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Hume, Kristol, Liasson and Williams on Senate Polls

Fox News Sunday

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: Well, there are a raft of new polls out this week on Senate races, and we've taken the RealClearPolitics average of a series of polls. So it's not just one poll, but a bunch of polls. And let's take a look at them.

In Missouri, a flat tie between Republican incumbent Jim Talent and Democrat Claire McCaskill.

In Montana, Republican Senator Conrad Burns trails Democrat Jon Tester by six points.

In New Jersey, Democratic Senator Bob Menendez with a narrow lead over Tom Kean, Jr.

In Ohio, Republican Senator Mike DeWine slightly behind Sherrod Brown.

In Pennsylvania, Democrat Bob Casey with a big lead over the Republican incumbent, Rick Santorum.

In Rhode Island, another Republican senator, Lincoln Chafee, trails Democratic challenger Sheldon Whitehouse.

In Tennessee, Democrat Harold Ford has a slight lead to pick up another Republican seat, an open seat.

And in Virginia, Republican George Allen has a five-point lead to hold on to his seat against Democratic challenger James Webb.

Now, before we get to this, I have to tell you, this is how exciting it is in the Wallace household. Last night, 8 o'clock, C- SPAN, I'm sitting there watching the Harold Ford-Bob Corker debate in Tennessee.

I don't know. In any case...

(LAUGHTER)

... Brit, what do you make of those races and what it tells you about fortunes on the Senate side?

BRIT HUME: Well, I think that the Democrats have an outside chance of taking the Senate, but it's still an outside chance. I think that they're going to pick up Pennsylvania. Santorum looks like he's going to lose. Looks like Conrad Burns is going to lose, out in the Midwest.

WALLACE: In Montana.

HUME: In Montana. And I think that the rest of the races are, you know, most of them are within the margin of error. And if the Democrats were to run the table, of course that would change everything. But that's just about what they'd have to do.

MARA LIASSON: Yes, the Democrats need six seats to win control of the Senate.

WALLACE: Net gain of six.

LIASSON: Net gain of six. And the pool is small. It's only eight top races that you just went down: Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia and New Jersey. They are tied or ahead in all of those races, with the exception of Virginia, where they're a little bit behind. New jersey is a worry for them, because Kean is a strong candidate there.

WALLACE: So that's a Democratic seat.

LIASSON: That's a Democratic seat.

WALLACE: And if they lose that seat, then they have to win seven.

LIASSON: Then they have to win -- that's right.

But I think the thing that's interesting is that these races are frozen. There hasn't been a lot of movement. That's what we look for in the last weeks of a campaign. Where are the trends going? Polls are not predictive, but they show you the direction these things are moving. I don't think frozen in the mid-40s is a good place for incumbents to be. Generally the decision to fire an incumbent is made late. You don't decide early on. You kind of wait till the last minute; you park yourself in the undecided column and then you vote against him.

Now, that is what's happening in some of these races: The undecided camp is growing. So, you know, even if the Republican has been able to knock down the Democrat a little bit, he hasn't been able to improve his standing.

So I think that Democrats still have to run the table. It's a big hurdle to get six, but they're going to pick up seats, no doubt about it.

WILLIAM KRISTOL: In the next two years, senators may well vote to confirm a Supreme Court justice. They may vote to make Bush's tax cuts permanent. They will vote to support the strong foreign policy and strong actions in the war on terror, or not. I think if Republican candidates in pro-Bush states, red states -- Missouri, Virginia, Tennessee, Ohio -- make those issues central in the next three or four weeks, I think they can win all those states and keep Republican losses in the Senate to two and three.

And, you know, they can. They have a lot of money. And the good thing about elections is, at some point, the mainstream media loses control and people are actually entitled to use the contributions they've raised to go up on the air with ads. And you can go up with ads contrasting your positions with that of your opponent on these core issues of judges, taxes and terror. And I think Republicans then hold the Senate.

JUAN WILLIAMS: But what they go up on the air with, Bill, tends to be negative ads about the personal life of the opponent or, you know -- but it's not about these big issues that you think the party should run on. When it comes to the war, when it comes to President Bush, those still are indicated as drags on Republican candidates at this point.

What's most interesting to me is to look at Southern states like Virginia, like Tennessee, to see that the Democrats have a chance. Now, that would vindicate Howard Dean, wouldn't it? Howard Dean, contrary to Rahm Emanuel and some of the other Democrats, Howard Dean said Democrats have to have a 50-state strategy, you have to put money into these red states. And look, it seems to be paying off at the moment.

I happen to agree. I don't think that Democrats can capture the Senate this time around. They'll pick up the seats. But I think that what you're seeing here is a wave of Democrats doing very well in these midterms, which is not unusual, but I think maybe setting themselves up for 2008 in a very positive way.

WALLACE: Let's, Brit, go into a couple of these races in a little bit more detail. Let's start with Pennsylvania, put that one up on the screen, where, as you see, Rick Santorum just can't seem to close the gap against Democratic challenger Bob Casey.

Do you think Santorum is done?

HUME: Well, he seemed to be getting a little momentum a couple weeks ago, and then it receded. Bad sign. And I think most experts now think that that state is gone for the Republicans. He's a fast closer, Santorum. He may make it close. But that's a lot to overcome.

WALLACE: Let me ask you, Mara, about Tennessee. And one of the interesting questions there -- let's put that one on the screen -- you can see Harold Ford narrowly, well within the margin of error, against Republican Bob Corker.

Can Tennessee, will Tennessee elect an African-American senator?

LIASSON: Well, that's the big question. And that's one of the hurdles that, of course, is hard to poll about that Harold Ford has. But clearly, he's one of the best candidates the Democrats got this year. He's making a real run for it in a Republican state, a red state.

And it's interesting, the Republican National Committee has announced it's going to spend $30 million in these last weeks where? Tennessee, Ohio and Missouri -- places where they think that money can make a difference. Because, in a red state, if the Republicans can pour a lot of money in, that may just make the difference. I think Tennessee is tough for the Democrats but they have as good as shot as any.

WALLACE: Bill, let me ask you about Virginia, where George Allen thought that he was going to have a cakewalk and then he would be preparing for his very serious presidential run in 2008. He's got a lead there, a five-point -- what, two points, but he's really in a dogfight there. He's fighting for his life.

KRISTOL: Well, that's a Jewish Republican in Virginia. I'm thrilled that it turns out our Republican senator is Jewish. After (inaudible) or something.

(LAUGHTER)

He's had a pretty miserable six weeks, and he's still ahead by four points. So I assume he will win in Virginia.

And loyal Republicans like me will not think he should run for president in 2008 and will be a little annoyed at his ineptness over the last four to six weeks. But I do think the issues tend to trump these personal judgments on, sort of, candidates being slightly buffoonish or not.

WALLACE: And let me ask you finally, Juan, about New Jersey, which is the one -- and there you see it -- the one Democratic seat that seems in real jeopardy. Menendez with about a three-point lead there, but everybody feels this is a real tight one.

WILLIAMS: Well, it's tight because I think people didn't anticipate that Menendez would have so much trouble with the incumbency. And he's had his own little scandals. But I think that ultimately he comes out on top. Kean's name is golden in the state. Without a doubt, his dad's a great guy and all that. But I think that people see him as a little bit of an ingenue. He's just a little too young for this.

WALLACE: Well, you know, it is fascinating. I mean, it's what political junkies we are. There's nothing better than sifting over the tea leaves, and guess what? We've got four whole weeks to do so.

For more visit the FOX News Sunday web page.

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