Red State Recruitment: Senate Dems Look to Texas, Oklahoma
by Jonathan Singer, Mon Apr 30, 2007 at 09:32:35 AM EDT
I noted yesterday that Republicans were having difficulty recruiting candidates even in some districts and states in which they would be expected to at least be competitive and potentially even win. But what of the Democrats? Reports this morning out of two fairly red states indicate that Democratic recruitment efforts are moving forward at full bore even in areas in which Democrats have had difficulty winning in recent years.
First, out of Texas Michelle Mittelstadt reports for the Houston Chronicle that one able fundraising member of the Texas Democratic congressional delegation is looking towards a possible challenge to the surprisingly vulnerable John Cornyn, the state's freshman Republican Senator.
It may be up or out as Congressman Nick Lampson ponders his political future.
The Stafford Democrat is giving serious consideration to entering the U.S. Senate race against Republican incumbent John Cornyn, well-connected Democrats in Texas and Washington say.
Lampson's jaunt last weekend to San Antonio to mingle with donors at a fundraiser for the national Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee hasn't done anything to discourage the speculation -- particularly since he underwent major heart surgery less than a month before and has yet to resume a full work schedule.
The calculus is fairly simple, several Democratic strategists say: Lampson faces a battle to hold on to his House seat, and, since he'll have to raise millions of dollars anyway, he might as well go for the brass ring.
Any Democratic challenge to Cornyn will cost serious money, and although Lampson only has about $260,000 on hand at the moment, he has proved to be quite the proficient fundraiser in years past, for instance raising a staggering $3.7 million for his race for Congress last cycle. Yet despite the fact that Cornyn would no doubt be able to raise serious dollars towards a reelection bid and Texas has tended to support Republicans in statewide elections in recent years (the last Democrat to win a Senate race in the state was Lloyd Bentsen in 1988), there is reason to believe that a Democrat, perhaps Lampson and perhaps someone else, could at the least give a scare to the Republicans. As of this month, Cornyn's approval rating stands at a weak 43 percent, with 40 percent disapproving, according to SurveyUSA.
Texas is not the only red state in which the Democrats appear to be getting closer to finding a Senate candidate. The Tulsa World has the story.
State Sen. Andrew Rice said he is considering a run against U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe.
Rice, an Oklahoma City Democrat who is in his first term in the state Senate, said he met at a function in Dallas last week with U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
He said he told Schumer he was considering a run against the veteran Republican incumbent.
"I said I was open to it," Rice said, adding that the two discussed polling that has been done.
Rice, 34, said he has not made a decision but is flattered by the interest that is being shown in his possible candidacy.
There hasn't been a terribily large deal of public polling on Inhofe in recent months, but the existing polling does not inspire much confidence in the Republicans' popularity. A SurveyUSA poll from back in November found just 46 percent of Oklahomans approving of Inhofe and 41 percent disapproving.
The potential interest of Rice and Lampson in Senate races in Oklahoma and Texas, respectively, is not necessarily a sign that Democrats are going to pick up seats in these states. However, they are reflective of the general optimisim of Democrats this cycle -- an optimism that might prove self-fulfilling as more good candidates opt to run, more donors opt to make contributions and more volunteers opt to give their time to help elect Democrats, whether to the presidency or a county commission.