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Congressional Dems See only Sunshine

Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York is heading the Democrats Senate Campaign Committee for 2008, as he did in the 2006 election. The sudden announcement by Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., that he's leaving the Senate, is just one more delicious morsel heaped on Schumer's plate in recent weeks.

Lott, No. 2 in the Senate minority, is the sixth GOP senator to announce his retirement. Schumer said Lott's Mississippi seat presents a rare opportunity to capture a Senate seat for the Democrats next year.

Schumer may be a bit optimistic, but there are at least two GOP seats left open by retirements that Democrats could easily take: Sens. John Warner of Virginia and Pete V. Domenici of New Mexico.

The retirements of Sens. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., and Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., also offer possibilities.

Of the 34 seats up for election next year, 22 are held by Republicans, most of whom voters identify with an unpopular lame-duck GOP president, George W. Bush.

With the election almost a year off, Schumer's Democratic Senate Campaign Committee has more than double the money of the National Republican Senate Committee--$23.4 million to $9.5 million.

The Democrats have only a four-seat advantage over the Republicans now. If they should take enough seats to  give them a filibuster-proof majority, the result could catapult Schumer into a new level of power and prestige. In addition to his political chores, Schumer now holds third ranking in the party's power structure in the Senate as vice chair of the Senate Democratic Conference.

If the political winds and Schumer's efforts should yield a 60-vote majority, his influence in the Senate might rival that of the legendary Robert F. Wagner, the New York Democratic powerhouse of the 1930s.

Over in the House, an announcement by former Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., brought the number of planned retirements there to 18, compared to just four Democrats who said they aren't coming back after next year.

So far, the financial outlook for House Republicans is even more bleak than for Senate Republicans as industry, banking, agriculture and retail special interests shift their campaign contributions to the majority Democrats.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee enjoys a 10-fold advantage over the National Republican Congressional Committee in cash on hand - $29.2 million to $2.6 million.

-- Douglas Turner


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