For months I have wondered which would be the sixth seat the Democrats could win to capture the Senate.
Because Vice President Dick Cheney would, of course, break any 50-50 tie in favor of the GOP, the Democrats, down 55-45 now, have to gain six seats in the 2006 election to get control.
Five prime Democratic targets have been obvious for some time. According to the latest Rasmussen polls, Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) belongs on the endangered-species list, trailing Bob Casey Jr., his Democratic challenger, by 56-33. Also behind, although by lesser margins, are Sens. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), who trails Rep. Sherrod Brown by 44-41, and Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), losing to Jon Tester by 48-44.
Burns, handicapped by his association with Jack Abramoff, may be headed to defeat. DeWine, a former client of mine, has manifest campaign skills and could come back, but it doesn’t look good.
Ahead of their Democratic challengers but well below 50 percent are Sens. Jim Talent (R-Mo.), who holds a narrow 43-40 lead over Claire McCaskill, and Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.), who leads Sheldon Whitehouse by 44-42. Talent is a great candidate and could come back but would probably be defeated in a Democratic trend. Chafee, a prime RINO (Republican in name only), never really has captured the hearts of his state after succeeding his father and could also be a casualty of a GOP landslide in one of the country’s most Democratic states.
If all five lose, a fair bet right now, who would be the sixth seat without which the Republicans would remain in charge of the Senate?
Now the Zogby poll indicates that Harold Ford, the Democratic candidate to succeed Majority Leader Bill Frist (R) in Tennessee, is running a surprisingly strong race against his three possible Republican opponents. That could be the sixth seat.
Zogby has Ford tied with former Rep. Ed Bryant, with each winning 42 percent of the vote, and trailing by a small margin, 43-41, against former Rep. Van Hilleary. A third possible candidate, Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker, leads Ford by 46-42.
Ford, one of a new generation of African-American politicians with considerable appeal across party lines, has two defects as he runs for the open seat: He is black in a state with the lowest African-American population in the old Confederacy, and his uncle is facing serious corruption charges. But both of these drawbacks are quite obvious to the voters of Tennessee. If they are insufficient to doom his candidacy, this man may be a winner.