While the presidential race is grabbing the majority of the press coverage, Election Day could be historic for another reason as well. Democrats hope to control sixty seats in the Senate when all the ballots are counted, which would give them a filibuster-proof super majority.
Democrats are poised to make major gains in the Senate, but getting to sixty will be a tall order. Right now Democrats have a 51-49 edge in the Senate, but that includes the vote of Connecticut independent Joe Lieberman, who still caucuses with the Democrats but has been a vocal supporter of John McCain and an increasingly disgruntled member of the Democratic caucus. If you include Lieberman with the Democrats, they need to pick up a net of nine seats to reach 60. Without him, they need ten.
Open Republican seats in Virginia, New Mexico and Colorado are a lock to become Democratic seats, where Mark Warner, Mark Udall and Tom Udall have commanding leads.
Additionally, four Republican incumbents appear headed for defeat. Democratic challenger Jeanne Shaheen is virtually certain to knock-off incumbent John Sununu in New Hampshire. Mark Begich is now in the driver’s seat over long-time incumbent and newly convicted felon Ted Stevens in Alaska. In Oregon, Democrat Jeff Merkle has opened a solid lead against Gordon Smith. Finally, Democrats are poised for victory in the ugly and expensive North Carolina Senate race, where incumbent Republican Elizabeth Dole appears to be slipping behind Democratic challenger Kay Hagan.
This gives Democrats seven likely to certain pick-ups.
An additional possible net gain for Democrats is in Minnesota, where comedian turned Democratic challenger Al Franken is locked in a dead heat with Republican Norm Coleman in Minnesota. Another intriguing race is in Georgia, where incumbent Republican Saxby Chambliss is in a surprisingly tough race with Jim Martin.
As has been the case in North Carolina, early voting has been extremely heavy in Georgia and African American turnout has been very high. If Blacks make up 30% of the votes in Georgia this year (this has been the early voting figure), Chambliss may lose his seat (and John McCain may lose the state). If Franken and Martin manage to win, Democrats would control 59 seats even without Lieberman.
Longer shots to secure a Lieberman-proof sixty seats include Carl Lunsford, running against long-time incumbent Republican Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, and Ronnie Musgrove, trying to unseat one-term GOP senator Roger Wicker in Mississippi.
Only one Democratic incumbent, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, faced a serious challenge this year, but she appears to be in command at this point in the race.
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