Skip to comments.2004 Senate Update (Predictions for '04 Senate Races)
Posted on 04/17/2003 11:08:07 AM PDT by NYC Republican
2004 Senate Update
Now that the Iraq situation is stabilizing somewhat, it's time for another 2004 Senate analysis. I'm going to cover all the important races so that you don't have to read my previous updates.
With Bush at the top of the ticket in 2004 and a gerrymandered House Republican majority that will endure, barring a meteor strike, the Senate is the key battleground in 2004. The GOP has a genuine opportunity to get a filibuster-proof majority for the first time since the Great Depression.
The Senate playing field in general favors the GOP because:
1. The Senate should be rightfully Republican. Bush won 30 states in 2000 and, if each of them elected two GOP senators, Republicans would enjoy a 60-40 advantage in the Senate. Senate races have been getting increasingly ideological in the last few election cycles; so the GOP's odds are looking better and better in Bush states. Note also that most of the closely decided states in 2000 were won by Gore. Republican candidates will be competitive in these states as well.
2. More Democrats than Republicans are up for election in 2004. Out of 19 Democrats, 10 are from states that Bush won in 2000. Out of 15 Republicans, only 3 are from states that Gore won in 2000.
3. 2004 is a presidential election year, in which ideology will matter and the top of the ticket will matter. I'd expect President Bush to be a strong candidate for re-election and also help with fund-raising for GOP candidates, like he did in 2002.
4. Democratic hatred of President Bush is forcing "moderate" Democrats up for re-election in 2004 to take up a much more hardline position than they'd like to. Their controversial votes in the Senate over the next two years will provide ample fodder for GOP campaign ads.
I'll be "conservative" and make Republicans seem more vulnerable than they really are, and Democrats stronger than they really are. With that in mind, here's what the outlook is like:
1. Peter Fitzgerald (IL) - Fitzgerald would likely have lost his seat in 2004 if he'd decided to run. Instead, he's decided not to run. The Democrats will likely pick up this seat (Illinois has been trending Democratic and Gore won by 12 points in 2000.) If Republicans recruit former Governor Jim Edgar, they might stand a fair chance; but that looks unlikely at this point.
2. Lisa Murkowski (D-AK) - Murkowski was appointed by her father to fill out his Senate term when he was elected governor in 2002. She may have to face a tough primary because she's not considered conservative enough. In the general election, though, the only Democrat who could give the Republicans a run for their money is former Governor Tony Knowles. Even so this seat is likely going to remain Republican.
3. Arlen Specter (PA) - "Scottish Law" Specter has a very low ACU rating and even helped "Bork" Robert Bork. He is facing a well-funded primary challenge from GOP Congressman and Club For Growth prodigy Pat Toomey. Specter's voting record has become much more conservative since Toomey announced his challenge; this is going to be an interesting race to watch. And don't fret about Toomey being too conservative to win in the general election. He's a superb candidate, like Pennsylvania's other senator, Rick Santorum, and will be able to win swing voters.
4. John McCain (AZ) - A lot of ticked-off conservatives will make sure McCain gets a tough primary from a genuine conservative like Club For Growth protege Jeff Flake.
5. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (CO) - Will Campbell retire? It's looking like he'll probably stay on and sleep-walk to victory.
6. Jim Bunning (KY) - Bunning looked vulnerable before, but looks much safer now because his best potential challenger, governor Paul Patton, couldn't keep it in his pants.
1. Zell Miller (GA) - As I predicted, Zell Miller is retiring. Republicans will likely pick up this seat; it's just a question of which candidate will be nominated. I'd prefer a genuine conservative like Congressman Jack Kingston to a mushy moderate like Congressman Johnny Isaakson. Isaakson is running, but Kingston and other conservatives are, surprisingly, yet to throw their hats into the ring.
2. Fritz Hollings (SC) - Whether Hollings retires or not, the GOP is likely to pick up this seat. Hollings, who will be 82 in 2004, just might retire and make this even easier for the GOP. His intentions are as vague as ever; but Republican Congressman Jim DeMint is already running and will give Hollings a high hurdle to jump.
3. Blanche Lincoln (AR) - Popular governor Mike Huckabee can probably take out lightweight Lincoln. Sources say he's getting ready to run. Popular former congressman and current DEA Administrator Asa Hutchinson has been making trips to Arkansas, stroking speculation that he might run for the Senate in 2004. Either of these GOPers would prove a major headache for Lincoln.
