When we talk about the electability of the presidential candidates, we should also think about their effect on the electability of other Democrats that will be sharing a ticket with them in November. In this analysis, I look at the 23 senate races for seats currently held by Republicans.

I list the 23 races in order (from the likeliest to go Democratic, to the least). I list who won the Democratic primary or caucus, and by what margin. And I list the margin that the Republican won their election in 2002 (in two cases, the most recent election was in 2006).

Then I offer analysis for whether an Obama or Clinton ticket would be more helpful to the candidate.
1. Virginia (OPEN SEAT- John Warner)

Challenger: Mark Warner

Primary winner: Barack Obama
Margin: Obama +29%
2002 Margin: GOP ran unopposed

Analysis: Former Governor Mark Warner doesn’t need any help from the top of the ticket to be able to win this seat comfortably, but there can’t be much debate that Obama runs stronger here than Clinton. Exit polls indicate that Obama won the white male vote here, as well as women overall. With Obama and Warner on the ticket this state could not only vote blue in November, it could sweep in a couple of new House seats (e.g., VA-02 and VA-11).

2. New Hampshire (John Sununu)

Challenger: Jeanne Shaheen

Primary winner: Hillary Clinton (Barack Obama split the delegates here 9-9)
Margin: Clinton +3%
2002 Margin: GOP +4%

Analysis: Clinton eked out a surprise upset win here (although they technically split the delegates) and it’s possible that Clinton and Shaheen at the top of the ticket could help galvanize a big turnout among woman that could also help Carol Shea-Porter win reelection to her House seat. On the other hand, the New Hampshire GOP is demoralized and in retreat. Perhaps nothing could reenergize them more than the prospect of another Clinton presidency.

3. New Mexico (OPEN SEAT- Pete Domenici)
Challenger: Tom Udall

Caucus winner: Hillary Clinton
Margin: Clinton +1%
2002 Margin: GOP +30

Analysis: The retirement of Sen. Pete Domenici puts this seat in play. Recent polls show Tom Udall beating Heather Wilson 58%-30% and Steve Pearce 53%-31%. The caucus here was split nearly 50-50 between Obama and Clinton, so there is no obvious advantage in coattails from either one of them.

4. Minnesota (Norm Coleman)

Challenger: Al Franken

Caucus winner: Barack Obama
Margin: Obama +34%
2002 Margin: GOP +3

Analysis: Al Franken is now the heavy favorite to become the DFL nominee here. A recent poll shows Franken trailing Coleman by a single percentage point. Obviously, coattails could be critical in this race. Obama’s 34% caucus margin over Clinton is as clear as day. An Obama ticket could be just the thing to put Franken over the top.

5. Colorado (OPEN SEAT- Wayne Allard)
Challenger: Mark Udall

Caucus winner: Barack Obama
Margin: Obama +35%
2002 Margin: GOP +5

Analysis: Udall is widely seen as a modest favorite in this race to replace the retiring Wayne Allard, but a recent Rasmussen poll had him trailing 43%-44% to former Rep. Bob Schaffer. Another recent poll showed John McCain clobbering Hillary Clinton in Colorado by a 14% margin while losing to Obama by a 7% margin. Obama’s 35% advantage in the Colorado caucuses is quite convincing. Clinton could easily cost Udall the election, while Obama might provide enough of a boost to put him over the top.

6. Oregon (Gordon Smith)
Challenger: Jeff Merkley

Primary winner: May 20th
Margin:
2002 Margin: GOP +4%

Analysis: The Oregon primary will not be held for three months. Obama is considered the favorite to win, but we’ll have to wait for the results to be sure. State Speaker of the House, Jeff Merkley, is favored to win the nomination over political activist Steve Novick. Oregon is a purplish/blue state where the Democrats should be strongly favored in November, regardless of the nominee.

7. Maine (Susan Collins)

Challenger: Tom Allen

Caucus winner: Barack Obama
Margin: Obama +19%
2002 Margin: GOP +18

Analysis: Obama’s stonger than expected performance here might be chalked up to the caucus format, but there’s no ignoring his 19% margin. Maine has a history of electing women to positions of power, but any coattail argument has to favor Obama based on the available data.

