire McCaskill, who barely lost the 2004 Governor’s race against a strong Republican candidate in a bad year for state Democrats, with the unpopularity of then-Governor Bob Holden, who McCaskill defeated in the primary, dragging her down.  Second, the GOP gains in the state may have stalled.  In special elections held since 2004, Democrats picked up a Republican State Senate seat around Rolla in the middle of the state and a Republican State House seat in heavily Republican Southwest Missouri.  While Republican control of the state legislature is not in jeopardy, the Democratic wins shows that Democrats can still be competitive outside of St. Louis and Kansas City.  Third, and this may help explain why the movement toward Republicans has stalled, Gov. Matt Blunt is now unpopular.  He’s not nearly as disliked as other Governors like Bob Taft or Frank Murkowski, but polls have shown his disapproval rating as high as the low 60s.  Blunt could easily be a drag on Republicans this year the way Holden was on Democrats in 2004. Finally, there’s the national political environment, which is not very good for Republicans.

The Senate race started off quickly, with McCaskill attacking Talent for his steadfast opposition to abortion.  After the initial activity, the race has quieted down, with the candidates not fully engaging each other.  Instead, both have been working hard to shore up support in places where they underperformed in the past.  For Talent, that’s the St. Louis area (not the city itself), the key swing area in the state in most elections.  McCaskill has been spending her time outside of the two major metro areas.  She has focused on the southwest corner of the state in particular, where the Democratic vote is traditionally weakest.  The race has remained close and will come down to what kind of Election Night it is nationally.  If Democrats do very well, they will probably win this seat.  If not, Talent should survive.  This race rates Tilt Democratic very slightly due to the probability of big Democratic gains and Blunt’s problems.



Montana
Incumbent:  Conrad Burns (R)
Rating: Leans Democratic

Conrad Burns is the only Republican Senator ever to be reelected in this state.  He made his name as the voice of Montana on the radio from Yellowstone County.  Burns used a populist message to unseat Democratic Senator John Melcher in 1988 – the only Republican to do so that year.  He had a close call in 2000 when rancher Brian Schweitzer challenged him.  Schweitzer made a big deal of Burns’ promise to only serve two terms when he was first elected.  Burns was saved that year mainly because George W. Bush won the state by a big margin and carried several Republicans to victory in statewide races.

Since then, Montana has swung back to Democrats.  In 2002, Montana was one of the Democrats’ best states on Election Night – they gained seats in the state legislature and Senator Max Baucus easily won a race that was originally supposed to be close.  In 2004, Democrats were very successful in the state, winning the state legislature and all but one of the statewide offices. Schweitzer, elected Governor that year, is one of the most popular Democratic Governors in the nation.  All of this gave Democrats a great deal of confidence about taking on Burns this year.

Burns originally seemed better prepared for his reelection race this time than in 2000.  He’s since gotten caught up in the Jack Abramoff scandal, where he was one of the top lawmakers named.  He’s also gotten into trouble for racist comments toward Arabs and for criticizing firefighters who responded to wildfires in the state’s forests.  The continuing gaffes and ethics problems have soured people’s attitudes toward Burns and made it hard for his campaign to articulate any strategy.  Survey USA polls of all Senators consistently rate Burns as one the nation’s least popular – sometimes very least popular – Senator.

Adding to Burns’ troubles is his opponent.  Originally, Democrats supported State Auditor John Morrison, who’s a moderate.  Morrison, whose had an ethics scandal of his own, was upstaged by State Senate President John Tester, who ran a grassroots campaign and won by a huge margin.  Tester is a tough opponent to categorize.  He’s liberal, but doesn’t look like one.  He has a flattop hairstyle and lost two fingers in a tractor accident when he was younger.  In addition, he has gotten elected to a rural, conservative Senate district around Big Sandy.  Burns has attacked Tester as a liberal, but the attacks haven’t stuck.  Tester has led Burns in polls over the past few weeks, and Burns’ campaign has been in an ongoing tailspin.  Some pundits now rate Burns as even more vulnerable than Rick Santorum, who has huge problems of his own.  Tester is the likely winner unless Burns manages to change the dynamics of the race.

