Key Senate Races

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," Oct. 25, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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BRIT HUME, HOST: So it seems it will come down to a handful of Senate races, whether the Democrats can manage to win seven or eight of them. How hard will that be?

For answers, we turn to FOX News contributor, Michael Barone, senior editor at "U.S. News and World Report" and co-author of the "Almanac of American Politics" (search).

All right. Michael, let’s look at some these sort of race by race. We’ve got about, what? How many in ultimately really appear to be in play?

MICHAEL BARONE, SENIOR WRITER, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT: Well, eight or nine races are in play now, my judgment.

HUME: And the Democrats (search) need a net gain out of those eight or nine of what?

BARONE: Well, they need net gain, a net gain of about seven, I think.

HUME: That means they’re going to have to have quite a night.

BARONE: They’re going to have to have quite a night. But that happens sometimes, Brit.

HUME: Right.

BARONE: In 2000, Democrats won five of the five closest races. In 1980, Republicans (search) won 11 of the 13 closest Senate races. They both ended up, Democrats with a delay, in the majority in the Senate that nobody expected.

HUME: So what races do you think are the ones that are the most interesting here?

BARONE: Well, the watch on election night, I think, the early poll closing in South Carolina, the race there. If you look at polls, average of Mason-Dixon, that’s a four-point race for the Republicans, Jim DeMint. That’s a state George Bush is going to carry heavily. But it’s not locked up.

HUME: Right. And one would think at this stage in the developments of politics in South Carolina, that DeMint should be further ahead than four points.

BARONE: Yes. Inez Tenenbaum has been running a protectionist campaign. That’s been one of the big issues here.

HUME: She’s an attractive candidate.

BARONE: She’s a statewide winner in office, one of the strongest candidates the Democrats could have fashioned.

And in North Carolina, you’ve got that race against Congressman Richard Burr — Erskine Bowles, former White House chief of staff with Bill Clinton (search). Erskine Bowles has been ahead by about 10 points. And then Burr started money putting on the air, and the average of the polls, microscopic edge for Richard Burr.

HUME: That is tight. Now, that is a seat currently held by the Democrat John Edwards. Right?

BARONE: That’s held by Democrat John Edwards (search). So if the Republicans can pick up those two seats right off, they’re in fine shape on election night for maintaining a majority in the Senate. But if they don’t pick those up, then the Democrats might start to feel hopeful.

HUME: Now, another place where the Democrats hold a seat is Georgia. Do you have a sense about Georgia?

BARONE: Georgia seems to be solid for Johnny Isakson, the Republican nominee.

HUME: And that is a seat now held by?

BARONE: Zell Miller (search).

HUME: So that’s a Democratic seat.

BARONE: Democrat who’s been voting...

HUME: So that’s going to be plus one Republican in all likelihood.

BARONE: Yes. That is and it will be balanced off by Illinois, which is going to be plus one Democrat.

HUME: Democrat is going to win Illinois that’s currently held by a Republican.

BARONE: Yes, Barack Obama, clear winner.


BARONE: And so forth.

And then we go to some of the seats the Republicans are defending. These are seats that George W. Bush is either certain to carry or very likely to carry. Oklahoma, be a huge Bush majority. But when you look at the polls there, the Republican former Congressman Tom Coburn is only barely ahead of Brad Carson, the current congressman from the Second District.

HUME: Now, is that an average of polls?

BARONE: That’s an average of polls. There have been three polls in recent days showing Coburn, the Republican, ahead, one poll showing Carson, the Democrat ahead. Carson is a young congressman, a lot of political talent. Coburn is a strong movement conservative, who’s given to making statements that are somewhat controversial and they’ve gotten him in trouble on occasion.

HUME: Yes. Even some would some say extreme, right, on abortion and so forth?

BARONE: Yes. He’s very strong. He believes there should be a murder penalty for abortion doctors.

HUME: You mean the death penalty.

BARONE: Yes. Yes. So that race.

And then you’ve got the race in Colorado. That’s a race where George W. Bush felt obliged to campaign today. I think he’s ahead in most of the polls. That shows a razor thin when you look at different polls.

HUME: That is Ben Night Horse Campbell, the Republican’s seat. He’s retiring so this would be a net pickup of a single vote for the...

BARONE: The Democrats — if Ken Salazar, the attorney general wins that, that it is a Democratic seat. That would be Democratic gain offsetting possible Republican gains in the southern seats. That’s a close race. Polls in 2002 in Colorado, a lot of the public polls showed the Democrats running better than they actually did in the general election.

HUME: In ‘02.

BARONE: In ‘02.

HUME: Right.

BARONE: So I take a little caution about public polls in South Carolina.

The Florida Senate race; Florida is the only one of these big, battleground states.

HUME: Democratic held seat now, right?

BARONE: Democrat held seat, Bob Graham.

HUME: Open seat?

BARONE: The race between Mel Martinez, former Orange County executive and HUD secretary over former state education — or current state Education Secretary Betty Castor, that’s a very close race. A lot of questions there about whether Betty Castor as the president of the University of South Carolina, should have fired Sami al Arian, who was a professor there and he was indicted within the last year on charges related to terrorism.

HUME: Is that — how big an issue is that now?

BARONE: That has been a raging issue. Some people say Martinez has crossed the line. Other people said that Betty Castor didn’t do what they should have done to stop terrorism.

HUME: What is the current — any sense of the momentum in that race?

BARONE: The current momentum shows slightly for Martinez, but I think you’re talking about within the margin of error. We don’t know.

HUME: And of course, that’s a state in which...

BARONE: I hesitate to predict Florida.

HUME: Yes. Well, yes. Boy, haven’t we all learned a lesson about predicting Florida?

BARONE: And then I think the one race that Brian mentioned, and I think really has the potential to change the Senate, if you have the ouster of an incumbent, is Tom Daschle (search). That’s the one Democratic held seat that’s seriously contested now where the incumbent is running. And of course, he’s been the Senate Democrat leader for 10...

HUME: And this is the only poll that we — the only current poll we have out there?

BARONE: That’s the only current poll out there. There’s a Republican poll showing John Thune, the Republican up 49 to 45. But that is a partisan poll, so viewers may want to take that into account.

HUME: And what of the — are there any Democratic polls that we know about?

BARONE: We do not know about them.

HUME: One senses in that race that Daschle, he votes way out of sync, it seems, with the state, which is very pro-Bush. But he goes home and people like him, don’t they?

BARONE: Well, that’s the argument. I mean John Thune is basically saying look, Tom Daschle is one thing in Washington. He even, you know, was a D.C. resident for the purposes of homestead tax exemption on a house he owns near Foxhall Road, and votes and tries to be a conservative. And Thune says, you know, Daschle — Daschle says, I can deliver.

HUME: What’s your take? Quickly.

BARONE: What’s my take? I think if unless the Republicans get real unlucky, they’ll probably gain a seat or two.

HUME: Got you.

BARONE: But luck plays a role.

HUME: We got to take a break to bring you the rest of the headlines.

Thanks, Michael.

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