WASHINGTON -- Democrats expect to retain solid control of the Senate in the next Congress, but they probably will not reach a filibuster-proof margin and may even lose some seats.
A United Press International survey of the states and interviews with party strategists show a high degree of 'volatility' in Tuesday's Senate elections that could lead to an exodus of incumbents.
Even Gov. Judd Gregg, a staunch conservative in one of the nation's most Republican states, is not considered safe in his race against Democratic businessman John Rauh for the open seat in New Hampshire -- underscoring the difficulty in forecasting this year's races.
The UPI survey of the 34 states that have senatorial elections showed that 10 appear solidly Democratic with another seven leaning Democratic. If there are no upsets among them, the Democrats would start with a minimum of 53 with a good chance to pickup up some races rated toss-ups.
Seven of the races are considered solidly Republican and two more are leaning that way. Barring upsets and coupled with 28 holdovers, the GOP would go into the dogfight tossup races with a base of 37.
UPI political experts around the country says Senate races are tossups in these states: New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Colorado, Oregon and one of the two in California.
There is a general agreement among party strategists that the overall numbers for each of the parties may change less in the 103rd Congress than the identity of the senators who are elected.
They agree that the difference between the candidates in as many as 12-14 states is under 10 points heading into the pre-election weekend.
'I have never seen so many races in single digits so late,' Jeb Hensarling, the executive director of the Republican National Committee, said.
Nehl Horton, the spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said, 'The volatility is such that we can see a shift either way of a seat or two -- more likely our way.
'I don't see any scenario by which they can reclaim the Senate,' Horton said. 'We'll have a solid majority.'
Hensarling, just as cautious, said it was difficult to say what the Senate lineup will be 'when the dust settles.'
'I am absolutely convinced we will pick up a number of Democratic seats,' he added. 'But I don't know how many Republicans will lose. I think we're going to have a lot of turnovers.'
He said the question now in the narrowed races is, 'Do we have the money, do we have the time to do the job. The trend lines look good for us.'
Democrats go into Tuesday's election with a hefty 57-43 margin, the largest since the mid-70s when they reached the magic 60 that is needed to cut off a filibuster.
There are some peculiarities in this year's election.
--Sen. John Breaux, D-La., has already been re-elected under Louisiana's unique open primary which awards the seat to the winner if he gets a majority.
--One of the North Dakota seats will be determined in a special election Dec. 4, due to the death of Sen. Quentin Burdick, D-N.D., this fall. His wife, Jocelyn, will service until then.
--Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., who announced his retirement from the other North Dakota seat to fulfill a pledge not to seek re-election if the deficit was not eliminated, will seek the Burdick seat in December.
--1992 has become known as the 'Year of the Woman,' with 11 women running for the Senate. Enough areexpected to win to top the record of women in the Senate which is the current three.
--Rep. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, D-Colo., would become the first native American to serve in the Senate if he is elected in Colorado.
--Carol Mosely Braun, if she wins election in Illinois, would be the first black woman to serve in the Senate and only the second black since the Reconstruction period.
Democrats are understandably 'antsy for Tuesday to come' because the leads their candidates enjoyed in several states have shrunk dramatically and may erode more.
Democrats aren't happy about this late Republican surge, but Horton points out, 'It was never in the cards to win by 20-25 points. You're doing well, if you knock off an incumbent with 3-4 points.'
Republicans and Democrats at party headquarters seem to agree that one of the two California races and the ones in New York, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina, South Carolina, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, New Hampshire and perhaps Illinois and Oklahoma are the ones to watch.
There seems little doubt that appointed Sen. John Seymour, R-Calif., is on the endangered species list, headed for a licking by former San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein for one of the California seats.
But Rep. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who once held a huge lead, has started to lose points to Republican Bruce Herschensohn, a very conservative and somewhat eccentric television commentator.
