IN-03: Souder (R) resigning over affair

Eight-term incumbent Mark Souder of Indiana's third district is resigning today because he had an affair with a staffer, Politico reported. Naturally, Souder is a married man who promotes "family values" such as abstinence education.

Two weeks ago, Souder defeated three Republican primary challengers. It's not clear who will replace him on the general election ballot. I wouldn't give Democrats hope of winning this R+14 district, though Swing State Project user nonpartisan argued here that the Democratic nominee, Dr. Tom Hayhurst, has a slim chance. However, Souder's downfall will certainly feed the media narrative about Republicans as a party for family-values hypocrites, like George "rent boy" Rekers.

UPDATE: Unintentional comedy alert: the staffer Souder had an affair with co-starred in a video he recorded to promote abstinence.

Department of strange rallying cries

Iowa Democrats and Republicans gathered for district conventions on Saturday. Jim Gibbons, the National Republican Campaign Committee's favorite in the seven-way IA-03 primary, had supporters wearing "Burn the Boats" t-shirts. He explained the symbolism toward the end of his speech to the delegates:

Gibbons talks about being a competitor, wanting to take down the champion and why this will be a tough race. Here is my rough transcript of the most intriguing part, beginning around the 3:30 mark:

If you look around this group right here, you'll see people who have never been a part of this process. They're new, they're young people, they've got those "Burn the Boats" shirts on. People ask, "What's that about?" Let me give you the explanation.

In the 1500s, the conqueror [Hernando] Cortés was going up against the Aztec army. He decided that to motivate his people, to get them fired up about the job that they had to do--they were outnumbered vastly--he made the decision: burn the boats. If we're successful, we'll go home in their boats.

That's the attitude of this campaign. That's what I'm about. I'm totally committed to beating Leonard Boswell. I have the resources, the will, the determination to beat him in November. I'm asking you to join me in this fight. We will win in November. I'm burning my boats, and I'm attacking the island, thank you and God bless.

Technically, Cortés scuttled (not burned) his ships in order to prevent another mutiny after one failed attempt. He wasn't motivating his troops by the prospect of winning and going home in Aztec boats; he was making them give up hope of returning from the new world. According to Wikipedia, the "popular misconception that Cortés burned the ships [...] may have come from a mistranslation of the version of the story written in Latin."

I get Gibbons' point: he's all in to win this race, having quit his job as a financial adviser when he decided to run for Congress. He's drawing an unspoken contrast with his chief Republican rival Brad Zaun, who has his Iowa Senate seat and a job in real estate to go back to if he loses to Boswell. Still, "burn the boats" seems weird for a campaign slogan, and I have to wonder whose idea it was to pick a greedy and brutal Spanish conquistador for a role model.

Speaking of strange historical inspiration, Josh Marshall is bewildered that "The Republican Governors Association is embracing the mantle of a 17th century radical who tried but failed to pull off a mass casualty terrorist attack to kill the King of England and all of Parliament." Michael Scherer reported for Time's Swampland blog,

The Republican Governors Association has embraced the symbolism of [Guy] Fawkes, launching a rather striking website, RememberNovember.com, with a video that showcases far more Hollywood savvy than one can usually expect from Republicans. Again, the Fawkes tale has been twisted a bit. This time, President Obama plays the roll of King James, the Democratic leadership is Parliament, and the Republican Party represents the aggrieved Catholic mass.

I've spent a few Guy Fawkes Days in the UK. The holiday is marked by fireworks and bonfires to celebrate the failure of Fawkes' plot. There's even a nursery rhyme, "Remember remember the fifth of November, gunpowder, treason and plot." Republicans may have embraced the wrong hero out of confusion. Or perhaps Steve Benen is right: "the Republican mainstream made a right turn at scary, and have arrived right at stark raving mad."

Any comments about campaign strategy or sloganeering are welcome in this thread. I love the official statements from tea party favorite Dave Funk's campaign in Iowa's third district. Those often start out with the words, "Congress needs Funk."

Tension mounts as Arizona's anti-immigrant bill awaits its fate

From Restore Fairness blog

Tension builds about the fate of SB 1070, Arizona's harsh anti-immigrant legislation, that awaits being signed into law or being vetoed by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer today.

There's more...

Another short-term extension of unemployment benefits becomes law

The Senate approved another short-term extension of unemployment benefits yesterday by a vote of 59 to 39 (roll call). The bill also extends COBRA benefits (related to keeping your health insurance after leaving your job) and delays a planned cut in Medicare reimbursement rates for doctors. (Click here for the text of the bill. Three Republicans joined Senate Democrats to support the bill: Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine and George Voinovich of Ohio. Scott Brown of Massachusetts voted to end a filibuster of the bill earlier this week, but stuck with the GOP caucus on all procedural votes yesterday.

The House of Representatives quickly passed the bill as amended by the Senate. The bill had more bipartisan support in the House, with 49 Republicans joining 240 Democrats (roll call).

President Barack Obama signed the bill last night, but Congress will revisit this issue soon, because the new law extends unemployment benefits only until June 2 and other measures through the end of May.

House race handicapping thread

Swing State Project posted its initial competitive House ratings chart yesterday. On one level, the chart is terrifying, because Democrats hold so many more of the seats in play than Republicans do. On the other hand, I found the chart a bit reassuring, in that Republicans would have to win about two-thirds of the tossup seats and about one-third of the "lean Democrat" seats in order to take back the House majority. That is a tall order when the National Republican Congressional Committee has so much less cash on hand than the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and the Republican National Committee is spending like there's no election in seven months. Corporate-funded PACs and Republican 527s will spend money on behalf of many GOP candidates, but I still think the cash-strapped NRCC will end up leaving seats on the table.

Swing State Project commenters have been debating prospects for various House races in this thread. Click over to read the chart, then come back and share your thoughts or predictions about any of the competitive House races.

I'll get the ball rolling by talking about Iowa's third district, where seven Republican challengers are competing for the right to face seven-term incumbent Leonard Boswell. I haven't seen any public or internal polling on this race. Swing State Project's "lean D" rating is defensible, because Boswell underperformed the top of the Democratic ticket in 2006 and 2008. However, Boswell is continuing to raise money while the winner of the GOP primary will probably be broke. Many people on the ground believe State Senator Brad Zaun will beat the insiders' favorite Jim Gibbons in that primary, which could put the NRCC off making big play for this district. Even if Gibbons wins the primary, I doubt the NRCC will spend serious money here. Iowa is losing a district after the 2010 census, and the winner of the IA-03 election will probably be thrown into the same district as Tom Latham, who currently represents IA-04. So beating Boswell wouldn't deliver a long-term gain for the GOP. Republicans have dozens of targets that look more inviting than this district.

The floor is yours.

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