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Schumer's Plan

The AP had an interesting story this morning about Charles Schumer, DSCC Chairman, and his plan to take back the Senate next year. Usually, stories like this are built around one small bit of information, but this story actually provides two interesting insights.

(1) Currently, the DSCC has a $22 million more cash on hand than the RSCC.

(2) Schumer plans to sponsor major challenges in 7 Republican-held Senate seats. Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Missouri, Montana, Tennessee, and Arizona

Taken together, these points indicate, I think, the frustration that 2006 will bring for ambitious Democrats. On the one hand, their financial advantage is nothing to sneeze about. It is a sign that their party's base is more amped up than the Republican base, and/or their political elites are doing a better job of acquiring dollars. It seems to me that with an incumbent President who is still loved by the financial backers of the Republican Party, the Democrats will not have a financial edge next year; however, it also seems likely that the two parties will be at financial parity (which, I hasten to add, is good news for Democrats).

On the other hand, consider again the set of states in play and the Democratic margin for error. Four of these seven states are states that Bush won by 5% of the vote or more in the last two elections. Furthermore, six of these seven are currently held by incumbent Republicans. In a pro-incumbent, largely realigned electoral environment, that is a less-than-ideal electoral situation to find oneself, especially for a Democratic Party that, as we discussed earlier in the month, does not have the capacity to nationalize 2006. The GOP had a much better environment in 2004 when it had open Democratic seats in five Republican states.

In addition to this, consider the very small margin of error for Democrats. They will have to take SIX of these seven to assume control of the Senate (remember that Cheney is the tie-breaker). And, not to mention, I think it is quite unreasonable to talk about AZ being in play. That means the Democrats will have to go six for six -- and still hold off the GOP in both Minnesota and Maryland. It also seems likely that at least one or two or three of these six will turn out to be non-contests (at this point, it is too early to say which will be which, but it seems unlikely that the Democrats will have an opportunity in anything more than four to five states).

It is still early in the year, too early to make any initial predictions about seats. Candidates are still being recruited, electoral strategies are still being fleshed out, primary opposition is still indeterminate, financial contacts are still being made. At this point, we still have to talk in the aggregate -- and the aggregate is such that it looks now as though the Democrats will pick up a few seats, but not enough for control. The Democrats have certain advantages at the moment -- money, anti-Bush sentiment in the country -- but these seem to be insufficient for recapturing the Senate.

Schumer's comment -- "If the stars align right we could actually take back the Senate." -- sums the situation up perfectly. Recapturing the Senate is a little bit more than a technical possibility, but the Democrats will need some supernatural assistance to make it happen.