Democrats in U.S. Senate Expect to Add to Majority The Democratic candidates for president are still fighting, but in the battle for control of the Senate, the mood is much better for the party. Senate Democrats expect more gains in November to add to the majority that they won in 2006.
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Democrats in U.S. Senate Expect to Add to Majority

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Democrats in U.S. Senate Expect to Add to Majority

Democrats in U.S. Senate Expect to Add to Majority

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RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

The battle for the Democratic presidential nomination, as Thomas Hobbes might have put it, has been nasty, brutish and long. But the battle for the Senate is a different story. Democrats are widely expected to add to the majority that they won in 2006, and for more we've called on our political brain trust, NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson and political editor Ken Rudin. Good morning to both of you.

KEN RUDIN: Good morning, Renee.

MARA LIASSON: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: So, Mara, let's start with you. Democrats are nervous over what's going on with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and whether the party can unite in time to defeat John McCain in November. You don't see the same kind of pessimism, I gather, when it comes to Senate races.

LIASSON: In Virginia where there's an open Senate race, I am told there are 700,000 more Democrats this cycle than last cycle. So Democrats are very, very optimistic.

MONTAGNE: Ken, turning to you, where are Republicans most vulnerable.

RUDIN: Well, as Mara said, Virginia's a perfect example. They haven't won the presidential race there since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Republican Senator John Warner's retiring after five terms. Mark Warner, the former governor - no relation - is clearly the favorite to succeed him. He's running against the former governor, Jim Gilmore.

MONTAGNE: Pete Domenici's been there since 1972. He's retiring. Tom Udall, Mark Udall's cousin, is running. And the two Republican House members are beating each other up in a primary, similar to what Obama and Clinton are doing in the presidential race. And so the Republicans are nervous about that too.

P: Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska. He's been a Republican senator longer than anybody else - other Republican - in history. He is perhaps part of a corruption scandal and the Democrats are hopeful of taking a seat there in Alaska - that they haven't done since 1974.

MONTAGNE: Mara, give Ken a chance to catch his breath and tell us if there are vulnerable Democrats.

LIASSON: Well, the one...

MONTAGNE: I think that's a plenty shorter list.

LIASSON: But this will be a very competitive race and it's one of those races that if Barack Obama is the nominee it's going to help her because it's going to boost African-American turnout in Louisiana.

RUDIN: And one more Democrat who may not be at risk, or at least a Democrat may lose a seat in New Jersey, but Frank Lautenberg, who's 84 years old, faces a very tough primary on June 3rd with a younger congressman, Rob Andrews. So watch Lautenberg's chances in that primary.

MONTAGNE: Ken, Mara, thanks very much.

LIASSON: Thank you, Renee.

RUDIN: Thanks, Renee.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Ken Rudin and Mara Liasson. And today we're launching our interactive Senate map where you'll find all 35 races, the candidates and the analysis. Go to NPR.org/elections.

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