AP: Democrats Have A "Realistic Shot" At 60 In The Senate

While most senate and house projections at this point err on the side of caution, a new AP article signals what may be an emerging conventional wisdom: that getting to 60 is absolutely within reach.

With President Bush's ratings at rock-bottom, fewer Republicans signing up to vote, and voters nationally gravitating toward Democrats in public polls, the GOP is bracing for defeats in November that will expand Democrats' now razor-thin 51-49 majority in the Senate.

Democrats have solid chances of winning five seats, according to strategists in both parties and public polls, and realistic shots at picking off another three to five Republican senators.

Has a pick-up of 10 seats, and with it a true Lieberman-less 60 vote majority, ever been described as "realistic" before?

This new boldness, which I suspect we'll see replicated elsewhere as CW solidifies, is no doubt a function of the recent indictment of Ted Stevens, which instantaneously made Mark Begich the favorite for the seat and Democrats on track to win 5 virtually at the starting gate. Those "solid" 5 are:

Mark Warner in Virginia
Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire
Tom Udall in New Mexico
Mark Udall in Colorado
Road to 60 candidate Mark Begich in Alaska

The 3-5 "realistic shots" according to USA Today (and general CW):

Jeff Merkley in Oregon
Road to 60 candidate Ronnie Musgrove in Mississippi
Al Franken in Minnesota
Road to 60 candidate Kay Hagan in North Carolina
Tom Allen in Maine

And these lists don't even take into account our two other Road to 60 candidates: Rick Noriega in Texas and Jim Slattery in Kansas, or netroots favorite Scott Kleeb in Nebraska.

MyDD is going to be doing something special this year with our senate rankings, as well as our house, governor and presidential rankings so look for that probably just after the convention.

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Consequences of Indictment

In the wake of his indictment, Sen. Ted Stevens has declared his innocence:

I have proudly served this nation and Alaska for over 50 years. My public service began when I served in World War II. It saddens me to learn that these charges have been brought against me. I have never knowingly submitted a false disclosure form required by law as a U.S. Senator. In accordance with Senate Republican Conference rules, I have temporarily relinquished my vice-chairmanship and ranking positions until I am absolved of these charges. The impact of these charges on my family disturbs me greatly. I am innocent of these charges and intend to prove that.

Sounds like he won't be dropping out of the race any time soon -- great news for Mark Begich -- but he did have to resign his ranking member status on two committees in the wake of the indictment. Who knew the GOP was actually enforcing ethics rules?

Consistent with GOP bylaws that require Members who are under felony indictment to relinquish their ranking posts on committees, Stevens, the longest-serving Republican Senator, has officially stepped down as ranking member of both the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.

In addition, Democratic senate challengers are starting to demand that the GOP incumbent senators they're running against return donations from Ted Stevens. Road To 60 challenger Kay Hagan released a statement insisting that Elizabeth Dole return or donate to charity $21,000 she personally received from Stevens between 2001 and 2007. Emphasis below mine:

"First there was Jack Abramoff, and now Ted Stevens is this cycle's scandal-prone Washington insider -- it's a habit they just can't help themselves break. This is business as usual for Washington career politicians like Ted Stevens, and indicative of exactly why people in North Carolina and elsewhere across the country are so disgusted with the people they elect to represent them," said Colleen Flanagan, Hagan Campaign Communications Director. "Elizabeth Dole should immediately return, or donate to charity, the $21,000 she received from Ted Stevens - we recommend sending the money to help low-income families afford the skyrocketing gas prices Dole has failed to address for the past six years. Ted Stevens and Elizabeth Dole have been in Washington for 40 years, and quite frankly, both have shown the proclivity to put special interests and lobbyists ahead of the folks who elected them. People in Alaska, North Carolina and across the country deserve leadership that is beholden to the people who elected them, not the special interests and lobbyists in Washington."

Surely, more will follow. Marc Ambinder reminds us that Norm Coleman is particularly vulnerable on the issue of having taken Alaskan money.

It means that any senator who got VECO money -- Norm Coleman? -- will be called to account.

What does this mean for Democrats' senate chances? At the very least the narrative is shifting, as Roger Simon put it on Hardball moments ago:

If the magic number for Democrats is getting to 60 in the senate, they thought it wasn't possible, it may not be impossible anymore.

