Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The year of voting Democratically

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I don't want to get ahead of myself, and I certainly don't want to get prematurely excited about the 2008 elections, but, well, things are looking good for the good guys. You've likely heard much of this already, but the L.A. Times sums it up nicely:

For members of Congress, this is the time to get serious about seeking re-election next year or leaving office for something new. So far, only one party is heading for the exits.

While 17 Republicans already have decided to throw in the towel on their Capitol Hill careers, only two Democrats so far are calling it quits -- and both of them are seeking higher congressional office. The disparity underscores the different moods prevailing in the two parties: Democrats, still heady from winning control of Congress 2006, are enjoying the fruits of power. Republicans, their party reduced to minority status in the House and Senate, see more allure in retirement or private life.


The wave of retirements compounds the political challenge facing the GOP in the 2008 congressional elections, because the party is significantly trailing its Democratic counterparts in fundraising. That means Republicans will be defending more House and Senate seats with less money and will be fighting battles in places that otherwise would have been secure.

And there's this: Of the 34 Senate seats being contested next year, 22 are currently held by Republicans. There are many more seats for the GOP to defend -- and therefore many more to lose. Several Republican incumbents in blue or bluish states -- Collins (Maine), Coleman (Minnesota), Sununu (New Hampshire), and Smith (Oregon) -- will face serious and credible challenges from Democratic opponents. As well, a few Republican retirements -- Allard (Colorado), Domenici (New Mexico), and Warner (Virginia) -- open up races for possible Democratic gains.

There is nothing like this on the Democratic side, where most of the incumbents should be able to hold on to their seats.

Again, caution.

There is still a long way to go before the elections -- almost 13 months. Much could change. The Republicans could somehow recover much of what they have lost. The Democrats could falter. Much will hinge on how the presidential race plays out. And, as always, much will depend on external factors (as well as on the partisan manipulation of such factors by the outgoing president): Iraq, terrorism, the economy, etc. And then, of course, there's voter turnout: Will the religious right come out for Republicans? Will Democrats be able to build off their successful get-out-the-vote efforts in recent elections? And will independents turn to (or stay with) the Democrats?

As of right now, the Democrats seem to have a great deal going for them. And, as long as we can keep our focus, there's nothing wrong with being excited about their prospects.

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