Update:  Burns has recovered a bit in polls, and some people believe that he might actually have shot at winning.  It’s unlikely though, as those polls still show him behind and Montana hasn’t been good to Republicans recently.



Nebraska
Incumbent:  Ben Nelson (D)
Rating: Likely Democratic

Nelson is very well-liked.  As Governor, he was reelected with 74% of the vote – one of the biggest Democratic wins in state history – in 1994, of all years.  As a Senator, his approval ratings are among the highest out of the entire body, according to SurveyUSA.  He’s one of the most conservative Democrats in the Senate, so it’s difficult to attack him for being too liberal.  The Republican nominee is Pete Ricketts, a businessman.  Republicans wanted to convince former Governor Mike Johanns to run, but Johanns took a job as Bush’s Agriculture Secretary instead.  Ricketts isn’t a bad candidate, and has tried to make the race competitive, but doesn’t really have any issues other than party to run on.  Republicans hope that since it’s Nebraska, some Republican voters will decide to vote for Ricketts to stick with their party.  That happened when Nelson ran for the seat last time, and Nelson was nearly defeated.  This year, though, he’s an incumbent, and unlike 2000, there’s no presidential election to help bring out more Republican voters.  Therefore, Nelson is less likely to have a close race than he did last time.



Nevada
Incumbent:  John Ensign (R)
Rating: Likely Republican

John Ensign is popular in the state.  He’s also popular in Washington, where The Hill magazine named him one of Capitol Hill’s 50 best looking people and he’s one of the top lawmakers in the annual Capitol Classic 5k race (Tennessee Congressman Bart Gordon is the fastest).  Jack Carter, son of the former President, is running against him.  Carter has run an active campaign, and received some national attention during the summer.  National Democrats considered targeting the seat as one they had an outside shot at.  Over the past few weeks, though, Carter has failed to close in on Ensign in polls, and attention moved away from this race.  Nobody really considers this a potential Democratic gain now.



New Jersey
Incumbent:  Bob Menendez (D)
Rating: Tilts Democratic

This is Democrats’ one trouble spot, as Republican chances of picking up other Democratic seats have fallen away.  Jon Corzine, who gave up the seat to become Governor, appointed Bob Menendez to succeed him.  Menendez has been mentioned as a potential statewide candidate for several years.  He’s Cuban American, and diversity played at least somewhat of a role in his selection.  NJ political experts also saw his selection as an attempt to shore up Corzine’s standing with northeastern urban voters – Menendez is a former Hudson County political boss.  In a state where Republicans have routinely come close but failed to win statewide office, nobody saw the race as too great of a pickup opportunity for Republicans.

Republican State Senator Tom Kean, son of the former Governor and 9/11 Commission co-chair, quickly announced his candidacy.  The race was fairly quiet at first.  Menendez, as well as liberal bloggers, sought to make Kean’s position on social security (Kean did not rule out supporting Bush’s privatization proposal) an issue.  More recently, though, the dominant issue has been ethics.  Kean has strongly gone after Menendez’ past with the Hudson County political machine.  Menendez has been battered by allegations regarding his conduct, and Kean has rode the wave of ethics questions into at least a tie, more likely a lead, in polls.  

In a normal election year in a normal state, Kean would definitely be the favorite.  This isn’t a normal year, though, and New Jersey has been a disappointing state for Republicans – witness their failure to take Bob Torricelli’s seat in 2002, when they were convinced that they has the seat won.  Republicans don’t seem to have figured out how they can actually win statewide, which they haven’t done since Christie Whitman was Governor (and even her victories were less than expected given her general popularity).  Kean will need to break through the Republican ceiling of 47% in state races to win.



New Mexico
Incumbent:  Jeff Bingaman (D)
Rating: Safe Democratic

Bingaman is popular in the state, and Republicans aren’t interested in challenging him or Bill Richardson.  They’re more worried about Rep. Heather Wilson and reelecting incumbents in the state legislature and State Land Commissioner Patrick Lyons.  Urologist Allen McCulloch is the Republican candidate.



