Capitol Hill is mourning the passing of Sen. Craig Thomas (R-WY) from leukemia 6/4/07. But Senate Republicans will not have to mourn the loss of seat, a comforting thought given the razor-thin margin between the two parties at the moment, despite the fact that Wyoming's governor, David Freudenthal, will get to name an immediate successor. Under Wyoming law, the state's Republican Party organization will give Freudenthal a short list of three candidates from which to make his selection. This person will serve until a new Congress is seated in early 2009, unless able to extend the stay by winning an election to finish Thomas's full term. Thomas was re-elected in November 2006, so the term doesn't expire until 2013. The other state Senator, Mike Enzi (R-WY) is also up for election in 2008, giving voters there the highly unusual task of electing two senators at the same time.
The Democratic majority is based on the recovery of Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD), who has been absent since suffering a brain hemorrhage last December, and the presence in the Democratic caucus of two independents, Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT). Johnson is said to be making good progress toward a return, but every so often, it seems we hear of Lieberman mentioning the possibility of moving across the aisle, although he promised to remain with the Democrats during the 2006 election.
RBR observation: If the Republicans had to pick a state in which to defend two seats at once, you'd have to think that Wyoming would be high on the list, even with the Democratic governor. However, the Democrats made gains in other western states last time, and if 2008 atmospheric conditions remain troublesome for Republicans, the prospect of grabbing two seats at once may be too much to resist. We're not predicting that Wyoming will be upgraded to battleground status, but we wouldn't be surprised to see more national interest – and cash – in the state than usual.