The President, the Senator, and the Candidate

Today, as the severity of Senator Kennedy's condition became more apparent, I found myself, once again, back in seventh grade. I am in a large hall, waiting in line. I am not sure what the line is for, and for some reason the line can't seem to form properly. We seem to be waiting to go into an auditorium. Words are migrating from student to student. It is November 22nd, 1963. The President has been shot. Next to me stands a sweet looking young girl. Shoulder length dirty blond hair. Delicate features. And she says, "I hope that he dies." This was the President who had taken us through the Cuban Missile Crisis, who spoke of civil rights, and who had two young children. And she wanted him dead. Her hatred was palpable and irrational. In retrospect, given the times, I have always wondered whether her enmity was due to the fact that he was a Catholic, and one who supported civil rights.

At 12 years old, I couldn't fathom what I was hearing. I was struck dumb. I simply couldn't respond. I just stared at her and turned away. Now, of course, I know that it was not her wish, but her parents' or some relative's wish. But over the years this fact has only intensified the shock. Everyone says that they remember where they were when they heard that Kennedy was shot. I remember. But I also recall a young girl who believed that she wanted to see him dead.

Before I became fully aware of the deep divisions in the country over civil rights, Vietnam, or "values," I knew that if this young president could create such hostility, something was terribly wrong. And so it was. I suppose that this was my introduction to the 1960's. Every now and again this scene reappears. Sometimes it arises for no apparent reason. Sometimes it arises at appropriate moments, like today, when we have learned that Senator Kennedy is gravely ill.

I have not always agreed with the Kennedys. But I remember supporting Bobby. And of course I remember him being shot. I also remember Teddy trying so very hard, over four long decades, to do the right thing for the underprivileged and marginalized. I recently cheered as The Lion of the Senate passed the torch to Obama. He was aging. Now that he had found someone he trusted to carry on the Kennedy legacy, there was an arc from 1963 to 2008, an arc that the last eight years of Bush, Rove, Cheney, et al, seemed to have made impossible. But as I have watched the returns from certain states, such as Kentucky this evening, I return to that space in 1963, and I am afraid. I fear that as a nation we will fail to do the right thing because we are still too afraid of those who are "not like us."

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LA-Sen: Landrieu Way Up Over Kennedy

It used to be that Republicans had a real shot at potentially taking out two Democratic senate incumbents this cycle: Senators Tim Johnson (D-SD) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA.) Well, after Johnson's triumphant return to the senate after his recovery from a brain hemorrhage, he hasn't been seen on any top 10 most vulnerable senators list for months, leaving only Landrieu among Democrats realistically seen as beatable. But now even her status as a realistic target is looking tenuous. Early this month Landrieu dropped from 4 to 6 on the Real Clear Politics senate rankings list. As the RCP analysis put it:  

6. Louisiana (D-Landrieu): Incumbent Mary Landrieu is virtually the only Democrat on the GOP's target list. While recruits from several other states passed on their races, the GOP got the candidate they want with State Treasurer John Kennedy. Still, Republican voters in the state might not be wedded to Kennedy; he only switched from the Democratic Party last year. And Landrieu's performance after Hurricane Katrina has even won her endorsements from some Republicans. Landrieu remains the favorite in the race, but, given the state's new GOP nature, not by much. (Last: 4)

Expect Landrieu to fall even further down these lists now that a  new Rasmussen Reports survey out of Louisiana (500 LVs, April 9, MOE +/- 4.5%) confirms her solid popularity in the state with a remarkable 65/32 fav/unfav rating and a commanding lead over supposed top tier challenger John Kennedy.

Landrieu 55
Kennedy 39

At this rate it won't be long before the top 10 closest senate races will all be Republican seats. Great to see a bad year for Republicans get even worse.

