Trail Dust: Battle for the Senate

This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys," August 14, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: The battle for control of the Senate is the topic of this week's trail dust. Republicans are holding a slight 51-seat edge in the 100-member Senate right now. But of the 34 seats up in November, Democrats must defend 19 of them.

So here's what we think about the top 10 races to watch, starting with South Dakota, where incumbent Tom Daschle faces former congressman John Thune.

MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Well, it's an overwhelming ... Republican state, but everybody knows Tom Daschle (search), and I, and I think they sort of love him, and I think he's going to get reelected. And if he ... can't get reelected fair and square, there's always the Indian reservations.

BARNES: Well, that's true. Well, look, I think his problem is, this is the first election when he's run for reelection as the chief obstructionist to a Republican president's programs. He's in big trouble.

Florida, this is an open seat, pitting Democrat Betty Castor versus Republican Mel Martinez.

KONDRACKE: Betty Castor is a good candidate...


KONDRACKE: ... and Martinez is weighed down by the fact that there was a bitter primary...


KONDRACKE: ... with former congressman Bill McCollum...

BARNES: Yes, right.

KONDRACKE: ... and he's got to put the party back together again.

BARNES: Yes, no, I think he can do that. And Martinez is clearly the best Republican candidate they could have had. I think you'd call it a tossup, right? OK.

North Carolina Democrat Erskine Bowles versus Republican Congressman Richard Burr.

KONDRACKE: Well, Bowles, Bowles did a fairly good job in the ... in the, in the, in the last time that he ran for the, for the Senate, and I think he's going to pull it out this time.

BARNES: Yes, he might. He's ahead. But Burr's a good candidate. And in fact, he didn't do a good job against Elizabeth Dole. He got the lowest vote of a Senate candidate, a Democratic Senate candidate, in decades, so...

KONDRACKE: But she was great.

BARNES: ... she was very good, it turns out, yes.

South Carolina, this is an open seat too. It pits Democrat Inez Tenenbaum against Republican Congressman Jim DeMint.

KONDRACKE: I, Inez, Inez Tenenbaum is firing, had fired her campaign manager. She's, she's toast.

BARNES: Yes. Yes.

KONDRACKE: It's a Republican state ...

BARNES: Yes, I, I think it has become a Republican state. And DeMint's a good candidate too, a, a free trader in a state with some protectionist tendencies.

Georgia, an open seat. Democrat Denise Majette faces off against Republican Congressman Johnny Isakson.

KONDRACKE: Forget it ... slam-dunk Isakson, yes.

BARNES: All right, Louisiana, another open seat, pitting two congressmen, Democrat Chris John versus Republican David Vitter. There's another Democrat in ... in the race named John Kennedy.

KONDRACKE: Right, and if ... John Kennedy beats Chris John, then my guess is that, that Vitter will win.


Oklahoma, an open seat. It's Democrat Brad Carson versus Republican Tom Coburn.

KONDRACKE: Coburn looks like it's, like it's his. It's a very Republican...


KONDRACKE: ... state.

BARNES: It's, you know, it's hard to buck about a 25-point lead that President Bush will have in Oklahoma...


BARNES: ... so Coburn, I agree.

Colorado, an open seat pitting Democrat Ken Salazar, who's the state attorney general, against Republican beer magnate Pete Coors.

KONDRACKE: Well, Salazar's a very good candidate ... but, but, but Coors has got oodles of money...


KONDRACKE: ... as, as his name would...


KONDRACKE: ... imply. Lots of beer money there.

BARNES: You know what's not helping him among social conservatives? All those racy Coors ads. You've seen those, you've, well, you probably like them.

KONDRACKE: No, I actually don't watch Coors, Coors ads.

BARNES: I've seen a lot of them.

KONDRACKE: Don't drink.

BARNES: Well, they're on sports events on television, anyway.

Illinois, an open seat, Democrat Barack Obama, who gave that speech, famous speech...


BARNES: ... at the Democratic convention, versus Republican Alan Keyes, who is not from Illinois, he's from Maryland ... Yes.

KONDRACKE: That, that was over before it started. It's Obama.

BARNES: Yes. Obama? Oh, I agree with that.

Alaska, Democrat Tony Knowles versus Republican incumbent Lisa Murkowski, appointed to her Senate seat by her father, who's the governor.

KONDRACKE: The governor...


KONDRACKE: ... and, and unpopular, and Tony...

BARNES: Yes, right.

KONDRACKE: ... Knowles is a fairly popular...


KONDRACKE: ... ex-governor. I think Tony Knowles could really, could win it, even though it's a, it's a overwhelmingly Republican state.

BARNES: Yes, Bush will win by 25, 30 points in the state, and Knowles has never gotten 50 percent in any race. So I think it's going to be Murkowski.

KONDRACKE: OK, let's take a look at this week's battleground polls, all taken after the Republican convention.

We begin with Florida, once again the eye of yet another hurricane this weekend. Florida is still in a statistical tie, according to the -- to a new Zogby poll. Bush has been leading in Florida, so we'll keep it in Bush's column till we see other polls.

President Bush opened up a 14-point lead in Missouri. Kerry had a very narrow lead in the Show Me state last month. Bush won that by 4 in 2000.

Bush has a 9-point lead in Ohio, and he won that state by 4 points in 2000 as well.

Bush has a 1-point lead in Pennsylvania, a big battleground state. It's been tied there in recent weeks. We think there's a big enough shift to move this column into Bush's column for now. Gore won Pennsylvania by 5.

And John Kerry picks up Wisconsin for now. He's up by nearly 2.5 points since, in the most recent Zogby poll. Gore won that state by roughly 5,000 votes.

BARNES: OK, President Bush picks up Pennsylvania and Missouri, moving him into the lead in our electoral scoreboard. He has 290 electoral votes to Kerry's 248.

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