Democrats Hope to Paint the Town Blue

The polls are trending the Dems' way heading into the stretch, but concerns about voter turnout and GOP tricks have progressives feeling nervous

By Jim Cullen

As summer winds to a close, it's time to pay attention to politics. With two months until the mid-term elections, with the entire House and one-third of the Senate up for grabs, Democrats need a net gain of six seats to regain control of the Senate and 15 seats to regain the majority in the House. The polls look good but the GOP has shown it will do anything necessary to keep in power and the last thing the ruling party wants to see is the Dems coming out of the Nov. 7 election with subpoena power in either chamber of Congress to make the White House answer questions.

Pollster Scott Rasmussen writes that Democrats are starting to get breathing room in the three Senate races deemed by the conventional wisdom and polling data as the GOP's best pick-up opportunities in the cycle. The numbers in early August show Democrats Klobuchar up by 12 points in Minnesota, Cantwell up by 11 points in Washington and Menendez up by six points in New Jersey. "With all the usual caveats about a long time until Election Day, it is now hard to see the Republicans picking up any Democratic Senate seats," Rasmussen wrote.

Early in the year, Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum was the only Republican clearly in trouble. "Now he is joined by a growing list of vulnerable colleagues, four of whom trail their Democratic challenger (Burns in Montana, Chafee in Rhode Island, DeWine in Ohio, and Talent in Missouri).

"At the moment, it looks like the Ohio and Missouri races may be the ones to watch on Election Night. If they go to the Democrats, it will be a very long night in the White House. On the other hand, if DeWine and Talent can use the benefits of incumbency and other resources to stave off defeat, Democrats will once again be grousing about missed opportunities.

"The big question mark, though, remains what might happen if Democrats can win the five states where they now lead. Is there another Senate seat they could pick up that might propel them to majority status? It's tough to say where else the Democrats might be favored, but our most recent polling in Nevada shows that a surprise may be possible if the trends continue in the current direction. Senator Ensign (R) is ahead in Nevada, but only by 7 points ... and he only earns 46% of the vote at this time."

Other longer shots are upsets of Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and Sen. George Allen Jr., R-Va.

Among House races, a poll conducted for National Public Radio and released July 27 found a distinct anti-incumbent mood. The survey of likely voters in the 50 tightest House districts was conducted in July by the Republican firm Public Opinion Strategies and Democratic Greenberg Quinlan Rosner. Those districts are represented by 40 Republicans, one independent (Vermont) and nine Democrats. Pollsters found that 61% think the country is headed in the wrong direction. The Iraq war was the biggest concern, with 31% listing it as the first or second most important issue. The economy comes second at 27%. Dems lead on every issue, including stem cell research (51-33), "values issues" (51-37), Iraq (49-44) and the economy (49-42). Democrats are tied on just one issue -- illegal immigration (41-41). Among independents, Democrats win on the issues with even bigger margins. Bush had 42% approval. (Remember, these are mainly GOP districts.)

In the generic congressional ballot, Dems led 48-41. When candidates were named, Dems led 49-43. In Democratic-held districts, when candidates were named, the Democrats led 60-29. In Republican-held districts, Democrats led 49-45. In "top-tier" races, Republicans trailed 52-42. In "second-tier" races, Republicans trailed 47-44.

Stuart Rothenberg wrote in Roll Call that the Democratic congressional polls look very good for the party's House hopefuls.

"Democrats have a number of surprisingly good polls that suggest a wide range of Democratic challengers, from top-tier hopefuls to second- and third-tier long shots, have a serious chance of winning this fall.

"But that's the problem. Rather than reflecting the appeal of Democratic candidates, those surveys primarily reflect the national political landscape.

"The president is in a deep, deep hole, and Congress is even less popular than President Bush. The GOP is divided over a number of issues. And Americans tell pollsters they want change and that they prefer a Democratic Congress."

He said the Democrats are leading because the midterms have been nationalized. Unknown Democrats, in many cases, are benefiting from their anonymity. But the GOP strategy for holding the House is based on localizing the midterms, and that means making Democratic challengers into unacceptable alternatives.

Charlie Cook wrote in National Journal Aug. 1 that the political climate will be "extremely hostile to Republican candidates," and while they benefited from turnout in 2002 and 2004, this time voter turnout will benefit Democrats. Also, the advantage that the GOP usualy has in party spending will be significantly less than normal.

