News from the Votemaster
Big news today. Sen. John Warner (R-VA) announced that he is not running for reelection to the Senate in 2008. This is a huge blow to the GOP's effort to take back the Senate. It also has major implications for the presidential race.
Warner (who used to be married to Elizabeth Taylor) is one of the Senate's old bulls and commands respect from everyone in Washngton--except George W. Bush. Friends have reported that Warner is disgusted with Bush for not listening to the advice of the senior Republicans in the Senate, such as himself and Richard Lugar (R-IN), especially on Iraq policy. Since Warner is now in the minority and will be 88 at the end of another term, he has decided to throw in the towel and retire.
What happens next? Most observers are expecting popular former governor Mark Warner (D) to run for the open seat, although there is a slight chance he will refuse in hopes of getting the vice presidential nod. Mark Warner earned an estimated $200 million as a cell phone entrepreneur, so he could finance his campaign himself. Also, he has already proven that he can win state-wide office in Virginia, and since he left the governor's mansion, the heavily-Democratic northern suburbs have grown appreciably.
The Republican picture is bleak. Two clearly qualified people want to be Senator and there will be a bitter primary fight. Rep. Tom Davis (R) is John Warner's favorite. He has already raised over $600,000 for the campaign. His opponent will probably be former governor Jim Gilmore, who has proven he can win state-wide office. The winner of the primary will probably be bloodied and bankrupt and then have to face Mark Warner, fresh and flush with cash.
To make things worse for the GOP, the state is rapidly trending Democratic. Tim Kaine (D) was elected governor in 2005 and Jim Webb (D) was elected senator in 2006. Against Davis, Mark Warner would be the odds-on favorite and against Gilmore, Warner would still probably be the favorite, in part due due his fortune.
Finally, having Mark Warner on the ticket would energize Virginia's Democrats, who might turn out in larger than usual numbers and put Virginia's 13 electoral votes in play in the presidential race. The last Democratic presidential candidate to carry Virginia was Lyndon Johnson, but the demographics of the state have changed a lot since 1964.
No news on the Larry "Wide Stance" Craig story, but it is hard to imagine him running for reelection. Having him running is about the only way the Republicans could lose the Idaho Senate seat. He'll probably resign within the week to spend more time with his family. Then Gov. Butch Otter (R) will appoint a clean Republican to Craig's seat, probably Lt. Gov. Jim Risch.
Below is a run-down of all the competitive senate races. At this point, a Democratic pickup of 6-8 seats in the Senate seems likely. The Republicans are talking about losing only four seats, though. None of them have any illusions of winning back the Senate. For the complete Senate picture see the Senate page and also the House page for more on that chamber.
Louisiana. Mary Landrieu is the most endangered Democratic senator. She barely squeaked by in 2002 and thousands of dependably Democratic African-American voters have left the state as a result of Katrina. She's in for a real fight. Karl Rove has been cajoling state treasurer John Kennedy to switch to the GOP and challenge her in 2008, and Kennedy just announced the switch. He has to be reelected treasurer in 2007. If he wins, he can announce his Senate race although it will look a bit odd to win a statewide office and a few months later announce that he doesn't want the job. Since this is the the only real seat that Sen. Chuck Schumer(D-NY), chairman of the DSCC has to play defense on, he will pour in money here to help Landrieu. Sen. John Ensign (R-NV), chairman of the NRSC, doesn't have anywhere near Schumer's bank account and has to play defense in a dozen states, so he won't be able to help Kennedy much.
South Dakota. Tim Johnson is a popular Democratic senator in a very Republican state. He had a stroke last December and is recovering slowly. He has announced that he is running for reelection, but he is in no condition to return to the Senate yet, let alone campaign. Fortunately, Chuck Schumer and other friends have been raising money for him, so that by next year, he will have a bulging bank account in one of the cheapest media markets in the country. If Gov. Mike Rounds (R) challenges Johnson, it will be a real horse race, but Johnson's trump card will be "South Dakota is better off with a senior senator in the majority than a freshman in the minority." If Rounds declines to run, Johnson is home free.
Alaska. Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) has been in Congress since Methusaleh was in short pants. The "bridge to nowhere" was his baby and is as appreciated in Alaska as it is ridiculed in the other 49 states. Stevens problems are twofold. First, he is the target of an FBI investigation relating to work done renovating his house, possibly as payback for his directing a large federal contract to a company called VECO. This story is still playing out. Second, Stevens will be 91 at the end of another term and Alaska is a very young state. Schumer is trying very hard to recruit the young mayor of Anchorage, Mark Begich, to challenge Stevens. The Republican's best hope is that Stevens retires and they find a better and younger candidate.
