Alex's Outlook

Monday, August 04, 2003

Hollings' Retirement; Senate Tally

Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-SC) will not run for the US Senate next year.

The ancient Dixiecrat is 81 years old. He was the Democrats' best chance of holding South Carolina's seat for one more term. SC has become an extremely conservative state, and Hollings' departure means that the Crats will probably lose the seat in 2004.

The Democrats now have to defend two open seats in Georgia and South Carolina, both of which they will probably lose. Assuming that Bob Graham becomes the VP candidate, they will have to defend another conservative seat in Florida.

John Edwards' presidential campaign is going nowhere. He will probably end up defending his Senate seat in 2004, but it's in big trouble. Tom Daschle is also in big trouble. Both Daschle and Edwards are national liberals who come from conservative states. It's a safe bet that at least one of them will lose in 2004.

Patty Murray is a hyper-liberal from a center-left state (Washington). She will be challenged by George Nethercutt, a strong conservative who threw out the Democrat Speaker of the House in 1994.

Harry Reid (Nevada) won his last election by 500 votes. He will probably be challenged by Jim Gibbons, a Nevada conservative famous for cutting taxes. Murray and especially Reid are pretty vulnerable, and methinks at least one will lose in 2004.

Other potentially vulnerable Democrats are Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Barbara Boxer of California. If John Breaux retires from his Louisiana seat, that will be another desperate fight for them.

The Republicans' only probable loss is Illinois. Lisa Murkowski isn't very popular in Alaska right now, but Alaska is too conservative for most Democrats (even Tony Knowles I bet), given the nationalization of congressional elections in the last decade. Thus the Republicans are set up for a gain of at least four Senate seats, and even six new seats isn't inconceivable. If Bush has large coattails in 2004, even Illinois could fall into the GOP column.

The real question methinks is whether the Republicans are going to administer the bitter pills the country needs - slashing Social Security benefits by either pushing up the retirement age or cutting benefits directly; slashing corporate welfare to save $80 billion a year; imposing tougher regulations on unions; continuing to cut America's grotesque tax burden (which admittedly they already have done); and really reforming Medicare. The 1946-48 and 1980-82 conservative congresses did it, and there's no reason why a 2004-06 Congress can't either. Once the GOP pads its majority, the liberal wing of the party (Specter, Snowe, Chafee, McCain) won't have the leverage to gut Republican policies anymore.


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