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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 26, 2004

Another Look at Taking Back the Senate

As I mentioned in an earlier article, Democrats have a difficult but very real chance of taking control of the U.S. Senate. The current split is 51 Republicans, 48 Democrats, and one Independent who votes with the Democrats (effectively 51-49 for our purposes).

To win control, the math gets a little tricky depending on whether Kerry or Bush win the presidency. If Bush wins, the Democrats need a net gain of two seats - if they only get one, the upper chamber will be evenly split and Vice President Cheney would be the tie-breaker.

But if Kerry wins, he'll need to relinquish his Senate seat. Normally, the Governor of Massachusetts would appoint his replacement, but the Governor is a Republican and the Democratically-dominated Massachusetts legislature wisely pushed through new legislation that requires the seat to remain vacant until a special election can be held in the spring. A Kerry victory would therefore drop the upper house to only 99 seats (at least until the spring), allowing a party with 50 members to have an outright majority. Democrats would still need a net gain of two seats to gain immediate control if Kerry wins. If they only get a net gain of one, the Republicans maintain control briefly until Kerry's replacement can be elected, which (assuming the replacement is a Democrat) would tie the chamber again and allow John Edwards to be the tie-breaking vote.


The Prospects

Democrats are currently defending 19 seats (including open seats formerly held by retiring Democrats), while Republicans are only defending 16. But the Dems have a legitimate chance of taking a few.

Political Party Not Up for Re-Election Current Polling Projections Projected Final Total
Republicans 36 13 49
Democrats 29 18 47
Independents 1 0 1
(toss-up) N/A 3 3
TOTAL 66 34 100

It comes down to three races that are currently tied, two held by retiring Democrats (in Florida and Louisiana), and one held by an incumbent Democrat (in South Dakota). But in addition, there are a number of races where one candidate's lead is so narrow that it could still go either way on election night.


State-by-State Polling

Twenty-five of the races are now all but over. In 23 of them, the incumbent is coasting to certain victory. (In fact, in Idaho the Democrats didn't even bother to field a challenger against the Republican incumbent, Michael Crapo.) Two of them involve open seats. In Illinois, Democrat Barack Obama is outpolling carpetbagger Alan Keyes 66% to 19% and is expected to be the first male African American senator in decades. He picks up a seat for the Democrats, but it's a wash because the Republicans are sure to pick up one in Georgia that is currently held by Zell Miller, who is a Democrat in name only.

That leaves nine seats that will determine control of the Senate. Incumbents running for re-election are marked in bold, and the nine battleground states are in yellow.

State Democratic Candidate Republican Candidate Democratic Polling Numbers Republican Polling Numbers
Alabama Wayne Sowell Richard Shelby 37% 63%
Alaska Tony Knowles Lisa Murkowski 47% 37%
Arizona Stuart Starsky John McCain 28% 69%
Arkansas Blanche Lincoln Jim Holt 57% 38%
California Barbara Boxer Bill Jones 53% 36%
Colorado Ken Salazar Pete Coors 51% 42%
Connecticut Chris Dodd Jack Orchulli 69% 24%
Florida Betty Castor Mel Martinez 47% 47%
Georgia Denise Majette Johnny Isakson 41% 55%
Hawaii Daniel Inouye Cam Cavasso 80% 18%
Idaho (no candidate) Michael Crapo - 100%
Illinois Barack Obama Alan Keyes 66% 19%
Indiana Evan Bayh Marvin Scott 66% 28%
Iowa Art Small Chuck Grassley 23% 63%
Kansas Lee Jones Sam Brownback 32% 66%
Kentucky Daniel Mongiardo Jim Bunning 43% 44%
Louisiana * special * David Vitter * special * 47%
Maryland Barbara Mikulski Edward Pipkin 61% 30%
Missouri Nancy Farmer Kit Bond 34% 59%
Nevada Harry Reid Richard Ziser 58% 32%
New Hampshire Doris Haddock Judd Gregg 26% 52%
New York Charles Schumer Howard Mills 61% 13%
North Carolina Erskine Bowles Richard Burr 50% 44%
North Dakota Byron Dorgan Mike Liffrig 65% 26%
Ohio Eric Fingerhut George Voinovich 34% 58%
Oklahoma Brad Carson Tom Coburn 38% 37%
Oregon Ron Wyden Al King 59% 36%
Pennsylvania Joe Hoeffel Arlen Spector 41% 48%
South Carolina Inez Tenenbaum Jim DeMint 44% 50%
South Dakota Tom Daschle John Thune 49% 49%
Utah Paul Van Dam Robert Bennett 19% 62%
Vermont Patrick Leahy Jack McMullen 67% 21%
Washington Patty Murray George Nethercutt 56% 38%
Wisconsin Russ Feingold Tim Michels 56% 53%


The Battleground States

Alaska - This state should have been in the bag for the Republicans, but when the former incumbent was elected Governor, he appointed his daughter to his seat, and independent-minded Alaskans aren't taking the nepotism too kindly. Her challenger, a former governor, has been leading but the race isn't over yet in this Republican-dominated state.

Colorado - This is a very tough race, and recent polls have seen the candidates bounce back and forth, usually by just a few points (though the latest poll has the Democrat ahead by a bigger margin). My gut tells me that the hidden margin of Kerry voters - the newly-registered Democrats and the younger cell-phone voters - will give both Kerry and Salazer a slim edge here.

Florida - Another bitter, ugly race that's currently tied. This one may go as with the presidency. If Democrats can successfully get out (and protect) the vote for Kerry, they could get this one for Castor as well. If Republican dirty tricks suppress or destroy votes, they could give it to Bush and Martinez.

Kentucky - Republican incumbent Jim Bunning should have run away with this, but he's been acting so erratic that there are serious speculations that he's suffering from Alzheimer's. Literally. He's currently one point ahead of his challenger, but well below 50%, which is bad news for an incumbent since undecided voters tend to go with the challenger. If the polls stay this way for another week, I predict the Democrats will pick this one up.

Louisiana - This race almost certainly won't be decided until December. Louisiana has a crazy and head-achey primary system that has resulted in one major Republican and two major Democrats running altogether with some lesser-party candidates. If Republican David Vitter doesn't get a majority of the vote (and he's currently polling 47%), he'll square off against the top vote-getter of the two Democrats in December. The Democrat has a better than 50/50 chance of winning in December.

North Carolina - The latest poll has Erskine Bowles ahead by six points, but most of the previous ones had the Republican, Richard Burr, ahead by four or five. It's too soon to know if the latest poll for Bowles is a trend or an aberation.

Oklahoma - Two assholes are vying for one seat, but the ass that would give the Democrats a majority is one point ahead in a race with 25% of the voters still undecided a week before election day. Another nail-biter.

Pennsylvania - Pennsylvania isn't flagged above, but I'm calling it out anyway. Arlen Spector leads his challenger, but still falls below 50%. He's had tough re-election races before. Kerry will take Pennsylvania next Tuesday; if his coat-tails are long enough, he just might pull Joe Hoeffel in with him. And that would be a surprise upset for the Republicans.

South Carolina - The Republican currently leads by six points, but this race has bounced back and forth so many times that it's still very competitive.

South Dakota - Republicans have wanted to unseat Tom Daschle, the Senate Minority Leader, for some time. The race has been tied for weeks, and that's bad news for the Democratic incumbent, especially in a state predicted to go for Bush substantially.


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