Help out our Road to 60 challengers over at our Road to 60 ActBlue page.

Update [2008-7-29 17:40:52 by Todd Beeton]:That was fast. Elizabeth Dole has just dumped $10k of Stevens money. From TPM:

Campaign spokesman Hogan Gidley just told Election Central that the campaign has written a $10,000 check -- the amount Dole has received this cycle from Stevens' leadership PAC -- to the Society of St. Andrew.

Stevens' PAC has donated to every incumbent GOP Senator seeking re-election this year. That's one down. Will others follow?

Update [2008-7-29 18:4:48 by Josh Orton]: A couple more bits of Stevens indictment-related fallout:

  • List of his PAC's expenditures this year here. Paging Pat Roberts, Gordon Smith...

  • CQ changes Stevens' race rating from "leans Republican" to "leans Democrat."

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Republicans Running Scared From Minneapolis

Talk about a sign of the times. Whether it be the toxicity of Bush, the toxicity of the Republican brand or the acknowledgment that Republican incumbents in 2008 had better stay home and earn votes rather than attend the Republican convention, this really can't be good:

Nine of 12 targeted Republicans running in the most competitive Senate races this fall are either skipping the Republican convention in St. Paul, Minn., or have not decided whether to attend.

Among those who will not attend are Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, who is not close to presumptive presidential nominee Sen. John McCain of Arizona, and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who is a McCain loyalist. Stevens and Collins will use the convention week to focus on their campaigns.

Also sending regrets is former Rep. Bob Schaffer of Colorado, running for the seat being vacated by retiring GOP Sen. Wayne Allard.

Six others -- Sens. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, John Sununu of New Hampshire, Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina and Gordon Smith of Oregon and challengers John Kennedy of Louisiana and Rep. Steve Pearce of New Mexico are still on the fence. Their spokesman offered responses ranging from "there are no plans yet" to "no decisions have been made."

Scratch that. Senator Dole is no longer on the fence.

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina won't be attending the Republican national convention, which begins over Labor Day weekend.

Her spokeswoman, Katie Hallaway, said people shouldn't read too much into the decision -- either about the senator's support for John McCain, her party's likely nominee, or about how she views the security of her re-election in November against Democratic state senator Kay Hagan.

Oh, no, of course not. We wouldn't do such a thing. What's Dole's reasoning?

"She's got a busy week scheduled in North Carolina," Hallaway said. "When there are breaks in the Senate schedule, she spends as much time as possible in North Carolina."

Hmm, interesting, she found time for a prime time spot at the 2004 convention.

And here's Susan Collins' excuse:

"She is going to spend the time in Maine campaigning," said Steve Abbott, her campaign manager. "The conventions are too close to the election for a federal candidate to give up the time to attend, especially a current office holder who has to be in Washington for a busy legislative session for much of September."

Abbott would also like to remind us that Collins did not attend the '96 convention either. Of course, she wasn't in the Senate yet and she did attend the two subsequent conventions during her time in the senate, not to mention she's one of John McCain's campaign co-chairs. But other than that, really, it's no biggie that she won't be in Minneapolis to celebrate John McCain's acceptance of the 2008 nomination.

So, of the top targeted senate races, which GOP incumbents will be attending the festivities? Looks like McCain will be surrounded by Mitch McConnell and Norm Coleman, who lobbied to get Minneapolis to host the event. Wanna bet Norm is having second thoughts about that decision right about now?

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A Phenomenal Fundraising Quarter For Our Senate Challengers

Some really great fundraising figures from our 2008 Democratic senate challengers. The warchests that some of these GOP senators are sitting on is a reminder of just what a challenge it is to unseat an incumbent and of the work we still have to do. First from MyDD's Road To 60 list:

AK-Sen: Mark Begich

Mark Begich had a great second quarter, having raised $1,034,660, which is pretty stunning considering:

We received 4099 contributions -- a whopping 73.6% were under $100.

That and the fact that Alaska only has only 626,000 residents.

Ted Stevens's fundraising has not yet been released.

