Senate 2008 Guru's Week in the Senate Races

There was a time, I like to call it "2005," when all Republican Senators yearned for were up-or-down votes.  Now that they find themselves in the minority, far be it from them to conduct themselves according to their own standards.  Senate Republican "Leader" Mitch McConnell is looking to institute a permanent filibuster on all things Iraq.  In fact, it is looking like Mitch McConnell will be the most obstructionist Senate minority Party Leader in history, and by a wide margin, according to McClatchy:

Republican Obstructionism at a Record Pace

This year Senate Republicans are threatening filibusters to block more legislation than ever before, a pattern that's rooted in -- and could increase -- the pettiness and dysfunction in Congress. ...

Nearly 1 in 6 roll-call votes in the Senate this year have been cloture votes. If this pace of blocking legislation continues, this 110th Congress will be on track to roughly triple the previous record number of cloture votes -- 58 each in the two Congresses from 1999-2002, according to the Senate Historical Office.

Senate Republicans' obstructionism was on display during the Senate's all-night session Tuesday night.  Senators voted to proceed to a vote on the Reed-Levin amendment by a margin of 52-47, a majority of Senators but not enough to clear the 60-vote threshold, so Republican obstructionism won out over the will of a majority of Senators and a majority of Americans, not that you'd know it from some of the sloppy reporting done following the vote.

Despite all of this (or, perhaps, because of all of this), McConnell's expectations for Election Day 2008 are sinking:

"It would take an extraordinarily good day to get back up to 50," McConnell said. "So our goal is to stay roughly where we are."

That's not too shocking. McConnell's unwavering support for Bush's Iraq debacle has taught us that if there's one thing Mitch McConnell can get behind, it's the status quo.

Much more below the fold.

As a result of his brand of "leadership," McConnell has been enjoying a steady stream of bad local press in Kentucky throughout the week:

Louisville Courier-Journal, July 20:

If Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is upset about being portrayed as a blinkered partisan, maybe he should try something new.

It's called leadership.

Lexington Herald-Leader, July 17:

Sen. Mitch McConnell is insulting Kentuckians' intelligence by repeating President Bush's rationale for sticking to the same disastrous path in Iraq. ...

As the Republican leader in the Senate, McConnell is in a position to challenge failed policies and help steer us onto a saner path. It's disappointing that he's not. Enquirer, July 16:

Mitch McConnell is a marked man.

The Associated Press, July 17:

Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell was conspicuous by his absence when key Republicans met with White House officials last week on how to limit party defections on Iraq. ...

Privately, however, some Republicans and their top aides express alarm that McConnell has recently hung back on more divisive issues, allowing party rifts to be highlighted and weakening Bush's position where he can least afford it.

McConnell even made his first appearance on WaPo's Cillizza's Senate Line, a monthly listing of the top ten Senate seats most likely to change Party hands (which currently features eight Republican-held seats to only two Democratic seats).  Suffice it to say, McConnell's had better weeks, and Kentuckyians are beginning to take note of McConnell's lack of leadership.

In case you're looking for some reading on the negative impact George W. Bush and his Iraq debacle will have on Republican Senators up for re-election in 2008, the two must-read articles of the week are The Politico's "Is Bush's support worse than no support?" and the Los Angeles Times' "GOP candidates fear Iraq war fallout."

And other Senate news from around the country:

Louisiana: Prostitute aficionado and arbiter of morality Republican David Vitter held his much awaited press conference on Monday regarding his scandal.  He and his wife read statements that addressed little about the actual facts of the situation, played the victim card as they pled for privacy, and answered no questions from the media.  Of course, Vitter did not address the fact that he called for President Clinton to resign following the disclosure of his marital infidelities or that Vitter didn't just "sin" but also committed an actual crime by soliciting prostitutes.  But, similar to Republicans filibustering to their hearts content after demanding up-or-down votes while in the majority Party, far be it from the hypocritical Republicans in the Senate to conduct themselves to their own standards.  Since the press conference, a formal ethics complaint was filed against Vitter, high-profile conservatives have called for Vitter's resignation, and the DC Madam has called for Vitter to be a witness at her trial.  So Vitter has plenty of squirming left to do.  It has been suggested that Vitter is just trying to hold out until after this year's Louisiana gubernatorial election, assuming that front-runner Republican Bobby Jindal will win and be able to name his successor rather than current Democratic Governor Kathleen Blanco.  Should that happen, I would hope that the appointed replacement would be burdened by the weight of blatant partisanship, wounding the replacement in a subsequent special election.

New Hampshire: John Sununu has endured another long week, highlighted by a University of New Hampshire poll in which not only did popular former Governor Jeanne Shaheen beat Sununu 54-38, but Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand and activist Katrina Swett both held Sununu under 45 and polled within the margin of error against him, meaning a statistical dead heat.  Sununu's uncertainty (or, perhaps, certainty) about his political future has been illustrated in his latest flip-flop, the four-day period in which he went from accepting Bush's help campaigning to turning down such an invitation.

