COUNTRYWATCH SPECIAL REPORT: USA ELECTION 2008
by Dr. Denise Youngblood Coleman, Editor-in-Chief
4. Election 2008: The Senate
Backgrounder on the Senate
Consists of 100 members, elected for six-year terms in dual-seat constituencies, with one-third of the seats being contested every two years
Last held Nov. 7, 2006
Republicans hold 49 seats; Democrats hold 51 seats and control of the Senate (these include one Independent Democrat and one Independent Socialist, both of whom are allied with Democrats)
Early election forecast:
While Democrats hold a razor edge advantage currently in the Senate, they are not expected to lose the Senate. First, a number of Republican incumbents have announced retirement, which means that those seats will be particularly competitive. As well, there are overall more Republican-held seats to defend in comparison with Democrats. Moreover, there is no Democratic seat up for re-election at serious risk of falling into Republican hands. Indeed, it is far more likely that the Democrats will actually gain seats in the Senate.
Seats up for grabs:
The GOP will hold on to the following Senatorial seats --
Idaho (Risch will win against La Rocco_
Wyoming (Barrasso will win against Carter)
Wyoming (Enzi will win against Rothfuss)
Kansas (Roberts will win against Slattery)
Oklahoma (Inhofe will win against Rice)
South Carolina (Graham will win against Conley)
Alabama (Sessions will win against Figures)
Mississippi (Cochran will win against Fleming)
Tennessee (Alexander will win against Tuke)
Current GOP seats; tilt GOP but competitive race expected --
Nebraska (Johanns is expected to win against Kleeb but if Obama decided to contest one of the state's electoral votes, it could be a tighter race)
Maine (Collins will win against Allen but the Obama effect augurs a somewhat tighter race)
Texas (Cornyn will win against Noriega but the Obama effect augures a closer race here as well)
Pure toss up -- current GOP seats that are at risk of falling to the Democrats --
Mississippi (While Wicker was expected to win here, Musgrove's strong performance in the by-election suggested a more far competitive race here; polls two weeks of the election show the Democrat with momentum)
Kentucky (Minority leader was expected to hold his seat but Lunsford is putting up a strong fight to the finish; polls two weeks of the election show the Democrat with momentum)
Georgia (Chambliss was expected to easily hold this seat but recent polling suggests Martin is launching a strong challenge; polls two weeks of the election show the Democrat with momentum)
Toss ups -- currently GOP seats that are tilting slightly Democratic --
Minnesota (Republican Coleman seeks to hold this seat but Democrat Franken is running very competitively against him; polling momentum is with the Democrat)
Oregon (Republican Smith is hoping to hold this seat but Democrat Merkley is launching a strong challenge; polling advantage goes to Democrat)
North Carolina (Republican Dole is hoping to hold this seat but Democrat Hagan is surging in recent polls; Democrat has polling advantage)
Alaska (Republican Stevens is dealing with corruption charges thus leaving Democrat Begich in a position to win this seat; while the race is tightening, the polling advantage is currently with the Democrat)
GOP-held seats projected to move into Democratic hands --
New Hampshire (Republican Sununu is poised to lose this seat to Democrat Shaheen)
Virginia (Republican Gilmore -- seeking to succeed the retiring GOP incumbent-- is poised to lose this seat to Democrat Warner)
Colorado (Republican Schaeffer -- seeking to succeed the retiring GOP incumbent-- is poised to lose this seat to Democrat M. Udall)
New Mexico (Republican Pearce -- seeking to succeeed retiring GOP incumbent -- is likely to lose this seat to Democrat T. Udall)
Safe Democratic seat expected to stay in current hands --
Arkansas (Democrat Pryor will hold this seat against GOP)
Louisiana (Democrat Landrieu will hold this seat against GOP Kennedy)
South Dakota (Democrat Johnson will hold this seat against GOP Dykstra)
West Virginia (Democrat Rockefeller will hold this seat against GOP Wolfe)
Iowa (Democrat Harkin will hold this seat against GOP Reed)
Ilinois (Democrat Durbin will hold this seat against GOP Sauerberg)
Delaware (Democrat Biden will hold this seat against GOP O'Connell)
Rhode island (Democrat Reed will hold this seat against GOP Tingle)
Massachussetts (Democrat Kerry will hold this seat against GOP Beatty)
New Jersey (Democrat Lautenberg will hold this seat against GOP Zimmer)
Michigan (Democrat Levin will hold this seat against GOP Hoogendyck)
Montana (Democrat Baucus will hold this seat against GOP Kelleher)
Democrats expected to hold control --
The Democrats will likely win at least four more seats in the Senate. In New Hampshire, Republican Sununu is poised to lose this seat to Democrat Shaheen. In Virginia, Republican Gilmore -- seeking to succeed the retiring GOP incumbent-- is poised to lose this seat to Democrat Warner. In Colorado, Republican Schaeffer -- seeking to succeed the retiring GOP incumbent-- is poised to lose this seat to Democrat M. Udall. In New Mexico, Republican Pearce -- seeking to succeed retiring GOP incumbent -- is likely to lose this seat to Democrat T. Udall.
