Saturday, March 10, 2007

2008 Governor/U.S. Senate races- Spring 2007

I now plan to take an early look at every race for Governor and the U.S. Senate which is up in the 2008 elections. These are just some basic, unorganized thoughts that will be occurring to me as I look at all these races and I am just intending to offer very brief thumbnail sketches of the contests. Do not expect any eloquence or perhaps even sterling grammar within this post. Since they are my own thoughts, I suppose that means they will be discussed from a Republican perspective, but I still am going to venture to be as realistic as possible about what might be likely to occur in all these states. Around the beginning of the summer, I will reexamine these races.

Alabama U.S. Senate

The state has seen Republicans do very well, especially at the federal level, over the past decade plus, and GOP Senator Jeff Sessions should have very little trouble earning a third term. Democrats had held out some hope that the youthful Congressman Artur Davis, a somewhat moderate African-American politician, would make this race, but he declined interest some time ago.

Alaska U.S. Senate

The curmudgeonly Ted Stevens, the senior Republican in the U.S. Senate has indicated he plans to seek a seventh third term in 2008. At the age of 83, there has been some speculation that Stevens would retire in order to pave the way for his State Senator son to run for the seat, but the younger Stevens is dealing with issues surrounding an FBI investigation. The U.S. Senate seat appears likely to be Ted Stevens’ for however long he would like it, as the Democrat bench in Alaska is pretty thin, and Stevens is highly respected for his forceful advocacy on behalf the state.

Arkansas U.S. Senate

Freshman Democrat Mark Pryor appears to be a solid favorite for reelection, despite the fact that Arkansas is a conservative state which may be amicable to Republicans if the national environment goes a certain way. However, Democrats do better in Arkansas than they do in nearly any other southern state and Republicans will not a top challenger to even put this race on anybody’s radar. One Republican mentioned, Chuck Banks, has a record of suffering some political defeats and would not appear to be an opponent who would strike fear in the heart of Pryor. Many Republicans will hold out hope that the popular former Governor Mike Huckabee will decide to switch from his Presidential campaign to a race to take on Pryor. If that were to happen, the race would then likely become a tossup.

Colorado U.S. Senate

In what is currently the only guaranteed open U.S. Senate seat election, the contest in Colorado may be one of the most closely watched of the cycle. Two term incumbent Republican Wayne Allard is retiring and while that may appear on the surface to be good news for Democrats, it might actually have the reverse affect, as Allard would have had to deal with some political deficiencies and what would have been a broken term limits pledge in a very tough race. Instead, the contest is extremely likely to come down to a battle between Democrat Congressman Mark Udall and former GOP Congressman Scott McInnis. While Democrats are downright giddy about the prospect of gaining this seat, and consider it the best bet in the country for either side to make a pickup, they may be wise to question whether the recent success that the party has had in Colorado has had more to do with more moderate Democrat nominees and extremely weak Republican campaigns. While Udall has won several terms from a Democrat strong district near Boulder, his positions on various issues, such as gun rights for example, may make him a harder fit to win statewide, as opposed to people like Ken Salazar and Bill Ritter.

Delaware Governor

The current Democrat Governor will be leaving after two terms, and while Ruth Ann Minner has been mired with mediocre popularity in her second term, there is some thought that she might be rebounding a bit, and thus would make it more likely for her party to keep control of the office in this Democrat friendly state. The current Democrat frontrunner is Lt. Governor John Carney, but he may face a challenge in the primary from State Senator Jack Markell. A bruising primary could be harmful to Democrats and if such a situation were to occur, there would be greater calls for one of the candidates to run instead for the state’s lone Congressional seat, or for a hypothetically open U.S. Senate contest. Several Republicans are looking at making this race, and all of them would likely start as underdogs, but they would hope that after 16 years of Democrat control, the state may be more open to making a change in its top office.

Delaware U.S. Senate

The other contest in the First State is that for the seat held since 1972 by Democrat Senator Joe Biden. Currently, the long-winded politician is a long-shot contender for his party’s Presidential nomination, but most expect him to eventually return to his state and focus full time on winning another term in Washington. While Biden’s last election was somewhat closer than many expected, few believe he would be vulnerable to defeat in his home state. The race could turn dramatically if Biden were to step aside for some reason. If that were to occur, there is thought that the state’s at large Republican Congressman Mike Castle would then decide to take a step up and run for an open U.S. Senate seat, something Delaware has not seen in generations. While Castle leaving his House seat behind would make that contest much tougher for Republicans, Castle could probably make the U.S. Senate race extremely competitive, even against a well-known Democrat.

