7.07.2005

A prelude to '06

Well besides the IL governor's race and a brief tangent on the Florida Senate race, I haven't gotten into the 2006 races much. The link is to RCP's overview of all of the 2006 elections.
But first off, there are two gubernatorial races going on in 2005. Republican Doug Forrestor faces a slighty uphill battle against US Senator Jon Corzine. In Virginia, Republican Jerry Kilgore, a former attorney general, leads Democratic Lt. Gov. Timothy Kaine. The GOP should win at least one, and both seats were previously held by Democrats, so a tie is the worst case scenario.
The 2006 gubernatorial races are not so rosy. The math is heavily against a Republican, simply because 22 seats currently held by Republicans are up for re-election, while only 14 seats are currently held by Dems. Also, in seven of the 22 Republican held states, the incumbent is term limited, meaning an open race. Currently I see 4-6 Dem held races that may be competitive, with 7-10 possibly competitive races in the Republican held states. Overall, the conventional wisdom doesn't look good for Republicans, but a lot of the news out about the governor's races bodes well for Republicans, so it may not turn out as bad as expected.
The Senate races, much more important to me as they change national politics that effect everyone in the country, are a tough nut to crack right now. There are 15 Republican controlled seats up for 2006, and 17 Democratic seats. This looks like tossup scenario, until you look down the list and discover that while there are perhaps 8-9 potentially competitve races in currently Dem held seats, including an open race in Maryland, and possibly an open race in New Jersey if Corzine wins the governor's mansion, there are only 1-3 Republican controlled seats that could possibly change hands. Now lets look at some individual Senate matchups:

MI: Incumbent Senator Debbie Stabenow (D) facing the winner of a somwhat crowded GOP primary. She polls better than I expected against most opponents, but with significant money and the right candidate, she could be brought down.

WA: Incumbent Sen. Maria Cantwell (D)is probably the weakest Dem incumbent running for reelection. She polls slighty above the likely challengers. But against Dino Rossi, the failed gubernatorial candidate, she loses by more that the margin of error. Unfortunately, despite heavy pressure from the national GOP, he has indicated that he wants to run for governor again, and wouldn't move his family to Washington.

FL: Incumbent Sen. Ben Nelson (D) likely faces Rep. Katherine Harris, infamous for her role in the 2000 election as Florida secretary of state. Harris polls in the 30s against Nelson, a former astronaut, and her negatives are so high that the national GOP is looking elsewhere, despite her superior fundraising ability. Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman have reportedly been encouraging state House speaker Allan Bense to run, even though he has little name recognition and actually polls 2 points below Harris. It is their belief that Harris cannot win, given her past.
But Harris leads Bense 54 to 6 according to a Qiunnipiac poll.

MD: An open race where Lt. Gov. Michael Steele will likely be the Republican candidate. GOPers are hoping for a bloody Dem primary to soften up the winner. Steele, an African American, is very capable of winning, and this is so far a great chance for the GOP to gain a seat.

MN: One term incumbent Mark Dayton (D) will not seat reelection. Al Franken thought about entering the race, but decided against it. The Dem will face a hard fought race against the winner of the GOP primary. I'm not all that familiar with this race, but it could be a very good chance to win, given that it is one of only two open Senate races in 2006.

WV: In 2006, incumbent Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D), a former leader of the KKK, will be 89 years old. If he doens't retire, then health and age could play a major issue in his reelection. He is way more liberal than West Virginians, but manages to get reelected thanks to massive amount pork barrel projects totalling millions of dollars. The winner of the GOP primary will be strong, and this race, while sort of a backburner at the moment, could heat up soon.

PA: Incumbent Sen. Rick Santorum (R), the number 3 Republican in the Senate, is facing the fight of his life against Pennsylvania state treasurer Bob Casey, Jr. Currently, Santorum polls 7 points behind Casey, a pro-lifer and self described moderate. However, with a lot of money, and I mean a lot, and a little good campaign strategy, Santorum could hold on. Never the less, this is definitely a good chance for a Dem pickup, and they would love to defeat one of the most conservative Senators there is.

MO: Jim Talent (R) is a one term Senator with fairly low approval ratings. This could be a tough race, except for the fact that the Dems haven't found a good candidate yet. Even if they do, a little campaigning and some national money should keep this seat in red state Missouri.

RI: Incumbent Lincoln Chafee (R) is considered vulnerable by some, but many Republicans would actually enjoy watching him go. Chafee is often considered a liberal, and it seems like he votes with Democrats more than Republicans. He has threatened to leave the party on numerous occasions, most recently over the Gay Marriage Amendment, I believe. But it is for these reasons I believe he will be reelected.

There are other races that may be close, but as of yet there is nothing important to say about them. My prediction is that at worst, Republicans will draw even. And if they come out with a monetary advantage (as seems to be happening) and a get-out-the-vote effort half as good as 2004, then the GOP could inch closer to that magic filibuster-proof line of 60 Senators.

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