Senate 2008: Pickup Opportunities Abound

We all know about the obvious Senate pickup opportunities in 2008. Colorado, what with its blue trend, wingnut Republican, and fully operational vast left wing conspiracy, is practically a Democratic lock. Oregon, a blue state with a Democrat already ahead in some polls and Smith facing a right-wing primary challenge, also looks pretty good depending on our candidate. Maine, with Tom Allen, Minnesota, with anyone, and New Hampshire with many candidates seeking to capitalize on 2006's huge Democratic wave in the granite state, are also very good possibilities. If we can get a candidate, New Mexico is looking up, too. If Hagel retires, even Nebraska might be on the table. Already, in late March of 2007, that is seven potentially strong challenges, with at least one pickup already strongly leaning in our direction.

However, as good as this all looks, the reality might be even better. The potential Senate wave is so deep that Democrats are starting to line up a series of strong challenges in the South. In Virginia, Democrats are on a roll, and Mark Warner could easily defeat John Warner. In North Carolina, Liddy Dole has become something of an outcast to the national Republican machinery after her horrible performance in 2006 as NRSC chair, and a revigorated Tar Heel Demoratic Party under Jerry Meek is heavily recruiting now that they see an opening. Even beyond those blue trending states, opportunities are starting to show up in Alabama, via Ron Sparks, Texas, with consistent sub-45% Cornyn approval ratings, and even Kentucky, where there is no candidate as of yet but still a lot of energy to defeat McConnell, whose approval ratings only hover around 50%. Even Oklahoma might be winnable, since Inhofe's approval rating sits at a rancid 41%.

What do Republicans have to counter this wave? Already, I have listed thirteen seats where Democrats can potentially mount a strong challenge, whereas Democrats only have to defend a total of twelve seats. The only seats where Republicans could even conceivably make pickups are Louisiana, Arkansas, South Dakota, Iowa, New Jersey and Montana, all of which are less likely to swing red than Colorado, Oregon, Minnesota, Maine and New Hampshire are to swing blue. With the possible exception of Louisiana, Democrats control every single top-tier Senate pickup opportunity, and still outnumber Republicans in terms of second-tier pickup opportunities.

I am simply blown away by just how good the Senate playing field looks for Democrats right now. A five seat pickup, for a total of 56 seats, appears to be an eminently reasonable goal. Fifty-six would be a fantastic number for a variety of reasons. First, it would be a larger Senate majority than Republicans ever gained during their time in power. Second, it would put the Senate right back to pre-1994 levels, thus entirely wiping out the so-called "Republican revolution" with the Democratic counter-reformation. Third, it would neuter Lieberman, making his protestations meaningless. Fourth, it would put Democrats within range of 60 votes for the 2010 elections, which would allow a Democratic President to pass universal health care (among many other things). Fifth, not only would it restore the Democratic majority to pre-1994 levels, it would do so with a relatively smaller percentage of conservative Dixiecrats, making it perhaps the first truly center-left Senate majority in history. Sixth, the remaining Republicans would, almost to a man, be total wingnuts, which would both trap Republicans in their extremist base and open the door to defections (Snowe, Sepcter) in the way our current, narrow majority does not.

2008 presents Democrats with one hell of an opportunity to secure a Democratic governing majority for a long time to come. There are of course, ways we could blow it, starting with an utterly crucial vote that will take place alter this afternoon. I will have more on that later. For now, just considering the chances we have before us, which hopefully will make our imperative to not blow it seem all the more important.

Tags: Senate 2008 (all tags)

Comments

17 Comments

Not quite so rosy

If Rehberg challenges Baucus it will be a dogfight.

Also if Jindal loses to Breaux, Landreiu will have to work.

Tim Johnson's health is an issue.

But everyone else is in decent shape.

Work hard, but stay bearish, lest we suffer a letdown on election night. Two seats would be gravy.

by niq 2007-03-27 09:54AM | 0 recs
Re: Not quite so rosy

Montana shouldn't be defense, it should be offense. Baucus needs a strong primary challenger and the framing needs to point out that in our current situation we are better off without him than with him as long as he keeps cutting deals with the White House to sell out Democrats (i.e. every domestic victory Bush has achieved).

by Bob Brigham 2007-03-27 10:38AM | 0 recs
Re: Not quite so rosy

If Rehberg challenges Baucus, we get Montana's at large House seat along with everything else.  Remember, Schweitzer will be on the ticket in 2008.

I wouldn't call Montana a blue state, exactly, but it's been getting harder and harder to call it red these days, with two Dem Senators, a Dem governor, Dems in most statewide offices and virtual ties in both houses of the legislature.

by admiralnaismith 2007-03-27 10:53AM | 0 recs
Re: Senate 2008: Pickup Opportunities Abound

It's a long way off, but if I had to venture a guess now, I'd say the Dems should pick up Colorado, Oregon, Minnesota, and New Hampshire for sure.  Probably one out of Maine, New Mexico, and Oklahoma, and one out of North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia.  That's 6 pickups.

