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Senate Outlook, 2004 Elections

Posted on 11/11/2002 12:23:29 PM PST by William McKinley

Edited on 11/11/2002 3:54:34 PM PST by Admin Moderator. [history]

While the dust has yet to settle on the 2002 elections, with a few races still not finalized and the Louisiana Senate seat held by Mary Landrieu being decided by a December runoff, it is not too early to look at the landscape for the 2004 Senate elections. Several characteristics of the landscape will favor the Republicans.

The Races


Republican Frank Murkowski won this seat in 1998 handily-- handily being quite the understatement, as he beat Democrat Joseph Sonneman by a margin over 58%. Murkowski will not be running in 2004, however, having traded in his Senate seat for the Governor's mansion. He will be appointing someone to fill his seat, and it is likely whoever gets the nod will face a stiff challenge from outgoing Alaska Governor Tony Knowles (who had won the Governorship with a similarly impressive 49% margin in 1998). Bush carried Alaska by 31%, however, and Republican Ted Stevens just won again by nearly 70%. Knowles would face an uphill battle, but he is the only hope the Democrats have. Leaning Republican if Knowles runs, otherwise Safe Republican.


Republican Richard Shelby won this seat in 1998 by a 26% margin. Fellow Republican Jeff Sessions just won the 2002 race for the other Alabama seat by nearly 19%. George Bush carried Alabama by 15%. Shelby will be 70 years old in 2004. This seat is likely to be maintained by the Republicans with little effort. Safe Republican.


This is a battle that will bear watching. Incumbent Democrat Blanche Lincoln won a solid, yet not overly so, victory in 1998, scoring 59% of the vote for a 14% margin. The other seat in Arkansas was just won by Democrat Mark Pryor, who benefitted from some personal problems for Tim Hutchinson, by a 8% margin. Arkansas went for George Bush in 2000, by just over 5%. Lincoln has to be considered the favorite in this race, although it is bound to be hotly contested. Leaning Democrat.


Senator McCain remains popular in his homestate, and will win again if he runs. Rumors abound that McCain will change parties, although with the Republican takeover of the Senate this appears to be quite unlikely. The dynamics of this race will change markedly if McCain, who will be 68 in 2004 and has been battling skin cancer for quite some time, is not a candidate. George W. Bush won Arizona by 7 points, but Arizona just elected a Democrat Governor, Janet Napolitano by a slim margin. Safe Republican with McCain, Leaning Republican without.


Barbara Boxer, bane of Conservatives, scored 55% of the vote in 1998, good enough for an 11 point victory. Her chances are bolstered by the current misfortunes of the California Republican party, which was unable to defeat rabidly unpopular Governor Gray Davis and which was unable to get George Bush within spitting distance of Al Gore; Gore won California by nearly 12 points. Strongly Leaning Democrat.


Ben Nighthorse Campbell, the popular Republican incumbent, will be 71 in 2004, and there is much speculation that he will retire. Democrats have been working hard to make Colorado more competitive; if Campbell does retire then the race will surely be closer than the 28% margin Campbell enjoyed. Fellow Republican Wayne Allard won reelection by over 5 points this past election cycle, and Bill Owens held the Governor's seat by over 20%. These margins, plus Bush's 8 point win in 2000, suggest that the Democrats still have some work to do. Safe Republican with Campbell, Strongly Leaning Republican without.


Democrat Chris Dodd handily won in 1998 with two thirds of the vote. While a Republican (John Rowland) just maintained his position as Governor of Connecticut, the state has been solidly Democrat in most regards over the past several election cycles. Safe Democrat.


Another election cycle, another opportunity for a Florida circus. Bob Graham, who will be 68 in 2004, was pretty popular when he ran in 1998. He won by a 25 point margin with 63% of the vote. However, Republicans believe that Graham is vulnerable, bolstered by the strong showing by Jeb Bush in his reelection campaign. Leaning Democrat.


