Tags: Dems' | Hold | Senate | Tenuous | for | '08

Dems' Hold on Senate Tenuous for '08

Monday, 11 June 2007 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON -- While the 2008 presidential campaign grabs most of the headlines, Republicans hope to buck the odds on another front -- the U.S. Senate, where last year they narrowly lost control to the Democrats.

With a 51-49 Democratic majority and 34 seats up for grabs in November 2008, experts say the fight is the Democrats' to lose. They only have 12 seats to safeguard. President George W. Bush's Republicans have to defend 22.

"I see all kinds of potential for Democrats out there, I just don't know if it's going to be realized," said Jennifer Duffy, an expert at the Cook Political Report who specializes in Senate races.

"I don't think the majority is in play ... The Republicans' goal is to keep their losses at a minimum," she said.

Control of the Senate will be crucial to the White House next year, no matter who succeeds Bush. A president's policies can live or die there because major bills routinely require 60 votes to clear potential hurdles and win passage.

The prolonged Iraq war, an anemic economy, differences over tax cuts and squabbles over climate change will dominate Senate races, said Anthony Corrado, a government professor at Colby College in Maine.

"This is going to be an election where the Republicans are on the defensive," he said, and arguments for change will dominate the political discussion.

Duffy said it was by no means guaranteed that Democrats would pick up many seats. An ABC News/Washington Post poll showed support for Democrats dropping 10 points since April to 44 percent.

Democrats were voted into power in 2006 largely on a pledge to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq but so far have been unable to deliver. A turning point could be September when Congress is due to consider several anti-war measures.

Several Republicans are seen as ripe for knocking out to boost Democrats' lead: Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and New Hampshire Sen. John Sununu. So is a seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Wayne Allard of Colorado.

Democrats must also defend a few seats: Sen. Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor and South Dakota's Sen. Tim Johnson who is recovering from brain surgery last December.

Republicans have yet to settle on a candidate for Landrieu's seat and political watchers are speculating that former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee could drop his presidential ambitions and instead challenge Pryor.

AGAINST ALL ODDS?

Sen. John Ensign, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, thinks his party will do better than some think.

"The odds makers would have given the Democrats almost no shot at taking the Senate two years ago and they would have been wrong," he said. "We're of the opinion that you run elections and you see what the results are."

Ensign said the Democrats' call for reversing some tax cuts and their opposition to the Iraq war would aid Republicans, who lost six seats and Senate control in 2006.

Ensign's Democratic counterpart, Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, counters that the Iraq war, now in its fifth year, would help his party and that Democrats had a history of balancing the budget, which should resonate with voters.

"Republicans have lost touch and we're going to sweep in on a mandate of change," said Schumer, head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Republicans could face an even tougher fight if senators like John Warner of Virginia and Pete Domenici of New Mexico retire, putting more seats in play.

Yet another hurdle is fund-raising. The Democratic campaign has raised twice the money of its Republican rival during the first four months of 2007, $18.3 million to $9.1 million.

In a tight Minnesota race, comedian Al Franken, the leading Democratic challenger, has already raised $1.35 million in the first quarter, a strong showing against the $1.53 million raised by Coleman.

© reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.

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WASHINGTON -- While the 2008 presidential campaign grabs most of the headlines, Republicans hope to buck the odds on another front -- the U.S. Senate, where last year they narrowly lost control to the Democrats. With a 51-49 Democratic majority and 34 seats up for grabs...
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2007-00-11
Monday, 11 June 2007 12:00 AM
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