Things got started late this election cycle because of last year's terrorist attacks. There was a moratorium on politics last fall, especially on political fund-raising, and that lag carried through the entire cycle. The issue agenda has careened from foreign to domestic and now back to foreign. Republicans feel that the more foreign policy is emphasized, the better they'll do; Democrats keep trying to shift the debate back to the economy and kitchen-table issues.
Redistricting, which the Republicans hoped would benefit them, has turned into a bit of a wash. The main impact has been to reduce the number of competitive House races because incumbents generally saw to it that they were protected. In that way, of course, the GOP is helped a bit because there are fewer seats in play for the Democrats to pick off. Less than 50 races are considered in play this year, compared, for example, to the 1992 House elections, when over 100 seats were ranked as competitive by the respected Cook Report and the political campaign committees.
Here's how the CBS News Political Unit sees the various races with six weeks to go. We will be updating these assessments right up until the election, so check back often.
THE STATEHOUSES: color>
Thirty-six states will elect governors this fall including the big four states: California, Florida, Texas and New York. In California, incumbent Gray Davis is in a strong position to win re-election, even though he is extremely unpopular. He lucked out with a Republican opponent, Bill Simon, who has had an accident-prone campaign. In New York, Republican Gov. George Pataki leads Democrat Carl McCall. But the races in Florida, between Gov. Jeb Bush and Democratic attorney Bill McBride, and Texas, between Gov. Rick Perry and wealthy Hispanic businessman Tony Sanchez, are worth keeping an eye on.
There are only five women governors at present, but 10 women are running for governor this year in nine states. In Hawaii, both the Democratic and Republican candidates are female. One of the biggest surprises of this election year is the struggle Maryland Lt Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend has been having in her campaign in the Democratic state of Maryland.
In the 36 states that have gubernatorial races, 23 now have Republican governors, 11 are run by Democrats and two – Maine and Minnesota – are run by Independents. In 19 of the 36, no incumbent is running and 12 of those states currently have GOP governors. So Republicans are struggling to maintain the dominance of the state houses they gained in the 1990s. The loss of the federal surplus and the struggling economy have put all incumbent governors – Democrats and Republicans – on the defensive. Besides bragging rights, these governorships will be important to the 2004 presidential campaigns in each state.
CBS News Political Unit Governors Race Ratingscolor>
Strong Democrat (2): Georgia - BARNES (D) vs. Perdue (R), Michigan - Granholm (D) vs. Posthumus (R).
Likely Democrat (2): Oregon - Kulongoski (D) vs. Mannix (R), New Mexico - Richardson (D) vs. Sanchez (R).
Lean Democrat (6): California - DAVIS (D) vs. Simon (R) vs. Camejo (Green), Illinois - Blagojevich (D) vs. Ryan (R), Kansas - Sebelius (D) vs. Shallenburger (R), Maine - Baldacci (D) vs. Cianchette (R) vs. Carter (Green) vs. Michael (Independent), Pennsylvania - Rendell (D) vs. Fisher (R), Tennessee - Bredesen (D) vs. Hilleary (R).
Toss-Up (11): Alabama - SIEGELMAN (D) vs. Riley (R), Arizona - Napolitano (D) vs. Salmon (R) vs. Mahoney (Independent), Iowa - VILSACK (D) vs. Gross (R) vs. Robinson (Green), Maryland - Townsend (D) vs. Ehrlich (R), Massachusetts - O'Brien (D) vs. Romney (R) vs. Stein (Green) vs. Howell (Libertarian), Minnesota - Moe (D) vs. Pawlenty (R) vs. Penny (Independence) vs. Pentel (Green), Rhode Island - York (D) vs. Carcieri (R), South Carolina - HODGES (D) vs. Sanford (R), Vermont - Racine (D) vs. Douglas (R) vs. Hogan (Independent), Wisconsin - McCALLUM (R) vs. Doyle (D) vs. Thompson (Libertarian), Wyoming - Freudenthal (D) vs. Bebout (R).
Lean Republican (8): Alaska - Ulmer (D) vs. Murkowski (R), Arkansas - HUCKABEE (R) vs. Fisher (D), Connecticut - ROWLAND (R) vs. Curry (D), Florida - BUSH (R) vs. McBride (D), New Hampshire - Fernald (D) vs. Benson (R), Ohio - TAFT (R) vs. Hagan (D), South Dakota - Abbott (D) vs. Rounds (R), Texas - PERRY (R) vs. Sanchez (D).
Likely Republican (3): Hawaii - Hirono (D) vs. Lingle (R), New York - PATAKI (R) vs. McCall (D) vs. Golisano (Independence), Oklahoma - Henry (D) vs. Largent (R) vs. Richardson (Independent).
Strong Republican (4): Colorado - OWENS (R) vs. Heath (D), Idaho - KEMPTHORNE (R) vs. Brady (D), Nebraska - JOHANNS (R) vs. Dean (D), Nevada - GUINN (R) vs. Neal (D).
Control of the Senate is the Big Enchilada. The power balance in Washington changed dramatically when Vermont Sen. Jim Jeffords announced that he was becoming an Independent and would caucus with the Democrats. That gave the Democrats a one-seat advantage – 50 Democrats, 49 Republicans and one Independent. All the committee chairs changed and the Bush agenda was thwarted.
President Bush has campaign aggressively this year to help raise $122 million so far for Republcian candidates. His clear priority has been to get the Senate back in the GOP column. The retirements of four popular Republican senators – Jesse Helms of North Carolina, Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, Phil Gramm of Texas and Fred Thompson of Tennessee – have made his task more formidable.