On the other coast, two-term Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, R-N.Y., is in an expensive and ugly race against Attorney General Robert Abrams, the Empire State's best vote-getter. But Abrams squandered support in a bitter four-way primary and then calling D'Amato a 'fascist,' so that the hint of scandal that accompanies the Republican candidate has become somewhat obscured.
'I have never seen quite a slugfest as I've seen in New York,' Hensarling said.NEWLN: more
Hensarling calls D'Amato a 'tough, tenacious campaigner' and puts three other Republican incumbents facing stiff challenges in the same category. They are Sens. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., Bob Packwood, R-Ore., and Robert Kasten, R-Wis.
Specter, hunting a third term, appeared in extremely serious trouble against Lynn Yeakel, a newcomer to politics in the year when 'change' is in vogue. But after winning the Democratic primary, Yeakel drifted, spending little on television advertising until late, while Specter ran and ran hard all over Pennsylvania.
Packwood, out for a fifth term, was trailing Rep. Les AuCoin, D-Ore., by big numbers early in the year, but has turned the race into a dead- heat. In a classic race of two candidates who disagree on almost everything, AuCoin is hurt by the fact he cannot use the 'change' challenge -- having served in the House since 1974.
In Wisconsin, Sen. Robert Kasten, the Republican, was out of sight when Russ Feingold, a young, attractive, innovative state senator, won the Democratic primary. But Kasten, a master of the negative advertising, rolled out most of the worst and by the end of the week he was well within reach of Feingold.
Probably the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent is Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio, the first American to orbit earth and a former candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. But Glenn has some big problems.
Among them are his involvement in the Keating scandal and his failure to pay off his presidential candidacy debt. But the biggest obstacle to a third term is his Republican opponent, Ohio's Lt. Gov. Mike DeWine.
Three incumbents from southern states -- Sens. Terry Sanford, D-N.C., Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., and Wyche Fowler, D-Ga., -- are all in dogfights for another term.
Sanford, 75, one of North Carolina's most honored citizens, was rolling along until three weeks ago when he had to have a heart valve replaced, keeping him off the stump for two weeks. His opponent is Lauch Faircloth, a former state commerce secretary who is a clone of Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., and backed by the wealthy Congressional Club.
Why Hollings is in trouble is harder to fathom. Some political observers put it down to arrogance while others claim the 70-year-old senator has always been that way. His opponent is former Rep. Tommy Hartnett, never considered a distinguished member of the House from South Carolina.
Fowler, like several southerners, came to the Senate in the 1986 Democratic landslide. But Georgia is conservative and country. Fowler is liberal and city-oriented. That's why former Peace Corps Director Paul Coverdell has a shot at him.
In Washington, Rep. Rod Chandler, R-Wash., has come from far behind to make a race of it against one-term state Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat, who scored well in some debates and intrigued voters with her freshness. She apparently has become much smoother in the closing days of the campaign.
Campbell is trying to become the first native American to serve in the Senate but is getting a tough challenge from Terry Considine, a former state senator and a businessman, in the Colorado election.
And Braun, the Cook County Recorder of Deeds, may become the first black woman elected to the Senate. She is running ahead of Republican Rich Williamson, a White House aide in the Reagan era, in Illinois and showing signs of Teflon.
She split money made from the sale of some property with her siblings while her mother's costs in a nursing home was paid by Medicaid. She has also been implicated in several deals that probably would have cost her the election if she was matched against a better Republican.
There are two other factors to mystify those trying to figure out this year's races.
If Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton wins the presidential election, does he have the coattails to pull in candidates like Abrams, Yeakel, Murray and Boxer in states where he is expected to run well? Conversely, would a losing Bush drag down some Republican candidates?
Horton thinks Clinton coattails would especially help Yeakel, AuCoin, Feingold, Sanford and Hollings.
By contrast, the presidential candidacy of Ross Perot probably would help in few states, hurt in a few, according to Horton.
As examples, he said Murray might be helped because, like Perot, she is an ousider. At the same time, Perot might help Considine, the Republican, due to the Perot-induced increased registration in Colorado.