Although Democrat Zell Miller won election in 2000, this seat will be up again in 2004 since that was a special election following the appointment of Miller in the aftermath of Paul Coverdell's death. Zell is very popular (58% of the vote, for a 20 point margin) but will be 72 in 2004, and if he gets frustrated with the Democrats coming leftward turn he may not run. If he does, he will win but continue to be a vote the Republicans can occasionally sway. If he doesn't run, then the seat has to be considered a strong pickup possibility for the Republicans, given the statewide triumphs they scored in 2000. Safe Democrat with Miller, Leaning Republican without.


When an incumbent can get over 80% of the vote, it is pretty safe to say that he has a lock on the seat if he runs. Democrat Daniel Inouye is a Hawaii institution, but will be 80 in 2004 and may decide to call it a career. Hawaii just elected a Republican Governor but is still a markedly Democrat state (Gore won by 18 points). Safe Democrat with Inouye, Strongly Leaning Democrat without.


Charles Grassley will be targetted by the Democrats considering that in the other Senate seat's race, the supposedly vulnerable Democrat Tom Harkin won by 10 points. However, Grassley didn't even sweat last time around, with well over two thirds of the vote and over 37 points of margin over his challenger. Considering that Gore barely carried Iowa, the Democrats are unlikely to topple the 71 year old Grassley, although it should be noted that both Harkin and Democrat Governor Vilsack carried healthy majorities in 2002. Strongly Leaning Republican.


Incumbent Mike Crapo should have little difficulty securing another term for the Republicans. He received over 70% of the vote in 1998 in this Republican stronghold. Safe Republican.


Probably the most vulnerable Republican Senator, Peter Fitzgerald won by under 3% of the vote in 1998 in a state which has been moving consistently towards the Democrats; in a night of Republican triumphs nationwide, Illinois went overwhelmingly towards the Democrats. Leaning Democrat.


Evan Bayh's name was thrown about as a potential 2000 running mate for Al Gore, and he had won comfortably in this Republican state (65% of the vote). The Republicans are likely to be more aggressive going after this seat in 2004, sensing that some of his votes while the Democrats were in the majority will give them ammunition. Given that Bush trounced Gore by 15% in 2000, it is likely this race will be considerably closer than in 1998, although Bayh still must be considered the favorite. Leaning Democrat.


Republican Sam Brownback drew over two thirds of the vote in 1998 in this strong Republican state. The Democrats did not even field a candidate for the other seat here against Pat Roberts, who had received less support in 1996 than Brownback did in 1998. Safe Republican.


One of the closest races in 1998 was the battle for this seat, which Republican Jim Bunning won by less than a percent. However, this time he will be running as an incumbent, and President Bush is very popular in Kentucky, which has been trending Republican in recent elections. Strongly Leaning Republican.


Democrat John Breaux is much more popular in the bayou than the endangered Mary Landrieu. While the Republicans will challenge, he will be less vulnerable to Bush's popularity due to the fact that he was strongly considered for a cabinet seat in the administration. This is Republican turf, but Breaux has found safe haven in the landscape anyway. Strongly Leaning Democrat.


Democrat Barbara Mikulski faced token opposition in 1998, and received over 70% of the vote in this strong Democrat state. Mikulski, 68 in 2004, will face more of a challenge this time in the wake of Kennedy-Townsend's defeat for Maryland Governor, but that would still be a longshot. Safe Democrat.


Missouri has been a battleground state for several elections, and the Democrats will make a run at knocking off Republican incumbent Kit Bond, who received less than 55% when he captured this seat in 1998 (a 9 point margin). However, Bond is considered to be a popular incumbent, and is likely to hold his position. Leaning Republican.

North Carolina

In the strange world of politics there can be some brain twisting paradoxes. Democrat John Edwards may be both one of the favorites to be the Democrat Presidential candidate in 2004, and one of the most vulnerable Senate incumbents. North Carolina is a battleground state with a Republican tint; the Democrats felt they could pick off Jesse Helms' seat but lost to Dole by double digits, and Gore fell to Bush by 13 points here. Edwards is not overly popular for an incumbent, and won by only 4 points in 1998 with barely 52% of the vote. If the Republicans can find a strong candidate here, this is a winnable seat for them. Leaning Democrat.