Georgia U.S. Senate

Democrats would like nothing better than to unseat freshman Republican Saxby Chambliss, but that will be a tall task in Republican friendly Georgia. Chambliss, who was one of the big winners, in the strong GOP year of 2002, will be favored over any potential Democrat opponent, which may include DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones, a politically promising African-American. The overall strongest challenger for Chambliss may be Congressman Jim Marshall, a fairly conservative Democrat. He still though would be hard pressed to knock off the incumbent but many Republicans would love to see him try, as the party would probably be favored to capture his House seat.

Idaho U.S. Senate

Republicans tend to dominate politics in the potato haven, but the party faced a couple of races that were a little too close for comfort towards the end of the 2006 elections. Thus, a couple of those defeated candidates are said to be considering a challenge to three term GOP incumbent Larry Craig. The Republican would certainly be favored however to keep a hold on the seat for his party, even as he also faces the prospect of another defeated candidate from 2006, this one a conservative Republican who lost a Congressional nomination, challenging him in next year’s primary.

Illinois U.S. Senate

Republican frustrations are as strong as ever in the Land of Lincoln, and many people across the country believe that two term Democrat Dick Durbin, recently identified as the most liberal of all 100 U.S. Senators, will have little difficulty winning another term. While Durbin is most definitely in the drivers’ seat, it will be interesting to see how he would fare running statewide for the first time, against a candidate who would be able to both not be painted as a political extremist, and who would have enough money to get a message out. In many ways, Durbin’s profile as a member of his party’s leadership in Washington, gives him a more respected profile there than he has had back at home. Republican State Senator Bill Brady, a conservative, is the preferred candidate of many, but most believe he is instead focused on a second run for Governor in 2010. Another conservative, Kathy Salvi, whose husband lost to Durbin in 1996, has been mentioned, but she may instead take another crack at a Congressional district next year. Most likely then, Durbin will wind up facing someone who is currently little known, but with the capacity to self-fund a race. That prospect would have Republicans happy as the best possible option. Two potential Republican hopefuls who would fit that bill and who are said to be exploring a bid are Steve Greenberg and Kevin O’Hara.

Indiana Governor

Republican Mitch Daniels will attempt to win another term as his state’s chief executive, and if he succeeds, he will have overcome a first term filled with a good deal of political unpopularity. While Indiana tends to favor the GOP, Democrats did well there in 2006, and many believe that Daniels could be extremely vulnerable. However, with several high profile Democrats, such as Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson, and U.S. Senator, Evan Bayh, himself a former Governor, either having ruled out a run or appearing unlikely to do so, the Democrats may be forced to go with a second tier candidate at best. The current front-runner is State Senate Minority Leader Richard Young, although there is also talk about him being challenged by businessman Jim Schellinger. Without any candidates for Governor on the horizon in the mold of the state’s last successfully elected Democrat Governors, Daniels may have the edge after all.

Iowa U.S. Senate

While there has been no official announcement, most expect veteran liberal Democrat Senator Tom Harkin to seek another term. Every six years, Republicans believe that Harkin is ripe for the taking, and the party nominates a highly touted Congressman, and in all those elections, Harkin emerges victorious. His last race proved to be far easier than many initially expected. If Republicans attempt the same tactic again, they may nominate Congressman Steve King, and Harkin will be favored to win another term. Instead, the GOP may be wise to think outside of the box and maybe nominate somebody other than a sitting U.S. House member. Businessman Steve Rathje is currently running, and there is speculation about former Congressman Jim Nussle, who left his seat two years ago after being defeated in a race for Governor. In any event, it will be very tough for the GOP to defeat Harkin.

Kansas U.S. Senate

Despite some recent high-profile Democrat victories, Kansas still remains Republican territory on many levels, and GOP Senator Pat Roberts should have little difficulty winning a third term. Democrats will be hard pressed to even recruit a strong challenger.

Kentucky U.S. Senate

The Bluegrass State is one of three which are holding statewide elections this year, and thus the total political picture may be clearer after this November, but few expect longtime Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, currently receiving rave reviews for his new post as Senate Republican Leader, to be extremely vulnerable. McConnell is extremely influential both in the Capitol and back at home and national and state Democrats will be likely to make some sort of effort to defeat him, but McConnell will continue to hold most of the cards in any election he appears in.

