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2008 Senate Races

The GOP holds 49 seats in the United States Senate. I tend to be on the more optimistic side, but the map in 2008 makes me very concerned. The GOP has to defend vulnerable seats in Maine, New Hampshire, Virginia, Minnesota, Nebraska, Colorado, and Oregon. This is not counting possible open seats in New Mexico and Alaska.

In Oregon and Maine, the GOP has ostensibly popular incumbents. Both Gordon Smith and Susan Collins have won re-election in 2002 by convincing margins. While Democrats in Oregon have failed to find a top-tier recruit and settled on a state legislator, Maine Democrats have rallied around one of the state's two Representatives. Both Smith and especially Collins have solid approval ratings. They would seem to be the frontrunners for re-election, and the polls show they are.

The problem for both Smith and Collins is that both could become the next Jim Talent. A smart politician, Talent was unable to overcome the political tide and lost re-election by narrow margins to the essence of mediocrity - Claire McCaskill. Ominously, neither Smith nor Collins is running for re-election in red Missouri either. They remain the ahead for now, but both would benefit immensely from continued good news from Iraq to take the steam out of their challengers.

In New Hampshire, the polls indicate that a re-match between former Democratic Governor Jean Shaheen and Republican incumbent Senator John Sununu would be a landslide for the Democrat. In no state was the 2006 carnage worse for the GOP than in New Hampshire. Sununu, of course, has to take heart that Shaheen has not yet committed to running. He is unquestionably the most vulnerable GOP incumbent this election cycle.

In Minnesota, Norm Coleman is running for re-election. A popular incumbent and former Mayor of St. Paul, Coleman will face two extremely liberal Democrats in his bid for a second term. I am not convinced that either Democrat has what it takes to defeat Coleman, but this is Minnesota after all. It has a nasty habit of voting for liberal clowns. If 2006 is any indication, even a strong Republican nominee does not stand a chance if the news from Iraq is bad.

We now move to the open seats - Virginia, Nebraska, and Colorado. We will have a better idea what will happen in the Old Dominion this week when Mark Warner decides if he is running or not. Republicans seem set to have a primary or convention to decide whether their nominee will be former Governor Gilmore or Congressman Tom Davis. I much prefer the later. A long-time Congressman from Northern Virginia, Davis is probably our best chance to hold the Senate seat were Warner to run.

Many conservatives apparently prefer Gilmore. This would be a disaster, and I would write the seat off were he to be nominated. It was Gilmore's incompetence that resulted in the string of Democratic victories that have brought the GOP from holding both Senate seats and the Governor's mansion in January of 2000 to losing first the Governor's mansion in 2001, again in 2005, losing the other Senate seat in 2006, and now fighting for its life to hold this one. Gilmore's presidential bid never took off, and only a fool would believe he has a fighting chance against Warner.

Popular Governors are not unbeatable in Senate races, as we shall see in the next race. But they cannot be defeated with unpopular former Governors. Gilmore left the Governor's mansion with mediocre approval ratings, the candidate of his party defeated to succeed him. Warner left the Governor's mansion with extremely high approval ratings, the candidate of his party succeeding him, despite his being well to Warner's left. Davis might not be perfect, but he is a fresh face, unsullied by the Gilmore disaster, and capable of competing with Mark Warner vote for vote in vote rich Northern Virginia. Logically, there can be no question - it's either Tom Davis or Senator Mark Warner.

In Nebraska, Chuck Hagel was the come-from-behind victor in 1996 against incumbent Governor Ben Nelson. Hagel has since annoyed just about every Republican with his criticism of the President and the war in Iraq. One poll showed him losing the GOP primary to the State Attorney General. He did not help himself with rumors he might run for President as an independent. Hagel has decided not to seek a third term, and the race to succeed him is wide open.