On the GOP side, I think Louisiana is a pretty good pickup prospect for them, and they might squeeze one out of the others (most likely Montana or South Dakota, depending on Johnson's status).

That's a net 4-5 Democratic outcome for a very solid majority.  A lot depends on the state of the Presidential race, of course, too.  If Obama or someone else catches a real wave, 4-5 could easily turn into 7-8 since the GOP has so many more seats to defend, especially with pretty weak incumbents in deep red states like Inhofe and Cornyn that could get swept away in a wave.

by NJIndependent 2007-03-27 09:55AM | 0 recs
Re: Senate 2008: Pickup Opportunities Abound

I may be dreaming a long way off, but I also think that Texas is part of a growing Democratic majority in this country.

First, my impression is that the demographic trends mean it is a matter of time before Texas is a purple/battle ground state.

Second, it was the Rovean laboratory where the tactics of fear, personal intimidation, and take-no-prisoners partisanship were perfected.  Anyone remember Anne Richards?  We have seen the disastrous consequences this style of campaigning and governing have had for our nation.  Roveanism denies a distinction between campaigning and governing in the first place.  I feel it is just a matter of time before a more centrist style of governing returns to Texas, just like the nation at large.

Third, a national Democratic majority will be based, in part, on a realignment of middle class and working class Americans who return to voting on pocket book issues and not just on "family values" (very big quotes on that one).  This is a realignment which could significantly help Democrats in Texas.

Now, the big "if" is... are there the local leaders in the Democratic Party to step up and take advantage of these potential shifts?  Bill White in Houston has been floated as a potential statewide candidate but he may be too cautious to spend his political capital on what still appears to be a risky venture.  He also just might not be interested.

All this connects back to 2008 Senate races - I long hoped that there could be a major challenge to Sen. Cornyn, who I think replaced Sen. Santorum as the most obnoxious U.S. Senator.  If there was a good challenger I think that he could be added to the list of vulnerable incumbents, albeit low down on the list.  There may well be and frankly, I think that is what it takes now.

I long thought that the Democrats' secret weapon in 2008 would be healthcare, and in 2010/2012 it would be Texas.  Who could imagine a realignment that almost puts Walmart and SEIU on the same page?  Or that a bailout of General Motors would also be a boon to the working class?  When progressives, corporations, and working class folks unite behind something it can truly be powerful.  Does our party have the leadership to capitalize on that potential alliance?

Who would have thought at the height of the Republican majority that Texas would come back into play?  I think the cards are out there.

by rcipw 2007-03-27 10:02AM | 0 recs
agree

With the right candidate I think Texas could seriously be in play.  Particularly if Shrub self-destructs even further.

by Nina Katarina 2007-03-27 10:43AM | 0 recs
Re: Senate 2008: Pickup Opportunities Abound

Regarding 2008.

The following seats are safe from either Party.

Republicans-

1)Alabama-(Sessions)
2)Alaska-(Stevens)
3)Georgia-(Chambliss)
4)Idaho-(Craig)
5)Kansas-(Roberts)
6)Kentucky(McConnell)
7)Mississippi(Cochran)
8)Nebraska(Hagel)
9)Oklahoma(Inhofe)
10)South Carolina-(Graham)
11)Tennessee(Alexander)
12)Texas(Cornyn)
13)Virginia-(Warner)
14)Wyoming(Enzi)

Democrats
1)Arkansas-(Pryor)
2)Delaware-(Biden)
3)Illinios-(Durbin)
4)Iowa-(Harkin)
5)Massachusetts-(Kerry)
6)Michigan(Levin)
7)Montana-(Baucus)
8)New Jersey(Lautenberg)
9)Rhode Island(Reed)
10)West Virginia(Rockefeller)

Lousiana and South Dakota are two vulnerable Democratic held Senate Seats up for grabs.

Out of the two- South Dakota is likely to remain in Democratic column

In South Dakota- Their are plenty of top tier candidates on the Democratic side suppose Tim johnson decides to retire. (Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin. Tom Daschle. The only top tier candidate on the Republican side is Mike Rounds.

In Louisiana- The race is difficult to predict.

With regards to the vulnerable Republican seats.

The likely Democratic pickups
1) Colorado-(open-Allard)- Udall(D)defeats the likely GOP challenger- Bob Schaffer(R).

The vulnerable Republican seats that will go either way
1)Minnesota(Coleman) and New Hampshire(Sununu)-

DSCC involvement in Primary is needed in Minnesota and New Hampshire-
Minnesota(Ciresi prefered candidate)
New Hampshire(Marchand prefered candidate)

The surpise/potential defeats
Maine,New Mexico,North Carolina,Oregon.

