2008 U.S. Senate Races: Speculation and Commentary Thread #1

Amazingly enough, there are other races going on this year besides the Presidential nomination and general election contests. Weird, huh? :slight_smile:

So, how about them Senate races? The Dems currently hold 51 seats. The Holy Grail would be a filibuster-proof majority of 60 or more, which is unlikely this cycle, but there’s still an outside chance. If they get into the upper 50s this time, though, they’d have a very good shot at 60 in 2010, when the map favors the Dems again.

Here’s my current scorecard, based on a combination of (a) polling aggregated at Pollster.com (the Senate race links are about 1/3 of the way down the page), and (b) my own sense of what’s possible.



Virginia (open):        Gilmore (R) vs. Warner (D)		Dem
New Mexico (open):	Pearce/Wilson (R) vs. Udall (D)		Dem
Louisiana: 		Kennedy (R) vs. Landrieu (D-i)		Likely Dem
New Hampshire: 	        Sununu (R-i) vs. Shaheen (D)		Likely Dem
Colorado (open): 	Schaeffer (R) vs. Udall (D)		Lean Dem
Alaska: 		Stevens (R-i) vs. Begich (D)		Tossup
Minnesota: 		Coleman (R-i) vs. Franken (D)		Lean GOP
Mississippi (special): 	Wicker (R-i) vs. Musgrove (D)		Lean GOP
North Carolina: 	Dole (R-i) vs. Hagen (D)		Lean GOP
Oregon: 		Smith (R-i) vs. Merkley (D)		Lean GOP
Texas: 			Cornyn (R-i) vs. Noriega (D)		Lean GOP
Kentucky: 		McConnell (R-i) vs. Lunsford (D)	Likely GOP
Maine: 			Collins (R-i) vs. Allen (D)		Likely GOP
Nebraska (open): 	Johanns (R) vs. Kleeb (D)		GOP


I chose these 14 races because they’re the ones Pollster.com has the polling on. There are, IIRC, 35 Senate races this year, with the special elections in MS and WY, but most of them are pretty safe. Of the 14 listed above, all but Louisiana are currently GOP-held seats. So, for example, if the Dems win 6 of these 14, that’s a net gain of 5 Senate seats.

My best guess, right now, is that they’ll win 7 of these 14, +/-1, for a net pickup of 5-7 seats. That would put them at 56-58 seats, assuming Lieberman continues to caucus with the Dems.

The ‘i’ after party affiliation means ‘incumbent.’

Some non-exhaustive notes:

Virginia: no way Gilmore’s going to win.
New Mexico: Udall’s leading both rivals by about 25 points.
Nebraska: Former Gov. Johanns is quite popular in Nebraska. Kleeb might’ve had a chance against a weaker candidate, but he’s toast against Johanns.
Colorado: Schaffer’s had his problems lately (which haven’t had time to find their way into the polls yet), so I’m a bit more confident of this than ‘leans,’ but I’m still not ready to say ‘likely.’
Alaska: Ted Stevens is mired in a scandal, and has been running behind in the polls. But he also has a primary challenger, and if the challenger wins, it’s a whole new ballgame in heavily GOP-leaning Alaska. So ‘tossup’ is a short word for a bunch of possibilities.
Kentucky: a poll just came out showing McConnell trailing, though within the MOE. But it’s just one poll, and McConnell’s no pushover.
Maine: Allen seems to finally be getting some traction in his race to unseat Susan Collins, but her lead’s still in double digits.
The ‘Lean GOP’ races: a lot of within-the-MOE leads, and a lot of weak incumbents (but incumbents nonetheless) facing challengers of varying skill levels in states of varying political leanings. I’d bet on the Dems to pick up two of these five, but damned if I could tell you which two.

I’d lurve to see Al Franken in the Senate!

Wellstone’s Revenge! :smiley:

If nothing else, he’ll give us no end of precious, juicy, and highly original front-page soundbites!

One thing you could say about Wellstone is that he wasn’t a jerk. You can’t say that about Franken, so I wouldn’t consider him in the Senate anything of a replacement.

Al Franken is not a jerk. Al Franken is a smartass. Something almost as annoying, but not nearly so counterproductive.

Well, you’d have thought he was a jerk, given how much money and resources the GOP put into unseating him, and replacing him with Norm Coleman, who may very well be the only person on Earth that Garrison Keillor actually hates.

The one I’m watching most is Texas, with Sen Cornhole under threat from Noriega. Texas, the Saudi Arabia of America and home to the most extreme wahabbist capitalist sects, is changing, at long, long last. If Cornhole loses, you can be assured that the Pillars of Heaven have been shaken.

Deep in my heart of Texas, I can hear Molly Ivins chuckling. Rest, sweet sister, rest. We won’t. We promise.

Smartasses don’t blow off paying for their employees’ workers’ compensation.

:rolleyes: Is that all ya got? Franken admitted his mistake there and handled the whole thing with class, as related in this thread. Good luck getting any traction with that in November.

May I presume that my credentials as a smart-ass are unquestioned? Very well, then. Oftimes we of the community are negligent with details, too concerned with the eternal quest for the perfect snark. It is a failing, to be sure, but we trust it is a minor one.

I’ll believe it when I see it, myself. McConnell is vulnerable, but his best potential challengers decided to wait for the sure thing in 2010, when Jim Bunning either retires or just wanders off. Bruce Lunsford is a pretty lousy candidate, and yet he’s still within a few points. If Ben Chandler had decided to run this time McConnell would be toast.