Louisiana U.S. Senate

This is another state that will see statewide elections this year, but Republicans are enthused about the prospect of defeating two term Senate Democrat Mary Landrieu in 2008. Landrieu was considered lucky to have won both of her Senate victories thus far, and since that time, Republicans finally managed to win their first Senate victory in 2004. The political ramifications of Hurricane Katrina and how many Democrat voters may have been displaced is not yet truly known, but Landrieu does appear to be vulnerable to a strong challenge. A GOP sponsored poll out just this past week, showed her numbers to be average at best, and in what should cause great concern to Democrats, she trails Congressman Bobby Jindal by a very wide margin, in a hypothetical 2008 Senate race. However, Jindal is running instead for Governor this year, and based on those numbers, Democrats in 49 states probably will be hoping he wins. A couple other Congressman, Richard Baker and Charles Boustany, are mentioned as potential GOP Senate candidates, and while they are not as well known statewide as either the incumbent or Jindal, they performed very well in those polls against Landrieu in their home bases, where they are best known. Another Republican possibility is Secretary of State Jay Dardenne, who just won statewide office last year. Landrieu is a tough competitor, but she may be as vulnerable as any Senate incumbent in the nation next year.

Maine U.S. Senate

Maine is definitely a state that favors liberals over conservatives, but moderate two term Republican Senator Susan Collins appears to be a good fit for the state, the mold of her GOP colleague Olympia Snowe, both of whom have extremely high job approval ratings. Snowe cruised to an easy reelection last year, and Collins could potentially do the same. However, Democrats are optimistic that she will be challenged by Congressman Tom Allen. A Collins/Allen race would certainly be competitive but the challenger would still need to be able to make the case for replacing the popular incumbent. Democrats will say that the race could turn into a 2006 Rhode Island style contest where liberal Republican Lincoln Chafee was dumped despite being well-respected. There are several problems with that analogy however, chief among them, the fact that voting records indicate that Maine may only be about half as Democrat friendly as Rhode Island.

Massachusetts U.S. Senate

After losing the 2004 election, and making a couple of damaging political gaffes, which forced him to choose against running for President once again, veteran Democrat incumbent John Kerry has seen his job approval ratings stumble to unprecedented low levels for him, even in his extremely liberal home of Massachusetts. Still though, few expect Republicans to have a realistic shot of knocking off Kerry, considering the political nature of the state. As long as Kerry remains maligned however, some credible Republicans may be more willing to take a gamble on the race and hope to either accomplish an upset, or parlay the national exposure into good things down the road. A couple of wealthy businessman, capable of self-funding, are said to be among those considering a run, and the name of former White House Chief of Staff, Andy Card has been mentioned as well.

Michigan U.S. Senate

Republicans actually had high hopes about high-profile races in Michigan last year, but the national environment was just too much for the party to overcome the success that Democrats have had there in recent election years. If the U.S. Senate seat, currently held by Democrat Carl Levin were open, there probably would be several prominent Republicans eager to run, but as long as Levin is seeking reelection, he will be heavily favored to maintain the seat.

Minnesota U.S. Senate

Another race that would mean a lot to Democrats across the country on a personal level, would be the race to defeat freshman Republican Senator Norm Coleman. It is tough for them to stomach the fact that Coleman, a former Democrat, was able to take the seat of the late Paul Wellstone in traditionally liberal Minnesota, defeating former Vice President Walter Mondale, the party’s replacement nominee, in a 2002 upset. Comedian Al Franken decided to leave the troubled Air America radio network to enter this race, but political watchers are less than bullish about his chances of knocking off Coleman, especially after a recent poll showed the incumbent ahead by a healthy margin, at this early point in the cycle. Coleman also leads wealthy DFL businessman Mike Ciresi by a nearly identical margin in that poll, indicating that Coleman may be stronger in his home state than a lot of Democrats were anticipating. Now, Democrats are hoping that one of several stronger potential DFL’ers may run instead, but that is looking more and more unlikely, and it is getting difficult to see how Coleman does not wind up matched against either Franken or Ciresi. A Coleman vs. Franken race would continue the somewhat unusual tradition of this particular Senate seat of both parties nominating Jewish candidates, in a state without a sizeable Jewish population.

