April 6, 2004

60-40 FILES:

The Cruelest Month: Senate races tighten. (John Miller, 4/05/04, National Review)

I've been tracking 18 Senate races for NRO since last summer — but April is the cruelest month and it's time to make a few cuts. Incumbents are sure to win in Arkansas, Nevada, and North Dakota. Each of these seats is currently held by a Democrat in a state where Republicans fare well. In each instance, however, GOP recruiting went poorly and the party didn't get the candidate it wanted. Senators Blanche Lincoln, Harry Reid, and Byron Dorgan are breathing sighs of relief. At Republican National Committee headquarters, they can file these races under "what might have been."

Here, for comparison, is a list of the Democrat incumbents who lost in 1980, many of them towering figures in their Party:

Birch Bayh of Indiana (1962)
John Culver of Iowa (1974)
Frank Church of Idaho (1956)
John Durkin of New Hampshire (1974)
Mike Gravel of Alaska (1968)
George McGovern of South Dakota (1962)
Warren Magnuson of Washington (1944)
Robert Morgan of North Carolina (1974)
Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin (1962)
Donald Stewart of Alabama (appointed in 1978)
Richard Stone of Florida (1974)
Herman Talmadge of Georgia (1956)

And here is the freshman Republican class of 1980, an almost unparalleled flock of shut-ins and whackjobs, about a half of whom couldn't even hold their seats in 1986 (*):

Paula Hawkins of Florida*
Jeremiah Denton of Alabama*
Frank Murkowski of Alaska
Mack Mattingly of Georgia*
Steven Symms of Idaho
Dan Quayle of Indiana
Charles Grassley of Iowa
Alfonse D'Amato of New York
John East of North Carolina*
Mark Andrews of North Dakota*
Don Nickles of Oklahoma
Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania
James Abdnor of South Dakota*
Slade Gorton of Washington*
Robert Kasten of Wisconsin

Senators like Blanche Lincoln, Harry Reid, & Byron Dorgan will never be out of the woods in this campaign because the President stands to run so far ahead of John Kerry in their states as to make their own victories problematic regardless of who runs against them.

OVER 25% OF VOTERS ARE NOT REGISTERED DEMS OR REPS (Richard Wagner, 2/01/04, Ballot Access News)

Ballot Access News has been printing registration statistics by party in all even-numbered years, starting in 1992. In addition, the editor has registration data for most states that is much older (in some cases, 90 years old). For years now, the percentage of people registered in the major parties has been slowly declining. In 1992, 48% of voters in the "registration states" were Democrats, and 34% were Republicans, leaving only 18% of the voters in other categories. Currently, Democrats are 42%, Republicans are 33%, and 25%+ are "other."

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 6, 2004 7:52 AM

Oh come on, Bush is politically dead. Moqtada al-Sadr just killed him. The guy can do anything he wants, when he wants it and how he wants it. It's not the going to war that will be Bush's undoing, it's the fact that he is losing this war.

Posted by: Peter at April 6, 2004 8:07 AM

That's funny, because Sadr is very close to being actually dead.

Posted by: Timothy at April 6, 2004 8:34 AM

There is a reason Republicans fail to recruit "good canidates". In the case of Blanche Lincoln, it was (and is) going to be very difficult under any circumstance, because, although liberal/socialist can depend on her, she never says stupid liberal type things in public. As a matter fact she usually sounds like a conservative. For instance, on Gun Rights, you would think she goes Duck hunting, bear hunting, coon hunting, deer hunting, target practicing, and bivouac with the Army even though that of course is not the case and actually Feinstein knows on obscure procedural votes Lincoln will be with her.

Hence the net result is that NRA or conservatives would have to explain confusing issues to the public via expensive advertising. Tough to do.

Probably the same issues apply to Reid and Dorgan. Of course Gun Rights are only one of a myriad of issues that Republicans need to get over the top.

Posted by: h-man at April 6, 2004 8:50 AM


The war is not a factor. All that matters is the economy.

Posted by: oj at April 6, 2004 8:52 AM


Doesn't matter who's running--they're Republican states and a victory margin of about ten points at the top of the ticket can doom the Democrat incumbents.

Posted by: oj at April 6, 2004 8:55 AM

If the war doesn't matter, how comes Bush's job approval ratings dropped as much as ten percent over the weekend, when it became apparent that he completely lost control of the situation in Iraq ?

