October 25, 2004
One More Week
by John J. Miller
Senate races come down to the wire.
The president's party has lost control of the Senate. See this news story for further details.
Oops! Wrong country. For more information, please see Our Oldest Enemy: A History of America's Disastrous Relationship with France. (Please excuse the self-promotion, but necessity compels me to mention my new book in virtually everything I write these days.)
Now, on to the Senate races we really care about, here in the U.S. of A. Republicans currently control 51 seats in the chamber, so a Democratic takeover is a distinct possibility.
Herewith, a rundown on the races, updating my previous report. And coming soon: My predictions on all the races.
ALASKA: This is a close one, but Democrat Tony Knowles may be edging ahead of Republican senator Lisa Murkowski. The latest poll of likely voters shows Knowles leading, 47 percent to 43 percent. But bear in mind that these numbers come from a Democratic polling firm. If Knowles does in fact win, he'll make history (or at least recent history) as the first Democrat Alaskans have sent to the Senate in 30 years. And Republican governors will learn an important lesson: No matter how much you love your daughters, think twice about appointing them to Senate vacancies. TOSS UP
CALIFORNIA: The sad truth for Republicans is that former secretary of state Bill Jones very well may have been their best candidate to take on Democratic senator Barbara Boxer. And she's still going to crush him. The latest numbers show her ahead by 15 points. LIKELY DEMOCRATIC RETENTION
COLORADO: Democrat Ken Salazar continues to hold a slim lead over Republican Pete Coors. The latest Gallup survey of likely voters puts the race at 49 percent for Salazar and 48 percent for Coors. Republicans may take heart from the fact that this is well within the margin of error. They also run a good ground game in the Rocky Mountain State. Two years ago, the polls suggested that Republican senator Wayne Allard was headed for trouble. He wound up winning by a healthier margin than many poll-watchers believed was possible. TOSS UP
FLORIDA: It's possible that the result everyone will be debating next month won't be Florida's vote for president, but its one for the Senate. President Bush appears to be hanging on to a small but steady lead over John Kerry in the Sunshine State. The same can't be said for Republican Mel Martinez in his race against Democrat Betty Castor. One recent survey has her on top, 45 percent to 41 percent. But other polls suggest a virtual dead heat. Both the Bush and the Martinez camps are hoping for a strong turnout among Cuban Americans. There's a good chance they'll get it, and it may be just barely enough for Martinez. LEANING REPUBULICAN TAKEOVER
GEORGIA: Republican congressman Johnny Isakson will beat Democratic congresswoman Denise Majette. A recent poll shows him well ahead, 55 percent to 41 percent. Conservatives probably will view him as a reliable vote on most matters before the Senate. But how soon until they miss Zell? LIKELY REPUBLICAN TAKEOVER
ILLINOIS: Democrat Barack Obama continues the difficult task of widening his huge lead over Republican Alan Keyes. The gap now stands at 51 points — 68 percent for Obama, 17 percent for Keyes. A lot of people reckoned that Keyes was a poor choice for the Illinois GOP. But who thought it would be quite so bad? The man hasn't even provided the edifying civics lesson some anticipated. There is not a worse candidate for a major office in America this year. LIKELY DEMOCRATIC TAKEOVER
KENTUCKY: Liberals jumped for joy when they saw a recent poll showing Republican senator Jim Bunning tied at 43 percent against Democrat Dan Mongiardo. This result — released by a Democratic firm — was almost certainly a fluke. Another fresh survey (conducted by a GOP firm) puts Bunning ahead, 50 percent to 39 percent. Bunning won election to the Senate six years ago by a tiny margin. Odds are he'll get a return ticket but that he won't humiliate Mongiardo. LIKELY REPUBLICAN RETENTION
LOUISIANA: State treasurer John Kennedy or congressman Chris John? That's the main question for Louisiana Democrats next week. Republican congressman David Vitter will win the open primary, but probably not the majority he needs to avoid a runoff. Then it's a one-month sprint to December 4, between Vitter and either Kennedy or John. Vitter is a strong candidate, but Democrats have enjoyed considerable success here in recent elections. TOSS UP