North Dakota

Democrat Byron Dorgan was not seriously challenged in 1998, and gathered nearly two thirds of the vote. Considering that Bush carried North Dakota by 28 points, the Republicans will be searching high and low for a worthy candidate to run. They may be able to make it a race, but it would definitely be an uphill battle. Strongly Leaning Democrat (and would be considered safe if not for how handily Bush won ND).

New Hampshire

While for a long time it appeared that the Republicans might lose one of their two New Hampshire Senate seats in 2002, John Sununu beat a very popular Democrat. As popular in New Hampshire as Sununu is, he is not as popular as the man who holds the other Senate seat, Judd Gregg. Gregg won over 70% of the vote in 1998, and should be able to beat whatever Democrat challenger comes his way. Strongly Leaning Republican.


If Fitzgerald is the most endangered Republican, meet Harry Reid, the Democrat with the largest bullseye on his chest. Reid won in 1998 by only 459 votes, barely over a tenth of a percent. Bush won the state by 4%, and the Republicans held the Governor's slot with a strong showing in 2002. Leaning Republican.

New York

Republicans have faced uphill climbs in New York in recent years. Despite this, Democrat Chuck Schumer may be vulnerable. He did not break 55% in 1998, winning the seat by less than 10%. He still is a strong favorite. That is, unless the Republicans convince Rudy Guiliani to run. At this point in time, Guiliani would have to be favored in any election against any other candidate except George Bush. Strongly Leaning Democrat without Guiliani, Strongly Leaning Republican with.


Former Governor George Voinovich may be less conservative than many Republicans, but he also has sufficient popularity to be considered a strong favorite to win in Ohio, a competitive state with Republican tendencies, much like North Carolina. He should be able to duplicate or improve on his 1998 showing of 56% of the vote. Strongly Leaning Republican.


Incumbent Republican Don Nickles garnered over two thirds of the vote in 1998, and after losing the Governor's race in 2002 the Oklahoma Republican party is unlikely to be complacent. Safe Republican.


Democrat Ron Wyden won relatively easily in 1998, and in this liberal state he appears positioned to repeat his victory. If the Republicans can convince Kevin Mannix to run, however, this could be an interesting race. Safe Democrat without Mannix, Leaning Democrat with.


Will Arlen Specter, who will be 74 in 2004, run again? If so, the inexplicably popular Scottish Law expert will hold the seat for the Republicans, who cannot be pleased with how well Democrats have been doing in recent elections. However, Governor-elect Ed Rendell won by a much smaller margin than had been predicted, despite his opponent running a horrible campaign. The Republicans have some talented (albeit moderate) candidates to run if Specter retires. Safe Republican with Specter, Leaning Republican without.

South Carolina

Rumor has it that the 80 year old Democrat incumbent Fritz Hollings will retire at the end of his term. Even if he doesn't, he will have a difficult time holding his seat in South Carolina, a state which has been trending more and more Republican each election. Hollings only secured 53% of the vote in 1998. Lindsey Graham just won an open seat in South Carolina for the Republicans by over 10 points, and George Bush carried South Carolina by 16 points. If Larry Sanders runs for the Democrats, he may start with some name recognition advantages, but this state appears ready to have two Republican Senators. Leaning Republican, regardless of what Hollings does.

South Dakota

Out of state Republicans find it difficult to believe, but Tom Daschle is popular in his home state. He won comfortably in 1998 with 63% of the vote, and his popularity (and the magic of mining for Indian Reservation votes) was enough to overcome the popularity of George Bush in this very Republican state. If Daschle runs, he will almost certainly win, even over the popular John Thune. However, it is quite possible that Daschle will decide to do something else, in which case this would be a surefire Republican pickup. Strongly Leaning Democrat with Daschle, Strongly Leaning Republican without.


With nearly two thirds of the vote in 1998, Republican Robert Bennett cruised to an easy victory in a state that the Democrats have shown no signs of life in for some time. Safe Republican.


Democrat Incumbent Patrick Leahy is despised by Republicans nationwide, but there aren't enough Republicans in Vermont to do much about it. Despite Douglass pulling an upset and giving the GOP the Governorship in Vermont, this state is clearly a Democrat stronghold, and Leahy might not even face stiff competition. Safe Democrat.


