Senate 2008 Guru's Week in the Senate Races
by Senate Guru, Sun Jul 15, 2007 at 04:15:32 PM EDT
From Republican Senator David Vitter's scandal to second quarter fundraising numbers to Iraq to news from Senate races around the country, a lot happened this week.
First and foremost, the Vitter scandal is not simply a caricature of a seedy politician screwing around. It's another reminder of the hypocrisy endemic to the Republican Party at the national level. For those who don't know, Republican Senator David Vitter confessed to having been a client of the infamous DC Madam after his phone number was found in her found records. He claimed to have received the forgiveness of his wife and his God (I don't know how he confirmed that one). As a side note, his wife did once intimate that if her husband ever cheated on her, she'd more likely castrate than forgive. Just when we thought that was all there was to the story, it turns out that he also frequented a New Orleans brothel.
The hypocrisy that exists in this sordid tale exists on many levels. First is the standard that Vitter himself set. Vitter called for President Bill Clinton's resignation when Clinton's marital infidelities came to light. If Vitter held himself to his own standard, he'd have already resigned. Vitter discusses the "moral fitness to govern" readily when it is someone else being judged. Heck, forget about moral fitness to govern; how about the presence to govern? Vitter apparently received phone calls from the DC Madam during roll call votes while he was a House member. And, amid the current scandal, he opted to go into hiding rather than actually do his job, leading him to miss seven roll call votes between Wednesday and Friday on such minor issues as Iraq, Iran, and al Qaeda. He was even more than happy to lie to constituents back in 2002 when asked explicitly about one particular prostitute by name.
The second level on which the hypocrisy exists is the level of "family values." Vitter ran on a platform of "family values," making his wife and kids the stars of his campaign ads, inserting them into the public sphere and inserting his personal values and private life into public scrutiny. He also explained to us immoral heathens that "marriage is truly the most fundamental social institution in human history" while legislating how others should live their lives and regard the institution of marriage. All the while, he had debased his own marriage. To say that Vitter is falling short of his own standard is an understatement.
The third level on which the hypocrisy exists is the level of the rule of law. Soliciting a prostitute is a crime in Washington, D.C. and Louisiana. As much as some Republicans might scoff at the idea, the rule of law still applies to them. Vitter committed a crime, and simply receiving the forgiveness of one's wife does not qualify as legal absolution. Any legal researchers want to dig up what the statute of limitations is in both Washington, D.C. and Louisiana on soliciting?
Much more below the fold.
The fourth level on which the hypocrisy exists is the level of how quickly his fellow "family values" Republicans, who are normally so quick to judge or legislate on the lifestyles of others, are just as quick to turn a blind eye to Vitter's chronic indiscretions. Here are a few choice quotes:
"David has already resolved this with his family and taken responsibility for it," Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said. "I'm sure if there are other things he'll have to deal with, he'll deal with them."
Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) said the confession "is certainly a regrettable incident, but the senator confronted it head on."
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) was more to the point. "Have you ever done anything wrong?" he asked The Hill. "So have I."
What Senator Burr doesn't get is that Vitter has not"taken responsibility for it." A simple admission does not equal responsibility. By Vitter's own standard, taking responsibility would equate to a resignation. And, again, that is before addressing the legal repercussions of the actual crime that Vitter committed when he solicited his prostitutes. Jim DeMint added:
"We all think that we're not vulnerable to something like that happening," [Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.)] said, "but the fact is this can be a very lonely and isolating place to be away from your family. So I'm certainly not going to judge him because I don't want that kind of pressure on me."
It seems that Senators Coburn and DeMint fear the spotlight. But therein lies the ultimate hypocrisy. They routinely make judgments about how Americans should live their lives. As arbiters of morality, they themselves present a standard to which they must live up lest they cede any credibility and, as Vitter would put it, "moral fitness to govern." By turning a blind eye to their Republican colleague's indiscretions, they admit that they put partisanship ahead of the very values for which they claim to advocate. Senator Vitter is expected to return to work this week. We'll see how (and if) he confronts this scandal and whether he truly takes responsibility for his actions. If he doesn't take real responsibility of his own volition, the Louisiana Republican Party may force responsibility upon him, fearing more extensive political damage.
Turning away from the cautionary morality tale that is Republican David Vitter's private life, a number of second quarter fundraising figures have come in. The most exciting figure thus far is that, yet again, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee whooped the National Republican Senatorial Committee in fundraising for the second quarter. In Q2, the DSCC brought in $17.6 million, compared to the NRSC's $8.6 million, as the DSCC more than doubled the NRSC's figure. (In June alone, the DSCC reports raising $8.6 million, the NRSC's take for the entire quarter!) At the conclusion of Q2, the DSCC has $20.4 million cash-on-hand with $4.5 million in debt remaining from the 2006 cycle, for a balance of $15.9 million, while the NRSC has only $5.5 million cash-on-hand with no debt, putting them more than $10 million behind the DSCC's balance.