Mississippi U.S. Senate

The third state that is seeing statewide elections in 2007 will also see a race for the U.S. Senate the following year, but if GOP Senator Thad Cochran decides to seek a sixth term, as he is said to be leaning towards doing, it will not be much of a contest at all. Democrats will basically pin all their hopes on one day having an open U.S. Senate election in Mississippi where the party could nominate a formidable candidate like former Attorney General Mike Moore, but in a very strong state for Republicans, Cochran would be next to impossible to unseat.

Missouri Governor

The Show Me State will be shown one of the most competitive races for Governor in the 2008 cycle. First term incumbent Matt Blunt, has been besieged by political problems throughout most of his term, and many in the party even hope that he will decide to not seek reelection, in order to increase the party’s chances of maintaining the Governorship. Indeed, Blunt may be challenged in a GOP primary by some candidates, which would include State Treasurer Sarah Steelman. Such a scenario would be very reminiscent of how the first term Democrat Governor was denied re-nomination by a female statewide elected opponent in 2004, only to lose a close race in November to Blunt. This time, the Democrat standard bearer appears likely to be Attorney General Jay Nixon, who was denied a chance to win higher statewide office before, but who would pose a very serious threat to Blunt. The youthful Governor has a few months to either improve his political standings, or he may run the risk of going the way of Frank Murkowski of 2006 and perhaps Ernie Fletcher of 2007.

Montana Governor

First term Democrat Brian Schweitzer is very popular in his state, one which has seen recent Democrat successes, and is considered a heavy favorite to earn another term. However, a poll from late last year did show that many people in the state would at least be willing to consider a generic Republican opponent, which indicates that Schweitzer will at least probably have to work to win another term. The candidate who is currently being mentioned for the Republicans is former State Senate Minority Leader Bob Keenan, who ran unsuccessfully in a U.S. Senate primary last year against embattled incumbent Conrad Burns. Some Democrats even talk up Schweitzer as a potential Vice Presidential candidate, but it is tough to see how any politician could run for both Governor and Vice President at the same time, even if it were legal in the state. Furthermore, a suddenly open contest for Governor would allow Republicans to be more in the game for taking back the office.

Montana U.S. Senate

Democrat Max Baucus will be a heavy favorite to win a sixth term against most hypothetical opponents, but if the NRSC is able to convince the state’s at large Congressman Denny Rehberg, who narrowly lost to Baucus in 1996, before he was elected to Congress, to enter the race, then the whole ballgame will change dramatically. That Montana poll from late last year showed that a Baucus vs. Rehberg rematch may even be a virtual tie. However, many in both parties would wind up being surprised if Rehberg can be convinced of leaving a safe House seat for such a contest.

Nebraska U.S. Senate
At the time I am writing this, maverick Republican Senator Chuck Hagel is scheduled to announce in a couple days what his political plans are for 2008. The current thinking is that he will both decide to seek his party’s Presidential nomination while also deciding to abide by a two term pledge he made back when he was first a candidate in 1996. With Hagel or without, the GOP will be favored to keep this U.S. Senate seat in Republican dominated Nebraska. If Hagel were to seek reelection, he may have to face a primary challenge though based around his opposition to U.S. policy in Iraq. However, few expect that it would be as serious as what Joe Lieberman faced from his party in Connecticut last year. An open seat though could see a variety of candidates in both parties jump into the race. Republicans may include former Congressman and former Omaha Mayor Hal Daub, and perhaps at least one of the state’s current GOP Congressman such as Jeff Fortenberry. Democrats might include the current Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey or perhaps Scott Kleeb, who ran better than Democrats typically do in the most Republican district in the state, as the party’s 2006 Congressional nominee. An open seat in Nebraska would be somewhat more competitive than would otherwise be the case, and in the other scenario, some Republicans may be unwilling to once again vote for Hagel, and would genuinely prefer he leave the seat and give another Republican an opportunity. Overall, the politics of the state will favor Republicans maintaining it.

New Hampshire Governor

The Live Free or Die State is one of just two that see biennial contests for Governor. 2006 was a very strong one for Democrats in the state and Republicans will be far more focused on trying to maintain a U.S. Senate seat and attempting to win back the state’s two Congressional district, in addition to local contests, than in mounting much of a strong challenge against popular incumbent Democrat Governor John Lynch, who would be running for his third two-year term. Some Democrats would prefer that Lynch leave the Governorship behind and run instead for the U.S. Senate, but he appears quite content with his current position.

