With a needless war in Iraq, a recession raging in America, health care costs exploding, and energy needs going unmet there is every reason to think that 2008 will be a good year for Democrats, from the White House down to the state legislatures. With the huge vote totals that will help usher Barack Obama into the White House, more Democratic U.S. Senators will also find a new job in Washington, D.C.
A brief look here at the battleground states where changes in the Senate might take place.
It is still too early to project the exact size of expected Democratic gains, but it will be a major surprise if Democrats fail to add at least three or four seats. The total of projected Democratic gains may well rise considerably, possibly five to seven, depending on the electoral conditions prevailing in the fall. The GOP’s only real hope in Senate contests is that John McCain wins the Presidency handily, generating coattail in some key match-ups. In any event, the Democrats currently seem unlikely to hit the magic number of 60 seats, needed to shut down filibusters. (That assumes all 60 Democrats would stick together on key votes. Good luck.)
As we noted in an earlier analysis, the Senate has changed party control six times: in 1980 (D to R), 1986 (R to D), 1994 (D to R), 2001 (R to D), 2002 (D to R), and 2006 (R to D). This is no longer a rare event. Still, 2008 is virtually certain not to generate a seventh such shift. Let’s go to the states and see why
Thirty-three regularly scheduled contests will take place in 2008, along with two special elections, in Mississippi and Wyoming. As usual, there are many contests that are not competitive. Of the 35 Senate seats on the ballot, the winning party for 24 of them seems set. Of these 24, 13 are Democratic and 11 are Republican. No doubt, two or three of these contests may become more competitive than expected as new events unfold in the summer and the general election. For example, in Texas, early polls have shown Sen. John Cornyn to be weak, though Texas’ statewide Republican majority still appears intact.
* New Hampshire: No state in the nation has moved so quickly from Republican to Democratic in party orientation. This is a state that intensely dislikes both President Bush and the Iraq War, and the feeling showed from top to bottom of the state’s 2006 elections. Freshman GOP Senator John Sununu has his hands full in a re-match with former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (D). Most major public and private polls show her ahead, some by a wide margin. Yet Senator John McCain is New Hampshire’s kind of Republican, and the state rescued McCain’s candidacy from oblivion in January. McCain’s nomination was the best news Sununu could have hoped for. Most of the other Republicans were sure losers in this state. Here is a contest where the incumbent senator’s fate is closely tied to McCain’s. Should McCain do well in the fall, the New Hampshire Senate contest could reverse course, but for now we’ll list this one as LEANS DEMOCRATIC (PICK-UP).