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Wednesday | September 04, 2002

Given the National Review's right-wing bent, this Senate race outlook by its political reporter is surprisingly pessimistic.

The piece looks at the 12 closest races, and ranks them thusly:


Allard is ahead right now, and should win barring a major mistake. Yet his support is soft, giving the Democrats some reason for hope.
Cleland, who was severely crippled in Vietnam, sits atop a deep well of sympathy. Unseating him would be a major upset.

The Matchup: Rep. Greg Ganske (R.) vs. Tom Harkin (D.)
Latest Poll: Harkin leading, 50 percent to 41 percent, by Des Moines Register
The Line: Harkin never seems to win his elections by much a source of endless hope for the GOP yet he somehow always manages to win. Ganske will give Harkin a race, but he may not be conservative enough to inspire the GOP base in a state that has trended Democrat in recent elections.

The Matchup: Former St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman (R.) vs. Sen. Paul Wellstone
Latest Poll: Coleman leading, 46 percent to 42 percent, by National Republican Senatorial Committee
The Line: Wellstone is one of the Democrats' weaker incumbents, but so far Coleman has not excited Minnesota voters the way Republicans once had hoped. The race remains close, and Coleman won't let anyone forget that Wellstone, by running this year, is breaking his pledge to serve no more than two terms. Wellstone is a left-wing idealist, but he is difficult to dislike. Expect a photo finish.

The Matchup: Sen. Jean Carnahan (D.) vs. former Rep. Jim Talent (R.)
Latest Poll: Talent leading, 47 percent to 46 percent, by St. Louis Post-Dispatch
The Line: Talent is a defeated gubernatorial candidate who remains one of the brightest stars on the GOP bench if only he can take his political career to the next level. Carnahan is the sympathetic widow of a former governor. This will be a very tough race for the Republican, but he has a fighting chance. Of all the potential GOP pickups in 2002, this one probably holds the most interest for conservatives.

The Matchup: Gov. Jeanne Shaheen vs. TBD
Latest Poll: n/a
The Line: Everything's up in the air until September 10, when Sen. Bob Smith and Rep. John Sununu face off in the controversial GOP primary. Sununu is widely viewed as the stronger candidate in the general election, but Smith has a devoted conservative following. The primary is too close to call, and the November election stands to be a nail-biter as well.

The Matchup: Businessman Douglas Forrester (R.) vs. Sen. Robert Torricelli (D.)
Latest Poll: Tied at 40 percent, by Democratic firm Benson Strategies
The Line: This probably isn't the best year to be running for the Senate as a businessman, but it also isn't the best year to be running as Torricelli, whose ethical lapses may finally catch up with him. Recent polls have invigorated Republicans, who believe they have a reasonable chance to steal a seat from the Democrats.

The Matchup: Former Clinton White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles (D.) vs. Elizabeth Dole (R.)
Latest Poll: Dole leading, 61 percent to 29 percent, by Republican firm Voter/Consumer Research
The Line: Dole is one of the most famous female politicians in the country, but she's never run for public office except for an uninspired and short-lived presidential bid. Her campaign has succeeded so far by avoiding mistakes, but the generally right-leaning voters of North Carolina have shown a tendency in recent years to cast ballots for Democrats. This race will tighten, but it remains Dole's to lose.

The Matchup: Sen. Gordon Smith vs. Secretary of State Bill Bradbury
Latest Poll: Smith leading, 45 percent to 41 percent, by Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
The Line: This could be the sleeper race of the year for Democrats they're hoping for another surprise in the Northwest, repeating the razor-thin, upset victory over GOP Sen. Slade Gorton of Washington two years ago. Smith is the favorite, but his reelection numbers have not been impressive. Definitely worth watching.

The Matchup: Sen. Tim Johnson (D.) vs. Rep. John Thune (R.)
Latest Poll: Thune leading, 47 percent to 45 percent, by Republican firm Anderson Group
The Line: This one is a dead heat, and will be widely interpreted as a proxy war between the White House and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. Thune represents the GOP's best chance for a pickup this year, and was once considered a (very) slight favorite. It will remain close to the end, and Thune will have to avoid missteps, such as his recent refusal to say whether he would vote for Daschle or Trent Lott as majority leader.

The Matchup: Former Gov. Lamar Alexander (R.) vs. Rep. Bob Clement (D.)
Latest Poll: Alexander leading, 53 percent to 39 percent, by Republican firm Ayres, McHenry, and Associates
The Line: A hard-fought primary election against Rep. Ed Bryant does not appear to have hurt Alexander he is favored to defeat Clement in this open-seat election.

The Matchup: Attorney General John Cornyn (R.) vs. Former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk (D.)
Latest Poll: Tied at 46 percent, by Democratic firm Montgomery & Associates
The Line: Republicans aren't supposed to lose in Texas, but several polls have shown Kirk leading Cornyn. Republicans plausibly say this is because Kirk is better known throughout the state, and that party loyalists will fall in line as the campaign intensifies. Kirk has raised much of his money outside the state, from Democrats who would like to see an African American elected to the Senate. A Kirk victory, should it happen, would be the story of the election interpreted by the media as a rebuke of Bush, plus hailed as a milestone in racial progress and probably guaranteeing Democratic retention of the Senate.

Posted September 04, 2002 07:46 AM | Trackback (0)
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