Sabatos Crystal Ball

Republicans Enlarge Senate Majority

GOP majority now includes 55 senators

Peter Jackson, Senior Writer November 4th, 2004


Building on the success from the 2002 midterm elections, the Crystal Ball correctly predicted 97 percent of Senate races. In the first hours of election night it was clear that Republicans would enlarge their majority in the upper chamber of Congress, but three contests gave the Crystal Ball a moment of pause.

As the first results filtered in from Kentucky, it looked as though Democratic challenger Daniel Mongiardo would be able to unseat one-term incumbent Republican Jim Bunning amid allegations of the senator’s deteriorating mental health. When all the votes were counted, Bunning was the victor with a narrow edge of 23,296 votes.

In Alaska, the Crystal Ball thought nepotism charges would be the downfall of appointed Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski. While Bush coattails would give a healthy nudge to Murkowski’s numbers, public and private polling, as well as reports from The Last Frontier suggested that Knowles had convinced enough Alaskans to split their tickets and elect a Democrat to the Senate. While Bush garnered 151,498 votes, Murkowski only received 120,897. The Crystal Ball rated this contest as Democratic with low confidence, but that outlook proved to be off the mark with Murkowski riding the Bush wave to a second term.

Throughout the final days of Campaign 2004 the Crystal Ball wondered if David Vitter would be able to cross the 50 percent threshold and capture the Louisiana Senate seat in the open primary, avoiding a December run-off. It was the one sure way the GOP could capture this Democratic seat, and as the Crystal Ball predicted, Vitter cleared the run-off hurdle with 51-percent of the vote.

The GOP had a significant advantage in Senate match-ups entering the 2004 election year. While Republicans retained 36 seats and had to defend 15 seats, the Democrats held 29 seats and were faced with defending 19. By the last week of October it became clear that–absent a national landslide one way or the other–Republicans would be guaranteed 49 seats and Democrats 44 seats, leaving seven toss-ups. In order to maintain their 51-seat majority, Republicans needed to win only two of these seven races. The GOP did much better, winning six of these seven contests with only Colorado falling into Democratic hands.