4. Harry Reid (NV) - Senate Democratic Whip Harry Reid always wins his seat by tiny margins. GOP Rep. Jim Gibbons is gearing up to challenge him in 2004 and he'll probably face another tough re-election fight. Having Bush at the top of the ticket just might be enough to tip the scales against him.
5. Tom Daschle (SD) - Losing 2002 GOP candidate John Thune is looking increasingly to run (as a contributor to his 2002 campaign, I just got a letter asking for contributions for a new group he's starting, which looks like a jumping-off point for a 2004 run.) If Thune runs, this race will be a tossup, thanks to Daschle's outrageous comments and the fact that he's no longer Senate Majority Leader. Daschle will have to spend time and money on his own race, rather than helping other Democrats.
5. Chuck Schumer (NY) - Republicans will take back Al D'Amato's seat from Schumer if Rudy Guiliani decides to run for the senate. Rudy's been travelling around the country saying that he'll stay in the private sector for "a couple of years." Hmmm. That lines up nicely with 2004. With Schumer being a fund-raising machine, this would be the same sort of blowout race that Clinton-Giuliani was becoming in 2000.
6. John Edwards (NC) - I'm not sure what the liberal media establishment sees in this wildly gesticulating, empty-headed, pretty-boy trial lawyer (to consider him Presidential Material!) With a job approval rating of 43%, Edwards is in trouble in his home state. You can bet his challenger will do a much better job than bumbling senator Lauch Faircloth, whom Edwards toppled in 1998. Edwards' presidential campaign isn't going very well and he's moving ever-leftwards to gain the affections of Democratic presidential primary voters. When his presidential campaign inevitably fails, he'll be facing a tough challenge back home from GOP Congressman Richard Burr.
7. Bob Graham (FL) - Bob Graham is the most frustratingly indecisive man in politics today. He takes weeks or months to make up his mind on things and almost always ends up making a hardline partisan Democratic decision. He's done the same with his run for the presidency, vacillating for months. And he promised not to run for the Senate if he ran for the presidency, only to go back on that pledge. This hardline leftist deserves to lose his seat. Unfortinately, Florida voters will probably re-elect him if he runs for the Senate after losing the presidential nomination. Regardless of whether Graham retires or not, though, he'll get a good challenge from GOP Congressman Mark Foley. If Graham retires, this seat will lean Republican and someone like HUD Secretary Mel Martinez would make a strong GOP candidate.
8. Patty Murray (WA) - Osama Mama could have been beaten by GOP Congresswoman Jennifer Dunn (my congresswoman.) A recent poll showed the two neck-and-neck; but Dunn decided not to challenge Murray, leaving speaker-slaying Congressman George Nethercutt as the only credible challenger. If Nethercutt runs, he'll give Murray a tough challenge; but she'll probably squeak home. Unless the networks call Florida for Bush early in the day.
8. Byron Dorgan (ND) - Dorgan and Kent Conrad did a merry two-step in the early 90s to provide very conservative North Dakota with two hard left senators. Former governor Ed Schafer, however, could make life very uncomfortable for Dorgan if he decides to challenge him.
9. Russ Feingold (WI) - Arch-liberal Feingold has the same problem as Harry Reid. He's far too liberal for his swing state.
10. Barbara Boxer (CA) - Ultra-leftie Boxer can be beaten if Republicans can recruit a strong (read pro-choice) challenger and Bush wins by a landslide at the top of the ticket. Republicans are trying to get former Senator and Governor Pete Wilson to run against Boxer in California. Another potential candidate is US Treasurer Rosario Marin, who's Hispanic
You may also want to check out www.realclearpolitics.com for polling info, analysis/commentary, and a great recap of the day's major stories and viewpoints.
Any thoughts on this analysis?
I don't think Nethercutt would make it to the first turn before he'll be many lengths behind. He'll carry Washington East of the Cascades, but doesn't have a chance in the Puget Sound "Crescent".
Osama bin Murray has a load of cash and the state GOP is AWOL. I think I saw GOP Chairman Vance holding a sign on the I-5 freeway ramp the other day, I couldn't quite read the message, something about will work for votes or something.
2004 will be ugly for the GOP here in the Peoples Dominion of Washington.
Given the death of his daughter the other day, I'd find it hard to imagine him running again.
Only among RATs.
In 1981, states that Gore won by >54% had 13 GOP Senators. Now they have two.
In 1981, states that Bush won by >54% had eleven RAT Senators. Now they have-eleven.
All the "ideology" in the Senate races (and the author is right, there has been a marked increase) has been on the other side. We are not even in the fight.
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