There are now 16 races, six Democratic and 10 Republican seats, where we feel the incumbent is in strong position to be reelected, and 18 races where the outcome is not so clear; eight of those 18 races – four current Democratic seats and four Republican – are absolute toss-ups:
CBS News Political Unit Senate Ratingscolor>
Strong Democrat (6): Delaware - BIDEN (D) vs. Clatworthy (R), Illinois - DURBIN (D) vs. Durkin (R), Massachusetts - KERRY (D) has no GOP opponent, Michigan - LEVIN (D) vs. Raczikowski (R), Rhode Island - REED (D) vs. Tingle (R), West Virginia - ROCKEFELLER (D) vs. Wolfe (R).
Likely Democrat (1): Montana - BAUCUS (D) vs. Taylor (R).
Lean Democrat (3): Georgia - CLELAND (D) vs. Chambliss (R), Iowa - HARKIN (D) vs. Ganske (R), Louisiana - LANDRIEU (D) vs. Three GOP Opponents.
Toss-Up (8): Arkansas - HUTCHINSON (R) vs. Pryor (D), Colorado - ALLARD (R) vs. Stricland (D), Minnesota - WELLSTONE (D) vs. Coleman (R), Missouri - CARNAHAN (D) vs. Talent (R), New Hampshire - Shaheen (D) vs. Sununu (R), New Jersey - TORRICELLI (D) vs. Forrester (R), South Dakota - JOHNSON (D) vs. Thune (R), Texas - Kirk (D) vs. Cornyn (R).
Lean Republican (4): North Carolina - Bowles (D) vs. Dole (R), Oregon - SMITH (R) vs. Bradbury (D), South Carolina - Sanders (D) vs. Graham (R), Tennessee - Clement (D) vs. Alexander (R).
Likely Republican (2): Maine - COLLINS (R) vs. Pingree (D), Oklahoma - INHOFE (R) vs. Walters (D).
Strong Republican (10): Alabama - SESSIONS (R) vs. Parker (D), Alaska - STEVENS (R) vs. Vondersaar (D), Idaho - CRAIG (R) vs. Blinken (D), Kansas - ROBERTS (R) has no Democratic opponent, Kentucky - MCCONELL (R) vs. Weinberg (D), Mississippi - COCHRAN (R) has no Democratic opponent, Nebraska - HAGEL (R) vs. Matulka (D), New Mexico - DOMENICI (R) vs. Tristani (D), Virginia - WARNER (R) has no Democratic opponent, Wyoming - ENZI (R) vs. Corcoran (D).
THE HOUSE color>
Only about 10 percent of the 435 House races this year appear to be in doubt. Having said that, those which are in play – the following 43 and a handful of others – are being hotly contested. Twenty-three of our 43 hot races are for open seats where no incumbent is running or new seats created by redistricting. There are four hot races where incumbents are pitted against each other because of redistricting.
CBS News Political Unit House Ratings:color>
Lean Republican (15):
Colorado 04 - Matsunaka (D) vs. Musgrave (R), Connecticut 02 - Courtney (D) v. SIMMONS (R), Florida 24 - Jacobs (D) vs. Feeney (R), Illinois 19 - PHELPS (D) vs. SHIMKUS (R), Iowa 01 - Hutchinson (D) vs. NUSSLE (R), Iowa 02 - Thomas (D) vs. LEACH (R), Kentucky 03 - Conway (D) vs. NORTHUP (R), Louisiana 05 - Four Republicans, Two Democrats and One Independent are running, Mississippi 03 - SHOWS (D) v. PICKERING (R), North Carolina 08 -Kouri (D) vs. HAYES (R), New Hampshire 01 - Fuller Clark (D) v. Bradley (R), Oklahoma 04 - Roberts (D) vs. Cole (R), Pennsylvania 06 - Wofford (D) vs. Gerlach (R), Texas 05 - Chapman (D) vs. Hensarling (R), West Virginia 02 - Humphreys (D) vs. MOORE CAPITO (R).
Toss-Up (15): Alabama 03 - Turnham (D) vs. Rogers (R), Arizona 01 - Cordova (D) vs. Renzi (R), Colorado 07 - Feeley (D) vs. Beauprez (R),
Connecticut 05 - MALONEY (D) vs. JOHNSON (R), Florida 05 - THURMAN (D) vs. Brown-Waite (R), Indiana 02 - Long Thompson (D) vs. Chocola (R), Kansas 03 - MOORE (D) vs. Taff (R), Maine 02 - Michaud (D) vs. Raye (R), Maryland 08 -Van Hollen (D) vs. MORELLA (R), Michigan 11 - Kelley (D) vs. McCotter (R), Minnesota 02 - LUTHER (D) vs. Kline (R), New Mexico 02 - Smith (D) vs. Pearce (R), Nevada 03 - Herrera (D) vs. Porter (R), Pennsylvania 17 - HOLDEN (D) vs. GEKAS (R), South Dakota AL - Herseth (D) vs. Janklow (R).
Lean Democrat (13): Arizona 04 - ROSS (D) vs. Dickey (R), California 18 - Cardoza (D) vs. Monteith (R), Georgia 03 - Marshall (D) vs. Clay (R), Georgia 11 - Kahn (D) vs. Gingree (R), Georgia 12 - Walker (D) vs. Burns (R),
Iowa 03 - BOSWELL (D) vs. Thompson (R), Kentucky 04 - LUCAS (D) vs. Davis (R), Maryland 02 - Ruppersberger (D) vs. Bentley (R), North Dakota AL - POMEROY (D) vs. Clayburgh (R), Tennessee 04 - Davis (D) vs. Bowling (R), Texas 11 - EDWARDS (D) vs. Farley (R), Texas 25 - Bell (D) vs. Reiser (R), Utah O2 - MATHESON (D) vd. Cannon (R).