Eye on 2012: Kaine and LeMieux Announce Senate Runs

Two announcements today. Former Virginia Governor and current Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine announced that he is running for the Virginia Senate seat currently held by Senator Jim Webb who is retiring after just one term in office. Kaine will resign as DNC chair immediately. More from the Washington Post. Above is Tim Kaine's introductory video and here's a link to his website.

Meanwhile in Florida, former interim Senator George LeMieux announced that he will enter the GOP primary and seek his party's nomination in a bid to unseat the incumbent Democrat, Bill Nelson. LeMieux served 16 months in the Senate after being appointed by then-Governor Charlie Crist to fill a vacancy created when Senator Mel Martinez quit early. So far only one major candidate has declared, Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos with others expected to join the fray.



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Florida Primary Preview
Polling last week showed Kendrick Meek overtaking Jeff Greene in the Democratic Senate primary and Bill McCollum overtaking Rick Scott in the GOP guberanatorial primary. However, a new Quinnipiac University poll released Monday shows Attorney General Bill McCollum's lead narrowing to 39-35 percent against Rick Scott, a healthcare billionaire. In the Democratic primary for US Senate, Rep. Kendrick Meek appears to have a steady 39-29 percent lead over investment billionaire Jeff Greene, according to the poll of likely primary voters. The Miami Herald has more on these races.

Earlier this year, the New York Times wondered if Marco Rubio might be the first Senator from the Tea Party but now the nation's paper of record finds the right wing Tea Party darling veering off-script. Of course, Rubio has already pivoted towards the general election where he will face Governor Charlie Crist now running as a centrist independent and the winner of the Meek/Greene primary. The Florida Senate race is certainly the nation's most intriguing one.

I'm pretty adamant on this but I think Marco Rubio is the most dangerous candidate running in any race this cycle - one that must be defeated at all costs. That's quite a statement given the likes of Sharron Angle, Rand Paul, Pat Toomey and Ken Buck. Why do I think that Rubio must be defeated? Well statements like this one where he is perceived as the next Ronald Reagan.

And frankly, I concur. He's the next Reagan, polished enough to hide his real agenda and articulate enough to sound sane at least say compared to Sarah Palin. Rubio has his feet in several conservative camps. First and foremost, he is Jeb Bush's designated heir giving him an in with the Bush wing and more importantly their money and organizing prowess. Second, he's close to the neocon presidential pardoned felon Elliot Abrams, who like Jeb Bush is a signatory in the Project for the Next American Century. Third, he's got Jim DeMint's backing and the support the red-meat conservative wing of the GOP. While he's a not a social conservative along the likes of Mike Huckabee, he's a good-looking somewhat charismatic Hispanic with the picture perfect family who seemingly lives his values. He's Florida's answer to Wisconsin's Paul Ryan. One of these two will be on GOP ticket before long. Giving Marco Rubio a Senate seat is giving him a launching pad to a presidential bid. I'd just assume beating him here and now. 

The Woes of Chet Culver
Stateline interviewed Iowa Governor who is fighting for his political life trailing Terry Branstad by 16 points in the latest poll. While Culver has Iowa sitting pretty with a balanced budget, cash reserves, low debt, and unemployment below the national average, it's not translating into votes. Here's part of the reason why, an unmotivated base.

Relations between Culver and labor hit a low in 2008, when the governor vetoed a bill that would have expanded collective bargaining rights for public employees. The move so infuriated labor unions that one union lobbyist, when asked what Culver’s biggest misstep as governor has been, asked, “Have you talked to anyone around here?”

Culver has governed as a political centrist in other ways. To balance the budget last year, he and lawmakers relied on an across-the-board spending cut of 10 percent that slashed hundreds of millions of dollars from key areas such as public education and health and human services. While deep budget-slashing has won New Jersey Governor Chris Christie plaudits from national Republicans, it is not typically the way to draw Democrats to the polls in droves, says Mack Shelley, a political science professor at Iowa State University.

Vermont's Democratic Gubernatorial Primary
Susan Bartlett, Matt Dunne, Deb Markowitz, Doug Racine and Peter Shumlin are down to the wire battling for votes ahead of Tuesday's primary in the Green Mountain State. After months of campaigning, no candidate has emerged as the clear favorite. The Burlington Free Press has more on what promises to be a cliffhanger election.

There's more...

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Insiders on Track in Florida
A new poll from Quinnipiac University poll of likely Florida voters finds Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum has seized a 9 percentage-point lead over former healthcare executive Rick Scott in the Republican governor's race, while U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek holds a 7 percentage-point lead in the Democratic race for the US Senate over billionaire investor Jeff Greene. In the last Quinnipiac poll back in late July, both McCollum and Meek trailed by double digits in their races. More from the Miami Herald.

The Florida Conundrum
Chris Cillizza has more on the conundrum facing Florida Democrats should Kendrick Meek pull out a win in the primary.

The worst kept secret in Florida Democratic politics: most party strategists don't believe Meek can win a general election but they do think he can siphon enough traditionally Democratic votes away from Crist to hand the race to former state House Speaker Marco Rubio.

Democrats have semi-openly admitted that with Greene as the party's nominee, they would feel little remorse in casting a vote for Crist -- believing that the billionaire businessman is not fit to serve in the Senate. The same cannot be said of Meek.