8. Alaska (Ted Stevens)
Challenger: Mark Begich

Caucus winner: Barack Obama
Margin: Obama +49%
2002 Margin: GOP +69

Analysis: Ordinarily, the Dems would have no chance to win Alaska in either the senate or presidential races, but recent scandals in the Alaska GOP have been so profound that anything is possible this year. Sen. Stevens is not only in his mid-80’s, he is under a FBI investigation. Popular Anchorage mayor Mark Begich has not yet formally announced his candidacy, but he is widely expected to run. Obama’s 49% advantage in the caucuses is plenty of evidence that anti-Clinton feeling stills runs strong in the 49th state. Winning Alaska’s three electoral votes is probably out of Obama’s reach, but keeping it close could help Begich take over this senate seat.

9. North Carolina (Elizabeth Dole)

Challenger(s): Kay Hagan or Jim Neal

Primary winner: May 6th
Margin:
2002 Margin: GOP +9%

Analysis: There is a very competitive primary race here between Kay Hagan, who supports telecom immunity, and Jim Neal, who would if elected be the first openly gay senator. A recent poll shows Obama leading Clinton here by a 50%-40% margin. North Carolina, like Virginia, may be trending blue, if more slowly. Sen. Dole’s approval ratings have been trending up but remain unformidable. She is beatable with the right combination of candidates at the top of the ticket.

10. Nebraska (OPEN SEAT- Chuck Hagel)

Challenger: Tony Raimando

Caucus winner: Barack Obama
Margin: Obama +34%
2002 Margin: GOP +69

Analysis: I am still holding out hope that Scott Kleeb will enter this race. Currently, only former Republican (and failed Bush nominee for ‘manufacturing czar’) Raimando is the only Dem candidate. Raimando is good friends with Sen. Ben Nelson and would fit into the same mold as Nelson if elected. Obama was endorsed by Sen. Nelson and Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey, and he clobbered Clinton in the caucuses here. There’s not much question that an Obama candidacy would do less damage than a Clinton campaign for downticket races.

11. Texas (John Cornyn)

Challenger: Rick Noriega

Primary/Caucus winner: March 4th
Margin:
2002 Margin: GOP +12

Analysis: Noriega is the favorite to win the Texas nomination. It remains to be seen whether Obama or Clinton is stronger in Texas among Democrats, or whether Obama can do well with the Hispanic population here. Anti-Clinton feeling is pretty high in Texas though, and it hard to envision her doing well in the general election in the Lone Star State. John Cornyn’s approval ratings are among the lowest in the Senate and he could be vulnerable to the right opponent.

12. Oklahoma (James Inhofe)

Challenger: Andrew Rice

Primary Winner: Hillary Clinton
Margin: Clinton +24%
2002 Margin: GOP +30%

Analysis: Obama got clobbered here. There is no evidence to support his having better coattails in Oklahoma. The only available evidence suggests that Clinton would have better coattails here, although I doubt any candidate would agree to appear with her on the campaign. Obama? I could easily see him campaigning with Andrew Rice against Jim Inhofe. What do you think?

13. Idaho (OPEN SEAT- Larry Craig)

Challenger: Larry LaRocco

Caucus winner: Barack Obama
Margin: Obama +63%
2002 Margin: GOP +32

Analysis: Larry Craig’s ‘wide stance’ has opened up this seat for a potential Dem takeover. Former Rep. Larry LaRocco is running a vigorous campaign, while the Republicans are reeling as they head for a crowded and bruising primary. Obama’s ability to draw a crowd of 12,000 to Boise stunned local Democrats, as did his 15-3 advantage in delegates won in the caucuses. Idaho’s four electoral votes are probably out of reach in the presidential contest, but if Obama can keep it close he might help put LaRocco over the top.

14. Kentucky (Mitch McConnell)

Challenger(s): Greg Fischer or Bruce Lunsford

Primary winner: May 20th
Margin:
2002 Margin: GOP +28

Analysis: Progressives are still reeling for Andrew Horne’s decision not to run in this contest. Bruce Lunsford is a strictly DLC candidate, while Fischer is famous for inventing the ice/soda dispenser. The primary here is still three months off, but Kentucky (like Tennessee) appears to be one of Obama’s weakest states. It’s quite possible that Hillary Clinton would perform better here in the general election. Regardless, recruitment failures in Kentucky have greatly weakened the Democrats chances of taking over this seat, and if Lunsford wins the nomination it will dissolve all progressive enthusiasm for the race.

