Beyond the Beltway: 2006 Senate Race Preview

This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys", April 23, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

Watch "The Beltway Boys" Saturday at 6 p.m. ET and Sunday at 1 and 6 a.m. EST.

FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: There was another high-profile Senate retirement this week, as we go “Beyond the Beltway.”

Party-switching independent Senator Jim Jeffords (search) of Vermont announced this week he won’t seek reelection. His decision opens up another Senate seat, the fourth one this year. A total of 34 seats are now up for grabs in 2006.

Now, Mort, before we look at some of the most vulnerable for each party, what about Vermont?

MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Well, I mean, you can, you can hardly name a bluer state. You know, more inclined to vote Democratic.

BARNES: Republican governor.

KONDRACKE: Well, that’s the point.


KONDRACKE: That Bernie Sanders (search), the socialist representative, who state, who runs statewide, would be the favorite. But as you say, the governor, the lieutenant governor, and another statewide office are also held by Republicans.

KONDRACKE: So there’s a chance.

BARNES: So but leaning Democratic for sure.

KONDRACKE: I would say.

BARNES: OK, among the vulnerable Democratic seats, Mort, there’s the Florida seat currently held by Bill Nelson.

KONDRACKE: Well, Katherine Harris (search), the representative who used to be secretary of state in the 2000 election, will be the natural favorite if she decides to run to win the primary.

BARNES: Yes, yes.

KONDRACKE: But she would also probably be the easiest for Nelson to beat. So a lot of Republicans are looking to one of the other, one of the three people who are thinking about running for governor, plus the secretary of state, Alan Benz.

BARNES: The Republicans have an incredibly deep bench in Florida. They have all the statewide offices.

KONDRACKE: Why doesn’t Jeb Bush just run for it?

BARNES: I don’t know. But if he runs, he could win, but I think he doesn’t want to.

KONDRACKE: OK. He’ll wait.

BARNES: He’ll wait, he’ll run for president later.

The open Minnesota Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Mark Dayton: You know, congressman, Republican Congressman Mark Kennedy is the Republican who’s going to get the nomination. He’s been aiming for this for a while. I think he’s going to be a very strong candidate.

KONDRACKE: Well, he’s kind of dull, as I understand it. But there are a whole slew of Democrats who want the seat. Kerry carried it, so I still think it favors a Democrat.

BARNES: I’m not so sure. It’s a state trending Republican.

And the Washington Senate seat currently held by Maria Cantwell.

KONDRACKE: Well, a lot of Republicans hope that Dino Rossi, who got cheated out of the governor’s race, or it looks like he got cheated out of the governor’s race will change his mind about sticking in there and, trying to get the governorship and will decide to run for Senate.

BARNES: And Karl Rove and George Bush might get him to do that. OK.

Among the seats Republicans need to worry about, the open Senate seat in Tennessee, now that Bill Frist is retiring. Mort, you’ve become an expert on Tennessee politics, particularly Republican politics.

KONDRACKE: Well, Ed Bryant, former representative, is leading in the polls.

BARNES: Right.

KONDRACKE: Bob Corker, the mayor of Chattanooga, has a lot of money.


KONDRACKE: Van Hillary, who ran for governor and failed, is another candidate.


KONDRACKE: Harold Ford, it looks like, will be the Democratic nominee and it would be, make it a great race.

BARNES: Yes, absolutely.

KONDRACKE: And the question is, will Tennessee elect a black senator?

BARNES: Well, Harold Ford (search), if he were a black Republican, rather than a black Democrat, he’d win. Being a Democrat hurts him. OK.

In the Senate seat in Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum is being targeted.

KONDRACKE: Well, you know, you’ve been hoping, as Rick Santorum’s friend that, that Bob Casey would have a Democratic primary. It doesn’t look like he’s going to have a primary.

And Bob Casey is in the lead over, over Rick Santorum. It will certainly tighten up by the election.

BARNES: Yes, I’m Bob Casey’s friend too. I was a great admirer of his father, who was governor.

And the Rhode Island Senate seat currently held by Lincoln Chafee (search); you know, I think Lincoln Chafee is going to be one, actually not vulnerable. It’s a very Democratic state. He’s extraordinarily popular. And, you know, after you see him in action, he’s really pretty clever in keeping support in that state, a state his dad represented in the Senate as well.

KONDRACKE: Yes, and the Dem, the Democrats have, have lost their strongest candidates. They took themselves out of the race.


KONDRACKE: So if Chafee doesn’t get a primary, he’ll be the nominee.

BARNES: Right.

KONDRACKE: OK. I think your seat is pretty safe here, Fred, but just in case, let’s see how you do without this week’s tip sheet. You’re ready, I know.

Content and Programming Copyright 2005 Fox News Network, L.L.C. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2005 eMediaMillWorks, Inc. (f/k/a Federal Document Clearing House, Inc.), which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon Fox News Network, L.L.C. and eMediaMillWorks, Inc.'s copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.