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Is 'Winnability' Enough For Democrats?

This story was written by CBS News' Ward Sloane and Steve Chaggaris.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, Chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), says everything is looking up for the minority party. That's because Democrats now have candidates with what he calls "winnability." And that's all their voters want.

"The Democrats want to win," he repeated over and over again at a "pen and pad" briefing for reporters on Wednesday. "That's what I see, that's what voters want. They want change, original candidates."

Schumer did not offer any specific polling numbers or facts to support this, but couldn't repeat "want to win" enough times.

"Democrats are tired of losing," he says. "The days when Democrats have to check off 17 boxes before they can get our support are over."

Witness Schumer and the Committee's unusual early endorsement of James Webb in Tuesday's Virginia's primary. Webb, a former Republican who served as Ronald Reagan's Secretary of the Navy, got the endorsement earlier this month because, in Schumer's view, he can beat incumbent Sen. George Allen.

Schumer calls Webb "conservative to moderate."

With Webb's nomination, Schumer now says the Democrats have "the candidate we want" in eight Senate seats where they think the Republicans can be beaten (Republicans are defending a total of 15 seats). Those are:

  • Arizona: Jim Pederson (former Arizona Democratic Chair, businessman) vs. incumbent Jon Kyl
  • Missouri: Claire McCaskill (State Auditor) vs. incumbent James Talent
  • Montana: Jon Tester (State Sen. President) vs. incumbent Conrad Burns
  • Ohio: U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown vs. incumbent Mike DeWine
  • Pennsylvania: Bob Casey, Jr. (State Treasurer) vs. incumbent Rick Santorum
  • Rhode Island: Sheldon Whitehouse (former State Attorney General) vs. incumbent Lincoln Chafee
  • Tennessee: Rep. Harold Ford vs. the winner of the Aug. 3 primary (Sen. Bill Frist is retiring)
  • Virginia: James Webb vs. George Allen

    The Democrats need only six seats to take control of the Senate, and picking off six of the above incumbents is possible. But they have 18 seats of their own to win. And of those 18, there are seven the Democrats have to keep a close eye on, as they could potentially force them to spend a lot of money to defend those seats.

    So while they only need six seats to take over the Senate, they really need 13 victories out of the 15 in this combination — they have to go 7-for-7 in their own column while picking up six out of eight Republican seats.

    This will not be easy, even if, as Schumer believes, they "have the wind to their back," because of President Bush's low approval ratings, Iraq and the continuing fallout from Hurricane Katrina.

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