"All of the traditional diagnostic indicators in major national polls taken in the past 10 days show numbers consistent with an electoral rout," Cook wrote, noting that the latest Cook Political Report/RT Strategies poll found only 27% said the country was headed in the right direction and 63% said it was off on the wrong track. In polling for NBC News/Wall Street Journal, conducted July 21-24 and for CBS News/New York Times, taken July 21-25, the right direction numbers were 27% and 28%, respectively, while the wrong track results were 60% and 66%. These numbers are about the same as they were at this point in 1994, when Congress turned Republican, Cook noted.

On Congress' approval rating, the Cook/RT and CBS/NYT polls found just 28% approved of the job Congress was doing. It was 25% in the NBC/WSJ survey. "Those numbers are a shade better than at this point in 1994, but still in the same horrific category," Cook wrote.

He also noted that President Bush's job-approval ratings are lower than Clinton's in 1994, as the CBS/NYT poll showed a 36% approval rating for Bush, while the NBC/WSJ and Cook/RT polls both showed approval at 39%. Early in the third quarter of 1994, President Clinton had a 44% approval rating; it moved up to 48% in the final pre-election poll.

Cook rates 15 Republican seats as tossups, while no Democrats remain in that column. Another 21 GOP seats are rated as leaning Republican, but in trouble.

In the Senate, he sees Democrats gaining four or five seats, but six is tougher. "But keep in mind that in the last four non-wave elections, between 67 and 89 percent of the races rated as "toss-ups" in the final Cook Political Report pre-election ratings broke toward one party each time, a domino effect, with the close races breaking toward the party with momentum."

There is some concern among Democratic leaders that they lack an effective plan to turn out voters this fall, prompting House Democrats to launch a fundraising effort aimed exclusively at mobilizing Democratic partisans, the Washington Post reported Aug. 2. Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) -- who no longer speaks to Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean because of their strategic differences -- is planning to ask lawmakers and donors to help fund a new turnout program run by House Democrats.

"What the party really needs is to get serious about local, volunteer-based" operations, Jack Corrigan, a longtime Democratic operative, told the Post. "The last-minute, throw-money-at-it approach ... does not really solve the fundamental failure to organize that is there. The DNC is moving in the right direction, but needs to do more, fast," he said.

Democrats' organizing has been slowed by a philosophical dispute between Dean, who argues that the party needs to rebuild its long-term infrastructure nationwide while trying to win back the House and Senate, and congressional Democrats, who want to use party resources for an all-out push this fall, Jim VandeHei of the Post noted.

The AFL-CIO has budgeted $40 million for turnout efforts, and America Votes, an independent group that got its start in 2004, also will work with progressive groups on getting out the Democratic vote. But the Post noted the Democrats can't count on financier George Soros, who helped fund a $100 million get-out-the-vote program in 2004, but soured on what he regards as short-term fixes offered by party leaders. Republicans are routing all turnout efforts through the Republican National Committee, which had $45 million in the bank -- four times as much as the DNC -- as of June 30.

These are some of the races to watch:

Arizona: Sen. Jon Kyl (R) is holding onto a 53-34 lead over Democratic challenger Jim Pederson, according to a July 18 Rasmussen poll. Kyl led 52-35 in May. The same poll shows Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) leads Don Goldwater (R), 52-37. That's down slightly from the 55-34 span in May, though within the 4.5% margin of error.

Democrats see possibility for a pickup in the 8th District, where Rep. Jim Kolbe (R) is retiring. Twp Dems and three Repubilcans are in the Sept. 1 primary. In the 5th District, former Tempe mayor and state Sen. Harry Mitchell (D) is challenging Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R).

Colorado: In the 7th Congressional District, Ed Perlmutter (D) led Peggy Lamm (D) and Herb Rubenstein (D), according to a SurveyUSA poll released Aug. 1. Perlmutter gets 51%, Lamm gets 31%, and Rubenstein trails with 10%. The winner faces Rick O'Donnell (R) in November for a seat vacated by Rep. Bob Beauprez (R), who is running for governor. CQ Politics rates the race no clear favorite. Democrats also hope state Rep. Angie Paccione will unseat Rep. Marilyn Musgrave in the 4th District.

