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16-Dec-2004 - My Year of Living Dangerously

25-Nov-2004 - Corporate Support for Republicans

24-Nov-2004 - Seventy!

12-Nov-2004 - Quick Update

1-Nov-2004 - Election Eve News

1-Nov-2004 - Endorsement

1-Nov-2004 - Latest Polls

31-Oct-2004 - Words of Encouragement

31-Oct-2004 - Vote for Kerry Even in Safe States

31-Oct-2004 - Halloween Election News

30-Oct-2004 - Today's Political News

29-Oct-2004 - Political News of the Day

28-Oct-2004 - John Kerry's Historic Endorsements

28-Oct-2004 - 25 Years Combating LGBT Violence

28-Oct-2004 - Daily Political Updates

28-Oct-2004 - How You Can Protect Your Right to Vote

27-Oct-2004 - The Last Straw

27-Oct-2004 - Conservative Quotes for Kerry

27-Oct-2004 - Breaking Political News

27-Oct-2004 - Notable Quotes, Volume 5

26-Oct-2004 - Another Look at Taking Back the Senate

26-Oct-2004 - Breaking News of the Day

25-Oct-2005 - Breaking Political News of the Day

24-Oct-2004 - Can the Democrats Regain the House?

23-Oct-2004 - Early Voting Trends

23-Oct-2004 - Bits and Pieces, Volume 4

22-Oct-2004 - Bush OKs New Corporate Tax Cut

22-Oct-2004 - Beware Fox News and MSNBC

21-Oct-2004 - Gymnast Paul Hamm Gets to Keep Gold

20-Oct-2004 - Notable Quotes, Volume 4

20-Oct-2004 - Bits and Pieces, Volume 3

19-Oct-2004 - Movies Released in 2004

18-Oct-2004 - Bits and Pieces, Volume 2

18-Oct-2004 - The Crystal Prison

17-Oct-2004 - What If There's a Tie?

16-Oct-2004 - Notable Quotes, Volume 3

15-Oct-2004 - Endorsements for John Kerry

13-Oct-2004 - Notable Quotes, Volume 2

13-Oct-2004 - Bits and Pieces, Volume 1

12-Oct-2004 - Ranked Choice Voting Hits San Francisco

7-Oct-2004 - Notable Quotes, Volume 1

7-Oct-2004 - Prince Adares Shows Signs of Royal Affinity

7-Oct-2004 - Controlling the U.S. Senate

7-Oct-2004 - Key Battleground States

6-Oct-2004 - Democratic Hopes for the 2004 Elections

6-Oct-2004 - Welcome to The Imperial Gazette

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October 7, 2004

Controlling the U.S. Senate

Republicans have controlled both houses of Congress since their "Contract on America" allowed them to wrest control in 1994. While few pundits give the Democrats much of a chance for taking back the House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate may be another matter entirely.

Republicans currently command a very slim majority in the U.S. Senate, which now has 51 Republicans, 48 Democrats, and one independent that votes with the Democrats for organizational purposes. Democrats can force a tie if they pick up a net gain of just one more seat; if John Kerry wins, his vice president John Edwards would be the tie-breaking vote, putting the Democrats in control.

Control of the Senate will be key for a variety of reasons, but one of the most important may be the Judiciary. The President, with the advice and consent of the Senate, appoints Federal judges who serve for life. Federal appellate court judges have an enormous and hidden impact on governance (and Republicans who claim that they oppose activist judges really mean that they oppose them unless they are reactionary activists). But even more importantly, the next president will very likely have the opportunity to name at least three new members to the U.S. Supreme Court. With may decisions - especially those affecting the right to privacy like abortion and gay rights - decided by 5-4 decisions, the next court could well reshape the entire judicial landscape for decades.

But unless John Kerry wins and has enough coattails to help his fellow party members in tough races, this may be easier said than done. Thirty-four states are electing Senators this year. Of these, 19 are currently controlled by Democrats and 15 are controlled by Republicans.

 

The Safe States

According to Electoral-Vote.com, which has a much more detailed analysis of the Senate races than I will attempt to duplicate, 21 states are currently considered "safe" for the current incumbant. This includes 12 states currently held by Democrats (including Barbara Boxer in California, Daniel Inouye in Hawaii, Charles Schumer in New York, and Patty Murray in Washington), plus nine states controlled by Republicans (including John McCain in Arizona and George Voinovich in Ohio).

That leaves 13 states where the political parties will be duking it out for control of the Senate.

 

The Battleground States

Electoral-vote.com's analysis provides the best state-by-state assessment of what's likely to happen in the battleground states.

On the Democratic side, five popular (but conservative) Senators in southern states are retiring. The Democrats will almost certainly lose in Georgia and South Carolina (but the Georgian Senator was Zell Miller, so really, what's the difference?), but have a chance to hold on to North Carolina and Florida. Louisiana will be much more complicated since multiple candidates from each party run. A run-off in December is likely, and the Democrats have a decent chance to hold onto the seat after the run-off. Incumbant Democrats are also pretty vulnerable in South Dakota and Nevada.

On the Republican side, they have a chance of losing Colorado, where former-Democrat-turned-Republican Ben Nighthorse Campbell is retiring. The Democrat, Ken Salazar, currently has a narrow lead over Coors Beer scion Pete Coors. And in Alaska (a state where Al Gore only got 27% of the vote), appointed incumbent Lisa Murkowski is likely to lose her re-election bid. The problem? She was appointed when the previous incumbent was elected Governor and had to choose a replacement. Lucky for Lisa, he happened to be her father, a move that even struck a sour note with even conservative voters. And in Illinois, Barack Obama is expectedly to trounce carpet-bagger Alan Keyes to pick up this state for the Democrats from the retiring Republican. Republican incumbents are also considered to be vulnerable in Missouri and Pennsylvania.

 

The Bottom Line

I predict that if Kerry finishes strong, regardless whether he wins or loses, the Democrats will hang onto their seats in South Dakota and Nevada. They'll definitely pick up Illinois, and I predict they will pick up Alaska, too. But they will also lose Georgia and South Carolina. The Republicans will probably hold onto Missouri but could well lose Pennsylvania if Kerry does well there (the state has now shifted back to "leans Kerry"). That leaves Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Oklahoma. Democrats have to win in almost all of these states to regain control of the Senate.

 

The Massachusetts Factor

If John Kerry is elected president, he will obviously have to resign his Senate seat before taking office on January 20th. In most states, the Governor would then appoint a replacement to serve until the next regular election. The problem is that the current Governor is a Republican, and that naturally made the Democrat-controlled legislature uneasy. So a new law was forced through that requires that Senate vacancies remain vacant until an emergency special election can be held.

Here's where it becomes tricky. If Kerry wins the presidency and the Democrats have a net gain of one seat, there's a tie (50 Republicans, 49 Democrats, and one independent who will vote with the Democrats). That would normally be fine for Democrats, because John Edwards could then break the tie. But John Kerry would have to resign and his seat would be vacant for a few months, putting Republicans in control: 50-48-1. John Edwards wouldn't get a tie-breaking vote until the spring, when the Democrats will almost certainly regain Massachusetts.

 

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