Senate GOP Will Have a Smaller Majority

With two weeks to go before voters in 33 states go to the polls to choose U.S. senators, it appears that Republicans are likely to retain their majority in the Senate—albeit with diminished ranks.

The Senate currently has 55 Republicans, 44 Democrats, and one independent (Vermont’s James Jeffords, the former Republican who caucuses with the Democrats).

I predict the Republicans will hang on in three states where incumbent senators are hard-pressed—Missouri, Ohio and Virginia—and in Tennessee, where Senate GOP Leader Bill Frist is retiring. In addition, the GOP is likely to pick up the Senate seat in New Jersey currently held by Democrat Bob Menendez.

Democrats, however, are likely to unseat Republican senators in Montana (Conrad Burns), Pennsylvania (Rick Santorum) and Rhode Island (Lincoln Chafee) and hold seats in Maryland and Minnesota, where incumbent Senators Paul Sarbanes and Mark Dayton are retiring.

In Vermont, where Jeffords is retiring, leftist Rep. Bernie Sanders, running as an independent, will win his seat In Connecticut, Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman should win his fourth term, this time as an independent. Both Sanders and Lieberman will caucus with the Democrats.

In sum, I predict the new line-up will be 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and two independents who vote with Democrats.

Likely Republican Pickups
New Jersey Tom Kean, Jr. Bob Menendez Son of former governor has edge on appointed senator.
Leaning Republican Holds
Missouri Jim Talent Claire McCaskill Missouri has gone GOP five elections in row.
Ohio Mike DeWine Sherrod Brown Beleaguered DeWine has momentum in final weeks.
Tennessee Bob Corker Harold Ford, Jr. State’s GOP leanings should put Corker over.
Virginia George Allen Jim Webb Allen now pulling ahead of Webb.
Certain Republican Holds
Arizona Jon Kyl Jim Pedersen Pedersen’s big-spending race now wearing thin.
Indiana Dick Lugar (no candidate) Lugar is an Indiana institution.
Maine Olympia Snowe Jean Hay Bright Snowe will coast to third term.
Mississippi Trent Lott Erik Fleming Fleming is a little-known state legislator.
Nevada John Ensign Jack Carter Ensign has big lead over Jimmy’s son.
Texas Kay Bailey Hutchison Barbara Ann Radnofsky Hutchison will win in record landslide.
Utah Orrin Hatch Pete Ashton Hatch is easy sixth term winner.
Wyoming Craig Thomas Dale Groutage This is Cheney country.
Likely Democratic Pickups
Montana Conrad Burns – Jon Tester Abramoff money hurting Burns.
Pennsylvania Rick Santorum Bob Casey, Jr. Santorum can’t catch up with son of former governor.
Rhode Island Lincoln Chafee Sheldon Whitehouse Rough primary wounded Chafee.
Leaning Democratic Holds
Maryland Michael Steele Ben Cardin Democrat registration edge too much for Steele.
Michigan Mike Bouchard Debbie Stabenow Bouchard a strong sheriff, but Stabenow a stronger senator.
Minnesota Mark Kennedy Amy Klobacher Democrats united behind Klobacher.
Certain Democratic Holds
California Dick Mountjoy Dianne Feinstein Mountjoy could not raise real money for race.
Delaware Jan Teng Tom Carper Carper a longtime fixture in state politics.
Florida Katherine Harris Bill Nelson Harris campaign crash-landed.
Hawaii Jerry Coffee Daniel Akaka GOP’s Coffee withdrew for health reasons.
Massachusetts Ken Chase Ted Kennedy Kennedy conceded seat by GOP.
Nebraska Pete Ricketts Ben Nelson Nelson casts just enough GOP votes in Senate.
New Mexico Allen McCulloch Jeff Bingaman McCulloch is unknown.
New York John Spencer Hillary Clinton Hillary will get boost for ’08 presidential race.
North Dakota Dwight Grotberg Kent Conrad State hasn’t elected GOP senator since ’80.
Washington Mike McGavick Maria Cantwell McGavick’s campaign never caught fire.
West Virginia John Raese Robert Byrd Byrd is his state’s Strom Thurmond.
Wisconsin R. Gerald Lorge Herb Kohl Lorge is unknown and underfinanced.
Certain Independent Wins
Connecticut Alan Schlesinger Ned Lamont Joe Lieberman, running as an independent, has much GOP support.
Vermont Richard Tarrant Bernie Sanders (I) Sanders has Democrat backing, big lead in polls.
(Incumbents in the chart are listed in bold.)