Senate 2008 Guru's Week in the Senate Races

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.

Tags: 2008 election, Bring It On, Fundraising, id-sen, Iraq, iraq study group, KY-Sen, LA-Sen, ME-Sen, MT-Sen, NM-Sen, SC-Sen, Scooter Libby, SD-Sen, TX-Sen, Week in the Senate Races (all tags)



John Kennedy

This is what they are running against Landrieu.  Landrieu was also state Treasurer from 1988 to 1996.  They interview is somewhat contrived, and many view Michelle Godard of KALB-TV as biased to Republicans.

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by truthteller2007 2007-07-08 03:17PM | 0 recs
by truthteller2007 2007-07-08 03:18PM | 0 recs
Re: link to video

Notice Kennedy lied in the video.  He said he is running for Treasurer, and that his opposition to Blanco is not political.  He also says he is not a "party line guy" when asked about Republican support.  

He supports "ideas," not people.  But he colludes with Karl Rove?  Very interesting.

by truthteller2007 2007-07-08 03:21PM | 0 recs
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"colludes with Karl Rove"? He was recruited by the political arm of the National Republican Party, much like Chuck Schumer flies out and recruits challengers in states.

by Unabridged 2007-07-08 05:46PM | 0 recs
Re: link to video

But he is a Democrat who claims is not a Party line politician.  One can be recruite by John Ensign, who is Schumer's counterpart, but he chose to collude with Karl Rove.  And I say collude, because he is still a registered Democrat.  In fact, he will probably run as a Democrat in the 2007 election.

by truthteller2007 2007-07-08 07:22PM | 0 recs
Re: link to video

How did he choose who recruited him? Its not like he met Karl Rove at a club, asked for his number, and set up a date with him to discuss running for Senate. Rove flew to Louisiana to meet with him, because that's what Rove does, the same as that's what Schumer does. Certainly by now we've figured out that the RNC has much more of a hands-on role in the actions of the two Congressional committees than the DNC does with its two. Look at how much more money the RNC raises every quarter. Look at '06, when the RNC had its hand in a half-dozen Senate races across the country. Karl Rove is the political arm of the Republican Party, just like Chuck Schumer is the political arm of the Democratic Party.

by Unabridged 2007-07-09 03:14AM | 0 recs
Re: link to video

Just curious -- are you posting on MYDD to defend Karl Rove?  B/c otherwise, I don't really understand your comments.  I think the point here is that if this guy has been recruited by Karl Rove to run against a sitting Democratic Senator, he probablyl needs to just go ahead and say he's a republican.  That WOULD be the intellectually honest thing to do, no?

by HSTruman 2007-07-09 06:22AM | 0 recs
Re: link to video

He's been wanting to switch parties for a while. If he does get into the race, you can be rest assured that he'd switch parties. I don't know why you'd think he wouldn't.

by Unabridged 2007-07-09 07:34AM | 0 recs
Re: link to video

Is he THAT conservative, or is it really just a power thing?  The reason I ask is that from my vantage point, I would think he would be able to garner a ton of support to run for Governor as a Democrat.  Superficially, I was under the impression that the guy was a "good government," fiscally conservative Democrat...

by HSTruman 2007-07-09 07:39AM | 0 recs
Re: link to video

I don't know how socially conservative he is, since his office doesn't really have the opportunity to act on many social issues, but he's pretty conservative. Also, being a registered Democrat in Louisiana is no guarantee that you vote for a Democrat.

As for the Governor's race, I don't know if Kennedy even wants to be Governor, but I doubt he'd want to risk losing against Jindal and adding another statewide loss to his resume. Landrieu is weak, the Republicans are trending strong in the state, he's mostly Republican anyway, and he'd be promised national support to run. I can't say that its not opportunism, but its certainly not exclusively opportunism.

by Unabridged 2007-07-09 07:50AM | 0 recs
Re: link to video

Rated, as you have been trolling Daily Kingfish, Swing State Project, Senate GURU 2008 and now MyDD.  None of us are interested in Karl Rove spin.  Take is somewhere where people might actually care.  You will find no sympathy here.

by truthteller2007 2007-07-09 08:49AM | 0 recs
Re: link to video

I'm not looking for sympathy here. I'm looking for an open and orderly discussion on the given topic. If this isn't the place to find it, then I'll search elsewhere.

If I may add, the only threads of mine that have devolved into silly nonsense are the ones where I bring up points and posters such as yourself start throwing out words like "troll", rather than actually discuss the points I raise. I think its possible for someone who disagrees to conduct in a civil and rewarding conversation. If you disagree, then perhaps it is you who needs to refrain from posting, and not me.

by Unabridged 2007-07-09 10:10AM | 0 recs
Re: link to video

All I see in your postings are Republican talking points with no basis in reality.  Such lies are espoused at sites such as Free Republic.  Join the conversation there, for none of us are buying your unfounded notion that Louisiana is vulnerable to the GOP or that Mary Landrieu will lose to a candidate who everyone knows is trying to further his political career.