MISSOURI: Nobody has bothered to poll this race in a month. That's because Republican senator Kit Bond is going to win reelection against Democrat Nancy Farmer. Earlier this year, Democrats were tipping this as their dark horse race. Now they're looking elsewhere. LIKELY REPUBLICAN RETENTION
NORTH CAROLINA: After months of trailing Democrat Erskine Bowles in the polls, GOP congressman Richard Burr appears to be peaking at exactly the right moment. The latest surveys suggest the race is tied — or perhaps Burr holds a very slight lead. Political pundits say that Bowles is a much-improved candidate from two years ago, when Elizabeth Dole beat him. Republicans hope he's a much-improved loser. TOSS UP
OKLAHOMA: This is perhaps the nation's most important Senate race for conservatives, simply because Republican former congressman Tom Coburn is such a legislative talent. Unfortunately for them, Coburn's campaign against Democratic congressman Brad Carson is too close for comfort. One recent poll has Coburn ahead, 46 percent to 41 percent; another puts Carson in the lead, 45 percent to 44 percent. Although registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans here, President Bush will carry the state by a wide margin. A recent survey shows him winning 61 percent of the vote, compared to 31 percent for Kerry. Coburn could use the coattails, as well as the strong grassroots support — undetected by pollsters until the final days — that drove him to victory in July's GOP primary. LEANING REPUBLICAN RETENTION
PENNSYLVANIA: Republican senator Arlen Specter won this race in April, after President Bush stumped for him in a hard-fought GOP primary against conservative congressman Pat Toomey. The election effectively ended then, as Democratic congressman Joe Hoeffel hasn't mounted much of a challenge since. A recent survey puts Specter ahead, 54 percent to 35 percent. But if GOP primary voters had known six months ago that Kerry-Specter signs would be popping up around Philadelphia now, would they still have supported the liberal incumbent? Would President Bush? LIKELY REPUBLICAN RETENTION
SOUTH CAROLINA: Although recent polls show her down by 10 or 12 points, Democrats remain hopeful that Inez Tenenbaum can pull off an upset against GOP congressman Jim DeMint. The race may very well be closer than these numbers suggest, but the election is also DeMint's to lose against a candidate whose main issues include protectionism and hostility to tax reform. A victory for Tenenbaum probably would require a very strong turnout among blacks — and national surveys indicate that they aren't as revved up about supporting Kerry this year as they were about voting for Clinton or Gore in years past. LEANING REPUBLICAN TAKEOVER
SOUTH DAKOTA: Former Republican congressman John Thune continues his bid to oust Democratic senator Tom Daschle, and the polls point to a close race: The Senate Minority Leader holds a small lead in most surveys, though a GOP firm recently put Thune up by three points. Thune is probably hurt by the perception of a close presidential race. If more South Dakotans were convinced of a Bush victory, they would probably be more willing to dump Daschle. LEANING DEMOCRATIC RETENTION
WASHINGTON: A Republican polling firm gives Democratic senator Patty Murray a good lead over Republican congressman George Nethercutt, 49 percent to 41 percent. The mystery of how this unimpressive senator keeps on winning endures. LIKELY DEMOCRATIC RETENTION
WISCONSIN: Republican hopes that Tim Michels would surprise against Democratic senator Russ Feingold have all but evaporated. A recent survey showed Feingold well ahead, 57 percent to 33 percent. The actual result may be closer, but Feingold clearly can afford some slippage. LIKELY DEMOCRATIC RETENTION
OVERALL: REPUBLICANS GAIN TWO SEATS
There are some important Senate races here for gunowners. In CO, SC, SD, NC, LA, WA, and FL you have strong pro-RKBA candidates on the Republican side running against outspoken antis on the Dem side. Every one of the Dems in those states favors reinstating and expanding the ban. Every one of the Republicans in those states opposed renewing even the 1994 ban.
Alaska should have been sewn up, but Murkowski did everything he could possibly do to alienate all Alaskans. It would be a miracle if his daughter won.