Democrats put $6.35 million into Mississippi Senate race

WASHINGTON _ Democrats, sensing an opportunity to reach a filibuster-proof 60-vote Senate majority, are pouring $6.35 million into Mississippi’s special Senate election, outspending Republicans by nearly one-third.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has spent $4.13 million for Sen. Roger Wicker, who has a slight lead. But polls show former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove within reach.

“It’s a real close race,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. told reporters Wednesday.

“We are aided by, number one, economics," Schumer said. "Mississippi is a state where traditional values are important. In some states, economics outweighs values by a lot. In Mississippi, economics outweighs it by a little.”

He said that, in addition, “we are anticipating” a large African American turnout, which will help Democrats.

“It’s a very tight and close race,” he said.

The funding is primarily for television ads, although Schumer emphasized that for every $2.50 spent on media, $1 would be spent on the “ground game” _ the phone calls, personal visits, rides to the polls that determine turnout., which averages recent polls, puts Wicker ahead by 8.4 percentage points.

“The race is going very well for Roger Wicker and we expect him to do well on Election Day,” said Rebecca Fisher, the NRSC communications director. Wicker will campaign with first lady Laura Bush Thursday in Gulfport.

The Democratic push comes as several Republican senators are now seen as vulnerable _ New Hampshire Sen. John Sununu, Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith, Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, North Carolina Sen. Elizabeth Dole and even the Republican leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

In the Senate, there are 49 Democrats and 49 Republicans, although two independents caucus with the Democrats, giving them a majority. Sixty votes are needed to break a filibuster, which is a speech or series of speeches designed to block legislation from coming to a vote.

“With six days to go, the wind is at our back,” said Schumer, who said that there were five states that were now leaning Democratic and another six where the race is close.

“We’re going to pick up a large number of seats,” he said. But Schumer was cautious about reaching the goal of 60 Democrats. “We’re feeling good, but it’s hard to get to 60.”

A wild card in the calculations is Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, an independent Democrat who was the party's vice presidential candidate in 2000 but who has supported Republican John McCain for president, even speaking at the Republican National Convention.

Furious Democratic leaders would like to evict Lieberman from their caucus but are waiting to see what happens on Election Day. If the Democrats secure enough seats, they are expected to cut Lieberman loose.