A look at the Senate races

So with eight months to go, I figure it's time for an updated look at all the 2008 Senate races.  There are 35 seats up for election because of a scenario in Wyoming and Mississippi where both seats are up, due to the passing of Craig Thomas and the resignation of Trent Lott, respectively.  Now obviously, quite a few of the races are considered "safe" for the incumbent.  So I'll rank these in terms of tiers.  The top tier will be the races where there is a serious challenger to the incumbent (or at least the incumbent's party, in cases of retirement), where the party holding the seat has a real shot of switching.  The second tier are races that could become top tier races, but are not at this point.  Tier III are ones where a major event would need to happen for the seat to come into play.  And the safe seats?  Well, Mike Gravel has a better shot at winning the presidency than those incumbents have of losing their races.

Follow me below the fold for all the races.  Note: Some of this may seem repetitive, with information you already know.  That's because I originally wrote this for the Bruin Democrats, many of whom don't follow the national races like we do.  Consider this a primer for both newcomers and political junkies alike.

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Dems in Top Six Senate Races Outraise GOPers in Q4

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As of the end of the year, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee had about $16 million more in the bank than the National Republican Senatorial Committee, when debts and obligations are taken into account. While this might not be sufficient to ensure that the Democrats pick up seats in 2008, even in combination with the general sentiments in the country favoring the party, the fact that the Democratic candidates in the top-6 most competitive races are outraising their GOP opponents.

Democratic Senate candidates continued to trump their Republican counterparts in many key races around the country in the fourth quarter.

Financial reports show Democrats topped Republicans by hundreds of thousands of dollars in races in Colorado, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Virginia.

GOP incumbents held fast to money edges in other top races in Kentucky, Maine, North Carolina, Oregon and Texas.

Take a look through the numbers:

  • Virginia: Democrat Mark Warner raised $2.9 million to Republican Jim Gilmore's mere $350,000.
  • New Mexico: Democrat Tom Udall (with help from the netroots) brought in $1 million -- more than both of his two Republican competitors combined, with Heather Wilson taking $520,000 and Steve Pearce bringing in $430,000.
  • Colorado: Mark Udall, the presumptive Democratic nominee and cousin of Tom, nearly doubled the fundraising of his GOP competitor Bob Schaffer, $1.1 million to $670,000.
  • New Hampshire: In the rematch race between freshman Republican John Sununu and Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, the latter outraised the former $1.2 million to $920,000.
  • Minnesota: Democrat Al Franken's nearly $2 million haul bested that of incumbent Republican Senator Norm Coleman's $1.7 million.
  • Louisiana: Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu, the only Democratic incumbent theoretically vulnerable this cycle, doubled the fundraising effort of her GOP challenger John Kennedy, $1 million to $500,000. This is a particular embarrassment for the Republicans given that Kennedy is supposed to be their top challenger and is the focus of the party's efforts at putting the Democrats on defense in at least one Senate race.

We're not there yet. But it's sure looking like the Democrats have a very good shot at 56 seats -- or more (don't forget Mississippi, where former Democratic Governor Ronnie Musgrove has a great shot at winning in either a special election or general election this year) -- by the end of this cycle.

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NH-Sen: Shaheen Outraises Sununu in Q4

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In the New Hampshire Senate race, which is appears at this point to be the Democrats' third or fourth best pick-up opportunity this cycle, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen has outraised freshman Republican Senator John Sununu over the last three months, reports John DiStaso.

Sen. John Sununu was out-raised by former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen during the fourth quarter of 2007, but he entered this election year with three times the amount of money she has in the bank.

Sununu's year-end report shows he raised $921,626 from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31 and $4.5 million since he was elected in 2002. In the quarter, he raised $631,430 from individuals and $280,147 from political action committees. His campaign spent $225,198 during the quarter and has $3.42 million on hand.

Shaheen, who became a candidate last September, announced last week she raised $1.2 million during the quarter and has $1.15 million on hand.

Shaheen still has a way to go before she is able to catch up to Sununu in terms of cash-on-hand. Yet given the fact that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee holds a $17.3 million advantage over the National Republican Senatorial Committee (meaning that the Democrats potentially have more money and other resources to devote to the race than do the Republicans) and New Hampshire has clearly taken a turn towards the Democrats in recent years -- the state has a Democratic Governor and Democratic control over both chambers of its state legislature for the first time in over 130 years, and it has two Democrats representing it in the House of Representatives for the first time since 1915 -- I'm still decidedly of the opinion that this race leans, even if only slightly at this point, towards the Democrats.