One Democratic aide who has worked extensively in the state summed up the conventional wisdom thusly: "[We] clearly cannot publicly support Crist but if Meek is the nominee [we] know he not only has no shot at winning statewide."

The Mason-Dixon poll released earlier this week suggests those fears may be well founded. With Greene as the Democratic nominee, Crist takes 39 percent to Rubio's 38 percent. (Greene clocks in at just 12 percent.) With Meek as the party standard-bearer, Rubio takes 38 percent to 33 percent for Crist and 18 percent for the Miami Congressman.

Combine Crist's clear signals that he would caucus on the Democratic with the widely-held belief among Florida strategists that Meek can't win a general election and you begin to understand the political cross-pressures going around the Sunshine State these days.

Whether Meek is electable or not, I cannot say at this time but defeating Marco Rubio is of the utmost importance. At any rate, the presence of Charlie Crist in the race makes the Florida Senate race this fall the nation's most intriguing one.

There's more...

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Charlie Crist Rolling In Democratic Cash
The share of donors to Gov. Charlie Crist's campaign who previously had given to Democratic candidates multiplied substantially since he left the GOP to run as an independent for the US Senate. An Associated Press analysis shows that donors who previously had contributed to the 2008 Obama campaign made up almost 10 percent of the individual contributors to Crist's campaign in the second quarter of this year. A poll released last month showed Crist slightly ahead of Rubio in a three-way general election matchup, with the Democratic contenders U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek and billionaire businessman Jeff Greene trailing.

On that note, the St. Petersburg Times reports that Democratic pollster and former Hillary Clinton senior adviser Mark Penn and his wife, Nancy Jacobson, are hosting a $4,800-per-person fundraising reception for Charlie Crist at their Washington home Wednesday. Here's the invitation (pdf).

In Illinois, Mark Kirk Alters His Gun Stance
The Chicago Tribune reports that Mark Kirk, the Republican candidate for the US Senate seat once held by Barack Obama, has an evolving view on gun laws.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kirk said Monday that he supports the Supreme Court decision that effectively knocked down Chicago's handgun ban.

The five-term congressman has favored several gun-control laws during his career representing the North Shore. But as Kirk runs statewide for the first time, downstate voters who generally support greater Second Amendment rights are keeping tabs on politicians' stances on gun control.

Kirk's comments, made after a foreign policy speech, come as the Chicago City Council recently enacted new gun-control measures in an effort to thread the needle between keeping guns off the streets and abiding by the court ruling this summer that gutted the city's longtime handgun ban.

After the discussion before the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Kirk said he supports the "Heller decision." That is a 2008 ruling that struck down the District of Columbia's handgun ban and was used by the court in cutting down Chicago's law.

Democratic Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias opposes the Heller ruling.

There's more...

Quick Hits

Three U.S. troops died in blasts in Afghanistan, bringing the death toll for July to at least 63 and surpassing the previous month's record as the deadliest for American forces in the nearly 9-year-old war. More coverage in the Los Angeles Times.

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist leads the three-way race for the U.S. Senate seat with 37 percent, followed by 32 percent for Republican Marco Rubio and 17 percent for Jeff Greene, the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

In Nevada Senate Race, the Las Vegas Review Journal reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle are locked in a dead heat. The new survey by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research shows Reid and Angle neck and neck. The Senate majority leader would win 43 percent and Angle 42 percent of support from likely Nevada voters if the election were held now. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points . A July 12-14 Mason-Dixon poll showed Reid 7 points ahead of Angle, 44-37 but Angle has countered with ads blaming the Nevada economy on Reid.

Judicial confirmation rates have nosedived in the Obama Presidency as flibusters, anonymous holds, and other obstructionary tactics have become the rule. The Center for American Progress has the story.

The financial blog Credit Writedowns has more on the report by Fed Governor James Bullard on deflation which I covered yesterday. Their post has a great summation of the situation we face:

In our view the case for deflation is a strong one as most of the classic symptoms are present in the U.S. today. Record historic debt is already in the process of deleveraging, and there is still a long way to go. Consumer demand is restrained. There is an excess of labor supply with five people available for every open job. Capacity utilization rates are historically low. Household net worth is far below peak levels. Credit is available only to the most highly qualified borrowers. Money supply has been flat or decreasing despite massive stimulus. All of this is a classic recipe for deflation. We also believe that there is little the Fed can do to avoid the outcome. Japan kept both short and long-term interest rate exceedingly low for many years and ran massive budget deficits with little to show for it, although they did prevent a complete collapse of their economic and financial system. While there is a difference between the U.S. and Japan, two major differences were in favor of Japan rather than the U.S. During most of Japan’s two-decade malaise the global economy was quite strong and Japan was able to support its economy with a substantial amount of exports. Furthermore, Japan started with a 12% household savings rate and was able to run it down, thereby providing some support for consumer spending.

Michael Whitney over at Firedoglake covers the latest madness from Senator Dianne Feinstein of California. Senator Feinstein's “Saving Kids from Dangerous Drugs Act of 2009″ (S. 258) that targets pot brownies and other marijuana edibles preferred by some medical marijuana patients passed the Senate unanimously.


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