McConnell has the money and muscle to fight hard, and Lunsford probably won’t be able to draw enough to fight it off. McConnell or no McConnell, Lunsford just isn’t the sort of candidate the netroots (and their dollars) will line up behind when there are other better races to support.

If McConnell has a “Macaca moment”, he could go down, but I really think that’s what it will take.

If Obama (as nominee) campaigns hard in Kentucky, endorsing Lunsford, does that help or hurt the Lunsford campaign? Just wondering.

I can’t blame Chandler for waiting for the easier opportunity, but…damn.

That’s your territory, so you know whereof you speak. I don’t know Kentucky or its politics at all, I must confess.

My general thought is that if 2008 is another Dem-wave year along the lines of 2006, most or all of those GOP leaners will go Dem. But my WAG is that it would take one big damn wave indeed to wash McConnell out of the Senate.

Just noticed that Chris Bowers has a Senate rundown. He’s a bit more optimistic than I am, putting MS in the tossup category, and KY and Maine as lean-GOP. While he and I aren’t that far apart overall, I think he got giddy off the fumes from that poll showing Lunsford ahead, while all that poll did for me was to move the race from entirely off the board, to likely GOP hold, and cause my too-good-to-be-true-ometer to give a couple of warning beeps.

As someone who actually lives in Minnesota, let me telly you, Franken isn’t nearly the jerk that Coleman is. Happily, I get to vote in this race and you don’t. :stuck_out_tongue:

Colorado is turning blue pretty quickly, and the Republicans went to the old well with Shaffer. Social conservative, bend over backwards to help big business get all the breaks, etc. He’s tied up with Jack Abramoff as well in the Northern Marianas stuff as well. He even suggested that we could bring that kind of guest worker program to Colorado!

He left Congress in 2002, so he doesn’t have the stench of Bush all over him.

Mark Udall has been a quietly effective Member of Congress since 1999. He co-chairs the House Renewable Energy Caucus and his first ad shows him standing in front of a windmill farm talking about alternatives. He picked the right issue to run on.

Shaffer’s strategy seems to be to insert the words “Boulder liberal” into every line of dialogue.

Udall has a slight lead, but I expect that to widen once a candidate is chosen. With the DNC in Denver and Udall’s cousin crushing in neighboring New Mexico, I expect Udall to win fairly handily. The Dems will spend a lot of money on this race. This used to be a Republican seat (Wayne Allard).

I’m going for 10 seats, maybe 11. Yes that would be a landslide, winning all the safe seats, all the leaning Dem, all the toss-ups, and taking out a fair chunk of the leaning GOPs. (Filibuster proof maybe. I gotta figure Lieberman is out so it is on the edge.)

But I am expecting GOP turn-out to be light and Dem turn-out, especially in previously solid red states, to be way higher than historic norms.

Which makes a point of his selling point: he’s one of the very few who vowed he would term-limit himself and stuck to it. It’s possible also that he may get some sympathy vote for getting stabbed in the back on the nomination for [del]governor[/del]Senator in 2006.

I’ll admit I’m out of touch after almost a year away, but I’d not be surprised if he keeps it close.

Some one-liners:

Alaska: In the last two election cycles, Tony Knowles (running for Senate in 2004, and Governor in 2006) underperformed compared to the expectations caused by polling. This election could answer a question: Is it that Knowles had problems as a candidate, or do Dems in Alaska overpoll?

Louisiana: The Republican candidate here was, until recently, not only a Democrat, but one whom was to the left of a good number of Louisiana Democrats. This could make things very interesting later on.

New Mexico: At the moment, expectations are for Steve Pearce to beat Heather Wilson in the Republican primary. Unless something happens here, that could be the one comment of interest to make.

Of states not already mentioned, New Jersey has a brace of hotly contested primaries going on that are of some interest.

As for predictions, I am currently expecting four seats to switch hands (VA, NM, CO, and NH), with MN and OR being plausible switches, and with NC as the most likely of the longshots.

Here is the Rassmussen poll that shows McConnell in deep doo-doo in Kentucky.

http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/election_20082/2008_senate_elections/kentucky/election_2008_kentucky_senate

Being a pessimist, I earlier predicted that the Democrats would make a net gain of two Senate seats in '08. Then again I also predicted a net gain of three House seats, and we’d already won that many in May.

I think that Minnesota is a lost cause. It would be fun to see Franken in office, particularly to see the look on Bill O’Reilly’s face, but Franken carries too much baggage. The Democrats should have chosen a more mainstream candidate.

I also don’t hold much hope for Kentucky. Mitch is a lean, mean, fund-raising machine with no moral scruples, who won’t hesitate to launch any desperate attack he can imagine. He’ll squeak through in the end. The good news is that the Republicans may spend a ton of money on that race, money which they can ill afford since they’re already behind in fundraising (for the first time in a generation).

The Alaska race is intriguing. The Democrats are also posting strong challenges in Oklahoma and Kansas.

These are the staid, calm, and sensible people who elected Jesse Ventura for Governor. I have lived amongst them. No, I don’t understand them.

If Ronald Reagan could be president, and Arnold Schwarzenegger can be governor of the seventh largest economy in the world, then why not Franken a senator in Minnesota? As much baggage as he has, he does know about public policy. But I agree he’s mouthed off a lot, and that doesn’t help at all.

Jesse Ventura, for all I know, didn’t say much at all before his political career.