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November 29, 2004
Democrats Vulnerable In 2006: Washington Times

Amy Fagan analyzes the Democrats' election chances in the 2006 Senate races and comes to much the same conclusion I did a week ago -- that the worst of the Republican realignment may still be ahead of them:

Democratic senators in the states that President Bush won will face a tough road to re-election in 2006, Republicans say, with their sights set most eagerly on two Democrats named Nelson -- Sens. Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Bill Nelson of Florida. ...

In Nebraska, Gov. Mike Johanns, a Republican, looks like Mr. Nelson's probable challenger for 2006, and Mr. Bush is expected to campaign on his behalf. In Florida, Republicans will be gunning for Mr. Nelson and hope to recruit a big name such as term-limited Gov. Jeb Bush to challenge him.

"These two definitely are going to be watching their backs," said David Mark, editor of Campaigns & Elections magazine. "Particularly on judicial nominees, they're going to be real careful on who they decide to block."

In fact, Democrats have five red-state seats up for contention in the next cycle, while the GOP have only three: Rick Santorum (PA), Lincoln Chafee (RI), and Olympia Snowe (ME). Of the three, only Chafee is at risk, even with a long history supporting liberal causes. Voters may tend to keep him in office in order to maintain influence, since the GOP will remain the party in power, although that may give individual voters a bit too much credit. Pennsylvania went to Kerry by a thinner margin than Ohio went to Bush, and the incumbency gives him an advantage that only a major name could dent (perhaps Ed Rendell?).

More to the point, the Democrats have to defend states that went for Bush in much greater margin than the GOP states went to Kerry. The "Bush Factor" in these states, the margin separating Bush from Kerry, is very significant:

Bill Nelson, Florida - +5.0
Jeff Bingaman, New Mexico - +1.1
Ben Nelson, Nebraska - +33.5
Kent Conrad, North Dakota - +27.4
Robert Byrd, West Virginia - +12.7

The problem actually extends to all of 2006's Senate races. The average Bush factor across the Democrat seats is -1.95, while the GOP has a 12.6 average. This means that the Democrats have much less support in all their races for the blue-state agenda, which forces them to take on a more conservative voting record for survival in 2006. As Fagan correctly analyzes, this means obstructionism is probably dead for judicial nominees for this session. Even if it's tried, the most vulnerable Senators will not be able to sign on, making a filibuster all but impossible to sustain.

The next session of the Senate will have to be more compliant to the Bush Administration's agenda and nominees. Expect to see a flurry of appointments right at the beginning of the term, possibly including at least one Supreme Court justice. If the Democrats have done their homework, they will be very ostentatious in approving the President's selections. If not, they will help to elect a filibuster-proof majority for the GOP in 2006.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 29, 2004 6:36 AM

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