The Republicans have 23 seats at stake in 2008 and the Democrats have just 12.
Nevertheless, many of these are safe seats, so the numbers don't tell the whole
story. Below are the races expected to be competitive.
The map-generation software was never designed to handle two Senate races in the same state at the same time,
so in Wyoming we are tracking only Sen John Barrasso's seat and in Mississippi only Sen Roger Wicker's seat.
It is virtually certain that Sen Michael Enzi (R-WY) and Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) will be reelected as they
won by huge majorities in 2002 and have weak opponents in 2008.
For purposes of keeping score, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) count as Democrats.
If Lieberman speaks at the Republican convention, he might be booted out of the
Democratic caucus in January, but for the time being he is de facto a Democrat.
If you Google "The bridge to nowhere" you will find over 50,000 hits, all
of them describing Ted Stevens' pet project of spending $320 million of
the taxpayers money to build a bridge from Revillagigedo Island (pop.
13,950 including Ketchikan) to its airport, to spare its residents a $5
ferry ride. Outside of Alaska he is the poster boy
for pork barrel legislation gone berserk, but within the state he is seen as the
guy who is trying to bring home the bacon.
Stevens has served longer in the Senate than any Republican ever, which is good,
but will be 91 at the end of his next term, which is bad for such a young state.
In July 2007, the FBI and IRS raided his home as part of a corruption probe.
This event launched a small war between Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), chairman of
the DCCC and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), chairman of the DSCC. Both of them wanted
Anchorage mayor Mark Begich to run for Congress, only Schumer wanted him to challenge
the badly weakened Stevens and Van Hollen wanted him to run for the House against
Rep. Don Young (R-AK), who is also under investigation for corruption.
Schumer won. Begich is running for the Senate. The battle here will be like the
national one: change vs. experience.
When he was first elected in 1996, Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO) promised to
serve only two terms. True to his word, he has announced he will not run for a third term.
Colorado has been trending Democratic in
recent years. While George Bush carried the state by 6% in 2004, Colorado
also elected Ken Salazar (D) to the Senate the same year and just elected
Bill Ritter (D) governor by 15%. Furthermore, the Democrats control both
houses of the state legislature. Colorado will be the Democrats' number 1 target
in 2008. Rep. Mark Udall has announced he is running and unlikely to
be challenged in a primary. He has a very strong environmental record in
this environmentally conscious state.
The Republican is former Rep. Bob Schaffer.
Schaffer ran for the Senate in 2004 but lost to
Pete Coors in the Republican primary.
Mary Landrieu is one of the two Democrats who barely squeaked by
in 2002, having won in a runoff with 52%. The Republicans have her in their
crosshairs. They might try to blame hurricane Katrina on her (or more
specifically, her response to it), but that would be playing with fire as she would
would likely then blame the Republican administration. Her net approval rating
is +10%--not great--so this is one of the Republicans best chances for a pickup.
Her worst problem is that hundreds of thousands of people, most of them
Democrats, left the state after the hurricane.
Her opponent is state treasurer John Kennedy, who recently switched from the
Democratic party to the Republican party to run against Landrieu.
Landrieu trivia: Her father, Moon Landrieu, was mayor of New Orleans from 1970 to 1978,
and her brother is the current Lt. Governor of Louisiana.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) represents a dying breed: moderate Republicans from the
Northeast. New England used to be run by them, but they have suffered major losses
in recent years. Collins is personally popular, but so was Sen. Lincoln
Chafee (R-RI), and it didn't save him. Also working against
Collins is her 1996 pledge to serve only two terms, something she repeated
in 2002. She recently decided to break that promise and run for a third term.
Her opponent, Rep. Tom Allen from ME-01 (who already represents
half the state in the House), will undoubtedly harp on the
broken promise. This seat will be very competitive.
Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) will be the Democrats number two target in the Senate in 2008.
He won his seat in 2002 by a tiny margin after his Democratic opponent, Paul Wellstone,
was killed in a plane crash two weeks before the election. The Democrats hastily
got former Vice President Walter Mondale to take Wellstone's slot on the ticket, but
he wasn't able to jump in and win. Both parties are keenly aware that in Nov. 2006, Hennepin County
Attorney Amy Klobuchar (D) crushed Rep. Mark Kennedy (R) by over 20% for an open
Comedian Al Franken is the Democratic nominee. Remember, this is a state that elected
a pro wrestler as governor.