15. Mississippi (Roger Wicker/Trent Lott)

Challenger: Ronnie Musgrove

Primary winner: March 10th
Margin:
2006 Margin: GOP +29%

Analysis: With Trent Lott’s unexpected retirement, this election became necessary to select someone to serve out the remaining four years of his term. Gov. Barbour appointed Rep. Roger Wicker to the seat until November. Former Governor Ronnie Musgrove is a DINO on steroids, but these are the types of seats (and candidates) we can expect to see showing up in a truly realigned political landscape. Mississippi doesn’t hold its primary until March 10th, but Obama is heavily favored to win. In the general election, heavier than usual black turnout could help put Musgrove over the top…or it could serve to further alienate the white vote against the Democrats.

16. Alabama (Jeff Sessions)

Challenger: Vivian Figures

Primary winner: Barack Obama
Margin: Obama +14%
2002 Margin: GOP +19

Analysis: We are now in the land of the extreme longshots. State Sen. Vivian Figures is an African-American woman from Mobile. There’s no question that Obama’s presence on the ballot will boost her chances, but it’s very hard to see how Sen. Sessions can be beat considering his 19% margin in 2002 and his high approval ratings.

17. Kansas (Pat Roberts)

Challenger: Lee Jones

Primary winner: Barack Obama
Margin: Obama +49%
2002 Margin: GOP ran unopposed

Analysis: Greg Orman dropped out this race yesterday, leaving the Dems without a well financed opponent. This is truly a shame because Obama has strengths in Kansas (his mother grew up there and look at that 49% caucus margin) and is quite likely to seriously consider Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius as his running mate. An Obama/Sebelius ticket would be at least competitive in Kansas and could help a strong senate challenger to oust Sen. Roberts. Alas, it is looking unlikely that we’ll field a serious opponent.

18. Tennessee (Lamar Alexander)

Challenger: Chris Lugo

Primary Winner: Hillary Clinton
Margin: Clinton +13%
2002 Margin: GOP +10%

Analysis: Clinton cleaned Obama’s clock in the Volunteer State. The Democrats have suffered a total recruitment failure in Tennessee (Chris Lugo is not a serious challenger). Unless Bob Tuke gets back in this race, it looks hopeless for the Dems. Meanwhile, Sen. Alexander seems poised to emerge from the 2008 elections with much improved seniority and as a possible Minority Leader. If he is not taken out this year, he will probably hold this seat for life.

19. Georgia (Saxby Chambliss)

Challenger(s): several, none strong.

Primary winner: Barack Obama
Margin: Obama +35%
2002 Margin: GOP +7

Analysis: the Dems have a cast of lousy or poorly financed challengers here. Chambliss isn’t particularly strong, although Georgia seems to be the only state in the union that is actually trending to the Republicans. For Democrats to win statewide here they need massive black turnout, which Obama would certainly provide.

20. South Carolina (Lindsey Graham)

Challenger: none

Primary winner: Barack Obama
Margin: Obama +28%
2002 Margin: GOP +10%

Analysis: More Democrats came out to vote in the primaries than Republicans. The Dems are showing remarkable strength even in states as blood red as South Carolina. However, no Democratic candidate has emerged to take on Sen. Graham.

21. Mississippi (Thad Cochran)

Challenger: Erik Fleming

Primary winner: March 10th
Margin:
2002 Margin: GOP ran unopposed

Analysis: there was some hope that Cochran would retire. He will hold this seat as long as wants it. His position as Ranking Member on the Appropriations Committee assures that he will never be voted out, short of some truly horrendous scandal.

22. Wyoming (Mike Barrasso)

Challenger: none

Caucus winner: March 8th
Margin:
2006 Margin: GOP +40%

Analysis: Sen. Barrasso is serving on an interim basis as a replacement for the deceased Sen. Craig Thomas. This election is for the remaining four years of Sen. Thomas’ term. The Dems can compete here. Gary Trauner is polling very well in his race for the Wyoming At-Large House seat, which is obviously a state-wide seat. And the governor of Wyoming is a Democrat. But there are no announced candidates yet to take on Barrasso. Obama is favored to win the caucus here on March 8th.

23. Wyoming (Mike Enzi)

Challenger: none

Caucus winner: March 8th
Margin:
2002 Margin: GOP +47%

Analysis: Sen. Enzi wins the award for the safest U.S. Senator. In part this is because no one knows who he is (he’s made no enemies). In part this is just because Wyoming is a very Republican state and this is a presidential election year. Regardless, no Democrat has emerged to challenge him.

I hope I have made the case that Obama has much better potential to give us the maximum number of senate seats.

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