Senate 2008: Pickup Opportunities Abound
by Chris Bowers, Tue Mar 27, 2007 at 09:42:28 AM EDT
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.