Just two years after George W. Bush defeated John Kerry, and four years after Bush defied expectations to prevail in the 2002 midterms, Democratic control of Congress may be within reach. For weeks, leaders of both parties have said Democrats would likely take the House of Representatives, but now the six seats the Democrats need to wrest control of the Senate may well be winnable. Republican strategists are privately bracing themselves for the loss of Senate seats in Rhode Island, Montana, Pennsylvania and Ohio. The GOP is hopeful that a cloud of corruption charges surrounding New Jersey's incumbent Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez could give Republicans a rare shot at picking up a Democratic seat, but Menendez's Republican challenger, Thomas Kean Jr., is struggling to separate himself from Bush and Iraq. The remaining Senate battles lie in border states like Tennessee, where Ford and the GOP nominee, businessman and former Chattanooga mayor Bob Corker, are polling neck and neck. Republicans know the race is a must-win to retain control of the Senate.Six seats for the Senate, in which the Republicans will concede four but might pick up one from the Dems (why Menendez doesn't squash these corruption allegations by pointing out all this was vetter ahead of time by a Republican-controlled Congress is beyond me).
The Dems will likely take the House, according to strategists from both parties. That means at least two more, and possibly three more, seats must be grabbed.
Harold Ford leads in his race, but that lead has see-sawed back and forth, and has included some intrafamilial bickering (his brother has been talking smack about Harold), and some blood-relation corruption (his aunt was kicked out of the state Senate for vote fraud). Mind you, all this is taking place against the backdrop of a state that's never been too welcoming to blacks, apart from the sweat off their backs.
Ford's greatest strength is that he comes off as bucking the system, and not toeing the Democratic party line. He shows glints of conservativism, even if his voting record suggests somewhere in the neighborhood of an 85% affirmation of Democratic positions.
Too, his opponent, Bob Corker, has his own troubles, most notably his staunch support of the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
That's one more pick up for the Dems, should he win, and polls suggest a one or two point margin of victory, and possibly more if the Ford machine can get the vote out heavily in places like Memphis, with a heavily-skewed population of blacks.
In Missouri, Claire McCaskill has narrowed what was an 8 point gap earlier in October to bare percentage points, and might have the momentum to carry her past incumbent Jim Talent, in what should have been a safe seat for the GOP based on past trends. The Republican strategy this week will be to focus on the economy as booming and stronger than it's ever been, to which the Democrats should point out that none of this has impacted the wages and paychecks of workers. This should be a slam dunk argument to make.
Some more good news for Democrats came in the form of a poll conducted this weekend by Reuters, which showed that 31 percent of evangelical Christians would prefer to see Democrats take back Congress, as well as Catholics, two groups which heavily supported Bush in 2004. One imagines David Kuo's book as well as the Foley scandal had quite an impact here.
It's nail-biting time, but please do that only in between working the phones and getting the vote out.