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What's At Stake: Senate
At stake in the Senate are 34 seats: 18 Democratic and 16 Republican. The Republicans presently control 55 seats to the Democrats' 45. Even Democrats concede they do not expect Republicans to lose control of the Senate in 1998; instead the Democrats are looking ahead to 2000 to make big gains. Retirements are relatively low this year, further contributing to the lack of volatility. In 1998, there are only five open seats, three Democratic and two Republican. By contrast, there were 13 open seats in 1996, nine open seats in 1994 and 16 open seats in 1992.
The Democrats' goal in 1998 is to keep the Republicans from picking up five or more seats. The Republicans would like to get to the 60 seats they need to be filibuster-proof; it takes a three-fifths vote to end Senate debate. But the GOP has not held 60 seats since William Howard Taft was president. Neither party has held 60 seats in the Senate since the Democrats did in 1974 and 1976.
Historically, the party controlling the White House loses seats in midterm elections, but the losses in the Senate have not been as great as in the House. In three of the last nine midterm elections (1962, 1970 and 1982), the party controlling the White House gained seats in the Senate.
The last time the Democrats held the Senate was prior to the 1994 election. Republicans controlled the Senate from 1980 to 1986 and then lost control to the Democrats in the 1986 election.
What is almost certain in 1998 is that Ohio and Indiana Senate seats will change party control (Ohio is a Democratic-held seat and Indiana is a Republican-held seat).
Four women senators are up for re-election in 1998. Three were elected in the 1992 "year of the woman": Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun (D-Ill.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) was first elected in 1986.
Stuart Rothenberg's Senate State-by-State
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