Senate 2008 Guru's Week in the Senate Races
by Senate Guru, Sun Jul 08, 2007 at 02:57:30 PM EDT
After a brief respite not achieving any progress on the immigration front, the Senate's attention is turning back toward not achieving any progress on the Iraq front.
A few Republican Senators have lately begun voicing (though not yet voting) their discontent with the way things are going, and have been going for quite some time, in Iraq. What Republicans were dismissing as "cut and run" not so long ago is becoming a more acceptable policy among the GOP, especially to those Republican Senators who are approaching re-election bids in what is shaping up to be another cycle, like 2006, hostile to not only pro-war Republicans but, in many parts of the country, potentially anyone with an R next to their name.
As a renewed push on Iraq is expected, the Senate is expected this week to take up the Iraq Study Group Recommendations Implementation Act, S 1545, or as mcjoan has dubbed it "The Salazar Distraction," as it is questionable whether this measure would do anything to actually further U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. Nevertheless, in a powerful editorial this morning, the New York Times calls for just that, immediate withdrawal:
It is time for the United States to leave Iraq, without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit. ...
It is frighteningly clear that Mr. Bush's plan is to stay the course as long as he is president and dump the mess on his successor. Whatever his cause was, it is lost. ...
Continuing to sacrifice the lives and limbs of American soldiers is wrong. The war is sapping the strength of the nation's alliances and its military forces. It is a dangerous diversion from the life-and-death struggle against terrorists. It is an increasing burden on American taxpayers, and it is a betrayal of a world that needs the wise application of American power and principles.
But is it principle or mere political posturing that has led the few Republican Senators who have recently spoken out on Iraq to do so? While Dick Lugar is considered safe, George Voinovich is up in 2010 in Ohio. While that may seem a long way off, Ohio is where a scandal-plagued state Republican Party is still recuperating and where two-term Senator Mike DeWine got beat by then-Congressman Sherrod Brown 56-44 last year. Voinovich might simply retire in 2010, as might John Warner in 2008, but whether they are looking ahead to impending retirement or the motivation is fear of retribution from voters seeking an end to Bush's Iraq debacle, freedom from the shackles of allegiance to the Bush Administration is being sought. Pete Domenici is perhaps the clearest case of political posturing. Domenici, up for re-election in 2008, has seen his approval rating plummet from 68-25 in November 2006 to 51-42 last month, primarily as a result of his role in the Attorney Purge scandal. He could use a pick-me-up, and with George W. Bush's approval in New Mexico at 31-66, this could be a quick way for Domenici to score some points.
Much more below the fold.
Outside of Iraq, back to the horseraces, second quarter fundraising figures are beginning to trickle in. The three earliest developing stories here to keep an eye on are: 1) Despite Mississippi's Thad Cochran having a solid Q1 total (and expected understudy in case of a Cochran retirement, GOP Rep. Chip Pickering, having a near-nonexistent Q1), Cochran had a much weaker Q2, which could lead to another round of Cochran retirement speculation; 2) Virginia's John Warner released a missive alerting spectators to expect another low fundraising quarter as he comes to a decision on his 2008 plans, following his notorious $500 Q1, perhaps easing us toward a retirement announcement in September (so keep an eye on the Q2 fundraising of expected understudy in case of a Warner retirement, GOP Rep. Tom Davis); and, 3) In what may be the first case of an announced challenger outraising an incumbent seeking re-election in the 2008 cycle, it looks like Al Franken outraised Norm Coleman in Q2 - stay tuned for details.
Also, three holidays/anniversaries/special events occurred this week. Wednesday, of course, was Independence Day, the 231st anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Also, Monday was two special days: the fourth anniversary of Bring It On Day, as well as Scooter Libby Liberation Day. Regarding Bush's commutation of Scooter Libby's sentence (warning: Republican hypocrisy alert), Bob Geiger noted that, as of his Thursday morning post, not one of the 25 Republican Senators who voted to convict President Bill Clinton on both articles of impeachment brought against him had issued a public statement on the Libby commutation. Since then, Nebraska's Chuck Hagel offered a mild criticism of the commutation and, true to form, Oregon's Gordon Smith offered a muddled and confusing, but no-less-enabling statement.
How are Iraq, campaign dollars, and a multitude of other issues and dynamics impacting Senate races around the country?
Maine: Aravosis has correctly illuminated of Susan Collins, "Collins loves to be second. If there's a trail to blaze, Collins will sit back quietly, quaking in her boots, until other more courageous, "real" moderates like Olympia Snowe stick their necks out first." Her tepidity was in rare form this week. Following Dick Lugar's comments on a change of course in Iraq, Susan Collins finally agreed that Iraq was Mainers' top priority, and just in the last week and a half. Collins Watch highlighted throughout the week Collins' weak language on Bush's domestic spying and silence on the Libby commutation. Collins topped it off with an op-ed in this morning's Lewiston Sun Journal, which closed with the line: "the time for partisan politics to determine the direction of our policy in Iraq is long over." This begs the question of Collins, "When was the time for partisan politics to determine the direction of our policy in Iraq appropriate?!" True leadership is anathema to the woman. She also rolled out her new campaign website. Right now, it only features an (awkward and uncomfortable feeling) introductory video and, of course, a contribution link and e-mail sign-up. If you watch and listen to the video, three words you will not hear are "Republican,""Bush," and "Iraq." One word you will hear is "bi-partisan." Expect Collins to continue running from her record as the website gets further developed. It will be interesting to see how often she refers to herself as a Republican as more content gets added.