Connecticut: Democrats on Aug. 8 failed to show Sen. Joe Lieberman the appreciation he feels he deserves as the GOP's favorite Democratic senator. Instead, Democratic primary voters opted for Ned Lamont, a Greenwich cable TV executive who attacked Lieberman's support for the Bush administration -- particularly his support for the Iraq war. So Lieberman plans to run in the general election as an independent candidate. Now Democratic senators and other part leaders as well as labor unions who endorsed Lieberman before the Aug. 8 primary will have to decide whether to respect the primary vote and support Lamont this fall.

In House races, former Rep. Joe Courtney (D) challenges Rep. Rob Simmons (R) in the Dem 2nd District, Westport Selectwoman Diane Farrell (D) gets a rematch with Rep. Chris Shays (R) in the marginally Dem 4th District and state Rep. Chris Murphy (D) challenges Rep. Nancy Johnson (R) in the marginally Dem 5th.

Florida: Rep. Katherine Harris (R), who is challenging Sen. Bill Nelson (D) is doing such a good job beating herself, Democrats are sitting back and enjoing the show. In House races, Rep. Clay Shaw (R) faces stiff opposition from state Senate minority leader Ron Klein in the 22nd District. Democrats are targeting Rep. Mark Foley (R) in the 16th District and hope to divert the seat that retiring Rep. Mike Bilirakis (R) hoped to bequeath to son Gus Bilirakis in the 9th District. Dems also would like to take the GOP-tilted 13th District, which Harris is giving up to run for the Senate.

Georgia: In the 12th Congressional District, former Rep. Max Burns (R) is pursuing a rematch with Rep. John Barrow (D), who unseated him in 2004. According to a new Public Opinion Strategies (R) poll. noted July 30, Barrow held a nominal lead, 44% to 43%, but well within the 4.9% margin of error. CQ rates the race as "Leans Democratic." In the 4th District, controversial Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D) was defeated in a runoff for the seat she lost in 2002 but regained in 2004. Hank Johnson (D), a lawyer and former county commissioner, got 59% of the vote in unofficial returns, but the seat should remain in Democratic hands.

Illinois: The 6th District is up for grabs as Rep. Henry Hyde (R) is retiring. Iraq war hero Tammy Duckworth (D) faces state Sen. Peter Roskam (R). R's also hope to unseat Rep. Melissa Bean (D) in GOP=leaning 8th.

Indiana: A Cooper & Secrest survey for Joe Donnelly (D) showed him leading Rep. Chris Chocola (R) by 10 points, 48-38, in the 2nd district. Two years ago, Chocola defeated Donnelly by 10 points.

The District 7 seat held by Rep. Julia Carson (D) is rated "Democrat Favored" by CQ, but the Indianapolis Star reported on a voter registration purge that could benefit challenger Eric Dickerson (R). The GOP in Marion County, which includes Indianapolis and is a huge part of the 7th district, began deleting 4,500 names from voter rolls, saying the people were registered twice. They are investigating a list of 36,000 "suspect" names supplied by a vendor for the secretary of state's office. Democrats questioned the weekend rush to purge the names, but the county election board voted yesterday to allow GOP to keep purging names, noted.

In the "Bloody 8th," Rep. John Hostettler (R) faces a strong challenge from Brad Ellsworth (D), the Vanderburgh County sheriff. In the 9th, former Rep. Baron Hill (D) tries a comeback against Rep. Mike Sodrel.

Iowa: The Dem-leaning 1st District, with Rep. Jim Nussle running for governor, was rated the most competitive race in the nation by National Journal July 19 as Mike Whalen (R), CEO of a restaurant and hotel chain faces trial lawyer Bruce Braley (D). Tossup District 3, where Rep. Leonard Boswell (D) has had health problems but is seeking re-election, probably is the best opportunity for GOP to pick up a seat, with state Senate President Jeff Lamberti (R) offering the challenge, but National Journal noted the Boswell campaign is showing signs of life.

Kansas: Jim Barnett (R) beat six other Republican candidates to win the GOP nomination to face Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D). A poll released Aug. 1 gave Sebelius a 51% to 34% lead over Barnett. Nonetheless, says it is "hard to completely rule out the possibility of an upset, given Barnett's political experience and the typically strong Republican leanings of the Kansas electorate."

Kentucky: In the 4th Congressional District, the National Republican Campaign Committee appears to have given up on Rep. Geoff Davis, the freshman Republican who trails Democratic challenger Ken Lucas in polls. Democrats are putting $2.7 million in TV ads in the district, the Cincinnati Post reported Aug. 3, noting that recent polling by the Lucas campaign, as well as an independent poll by WCPO/SurveyUSA, have found Lucas with a lead over Davis of between 10 and 14 points. In Dist. 2, state Rep. Mike Weaver (D), an Army veteran, challenges Rep. Ron Lewis (R). In Dist. 3, John Yarmuth (D), a former newspaper publisher, challenges Anne Northrup in a marginal GOP district.