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Obama Surrogate: Clinton like 'Mamie Eisenhower'

Just caught this over at Steve Clemons' place, The Washington Note. Brief summary: Clemons -- an admirer of both Obama (although not an endorser) and Carter NSA Zbigniew Brzezinski -- thought it was wrong for Brzezinski to equate Hillary Clinton to Mamie Eisenhower on MSNBC's Morning Joe program:

Brzezinski provocatively compared Hillary Clinton to Mamie Eisenhower in his commentary and suggested that despite Clinton traveling to more than 80 countries during her First Lady tenure (Brzezinski said his travel agent has been to 150), he said that it's basically like John F. Kennedy being faced by a challenge from Mamie Eisenhower.

I like Brzezinski a great deal as well, and I don't have a problem with his comparison of Obama to JFK (myself: not that big a JFK fan, but you can't win 'em all). Comparing Clinton to Mamie Eisenhower, however, seems way out-of-bounds and ultimately out-of-character for Brzezinski. The question that comes to mind: does the Mamie Eisenhower line reflect a newer, harder-edged angle of attack from the Obama campaign? As a matter of political strategy, is this about winning back support among white working class men who may have gone over to HRC in the aftermath of Wright-gate?

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Our Big Three: The Duke, JFK, and RFK

I was thinking that candidates Clinton, Obama, and Edwards are reminiscent, respectively, of Dukakis, JFK, and RFK.

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LA-Sen: Kennedy To Challenge Landrieu; Already Polling Ahead?

After being re-elected to Louisiana state Treasurer as a Democrat in 2003 and running unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 2004 (David Vitter won that race,) John Kennedy switched his affiliation to Republican in August before winning re-election as Treasurer in November. The speculation at the time was that he was readying a run for senate against Mary Landrieu in 2008. Today, Kennedy confirmed those suspicions. From the statement on his extremely lame website (h/t TPM):

In a little less than a year, Louisianians will go to the polls to elect our next United States Senator. In doing so, our people will decide who they want to represent our state and our values in Washington, D.C.

I want you to be the first to know that today I will take the first steps and file the necessary paperwork to run for the United States Senate in 2008. I plan to officially kick off the campaign early next year. Please know that Becky and I made this decision carefully, after much thought, prayer and discussion.

Over the next few months, I will lay the groundwork of support for an aggressive campaign that will focus on a frank discussion of the issues and how I will help move Louisiana forward working in tandem with our new reform leadership in Baton Rouge.

Landrieu is widely considered the most endangered Democrat running for re-election next year (National Journal ranks the seat as the 4th most likely to change hands and CQ's 2008 Electoral Map lists it as "Leans Dem," the weakest of all Dem seats up next year.) Now, Kennedy's confirmed entrance into the race will only reinforce that, especially in light of new Zogby poll numbers (1,001 Adults, 10/10-14, MOE +/-3.2%) out of Louisiana today (which, Kennedy commissioned, it should be noted,) featured on Kennedy's extremely lame website:

Landrieu (D-Inc.): 38
Kennedy (R): 45
Undecided: 15

I am skeptical of these numbers and I'll withhold judgment on the state of the race once we get a poll of likely or even registered voters. As Jonathan recently noted, the environment in the wake of the recent state-wide elections even with the post-Katrina demographic shifts, are quite favorable to Landrieu.

Landrieu has a lot of money in the bank -- more than $3.3 million as of September 30, to be precise. What's more, her numbers don't look half bad. According to The Times-Picayune back in April, polling from January "showed [Landrieu's] approval rating at 61 percent and other figures showing that 67 percent favored having two senators of differing parties." (Louisiana is currently represented by one Democrat and one Republican in the Senate.) A February report from the paper noted, "Landrieu's team was putting out the word that in a new statewide survey, her approval ratings are at an impressive 64 percent."

Now that Kennedy is in, I suspect this race will be among those more frequently polled and I bet we'll see Landrieu in much better position than this 'wishful thinking' poll indicates. That said, I have no illusions that this will be an easy seat to hold onto. It never is.

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