South Carolina: As the South Carolina netroots continue to bash Lindsey Graham for his leadership role in the immigration reform debate and continued comparisons to colleague (and conservative darling) Jim DeMint make Graham sweat, he has, seemingly to mend some conservative fences, declared that Bush's Iraq escalation is "working beyond my expectations." Make no mistake; Graham is very worried about his job.
Montana: GOP Rep. Denny Rehberg is considered to be the Republicans' best chance of offering popular Senator Max Baucus a competitive race. Unfortunately for them, he has declared that he will not be a candidate for Senate in 2008. So, Montana Republicans may be stuck with disgraced Mike Lange (in other words: this guy - see Idaho's entry below for more on Lange). Montana was considered by many to be the Republicans third best pick-up opportunity, behind Louisiana and South Dakota. Guess not.
South Dakota: Speaking of South Dakota, state rep. Joel Dykstra officially filed for Senate against popular, recovering incumbent Senator Tim Johnson. As it turns out, Dykstra is either a far-right fringe-type or a candidate for the most insensitive elected official in America. During South Dakota's debate over legislation that would ban all abortions, making no exceptions in the cases of rape or incest, Dykstra incredulously said:
I think 'rape and incest' is a buzzword. It's a bit of a throwaway line and not everybody who says that really understands what that means. How are you going to define that?
How are you going to define "rape" or "incest"? Seriously? I don't know many people from South Dakota, but I would imagine that many South Dakotan women, however socially conservative, would be a bit offended by somebody who suggests that "rape" is simply an indefinable buzzword. Surely, that statement will re-emerge in the South Dakota press. We'll see if Dykstra has found definitions for "rape" and "incest" in the last year-and-a-half.
Louisiana: And speaking of Louisiana, it was leaked that Republicans may have scrounged up a challenger to Senator Mary Landrieu. At the urging of no less than Karl Rove, currently-Democratic state Treasurer John N. Kennedy may have a Party-switch in the works in order to challenge Landrieu. If he's going to jump in, it would serve him well to get in soon, as Landrieu's warchest is approaching $3 million.
Idaho: In what could be a very entertaining primary, expecting a Sen. Larry Craig retirement and a Lt. Gov. Jim Risch entry into the Senate race (with which I agree), Republican rancher Rex Rammell has announced that he will enter Idaho's Senate race. There is no love lost between Rammell and Risch, so expect Rammell to continually go for Risch's political jugular. This will no doubt enhance the prospects of former Congressman Larry LaRocco, the Democrats' strongest Senate candidate in Idaho in years. While Rammell will have much work to do to raise his name recognition around the state, his entry did garner more positive press than Mike Lange's entry in Montana did. That's either a positive sign for Rammell or a terrible sign for Lange.
Texas: Texas Democrats are finally kicking a challenge to John Cornyn (and his unintimidating net negative42-43 approval rating) into high gear. Through the prism of a Fourth of July call to duty, State Representative Rick Noriega announced that he will form an exploratory committee for a Senate bid, following an extensive draft effort. If there is one thing that Representative Noriega understands, as State Representative Pete Gallego's letter clearly indicates, it is answering a call to duty. On top of that, forty-nine of Noriega's colleagues in the Texas Legislature have signed a letter urging him to run. Also, San Antonio attorney Mikal Watts, another Democratic candidate for Senate, has indicated that he is willing to self-fund his campaign up to $10 million, neutralizing any money advantage Cornyn would enjoy. Indeed, both are aggressive options to put forth against the Box Turtle.
Kentucky: Have you noticed Mitch McConnell in the news much lately? Yeah, me neither. The alleged leader of the Senate Republicans took a major step back during the immigration debate; and, with more Republicans vocalizing discontent with the state of affairs in Iraq, one must wonder what kind of role McConnell will play in upcoming debates on Iraq. Will he side with conservatives holding out for a stay-the-course mentality in Iraq (which will drag down many other Republicans fearing electoral retribution from their constituents) or will he toss his ties to Bush under the bus? As Ditch Mitch KY points out, all McConnell can muster is continued ducking and dodging from any firm commitments of any kind. Meanwhile, the heat is on McConnell at home as this past week saw two prominent protests of McConnell in Kentucky. The first was on the Fourth of July outside of McConnell's home (click the link for some powerful video). The second occurred yesterday in Lexington and was organized by Americans Against Escalation in Iraq as part of their "Iraq Summer" targetting of a number of states that are home to Republican Senators up for re-election in 2008. Expect to hear more from Americans Against Escalation in Iraq as the summer 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.