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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

‘Coattail Effect’ May Swing Senate

Democrats concerned about shoring up their U.S. Senate margin should read “Senate Races ’08: Down to the Wire Again?” at Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball. Sabato crunches the numbers and covers the big picture, along with some specific Senate races, and concludes:

At least to judge by the early line-up, it will be a surprise if the Senate doesn’t remain highly competitive after November 2008, with neither party having anywhere near the sixty reliable votes needed to run this balky, idiosyncratic institution–the saucer that cools the hot brew in the House teacup.

Sabato opines that at this admittedly early stage, it appears that Dems are slightly more likely to hold the Senate, than lose control. But he warns:

The biggest imponderable is the presidential campaign. Senators like to think they are immune from the coattail effect. They are not. Certainly, coattail has a greater impact on open seat races, such as the ’04 Southern contests mentioned earlier, where the Bush reelection margin pushed Republicans over the finish line in states such as Florida and Louisiana. Yet a large margin for one party’s White House contender can add a few Senate seats all by itself. And then there are all the usual macro forces that are unpredictable but often determinative, including scandals that may arise, or the shape of each state’s economy (if it’s good, the incumbent claims credit, and if it’s bad, the challenger makes the incumbent take some blame). Fear of the unknown keeps both parties on their toes.
This early in the game, we hesitate even to categorize Senate races for 2008. Which senators will retire? Which senators will attract trouble or commit devastating gaffes before the campaign is finished? What will the quality of the challenger turn out to be in each race? How about the comparative financial war chests of the candidates and the national party senatorial committees? (With money, as in so many other aspects of life, size matters.)

A reasonable assessment, and one that underscores the importance of financial contributions to ’08 Senate and presidential candidates, as soon as possible for the latter, given the heavily front-loaded presidential primaries.

One comment on “‘Coattail Effect’ May Swing Senate

  1. Chris Brudy on

    I think we would have had at least two more Senators elected in ’06 if the elections had been honest.
    Therefore, we should focus on election reform.
    Since all the polls before and after last November’s elections showed us gaining huge majorities in both Houses of Congress, and the actual vote count only gave us a majority of one in the Senate, we should focus on electoral reform.
    It is naive, at this point, to believe the GOP won’t do everything in their power to skew the vote count in their favor. We need to limit their opportunities to do so.
    Our choices are two: First, publicly hand counting paper ballots, and, second, counting paper ballots by hand in public.
    Optical scanners can be rigged, in the factory, during programming, and perhaps by passers-by armed with blackberries. They, like all machines, should be banned from the polls.
    The next honest election in the United States, if there ever is one again, will be on hand counted paper ballots. The results will differ with the exit polls by less than one percent, and we Democrats could well pick up veto proof majorities in both houses. Not that we would need to, since the American public will vote for a Democratic President.
    We must make sure the next election is on paper. Don’t we want more Democrats in office?


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