Truman Democrats aren't exactly complacent over the chances of their national ticket this year, but they have fond and quite reasonable hopes of taking over the Senate. Democratic candidates are favored to displace four Republicans, which would give the elder party a 49 to 47 majority in the next Upper House. But the GOP may be able to keep Senate control by unseating Democrats in turn. In five states where Democrats are wobbly--Tennessee, New Mexico, Montans, Colorado, and Texas--the Republicans are desperately pouring in funds and slick campaign speakers.
Normally, the Democratic candidate in Tennessee would be a shoo-in. But this year, the defeat of boss Ed Crump's machine has split the party into bitter halves, and the Republicans have coincidentally emerged with one of the most dubiously-colorful attractions to grace GOP politics in the South since Reconstruction days. This character is Roy ("Ah don't know nothin' about polities"). Acuff, the Bing Crosby of commercial hillbillyism, whose nasal crooning and asserted stunts have drawn huge crowds all over the state. Acuff is running for governor on the GOP ticket, but his immense popularity may drag the senatorial candidate, Carroll Recce, into high office along with him.
Facing this Republican circus act is Estes Kefauver, who practically exhausted his campaign funds this summer in the primary, where he beat out Senator Tom Stewart, the Crump candidate. Crump has been sulking ever since, and his recent espousal of the States' Rights party is probably as much a fit of pique at Kefauver and Democratic regulars as a wily effort to repair his fading fortunes. In view of these unusual factors, what will happen in Tennessee is anybody's guess, but Republican hopes there are as high as an elephant's eye, even if it has taken the peculiar charms of Roy Acuff to achieve them.
Texas is another fascinating instance of a South that is "solid" like a hole in the head. In the Democratic primaries, Lyndon Johnson squeaked by former Governor Coke Stevenson. Stevenson promptly yelled "fraud," but his efforts to have Johnson's name lopped off the ballot were foiled by the U.S. Supreme Court. The former Governor then switched his support to the Republican, Porter, and he has undoubtedly taken a passel of old-line Democrats across the tracks with him. This "treachery," plus Democratic uneasiness over the President's civil rights program and the attractions of a straight Republican ticket, makes it quite possible that Porter will edge out Lyndon Johnson for the junior senatorship.
In New Mexico, former Secretary of Agriculture Clinton Anderson has only a narrow estimated lead over Republican candidate Patrick Hurley. Elsewhere in the West, Democratic Senators Ed Johnson and James Murray are having tough battles in Colorado and Montana against polished and wellheeled opponents.
Although Truman's party now rates as a slight favorite to win control of the Senate, it will be no easy trick. If the net Democratic gain is three seats--tying the parties at 48 each--the vice-president's vote will decide which party takes charge of committees and gobbles up the rest of the majority plums. Assuming that Earl Warren will be that vice-president, the Democrats must net four new seats. The battle for the Senate may well have a higher Hooper rating next Tuesday than the Presidential race, and it will probably be much pleasanter listening for the Democrats.