In Senate Races, It's Time for Hardball

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On Monday, the nation marks the fourth anniversary of the war in Iraq. There was no celebration to note the continuing conflict that has split the country asunder.

In Congress, the majority Democrats continue to struggle for a way to at least set a timetable for the return of U.S. troops. Republicans are nearly unanimous in fighting every effort, and President Bush has a veto pen at the ready.

It is time for the Democrats to play hardball with Republican senators up for re-election next year. They need to feel the heat of voters fed up with their tactics. Let's look at the GOP incumbents:

  • Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon has already gotten the message with his stance on the war. Oregon is a fiercely independent state, and Smith knows it.
  • Sens. John Sununu of New Hampshire and Norm Coleman of Minnesota are highly vulnerable.
  • New Hampshire's legislature turned Democratic last November in a major surprise. Sununu showed some courage in calling for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to resign, but he remains intransigent on the war.

    Coleman is an accidental incumbent. If popular Democrat Paul Wellstone hadn't been killed in an airplane accident just before the 2002 vote, Coleman would still be home in St. Paul. And Democrat Amy Klobuchar was elected by 20 points over her GOP opponent a few months ago to fill the state's other Senate seat.

    With good candidate recruitment by Democrats, several other hawkish GOP senators should be getting queasy about next year.

    That list includes Sens. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, and even the venerable John Warner of Virginia, who may retire rather than run for a sixth term. Sen. Wayne Allard of Colorado has already called it quits.

    Even a moderate like Sen. Susan Collins of Maine should be challenged earnestly by the Democrats. On the war issue, a moderate is out of sync.

    How about Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, who is running for president right now? He will probably be forced out of the race in time to run for another term, but he should be tested.

    With a Bush legacy around their necks, Republicans should be in jeopardy. The next Senate in 2009 may look vastly different from the current 51-49 majority for the Democrats.