Senate Wrap-Up

Campaign 2006 | A look at some key Senate races in the 2006 election

Issue: "GOP downfall," Nov. 18, 2006

Rhode Island

Rhode Island voters essentially told incumbent Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee not to take it personally. They ousted him because of the "R" next to his name. Exit polls indicated more than 60 percent of respondents approved of the way Chafee did his job in the U.S. Senate-figures most Republicans could have only dreamt of this cycle. But Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse convinced enough Rhode Islanders that a vote for Chafee equated to a vote for Bush.

New Jersey

Many pundits acknowledge that Thomas Kean Jr.'s charges of corruption against incumbent Sen. Bob Menendez had merit. But to New Jersey voters for whom corrupt politicians seem like the norm, Kean's charges never really stuck. Menendez won reelection. With the war in Iraq as the main campaign issue, most acknowledge that Kean was the right candidate at the wrong time.


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Early on Election Day, incumbent Republican Sen. Jim Talent racked up an unexpected lead over Democratic challenger Claire McCaskill. The other shoe dropped when precincts in St. Louis began reporting. The results largely mirrored Missouri's vote to approve stem-cell research. McCaskill's come-from-behind campaign to defeat Talent came after a hard-hitting campaign featuring a now-famous advertisement from television star Michael J. Fox in favor of McCaskill.


Democratic challenger Sherrod Brown cruised to victory over incumbent Sen. Mike DeWine. Many thought the Republican burned bridges to the evangelical base in Ohio after he sided with Sen. John McCain in the judicial compromise on filibusters. It couldn't have helped that DeWine faced a talented and hard-charging challenger in a state that Bush barely won in 2004.


Throughout election night, GOP chairman Ken Mehlman told CNN that Republican Michael Steele was en route to a historic night in Maryland. That night never materialized. Steele performed better in the solidly Democratic Maryland than many thought he would, but in the end, voters chose Democrat Ben Cardin to replace Paul Sarbanes.


Republican Sen. Rick Santorum's reelection campaign suffered a crushing defeat to pro-life Democrat Bob Casey Jr. The incumbent Republican lost 59-41 despite his hopes that evangelical Christians would come out in droves and push him over the top. According to exit polls, Casey picked up significant chunks of pro-life voters, undercutting one of Santorum's greatest appeals to conservative voters in the middle of the state.


Of all the vulnerable GOP senators heading into Election Day, incumbent Conrad Burns seemed like the most vulnerable. He was also one of the hardest to defeat. Democratic challenger Jon Tester defeated Burns by a margin slimmer than 3,000 votes.


Republicans have former Chattanooga mayor Bob Corker to thank for keeping them in the game to win any new seat on Election Day. The Republican candidate to replace Sen. Bill Frist knocked off an impressive campaign by Democratic challenger Harold Ford Jr. The widely denounced GOP campaign ad poking fun at Ford's appearance at a Playboy party may have saved the day for the troubled GOP candidate.


Unlike most statewide elections across the country, Arizona's Senate race didn't turn on the Iraq War issue as much as it did on domestic issues like illegal immigration. Perhaps not surprisingly, Republican incumbent Sen. Jon Kyl cruised to easy victory in such a climate. Democrats had poured millions into Jim Pederson's campaign, but never really drew close to the Republican incumbent.


Incumbent Sen. George Allen made Democratic control of the Senate official by conceding the race to challenger Jim Webb. Webb had declared victory already, but the margin was so close-7,000 votes out of over 2.3 million cast-that Allen was entitled to a recount. Instead, Allen told supporters, the "owners of government have spoken and I respect their decision."


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