Three Senate seats are regarded as leaning slightly Democratic and could extend the Democratic advantage in the Senate even futher. In Oregon, Republican Smith is hoping to hold this seat but Democrat Merkley is advancing a lead. In North Carolina, Republican Dole is hoping to hold this seat but Democrat Hagan is surging in recent polls. An ugly advertisement by Dole against Hagan has evoked something of a backlash and is not helping the Republican's cause. In Alaska, Republican Stevens was found guilt of corruption charges thus leaving Democrat Begich in a position to possibly take this seat.
There is one Senate seat that is regarded as pure "toss up." In Minnesota, Republican Coleman seeks to hold this seat but Democrat Franken has launched a fierce battle against him. This contest could go either way, however, in a "change" election, perhaps there is a slight advantage to the Democrat against the incumbent Republican.
There are four "long shot" options for the Democrats in attempting to secure a filibuster-proof 60-seat super majority. For example, it would be shocking if Senate minority leader McConnell lost his seat to Democrat Lunsford, but polls show the Democrat with some degree of momentum. In Georgia, Republican Chambliss appears to be in a bit of trouble with Democrat Martin having momentum and turnour on his side. In Texas, Republican Cornyn is expected to win against Democrat Noriega. However, if Noriega can win Harris County in a blowout to pad against Cornyn's advantage elsewhere in the state, he may be able to pull out a truly unexpected victory. In Mississippi, while Republican Wicker is expected to win, Democrat Musgrove is putting up a strong fight to the finish.
The only Democrat believed to have been in danger of losing her seat was Mary Landrieu of Louisiana against Kennedy. However, on the verge of election day, Landrieu is expected to win re-election.
CountryWatch accordingly projects that the Democrats will have a net pick-up of at least four seats and as many of eight seats. Since Democrats and two Independents currently control 51 seats, even victory in eight seats would place them just short of the ninth seat needed to secure a filibuster-proof super-majority.
Democrats held their only vulnerable seat in Louisiana (Landrieu) while winning the following five seats -- Virginia (Warner), New Hampshire (Shaheen), New Mexico (Udall), Colorado (Udall), North Carolina (Hagen), Oregon (Merkeley), and Alaska (Begich) -- for a total of 58 seats in the Senate. At the time of writing, one seats was unofficially won by the Democrats in Minnesota (Franken), although the Republican rival (Coleman) was contesting that outcome legally. Assuming the legal process, once exhausted, did not change the outcome of that race, then the Democrats would hold control of 59 seats. Because Republicans held on to the Georgia seat (Chambliss) in the run-off, the Democrats were denied a filibuster-proof super-majority. Nevertheless, the Democrats strongly consolidated their control over the upper chamber.
Click on the following links to get to other sections of the Special Election Report --
1. The Road to the White House: Landscape and Issues
2. Presidential Race: Presidential Primaries
3. Presidential Race: General Election
4. Congressional Elections: The Senate
5. Congressional Elections: The House of Representatives
6. Governors Races