New York
Incumbent:  Hillary Rodham Clinton (D)
Rating:  Safe Democratic

2006 isn’t going to be a good year for New York Republicans.  Former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer isn’t going to change that.


North Dakota

Incumbent:  Kent Conrad (D)Rating:  Safe Democratic
Rating:  Safe Democratic

Conrad is the one of the nation’s most popular Senators, according to polls.  Even though North Dakota is mostly Republican, the state always reelects its Democratic congressmen.  No Republican has won a Congressional race in the state since 1980.  The Republican candidate, Dwight Grotberg, is unknown and currently trails in polls by about a 70-30% margin.



Ohio
Incumbent:  Mike DeWine (R)
Rating: Leans Democratic

Republicans are in trouble all over the state.  Governor Bob Taft is the least popular Governor in the nation, due to a series of scandals, particularly one involving state coin manufacturing and fundraiser Tom Noe.  His unpopularity, along with the Jack Abramoff scandal (which has already brought down Rep. Bob Ney), is dragging down all Republicans, including DeWine.  Pundits and election experts have pronounced Ohio a state of chaos for Republicans.  DeWine has had nothing to do with any scandals, and he’s a moderate Republican who fits the state’s politics and who has won his Senate seat by large margins in his two previous races.  Regardless, the Republican problems in the state are so severe that his reelection prospects have been severely reduced.

Update:  Republicans pulled all of their airtime from this race.  Whatever they say, that’s pretty much an indication that they no longer see the race as competitive.  Brown can start moving to the other side of Capitol Hill soon.



Pennsylvania
Incumbent:  Rick Santorum (R)
Rating: Likely Democratic

Santorum has had low approval ratings for years.  Several Democrats could have given him a tough race, but he was in great danger as soon as State Treasurer Bob Casey entered the race.  Casey has a famous name – his father was Governor from 1987 to 1995, and Casey has been elected statewide several times by large margins.  Unlike Santorum’s previous Senate race opponents, Casey is from Western Pennsylvania and has a lot of support there.  The Pittsburgh area is also Santorum’s base, and he needed it to win his previous races.  Some liberal Democrats wanted to run a more liberal, specifically pro-choice candidate, but the majority of Democrats apparently just want to beat Santorum.  Even Casey would be much further to the left on social issues than Santorum, who is not only socially conservative but frequently takes strong ideological stands on social issues.  Casey won the primary easily.


Rhode Island

Incumbent:  Lincoln Chafee (R)Rating: Tilts Democratic

Chafee’s position in the center ideologically has earned him the enmity of both liberals and conservatives.  Conservatives tend not to be too much of a force in Rhode Island, where registered Republicans are rare, but Chafee’s record was liberal enough to inspire a challenger in the GOP primary.  Pawtucket Mayor Steve Laffey opposed Chafee, running a populist campaign, focusing on more than just social issues.  For much of the campaign, Laffey seemed to have the advantage.  The NRSC was moved to action of Chafee’s behalf, as polls showed Laffey running far behind Democratic Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse.  The committee threw substantial resources behind Chafee’s GOTV efforts and warned Republicans that the NRSC would concede the Senate seat if Laffey won.  Those efforts saved Chafee in the primary.

 


Tennessee
Incumbent:  None (Bill Frist is retiring)
Rating:  Tilts Democratic

This was the first open Senate seat of the cycle.  Frist announced his intention not to run again long before this year.  Democratic Rep. Harold Ford had been waiting to run for statewide office for years, and nobody was surprised when he jumped into the race.  Although he’s a moderate and a good campaigner, most people assumed that he didn’t have much of a shot.  Many people simply assumed that because Bush won the state by 14 points in 2004, a Democrat wouldn’t have much of a chance in any statewide race (even though Democrat Phil Bredesen had recently won the Governor’s race).  A bigger problem for Ford was his family.  His uncle had to resign his Memphis State Senate seat in a scandal.  In a special election to replace him, another relative was unable to clearly win the seat – stunning, considering that it’s the most Democratic Senate seat in the state.  The outcome of that race has not yet been determined, many months after the election.  Experts predicted that Ford’s family would drag him down.