New Hampshire U.S. Senate
The 2006 successes for Democrats give them high hopes about their chances to defeat freshman Republican Senator John Sununu. However, a Democrat has not been elected to the Senate from New Hampshire since the Watergate year of 1974, and the party may not wind up nominating their strongest possible candidate. Current Governor John Lynch seems set on running for reelection and former Governor Jeanne Shaheen, who lost a competitive race to Sununu in 2002, is probably the next best option, but also may not run. The other candidates who are considering a run may be considered more of the second tier variety. However, Sununu should expect a vigorous race and may wind up facing either Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand or activist Katrina Swett, who lost a House race in 2002, and who has Congressional ties through both her father and her husband. Democrats may think that things will fall into place for them against Sununu as they did in other races in the state in 2006, but the incumbent will probably start off with the edge.

New Jersey U.S. Senate

Republicans always seem to be optimistic about a big breakthrough in New Jersey, but for nearly a decade now, they have fallen short. Democrat Senator Frank Lautenberg is currently 83 years old, less than popular according to recent polls, and despite having retired from the Senate originally back in 2000, appears set on running for another six year term. Despite the pro-Democrat nature of the state, Lautenberg can expect a tough challenge, as several credible Republicans are considering the race, including State Senator Tom Kean Jr., the party’s 2006 nominee for the state’s other Senate seat, and the son of a popular former Governor. However, Republicans will ultimately believe they can win statewide in New Jersey perhaps only after it actually happens.

New Mexico U.S. Senate

Republican Pete Domenici has been in the U.S. Senate since 1973 and despite some speculation that he may wind up retiring due to age or health related issues, he has indicated that he will run again in 2008. When that announcement was made, that seemed to indicate that this race would be off anybody’s top tier radar. The incumbent has received some bad press in the last couple of weeks though regarding allegations that he acted unethically by placing a phone call to a U.S. Attorney to inquire about potential indictments against Democrats. That party will probably now think that they could have a surprise opportunity in the purple state of New Mexico, and there has even been some talk about potentially getting Governor Bill Richardson to run for the U.S. Senate instead of for his party’s Presidential nomination. Richardson would still probably rather be President or more realistically Vice President though to do that. Other potential Domenici challengers are Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez and former Attorney General Patricia Madrid, who stumbled in a 2006 House race, and lost a contest many believe she should have won. If Domenici is able to put the ethical matter behind him, and rely on the long-standing affection he has earned in the state, he may be able to avoid a serious challenge though and the other potential candidates may focus instead on the state’s most competitive House district, which has a Republican House member facing the same sort of allegations as Domenici and who may not be quite as entrenched.

North Carolina Governor

This is another race that may be the premiere Gubernatorial contest in 2008, as Democrat Governor Mike Easley is term limited, and his party will attempt to once again win the office they have held for several terms now. The Democrat frontrunner is Lt. Governor Bev Perdue, but she may wind up not having a free ride to the nomination with a potential primary challenge from others, including State Treasurer Richard Moore. Several Republicans are looking at the race but none of them are as well known statewide and they would need to break out of the pack in order to win a primary. However, while the eventual GOP nominee may start off as an underdog, it is a conservative state, and when one party has held control of a Governorship for a long time, there is often a general desire for a change in leadership.

North Carolina U.S. Senate

Freshman Republican Senator Elizabeth Dole was able to translate her national celebrity into a U.S. Senate victory in her native state back in 2002. She seeks reelection in this cycle with a lot in her favor, but some feel that her approval numbers are not as high as they should be and that she is generally overrated politically. Democrats would love to see term limited Governor Mike Easley challenge Dole but he appears reluctant to enter into any such contest. Without his running, it remains to be seen whom the Democrats might be able to recruit to take on somebody with Elizabeth Dole’s stature and thus, despite what some see to be vulnerabilities, she will likely be favored to win another term.

North Dakota Governor

Two term Republican Governor John Hoeven is among the most popular Chief Executives in the nation and despite some confusion on behalf of at least one national pundit, he is eligible to seek another term in 2008. If he were to do so, he will have very little difficulty winning once again. However, if he were to decide that eight years is enough, another Republican would probably be likely to win in a state like North Dakota as well.