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NH-Sen: Tuesday's Primary Numbers Bode Well for Democrats

Tuesday night was not only a big night in the race for the White House, it was also a big night in the race to extend the Democrats' narrowest of narrow majorities in the United States Senate.

Taking a look back through last night's numbers there are a lot of good omens for former New Hampshire Governor Jeanne Shaheen, the leading Democratic challenger to freshman Republican Senator John Sununu this cycle. Overall last night, about 280,000 voters participated in the Democratic presidential primary while roughly 230,000 voters participated in the Republican contest. This marked the first time in the modern era that more voters participated in the Democratic primary than the Republican one when both were contested.

It also marked a major swing from even just the 2006 midterms, which were also great for the Democrats. During that cycle, the Democrats gained the trifecta (the governorship and both chambers of the state legislature) for the first time since 1874, and also picked up both of the state's two congressional seats, the first election in which they had done so since 1912. Looking at the statewide, two-party vote for Congress, the two Democratic challengers racked up 209,434 votes compared with the 189,615 votes received by the Republican incumbents. Comparing these numbers with the numbers from last night, the Democrats got about one-third more votes in the presidential primary than they did in November 2006 while the Republicans got just about 21 percent more votes than they did in the prior election.

Breaking the turnout numbers into percentages, about 54.9 percent of those voting last night voted in the Democratic primary while just 45.1 percent voted in the Republican primary. This compares with the 52.5 percent to 47.5 percent pro-Democratic spread from the 2006 midterms, again suggesting significant more growth on the Democratic side than on the Republican side.

Looking now at the exit poll data, it looks like an estimated 123,000 or so independent voters participated in the Democratic primary last night. This number compares with the roughly 85,000 independent voters estimated to have participated in the Republican primary. Looking at these numbers as percentages, about 59.2 percent of independents voting last night did so in the Democratic primary while just 40.8 percent voted in the Republican primary.

Broad trends alone do not an election victory make. That said, the nation as a whole is less Republican-friendly than it was during the very Republican-friendly 2002 cycle, and New Hampshire is certainly more Democratic than it was that year -- and seemingly even more Democratic than it was during the very pro-Democratic cycle we saw in 2006. Again, this does not ensure a victory for Shaheen. Nevertheless, it does give her a great base upon which to run next fall and it gives the Democrats nationally a great opportunity in their effort to grow their majority in the Senate.

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NH-Sen: Bill Shaheen's Obama Stunt Hurting His Wife's Senate Run

The latest ARG poll of the New Hampshire senate race (558 RVs, Dec. 16-19, MOE +/- 4.2%) shows John Sununu pulling ahead of Jeanne Shaheen for the first time since Shaheen declared for the seat in September. Since ARG and Rasmussen polls showed Shaheen leading Sununu by 5% in September, Sununu has consistently been behind by double digits, but now the tables appear to have turned.

Shaheen (D) 41
Sununu (R) 52
Undecided 7

As you might expect, this result appears to be a direct consequence of Bill Shaheen's not so subtle attack on Barack Obama earlier this month that led to his stepping down as New Hampshire co-chair of Hillary Clinton's campaign.

From Congressional Quarterly:

The name "Shaheen" appeared in the national news just a few days before the poll was taken, but it wasn't Jeanne Shaheen that made the headlines. Her husband, longtime Democratic presidential strategist Bill Shaheen, announced Dec. 13 that he was quitting his co-chairman position on Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton 's presidential campaign after making comments about Barack Obama and drug use that evoked strong criticism.

Dick Bennett, president of American Research Group, told CQ Politics that he believes some poll respondents were influenced by the Shaheen flap because Democratic voters, especially those supporting Obama, may have negatively reacted to reminders that the Shaheen family has already signed on to Clinton's campaign.

Indeed, you look at the party breakdown of support for the two candidates and it certainly looks as though NH Democrats are punishing Shaheen for her husband's stunt. While 93% of Republicans say they support John Sununu, only 79% of Democrats support Shaheen and even 13% of Democrats say they'll support the Republican. This is in stark contrast to the 90% support Shaheen drew from New Hampshire Dems in the November Survey USA poll.

ARG president Dick Bennett warns that this result is likely a temporary aberration and that the race is likely to tighten once again, but it certainly sends a warning to Democrats not to take this race for granted and serves as a reminder to the presidential candidates and their surrogates as to just how much power, and with that, responsibility, they have when it comes to the down-ballot races in a presidential year. One of the knocks against Clinton is that her divisiveness and her potential to rally Republicans will hurt Democrats down ticket nationally; considering Bill Shaheen's connection to the Clinton campaign, this poll certainly does nothing to allay that fear.

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