Senate 2006: Pickups We'd Like to See
(1) MONTANA Jon Tester just won his primary yesterday and is, frankly, awesome. He's a chubby, flat-topped organic farmer who lost a finger in a farming accident and rose to become the Democratic state Senate leader from a pretty Republican district in the thick of rural Montana. He's a feisty guy who likes alternative energy. He would replace the very Abramoff-tainted Conrad Burns, a morally nauseating Republican who you'd be hard-pressed to tell apart from any other GOP Senator in a police lineup. Burns barely beat back a challenge fromcurrent Governor and Tester buddy Brian Schweitzer in 2000. Tester has already plled near or ahead of Burns. Odds of pickup: 50-50.
(2) PENNSYLVANIA Ever since I was a young man of 15, I've disliked Rick Santorum. He's built his career around a rigid stance on social issues, specifically his fervent opposition to dudes doin' it, but also his dislike of women having jobs, public schools and government accountability. Finally, Pennsylvania has begun to turn on the guy; he's the nation's least-popular Senator, and he's ripe for ousting by the slightly-more-conservative-than-I'd-like-but-still-a-million-times-better-than-Santorum Bob Casey. Odds of pickup: maybe 60%, but it'll be closer than it looks right now, sadly.
(3) OHIO - Bland nonentity Mike Dewine, who takes great pains to make token "moderate" votes in the face of usually lockstep GOP support, is being opposed by the genuinely progressive Sherrod Brown, who would rival Feingold, Obama and (God willing) Jon Tester in the Coolest Senator category. Dewine hasn't really committed a fireable offense, but in a year when the GOP governor and top GOP fundraiser have already been convicted of crimes and House member Bob Ney looks headed for an indictment, Brown may have a shot. Odds of pickup: 40% or so.
(4) MISSOURI In the dictionary next to "bland nonentity of a Bush foot-soldier," you'll find a picture of Jim Talent, whose name should not be taken as indicative of actual talent. He's one of the GOP's two "plane-crash Senators" of 2002; he won a special election to finish the term of Gov. Mel Carnahan, whose wife was appointed to fill the seat. He's opposed by the classy and cool Claire McCaskill, a moderate, but the kind of Democrat who'd make a Democratic Senate majority possible and sustainable. Odds of pickup: 48%.
(5) TENNESSEE Bill Frist is leaving, and it's possible that Harold Ford could be the first black Senator in the South since reconstruction. He's very middle-of-the-road, but a statewide win by a black Southern Democrat would make me feel very nice about America. Odds of pickup: 35-45%, depending on the outcome of the GOP primary.
(6) ARIZONA Jon Kyl is very, very, very conservative. Jim Pederson is wealthy, pretty smart and willing to put in a very nice effort to swing this traditionally GOP state our way, helped out by the likely re-election of Gov. Janet Napolitano. Odds of pickup: 25-35%.
(7) VIRGINIA George Allen wants to run for President. He's a slimeball and it would be lovely to deny him an office from which to run. Failing that, I'll take the chance to tarnish him a bit. Odds of pickup: 20-25%, but oh, it'd be sweet.
(8) RHODE ISLAND If the whole Republican Party were Lincoln Chafee, I'd hardly care about picking up the Senate, but it's not. It's Burns and Santorum and Talent. In a closely-divided Senate, we'd probably get Chafee's vote fairly often, but if knocking him off gets us the majority, then the ironically-named "Senator Whitehouse" sounds fine by me. Odds of pickup: 45%, rising to 75% if Chafee's right-wing opponent wins the GOP primary.
There are no other realistic pickup opportunities, and several seats that need fervent defense - Minnesota, New Jersey, Washington and Maryland. If we're going to pick up the majority -frankly, a longshot - we need to get SIX of the aforementioned eight seats. In order of likelihood, that means PA, MT, RI, MO, OH and TN. See you at the polls...