Bleak GOP Senate Outlook
by BooMan

MSNBC discusses the possibility of a filibuster-proof 60+ majority for the Democrats in the U.S. Senate after the 2008 elections. I talked about exactly this possibility with Chris Bowers last night. He was suggesting a maximum upside of 56-57 seats, and I said it was 62. Let me explain.

Chris is pulling his 56-57 number from the conventional wisdom that senators hailing from Kerry states are ln grave danger of losing. Here are the Kerry state GOP senators that are up for re-election in 2008: Susan Collins (ME), John Sununu (NH), Norm Coleman (MN), and Gordon Smith (OR). If they all lose and we hold all our seats, that gets us to a 55-45 Dem caucus majority. To this, we can add the open seat in Colorado where Mark Udall is vying for Wayne Allard’s seat. These are the core at-risk seats. But there is a second-tier of vulnerable seats.

New Mexico is neither a Bush state nor a Kerry state. The election result there was basically a tie. And Pete Domenici has been badly tarnished by the AttorneyGate affair. He’s going to get a hell of a race from green real estate developer Don Wiviott, who has the ability to self-finance. (But you can contribute, too, if you want to help send Pajamas Pete into retirement). If Domenici, who is 75, seeks retirement, this seat will probably be a Lean Dem seat.

John Warner of Virginia is probably going to retire. He’s not really raising money for his re-election. If John Warner retires it is likely that Mark Warner will run for his seat. And Mark Warner would have to be favored over either Congressman Tom Davis or Fmr. Gov. Jim Gilmore.

If we win either/both of these seats it could put us up to 57-58.

So…how do we get 4-5 more senate seats? First…let me say that we are not there yet. We still need to do a little more recruitment. But, for starters, let’s look to Nebraska. Chuck Hagel is probably going to retire. If he does, Fmr. Sen. Bob Kerrey is likely to run for his seat. And, I’d have to favor Kerrey to win. I have no enthusiasm for a return of Kerrey, but this race could give us 59.

Another candidacy that has the Netroots excited is Andrew Rice’s run at Jim Inhofe’s seat in Oklahoma. Rice is a newly minted state senator from Oklahoma City. He’s only 34. But he’s also a Harvard Divinity student that has dedicated his life to fighting religious extremism after his brother died in the World Trade Center collapse. He’s progressive on the issues and he is young, smart, good-looking, and energetic (all things that Inhofe is not). This would be a huge upset, but it is an upset a lot of people, including me, think is plausible. Rice could make 60.

Believe it or not, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has serious problems. His poll numbers have been dropping like a stone, the Kentucky GOP is suffering from corruption and internal division, and Democratic Attorney General, Greg Stumbo, has set up an exploratory committee. On the current trajectory, a McConnell-Stumbo match-up could be a toss-up. Stumbo could be 60.

Even before Larry Craig got arrested for soliciting sex in a public airport restroom, it was rumored that he might retire. I sincerely doubt he will run again. Republican Lt. Gov. Jim Risch is the most likely candidate for the GOP. He will be opposed by former congressman Larry LaRocco, who is blogging at Daily Kos today at 2pm EST. Risch won his lieutenant governor job in 2004 by defeating LaRocco (very badly). So, I can’t say that this race will be easy or that it is currently a toss-up. But it isn’t impossible. This could be 62.

I haven’t even mentioned the most unpopular senator of all…John Cornyn of Texas. He is facing two formidable candidates in attorney Mikal Watts and State Senator Rick Noriega. This race is insurance on that 62 mark.

Recruitment in other races has been disappointing. I’d like to get behind the primary campaign of Dr. Rand Knight in Georgia. State Senator Vivian Figures has an uphill climb against Jeff Sessions in Alabama. We’re still looking for candidates in South Carolina (Lindsey Graham), North Carolina (Liddy Dole), Tennessee (Lamar Alexander), Kansas (Pat Roberts), and the two Wyoming seats (Enzi and Barrasso). With the right recruitments both North Carolina and Tennessee could be competitive.