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Campaign 2006: The Swing States

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A useful perspective on the 2006 mid-term election is gained by asking: how are Democrats doing in the swing states? How are they faring in the relatively few states in play in 2004? The answer is: Democrats are doing surprisingly well.

Colorado: In 2004, George Bush got 51 percent of the Colorado vote. Nonetheless, the state elected a Democratic senator, Ken Salazar, and gave Dems slim majorities in the state legislature. In 2006, Democrat Bill Ritter holds a slight lead over Bob Beauprez in the governor's race. There are 7 house seats in Colorado; Dems hold 3 and are on the brink of wining three more: In CO 4 incumbent Marilyn Musgrave is tied with Dem Angie Paccione. In CO 5, Republican Doug Lamborn barely leads Jay Fawcett. In CO 7 Democrat Ed Perlmutter is leading Rick O'Donnell.

Florida: In 2004, Bush got 52 percent of the vote and Florida elected a Republican senator, Mel Martinez. This year, the GOP candidate for governor, Charlie Crist, holds a slim lead over Jim Davis. However, in the race for the Senate seat, incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson holds a commanding lead over Katherine Harris. There are 25 house seats in Florida. Democrats are close to winning 3 of the 18 GOP seats: FL13 is open and Democrat Christine Jennings is leading Vern Buchanan. FL 16 opened after Mark Foley resigned and Democrat Tim Mahoney is ahead. FL 22 is a tight contest between Democratic challenger Ron Klein and incumbent Clay Shaw.

Iowa: Bush narrowly won with 50 percent of the vote and Iowa reelected Republican senator Chuck Grassley. Nonetheless, the state has had a popular Democratic governor, Tom Vilsack; he's retiring and Democrat Chet Culver leads Jim Nussle. Iowa has four house seats; three held by the GOP. However, IA 1 is open and Democrat Bruce Braley leads Mike Whalen.

Minnesota: In 2004, John Kerry won with 51 percent of the vote. Democratic senator Mark Dayton is retiring; Democrat Amy Klobuchar is leading representative Mark Kennedy in the race for the vacant seat. Minnesota has eight house seats, evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. However, in MN 1 Democrat Tim Walz threatens to unseat Republican incumbent Gil Gutknecht. In the race for Kennedy's vacant seat, MN 6, Democrat Patty Wetterling is running well against Michele Bachmann. In the governors race, Democrat Mike Hatch leads incumbent Mike Pawlenty.

Nevada: Bush got 51 percent of the vote; however, Democratic Senator Harry Reid was reelected with 61 percent of the Nevada vote. In 2006, the governor is retiring due to term limits and Democrat Dina Titus is in a tight race with Representative Jim Gibbons. Nevada has three house seats; two held by the GOP. In Gibbons seat, NV 2, there is a tight contest between Democrat Jill Derby and Dean Heller. In NV 3, Tessa Hafen is contesting GOP incumbent Jon Porter in a race seen as a toss up.

Ohio: In 2004, Bush got 51 percent of the vote and Ohio elected a Republican Senator, Voinovich. In 2006, governor Bob Taft is term-limited; Democratic Ted Strickland is well ahead of Ken Blackwell. Incumbent Republican senator, Mike DeWine, appears headed for defeat by Sherrod Brown. Ohio has 18 congressional seats: Republicans currently occupy 12; 5 are at risk. In OH 1, Dem John Cranley is pushing incumbent Steve Chabot. In OH 2, incumbent Jean Schmidt is getting a challenge from Democrat Victoria Wulsin. In OH 12, Dem Robert Shamansky is pushing incumbent Pat Tiberi. In OH 15, incumbent Deborah Pryce is in a tight race with Dem Mary Jo Kilroy. And, in OH 18, disgraced Republican Bob Ney has resigned; Democrat Zack Space leads Republican Joy Padgett.

Pennsylvania: Kerry got 51 percent of the vote; however, Republican senator Arlen Specter was reelected. This year, incumbent Democratic Governor Ed Rendell leads Lynn Swann. In the Senate race, GOP incumbent Rick Santorum is trailing Bob Casey Jr. Pennsylvania has 19 House seats: Republicans hold 12; 5 are in jeopardy: In PA 4, incumbent Melissa Hart is being challenged by Democrat Jason Altmire. In PA 6, incumbent Jim Gerlach is getting a tough fight from Dem Lois Murphy. In PA 7, Democrat Joe Sestak is challenging incumbent Curt Weldon. In PA 8, incumbent Mike Fitzparick is getting a tough fight from Dem Patrick Murphy. And, in PA 10, Chris Carney is challenging incumbent Don Sherwood.

Virginia: In 2004, Bush got 54 percent of the vote; however, for several years, Virginia has had a Democratic governor. This year, incumbent Senator George Allen is in an unexpectedly tight race with Democrat Jim Webb. Virginia has 11 House seats; the GOP holds 8. In VA 2, GOP incumbent Thelma Drake is getting a surprisingly tough race from Democratic challenger Phil Kellam.

When we look at these eight swing states-and others such as Missouri and New Mexico-we see a trend: Democrats are making gains across the board. This not only bodes well for the 2006 elections, but also for 2008.
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Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. In a previous life he was one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems.
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