Dem Senators in red states have targets on their backs
Democratic senators in the states that President Bush won will face a tough road to re-election in 2006, Republicans say, with their sights set most eagerly on two Democrats named Nelson — Sens. Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Bill Nelson of Florida.Obstruction on judicial nominees probably cost Daschle his seat. Ben Nelson did not join the rest of the Democrats in this obstruction and it may save him.
"They have something to worry about, and they need look no farther than Tom Daschle," said Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, referring to this month's defeat of the Senate minority leader from the red state of South Dakota, which Mr. Bush won by 22 percentage points.
"Any Democratic senator running for re-election in a state where the president did extremely well has got to know they are an endangered species," he said.
Mr. Cornyn said he expects Mr. Bush will "use his capital" to help Republican Senate candidates in 2006, and "these red-state Democratic senators are particularly vulnerable."
"For Democrats who were hoping the worst was over in 2004, there isn't a lot of good news," said Nathan Gonzales, political editor of the Rothenberg Political Report.
In Nebraska, Gov. Mike Johanns, a Republican, looks like Mr. Nelson's probable challenger for 2006, and Mr. Bush is expected to campaign on his behalf. In Florida, Republicans will be gunning for Mr. Nelson and hope to recruit a big name such as term-limited Gov. Jeb Bush to challenge him.
"These two definitely are going to be watching their backs," said David Mark, editor of Campaigns & Elections magazine. "Particularly on judicial nominees, they're going to be real careful on who they decide to block."
Political analysts say Sens. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico and Kent Conrad of North Dakota could have problems too, depending on whom Republicans find to challenge them.
Red-state Democratic senators may end up voting with Republicans often on judges and tax cuts, Mr. Mark predicted, a prophecy turned into a warning by Mr. Cornyn.
"Senators from red states who continue that obstruction or join in it do so at their own peril," the Texan said.