Oregon: Gordon Smith may have received some disheartening poll news, as reports have Democratic polling showing that Oregon's Democratic state House Speaker Jeff Merkley is holding Smith to "well below 50 percent in a head-to-head matchup" and that Merkley is "within six points of Smith." All we need now is for Merkley to actually announce his candidacy.  The DSCC also released these numbers on Smith's approval:

Excellent job 6%
Good job 31%
Only fair job 38%
Poor job 16%
Don't Know 9%

Re-elect Smith 34%
Consider someone else 24%
Vote to replace Smith 21%

In the meantime, if you want to help the anti-Smith cause by distributing a few flyers around Oregon highlighting the real Gordon Smith record, download 'em here:

*Gordon Smith votes with President Bush 90 percent of the time
*Gordon Smith has a 15 percent rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America
*Gordon Smith has a 14 percent rating from the League of Conservation Voters
*Gordon Smith has voted more than 20 times to fund and authorize the Iraq War

Maine: Susan Collins slogged through some more bad press of her own.  She tried to take charge by putting out an op-ed in the Boston Globe with her best buddy Joe Lieberman discussing terrorism, in which "9/11" or "Sept. 11" appears seven times but "Iraq" laughably (or predictably) appears zero times.  Since then, her opponent, Democratic Congressman Tom Allen, slammed Collins for her ongoing support for the status quo, offering this handy chart outlining the clear differences on Iraq between Allen and Collins.  Collins was then reminded of her past support for Bush and the "politics of Iraq." Regardless, when asked if she'd welcome Bush to campaign in Maine for her 2008 re-election bid, all she could sputter was "I don't anticipate ... well, who knows?" The Portland Press Herald then wrapped up Collins' week demanding clarity on her Iraq position(s):

In short, Collins' Iraq position is long on indignation about the Bush administration's bumbling of the war, but short on leverage that actually might force a change in course.

New Mexico: This week, the first rumors started trickling out that Pete Domenici could see a primary challenger.  Meanwhile, despite Bush's hideous 30-68 approve-disapprove in New Mexico, Domenici is welcoming Bush to New Mexico to come fundraise for him.  With those approvals, I hope Bush makes several high-profile trips to New Mexico for Domenici!  This all follows Domenici's calling for a new direction in Iraq, and then promptly taking it all back.

Colorado: In a pleasant piece of diligent journalism, CBS-4 Denver calls out the NRSC for an ad they released chock-full of lies and half-truths about Democratic Congressman Mark Udall's record on taxes.  You almost have to feel bad for the NRSC, dusting off an archaic campaign playbook in such a ham-handed fashion.  Well, on second thought, no, you don't have to feel bad for them.

Idaho: Sorry to be so blunt, but if you don't think Bush rubber-stamp and "Nintendo warrior" Larry Craig is an idiot, see here and here and here, and then reconsider.

Texas: State Representative, Lieutenant Colonel, and netroots favorite Rick Noriega announced that he would be moving forward with a Senate exploratory committee to challenge Republican John Cornyn and his atrocious approval ratings.  Rep. Noriega has his campaign website up and running.

The Carolinas: Both Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina saw precipitous dips in their campaign fundraising from Q1 to Q2, raising from April to June less than half of what they raised in January through March.  Will this reduction in momentum help encourage challengers to step forward?

Finally, the DSCC is revamping their website and encouraging input.  Take a gander and offer your thoughts.

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, CO-Sen, David Vitter, DSCC, George W. Bush, hypocrisy, id-sen, KY-Sen, LA-Sen, ME-Sen, Mitch McConnell, NC-SEN, NH-Sen, NM-Sen, Obstructionism, OR-Sen, SC-Sen, TX-Sen, Week in the Senate Races (all tags)



Re: Senate 2008 Guru's Week in the Senate Races

The Republicans weren't really concerned about up or down votes on legislation, eventhough they wanted them. They were basically concerned with the up or down votes on judges particular Roberts and Alito, and they were clearly setting the stage for that when they were whinning about the nocoincidental up or down votes on legislation and appeals crt judges.

by olawakandi 2007-07-22 02:58PM | 0 recs
I don't Blame Repugs for being Repugs,

they are fighting tooth and nailed for what they believe is right.  Granted their Beliefs are kind of screwed up.  But just think how much better off our Nation would be if the Dems had the same balls using the filibuster with Supreme Court.

by HCLiberal 2007-07-22 03:24PM | 0 recs
Re: I don't Blame Repugs for being Repugs,

They're not fighting though, they're pressing a button.

