Senate 2008 Guru's Week in the Senate Races
by Senate Guru, Sun Jul 01, 2007 at 03:12:46 PM EDT
There were two big buzz words in the Senate and 2008 Senate races this week: obstructionism and immigration.
A long, long time ago, when the Republicans were in the majority in the Senate, they decried Democrats daring to get in the way of their agenda. Now that they find themselves in the minority, Republicans are all too happy to hypocritically engage in any and all obstructionist maneuvering they can conjure up on a whole host of issues from lower prescription drug prices to workers' rights and much, much more.
The 2008 election will be a referendum on George W. Bush and a referendum on Iraq, but it can also be a referendum on a progressive, American agenda that Democrats are trying to advance and Republicans are trying to, well, obstruct. Any Democrat running for Senate can point to this agenda and say, "A vote for me is a vote for progress, a vote for affordable health care, a safer America, a fairer, stronger economy. A vote for my opponent is a vote against progress, a vote to obstruct this agenda." Pretty simple.
Much more below the fold.
The most widely covered vote the Senate took this week was, of course, on the immigration reform legislation. This vote held significant subtext among conservatives, including a threat to run primary opponents against any Republican Senator who supported the legislation. It seemed to be enough to get (take your pick of nickname: "Shameless" or "Spineless") Saxby Chambliss to wither behind fellow Republican Senator Johnny Isakson. Only three Republicans up for re-election in 2008 voted in favor of cloture on the immigration bill: Nebraska's Chuck Hagel (who might retire from the Senate and already faces at least one primary opponent running to his right if he doesn't retire in state Attorney General Jon Bruning); Idaho's Larry Craig (about whom retirement rumors abound); and South Carolina's Lindsey Graham, the biggest loser in the Senate over the immigration bill from a practical, political standpoint.
According to a recent InsiderAdvantage poll, Graham's approve-disapprove has sunk to an abominable 31-40, and South Carolina conservatives have begun an anti-Graham effort with sites like DumpLindsey.org and blogs like Dump Lindsey Graham. He has even earned the nickname "Grahamnesty" among conservatives over his support for the immigration legislation. He will have a primary opponent; it's just a matter of how strong an opponent. The Graham camp may have thought they dodged a bullet with the indictment of Republican state Treasurer and possible primary opponent Thomas Ravenel, but rumors have arisen suggesting that the South Carolina state Republican Chairman, Katon Dawson, might be Graham's primary opponent, which would spell serious trouble for Graham, especially if InsiderAdvantage is right and Graham's disapproval among Republicans has grown to 46%. Should a Republican primary showdown occur, it could open the door to a viable Democrat, such as 2006 Democratic Lt. Gov. nominee Robert Barber, Jr., South Carolina's top vote-getting Democrat last year.
After Graham, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was the big political loser over the course of the immigration debate, with many noting his doing everything possible to cut and run from a leadership role. And the conservative netroots are none-too-happy about it.
Outside of obstructionism and immigration, it was an exciting week in the many Senate horse races around the country. Here are the top stories in the Senate races this week:
New Hampshire: This was a terrible week in the polls for John Sununu. First, a Suffolk University poll came out saying that only 31% of New Hampshire voters felt Sununu deserved re-election, compared with 47% feeling that someone else should serve as Senator. Then, an American Research Group poll came out pitting Sununu against former Governor Jeanne Shaheen. Shaheen demolished Sununu 57-29. Meanwhile, the Shaheen family continues to keep us wondering as to when a decision will finally be made regarding the former Governor's possible entry.
Maine: Susan Collins also had a tough week. Not only was she the only member of Maine's Congressional delegation (Olympia Snowe included) not to call getting the troops home from Iraq Mainers' top priority, but her notorious fundraiser with BFF Joe Lieberman wound up raising a big pile of money... for Democratic Congressman Tom Allen looking to unseat Susan Collins (who wouldn't be running for a third term anyway, if she kept her repeated promises to the voters of Maine).
Oregon: Several new potential candidates came out of the woodwork to make rumblings about a challenge to the vulnerable Gordon Smith this week, including: former Monmouth Mayor Paul Evans, who is also an Oregon Air National Guard Major who has been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan; Oregon state House Speaker Jeff Merkley; public radio personality Jeff Golden; and, Oregon state Senate Majority Leader Kate Brown. Democratic activist Steve Novick and businessman Ty Pettit have already announced their candidacies; and, State Senator Alan Bates and businesswoman Eileen Brady are currently also considering bids.
Montana: Disgraced former state House Republican Leader Mike Lange announced on Friday that he would be a candidate for Senate in 2008 against popular Senator Max Baucus, which meant that Lange got to enjoy some sexy Saturday press that no one would see. It's like Lange said, "Bob Schaffer in Colorado had a stumbling, embarrassing entry into his Senate race. Let's copy that!" Why is Lange "disgraced," you might ask. He gained an awful lot of notoriety just a couple months ago for going on an obscenity-laced tirade against popular Governor Brian Schweitzer, which, of course, got caught on video (warning: strong language):
Not wasting any time, the DSCC has a terrific piece outlining why Lange is entirely unfit for the U.S. Senate.
North Carolina: Disappointingly, Congressman Brad Miller announced that he would not be challenging the vulnerable Elizabeth Dole in 2008. One of the reasons Dole is vulnerable: even she seems to agree that she has accomplished nothing during her Senate term:
(The reference to Dole's lacking accomplishments was promptly removed from Dole's official Senate biography within a day of posting on it. I guess she didn't consider losing six Senate seats as NRSC Chair to be an "accomplishment." I think it's pretty impressive, though.)
Arkansas: Former Governor Mike Huckabee is considered the only Republican who could give Senator Mark Pryor a run for his money. Huckabee has ruled out a Senate bid. Just for funsies, the Arkansas state chapter of AFSCME ran a Pryor-Huckabee poll and found Pryor beating Huckabee 49-42. Shouldn't give sub-Huckabee Republican alternatives much reason for enthusiasm.
Virginia: Retirement speculation got a boost with this Washington Times commentary on John Warner. After his infamous $500 Q1, many expected that a Warner retirement was inevitable. His upcoming Q2 numbers, which should be released in July, will be revealing.
Republican Senate primaries: Wyoming's Senate appointee John Barrasso probably should expect a primary, with appointee-wannabes former state Treasurer Cynthia Lummis and former U.S. Attorney Matt Mead both hinting at the possibility. Further, seemingly due to his broadening investigations, Ted Stevens might find himself facing a primary challenger if he runs for re-election as planned. On top of that, John Cornyn is getting a primary opponent from well beyond the Enchanted Land of Wingnut; however, this mega-wingnut did get 8% in last year's TX-Gov GOP primary, so he might at least generate a few headaches for ole' Box Turtle. Meanwhile, military veteran and MN-GOP Chair runner-up Joe Repya continues to ponder a primary challenge to Norm Coleman in Minnesota, and the effort to draft 1995 GOP Gubernatorial nominee Larry Forgy into a primary against Mitch McConnell in Kentucky proceeds.
For daily news and updates on the U.S. Senate races around the country in 2008, check out Senate 2008 Guru: Following the Races.
Tags: 2008 election, AK-Sen, AR-Sen, immigration, KY-Sen, ME-Sen, MN-Sen, MT-Sen, NC-SEN, NH-Sen, Obstructionism, OR-Sen, Republican Primaries, SC-Sen, TX-Sen, VA-Sen, Week in the Senate Races, WY-Sen (all tags)