Don't fool yourself. If Lincoln would have had McClellan's dismal record in November 1864, do you think he would have been re-elected ? I don't.

I'm afraid that Bush is now in the same position as Johnson was in 1968. Johnson didn't even run again.

Posted by: Peter at April 6, 2004 9:05 AM


Yes, if the South rises up and secedes Bush will lose.

Posted by: oj at April 6, 2004 9:13 AM


In 1980, the electorate had something to vote against - the dreadful Carter legacy and 15-20 years of Democratic excess and foolishness in Congress. It is always much easier to rile up the voters against something than for something. Your list will only apply to 2004 if the emotion of 1994 is repeated, which is doubtful. Bush may beat Kerry by 10-14 points and the GOP may still pick up just 2-3 seats, although I think Miller is unduly pessimistic. Reid is quite vulnerable, and Ryan should win in IL. But a lot depends upon individual campaigning. One of the reasons 1980 was such a sweep is because few of the Democrats thought they were vulnerable, and their arrogance cost them.

Posted by: jim hamlen at April 6, 2004 9:54 AM

Nobody is mentioning the fact that the President has openly planned on campaigning for GOP candidates nationwide, not wanting to claim a great personal victory like Reagan in 1984 while squandering any chance of improving the overall governing situation. You need not look any further back than two years ago to see how Karl Rove will approach it -- except for the fact that the President will be heading the top of the ticket, the economy will be booming, and the drawdown in Iraq will be well underway.

Orrin's right -- those states Miller is writing off in April (!) ought to be in play in November.

Posted by: kevin whited at April 6, 2004 10:17 AM

A couple of notes
Peter is too pessimistic on the war - this weekends events aren't pleasant but necessary. As for poll drops everything said the same after Clarke's first day of testimony and Bush has already recovered.
Miller tends to be too pessimistic - I believe he had the GOP losing 2 seats in 2002 instead of gaining. It is too early to write off the Red states, especially if Bush does get a sizeable lead.
I'm not as optimistic as OJ but a 4-5 seat pickup for the GOP seems reasonable.

Posted by: AWW at April 6, 2004 11:25 AM

Get 5 and the Nelsons and Bayh fall into your lap like ripe fruit.

Posted by: oj at April 6, 2004 12:51 PM

Isn't it usually the eccentrics (like Shelby, Campbell, Jeffords) who switch? Gramm was viewed that way in 1983 as well.

Posted by: jim hamlen at April 6, 2004 2:41 PM


Not when a realignment comes--then any moderate who wants to remain in politics in a state that favors the other party and anyone with national aspirations will consider switching.

Keep in mind that if the GOP holds the presidency and both houses of Congress in 2004--never mind extending its margin in each--it will be the first time in three quarters of a century. The near insanity of current Democratic attacks on George Bush are likely the product of a party that sees itself headed into the wilderness for decades.

Posted by: oj at April 6, 2004 6:12 PM

I understand your point, but a re-alignment has been predicted since 1984, and I am still waiting.

1994 was close. But only close, and temporary.

Isn't a re-alignment when part of the base switches sides? As I see it, this must involve significant changes in the black vote, and significant changes in either (or both) CA & NY. Then (and only then) will the Democrats have to face what they have become. Of course, with Arnold, things might be on their way. But NY is a cesspool, even in the GOP.

Posted by: jim hamlen at April 6, 2004 8:11 PM

Temporary? Excepting Jim Jeffords little snit they've held both houses for a decade and counting.

Posted by: oj at April 6, 2004 8:55 PM

The GOP lost 4 Senate incumbents in 2000, 3 of whom were reasonably good candidates (Gorton, Abraham, Ashcroft). And McCollum ran poorly against Nelson in FL. They were stronger in 1996 than they are now.

I'll buy your argument if they pick up 6+ this year, but I'll stick with 3 or 4. LA will be problematic (Vitter is snippy) and Boxer has been hiding behind the issue of giving guns to pilots. Arnold will have to spend some capital if she is going to lose. Daschle is probably a goner, but PA will be tough if Specter loses (although I despise him) - and the state always has 1 from the East and 1 from the West. Allentown (Toomey's home) is not E or W.

Even in a big Presidential victory, a lot of stuff is local. Remember Margaret Chase Smith?

But what about the House? Plus 7 or plus 12?

Posted by: jim hamlen at April 6, 2004 10:44 PM