GOP Hoping to Lose Just Four Seats in the Senate

You've got to hand it to John Cornyn Ensign, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee -- he doesn't pull punches.

"If you have an R in front of your name, you better run scared," said Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, who says the party will do well if it holds its losses to three or four seats.

Republicans have to defend nearly twice as many seats as the Democrats, and among already competitive races that ratio is closer to 9-to-1. The NRSC must do this despite the fact that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has close to an 80 percent advantage in cash-on-hand -- which isn't going away with the DSCC raising 20 percent more than the NRSC in months like the last one. What's more, the Democrats continue to hold a wide advantage in the generic congressional ballot. With numbers like these, it's little wonder that Ensign is hoping his party loses four seats this fall. Not much of a rallying cry -- though perhaps better than aiming for a 41-seat firewall...

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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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Hang On, Saxby!

You know things are bad when the guy heading up the Republicans' efforts to win senate seats is crossing his fingers that he can hold on to 41 (way to shoot high, John!) and hanging his hopes on winning Georgia's senate seat.

Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., set a floor on the number of Senate seats the party must control: 41.

"The number that we get to is really, really important in the U.S. Senate," he said. "That's one of the reasons Saxby [Chambliss] absolutely must hold his seat." [...]

By holding at least 41 Senate seats, the GOP would prevent the Democrats from having the 60 votes required to end filibusters, which prevent votes on bills.

Some might interpret this as good ole fashioned expectations lowering but to me it's actually an acknowledgement of reality. Remember in 2006, most predictions for Democratic gains were in the 2-3 seat range, with 6 as the absolute max? Well, we hit our max. This year, both the playing field and, if it's possible, the political environment, are even worse for Republicans and they know that as of today the minimum the Republicans will lose in November is about 5 seats (most likely VA, NH, NM, AK and CO.) To achieve their lofty goal of holding onto 41 seats, Republicans would have to lose only 3 of the 4 next most vulnerable seats: Dole in NC, Wicker in MS, Smith in OR and Coleman in MN. And that doesn't even take into account what is arguably the next tier of senate opportunities for Democrats: Collins in ME, McConnell in KY and Cornyn in TX. As you can see, Saxby Chambliss doesn't even make the top 12, so the fact that John Ensign sees the Georgia race as his firewall indicates to me that holding onto 41 might actually represent their best case scenario.

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Senate 2008 Guru's Week in the Senate Races

Unfortunately for those of you looking for some exciting news - it's more of the same:

  • July fundraising numbers are in; and, once again, the DSCC significantly outpaced the NRSC, $2.9 million to $2.2 million.  Starting off August, the DSCC had $20.6 million cash on hand (and saw its debt drop to $4 million after some repayment), while the NRSC had only $6.5 million cash on hand.
  • Survey USA's August poll numbers were released for several Senators.  While not-really-vulnerable Senator Tom Harkin saw a comfortable 57% approval, Norm Coleman (47-44), Pete Domenici (52-41) and Mitch McConnell (50-43) languished in and around the 50% danger mark, and Gordon Smith saw his lowest approval rating yet at 46-44.
  • Republicans remain so divided over the political ramifications of Iraq that they are spending millions of dollars to politically attack their own.  The right wing's "Freedom's Watch" is spending $15 million to slam, primarily, a bunch of Republicans, including Senators up for re-election in 2008: Pete Domenici, Susan Collins, Norm Coleman, John Warner, Gordon Smith, Elizabeth Dole, Mitch McConnell, Chuck Hagel, Saxby Chambliss, and Lamar Alexander.
  • Via a thorough look at fundraising and recruitment achievements so far in 2007 and to this point in 2005, I have concluded that, as ineffective an NRSC Chair as Elizabeth Dole was, John Ensign is shaping up to be even more ineffective.
  • Conservatives have more suggestions on how to enhance the image of the Republican Party, so suggests conservative pundit Fred Barnes:

Transforming a negative image hardened over a period of years is no easy task. Still, there's a lot Republicans can do. First, they should clean house of Republicans caught up in scandal. Forcing two or three House members and at least one senator to retire would involve more than friendly persuasion and no doubt provoke strong resistance. But the effort would attract national attention--favorable attention, for a change.

Not a bad idea, Fred.  But who to start with?  Scandal maven Ted Stevens?  His Alaskan colleague and, apparently, real estate investor Lisa Murkowski?  Pete Domenici for his involvement with the Attorney Purge scandal?  Prostitute-lovin' David Vitter?  Where to begin?

