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 KerrySchumer to donate Epstein campaign contributions to groups fighting sexual violence Trump threatens Iran with increased sanctions after country exceeds uranium enrichment cap The 'invisible primary' has begun 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 CollinsRepublicans make U-turn on health care Children urge Congress to renew funds for diabetes research Justice Democrats issues 3 new endorsements for progressive candidates 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 MerkleySenate Democrat releasing book on Trump admin's treatment of migrants at border Sunday shows - Amash, immigration dominate Merkley on delaying endorsement: 'We have a different set of cards this time' MORE will challenge Gordon Smith, Rep. Tom Allen will go against Collins, and either Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Mexican officials scramble to avoid Trump tariffs The Hill's Morning Report - Tariff battle looms as Trump jabs 'foolish' Senate GOP Barbs start to fly ahead of first Democratic debate MORE or Mike Ciresi will challenge Coleman. The big question is whether Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenOvernight Defense: House approves 3 billion defense bill | Liberal sweeteners draw progressive votes | Bill includes measure blocking Trump from military action on Iran Senators urge Trump to sanction Turkey for accepting Russian missile shipment Female senators invite US women's soccer team to visit Capitol 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 UdallDemocrats hope some presidential candidates drop out — and run for Senate  Denver Post editorial board says Gardner endorsement was 'mistake' Gardner gets latest Democratic challenge from former state senator 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 WarnerTrump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand On The Money: Fed chief warns of 'unthinkable' harm if debt ceiling breached | Powell basks in bipartisan praise amid Trump attacks | Federal deficit jumps to 7 billion Fed chief basks in bipartisan praise as lawmakers dismiss Trump attacks 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 CochranBiden has a lot at stake in first debate The Hill's Morning Report — Trump turns the page back to Mueller probe Trump praises Thad Cochran: 'A real senator with incredible values' MORE (R-Miss.) or Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelTrump's pick for Pentagon chief wins allies on Capitol Hill Trump pick brings scrutiny to 'revolving door' between Pentagon, industry Overnight Defense: Senators plan 22 resolutions to block Saudi arms sale | Trump defends transgender military plan | Trump, lawmakers prep to mark D-Day anniversary 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 LandrieuCongress needs to work to combat the poverty, abuse and neglect issues that children face Dems wrestle over how to vote on ‘Green New Deal’ Lobbying world 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.