Know the Races
Know the races: A dinner party primer.
For the first time in several years, it's within the realm of statistical possibility that Democrats could take control of both chambers of Congress. Here are some of the closest and most interesting races to be decided this November 7th. When the votes are counted, the results of these campaigns could be either a revitalized Republican majority, or a potentially far-reaching change in the governance of our country. The SenateSix races that can shift the balance.1. MONTANABURNS (R) v. TESTER (D)In a recent Vanity Fair article, convicted briber Jack Abramoff claimed that he received every appropriation he requested from Conrad Burns' committee. The senator's connection to the ever-widening Abramoff scandal has many Montanans up in arms. His opponent, state legislator Jon Tester, won an insurgent primary campaign, trouncing the Democratic establishment's candidate. It will be difficult to unseat a long-serving politician like Burns, but Tester's authentic Montana persona (which includes a combination of pro-gun and conservationist positions) could prove just the thing.2. PENNSYLVANIASANTORUM (R) v. CASEY (D)If you google incumbent Senator Rick Santorum, one of the top results will be an unprintable sexual excretion maliciously named "santorum" by syndicated sex columnist Dan Savage. Santorum, number three in the Republican leadership, is one of the Senate's most conservative members, and his negative comments on issues like homosexuality have riled Democrats as much as they've rallied Republicans. Democrats would like nothing more than to remove him from power. They've fielded Bob Casey, Jr., the pro-life son of a beloved ex-governor, who has surged ahead in the polls.3. OHIODEWINE (R) v. BROWN (D)After fighting off conservative primary challengers upset at his membership in the "Gang of 14" who compromised on filibusters in the Senate, Mike DeWine may still be tainted by a growing scandal in Ohio state politics that-no joke-involves the buying and selling of rare coins. Rep. Sherrod Brown, who forced the withdrawal of popular anti-war Iraq vet Paul Hackett from the primary, is hoping that anger at the President, and a conservative backlash against DeWine's more liberal policies, will finally give national Democrats a reason to forgive Ohio for 2004.4. VIRGINIAALLEN (R) v. WEBB (D)Incumbent Virginia Senator George Allen is a conservative poster boy often mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in '08. Opposing him is newly-minted Democrat James Webb. Democrats hope that Webb's mÃ©lange of liberal (anti-war, pro-choice) and conservative (pro-gun, Reagan's Secretary of the Navy) positions will so befuddle the state's swing voters that they will give up trying to figure him out and simply elect him. Webb's recent party shift may strike some voters as opportunistic, while Allen's blatant presidential campaigning may turn off others. In the end, it may come down to Virginia's sizable population of military voters deciding how much more war they're willing to stomach.5. WASHINGTONCANTWELL (D) v. McGAVICK (R)First term Senator Maria Cantwell won her last election by 2,229 votes, out of 2.5 million votes cast-a mere .09 percent of the total. This tenuous margin of victory puts her at risk against challenger Mike McGavick, a former insurance CEO. McGavick hopes that the absence of Bush's name on the ballot will keep him from being negatively associated with a national party that is increasingly unpopular in the state. Based on his poll numbers, his dreams may come true. Keeping this seat is the linchpin of the Democrat's dream of winning back the Senate.6. MINNESOTAKENNEDY (R) v. KLOBUCHAR (D)Truly unpopular Democrat Mark Dayton (the only senator to close his office during the anthrax scare) wisely decided to retire rather than get trounced in this election, so this seat is up for grabs. Prosecutor Amy Klobuchar will try to hold on to the seat for the Democrats. She'll be running against Rep. Mark Kennedy, who is being hammered for having sided with the White House position in 97 percent of his congressional votes. Since neither candidate offers anything particularly exciting, this race will be a referendum on how the people of Minnesota judge the policies of both parties, without factors like charisma clouding their decision.Other races to watch: Missouri, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Tennessee