Senate GOPers’ dark ’08 outlook

GOP prospects in the 2008 Senate races have gone from dim to dismal. With 14 months to go, it looks like they’ll be lucky to lose only two or three seats, and it could be much worse.

Start with four states where John KerryJohn Forbes KerryChina, Russia, Iran rise in Latin America as US retreats The Memo: Harris move shows shift in politics of gun control Overnight Defense: Trump ends sanctions waivers for buying Iranian oil | At least four Americans killed in Sri Lanka attacks | Sanders pushes for Yemen veto override vote MORE beat George W. Bush: New Hampshire (by a 1 percent margin), Minnesota (3 percent), Oregon (4 percent) and Maine (9 percent). These states are represented by second-termers Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMcConnell pledges to be 'Grim Reaper' for progressive policies Senate Republicans tested on Trump support after Mueller Collins: Mueller report includes 'an unflattering portrayal' of Trump MORE (R-Maine) and Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) and first-termers Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) and John Sununu (R-N.H.).

Each of the four has moderate credentials that play well in their respective states. But it was Republican moderates who bore the brunt of the losses in 2006 when the unpopular president and Iraq war played poorly. Several of these races have attracted top-tier Democratic candidates. Speaker of the House Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyOnly four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates More than 30 Senate Dems ask Trump to reconsider Central American aid cuts Long-shot goal of nixing Electoral College picks up steam MORE will challenge Gordon Smith, Rep. Tom Allen will go against Collins, and either Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenWinners and losers from first fundraising quarter Election analyst says Gillibrand doesn't have 'horsepower to go the full distance' Gillibrand campaign links low fundraising to Al Franken backlash: memo MORE or Mike Ciresi will challenge Coleman. The big question is whether Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne Shaheen2020 Dems back repeal of controversial New Hampshire voting law New Hampshire senator to ask 2020 Dems to back repeal of state residency law Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 MORE gets in for a rematch against Sununu.

Two open seats

Wayne Allard’s (R-Colo.) retirement creates a good opportunity for Democrats, especially as they have recruited Rep. Mark UdallMark Emery UdallDenver Post editorial board says Gardner endorsement was 'mistake' Gardner gets latest Democratic challenge from former state senator Setting the record straight about No Labels MORE (D-Colo.) to run. Republicans could hold this seat, but it is pretty much a toss-up at this point. In Virginia, John Warner’s retirement creates an opportunity for Democrats, especially if Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerDems reject Barr's offer to view Mueller report with fewer redactions GOP senators divided on Trump trade pushback Hillicon Valley: Trump unveils initiatives to boost 5G | What to know about the Assange case | Pelosi warns tech of 'new era' in regulation | Dem eyes online hate speech bill MORE runs. On the Republican side, Rep. Tom Davis (Va.) would be a very strong candidate. He still may face a conservative primary challenge from former Gov. Jim Gilmore, but Gilmore is weakened by his time out of office and poor presidential showing. A Davis-Warner race would be at best a toss-up. Without Warner, Davis will likely keep the seat in Republican hands.


The early date of the scandal and the resignation of Larry Craig will help Republicans retain the seat. Sometimes, a candidate who hangs on too long with scandal surrounding him (e.g., Bob Ney or Tom DeLay) can cause the party to lose seats even in safe districts. The other potential scandal-affected candidate is Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), whose House was searched by the FBI.  The outcome of the case is unclear, but a lingering scandal could put this usually safe seat in play.

Other possible retirements

No word yet from Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranTop 5 races to watch in 2019 Bottom Line Races Dems narrowly lost show party needs to return to Howard Dean’s 50 state strategy MORE (R-Miss.) or Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelSwalwell says he will convene a bipartisan 'blended cabinet' if elected president Overnight Energy: John Kerry hits Trump over climate change at hearing | Defends Ocasio-Cortez from GOP attacks | Dems grill EPA chief over auto emissions rollback plan For planet and country: National security's climate moment MORE (R-Neb.) on their retirement plans.  While both hail from Republican states, there are strong potential Democratic candidates in Mike Moore and Bob Kerrey, who could make these seats interesting.

Few (one?) vulnerable Democrats

Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuDems wrestle over how to vote on ‘Green New Deal’ Lobbying world Former New Orleans mayor: It's not my 'intention' to run for president MORE (D-La.) has run in competitive races in a state that has been trending Republican. Add to her troubles the diminished Democratic electorate post-Katrina and the fact that Treasurer John Kennedy has switched to the Republican Party to challenge her, and her prospects look shaky.

After Landrieu, it is hard to see other potential Republican pick-ups. Tim JohnsonTimothy (Tim) Peter JohnsonSeveral hurt when truck runs into minimum wage protesters in Michigan Senate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Court ruling could be game changer for Dems in Nevada MORE (D-S.D.) might have been vulnerable, but his illness has galvanized support around him and scared off top-tier Republican opponents, at least so far.  Every other Democrat looks safe.

Democrats may have six real chances to pick up seats to the Republicans’ one. That imbalance points to Democratic gains of two to four seats.

Fortier is a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.