Oklahoma U.S. Senate

Republican Jim Inhofe is currently serving his second full term in the Senate and is about as conservative as they come in Congress. He is a figure of great disdain to many Democrats across the country but all but the most myopic would probably concede that he is a heavy favorite to win another term in 2008. As far as can be seen, no credible Democrat names have surfaced as potential Inhofe opponents.

Oregon U.S. Senate

The Pacific Northwest State is one where Democrats tend to do well, and many in the party hope that they might have a fighting chance of denying Republican Senator Gordon Smith a third term. While some top tier Democrats, including former Governor John Kitzhaber have already ruled out a Senate campaign, there currently are several in the party considering a run, including those in the state’s legislative leadership. Smith can probably expect a more competitive reelection campaign than he faced in 2002, but he is well respected at home and may be tough to paint as having been a rubber stamp for President Bush or the national Republican leadership. The incumbent should start off as the favorite.

Rhode Island U.S. Senate

Democrat Jack Reed faced only token opposition for his first reelection campaign in 2002 and will probably face only token opposition once again for his second reelection in the year 2008, in what is probably the most Democrat state in the nation.

South Carolina U.S. Senate

Freshman Republican Lindsay Graham, who is sometimes mentioned as a potential Vice Presidential hopeful, is seeking reelection in 2008, and will be a solid favorite to win reelection. Talk has cooled a bit about a GOP primary challenge against Graham, who has sometimes acted and voted in ways that displeased conservative base voters, but the name that had been mentioned as a potential Republican rival for Graham had been the now State Treasurer Thomas Ravenel. Considering Ravenel’s wealth, it is not inconsiderable that he could potentially be a greater challenge to a Graham reelection than any possible Democrat opponent. South Carolina has become a very Republican state, probably the most so in the all of the south, and it is difficult to see what Democrat in the state might be able to mount a serious U.S. Senate effort against Graham.

South Dakota U.S. Senate

The eyes of the political nation were tuned to lightly populated South Dakota’s Senate contests in both 2002 and 2004, and with a mere one seat edge for the Democrats in the balance of power, those eyes might very well be tuned to South Dakota yet again in 2008. Back in 2002, Democrat Tim Johnson won a very narrow second term and as this cycle began in earnest, was considered as someone who would once again face a very tough reelection. Then, in December of last year, Johnson suffered a near fatal brain injury and suddenly, Democrats became very worried about losing their majority before it technically began. Since then though, Johnson has received some good medical news and is said to have begun some Senate related work from his room at a rehab facility. His colleagues in the Senate are said to be helping with the raising of money for a 2008 reelection campaign on behalf of Johnson and the conventional wisdom now seems to be that he will indeed be a candidate next year. He still will need to deal with returning to the Senate and even making his first public appearance though in the months ahead and those milestones will help determine what kind of political shape he will be in for 2008 and if he will be able to convince the state‘s voters that he is physically and mentally capable of both a campaign and an additional six year term in the Senate. Republicans have been a little hamstrung by Johnson’s illness, as they have not wanted to appear to be overly ambitious or trying to take advantage of his medical condition. Before Johnson fell ill, there was hope that popular Republican Governor Mike Rounds would enter the race, as he would be by far the strongest potential Republican opponent. Rounds has yet to indicate what he may do, and things may be in a holding pattern until there is a greater sense of how serious Johnson remains medically. If Johnson were to not be able to run, there would seem to be consensus that the state’s at large Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth would attempt to step up, although there is also talk that former Senator Tom Daschle, who was defeated in 2004, could run instead, allowing Herseth to focus on what would be a vulnerable House seat in her absence. This was going to be a top tier race before Johnson’s health became an issue and if he either is forced to not seek reelection or if the voters have concerns about his condition, the race could be even more vulnerable for the Democrats than it would have been to start off with.

Tennessee U.S. Senate

Republican Lamar Alexander will be seeking his second term in the Senate and will be heavily favored to win reelection. In 2006, then Congressman Harold Ford Jr. mounted a strong campaign in defeat for an open U.S. Senate seat, but he seems to be unwilling to attempt a tougher race against Alexander next year and no strong other Democrat, as of yet, appears likely to step up.