Maine: Gov. John Baldacci widened his lead over Chandler Woodcock to 43-37 in a July 19 Rasmussen poll, gaining 4 points since a June 15 poll showed Baldacci ahead 45-43.

With a fifth of voters either pondering a third-party-candidate (10%) or undecided (10%), Rasmussen noted that the race is still up for grabs. Among third-party candidates, at least two, Green Independent Party candidate Pat LaMarche and Independent Barbara Merrill, are fairly well known in the state. LaMarche, Merrill and Woodcock are all receiving some public funding for their campaigns under Maine's 10-year-old Clean Elections Act.

In the Senate race, Rasmussen also gives Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) a 69-22 advantage over her Democratic challenger, Jean Hay Bright, a writer and organic farmer. Snowe has gained 4 points since June and is viewed favorably by 76% while Hay Bright was viewed favorably by 36%.

Maryland: In the race to succeed retiring Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D), Rep. Ben Cardin and former Rep. Kweisi Mfume were in a virtual dead heat for the Democratic nomination in a Baltimore Sun poll reported July 17. Cardin's 32-28 advantage was within the margin of error and 36% were undecided on the Sept. 12 primary. In general election matchups, Cardin led Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (R) 47-36, while Mfume led Steele 42-40.

Michigan: Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) has stockpiled $7 million for her re-election bid while two Republicans battled for the right to challenge her, with the primary Aug. 8.

Minnesota: In the race to succeed retiring Sen. Mark Dayton (DFL), Amy Klobuchar (DFL), a Minneapolis district attorney, led Rep. Mark Kennedy (R) 47-42, in a SurveyUSA poll released July 24 that also showed Robert Fitzgerald (I) polling 8% and 4% undecided. A Minneapolis Star Tribune poll released July 17 showed Klobuchar leading Kennedy 50-31. Democrats hope for a pickup in the 6th District, which Kennedy is giving up. In the 6th, DFL activist Patty Wetterling faces state Sen. Michele Bachmann (R).

Missouri: Polls show challenger Claire McCaskill (D) with a lead over Sen. Jim Talent (R). The McCaskill campaign complained about the insensitivity of the Talent campaign and the Missouri GOP after they continued to attack a staffer of McCaskill after the aide died in an airplane crash. The GOP complained to the FEC that McCaskill had not filed a campaign finance report on time, but the McCaskill campaign noted that staffer Melissa Berridge sent the report on July 24, as required, and had a certified receipt to prove it, the AP reported Aug. 1. Rather than admit the GOP had leaped to an incorrect conclusion, Missouri GOP spokesman Paul Sloca told AP: "It's unfortunate that Claire McCaskill has turned this into an issue about the unfortunate death of a staffer to hide from her incompetence."

Montana: Sen. Conrad Burns (R) was considered politically vulnerable because of his association with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. But he put himself at even greater risk in July when he confronted firefighters from Virginia who were preparing to leave Montana after helping contain a summer forest fire and questioned their competence and skill. A Rasmussen poll July 11 showed Burns trailing Jon Tester (D) by 7 points while a Lake Research (D) poll showed the race in a statistical tie, 43-42 with 12 % undecided before the firefighter flap.

Nevada: Jack Carter (D) is gaining in his challenge of Sen. Jon Ensign (R). A Rasmussen poll of likely voters released July 31 showed Ensign leading 46-39, compared with a January poll that showed the incumbent leading 53-34. Carter's campaign has been buoyed by strong union support. Kos noted that Carter, son of former President Jimmy Carter, has been tirelessly travelling throughout the state, getting the word out about his campaign. "If confirmed by a second poll, this race may very well enter into the second-tier of pickup opportunities." See

An open seat in District 2, as Rep. Jim Gibbons (R) runs for governor, gives Dems hope for a pickup as state university regent Jill Derby faces the winner of a three-way Aug. 15 GOP primary. In Dist. 3, Tessa Hafen (D), aide to Sen. Harry Reid, is favored to challenge Rep. Jon Porter (R).

