Eight Senate Races to Watch

Article excerpt

The Republicans will retain control of the Senate if Democrats fail to achieve a net gain of six seats. A net gain of five seats for the Democrats would leave the Senate divided equally between the two parties, with the Republicans benefiting from Vice President Cheney's casting vote. At press time, these were the closest Senate contests between Republicans and Democrats.

MISSOURI

[] McCaskill (D)

[] Talent (R)

In a close race in Missouri, a state George Bush won in 2004, incumbent Republican Jim Talent faces state auditor Claire McCaskill, the unsuccessful Democratic candidate for governor in 2004 and a well-known former prosecutor. McCaskill has attacked the Bush administration for offering more tax benefits to the rich than the middle class and for poor planning in Iraq, while Talent has attempted to focus on his service to Missouri rather than policies for which the Bush administration is unpopular. Polling in August showed that either candidate could win.

MONTANA

[] Burns(R)

[] Tester (D)

The Senate seat held by Republican Conrad Burns is a key Democratic objective because Burns has unusually low approval ratings. As chairman of a Senate subcommittee overseeing Indian Affairs, he had a close relationship with lobbyist Jack Abramoff. He has also made un-Senatorial statements criticizing the efforts of visiting Virginia firefighters to put out a Montana fire, questioning whether his Hispanic maintenance man was an illegal immigrant, and warning about the terrorist threat of taxi drivers who "drive taxicabs in the daytime and kill at night." Burns has tried to focus on his accomplishments for Montana, while his Democratic challenger, State Senate President Jon Tester, has emphasized issues such as affordable health care and good public education.

NEW JERSEY

[] Kean (R)

[] Menendez (D)

This is a state which the Republican Party hopes to gain from the Democrats, even though the state voted for Kerry over Bush in 2004. Incumbent Democrat Robert Menendez, who has a low public approval rating, is under fire for securing federal funding for an organization that paid him hundreds of thousands of dollars in rent. His opponent, Republican State Senator Thomas Kean, Jr. comes from a highly regarded political family (his father was a New Jersey governor and chair of the 9/11 Commission). The well-funded and union-backed Menendez identifies himself as standing for the rights of the working men and women of New Jersey, while Kean describes himself as an "independent reformer" seeking an end to corruption in the state and enhanced homeland security.

OHIO

[] Brown (D)

[] DeWine (R)

Republican Senator Mike DeWine has lackluster approval ratings in the polls in this swing state that voted narrowly for Bush in 2004. DeWine faces a strong challenge from Congressman Sherrod Brown at a time when the Ohio Republican Party faces the fallout of a financial scandal in which well-connected Republican fundraisers lost huge amounts of state funds they were assigned to manage for the state that were improperly invested. Brown blames Bush administration policies for lost manufacturing jobs and insufficient funds for education in Ohio, while DeWine emphasizes his conservative pro-life values, support for tax cuts and experience in national security matters. …