As for other reported Q2 takes (and cash-on-hand where available):
Arkansas: Mark Pryor (D, inc.): Q2 $1 million, CoH $2.9 million
Colorado: Mark Udall (D): Q2 $1.1 million, CoH $2.5 million; Bob Schaffer (R): Q2 $717,000, CoH $682,711
Idaho: Larry Craig (R, inc.): Q2 $201,000, CoH $549,000; Larry LaRocco (D): Q2 $80,000
Iowa: Tom Harkin (D, inc.): Q2 $1 million, CoH $2.6 million
Kentucky: Mitch McConnell (R, inc.): Q2 $1.6 million, CoH $5.8 million
Louisiana: Mary Landrieu (D, inc.): Q2 $1.2 million, CoH $2.7 million
Maine: Susan Collins (R, inc.): Q2 $1.26 million, CoH $2.3 million; Tom Allen (D): Q2 $1.1 million, CoH $1.7 million
Michigan: Carl Levin (D, inc.): Q2 $1.8 million, CoH $2.8 million
Minnesota: Norm Coleman (R, inc.): Q2 $1.5 million, CoH $3.8 million; Al Franken (DFL): Q2 $1.9 million, CoH $2 million; Mike Ciresi (DFL): Q2 $750,000, CoH $625,000
Mississippi: Thad Cochran (R, inc.): Q2 $312,000
Montana: Max Baucus (D, inc.): Q2 $1.6 million, CoH $4 million
Nebraska: Chuck Hagel (R, inc.): Q2 $388,000, CoH $483,000; Jon Bruning (R): Q2 $720,000; Bob Kerrey (D): CoH $400,000
New Hampshire: Katrina Swett (D): Q2 $700,000; Steve Marchand (D): Q2 $100,000
New Jersey: Frank Lautenberg (D, inc.): Q2 $1.1 million, CoH $2.9 million
Oregon: Gordon Smith (R, inc.): Q2 $1 million, CoH $3.5 million; Steve Novick (D): Q2 $190,000
South Dakota: Tim Johnson (D, inc.): Q2 $660,000, CoH $1.8 million
Texas: John Cornyn (R, inc.): Q2 $2.1 million, CoH $5.4 million; Mikal Watts (D): Q2 $1.1 million
Virginia: John Warner (R, inc.): Q2 $71,000, CoH $734,000
The Iraq War, the mission of which seems to be in a constant state of flux, continues to play a role in the Senate races. While recent Iraq critics Dick Lugar and John Warner proposedsomething to effect (yes, "effect" can be a verb in the proper context) change in Bush's Iraq "strategy," Pete Domenici and Susan Collins evidenced that they cared only about political posturing. Pete Domenici earlier this month jumped on the Iraq criticism bandwagon to gain favor with constituents, but then reassured the Bush Administration that he wouldn't really be seeking any kind of shift in the status quo. Meanwhile, as Olympia Snowe supports troop withdrawal and Susan Collins doesn't, Collins does anything she can to blur the line between her and Snowe's very different positions. Fortunately, Tom Allen is calling the disingenuous Collins out. The DSCC also put out terrifically powerful ads on Iraq against Mitch McConnell, Susan Collins, John Sununu, and Norm Coleman. The ads can be viewed on the DSCC's YouTube page. Speaking of Coleman, he would also hate to see any shift in the status quo in Iraq, regardless of his rhetoric. But that's not surprising coming from someone who was very comfortable with Bush's commutation of Scooter Libby's sentence.
There were also a number of race-shaping stories around the country this week:
South Carolina: A couple unknown names, Air Force veteran John Cina and computer specialist Tim Carnes, have declared their intentions to run in a GOP primary against Lindsey Graham, while better known names, former Congressman Tommy Hartnett and State Representative Jeff Duncan, disclose that they are considering primary challenges. This goes along with speculation that SC-GOP Chairman Katon Dawson and Ambassador David Wilkins are both being urged to run in the SC-GOP Senate primary. It doesn't help Graham that Senator Jim Webb rhetorically slapped him around on Meet the Press this morning.
Virginia: Having dropped out of the 2008 Republican Presidential primary, former Governor Jim Gilmore is stoking speculation that he might consider a 2008 Senate run if/when John Warner retires. Given how poorly his term as Governor was regarded, it is unclear exactly how worried GOP Rep. Tom Davis, John Warner's expected understudy, should be about his path to the nomination.
Kentucky: Mitch McConnell was caught telling bold-faced lies about the degree to which Kentuckyians support Bush's Iraq War, while he continues to gets called on his absentee landlord leadership of the Senate Republicans.
Alaska: Even more skeletons are leaking out of Ted Stevens' closet, if you can believe it. It turns out that Stevens has made millions of dollars in investments in just the last few years (during his time as Chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee) from a company, JLS Properties, whose owners have received millions of dollars thanks to earmarks secured by then-Chairman Stevens! The numerous appearances of impropriety are taking their toll on Stevens, with a new poll offering that less than 45% of Alaskans hold a positive view of Stevens, compared with nearly 44% who hold a negative view.
New Hampshire: A new Concord Monitor poll has popular former Governor Jeanne Shaheen crushing Republican incumbent John Sununu 56-34, with Shaheen's approval at 55 and Sununu's down to 43. Lesser known candidates Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand, activist Katrina Swett, and professor/astronaut Jay Buckey all hold Sununu to under 50% but see significant margins to overcome.
North Carolina: Perhaps the most surprising poll recently sees Elizabeth Dole held to 43% by two state legislators, State Representative Grier Martin and State Senator Kay Hagan, with Martin polling only 6 points behind Dole. In the poll, Dole's approval-disapproval clocked in at a lethargic 46-40.
New Jersey: Frank Lautenberg, whose new campaign website is up and running, saw some troubling poll numbers indicating that New Jersey voters were concerned about Lautenberg's age. Although, it is pointed out that Lautenberg has routinely suffered from lackluster poll numbers this early in a cycle while reliably going on to win. Concern over Lautenberg's age presented us with the quote of the week, from Lautenberg addressing anyone concerned about his health: "I can send you a copy of the colonoscopy I just took. It's really something to admire." Lautenberg really has been one of the most active, most hustling members of the U.S. Senate this year, and I'm sure he will convey that to voters when his re-election campaign heats up.
For daily news and updates on the U.S. Senate races around the country in 2008, check out Senate 2008 Guru: Following the Races.
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