Several Republicans joined the race.  They were former Rep. Ed Bryant, who was defeated in a 2002 Senate primary, former Rep. Van Hilleary, who lost to Bredesen in the last Governor’s race, and Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker.  While Corker was less known than the others, he was the favorite.  Bryant and Hilleary were expected to divide the conservative primary vote, while Corker had a more moderate record.  The Republican primary played out as expected, and Corker won easily.

Corker’s easy win seemed to bode well for him.  He had avoided most of the negativity that occurred in the primary, as Hilleary and Bryant spent most of their time attacking each other.  He was also ideologically well-positioned to do well among independent Tennesseeans.  Corker led in the post-primary polls.  The general election didn’t go as expected, though.  Ford launched a very aggressive ad campaign, going all over the state, including heavily Republican East Tennessee.  Corker’s campaign was much less impressive – he didn’t seem to be doing much.  Ford gained ground in almost every poll that came out.  The most recent polls now have Ford beating Corker.  Apparently recognizing the flawed campaign strategy (whatever it actually was), Corker recently fired his entire campaign staff.  The burden is now on Corker to establish an effective campaign plan while avoiding the perception that his campaign is flailing.  It’ll be a tough job, since the time frame to do so is pretty narrow.  As of now, Ford has worked himself into the position of favorite.

Update:  The last few days of the race have focused on race, due to a controversial Corker ad that only ran for a few days, but received lots of media attention – most of it negative.  Ford has been thrown off message, though.  If the dominant issue on people’s minds is race, Corker can win, but if Ford can get people back to Iraq, then he’s favored.



Texas
Incumbent:  Kay Bailey Hutchison (R)
Rating: Safe Republican

Democrats aren’t competitive in any of the state’s many statewide offices (there are dozens).  Republicans will win every one of them for the third time in a row.  Kay is the most popular politician in the state, so she’s safe.  The Democratic nominee is Barbara Ann Radnofsky.



Utah
Incumbent:  Orrin Hatch (R)
Rating: Safe Republican

Utah is the most Republican state in the country right now.  No Democrat has won statewide since 1996, and Pete Ashdown is certainly not going to beat Hatch, a 5 term incumbent.



Vermont
Incumbent:  None (Jim Jeffords is retiring)
Rating: Safe Independent (will caucus with Democrats)

Bernie Sanders, the Independent/Socialist House Representative, is running.  At one point, Republicans thought that they could win by pointing to Sander’s socialism and even tar other Democrats by doing so.  That didn’t work out, and Republicans gave up on businessman Rich Tarrant a long time ago.  Democrats support Sanders and want him to run on the Democratic line as well as the Independent one, although Sanders doesn’t want to.  He will caucus with Senate Democrats next year.



Virginia
Incumbent:  George Allen (R)
Rating:  Tilts Republican

This is one of the stranger races to develop in recent years.  It was supposed to be a small bump in the road for George Allen on his way to a Presidential run in 2008.  Recent events have made the road much tougher for Allen, even in a best case scenario.

Allen has a lot going for him.  He’s been elected Governor and Senator of a medium-sized state and his record makes him appealing to Southern conservatives in the event of a presidential bid.  Democrats were expected to merely make a credible challenge that would force Allen to take clear positions on national issues, potentially giving Democrats ammunition for 2008.  They chose military man James Webb over computer technician Harris Miller, with the idea that Webb’s background would help him gain votes in rural Virginia and give him credibility in speaking on Iraq and security.  The race was pretty quiet until Allen said the word ‘macaca.’

The story is this:  Webb staffer S.R. Siddarth was following Allen, videotaping appearances and speeches – presumably to uncover damaging statements.  During a campaign event, Allen spotted Siddarth videotaping him and addressed Siddarth, calling him macaca.  Apparently, the word has several meanings, one of which is a negative slang in North Africa for dark-skinned people.  Since that event, Allen has given numerous explanations regarding his use of the word; whether he knew what the word can signify, whether his mother (who is originally from North Africa) ever taught him the word, and even whether his mother is Jewish.