Colorado. Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO) is retiring in 2009. The Democratic candidate for his seat will be Rep. Mark Udall, an environmentally-oriented member of the Colorado House delegation. The Republican candidate is likely to be former representative Bob Schaffer, who lost the 2004 Republican Senate primary. This will be a big ideological fight as Udall is quite progressive and Schaffer is quite conservative. While Colorado voted for Bush in 2004, the Democrats picked up a Senate seat in 2004, a House seat in 2006, and the governor's mansion in 2006. They also control both houses of the state legislature.
Idaho. Until two days ago, all political analysts expected Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) to glide to an easy victory over former Rep. Larry LaRocco (D). When the news hit that he pleaded guilty to lewd and indecent conduct in the mens' room at the Minneapolis airport in June, all of a sudden, Republicans of all stripes are calling for him to resign (so the Republican governor can appoint a new Republican senator). A compromise could be that Craig finishes his term but does not run for reelection, in which case the seat is safe for whoever wins the Republican primary, which will be bitter since the winner is assured of being elected. If Craig refuses to leave, LaRocco will talk about nothing else the entire year other than Craig's bathroom habits, which might be all he needs. My guess is that Craig will either resign or retire. The pressure on him to get out of there will be enormous.
Maine. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) is in for the fight of her life against Rep. Tom Allen, who already represents half the state. Collins is a moderate and popular in the state, but people often compare her to former Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) who went down to defeat in 2006. She is trying to put as much distance between herself and George Bush as she can, but Allen will try to tie her to Bush, who is very unpopular in Maine.
Minnesota. Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) won in 2002 when is opponent died in a plane crash two weeks before the election and Walter Mondale jumped in at the last minute and bungled it. This time there is going to be a Democratic primary between comedian Al Franken and lawyer Mike Ciresi. Could a comedian be elected senator? Remember, this is a state that elected a wrestler (Jesse Ventura) governor. Franken, as expected, gets a lot of attention, with wisecracks like "I'm the only New York Jew in this race who grew up in Minnesota (Coleman is Jewish and grew up in Brooklyn).
Nebraska. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) may or may run for reelection. If he opts out, as many expect, the Republican candidate is likely to be Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning and the Democratic candidate is likely to be former Nebraska senator and governor Bob Kerrey. While Nebraska is a deep red state, Kerrey has won statewide office three times here and is well liked. Also, the other senator, Ben Nelson, is a Democrat. If Hagel goes for reelection, he'll win; if he retires, the seat will be in play.
New Hampshire. While everyone else is looking at the presidential race here, Schumer is doing everything in his power to cajole former three-time governor Jeanne Shaheen into challenging Sen. John Sununu (R-NH). Sununu beat her in 2002, but a political landslide hit the state in 2006 when the Democrats won all the marbles, even both houses of the state legislature, which they haven't controlled since 1874. If Shaheen gets tired of all of Schumer's roses and chocolates and gives in and runs, she'll probably win. Early polls give her a lead of 20-30%.
New Mexico. Under normal conditions, Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) should coast to an easy seventh term. Unfortunately, he is tied up in the U.S. attorney firing scandal, having pressured U.S. Attorney David Iglesias hurry up and indict at least one Democrat before the 2006 election. Iglesias refused and was later fired. This story is ongoing and will play a big role in the confirmation hearings of the new Attorney General. They could spell trouble for Domenici.
North Carolina. Sen. Liddy Dole (R-NC) has a so-so approval rating and is generally not perceived as being a particular strong senator. If Schumer can arm-wrestle popular governor Mike Easley (D) into challenging her, this will be a toss-up. If Easley stays out of the race, Dole will probably win.
Oregon. Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR) is a Senate moderate who is trying to put as much distance between himself and George Bush as he can. The Democrats have strong candidate in Oregon House Speaker Jeff Merkley. The state is trending Democratic. This will be close.
Virginia. See story above.
Barring retirements or more sex scandals, the other incumbents are safe.
All in all, 2008 is going to be a bleak year for Senate Republicans. Even minority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is talking about limiting losses, not regaining control. If the Democrats can hang onto Louisiana, they could easily end up with 55-60 seats in the Senate. A lot depends on the mood of the country in Nov. 2008. If people want change, it will be painful for the GOP senators.
Presidential coattails are also important, of course. Both Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney are unpopular with substantial segments of the Republican base and if many of these people just stay home in the face of a Giuliani or Romney candidacy, it could hurt downticket candidates badly. The Democrats don't have this problem. While many liberal activists dislike Hillary Clinton, when push comes to shove, nearly all of them will hold their noses and vote for her. But the election is over 14 months away and anything can happen.
This page is the prototype for 2008. The data and map will refer to previous elections until serious polls begin in 2008. The blog will be updated when there is interesting news about the 2008 races.Preview of the 2008 races: President Senate House
This map shows the current governors. Put your mouse on a state for more information.
This map shows the current Senate. Put your mouse on a state for more information.
This map shows the current House. Put your mouse on a state for more information.
-- The Votemaster