Democrats probably don’t have to worry about losing their Senate majority in 2008, but that doesn’t mean next year’s elections aren’t crucial for them.
A strong ’08 could put the party in sight of a 60-seat majority in 2010, and that filibuster-proof majority would change the rules of the game on Capitol Hill.
Last year, Democrats won a stunning 24 of 33 races, which means over the next two Senate cycles they will need to win another 36 seats, out of the 67 that will be up, to give them the magic number of 60. Given the small Democratic classes next year (12) and in 2010 (15), and the fact that Republicans will be defending a total of 40 seats over the two cycles, it’s certainly possible that Democrats can net nine seats to get to 60.
Sixty-seat majorities are possible only when a party has a mega-year that produces a huge class. The Republicans did that in 2002 and put themselves in reach of 60 seats with a good 2004. But last year was a disaster, and now it is the Democrats who have a mathematical chance to hit the all-important 60-seat mark. But first, they must build on their numbers next year.
Five or six of the GOP’s 21 Senate seats up next year already look to be at some risk, and that number could grow if there are key retirements and if President Bush’s problems continue to drag down Republican Party numbers.
Colorado topped the list of vulnerable ’08 Senate seats even before Sen. Wayne Allard (R) announced that he would not seek re-election. Democratic Rep. Mark Udall already had signaled he would run for the Senate, and it is far from clear whether Republican chances of holding the Colorado seat have been hurt or improved by Allard’s decision.
Udall’s appeal, combined with Colorado’s recent Democratic drift and the GOP’s current national dilemma, certainly improves Democrats’ chances of picking up the Senate seat.
Another Democratic Representative, Maine’s Tom Allen, also is heading for a Senate race, and his challenge of incumbent Republican Sen. Susan Collins immediately makes the race a top-tier contest. Collins is always underestimated, and she begins her reelection bid well-liked, but the state’s Democratic bent, Allen’s assets and the Republican Party’s current standing mean that Collins will have a tough race.
At least three GOP Senators in competitive or Democratic-leaning states also could have tough races, depending on Democratic recruitment efforts.
Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman seems certain to draw a serious challenger, while Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith can’t take his re-election for granted. Both Republicans have started to criticize Bush’s Iraq policy, but they represent states that went for Democratic Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) in the 2004 presidential race and that could well go Democratic again in 2008.
From left, Lisa Peng, daughter of Peng Ming, Grace Ge Geng, daughter of Gao Zhisheng, and Ti-Anna Wang, daughter of Wang Bingzhang, hold pictures of their imprisoned fathers during a House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building titled “Their Daughters Appeal to Beijing: ‘Let Our Fathers Go!’”
Each year since 1990, CQ Roll Call has reviewed the financial disclosures of all 541 senators, representatives and delegates to determine the 50 richest members of Congress. This year's report, derived from forms covering the calendar year 2012, shows it took a net worth of $6.67 million to crack the exclusive club.