Just take a walk, buddy.

by truthteller2007 2007-07-09 10:20AM | 0 recs
Re: link to video

Louisiana's not vulnerable to the GOP? When it was a red state to begin with and that was only taken further by Katrina? When a poll in January showed Landrieu 15 points down on Jindal?

Clearly Louisiana is the state which is most vulnerable to the GOP. To say that is not trolling, it's rational.

by Englishlefty 2007-07-09 10:41AM | 0 recs
Re: link to video

First of all, its not just "my" notion that Landrieu is vulnerable, the perception is also shared by pundits across the scale, from the neutral National Journal and Cook Political Report to sources such as Kos and the DSCC.

Second, I'm not saying that Landrieu will lose. For that matter, I'm not saying she'll win, either. Its far, far too early to make any declarative statements such as those, but John Kennedy, should he run, would pose an interesting challenge to Landrieu, and it would certainly be a competitive race. I'm sorry if such an assessment upsets you, but simply categorizing such benign observations as "Republican talking points with no basis in reality" seems both heavy-handed and a cheap cop-out to real discussion.

Finally, while I'm not really sure what to say to the charge that John Kennedy is trying to further his own career, what exactly then is a candidate like Tom Allen doing in Maine? Or, for that matter, Mary Landrieu herself running for re-election? Is not running for public office in the first place "trying to futher [one's] political career?"

by Unabridged 2007-07-09 10:44AM | 0 recs
Re: link to video

Great, now a Brit and a Republican troll will try to dominate the message about Louisiana politics, although neither of them are from the state.  IP address records from Swing State Project, where Unabridged aka VA Blogger posts indicate that he posts from northern Virgnia, and a Brit is now repeating his talking points.

I am from the state, and I know that the dynamics are very different, especially now as there are ads attacking Jindal left and right on the air.  You have bought all the online spin by the Louisiana conservative machine.  That represents maybe a few suburban parishes around New Orleans, not the whole state.

So good luck with the spin.  At this Louisianan knows that the dynamics one the ground are not what you two purport them to be.

Have a nice day.  And try to get in touch in the future, for right now both of you are unhinged and out of touch.

by truthteller2007 2007-07-09 11:00AM | 0 recs
Re: link to video

He has used Democratic money to create name recognition, and now he is running as a Republican.

Tom Allen has been a Democrat and will always remain a Democat.  Your comparison is specious and frankly disingenuous.

by truthteller2007 2007-07-09 11:01AM | 0 recs
Re: link to video

Unabridged/va blogger - Rove is the deputy chief of staff at the White House, not a staff member at the RNC, though you wouldn't know it by their e-mail domains.

The reason the RNC had a much more "hands-on role," as you put it, in several Senate races in 2006 was because Rove/McConnell/Frist saw what a disaster Liddy Dole was as NRSC Chair and basically wrested the role from her late in the cycle.  That is ostensibly continuing because Ensign took the NRSC gig (that no one wanted) and is doing a lackluster job at it, from both a fundraising (beaten by the DSCC every single month) and a recruiting perspective (the DSCC has certainly had a number of recruiting setbacks, but the NRSC doesn't have one single impressive recruiting victory yet).

But, yeah, while Rove is on the White House (i.e. taxpayers') payroll, he is recruiting for the RNC/NRSC - you are right when you say "that's what Rove does."

by Senate Guru 2007-07-09 06:40AM | 0 recs
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The RNC has been the dominant branch of the NRP LONG before "late in the cycle of '06". Even in Frist and Allen's successful tenures as NRSC chairman in '02 and '04, the RNC played a big role in the Senate campaigns. It has nothing to do with Dole or with Ensign.

And recruiting for Congress is exactly what the political liason for the White House does. It certainly wouldn't be the first WH official to meet with a prospective candidate for Congress, and it certainly won't be the last.

The NRSC has only ever had two real chances at a pick-up, and until Johnson recovers, Louisiana is it. And in that state, we have a top-tier challenger who will start off with the advantage over Landrieu. How is that not a recruiting success? Or is it one, but you're just not impressed by it?

by Unabridged 2007-07-09 07:47AM | 0 recs
Re: link to video

OK, here's my question for you.  You clearly seem to think it makes sense for Kennedy to switch parties from a pure ambition stand point.  Fine, I understand that point and may even agree, to the extent that La does seem to be moving even further towards the right since Katrina.  What you're not answering directly, and what I'd like to understand, is whether it is disingenuous for Kennedy to not only fail to switch parties now, if he is in fact going to challenge Landrieu, but to possibly run for re-election as a Democrat in 2007.

