Go to HHH home page.
Smart Politics
 


Pressure High on Sen. Coleman to Help Minimize Democratic Caucus Margin

Bookmark and Share

When Democrats narrowly won a majority in the U.S. Senate in 2006, it was expected 2008 would shape up to be a fierce battle for control of that chamber. The political reality at this moment in time, however, is that Democrats nearly have as good of a chance to win a filibuster-proof majority (60) as the Republicans have to get back to 50. Everything would have to go right for the Democrats to achieve 60 seats, but few pundits thought everything would go right for the Democrats to win control in 2006. And, after a long night of ballot counting in Virginia and Montana on Election Night, that's exactly what happened.

As such, Norm Coleman may not simply be fighting for his political life next November, but also his Party having any voice at all in the Senate: if Coleman falls, so too could Republicans fall short of 41 seats.

The reasons Senate Republicans are in trouble in 2008 are multifold. First, Republicans need to defend 22 of the 34 seats on the ballot. Of the 12 seats Democrats need to defend, only two are conceivably in play—Mary Landrieu in Louisiana and Tim Johnson in South Dakota. Johnson, however, remains extremely popular in his home state and he is now back at work in D.C. having recovered from a serious illness that struck him last December. Other Democratic Senate seats up for re-election in the right-leaning states of Montana, Arkansas, and West Virginia are considered quite safe due to the popularity of the incumbents.

Several of the 22 seats the Republicans need to defend are in serious jeopardy. First, there are an open Republican seats in two Democratic-trending states (Colorado and Virginia). The other open GOP seat (Nebraska) will likely pit a very popular ex-Democratic Senator (Bob Kerrey) with the primary victor between former popular Governor Mike Johanns and Attorney General Jon Bruning.

Of the two seats potentially plagued by 'scandal' (Idaho's Larry Craig and Alaska's Ted Stevens) only Stevens' seat is likely to be in play for the Democrats. In July federal authorities raided Stevens' home as part of a corruption probe. Though Alaska is a right-leaning state, it has a strong independent streak and has voted Democrats into office in statewide races in the recent past.

Then there are the GOP moderates in Democratic-leaning states—Susan Collins in Maine, John Sununu in New Hampshire, and Gordon Smith in Oregon. The question is how many of these seats will turn over to the Democrats a la Lincoln Chaffee in Rhode Island in 2006. Smith began distancing himself from President Bush and his Iraq war policy a year ago. Collins and Sununu have been more moderate in their criticisms against the president.

Add Norm Coleman's seat into the mix and you have 3 vulnerable open seats, 4 vulnerable moderate Republican seats in Democratic-leaning states and 1 vulnerable 'scandal seat.' That would leave the Democratic caucus at 59—one seat shy of a filibuster-proof majority, provided they hold Louisiana and South Dakota.

To reach the magic number of 60, Democrats are therefore also keeping an eye on Mitch McConnell's seat in Kentucky (though he is an extremely powerful Senator, his approval ratings are at just 50 percent) as well as Pete Dominici's seat in New Mexico (a true battleground state which already has one Democratic Senator).

At this time Smart Politics is certainly not predicting Democrats will end up with a 60-seat caucus. But the fact an argument can be made that there is a sliver of a chance for Democrats to pick up so many seats spells big trouble the GOP may be in next November.

Previous post: DFL Prospects in Ramstad's 3rd CD Open Seat
Next post: Upper Midwest Senators Vote 6-2 Condemning Petraeus Attacks

Leave a comment


Remains of the Data

Is There a Presidential Drag On Gubernatorial Elections?

Only five of the 20 presidents to serve since 1900 have seen their party win a majority of gubernatorial elections during their administrations, and only one since JFK.

Political Crumbs

Strike Three for Miller-Meeks

Iowa Republicans had a banner day on November 4th, picking up both a U.S. Senate seat and one U.S. House seat, but Mariannette Miller-Meeks' defeat in her third attempt to oust Democrat Dave Loebsack in the 2nd CD means the GOP will not have a monopoly on the state's congressional delegation in the 114th Congress. The loss by Miller-Meeks (following up her defeats in 2008 and 2010) means major party nominees who lost their first two Iowa U.S. House races are now 0 for 10 the third time around in Iowa history. Miller-Meeks joins Democrat William Leffingwell (1858, 1868, 1870), Democrat Anthony Van Wagenen (1894, 1912 (special), 1912), Democrat James Murtagh (1906, 1914, 1916), Democrat Clair Williams (1944, 1946, 1952), Democrat Steven Carter (1948, 1950, 1956), Republican Don Mahon (1966, 1968, 1970), Republican Tom Riley (1968, 1974, 1976), Democrat Eric Tabor (1986, 1988, 1990), and Democrat Bill Gluba (1982, 1988, 2004) on the Hawkeye State's Three Strikes list.


Larry Pressler Wins the Silver

Larry Pressler may have fallen short in his long-shot, underfunded, and understaffed bid to return to the nation's upper legislative chamber, but he did end up notching the best showing for a non-major party South Dakota U.S. Senate candidate in more than 90 years. Pressler won 17.1 percent of the vote which is the best showing for an independent or third party U.S. Senate candidate in the state since 1920 when non-partisan candidate Tom Ayres won 24.1 percent in a race won by Republican Peter Norbeck. Overall, Pressler's 17.1 percent is good for the second best mark for a non-major party candidate across the 35 U.S. Senate contests in South Dakota history. Independent and third party candidates have appeared on the South Dakota U.S. Senate ballot just 25 times over the last century and only three have reached double digits: Pressler in 2014 and Ayres in 1920 and 1924 (12.1 percent). Pressler's defeat means he won't become the oldest candidate elected to the chamber in South Dakota history nor notch the record for the longest gap in service in the direct election era.


more POLITICAL CRUMBS

Humphrey School Sites
CSPG
Humphrey New Media Hub

Issues />

<div id=
Abortion
Afghanistan
Budget and taxes
Campaign finances
Crime and punishment
Economy and jobs
Education
Energy
Environment
Foreign affairs
Gender
Health
Housing
Ideology
Immigration
Iraq
Media
Military
Partisanship
Race and ethnicity
Reapportionment
Redistricting
Religion
Sexuality
Sports
Terrorism
Third parties
Transportation
Voting