NC-Sen: Kay Hagan

The Politico reported the good news last week:

Kay Hagan, a five-term state senator from the Greensboro area, announced this afternoon that she raised over $1.6 million over the last three months, with $1.2 million left in her campaign account at the end of June.

Still an uphill battle if she's going to unseat the flush with cash Dole though, who had a solid quarter herself:

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole says she raised more than $2.1 million in the second quarter.

In a press release, the Salisbury Republican's campaign announced that it had $2.7 million in cash on hand at the end of the second quarter.

TX-Sen: Rick Noriega

Noriega had a solid fundraising quarter. From a press release via e-mail:

·        Total Raised: $961,169.59 2QTR
·        Cash On Hand: $915,506.12
·        # of Donors this quarter: 5,702
·        # of Contributions this quarter: 6,768

This speaks to Noriega's online fundraising strength. It's no accident that he is consistently one of the top featured campaigns on ActBlue.

If you can, please help these three worthy challengers over at our Road To 60 ActBlue page.

OR-Sen:  Jeff Merkley

Jeff Merkley entered his general election campaign like a slingshot, having outraised Gordon Smith in the second quarter:

Merkley=$1.42 million
Smith=$1.35 million

But Smith's warchest is daunting:

Cash on hand:

Smith=$4.5 million

All the same, Merkley's accomplishment should not be underestimated:

Jeff Merkley's campaign for U.S. Senate raised more than $1.42 million in the second quarter, three times what the campaign raised during the first three months of the year. [...]

Online contributions soared for Merkley over the past three months. The Merkley team raised more than $420,000 online in the second quarter, double the previous three quarters combined.

ME-Sen: Tom Allen

Roll Call (via brownsox) brings us the good news that Allen is pretty well keeping pace with Susan Collins:

Collins raised $1.06 million in the financial reporting period from April 1 to June 30. The Collins campaign reports it had raised $6.58 million this cycle and had more than $5.13 million on hand.

Meanwhile, Allen's campaign reported raising just over $1 million in those three months. Allen had $3.13 million in cash on hand.

OK-Sen: Andrew Rice

Via Brownsox, Rice had a really strong quarter:

A stellar fundraising quarter for Orange to Blue candidate Andrew Rice culminates in this report: $451,000 raised for the quarter, with nearly $750,000 cash-on-hand despite having spent fairly heavily on radio ads.

This was the Rice campaign's best quarter so far.

There's no word yet on what Jim Inhofe raised, but he had roughly $2.2 million on hand at the end of Q1.

NE-Sen: Scott Kleeb

Scott brought us the good news in his diary from yesterday:

I wanted you to be the first to hear the good news: thanks to your contributions, our grassroots campaign has managed to shatter expectations and outraise our opponent, a former two-term Governor and Bush Cabinet member, for the most recent fundraising quarter. Make no mistakes about it - change is in the air here in Nebraska.

The Journal Star reports: "Democratic Senate candidate Scott Kleeb seems to be finding fundraising traction in this heavily Republican state, bringing in nearly $700,000 in the latest reporting period and besting Republican Mike Johanns for the first time."

Kleeb's opponent, Mike Johanns still has $1.2 million cash on hand but it's great to see Kleeb eating into that advantage.

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John Ensign Revises GOP Senate Hopes Upward...To 45!

After essentially crossing his fingers for a retention of 41 seats in the US Senate this fall, Sen. John Ensign of Nevada, the chump whose job it is to ensure the election of Republicans to the senate, seems to have revised his estimates somewhat upward (h/t Northwest Progressive Institute blog):

"I think it would be a great night, especially, [to lose only] three seats -- that would be a terrific night for us, absolutely," he said. "I don't want to slip below the four-seat loss -- that's kind of where we set our absolute worst goal, is to be down to 45 seats."

Forget all that stuff I said the other day about 41 seats!

But in another sign that Ensign is actually more reality-based in his analysis of the situation this fall than not, he ponders Obama's impact on downticket races:

He said that while Sen. Barack Obama's impact on down-ballot races is "unknowable at this point," he expects Obama to boost the prospects of Democratic candidates in some states -- naming Oregon as an example.

"Without Barack Obama, [Sen.] Gordon Smith probably wins [reelection] going away," Ensign said.

Senator Smith, meet bus.

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