Kevin Drum correctly notes that the retirement of John Breaux–bringing to five the number of Senate Democrats not seeking re-election next year–likely ends any chance the Democrats had of retaking a majority in Congress “for a long time.”

As to the Executive Branch,

It’s possible that a Democrat can win the presidency without the South — Al Gore almost did it — but Congress is out of reach unless we’re at least competitive there. This is one among several reasons that I support Wesley Clark’s candidacy: I think he can help us win congressional races in the South. Howard Dean may have had the right idea with his pickups and Confederate flag remark, but Clark is the guy who can actually pull it off.

I’m not sure Clark could do it, either, but I agree that Dean can’t. Add to that the fact that, if Bush sweeps the South again, he’ll increase his advantage since that region has picked up several Electoral votes owing to the 2002 reapportionment.

As I noted yesterday, George W. Bush is seeking to make history: We haven’t had back-to-back presidents elected to two terms since Madison and Monroe.* If the Dean Express isn’t derailed, it’s looking like Madison and Monroe are about to be joined by Clinton and Bush.

*Indeed, they were part of a three-peat, since they followed Thomas Jefferson. Aside from that triumvarate, there have been no other back-to-backs in U.S. history.

Update: As Craig Henry notes in the comments, Lincoln and Grant were elected to consecutive back-to-back terms; unfortunately, an assassin’s bullet disqualified them since Andrew Johnson’s partial term split them. And, as I noted yesterday, FDR actually pulled this off three times by himself if we don’t require that it be two different presidents; I do.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2004
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. craig henry says:

    OK, it’s a nit, but Lincoln and Grant were each elected to two terms and their terms followed each other. If we don’t count them, then we won’t know Bush made history until January 2009. Plus, i hate to let an assasin “make” history by not counting that string.

  2. James Joyner says:

    An interesting point. But Grant followed Johnson, not Lincoln. Indeed, the Ike-JFK team would almost surely have been another example had JFK not been killed.

  3. John Lemon says:

    A GOP victory in LA (the state, not the city) is not a slam dunk thing. Democrats there tend to be a bit more conservative and there is a fairly strong Dem party organization there. Plus, NO (the city, not the thing you repeat incessantly to a four year old) can still be a relatively important player in elections there, and there is a strong Dem base there. I suggest he re-assess his gloomy prediction, or perhaps he is just trying to lull us conservative Republicans into a dangerous sense of security.

  4. Paul says:


    Everything you have said is 100% correct. (and quite insightful) BUT the Republicans’ chances are better than they look. Simply put, the Republicans are on fire over this election.

    (Junior Senator) Mary Landrieu came to power 7 years ago with thousands of dead voters making the difference. Last year she was losing the race until the final week when she started running ads saying that George Bush had a “super secret sugar import deal” with the President of Mexico and that her opponent knew about and did nothing to stop it.

    It was a complete (and rather bizarre) fabrication but enough people “weren’t gonna take the chance” and voted for Mary. The local newspaper was kind enough to run a story saying it was a lie 3 days after the election.

    In the Gov race last month, Blanco (D) was losing by 10 points in the final weeks of the election. Her opponent had SAVED the state’s medicare system from collapse. (Many Dem pols went to jail over a medicare scandal and the Feds threatened to cut us off if we did not fix it.) Jindal SAVED the system but in the final weeks Blanco ran ads saying Jindal was going to cut old people off medicare and (I freaking quote) “old people and women will die if he is elected.” (yes the ad said that)

    So to make the point, it ain’t a slam dunk… New Orleans is 80% black and they get their 5 dollars, a tee shirt and a hot dog to vote for the Democrat, so they do 90% of the time.

    But don’t ‘misunderestimate’ the motivation of the republicans in this state. Florida was not a winner for the Dems because they never had the moral high ground to begin with. [Unwarranted] Anger does not translate into votes.

    We’re pissed (and rightfully so) and many people think Louisiana will FINALLY elect its FIRST Republican Senator.
    Maybe I’m overly optimistic but this is the Republican’s race to lose.

  5. John Lemon says:

    Great points Paul. I’m counting on the folks down there! And I do think the GOP has a shot, but not as strong as Kevin Drum thinks.

    One thing that I would blog about, but since I’m not blogging anymore I won’t, is that the evangelical Christian base is really getting mobilized for this election. I think that is going to be a decisive factor in the coming election. It may help in LA (the state, not the city).

  6. Paul says:

    Very good point. They were very active in the Gov race but overpowered by the spin ultimately.


Donald Lambro puts some numbers to something most of us suspected:

The battle for control of the Senate next year has dramatically shifted in favor of Republicans because of Democratic retirements across the South and high-level White House recruiting.

Election analysts now believe that the Republicans will not only significantly expand their 51-48 Senate majority by two or three seats, and possibly more, but will strengthen the Republican Party’s growing political dominance in the Southern and border states for the remainder of this decade.

The 100th seat is held by a Democrat-leaning independent.

The senatorial lineup in the 13 Southern and border states currently stands at 19 Republicans and seven Democrats.


The four Senate Democrats who have announced they will not seek re-election are Sens. Zell Miller of Georgia, who says he will support Mr. Bush next year; presidential candidate John Edwards of North Carolina; Bob Graham of Florida, who abandoned his candidacy for the White House; and Ernest F. Hollings of South Carolina, who is ending his sixth term and a 38-year career in office.

They could be joined by a fifth Democrat, Sen. John B. Breaux of Louisiana, who has yet to say whether he will seek a fourth term amid widespread speculation that he will step down.


“If the Republicans win Senate seats in the Carolinas and Georgia next year (all quite possible), they’ll hold all of the U.S. Senate seats in seven contiguous Southern states starting in Virginia and stretching around to Mississippi,” elections analyst Stuart Rothenberg wrote in Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper.

Meanwhile, two Republican senators also have announced that they will not seek re-election: Sens. Don Nickles of Oklahoma and Peter G. Fitzgerald of Illinois, a heavily Democratic state.

Democratic strategists say that Mr. Fitzgerald’s seat is their best shot at a pickup next year, along with that of Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska Republican, who has been fighting charges of nepotism after her father, Gov. Frank H. Murkowski, appointed her to finish his unexpired term.

Lambro looks in detail at several races in the piece.

The GOP should indeed build on its majority, although it almost certainly won’t get to the 60 seats needed to be essentially filibuster proof. And, frankly, I almost hope Murkowski loses. Her father’s abuse of the governorship to appoint her to the Senate was despicable.

(Hat tip: Kevin McGeehee)

James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. McGehee says:

    Lisa has at least one GOP challenger, but I entertain no serious doubt that she’ll win the nomination. And I think it will take her making some serious mistake on her own to make her vulnerable, even to Knowles.

    The thing to remember about Knowles is, he won the governorship twice mainly because the Republicans turned on themselves in the 1994 and 1998 campaigns — nominating a candidate both times that alienated large swathes of the party faithful.

    I just don’t see that same dynamic occurring in this one, and without it I’m not sure Knowles is all that formidable.