Democrats need to win six more seats to reclaim control of the Senate, and there are several races in which vulnerable Republican incumbents or open seats might allow them to do it. Observers don't expect that to come to pass, but there are 33 seats up in the Senate-five of them left open by retiring Senators-and 14 states where races will be tight.
Bidding for re-election are eight members of the Commerce Committee and six members of the Judiciary Committee, including Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who should sail back into office. Commerce Committee members who face tight races include Senate Communications Subcommittee Chairman Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), freshman Spencer Abraham (R-Mich.), John Ashcroft (R-Mo.) and Slade Gorton (R-Wash.). Abraham and Ashcroft also are members of the Senate Judiciary Committee; the other four members of that committee running races should have an easy time.
Abraham faces Rep. Debbie Stabenow. Although he outpaces her for money, she just picked up $825,000 after President Clinton stopped by Bloomfield Hills, Mich., to do some fund-raising after the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.
Ashcroft, who early in the election cycle announced himself a contender for the Republican nomination, is running against sitting Democratic Gov. Mel Carnahan. History's on Ashcroft's side: Republicans have won the last six Senate races in Missouri.
Washington has not yet held its primaries, but Gorton will face either millionaire and former Rep. Maria Cantwell or state Insurance Commissioner Deborah Senn after Sept. 19. Either opponent may prove difficult for Gorton: Recent polls showed Gorton losing to Senn with less than 50% of the vote, and Cantwell is willing to fund her own campaign with the millions she has made from working for Seattle-based Internet streaming company RealNetworks.
Close races in big states-such as Michigan and Florida-can run as high as $10 million per candidate. And in New York, where First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton faces Rep. Rick Lazio, the price tag already has run to a total of nearly $50 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.-P.A.