I know.  Yawn.  If that sounds familiar, wait 'til you see the developments in the states:

Maine: If you think Susan Collins faced copious embarrassments last week, this week brought more of the same.  The Collins camp last week tried to kick up a big fuss over the Maine Democratic Party sending a staffer to video record her public appearances.  Shocking, I know.  Well, it turns out that Collins has a history of manufacturing scandals and actually coordinating with local media stories that intentionally exaggerate facts and mislead voters regarding the actions of political opponents.  In her first Senate race, back in 1996, her camp was in close contact with reporter John Day to produce a story about her Democratic opponent hiring an "investigator to dig dirt on Collins." All her Democratic opponent did was hire a staffer to conduct opposition research, one of the most commonplace activities in any political campaign.  But the story portrayed the tactic as so unseemly, and it ran so close to Election Day, that it made an impact.  Of course the Collins camp denied coordinating with the reporter, but, after the election, that was proven a lie.  Yet another incident reinforcing "Two-Faced" Susan Collins' pattern of double talk and duplicity.  At least some members of the Maine media are calling Collins on her chicanery.

But that wasn't all for Susan Collins this week.  It also came out that there appears to be a major conflict of interest between the Collins camp and the Bangor Daily News that has gone unreported during this election cycle.  Not only is a current staffer at Collins' Bangor office married to the executive editor of the Bangor Daily News, but that executive editor is also Collins' former press secretary.  Funny, I don't see a disclaimer mentioning this in the article that the Bangor Daily News ran on the Maine Democratic Party (though the BDN intimated in its reporting that it was Tom Allen's campaign) having a videographer taping Collins' public appearances (or any other BDN articles discussing Collins, for that matter).  Must be pretty nice for Susan Collins to have a former employee (and the spouse of a current employee) making editorial decisions about the coverage she receives.

Oregon: Not only is Gordon Smith's approval at a low point of 46-44, as mentioned above, but in the first poll taken with Jeff Merkley's name in the mix, Smith only scores a 38%.  Given that the two-term Senator must enjoy a sizable name recognition advantage over the new Speaker of the Oregon House, this is awfully bad news for Smith.  In other news, it bothers me deeply when the few remaining supporters of Bush's Iraq War remain unable to separate support for the well-being of the troops from support for the war.  As such, it is really weak (but expected) that Oregon Republicans are dishonestly trying to turn Speaker Merkley's vote back in 2003 for a resolution in the Oregon House meant as a show of support for our troops into some sort of declaration of support for the war, as though it somehow exonerates Gordon Smith from his election cycle conversion on Iraq. Dishonest and shameful.  Jeff Merkley has supported the troops all along. Gordon Smith has supported Bush's Iraq War all along, up until his election cycle came up and his rhetoric had to disingenuously shift to prepare for a re-election bid. Very big difference.

Colorado: "Backwards" Bob Schaffer could be self-immolating before our eyes. First, Schaffer says that the questionable contributions in his potential-votes-for-contributions scandal can't be a conflict of interest because the alleged favorable vote occurred on the Board of Education, while the contribution was to his Senate campaign. Ummm... yeah. Completely unrelated. The more Schaffer tries to defend himself, the guiltier he comes off. And then, Schaffer didn't even show up to the Board of Education's "Code of Ethics Discussion." Wow. Quite a hole Schaffer is digging.  If that wasn't enough, he further embarrassed himself and his campaign when he intimated that he still wasn't an official candidate, later explained by aides as Schaffer misspeaking.  To put the cherry on the sundae, Schaffer is watching his base divide and his support erode as "sportsmen, a traditionally Republican-leaning voting bloc in Colorado that swung blue in 2006's gubernatorial contest, are warily responding to 2008 Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bob Schaffer's ties to the energy industry."

Nebraska: This week offered more signs that Chuck Hagel's Senate retirement was imminent.  The Lincoln Journal Star, the Omaha World-Herald, and the Washington Post all gave their write-ups on former Senator Bob Kerrey moving closer to a possible Senate bid, announcing that he has given the trustees of the New School University, his current employer, a heads-up that it is a possibility and that a decision is likely in the next couple weeks.  Kerrey says that he is "more and more certain" that Hagel will retire from the Senate and that he will decide his plans before Hagel announces his intentions.  Does he know something we don't?  Along those lines, Republican state Attorney General Jon Bruning is turning his attention away from Hagel and toward Republican U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and former Nebraska Governor Mike Johanns. Should we be expecting both a Hagel Senate retirement and Johanns Senate race entry soon?

