2006 is going to be the year for Democrats

With almost exactly a year to go before the midterm elections, Senate Democrats are looking at a political landscape wide open for victory. We are aggressively outraising, outrecruiting, outorganizing and outmaneuvering Republicans, all while laying out a clear message for change.

Democrats are focused on the issues that Americans care about: protecting Social Security, improving health coverage, securing our country, ensuring success in Iraq and lowering energy prices.

Patrick G. Ryan
Sen. Charles Schumer
(D-N.Y.)


At the same time, we are prepared to bring an end to the Republicans’ corruption, cronyism and incompetence. Republicans are mired in a series of unethical conduct, including the possible indictment of Karl Rove, the indictment of Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and an investigation into Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.).

This election cycle is about bringing back an honest, responsible and competent government that is focused on average Americans.

Public polls reveal that the political climate is trending in favor of the Democrats, a fact backed up by the data around the nation. When the most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll asked Americans whom they wanted in control of Congress, Democrats won by the largest margin since 1994, the last time the congressional majority changed hands. 

These national trends are being paralleled in the top Senate races where strong Democrats are challenging GOP incumbents. In Arizona, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Montana, Missouri and Ohio, our candidates are polling extremely well and receiving overwhelming financial support as they gear up for the coming campaign.

In Pennsylvania, for example, state Treasurer Bob Casey Jr. is leading Sen. Rick Santorum by 18 points in the latest Quinnipiac poll. State Auditor Claire McCaskill is in a statistical dead heat with Sen. Jim Talent after just a few weeks of campaigning in Missouri. Meanwhile, developer and former Arizona Democratic state Chairman Jim Pederson was able to raise a significant amount of money in just three weeks after announcing his candidacy against Sen. John Kyl.

Many of these candidates are challenging Republican incumbents in states that George Bush won in 2004 — a clear sign that Democrats aren’t going to back down in the so-called red states.

We’re also winning in all the little ways that add up to victory on Election Day. Our challengers and incumbents are raising money at stunning rates. And Senate Democrats have significantly more cash on hand than our Republican counterparts, maintaining a nearly 2-1 advantage for the better part of the 2006 cycle. This strong financial advantage gives us a running start as we prepare our campaign plans.

At the same time, President Bush is dragging Republicans down, making it difficult for them to recruit challengers and dimming the reelection prospects of GOP incumbents. President Bush has an all-time low approval rating of 39 percent — the lowest presidential rating since 1994. And in many of the states with 2006 Senate races, Bush’s net approval is in the double-digit negatives.

These trends have made it difficult for Republicans to recruit top-tier Senate candidates. From North Dakota to Michigan to Florida, prospective candidates are turning down the chance to run, even in the face of increasing pressure from the White House and other key Republicans. The result has meant weaker challenges in many key states, giving Democrats a chance to have their election operations in full swing before Republicans can even convince someone to run.

Those incumbents who are being challenged are doing outstanding in their reelection efforts, demonstrating their strength as Democratic senators. Senators Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), Hillary Clinton (N.Y.) and Maria Cantwell (Wash.) are outraising their challengers and trumping them in the polls.

All the pieces of the 2006 election — recruitment, fundraising and polling — are smoothly coming together for Democrats. While Republicans continue to prove that their priorities are not those of the American people, Democrats are showing up to get the country back on track.

Schumer is chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.