By Stephen Yellin
In 2002, Patty Murray blew a good hand and gave up the Senate to the GOP, Senator Jon Corzine of New Jersey, the current chair of the DSCC started out with a bad one. After all, when you've got 5 potential open seats in your opponent's home turf, you've got your work cut out for you. But there are several cases this year of Democrats moving forward with our races to regain the Senate.
In Illinois, several able Democrats had decided to run even before Peter Fitzgerald dropped out of the Senate race. While we have a large primary crowd, it hasn't been bloody, and the candidates are keeping it civil. They range from talented young State Comptroller Dan Hynes to successful Investment Banker Blair Hull to the able, progressive State Senator Barack Obama, to the reformer of Cook County's Treasury, Maria Pappas. Any of the four could win the nomination, and due to the GOP failures to recruit a strong candidate there, we are favored to pick up this seat.
In Alaska, Lisa Murkowski is clearly vulnerable, since she's an unelected incumbent who was picked by her father to fill his vacated seat. So, Corzine wisely recruited former Governor Tony Knowles to run, and a poll taken by Ivan Moore Research has Knowles ahead of "Daddy's Little Senator" by 12. This race will be good, but without Knowles this race would be a lock for the GOP.
In Missouri, State Treasurer Nancy Farmer decided to run against enator Kit Bond. The demure Farmer may speak softly, but she carries a big stick, and will take it to Bond. In fact, Farmer already holds Bond to an 11-point lean in a recent DSCC poll despite having just 25% name recognition. Being already at 50%, Bond is still favored, but this race will be highly competitive.
Then there is Pennsylvania. I forgot to mention in my previous article that Congressman Pat Toomey is battling Senator Arlen Specter in a conservative vs. moderate bloodbath in the Republican Primary. Congressman Joe Hoeffel is running, and millionaire Charlie Crystle is running as a Dean Democrat. Either one will be a strong candidate against either a weakened Specter or the arch-conservative Toomey. Now, Pennsylvania is competitive as well. It's true that we have a competitive primary on our hands, but if you recall, Ed Rendell survived his primary in 2002 stronger than before.
Finally, there's the South. Here, we have three open seats (Miller in Georgia, Hollings in South Carolina, and now Edwards in North Carolina), and two potentially open seats (Graham in Florida and Breaux in Louisiana) to worry about.
However, with Congressman Mark Foley dropping out in Florida, the GOP infighting in Georgia and South Carolina, and with no Republican running in Louisiana so far, all is not yet lost. In Florida, we have several strong candidates, including Betty Castor, the competentand experienced ex-Education Commisssioner, Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas (a hit with Republican Cubans, who then might vote Democratic in the Presidential race as well), Congressman Peter Deutsch (a fiery liberal with plenty of cash), and Congressman Allen Boyd (a moderate in the fold of Graham, who would do well in conservative areas). With the GOP left with four arch-conservatives in the wake of Foley's exit, the Democrats should hold this seat, with or without Graham in the race.
Republicans have a weak field in South Carolina, with free-trader Jim DeMint the frontrunner in an anti-free-trade state. The Democrats have two strong candidates to succeed Hollings, Superientendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum and Columbia Mayor Bob Coble. Both are excellent campaigners and are moderate, which means either one could hold the seat for the Democrats.
In North Carolina, there's Senator John Edwards, who decided not to run for reelection. Although Edwards is running for President, never fear, Democrats-there are two solid Democratic candidates who would run. Erskine Bowles nearly toppled Mount Dole last year, and would have a much easier campaign against Congressman Richard Burr. There's also Dan Blue, the talented ex-State House Speaker, who could do better than Harvey Gantt did against Jesse Helms in 1990 and 1996.