Senate 2006: Races to Watch
5. Florida : Incumbent Bill Nelson (D) vs. Rep. Kathleen Harris (R) (Likely Republican primary winner)
Given the recent poll, this may very well be the last time this race is mentioned as a top 5 race. If you don't remember where it was you've heard that name, Kathleen Harris was the Florida Secretary of State who helped hand Bush the 2000 election. She is a polarizing figure in Florida as well as the rest of the country and has been all over the evening talk shows trying to promote her campaign. This raising of her profile, however, has only worsened her poll numbers, and national Republicans have been trying hard to get someone to give her a primary challenge. She appears likely to survive just the primaries, and despite the fact that Florida has become a light red state, Nelson holds a 25 point lead over her in a recent poll.
Prognosis: Leaning Democratic
4. Ohio: Incumbent Mike Dewine (R) vs. ????
Despite the fact that Senator Mike Dewine does not as of yet have an opponent, his re-election chances are not magnificent. First of all, the Ohio Republican Party is in terrible shape thanks largely to a coin scandal involving Ohio's extremely unpopular Governor Bob Taft (R) Also, take into account the heavy backlash against Dewine's inclusion in the Gang of 14 (the group of mostly moderate senators who brokered the deal to avoid a vote on eliminating judicial filibusters.) Combine that with his long time support of antigun legislation and Dewine may be in serious trouble if he receives a primary challenge. A pro-guns democrat such as maverick Paul Hackett or Rep. Ted Strickland will have a decent chance of knocking off Dewine providing he is the Republican nominee. Nevertheless, despite the unpopularity of the state party, Ohio still leans Republican.
Prognosis: Too close too call (provided Dewine is the Republican nominee)
3. Rhode Island: Incumbent Lincoln Chaffee (R) vs. Former AG Sheldon Whitehouse (D) (Likely Democratic Primary winner)
Given that Rhode Island is one of the most left-leaning states in the Union, it's hard to believe that they sport a senator with an (R) next to his name. However, given Senator Chaffe's voting record it's hard to believe President Bush would support his reelection. Chaffe, who has already picked up the NARAL endorsement, is an ardent supporter of abortion rights, an environmentalist, and a fiscal moderate. He is the only Senator who did not vote for Bush in 2004 (instead writing in George H.W. Bush's name.) Former Rhode Island Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse appears likely to get out of the Democratic primary and should be considered a capable candidate. Despite being the incumbent, Chafee may actually face the more difficult primary race as the more reliably conservative, Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey is being urged by many conservatives to give Chafee a primary challenge. Although Chafee would probably survive this challenge, it would force him to divert time and money to the primary and away from the general election. Despite all that he has going against him, Chafee is a likable and popular moderate, even in such a blue state.
Prognosis: Too close to call.
2. Maryland: LG. Michael Steele (R) vs. Rep. Ben Cardin (D) (likely primary winners)
Maryland is a solid blue state and Rep. Ben Cardin is a good solid Democratic candidate. It goes without saying that it would take a very good Republican candidate to win this race. Michael Steele is that candidate. A powerful speaker, this conservative, African-American Lieutenant Governor has a very real chance of taking this election. Don't misjudge; this race is far from over, and Cardin is still favored by many analysts due to the Democratic nature of Maryland. Having been there live (with the press) when LG. Steele rocked the Republican Convention, I can tell you he should not be underestimated.
Prognosis: Too Close to Call.
1. Pennsylvania: Incumbent Rick Santorum (R) vs. State Treasurer Bob Casey Jr. (D)
Santorum is in a whole bunch of trouble in the coming election. In his last term, he is taking a turn for the extreme. He has likened homosexuality to incest and blamed liberalism for the Catholic Church sex scandal in Boston. His chances for reelection in this moderate to liberal state are not good, especially with a likable moderate Democrat running against him. Despite Casey's pro-life stance, Democrats will likely rally around Casey, who will also be helped by a good deal of out of state money. Casey Jr., the son of a popular former governor, has a very solid chance of replacing Santorum as Pennsylvania's Junior Senator.
Prognosis: Leaning Democratic
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