If the guy is conservative, ambitious, and wants to be Republican Senator that's fine -- but then why pretend to be a Democrat anymore?  The answer seems to be pure political expediency, and I actually DO think that that will be problematic for Kennedy even in La.  Sure, lots of conservative registered Democrats in that state vote for Republicans.  But I don't think anyone, Democrat or Republican, particularly respects the kind of dance that Kennedy seems to be engaged in right now.  Do you really disagree?  

Also, are you in fact as conservative as you seem or are you simply trying to provide commentary?  At times, your posts seem to be neutral.  At other times, you seem to be explicitly endorsing Karl Rove and GWB

by HSTruman 2007-07-09 11:03AM | 0 recs
Re: link to video

I can answer that question.  Look at any Louisiana post at Swing State Project.  This guy invades the thread and espouses talking points generated by Roger Villere, Chairman of the Louisiana Republican Party.  His sole role is to smear Louisiana Democrats and create a Karl Rove inspired atmosphere of inevitability for Republican candidates.  

Kennedy will have a difficult time campaigning in his interpretation of fiscal conservaitsm, because Landrieu has supported all the accountability measures to hit the Senate floor in the past three Congresses at least.  Landrieu also had the reputation of serving as one of the most prudent Treasurers of Louisiana.  Because that message is already neutralized by Landrieu's record, I fail to see what appeal Kennedy provides except for the new party affiliation he plans to attach to his name at the behest of Karl Rove.

by truthteller2007 2007-07-09 11:17AM | 0 recs
Re: link to video

That's a great question, honestly, and its one I haven't fully considered until now.

To tell you the truth, I don't know enough about Kennedy's plans to give a proper answer. If he's planning on running for re-election in '07 as a Democrat then run in '08 as a Republican, then yes, that poses a problem, especially if its public knowledge right now that he's running in '08 for the GOP. I'd want to wait and see what his public comments are concerning both campaigns before I write him off as disingenuous.

There is a question of when a party switch actually takes effect. Let's compare with someone like Joe Lieberman (always a pleasant topic in these parts). He didn't officially become an Independent Democrat until January 4th, 2007. Technically (and I know this may generate a lot more controversy than I'm asking for), he was a registered and affiliated Democrat during the entire election cycle, despite the fact that he was running on a third-party ticket. Applying that kind of "dancing", as you called it, what if Kennedy ran as a Republican in '07, but didn't officially change his affiliation until the beginning of (what would be) his third term?

I'm not nearly as conservative as you think I am, though its such a relative lens on this blog that its hard not to paint me in the same brush as GWB and Rove. I voted for Bush in '04 (wasn't old enough in '00), but I disagree with him over 60% of the time by now. He's just a nuisance, and the sooner we have a new President, the better. (Unless its Hillary)

by Unabridged 2007-07-09 11:25AM | 0 recs
Re: Senate 2008 Guru's Week in the Senate Races

As far as Iraq is concerned, both Lugar and Warner are foreign policy/national security experts with appeal across the aisle (Lugar was on Bill Clinton's short list for Secretary of State). You can speculate as much as you like, but they're the kind of inter-party critics whose presencence usually siggest that a high-profile politiican has gone over the hill.

by spirowasright 2007-07-08 07:23PM | 0 recs
Re: link to video

If I were in Kennedy's shoes, and the way to get national party support for a Senate promotion which I wanted was a meeting with Karl Rove and David Vitter, you're damn right I'd take the meeting. Just like Mike Fahey would take a meeting with Chuck Schumer, even though most Nebraskans wouldn't vote for him as dogcatcher.

by Unabridged 2007-07-09 07:38AM | 0 recs
Re: link to video

If you had no integrity, which he obviously lacks.  But I see how some people will do and say anything to win an election.  I also see that they will plant sockpuppets in liberal websites.  HOW PITIFUL.

by truthteller2007 2007-07-09 10:21AM | 0 recs
Re: link to video

That's bad to you and others on here because you view Rove as slightly more evil than Lucifer. If meeting with the political liason of the White House to talk about running for Senate is enough to preclude you from voting for him, then I would suspect that you wouldn't be very open to voting for him in the first place. Most voters don't care who he's meeting with (and don't associate Rove with Darth Vader), they care about how he represents them in the Senate. If you think being recruited by Rove and Vitter is going to be a political issue, I don't know what to tell you.

by Unabridged 2007-07-09 08:06AM | 0 recs


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