Skip to comments.Fred Barnes: Stretching Their Lead (The Republicans' Senate prospects look increasingly good)
Posted on 09/25/2004 11:49:28 AM PDT by RWR8189
THE QUESTION no longer is whether Democrats can win back the Senate, now controlled 51-49 by Republicans. The prospect of a Democratic takeover was always remote and has recently become more so. The question now is how much can President Bush, should he defeat John Kerry by 5 percentage points or more, help Republican Senate candidates, assuming there's a coattail effect. And that leads to the more important question of how many seats Republicans might pick up. As many as four or five, or none at all?
The trend at the moment is favorable to Republicans, but nothing is guaranteed. Of the top ten vulnerable seats for either party, Republicans are all but assured of gaining two now held by Democrats (South Carolina and Georgia) and lead in a third (Louisiana). Of these same ten, Democrats are confident of winning only one Republican seat (Illinois). Democrats lead in three more states, one now in Republican hands (Oklahoma) and two currently Democratic seats (Florida and North Carolina). The other three are tossups.
Republicans started with one big advantage: Nine of the top ten races are in red (Bush) states, notably five in the South now held by Democrats. There's a new advantage: the presidential candidates. Bush is welcomed by Republican candidates as a boon to their campaigns. Kerry is treated like a pariah by Democratic candidates. Even Senate minority leader Tom Daschle has rejected him, running a TV ad showing Daschle and Bush hugging. "The remarkable thing about it is how quickly he was willing to throw John Kerry overboard in order to help himself in South Dakota," said Daschle's Republican foe John Thune on Meet the Press on September 19. "I mean, I don't know very many party leaders that would do what he just did." Bush is expected to win South Dakota by 20 points or more.
Let's look first at the slam-dunk races. South Carolina is now a solidly Republican (and conservative) state, which makes Rep. Jim DeMint the prohibitive favorite over Democrat Inez Tenenbaum. Georgia, too, has rapidly trended Republican, which means Rep. Johnny Isakson is a shoo-in. Illinois is the opposite of Georgia--one of the few states that's moved in a Democratic direction. Barack Obama, whose speech was a big hit at the Democratic convention, should have no trouble defeating Alan Keyes, recruited from Maryland as the Republican candidate.
Among closer contests where one candidate enjoys a visible lead, the most worrisome for Republicans is in Oklahoma. Former representative Tom Coburn, who kept his promise to limit his terms to three, took an early lead over Democratic representative Brad Carson, then lost it with impolitic utterances.
Carson is probably the best Democratic candidate in the country. He broadcast a TV ad endorsing a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, thus denying Coburn a pivotal issue in a very conservative state. A Rasmussen poll shows Bush ahead in Oklahoma by 25 points and Carson by 5. To pull Coburn in, Bush may have to win by 30 points or more, a not impossible feat.
North Carolina is the home of Democratic veep candidate John Edwards, but Bush could win the state by a large enough margin to pull Rep. Richard Burr to victory in the Senate race. The Burr campaign got off to a slow start and only now is effectively challenging wealthy Democrat Erskine Bowles, who was trounced by Sen. Elizabeth Dole in 2002. Bowles, once President Clinton's chief of staff, spent $7 million of his own money against Dole and may open his wallet again. The Bush landslide in North Carolina (Bush won by 13 points) broke late in 2000. A win of that proportion this year should rescue Burr.
In Florida, ex-Housing secretary Mel Martinez won a brutal Republican primary and stands a realistic chance of overtaking Democrat Betty Castor. Martinez trailed last week by six points in one poll, by a single point in another. Hurricanes kept politics out of the news for much of September. Now, however, President Bush appears to be expanding his small lead in the state and Martinez may follow. Castor is a centrist Democrat, perfect for Florida. But she's been zinged for her role as University of South Florida president in not firing professor Sami Al-Arian, who's been indicted for aiding terrorists. This is not a marginal issue. She ran a television spot defending herself on the matter. Martinez aims to turn out a huge Latino vote. If he succeeds, he wins.
Republican representative David Vitter has gradually widened his lead in Louisiana, a state that Kerry has now conceded to Bush. But he's unlikely to reach 50 percent in the state's jungle primary on November 2, forcing him into a runoff in December. He'd rather face liberal state treasurer John Kennedy than the more conservative Rep. Christopher John. And, lucky for Vitter, Kennedy was endorsed last week by the most important black Democrat in the state, Rep. William Jefferson. If Vitter wins the seat being vacated by John Breaux, he'd become the first Republican since Reconstruction to represent Louisiana in the Senate.
