With the announcement that Democrat Harris Miller will be challenging incumbent Senator George Allen, the GOP is feeling pretty good about retaining that seat this November. Unfortunately, that feeling is not particularly widespread as we head into the Congressional midterm elections.
The Frist-DeLay-Abramoff group of scandals have put a harsh spotlight on Congressional Republicans and the results do not look pretty. An AP Poll released this weekend showed that Democrats lead Republicans by 13% in a generic Congressional poll. Now it is true that most Congressional races are decided by the candidates, not simply party labels, but the margin is severe.
On the Senate side, John J. Miller over at the National Review has a review of the key Senate races going into the fall. While the outlook appears to have Republicans retaining control of the Senate, the loss of a couple of seats certainly appears possible at this point. Miller warns that if seemingly safe GOP incumbents like Arizona's Jon Kyl or Missouri's Jim Talent start to fade, control of the Senate could be in doubt. On the other hand, if the GOP is able to gain unexpected ground in places like Washington or Nebraska, then things could be rosier.
I have been astounded at the NRSC's inability to field top-flight candidates in what should be competitive Senate races. In 2004, under the leadership of George Allen, the GOP did a bang-up job of recruiting and the result was a net gain of four seats. As I said above, congressional races ultimately come down to two competing personalities. While national issues and scandals can certainly have an effect, these races will come down to the citizens of individual states and districts determining what issues matter to them and chosing which candidate will better represent them on Capitol Hill.