WASHINGTON -- Democratic insiders, acknowledging little chance of recapturing the House in 2004, have all but given up hope of winning a Senate majority, unless there is such a transcendent development as an economic collapse.
The early calculation in Democratic circles is for a net loss of four additional Senate seats, extending the present 51-49 Republican majority to 55-45. Democratic seats are in real jeopardy in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, South Dakota and Nevada.
In contrast, Alaska is the only Republican Senate seat up next year that clearly tilts to the Democrats.
The launching of a second, simultaneous Senate Democratic filibuster of federal appellate judicial nominees follows strategy laid down weeks ago by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.
Just as an increasing number of Republican senators were privately admitting they had no way to break the filibuster against Washington, D.C., lawyer Miguel Estrada, Democrats made clear they also would not permit the Senate to vote on the nomination of Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen. That fits the tactics propounded during a secret meeting of Democratic senators, where Kennedy stressed that blocking Estrada must begin, not end, the stopping of President Bush's conservative judicial nominees.
Democrats did permit the confirmation for an appellate judgeship of Ohio's former State Solicitor Jeffrey Sutton though they had enough votes for a filibuster. However, the 41 Democrats voting against Sutton demonstrated their disapproval with Bush's selections for the federal bench.
Freshman Rep. Devin Nunes, who at age 29 is the second-youngest member of Congress, is trying to devise a public vote that would force the Democratic-controlled California legislature to radically revise the gerrymandered reapportionment of congressional and legislative seats following the 2000 census.
That gerrymander freezes the state's huge House delegation at 33 Democrats and 20 Republicans and guarantees Democratic control of the California legislature through this decade. Nunes wants a state vote as early as the 2004 primary election, but more realistically not until 2006.
Ballot initiatives on reapportionment have fared badly in California in the past, but Nunes is trying to draft a proposal that would not be written off as a partisan Republican ploy. It would require fair guidelines for the legislature in mapping districts, instead of the present system, which all but guarantees re-election of incumbents.
SOLICITING A SENATOR