Texas U.S. Senate

John Cornyn is yet another Republican who is seeking a second Senate term in 2008, and unlike some others, Cornyn has not exactly managed to be seen as a beloved figure at home. Democrat bloggers love to speculate that he could be vulnerable to various challengers such as the Mayors of some larger cities in the state or the moderate Democrat Congressman Henry Cuellar, just to name a few. However, those folks have not given any indication that they are serious about looking at a challenge against Cornyn. Thus, despite Cornyn’s less than stellar political profile, Texas is still an extremely difficult state for Democrats to win any sort of statewide election and while Cornyn may wind up facing a credible opponent, he is also potentially likely to cruise to another term, in spite of everything, against someone like attorney Barbara Ann Radnofsky, who was the Democrats’ sacrificial lamb U.S. Senate candidate in 2006.

Utah Governor

First term Republican Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. is very popular, Utah is very conservative and Republican friendly, and he seems to be a virtual lock to earn another term in Salt Lake City.

Vermont Governor

Democrats around the country must often look to the liberal bastion of Vermont and wonder how the state wound up electing a Republican Governor in 2002 and reelecting him in 2004 and especially 2006, without too much drama in those reelection campaigns. Jim Douglas is one of two Governors who has to face the voters every two years, and right now, there seems to be little to indicate that he would find a 2008 reelection effort too much more difficult than 2006. There do not seem to be any Democrats who are currently being talked about as potential opponents for the popular Douglas.

Virginia U.S. Senate

After highly touted back to back wins for statewide office in 2005 and 2006, Democrat spirits in the Old Dominion are high and some believe the state is changing enough for them to have a shot at the seat currently being held by long-time GOP incumbent John Warner. While Senator Warner has yet to announce what he intends to do in 2008, Republicans expect and probably hope that he will run again. If he were to retire, there would be several Republicans who would take a look at the race, chief among them Congressman Tom Davis, from the fast growing Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington D.C. An open seat though would seem to be a lot more competitive than an effort against John Warner, who faced no Democrat opponent at all in 2002, after having faced a very tough reelection campaign, due in large part to fissures in his party, against Democrat Mark Warner, who would go on several years later to serve as a popular Governor of the commonwealth. Mark Warner surprised most everyone when he took his name out of the running for the Democrat Presidential nomination contest last year and indeed there is now talk that Warner would either run for an open U.S. Senate seat or even take on John Warner. A Warner vs. Warner rematch would be very intriguing, but if Mark Warner were to take such a gamble, it would mean that he would not be able to run for Vice President in 2008, or for Governor in 2009, which would probably be considered smarter moves if he still harbors future Presidential ambitions. Virginia is still a conservative state though, and while John Warner will never be the darling of the right-wing, he is a political institution in the state. If he runs, the only candidate who would give him much of a challenge at all would be Mark Warner. An open seat in Virginia would probably move to the top tier though of potential tossups.

Washington Governor

In 2004, under controversial circumstances, Democrat Christine Gregoire defeated then Republican State Senator Dino Rossi by the absolute narrowest of margins in an open contest for Governor in the Democrat leaning state of Washington. Rossi earned political goodwill within the state by ultimately ending his legal challenge to the results, even when most voters thought he was the legitimate winner, but he never really stopped running for Governor, and now Washington seems headed on a collision course for a Gregoire vs. Rossi rematch. The Democrat Governor has gradually seen her popularity increase over the last four years, but polls throughout the term, have seemed to indicate that Rossi would have a slight advantage over her in a 2008 contest. While Washington favors Democrats, all sorts of states have elected Governors whose party labels seem to fly in the face of conventional wisdom. This contest has all the makings of a tossup at this point.

West Virginia Governor

First term Democrat Joe Manchin is a cultural conservative and is very popular in the Mountain State. It would take a near political miracle to defeat him in a state that while conservative leaning, has maintained its Democrat traditions in most elections. The only announced GOP candidate for Governor thus far is a lightly regarded frequent losing one.

West Virginia U.S. Senate

Democrat Jay Rockefeller, the scion of a bipartisan political family, has been in the U.S. Senate since 1984, and as long as he wants to keep serving, is unlikely to face anything but token Republican opposition.

Wyoming U.S. Senate

This is one of the most Republican states in the country and GOP Senator Mike Enzi should have little trouble winning a third term. The state’s conservative Democrat Governor Dave Freudenthal is popular, but would have little motivation to consider a risky race against Enzi.