Sunday, November 26, 2006

GOP Will Face New Challenges in 2008 Congressional Races

From Zachary A. Goldfarb in the Washington Post:

As the 2006 congressional campaign fades from memory, the 2008 Republican campaign to retake the House and Senate will get underway in coming months.

This year, scandal and a strong anti-GOP tide were fortuitous forces for Democrats, who picked up seats that were squarely in Republican territory. Those seats are likely to be top prospects for Republicans to recapture in 2008.

In contrast, Democratic gains in swing districts in the Midwest and Democratic-leaning districts in the Northeast will be much tougher for Republicans to seize.

Target No. 1 for the GOP may well be Tom DeLay's old district in Texas. Former majority leader DeLay resigned earlier this year amid campaign finance charges, and courts said the GOP could not name a replacement on the ballot.

In a district where President Bush got 65 percent of the vote in 2004 some believed Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, the Republican write-in candidate, could eke out a victory against Democrat Nick Lampson, but Lampson won.

Similarly, Republicans will probably target former representative Mark Foley's district in Florida. His safe seat turned into a tossup after Foley resigned in the page scandal that consumed Washington in the last part of the campaign. There was not enough time for the Republicans to name a replacement candidate on the ballot, according to Florida law, and Democrat Tim Mahoney won against Joe Negron, the Republican stand-in, in a close race.

Other scandal-plagued seats Republicans may target in 2008 include former representative Robert W. Ney's Ohio district and Rep. Don Sherwood's Pennsylvania district. Other heavily Republican seats captured by the Democrats include two in Indiana, one in Kansas and one in North Carolina.

But even if Republicans were to take back these seats, they would have to win about six others to take the House in 2008 -- and those six are not so clear. The Democrats will have roughly a 14-seat advantage in the House.

On the Senate side, the GOP faces more trouble. The Republicans need at least one seat -- and maybe two, depending on who wins the presidential race -- to take back the upper chamber. But while 12 Democrats are up for reelection in 2008, 22 Republicans are.

Only a few Democrats and Republicans, however, are considered vulnerable. Still, Republicans could be buffeted by a string of retirements that would make the field more competitive. As of now, the two most vulnerable Democratic senators appear to be Tim Johnson (S.D.) and Mary Landrieu (La.), while the most vulnerable Republicans are Wayne Allard (Colo.), Norm Coleman (Minn.) and John E. Sununu (N.H.).

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