Nebraska: Sen. Ben Nelson (D) must be considered "in trouble," running in Nebraska, but challenger Pete Ricketts, an executive of Ameritrade, is still a long shot.

New Hampshire: In New Hampshire's 2nd Congressional District, the latest Granite State Poll shows Rep. Charles Bass (R) expanded his lead over Paul Hodes (D), 53% to 25%, according to In April, Bass led, 42% to 35%.

New Jersey: Sen. Bob Menendez (D) led Tom Kean Jr. (R), by 6 points in a Strategic Vision (R) poll July 7-9 and a Rasmussen poll July 25. Both candidates have roughly similar favorable ratings. Democrats also hope Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D) can unseat Rep. Michael Ferguson (R) in marginally Dem District 7.

New Mexico: Rep. Heather Wilson (R) faces a strong challenge from Patricia Madrid (D), attorney general and former district court judge.

New York: Kirstin Gillibrand (D) challenges Rep. John Sweeney (R) in GOP-leaning Dist. 20. The GOP-leaning 24th is up for grabs with Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R) retiring and Oneida County District Attorney Mike Arcuri (D) facing state Sen. Ray Meier (R). Dan Maffei (D) is challenging Rep. Jim Walsh (R) in Dem-leaning Dist. 25. Eric Massa (D), a retired Naval officer, is challenging Rep. Randy Kuhl (R) in GOP-leaning Dist. 29.

North Carolina: In the 11th District, Rep. Charles Taylor (R) faces popular former football hero Heath Shuler.

Ohio: In the Senate race, Rep. Sherrod Brown (D) led Sen. Mike DeWine (R) 44-42 in a Rasmussen poll reported July 31. "That's well within the margin of sampling error," Rasmussen noted, but added, "it's the second time in three polls that the Democrat has held the edge. It's troubling for any incumbent to be at 42% in a summer poll." Among House races, Victoria Wulsin (D) was tied with GOP Rep. Jean Schmidt at 44% in Ohio's 2nd District, which is normally a staunchly GOP district, a Momentum Analysis poll showed. In the 15th District, Rep. Deborah Pryce (R) faces a tough race with Mary Jo Kilroy, a county commissioner. In the marginally GOP 1st District Rep. Steve Chabot (R) faces John Cranley (D), a Cincinnati city councilman. In the GOP 18th District, Rep. Bob Ney (R) facing possible indictment and a strong challenger in Zack Space (D), announced Aug. 7 he would not seek re-election and asked state Sen. Joy Padgett (R) to take his place on the ballot. Padgett has ties to disgraced Gov. Bob Taft (R). In 2004 she used a picture of opponent Terry Anderson with a Hesbollah leader to accuse Anderson of being soft on terrorists, failing to mention Hezbollah had abducted Anderson in 1985.

Pennsylvania: Bob Casey Jr. (D), state treasurer and son of popular former Democratic governor, has been consistently leading Sen. Rick Santorum (R), one of the founders of the "pay to play" K Street Project that has been blamed in the Republican lobbying scandal. The Green Party is fielding Senate candidate Carl Romenelli, whose campaign is financed almost completely by Republicans who apparently hope he will draw votes away from Democrat Casey.

In the hotly-contested 6th Congressional District, Lois Murphy (D) led Rep. Jim Gerlach (R) 42-41 in a Garin-Hart-Yang (D) survey. "While this is a statistical dead-heat, the results are significant given the President's standing in the district and Gerlach's far weaker position now than he was in his last race," wrote Nathan Gonzales, political director of Rothenberg Political Report. "The race should be close to the end, but Murphy leads in cash-on-hand through June 30 and is well-positioned to move this suburban Philadelphia seat into the Democratic column."

In the marginally Dem 7th District, Rep. Curt Weldon (R) faces a strong challenge from Joe Sestak, a retired admiral and former deputy chief of naval operations. A Global Strategy Group poll for Patrick Murphy (D) showed him trailing incumbent Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick (R) by only 6 points, 44-38, in Pennsylvania's marginally Dem 8th District. Dems also hope for a pickup in the GOP 10th District, where Chris Carney, a college professor and former naval officer, challenges Rep. Don Sherwood (R).

Rhode Island: Sheldon Whitehouse (D) led Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R) 46-41 in a July 18 Rasmussen poll. First Chafee, a moderate, has to get past Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey, a conservative who has higher GOP favorable ratings (61%) than Chafee (52%). But the poll showed the Dem leading Laffey 57-29.

