Republicans’ Uphill Fight to Regain the Senate in 2008
In my morning-after election analysis, I noted that it would be very difficult for the Republicans to take the House back in 2008 but that the Senate was well within grasp if the GOP got their act together. I wrote that without actually breaking down the races, though. Chris Cillizza has and it does not bode well:
A cursory evaluation of the 2008 Senate playing field shows Democrats seemingly well-positioned to build on their 51-seat majority. Of the 33 seats up for reelection, just 12 are held by Democrats. And of those 12, only two Democratic incumbents received less than 54 percent of the vote in 2002 — Sens. Tim Johnson (S.D.) and Mary Landrieu (La.). Johnson took 50 percent in his victory over John Thune (who went on to beat Tom Daschle two years later), while Landrieu won a December runoff against Republican Suzie Haik Terrell with 52 percent of the vote.
Republicans must defend 22 seats and have more obvious vulnerabilities. At first glance, just three GOP senators — Norm Coleman (Minn.), John Sununu (N.H.) and Wayne Allard (Colo.) — look vulnerable, as each won in 2002 with less than 54 percent of the vote. But the complicating factor for Republicans is that there are a number of rumored retirements that may come before 2008, creating more open-seat opportunities for Democrats. GOP incumbents on the retirement watch list include Allard, as well as Thad Cochran (Miss.), Pete Domenici (N.M.), Chuck Hagel (Neb.), Jim Inhofe (Okla.) and John Warner (Va.).
The five close races from ’06 could go either way in ’08 depending on the candidates and the top of the ticket. That Landrieu has won two razor close elections and barely beat Terrell, one of the worst Senate nominees imaginable, is especially promising. Nor am I particularly worried about losing statewide in Mississippi, Nebraska, or Oklahoma.
Warner’s seat will be incredibly vulnerable, though. Virginia is getting bluer by the day as the DC exurbs of Northern Virginia continue to experience huge population growth. And popular former Governor Mark Warner would be an odds-on favorite if he choses to run.
The GOP had just about everything imaginable working against them this past election and just barely lost their majority. They might need just about everything imaginable going their way next time to win it back.