While Republicans generally face long odds on the left(wing) coast, Washington has been fairly competitive lately. Maria Cantwell won by under 2,300 votes in 2000, and Gore won Washington by only 5 points. This seat is held by Democrat Patty Murray, who took 58% of the vote for a comfortable 17 point win. If the Republicans can find a decent candidate, they can make this race a lot closer than that. Even so, Murray is the favorite. Strongly Leaning Democrat.


Russ Feingold acheived much fame with the Campaign Finance Reform bill which he co-sponsored with John McCain, and as such many consider him to be safer than he actually is. He won his seat in 1998 with only 51% of the vote (a 2 point margin) and Wisconsin is a state which has been very competitive between the parties in the last few elections. As the incumbent, he is the favorite, but given the strains that have been developing between the Democrats' Jewish and black factions, and given his soft numbers from 1998, he will face a strong challenge. Leaning Democrat.


I predict, depending upon who runs, there to be between 5-9 seats Safely Repubican, and between 3-6 seats Safely Democrat. Both parties will have between 4-7 seats Strongly Leaning their direction. The Republicans will have between 3-7 races Leaning their way, while the Democrats will have either 6 or 7 races Leaning their way. Those numbers by themselves would portend some gains by the Republicans, although a race-by-race analysis indicates that may be overstating the Republican chances.

Excluding the nine races where I suggested who runs will impact the categorization of the race to change, I have it as 5 Safe Republican seats to 3 Safe Democrat seats, 4 Strongly Leaning Republican Seats to 4 Strongly Leaning Democrat seats, and 3 Leaning Republican Seats to 6 Leaning Democrat seats. Of the nine excluded races, I have four that I have in the Republican column regardless (one of which at a minimum remains Strongly Leaning) and two that remain in the Democrat column (one of which also is a minimum of Strongly Leaning). Categorizing those six races in their most competitive position yields 5 Safe Republican seats to 3 Safe Democrat seats, 5 Strongly Leaning Republican seats to 5 Strongly Leaning Democrat seats, and 6 Leaning Republican seats to 7 Leaning Democrat seats.

The remaining three races include two that I do not see as being all that close, but which party will win depends on the decisions of two high-profile candidates; both of these races are in seats currently held by Democrats. Rudy Guiliani can win a seat away from the Democrats if he decides to run, and Tom Daschle can prevent a Republican gain by deciding to stay in the Senate. I consider both of these to be likely scenerios. Assuming both of these men to be running, then the races that I predict will not be overly competitive fall as 11 for the Republicans, 9 for the Democrats.

That leaves the remaining 14 races. Zell Miller in Georgia will likely decide one of those races. The remaining 13 will determine the fate of the Senate. The battlegrounds for 2004 have been set, and most of the swinging will likely take place in Alaska, Arizona, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Nevada, South Carolina, and Wisconsin. As the Democrats need to pretty much sweep all these races in order to make any Senate gains, it looks at this juncture like the Republicans are set to gain between 3 to 7 seats; unless, of course, circumstances unforeseen markedly change the political landscape by 2004-- and in politics, the unforeseen is almost likely to occur.

TOPICS: Politics/Elections; US: North Carolina; Your Opinion/Questions
KEYWORDS: 2004senate; edwardswatch; northcarolina; oldnorthstate
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Obviously, these are merely my opinions.
1 posted on 11/11/2002 12:23:29 PM PST by William McKinley
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To: William McKinley
good overview and much appreciated
2 posted on 11/11/2002 12:30:46 PM PST by KC Burke
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To: William McKinley
In all probability the generally Republican state of Indiana will go very heavily for Democrat Bayh [unfortuately].
3 posted on 11/11/2002 12:39:24 PM PST by curmudgeonII
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To: curmudgeonII; KC Burke
Thanks KC Burke, I appreciate it.

CurmudgeonII, I tend to think you are right, which is why I put it in the "Leaning" category. I tried to put races in the "Leaning" category if I believe one of two things: 1) the margin of victory is going to be less than 10% AND the person I think will win is not in the same party that the state trends, or 2) I believe that the race has enough uncertainty that I could picture it going to other way, even if I think the margin of victory might be greater than 10 points. I put Bayh into the first category here. I think he will likely win, but I think it will be within 10 points and I think the state favors Republicans.