However, Franken is in trouble in several states where he didn't live but did earn money.
This might hurt his image as a reformer.
Sen. Trent Lott's surprise resignation has opened up the other Mississippi Senate seat in 2008.
On Jan. 1, 2008, Gov. Haley Barbour (R) named Rep. Roger Wicker (R) of MS-01 to fill out
the seat until the end of the 110th Congress. Wicker will have to stand for election in
a special election. Former Mississippi governor, Ronnie Musgrove (D) has announced he will
contest the seat. Although Mississippi votes Republican for President,
Democrats control both houses of the state legislature. Furthermore,
the incumbent has never won statewide election and the challenger has.
Expected to be quite close.
Sen. John Sununu (R-NH) had not really been on the radar until Nov. 7, 2006, when a political
tsunami hit New Hampshire. Gov. John Lynch (D) was reelected with
the largest margin in state gubernatorial history at the same time two unknown Democrats
knocked off the state's two Republican House members.
The Democrats also swept to power in both
houses of the state legislature for the first time since 1874.
In this environment, the rematch between three-time governor Jeanne Shaheen (D) and
Sununu is likely to be very different than Sununu's 2002 4% victory over Shaheen.
Early polling gives Shaheen a 15-20% lead.
Sununu has the additional
burder of being a strong supporter of the war in Iraq, a highly unpopular position
in New Hampshire. At this point, the seat leans Democratic.
Sununu trivia: Sununu is the youngest member of the Senate
and his father was governor of New Hampshire and Bush 41's chief of staff.
New Mexico is truly a swing state. In presidential races, it is split right down the
middle. It also has one Democratic senator (Jeff Bingaman) who wins in landslides and
one Republican senator (Pete Domenici) who wins in landslides.
Under normal conditions, Domenici would be a shoo-in for a seventh term, but in Oct.
he announced his retirement due to brain disease.
After a bruising primary, Rep. Steve Pearce won the Republican nomination.
On the Democratic side, Rep. Tom Udall (cousin of Mark in Colorado) is
the candidate. This means that all three
of New Mexico's congressional seats are open as well as the Senate seat.
Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) did a spectacularly bad job as head of the NRSC recruiting strong senatorial
candidates to challenge weak Democratic senators, such as the Nelson boys. Will the
people of North Carolina blame her for losing the Senate? Probably not since most
people (except politicians and political junkies) have never even heard of the NRSC.
Her Democratic opponent is state senator Kay Hagan. Dole is the favorite, but this could yet be a close race.
Dole trivia: Her husband was a long-time
senator from Kansas and the losing Republican presidential candidate in 1996.
Then he switched from elections to erections and became the national spokesman for Viagra.
Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR) is a moderate senator in a state that is fairly Democratic.
Although he won by 16% in 2002, his net approval rating is only 11%. While he has
a fair shot at being reelected, his opponent, state House speaker,
Jeff Merkley (D), could run the same
campaign against him that Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) ran against former senator Lincoln
Chafee (R) in Rhode Island: "Smith is a nice guy but do you want Mitch McConnell
to be majority leader?"
This seat is definitely a Democratic priority.
Sen. John Warner (R-VA) has decided to retire after his term is over in Jan. 2009.
Former governor Mark Warner (D) is the Democratic
nominee. Warner is young, attractive, and made about $200 million as a cell phone
entrepreneur, so he can finance the campaign himself.
The Republican nominee is former governor Jim Gilmore.
Troublesome for the GOP is that the Northern Virginia suburbs,
which are heavily Democratic, are growing rapidly and led to the election of
Jim Webb (D) as senator in 2006 and Tim Kaine (D) as governor in 2005. Warner's
retirement has suddenly made Virginia a likely Democratic pickup in the
Senate. Even though the last Democratic presidential candidate to carry
Virginia was Lyndon Johnson, due to the changing demographics,
in 2008 it will be a huge battleground.