Until Sen. Reid actually makes them stand up and keep speaking for every fillibuster they want to carry out they'll keep treating it as a very low cost way of obstructing popular legislation.

by splinterbrain 2007-07-22 05:19PM | 0 recs

Sununu has about $2,000,000 in the bank already.  If Jeanne Shaheen runs, two of the three announced candidates (Marchand and Swett) will drop out, and she will have a very civil primary with Dartmouth professor Jay Buckey. If Gov. Shaheen does not run, there is a possibility that the primary between Swett and Marchand will be long and bitter (our primary is not until September '08).  Hopefully, the party will be able to keep a lid on, but there are some troubling early signs.

by nascardem 2007-07-22 03:44PM | 0 recs
Re: Senate 2008 Guru's Week in the Senate Races

Please help us unseat scumball McConnell when we get a candidate. Thanks for the attention to McConnell. We really need to beat him!! Keep shining light on him, especially when he gets a race.

by RDemocrat 2007-07-22 03:59PM | 0 recs
Re: Senate 2008 Guru's Week in the Senate Races

If he gets a race, not when.

by Unabridged 2007-07-22 04:01PM | 0 recs
Re: Senate 2008 Guru's Week in the Senate Races

What bugs me is that a lot of the MSM, when reporting "gridlock" or "partisanship" in the Senate, fail to even allude to the fact that for years the Republicans railed on Democrats to allow up and down votes, even threatening to do away with the filibuster altogether.  It's like the pre-2006 Senate was a love-in with everyone singing Kumbaya as each bill passed with beautiful bipartisan deep intellectual discussion. I've taken it upon myself to write as many letters to the editor as I can stomach; who knows if it will do anything but I figure it's the least I can do.

by Aunt Martha 2007-07-22 05:02PM | 0 recs
Re: Senate 2008 Guru's Week in the Senate Races

Important distinction: The conflict between the GOP and Democrats in 2005 was over the use of the filibuster for judicial nominees only, not general purpose legislation.

by Unabridged 2007-07-23 04:41AM | 0 recs
A convenient distinction

Democrats were far more permissive of Bush's judicial nominees than Republicans were of Clinton's nominees.  That Democrats only attempted to filibuster the most extreme nominees that W. offered, and that Republicans did an effective job painting that as undue "obstructionism" is what is important.  As far as the "general purpose legislation," items like implementing the 9/11 Commission recommendations, negotiating lower prescription drug prices, raising the minimum wage, setting a timetable to bring the troops home, and many others have majority American support.  Democrats stood in the way of extreme judicial nominees (while, again, showing most Bush nominees far more acceptance than Republicans showed Clinton nominees), while Republicans obstruct an agenda that enjoys majority support among Americans.  Hardly an even comparison.

by Senate Guru 2007-07-23 06:50AM | 0 recs
Re: Senate 2008 Guru's Week in the Senate Races

Yeah, this is so annoying.  Senate Republicans are blocking everything the Democrats pass in the House, even things that passed the House with bipartisan support.  I will go nuts if Republicans win in the 2008 elections because of this.  

by Toddwell 2007-07-22 05:29PM | 0 recs
Re: Senate 2008 Guru's Week in the Senate Races

For me it's all about PR.  We need every Democrat on any on every news show to talk about how the Repubs are blocking progress.  The Dems never seem to be able to outmaneuver the Repubs and their talking points.  Maybe they need a mandatory seminar on how to manage the media during their next recess.

by Kingstongirl 2007-07-22 06:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Senate 2008 Guru's Week in the Senate Races

The Dems need to stay FOCUSED and united on their talking points.  That's why party leadership is important.  Reid, Durbin, Schumer, Pelosi, Hoyer Clyburn and Emmanuel have to provide that focus and call on members to be clear about what's happening in Congress.  Without a parliamentary system it's important to have the White House so there's a clear leader of the national party--which is why Hillary's most likely toi be the nominee and win in November--the Clinton bunch have the credentials and experience to assume leadership.

by Thaddeus 2007-07-22 06:41PM | 0 recs
Re: Senate 2008 Guru's Week in the Senate Races

Ill tell you one thing, if Republicans get back in control of the Senate, the Democrats better give them the exact same treatment they are getting right now.  Democrats should filibuster every single Republican initiative in order to see how they like it.

by Toddwell 2007-07-22 06:54PM | 0 recs
Re: Senate 2008 Guru's Week in the Senate Races

Anyword on Coleman in Minnesota?  Word on the stret is the two challengers, Franken and Cirese (sic?) raised a pretty penny.

by Ortmann for America 2007-07-22 06:59PM | 0 recs
MN-Sen figures

From last week's Week in the Senate Races:

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

Franken outraising Coleman is the first instance of a fundraising quarter in the 2008 cycle of a challenger outraising an incumbent running for re-election.

Gotta read every week Ortmann :) - or you can check out my daily-updated blog Senate 2008 Guru: Following the Races.

by Senate Guru 2007-07-23 06:54AM | 0 recs
Re: Senate 2008 Guru's Week in the Senate Races

This kind of pisses me off... more for the fact that OUR party was too scared to do these sort of things on Alito, Roberts, Bankruptcy Bill, etc and actually ACT like the minority opposition party from 1994-2006.  I despise WHAT the GOP is filibustering and why BUT really wish our guys had actually done this for some of the bills that passed the GOP congress.

by yitbos96bb 2007-07-22 10:00PM | 0 recs
Re: Senate 2008 Guru's Week in the Senate Races

DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones officially announced for Senate against Bush lapdog Saxby Chambliss this week, in news from Georgia.

by CLLGADEM 2007-07-23 01:11AM | 0 recs


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