2006 Senate elections report: Seats likely to stay put

In my Friday column, I talked about the essence of handicapping the 2006 Senate races and the resulting balance of power in the 110th Congress starting in January. When you combine the seats that do not expire this year with the Senators who do face reelections but for which an almost-biblical event would be required for them to lose -- this year's solid "locks" for their parties -- we end up with a starting point of 47 Republicans and 39 Democrats staying put in the next Senate.

That's the landscape we have before we consider the other 14 races. These are the contests that are much more iffy and that will determine which political party gets to the majority number of 51 and which spends the next two years with little legislative power.

I had originally planned this to be a two-part series, concluding today. But as I go over all of the relevant factors in each of these races, it becomes obvious to me that I can serve readers better by extending it to three parts, concluding on Thursday. It's a lot to read, and the piece today would have been enormous, had I included all 14 remaining races.

In part two today, we're going to look at five of the fourteen remaining contests -- the races that are hardly in the bag, but that lean in one direction or the other. While it's possible for the other side to win these seats, there's slightly more than two months until election day and a lot of ground would have to be made up very quickly.

Leaning to Democrats

Debbie Stabenow (D-MI): Stabenow is Secretary of the Senate Democratic caucus, making her the third-ranking Democrat and many within the party had hoped that we would arrive at this point with her race as a sure-bet. It's not, but it's pretty damn close.

Michigan has had some tough times since George W. Bush became president and the question has been whether voters will count Team Bush as the cause of their woes or Stabenow, who was elected to her first term in 2000. But it's a bad year to be a Republican and, no matter how much the GOP may hope that voters blame Michigan's stale economy and job losses on their junior Senator, it's not likely to happen in big numbers.

Please go to BobGeiger.com to read more.

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