The story, including Allen’s shifting story, became a giant story and dominated race coverage.  Allen has been unable to get back on the message of his campaign, and the story won’t go away.  More unfortunately for Allen, the story has evolved into a broader one regarding whether he is a racist.  A number of people have come out and claimed that he used the n word as a teenager and in college, that he is or was a Confederate admirer, and so on.  Allen’s campaign has not yet been able to get back on track, and Jim Webb has gotten lots of free publicity and gains in polls without actually having to do much of anything.  Recent polls have the two essentially tied.  As long as the story continues, the race will still be tight.  Allen is still favored, as he had built up a lot of goodwill in the past and he has lots of resources.  His Presidential ambitions may be finished, though.



Washington
Incumbent:  Maria Cantwell (D)
Rating: Likely Democratic

How competitive this race is has been the subject of a lot of discussion.  On one hand, Cantwell hasn’t done anything to give people a reason to replace her; also, Washington has been a pretty good state for Democrats in federal offices.  Republicans haven’t won a federal statewide race since 1994, a Presidential race since 1984, or the Governor’s office since 1980 (the longest Dem winning streak in the nation).  On the other hand, Cantwell hasn’t accomplished much in her six years in office, she lost much of her personal wealth when her RealNetworks company collapsed, and there is residual Republican anger over the contested 2004 Governor’s race.  Democrat Christine Gregoire officially won the race; Republicans objected, saying that the election was so close that additional recounts or even a revote should have been conducted.  Republicans saw this race as a way to enact revenge on Democrats over that race.

Republicans tried to convince Dino Rossi, Gregoire’s opponent in 2004, to run.  He passed, probably because he wants to run for Governor again in 2008.  Republicans eventually got SafeCo CEO Mike McGavick to run.  State Republicans and national pundits were optimistic about McGavick’s chances because of his wealth, as well as the other things mentioned above.  There haven’t really been many developments in the race.  The only significant event was a preemptive press conference in which McGavick admitted that he had once been charged with a DWI.  He received positive press coverage for his admission, but subsequently received negative coverage when additional details about the DWI came out, revealing that McGavick had not told the whole truth during the press conference.  Cantwell has maintained the lead; the size of the lead has varied according to different polls.  In the September open primary, in which all candidates run together regardless of primary, Cantwell led McGavick by a comfortable margin.  The latest poll has Cantwell leading McGavick 50-40.  Barring some changes in the race, she will probably win by between ten and fifteen points.



West Virginia
Incumbent:  Robert C. Byrd (D)
Rating:  Safe Democratic

Early in the election cycle, Republicans were optimistic about knocking Byrd off.  They argued that Byrd’s politics was no longer aligned with the state’s and that he was no longer as effective as he has been in the past.  They ran a $100,000 ad campaign on those messages in 2005 and persuaded Rep. Shelley Moore Capito to run against him.  Moore Capito declined to run, but Republicans got John Raese, a businessman who almost defeated John Rockefeller in a 1984 Senate race, to run instead.  Byrd disappointed Republicans by running for reelection as energetically as he has in the past, as well as – as Robert Byrd tends to do – bringing lots and lots (and lots) of pork to the state.  This is a state where highways, hospitals, school buildings, federal buildings, and just about everything else is named after the Senator.  Even if Byrd is more liberal than the state, as Republicans argue, West Virginians just don’t care.  In a recent column, pundit Chuck Todd opined that Republicans probably wish that they could have that money they spent early on back.



Wisconsin
Incumbent:  Herb Kohl (D)
Rating:  Safe Democratic

Kohl is very popular.  Republicans usually try to compare Russ Feingold’s record with Kohl’s more moderate one when they are trying to unseat Feingold.  Such a strategy makes it hard to run against Kohl.  He’s safe.  The Republican nominee is Robert Lorge.



Wyoming
Incumbent:  Craig Thomas (R)
Rating: Safe Republican

Even though the Democratic Governor is going to be reelected easily, Democrats aren’t trying to challenge Thomas, who’s been in the Senate since 1994 and is well-liked, although pretty quiet.  He’ll win with around 70% of the vote against Dale Groutage.
 

Back to New Partisan