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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Building a Filibuster Proof SuperMajority Part 3

Cross-posted at Daily Kos.

This is the third in a three-part series designed to determine whether Democrats can achieve a net gain of nine seats in the US Senate in the 2008 elections.

Nine seats on top of the six seat gain already achieved in 2006? "Outrageously over the top," you might be thinking. Has any party ever gained fifteen seats over the course of two cycles?

Since you ask. A little history:
Major Mojo Shift: The Republicans netted 15 seats between the 1978 (net gain 3) and 1980 (net gain 12) elections. Ronnie had some impressive coattails when he rode in from the West.

The Big Mo Swings Back: In 1986, the Democrats defeated nine GOP incumbents, while losing a seat in Missouri for a net gain of eight seats, seizing control of the Senate.

So, a gain of nine seats is NOT unprecedented. Can the Democrats accomplish the feat in 2008?

Let’s see.

If they do, it's not going to be easy. Most of the GOP incumbents up for re-election next year reside in the Red States of the South, Plains and Interior West (NC, SC, GA, AL, MS, TN, TX, OK, KS, NE, WY {2}, and ID). Additionally, the Dems have two vulnerable seats in LA and SD that they must defend if their effort to dramatically expand their majority is to be successful. The Democrats face even longer odds in a presidential election year.

Part 1 reviewed the national climate and how, despite long odds, Democrats have a real chance to field strong challenges. The national mood is primed for Dean's Fifty State strategy and Democrats are presented with tantalizing opportunities across America. It also surveyed the current "consensus" of the 2008 Senate races, as measured by Beltway Insiders. The "low-hanging" fruit for Democratic pickups include:

* CO (open)
* NH (Sununu)
* ME (Collins)
* MN (Coleman)

Additionally, OR (Smith) and NC (Dole) make some lists.

That's six of the 22 GOP-held seats. If Dems manage to win 4 of these (and hold onto LA and SD), they'll have a 55-45 majority. Where else might they look for a pick-up opportunity?

Part 2 explained the *Vulnerability Factor Score*, which represents my effort to quantify and identify the Red States that might be a little more purple than the others. The factors included in the score include current finances, age, scandal, strength of the state democratic party, previous election returns, and President Bush's approval ratings.

This VF Score is comprised of three components
* PERSONAL WEAKNESS (PW) (possible range 0-8)
* BUSH DRAG (BD) (possible range 0-5)
* PARTY STRENGTH (PS) (possible range 0-7)
The higher the score (total VF range - 0-20), the more likely a Democratic challenge might find success. Keep in mind this VF score does not include the strength of current (or potential) challengers. When we get closer to the election season, I anticipate adding a "Challenger Quotient" to adjust the listings to accomodate real-world changes.

It is important to note that seven states still have no Dem challenger. Please check out Senateguru2008's recent posting addressing this issue.

VULNERABILITY FACTOR SCORES - GOP HELD SEATS UP IN 2008












State VF PW BD PS State VF PW BD PS
1 NH 13.5 4 5 4.5 12 KY 5.5 2 1 2.5
2 MN 13 3 5 5 13 GA 4.5 3 0 1.5
3 OR 13 2 5 6 14 SC 4.5 2 2 0.5
4 CO 12 4 3 5 15 TX 4.5 4 0 0.5
5 NM 11.5 4 2 5.5 16 MS 4 1 0 3
6 NC 11 5 1 5 17 OK 4 1 0 3
7 ME 10 0 5 5 18 NE 3 2 0 1
8 TN 9 3 2 4 19 WY 3 1 0 2
9 VA 7.5 3 2 2.5 20 AL 2.5 0 0 2.5
10 KS 7 2 2 3 21 ID 2 2 0 0
11 AK 5.5 3 1 1.5


*DEMOCRATIC SENATE SEAT COUNT (current) 51 *

*Top Seven - The Low Hanging Fruit:* Five of the seven states that have the highest VF score (VF = 10+) also appear on most every prognosticator's list as the Dems best pickup opportunities. It's also not surprising that all, with the exception of NC, are considered to be Democratic-leaning or battleground states in presidential contests. Four (CO, NH, MN and ME) have top tier Democratic challengers, and I encourage you to visit their campaign websites and consider any way you might be able to support their efforts.

