Alex's Outlook

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Breaux retires; Daschle will face the fight of his life

The Republican Party got a slew of good news in the last two days.
  • First, Bush's job-approval ratings got a 5-7 point boost from the capture of Saddam. Duh.

  • Secondly, Senator John Breaux, a popular moderate Democrat, is retiring from his Louisiana Senate seat in 2004. He is not giving up his seat so that the Democrat governor can appoint another Democrat to get a leg up for the 2004 campaign. Considering that a Republican has NEVER held either of Louisiana's Senate seats, it will probably be a slightly uphill campaign - unless Howard Dean gets the nomination and his coattails drag the Democrat down with him.

    The two possible Republican contenders for Breaux's seat are Bobby Jindal and David Vitter. Vitter is already in, and Bobby Jindal barely lost the race for governor a few weeks ago, thanks to a last-minute advertising barrage. Jindal has a lot of goodwill left from his gubernatorial race, but he did not gain a lot of white crossover Democrats that Louisiana Republicans normally get. A good argument could unfortunately be made that Jindal's skin color makes him significantly less electable, and cost him the gubernatorial race.

  • Finally, John Thune has announced that he is not running for Bill Janklow's House seat. Janklow was forced to resign after he was convicted of manslaughter while running a stop sign, and many people thought that John Thune, a very popular ex-Representative, would try to win Janklow's seat instead of a theoretically much tougher race against Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle. However, the capture of Saddam has changed the equation for the better, and Bush will no doubt have significant coattails. SD routinely goes 60-40 for the Republican presidential nominee, and Thune will get some extra votes there, especially because Daschle has been the point man in Operation Obstruct GWB. It's now practically a sure thing that Thune will run against Daschle in 2004.

    With Iraq getting rosier every day, it may lead high-profile Republicans to enter races against other normally safe Democrats in red states, like Sens. Byron Dorgan, Harry Reid and Blanche Lincoln.

    Concerning the open Senate seats, the Republicans are favored for all of them, except (arguably) Louisiana. Oklahoma, Georgia and South Carolina will be pretty easy GOP wins; the Democrats may not even have a serious nominee for the Georgia race. North Carolina and Florida will be easy, too; Louisiana and South Dakota will be tossups. The Alaska Senate race was thought to be competitive, but I don't think it is anymore. Now if the GOP can just get a high-profile opponent to Nevadan Harry Reid and North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan...

    The GOP is looking at +5 Senate seats for 2004, in addition to a Bush landslide.

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