The Democratic nominee would seem to be former Governor and former Senator Bob Kerrey. Having last won an election in Nebraska, convincingly so in 1994, Kerrey would seem to be the strongest nominee Democrats can find. That is, until today. It seems that Kerrey was very close to the corrupt Democratic fundraiser Norman Hsu, recruiting him for the New School board of trustees and calling him a "terrific member." (It will be nice to use Jack Abramoff smears back on Democrats since it seems just about every single one of them has taken at least one donation from Hsu.)

The Republicans right now have two possible nominees - the Attorney General and a wealthy businessman. They may be joined by a third - popular former Governor and present Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns. I was not entirely happy with the President when he selected Johanns after winning re-election because it took him out of contention to challenge Ben Nelson for re-election in 2006. But all would be forgiven were Johanns to run for the open Senate seat. As this write-up correctly states, "Johanns would certainly come in as the front-runner, both in the GOP primary and in the general."

In Colorado, as in Virginia, Republicans are fighting to hold on after losing the other Senate seat and the Governor's mansion. Democrats in the Mountain State have flourished as late, even taking two Congressional seats from Republicans. Much of the blame goes to former Governor Bill Owens, who the National Review once proudly proclaimed to be the future of the Republican Party.

Their 2008 nominee will be Congressman Mark Udall. Unlike Salazar and Ritter, Udall is a self-proclaimed liberal. The Republican nominee seems to be former Congressman Bob Shaffer. A poll from 2006 had Shaffer trailing narrowly, and I expect the Democratic Presidential nominee to run well here in 2008. It will take an extremely effective and competent campaign from Shaffer to buck the trend here and hold the seat. Shaffer, of course, lost the Senate nomination in 2004.

I do not believe Democrats have the slightest chance in either Idaho or Wyoming. If the GOP were to find itself struggling in either state, the game is up.

We do not know what will happen in Alaska and New Mexico as both GOP incumbents may have problems with law enforcement. Democrats have no bench to speak of in Alaska, so the Republican nominee will be heavily favored were Stevens to step aside, especially in the context of a Presidential election year. New Mexico poses a more serious problem, unless the GOP coaxes one of its two Congressmen to run. For now, both seats remain in the GOP column.

Of course, it is a truism that the best defense is a good offense. At present, the GOP does not have. This could change. The recruitment of Governor Mike Rounds in South Dakota, Congressman Steve King in Iowa, Treasurer John Kennedy in Louisiana would drastically improve things. Finding someone to challenge Max Baucus in Montana would help, as would a retirement in New Jersey or Delaware. Above all, it would be nice if the NRSC could start matching Chuck Schumer in the fundraising race. The latest numbers have been abysmal.

The GOP simply cannot afford another 2006 in which six incumbents lost re-election. It will be 2012 before the GOP reasonably has a chance at 55 Senate seats again. That is, however, if the GOP does not lose another 6 seats again this year. Strong campaigns, solid fundraising, and searing attacks on Democratic challengers might work, but what would really help the Party is a strong Presidential candidate and, above all, a change in public sentiment on Iraq. That can only happen with continued good news on the ground and the report of such news to the American people.


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Comments (11)

The War in Iraq is over and... (Below threshold)

The War in Iraq is over and the globe is cooling.

In other news, Kerrey, last week, sanitized his institution's connections with Hsu except for what would have been illegal to do, change a Trustee report.

Hsunami, coming soon to pacific liberal shores. Delerious on a train. Yeah, right.

I said last week it would b... (Below threshold)

I said last week it would be better for the Dems for him to stay and lie than to run. Now they have the best of both worlds. Whatever he says can be construed as a lie. Oh, the deceptions.

The Carnage from '06 is not... (Below threshold)

The Carnage from '06 is not over yet unfortunately. Many people who didn't have a chance to vote in '06 still made up their mind to teach Republicans a lesson and probably haven't changed their minds. And continued horsing around with the illegal immigration issue isn't helping.

Maybe I'm a pessimist but I've been looking forward to '10 and '12 and wrote off '08 ever since Nov. 06.

I could not disagree more o... (Below threshold)
The Exposer:

I could not disagree more on VA. Davis is a pro-abort RINO NOVA liberal to the left of John Warner. His nomination would be a fiasco and Conservatives would not support him, especially outside of NOVA.