The remaining three, Oregon, North Carolina and New Mexico merit further review:

(rating system - cold, tepid, lukewarm, warm - the hotter the race, the hotter rating)

* Oregon (Smith)- (VF 13) Race Tracker wiki: OR-Sen. In 2005, Gordon Smith received a 20% liberal rating from Americans for Democratic Actionn (ADA) and has a 74.5 lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union (ACU). Despite approval numbers below 50%, Democrats have encountered significant resistance from the state party's "big names" - Reps DeFazio & Blumenauer and former Gov. Kitzhaber have all ruled out running - to take on Smith. The Democratic lean of the state makes this a real pick-up opportunity that may slip from the Democrats grasp. The one declared candidate is Steve Novick, an environmental lawyer who could make a credible run. At first glance, Novick lookes like a candidate progressives could rally around. Over at Blue Oregon, they're reporting on political neophyte Eileen Brady meeting with DSCC Chair Schumer about the possibility of jumping into the race. Brady is an entrepreneur with an environmental background. Kossack *torridjoe* posts regularly on this contest and local Oregon politics are covered at his Loaded Orygun blog. If you're an Oregonian, I encourage you to join the grassroots movement to defeat Smith at StopGordonSmith.com.
DEM PICKUP RATING - tepid
NEEDS A CANDIDATE
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* New Mexico (Domenici)- (VF 11.5) Race Tracker wiki: NM-Sen New Mexico is the best pick-up opportunity for Democrats that most of the experts are currently overlooking. This is perhaps the most purple state of any in America. The NM State Democratic Party is healthy and competitive. To top it all off, "Pajama Pete" Domenici has embroiled himself in the middle of the USAGate attorney firings. It was long thought he had planned to retire at the end of this term, but Heather Wilson, the heir apparent to the Domenici seat, also finds herself entangled in the scandal. Democrats have a strong field of potential challengers to take on Domenici, who appears increasingly vulnerable as his longstanding sky-high approval in the state has plummeted throughout 2007. The second quarter fundraising numbers will provide more insight into Domenici's 2008 plans. The more Abu Gonzo stays in the news, it is likely Pajama Pete's predicament continues to deteriorate. For thorough coverage of the local NM beat *fbihop* does an excellent job at the New Mexico FBIHOP blog.
DEM PICKUP RATING - warm
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* North Carolina (Dole)- (VF 11) Race Tracker wiki: NC-Sen. Sen Dole is vulnerable not only because she is a freshman senator over the age of seventy. Her personal approval numbers are below 50% and recent polling reveals a deep dissatisfaction with the Republican Party in the state, with Democrats enjoying a 47%-42% lead in a generic presidential survey. Dole was unimpressive as NRSC chair during the 2006 cycle. It will be interesting to see how successful she is in tapping into the fundraising network this quarter. *BlueSouth* who does an impressive job reporting on the local developments and has a website - DraftBradMiller.org - devoted to convincing Rep. Brad Miller to jump into the race. In my opinion, North Carolina represents a real opportunity. If Edwards were the nominee, it would likely boost any challenger's vote total, further endangering Dole. Local NC Dem news can be found at NCBlue.
DEM PICKUP RATING - lukewarm
NEEDS A CANDIDATE

Let's assume the Democrats succeed in CO, NH, MN and ME and things fall in place to pick up two of the three remaining in the top seven. That gets us tantalizing close to the sixty seat goal.

*DEMOCRATIC SENATE SEAT COUNT 57 *

*Middle Eight - With A Little Bit of Luck & A Whole Lotta Work: * In this group, there are four freshmen, two long-serving Senators who are rumored to be contemplating retirement, one under the target of an FBI probe and a Majority Leader under seige from within his own party. So, maybe sixty is possible.

* Tennessee (Alexander) - (VF 9) Race tracker wiki: TN-Sen. Former Education Secretary and presidential candidate Alexander has yet to draw a challenger. The bench here is strong, including 2006 nominee Harold Ford, Jr and popular Gov. Phil Bredesen, although both seem to be staying on the sidelines in 2008. There is a 500 pound elephant and 1,000 pound donkey hanging over this race - potential presidential heavyweights Al Gore and Fred Thompson, both former TN senators, could scramble all calculations in the state if either - or both - end up as the nominees at the top of the 2008 ballot. After Ford's impressive - but ultimately unsuccessful 2006 run - and Alexander's less than stellar approval ratings, logic says this is a winnable state for the right Democratic candidate.
DEM PICKUP RATING - cold
NEEDS A CANDIDATE
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* Virginia (Warner) - (VF 7.5) Race tracker wiki: VA-Sen. Retirement rumors swirl around John Warner, who managed to raise only $500 in the first quarter. Former Gov Mark Warner, who tantalized many with the possibility of a presidential run this year, would be a formidable foe, regardless of John Warner's decision. If Warner does retire, Rep. Tom Davis is likely to try to move up on the Republican side. Mark Warner would be the favorite in such a matchup. Of the eight seats in the second group, Virginia is the likeliest to flip to the Democrats' column, if Warner throws his hat into the ring.
DEM PICKUP RATING - tepid
NEEDS CANDIDATE