The toss-ups? We'll start with Colorado, where Republican Pete Coors, the beer baron, has gained parity with Democratic state attorney general Ken Salazar. Coors has never run before, but he's turned out to be a capable candidate. Tall and gray-haired, he looks like a senator. The bad news for him is that Bush is running only slightly ahead of Kerry in Colorado and Salazar is a proven vote-getter. But if Bush improves, Coors may as well.
In Alaska, Republican senator Lisa Murkowski is looking stronger than almost anyone expected. She is currently tied with former Democratic governor Tony Knowles. He has won statewide twice, but never when Republicans were united behind a single candidate, as they are now. Murkowski was famously appointed to her father's Senate seat--by her father, Gov. Frank Murkowski. This was an unpopular move. But Alaska is a Republican state that Bush may win more lopsidedly than Kerry does in Massachusetts. If that doesn't lift Murkowski to victory, nothing will.
Finally, there's conservative South Dakota, stomping grounds of liberal Tom Daschle, who's fighting for his political life. Daschle looks more beatable than his fellow Democratic senator Tim Johnson was in 2002. Johnson barely edged out John Thune, but Thune leads Daschle by three points in one poll. In their scintillating debate on Meet the Press, Thune called Daschle a tool of liberal special interests and Daschle labeled Thune a rubber stamp for Bush. This is another state Bush will win handily. To help Thune, it better be a landslide.
I've left out an eleventh Senate race, Rep. George Nethercutt's challenge of Democratic senator Patty Murray in Washington. Murray is a drab liberal, but hard to beat in a blue state like Washington. A Nethercutt win would be a bonus for Republicans, the product of a national sweep that elects Republicans almost everywhere. It's possible, but no more so than a string of victories that gives control of the Senate back to Democrats and Tom Daschle. Don't count on it. But sometimes wonders never cease.
Fred Barnes is executive editor of The Weekly Standard.
Fred Barnes is one of my heros!!...He is SO PASSIONATE everyday on Fox, Im always heartened by everything he says.....Mr Mort is a Liberal but a good hearted one, who is so honest and tells it like it is, MOSTLY :)) I never miss their "The Beltway Boys"
And a 12th, Wisconsin, where Tim Michels came off a big primary win about 6-10 points behind Feingold and is running a hard-hitting campaign against Saint Russ.
"The bad news for him is that Bush is running only slightly ahead of Kerry in Colorado and Salazar is a proven vote-getter. But if Bush improves, Coors may as well."
This article reads like the daily racing forum, it makes me want to go to the track!
This is better than the NFL.
This is a good analysis of the Senate races.
He's a little too confident about Louisiana for my taste, though... Chris John has Breaux's endorsement and though I'm not from Louisiana, I thought that what Breaux says pretty much goes. I'm not confident that we can beat him in a straight-up race, especially in December when we won't have President Bush on the top of the ballot.
And I'll add that Coburn may benefit from Carson going extremely negative in Oklahoma. I saw a Carson ad last night that was childish in how anti-Coburn it was.
The doctor may benefit from it, IMO.
There is the other thing going for Republicans. We've been listening to the Bush haters like Michale Moore and Kennedy for so long we are pissed as hell. We are going to the polls no matter how absolutely certain we are Bush is going to win. The Democrats are totally demoralized and will in many cases simply pretend it all never happened, and stay home. It happened with Reagan and Carter.
I like Fred Barnes but methinks he is being a tad bit optimistic here. Hope not but afraid so.
Question is, how many Ron Silvers, Sept 11 democrats are going to vote Republican this year. This could be why the democrats are worried.
" This is another state Bush will win handily. To help Thune, it better be a landslide."
Notice that even though Thune is ahead 3 in the polls that the article says bush better win by a 'landslide' to help him... this likely refers to expected democrat vote-fraud :-/
There is little foundation for Barnes optimism beyond wishful thinking.
Kerry is doomed, I have no doubt. But I just don't see coattails happening on these very close senate races, it could very easily go the other way for us.
Donating across the country today to BurrforSenate. I encourage other Freepers to find one of these GOP candidates to help out.
I think the presidential election could be called early when Fl, OH and PA get announced which could depress democrat turnout in western races such as WA, OK, SD, etc.
This makes kerrys new and improved 1970s version of his 2004 self more and more a desperation move.
It smacks more of shoring up the base 30+days out rather than expanding his base. not good.
This would doom congressional Democrats all across the West....and it would make for a great night.
Yes....but not better than college football.
That's what I'm afraid of too.
Vitter needs to crack 50% on Primary Day.
If he doesn't, the defeated Dems will coalesce around their remaining candidate.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.