4 posted on 11/11/2002 12:44:02 PM PST by William McKinley
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To: William McKinley
Excellent analysis.

I would add only three points.

1. If Bayh runs in Indiana, move it to strongly leaning RAT. The GOP doesn't have a candidate groomed to make a strong run at him.

2. In Florida, I think there is a reasonable chance that Bob Graham will retire. If he does, this one leans GOP.

3. In North Dakota, there is talk that Ed Shafer will run. If he does, I would move this race to a toss-up.

5 posted on 11/11/2002 12:53:28 PM PST by comebacknewt
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To: William McKinley
Too pessimistic on Peter Fitzgerald in Illinois. He will be re-elected.

Key races will include NC; SC; FL if Graham retires; and several others.

It's very early.
6 posted on 11/11/2002 12:53:35 PM PST by mwl1
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To: comebacknewt
Agreed with you on Florida and Graham.

I don't know much about Ed Shafer. Can you fill me in?

I guess I am in the minority when it comes to Bayh. I really think he has damaged himself in the past two years. I could very well be mistaken.

7 posted on 11/11/2002 12:58:54 PM PST by William McKinley
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To: William McKinley
When it comes to competitions I subscribe to the "Captain Kirk" philosophy of life. In a nutshell, there is no such thing as a no win situation. Therefore, we will hand Barbara Boxer her ass on a platter in 2K4, particularly after 2 more years of Davis taxes and Pelosi shrewing it up in congress.

8 posted on 11/11/2002 1:02:05 PM PST by Axenolith
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To: William McKinley
I like Fitzgerald in Illinois, but we'll see who the Democrats put up. The Democrats swept the state this last election, and one big resason for that was the scandals within the GOP officeholders. Some of it was the "bribes for licenses" scandals that occurred under George Ryan's watch in the Secretary of State office, but there's others as well; the State GOP Chairman had to resign his chairmanship when it was found that he was using the taxpayer-paid staff in his State House office (he was also the state's House Majority Leader) for political party work. All in all, there's likely to be a pretty big parade of GOP defendants though the courts and the jails over the next two years. Depending on how big, it could have an impact in 2004.

The one big thing going there for Fitzgerald, though, is that he's appointed the U.S. Attorneys that are chasing all this down. So he can say he's got clean hands and is doing his bit to clean up the mess. He wasn't a member of the regular GOP structure, and in fact they opposed his candidacy for the Senate. It's an example of a wealthy man funding his own campaign, and unlike most, he actually won.

The GOP would have the knives out for him, but they've got other problems now; the Democrats now hold both houses of the state legislature and the Governorship and all but one of the other State Constitutionally mandated offices.
9 posted on 11/11/2002 1:04:59 PM PST by RonF
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To: RonF
I like Fitzgerald too. Saying who I want to win is very different than saying who I think will win. Incumbency will help. The trend of the state will hurt. The distance he can put between himself and the corruption in the state Republicans will help. Trying to run without the support of the state party will hurt-- but obviously he has done it before.

I hope he can win, but I think if he does win it will be a competitive race, and as such it belongs in a "Leaning" designation and should be considered one of the battlegrounds. IMO.

10 posted on 11/11/2002 1:08:21 PM PST by William McKinley
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To: William McKinley
California Strategery: talk up Green Party. Bitch and moan in Birkenstock stores and Bay Area coffee houses about Boxer being a "sellout to the Oil and War Party." (If you can suggest that she's an Israeli sock puppet in a PC manner, so much the better.)
11 posted on 11/11/2002 1:11:55 PM PST by Poohbah
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To: William McKinley
I agree that at this point Fitzgerald should be favored, and with your "leaning Republican" label. I just wanted to share with the list some of the details about complicating factors in Illinois. Illinois seems to like having one Republican and one Democratic senator. It reflects the split between Chicago and Downstate, with the 'burbs split, but how it keeps working out that way is beyond me.
12 posted on 11/11/2002 1:12:49 PM PST by RonF
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To: William McKinley
Ed Shafer is a popular Ex-Governor of ND. He would give Dorgan a very strong run IMHO.