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* Kansas (Roberts) - (VF 7) Race tracker wiki: KS-Sen. Roberts is not popular, despite his conservative credentials in a solidly conservative state. Recent Dem successes in the state - Gov. Sebelius, Nancy Boyda's stunning upset of Jim Ryun this past November - make Kansas a little less red than its neighbors. It also makes it an 'under the radar' pick-up opportunity. Kansas and Tennessee are the two states that do not yet have a Democratic entrant in which a top tier candidate could score an upset victory, especially if the national anti-GOP mood continues, or worsens. Thus far, the potential challengers seem to be reluctant to jump in. Blue Tide Rising is a local Kansas blog covering progressive news from the heartland.
DEM PICKUP RATING - cold
NEEDS A CANDIDATE

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* Alaska (Stevens) - (VF 5.5) Race tracker wiki: AK-Sen. Ted Stevens hs trouble at home. He's the subject of FBI investigations and if I were a betting man, I'd say the odds are increasing each week that he will decide to retire. Now, is there a Democrat in the the Last Frontier that has the capability of winning the seat? Right now, it doesn't look promising. Republicans have shown a willingness to tolerate nepotism (Lisa Murkowski) but the corruption would appear to provide an opening - if there were any Democrats on deck. This is a state where it may be too soon to expect a 50 State strategy to pay dividends.
DEM PICKUP RATING - tepid
NEEDS A CANDIDATE

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* Kentucky (McConnell) - (VF 5.5) Race tracker wiki: KY-Sen. Defeating Mighty Mitch would be wonderful payback after the Daschle defeat in 2004. One of three states electing Governors in 2007, McConnell, once described as the "Godfather" of the Kentucky GOP, backed the losing primary challeng by former Rep. Anne Northup in May. The ethically challenged incumbent Gov Ernie Fletcher was not amused. The conservative base is also furious with McConnell over his support of the immigration reform legislation. Now, McConnell faces a primary challenge, although being knocked out then doesn't seem all that likely. There is a pretty vocal anti-McConnell Kentucky netroots presence and much of their news and happenings can be found at DitchMitchKY.com. The DSCC is peddling polls showing McConnell can be beaten and multiple candidates have made public their potential interest in running.
DEM PICKUP RATING - lukewarm

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* Georgia (Chambliss) - (VF 4.5) Race tracker wiki: GA-Sen. The defeat of "Sucksbee" Chambliss would be the best storyline coming out of election night 2008 after the savaging the Ralph Reed GA GOP attack machine put war hero Max Cleland through in the 2002 campaign. Georgia is one of the rare states that has continued trending toward the GOP over the past couple of elections. The highest profile Dem in the race, Vernon Jones (a conservative Dem who voted for Bush in 04) was joined by two lesser-known candidates, Dale Cardwell and Rand Knight this past week. *Volvodrivingliberal* diaried on Cardwell, and he doesn't look much better, with his calls for abolishing the IRS. A cursory glance at Knight's website reveals a young photogenic ecologist. All in all, it doesn't look promising for the GA Democratic Party. Do we really want another Blue Dog in Congress? For Peach State progressive news, check out Tondee's Tavern.
DEM PICKUP RATING - cold

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* South Carolina (Graham) - (VF 4.5) Race tracker wiki: SC-Sen. Lindsay Graham, freshman conservative is unlikely to face significant Democratic opposition in his re-election effort. In fact, he may have more dissent in his own party based on his association with comprehensive immigration reform. THe base is mad as is his GOP Senate homestate colleague, Jim DeMint who has made no secret of his disdain for the legislation. He and Jim DeMint (R-SC) have exchanged harsh words as they find themselves on opposite sides of the contentious issue.
DEM PICKUP RATING - cold
NEEDS A CANDIDATE
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* Texas (Cornyn) - (VF 4.5) Race tracker wiki: TX-Sen. The freshman Cornyn is strikingly unpopular in Bush's home state. *Skulnick* poses in a diary this morning the question: Could Texas voters reject a GOP incumbent? With ultra wealthy candidate Mykal Watts the Democrats may actually have a fighting chance. For a quirky - yet accurate - accounting of Texas politics, Burnt Orange Report is a good resource.
DEM PICKUP RATING - tepid

If the Democrats are lucky, invest the money, energy and resources now, they could conceivably win three of the eight in the second tier states.

*DEMOCRATIC SENATE SEAT COUNT 60*

*Bottom Seven - The Real Sleepers - * I know that there's been a lot of noise about Nebraska & Idaho, where incumbents will be challenged in a primary battle and Wyoming, which now has two Senate seats up in 2008. And, Inhofe in Oklahoma could be vulnerable - I'd nominate him as the "Most likely to emulate George Allen" in 2008 cycle. I'll look at those in a later posting.

The last time one party controlled 60 or more seats was in 1974, when the Democrats held 61. It may happen again sooner than anyone thinks.

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