Democrats had hoped to make this a presidential battleground, but Bush is in good shape. Sen. John McCain (R) will easily win a fourth term against math teacher Stuart Starky (D). Freshman Rep. Rick Renzi started his reelection bid as one of the House's most vulnerable Republicans, but he is expected to defeat Paul Babbitt (D), brother of former governor and interior secretary Bruce Babbitt.
Kerry has no chance in this state, where the big battle is to replace retiring Sen. Don Nickles (R). That contest pits former representative Tom Coburn, 56, a staunchly conservative, anti-establishment Republican with a knack for controversy, against Rep. Brad Carson (D), 37, a lawyer and Rhodes scholar who succeeded Coburn when he retired from the House in 2000. Coburn, an obstetrician, hit bumps this fall when he called for the death penalty for "abortionists" and said he had heard that lesbianism was rampant in some parts of the state. Also, a woman said he had sterilized her against her will, a charge Coburn denied. Some analysts said Carson went too far, however, when he featured the allegations in a TV ad. Coburn's biggest asset is the president's popularity. Bush carried the state by 22 percentage points in 2000, and recent polls suggest his coattails may help Coburn to a narrow victory. State Rep. Dan Boren (D) has the edge in the race for Carson's House seat.
Bush will ride high in his home state. The big story is the GOP's hope of picking up several House seats, thanks to a contentious redistricting plan engineered by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) that has five Democratic House members fighting for their political lives: Chet Edwards, Martin Frost, Nick Lampson, Max Sandlin and Charles W. Stenholm. Insiders give Edwards the best chance to survive, although allies of state Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth (R) have hammered him lately with attack ads. Two of the five Democrats, each with 26 years in the House, face GOP incumbents: Rep. Pete Sessions vs. Frost, and Rep. Randy Neugebauer vs. Stenholm. Polls show Neugebauer ahead, and the Frost-Sessions battle in Dallas is among the nation's costliest and most vicious. The other two Republican nominees are former Texas judges -- Louis Gohmert, running against Sandlin, and Ted Poe, battling Lampson. Democrat Al Green and Republicans Mike Conaway, Kenny Marchant and Michael McCaul are poised to win open House seats.