Lott’s Decision Leaves Democrats Little Room

by Nathan L. Gonzales January 24, 2006 · 9:03 PM EST

Republican Sen. Trent Lott’s announcement this week that he will seek a fourth term in Mississippi leaves Democrats with little room for error if they are to have any chance of capturing the Senate in November. ‘

Party strategists on both sides of the aisle agreed that Democrats would have no chance of defeating Lott but would have a serious shot at winning an open seat, particularly if former state Attorney General Mike Moore (D) were to run.

With Republicans currently holding a 55-45 majority, Democrats must hold all of their vulnerable seats and pick up six Senate seats currently held by the GOP to get to 51 seats.

Republicans are mounting major efforts to takeover Democratic open seats in Minnesota and Maryland, and New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez (D), who was recently sworn in to fill the remaining year of now-Gov. Jon Corzine’s Senate seat, faces a very difficult election contest in November.

In addition to holding all of their own seats, Democrats must come close to running the table on the most competitive GOP-held seats. That would mean defeating Senators Rick Santorum (PA), Lincoln Chafee (RI) — or his primary challenger Steve Laffey — Mike DeWine (OH), Conrad Burns (MT), and Jim Talent (MO). Then Democrats would need to defeat either Jon Kyl (AZ) or win the open seat in Tennessee, two challenges that are considerably more difficult than knocking off Santorum or DeWine.

Overall, of the ten most competitive Senate seats in the country, Democrats must win nine of them. The feat is possible, since frequently one party seems to win all of the close contests. But the Democrats’ task got a bit more difficult with Lott’s decision.