Kentucky: More of the same for Mitch McConnell this week.  The Washington Times highlighted his eroding base of support.  1995 GOP Gubernatorial nominee Larry Forgy sounded even more like a primary challenger.  Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Horne sounded even more like a Democratic challenger.  Powerful ads slammed McConnell on Iraq.  And, perhaps as a result of all of this, McConnell was too much of a coward to take calls from his constituents when appearing on local talk radio.  And there is your Republican Senate "leader."

Alaska: It was only a matter of time until an Alaskan Republican called for Ted Stevens' resignation:

A Republican member of the Alaska House of Representatives is calling for U.S. Rep. Don Young and U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens to step down at the end of their current terms.

State Rep. Mike Kelly said it's a move needed to restore Alaskans' confidence in their government.

Described as a conservative, Kelly happens to be correct.  The best way to remove the stench of corruption is to remove the individuals who are doing the stinking.

Texas: It looks like John Cornyn broke an explicit campaign promise when he voted against SCHIP - in other words, voting against expanding and increasing health care coverage for sick children.  Not only is Cornyn bad for children (and people who like promises kept), but he is also bad for veterans.  But even Cornyn doesn't want to be seen with former Texas Governor George W. Bush:

Q. Will you ask the president to appear with you on the campaign trail?
A. I will probably ask the president to help me do some fundraising, but probably not on the campaign trail. ... We've talked about his poll numbers.

For John "Net Negative Approval" Cornyn to be belittling someone's poll numbers certainly says something.  Meanwhile, State Representative and Lieutenant Colonel Rick Noriega is gaining institutional support in his bid to unseat Cornyn.

Virginia: Rumblings of a Jim Gilmore for Senate campaign in 2008 are getting louder. A Gilmore-Tom Davis Republican primary would be bloody fun to watch. I'm sure that Gilmore hopes that a Senate campaign would be better regarded than his term as Governor was.

Oklahoma: Jim "In Denial" Inhofe in the same article vilifies the "Hollywood crowd" that will allegedly be funnelling money to Oklahoma to unseat him in his 2008 re-election bid and, at the same time, announces his support for Hollywood's own Fred Thompson for President, saying Thompson is the "only one" of the Republican Presidential candidates who can beat Hillary Clinton.

South Carolina: The South Carolina Republican grassroots and conservative netroots continue their disapproval of Lindsey Graham.

Alabama: Democratic State Senator Vivian Figures made her official announcement entering the 2008 Senate race against Bush rubber stamp Jeff Sessions, asking of Sessions (and answering), "Has he made our schools better? Has he lowered the cost of health care? Has he even made insurance affordable? No. No. No." We'll see if it resonates in the inevitable polling to come.

Tennessee: Following businessman/gubernatorial son Michael Ray McWherter and former TN-Dems Chair Bob Tuke, Nashville attorney Mike Doherty has indicated that he is considering a 2008 Senate challenge to Lamar Alexander.

Idaho: Democratic former Congressman, and the only announced candidate at present for the 2008 Senate race in Idaho, Larry LaRocco offers this video look at one of his latest jobs in his Working for the Senate campaign, discussing the needs of Idaho's families and the value of unions in our workforce. As it turns out, this weekend was LaRocco's 61st birthday and his and his wife's 40th wedding anniversary.  And you can personally ask Larry LaRocco questions during his latest liveblog session on Daily Kos this Wednesday (August 29th) at 2pm Eastern, 1pm Central, Noon Mountain, 11am Pacific.

Minnesota: These two videos offer much insight into the state of MN-Sen:

For daily news and updates on the U.S. Senate races around the country in 2008, check out Senate 2008 Guru: Following the Races.

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NRSC Massive Online Fundraising Drive

I somehow got on the NRSC's email list. I got an email today from John Ensign decrying the horrible new Dem congress and their evil antiworker, protax policies. All of it was standard uninteresting stuff, but what caught my eye was this bold request for support:

"We have set a goal to raise $40,000 online by the end of March. Your participation is critical."

I know it's not really campaign season yet, but there were individual campaigns last cycle who proposed and then exceded online targets 10 times that, in a single day. Is there some kind of strategy in asking for an amount from the whole country that must be in John Ensign's couch cushions?

Is this one of those motivational things: your therapist tells you to set easily achievable goals, to improve your self confidence? Maybe it's just for some plane tickets to get the hell out a Dodge? Trying to make themselves look more poor and vulnerable so Schumer gets overconfident? What? Anyway, I found that amusing. I'll try to attach the rest of the letter below the fold.

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