South Carolina: In the race for governor, state Sen. Tommy Moore (D) has closed the gap on Gov. Mark Sanford (R) to single digits, with Sanford leading 47-39 in a Rasmussen Poll (Aug. 4). In a state plagued by unemployment, 41% of potential voters said the economy is the issue that most concerns them. Sanford's lead in July was 51-39.

South Dakota: Rep. Stephanie Herseth (D) appears to be comfortably ahead in her re-election race with Bruce Whalen (R). A Mason-Dixon poll conducted July 24-26 showed Herseth leading 60-26.

Tennessee: Republicans on Aug. 3 chose Bob Corker, a former Chattanooga mayor, to face US Rep. Harold Ford (D) for the seat Sen. Bill Frist (R) is giving up. Corker leads Ford in at least three July polls, with Ford coming within seven points in the University of Tennessee poll July 5-16. Ford is running as a moderate in a state that has been trending conservative and he also seeks to become the first black senator elected in the South since Reconstruction. But Corker will have plenty of money as a wealthy real estate investor who has shown impressive fundraising abilities. rates the race as "leans Republican."

Texas: Democrats hope to pick up a Houston-area seat as the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to let the GOP replace disgraced Rep. Tom DeLay on the November ballot, leaving former US Rep. Nick Lampson (D), who was redistricted out of his seat in 2004, to face DeLay. He quit the House after he was indicted on state felony charges and claimed he was moving to Virginia after winning the GOP primary in March. State law does not allow parties to replace nominees unless they die or become ineligible for office, but the court held that there was no firm evidence that he really moved to Virginia. DeLay said he still will withdraw and support a write-in candidate.

The 5th Circuit also short-circuited GOP hopes to redistrict Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D) out of office as a judicial panel ordered changes in the 25th District to clear up Voting Rights Act problems in South Texas that also cleared the Austin liberal's path to re-election. The court also put more Latino Democrats in US Rep. Henry Bonilla (R)'s District 23.

Vermont: In the race to succeed retiring Sen. Jim Jeffords (I), Rep. Bernie Sanders (I) leads Rich Tarrant (R), 56% to 35%, according to an American Research Group poll reported July 31. In the race for Vermont's at-large seat in the House of Representatives, Martha Rainville (R) and Peter Welch (D) are statistically tied at 42% to 41%.

Virginia: Democrats hoped for a pickup when Jim Webb switched parties to challenge Sen. George Allen Jr. (R), but the incumbent held an 11-point lead in a Zogby poll reported July 27. Allen led 52-44 in the interactive poll. A telephone poll conducted July 12-15 showed Allen leading 47-37.

In House races, Rep. Thelma Drake (R) is targeted in GOP District 2 and faces Phil Kellam (D), Virginia Beach commissioner of revenue.

Washington: Sen. Maria Cantwell's (D) poll numbers "have improved for the first time in months," according to a Rasmussen survey reported Aug. 1. Cantwell led challenger Mike McGavick (R) by 11 percentage points, 48% to 37%. McGavick (R), former CEO of Safeco, an insurance company, was sitting on $6.4 million in the bank at the end of June. Stuart Rothenberg writes that McGavick is a strong candidate but notes, "Washington's Senate contest isn't taking place on a neutral battlefield. The state clearly prefers Democrats, the cycle favors Democrats and Cantwell has the advantage of incumbency."

In House races, GOP officials scoffed when Darcy Burner -- a former Microsoft executive but first-time candidate for public office -- emerged as the Dem challenger to freshman GOP Rep. Dave Reichert in the 8th District. Reichert won a close 2004 race in the competitive suburban Seattle district on the strength of his long tenure as elected sheriff of King County. But Burner's strong debut as a campaign fundraiser and her growing list of endorsements from key Democratic support groups has caused to change its rating on the race from "Republican Favored" to its more competitive "Leans Republican" category. Reichert is one of 17 House Republicans elected in a district that went Democratic (51%) for president. As a result, this year's 8th District race is widely viewed as one of the key contests that will measure the impact on House Republicans in marginal districts of the sharp dropoff in Bush's popularity -- and support for the war in Iraq that the president initiated -- since the 2004 election.

Wisconsin: Three Dems are running for open GOP Dist. 8, which Rep. Mark Green is giving up to run for governor. State House Speaker John Gard (R) is the favorite in the Sept. 12 GOP primary.

From The Progressive Populist, September 1, 2006

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