Although incumbent Republican Governors must usually shoulder the blame for losses on their watch, blaming Gilmore for everything after the end of his term is really unfair. First off, the single reason we lost the Governorship after his term was because of the brutally ugly internecine battle between Lt Gov John Hager (the Establishment candidate) and the Atty Gen Mark Earley. When Earley beat Hager, Hager's $$ supporters went to Mark Warner and the race was all over. That had nothing to do with Gilmore, and everything to do with Hager.

Gilmore also had nothing to do with the next Governor's race, as that was just simply a lousy campaign on the part of our GOP candidate, Kilgore, nor was he responsible for a silly gaffe on behalf of George Allen. And his floating the idea for running for President was merely ill-advised.

We must remember that Gilmore has never lost an election, has won statewide twice by decent margins (Mark Warner has only won once, and lost his race for the Senate), and is clearly our best chance to hold the Senate seat. We can't afford the risky liberal Davis to do so, and running to the left never works for us. What's the point of having John Warner retire, a RINO, to only replace him with someone even worse? None. Let's go with Gilmore, because you'd have to be a fool to go with surefire loser Davis.

Very popular Rep. Tom Allen... (Below threshold)

Very popular Rep. Tom Allen is challenging Collins here in Maine. It's going to be close. Liberals have taken over the state here, so it wouldn't surprise me to see Collins lose to the very liberal Allen.

"It would be nice if the NR... (Below threshold)

"It would be nice if the NRSC could start matching Chuck Schumer in the fundraising race. The latest numbers have been abysmal."

Blame the abysmal amnesty-for-aliens bill the Senate, with the help of GOP "leadership" tried to foist on the nation by drafting it in secret and jamming the bill through the Senate without committee work, full debate or citizen input (unless you were one of a select pro-amensty interest groups).

The NRSC never stopped to think that catering to Hispanics, and dissing the conservative base might not be the best way to get volunteers, cash, and votes in 2008. The NRSC took the conservative base for granted, tried to shove amnesty down its throat, and now the NRSC is paying for its hubris.

Chuck Schumer must be laughing all the way to the bank on how he snookered the GOP in supporting amnesty-for-aliens, and cutting itself off from funds for 2008 in the process.

I had a positive impression... (Below threshold)

I had a positive impression of Gilmore until I saw his lackluster performance while running for president.

He might have done himself irreparable damage with that abortive attempt. Can he recover from that in Virginia?

I agree, the answer to replacing J. Warner in VA is not to elect another RINO who we'll be hollering to replace in six years. Run a conservative and win or lose - just don't make stupid macaca mistakes that the WaPo can beat you over the head with for months. Talk about a one day story that ran for a whole campaign.

Any news of whether Eric Ca... (Below threshold)

Any news of whether Eric Cantor would consider a run in VA? Supposedly his seat in the House is solidly red, unlike Davis'.

I think Colorado will go bl... (Below threshold)

I think Colorado will go blue. It's going to take a lot of work to hold the seat.

If it makes any difference,... (Below threshold)

If it makes any difference, I'm the quintessential Northern Virginia voter -- I lean left, but I'm most concerned with traffic issues and the orderly handling of federal government and technology issues, as those two are the most important issues up here. Oh, and I detest Jim Moran. Not horribly relevant, but I had to throw that in.

As I look at the race, I think that Davis would be the best senator if I vote on strictly local issues. The man worked his way up through Virginia politics, and he knows NoVA inside and out. I don't know how well he could relate to the rest of the state, however.

Mark Warner I could certainly vote for, though I think I'd rather see him take another turn in the governor's chair, where he proved to be an able hand.

Gilmore ... I oppose nearly everything Gilmore stands for, but I think I could see myself voting for him depending on what he says during the election. Virginia needs somebody who understands the entire state, from Norfolk's ties to the Navy to Southside's labor issues to Northern Virginia's sprawl. I'm not sure that Davis would be that man.


<a href="http://rasmussenre... (Below threshold)






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