PRESCRIPTION FOR VICTORY Debbie Stabenow, Democrat, Michigan
Democrats looking to pick off Senate seats tagged that of Spencer Abraham, a first-termer and Michigan's first G.O.P. Senator in more than 20 years, as their easiest target. The contest turned out to be a squeaker, but two-term Congresswoman Debbie Stabenow finally delivered. Though outspent by nearly 2 to 1, the bubbly Stabenow outshone her often lusterless opponent on the campaign trail and in the debates. Stabenow, 50, who had previously served in the state legislature for 16 years, starting at age 28, campaigned most vigorously on prescription-drug benefits for the elderly. For months, the Abraham campaign flooded Michigan voters with ads calling Stabenow a prescription for disaster. But Stabenow had a cannier vote-getting strategy: she sponsored bus tours for senior citizens, dubbed the Stabenow Rx Express, across the border into Canada to buy medications at cheap rates, a gimmick employed by Democratic candidates along the northern border states.
--By Jodie Morse
THE WIDOW'S MIGHT Mel Carnahan, Democrat, Missouri
The most emotional victory in the battle for the Senate came when Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan, who was killed in a plane crash on Oct. 16, beat out Republican incumbent John Ashcroft. It was too late to remove his name from the ballot, and Carnahan's Democratic successor as Governor said he would appoint Carnahan's wife Jean, 66, to the Senate seat if her late husband won. "My husband's journey was cut short," she said last week. "And for reasons we don't understand, the mantle has now fallen upon us." Some Republicans grumbled about her right to assume that mantle, but Ashcroft, gracious in defeat, said, "Missouri is a compassionate state, and I think, in a very special way, they have demonstrated their compassion."
--By Nadya Labi
SPENDING SPREE Jon Corzine, Democrat, New Jersey
With a price tag of some $60 million, Jon Corzine's ticket to the U.S. Senate was the costliest in history. The former co-chairman of Goldman Sachs spent $3 million from his $400 million personal cache on Election Day alone--about $20 a vote--to defeat four-term Congressman Bob Franks for the New Jersey seat of retiring Democrat Frank Lautenberg. Though the biggest issue in the race was the amount of campaign spending (Republicans dubbed Corzine the "human ATM machine"), Corzine ran on one of the most liberal platforms in the nation, advocating such edgy programs as public preschool and universal health care. On the trail, Corzine spun the funding issue in his favor, noting he would not be beholden to campaign contributors. But for all the money spent, Corzine's winning margin was a slim 3%. --J.M.
HE'S GOT LIFT-OFF Bill Nelson, Democrat, Florida