Living in Indiana, my impression is that most voters here consider Bayh a moderate. As Governor, his policies were fairly moderate -- in large part because Republicans controlled the legislature in Indiana.

Since he has moved to DC, Bayh has become a reliable liberal vote. Unfortunately, most people here still have a very favorable impression of Bayh, and I don't see a GOP candidate on the horizon that can get the voters excited enough to turn him out.

13 posted on 11/11/2002 1:16:37 PM PST by comebacknewt
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To: comebacknewt
I agree with combacknewt regarding Bayh's chances in Indiana. The Republican's don't have anyone strong enough to run against Bayh. The Bayh family in Indiana has strong political roots. Actually, Evan Bayh's father was beaten out of office by Dan Quayle.

Evan Bayh is good at portraying himself as a moderate, though he will support the democrat cause when necessary. Indiana is generally a conservative state, so he will act bipartisan when it won't make a difference. As governor, he tried to pass a huge tax and spending hike bill. Fortunately, the Republican congress vetoed it. Bayh whined and complained saying that the state would have huge deficits. Guess what--they had a huge surplus. Not surprisingly, he ran for senate on the platform that Indiana had a big surplus, and that he didn't have to raise taxes to do it.

It will be very interesting to see if he moves more to the left as the Democrats believe it is in their best interests. Anyway, Bayh is in no danger of losing his position. Unfortunately, he has duped a lot of Hoosiers into thinking he's a moderate. However, if he is forced to move far left, things could change. But don't expect it. Hoosiers will turn a blind eye to it unless it gets really bad. Unfortunately, I'd change Indiana to a strongly leaning RAT.

14 posted on 11/11/2002 1:17:11 PM PST by trackman
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To: William McKinley
Thanks for your analysis.


15 posted on 11/11/2002 1:24:06 PM PST by Freebird Forever
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To: comebacknewt
Thanks for the information about Shafer. That would be nice.
16 posted on 11/11/2002 1:24:40 PM PST by William McKinley
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To: Freebird Forever
You are welcome.
17 posted on 11/11/2002 1:26:12 PM PST by William McKinley
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To: William McKinley
Didn't they just pass a law in SD that would prevent Dash-hole from running for both President and Senate at the same time?
18 posted on 11/11/2002 1:30:46 PM PST by RetiredArmy
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To: RetiredArmy
Yes. I believe so.
19 posted on 11/11/2002 1:31:10 PM PST by William McKinley
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To: William McKinley
Southernnorthcarolina, from his perch practically on the state line, is already looking forward to the 2004 races in both Carolinas, even while continuing to enjoy the 2002 results. I am optimistic with respect to both venues, even if the Democrat incumbents seek re-election.

Unless our world looks very different 20-24 months from now, having Dubya at the top of the ticket will be a powerful boost to the Republicans all the way down the ticket in both states. Not only the U.S. Senate races in the two states, but the NC Governor's race, and the State House and State Senate races in both states. The GOP already controls the SC Senate and House, and the NC House, and is within striking distance in the NC Senate.

The vicious circle down here in the South has been broken -- the one that allowed Dems to continue to win down-ballot contests even while the GOP mopped up at the Presidential level. Until the last couple of elections, a lot of conservatives persisted in voting Democrat at the State and local levels because the Dems were likely to win, and possess the influence. And of course, the Dems kept winning because people voted for them. That sounds ludicrously obvious, but think about it. Once the GOP is perceived to have a legitimate chance to become the majority party in, say, a State legislature anywhere in the South, there is a strong momentum toward them.

But as far as the U.S. Senate races in NC and SC are concerned: I think Congressman Richard Burr of Winston-Salem will take out Edwards, who is only making Presidential noises to keep his name in front of NC voters. And Congressman Jim DeMint of Greenville will take out Senator Foghorn Leghorn, or scare him into retirement.

Things are lookin' good down here.

20 posted on 11/11/2002 1:32:36 PM PST by southernnorthcarolina
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