Republicans will hold onto Maine and Oregon.

by CMBurns 2007-03-27 10:10AM | 0 recs
not as safe as you think

I'm an arguer, I've got to quibble.

Warner in VA is vulnerable, especially if our Warner decides he wants the Senate rather than the governor's mansion again.

Rumors about Craig's health and - er - preferences are swirling again.  If he defends the seat it's probably safe, but if he doesn't then there's a good chance for an upset.  I know, Idaho is red, but a contested primary... it could happen.

And "Tubes" Stevens is older than dirt.  So health might be an issue there, too.

We've got some elder statesmen on our side, as well, most notably Lautenberg.  He's retired from the Senate once already, and it would be good to have some names in mind in case he (or his energy level) decides it's time to retire again.

But that's a great list.

by Nina Katarina 2007-03-27 10:42AM | 0 recs
Re: not as safe as you think

Lautenberg should face a primary challenge if he doesn't retire.  NJ should be as safe as it'll ever be as an open race in 08.  There's no reason to re-elect someone who is 150 years old and retired already once when you can get someone in there instead who can hold the seat for 20 years, even if the winds change.

by NJIndependent 2007-03-27 11:22AM | 0 recs
Re: not as safe as you think

Hear, hear.  I'm all in favor of a Frank Pallone candidacy in NJ.

by arlaur 2007-03-28 06:31AM | 0 recs
Re: Senate 2008: Pickup Opportunities Abound

Seems to me, the thing to do right now is not to declare 2/3 of the Gooper-held seats "safe", but to recruit the strongest possible challengers in all 21.  

After the filing deadlines, maybe we winnow down the list a little. If, for example, it turns out Cochran's opponent is Yoknapatowpha County tax assessor Irving Milch, we could decide that maybe those resources could be better spent in a neighboring state with a better chance to win.  For now, we see if we can get a titan like AG Mike Moore to go for the seat.

Be bold. Suggest Freudenthal in Wyoming and Warner v. Warner in Virginia.  Draft Steven Colbert in South Carolina! (Heck, this is brainstorming time. Pigs might fly).

Remember in 2005 when everyone had DeWine and Allen on their absolutely safe incumbent lists?There are no safe GOP Senate seats. Not yet, anyhow.

by admiralnaismith 2007-03-27 11:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Senate 2008: Pickup Opportunities Abound

I agree. If trends hold, 2008 will be a great year to make inroads everywhere. Let's run a 33-state campaign for now. Strong progressive candidates can either win in 2008 or shift the storyline to make it easier to win later. With Bush doing his best to destroy the Republicans, now is the time to play offense and win big.

by RandomNonviolence 2007-03-27 11:48AM | 0 recs
Bowers...

just a warning that this is EXACTLY the kind of analysis you saw from Republicans in Jan/Feb 2005, about the veto-proof majority they were going to win.

Nose to the grindstone.

by Robert P 2007-03-27 10:16AM | 0 recs
Re: Senate 2008: Pickup Opportunities Abound

I think it's interesting to note that the class of 2004 was "supposed" to be a good Senate year for the Dems.  On the other hand, the 2006 class "favored" the Republicans.  In both cases the opposite turned out to be true.  It just gets so hard to predict this far out.

by rcipw 2007-03-27 10:45AM | 0 recs
Sexist!

Sixth, the remaining Republicans would, almost to a man, be total wingnuts

Misogynist oppressor! Kay Bailey Hutchison is every bit the wingnut of any man!

by BriVT 2007-03-27 10:47AM | 0 recs
First Center-Left Majority Since...

Reconstruction, really.  When the South seceded the predominantly conservative (i.e. pro-slavery, pro-planter, anti-small farmer) Democratic and Whig Reps. withdrew from Congress, thus allowing what one might call a rump caucus of pro-equality, pro-federal aid to education, pro-settler - free soil, free men, free labor - Republicans to make federal policy.  Had the GOP followed PA Rep. Thaddeus Stevens' recommendation to redistribute ex-slaveholder plantations to those who had worked them for generations, and then actually protected the Af-Am right to vote in the South, we could have had an enduring left-wing GOP.

Of course, as we all know, the bad guys won.  Thank God 150 years later we have the chance to reconstruct our own progressive majority!

And all you MyDD contributors out there: this post is precisely the cause of my incurable addiction to the site, not for the cheerleading but the capacious grasp of electoral politics.  Having grown up with the Left as social movement model, I'm loving the convergence of progressive politics and electoral strategy.  Big Ups.

by motherjones 2007-03-27 11:07AM | 0 recs
If we nominate Hillary none of this will happen

unfortunately.

by Populism2008 2007-03-27 01:19PM | 0 recs

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