Patrick Backs Kennedy's Last Request

Brief recap: When it looked like John Kerry might become President, the Massachusetts state legislature changed the Senate succession law so that the Republican Governor, Mitt Romney, would not have the power to fill Kerry's seat. The new law states that a special election must be held 145-160 days after a vacancy, but contains no provision to keep the seat filled during those 160 days. A week ago today, news broke that Senator Ted Kennedy had sent a letter to state leaders asking them to give the Governor the power to appoint someone to fill the seat until the election could be held, on the condition that that appointee not run for the office him/herself.

So here's the news: Governor Patrick said today that he supports Senator Kennedy's request. State Republicans will, of course, try to paint this as a power grab, never mind the fact that the appointment is just for 145-160 days and that Massachusetts voters need to be heard on issues from cap-and-trade to budget issues. From the Boston Globe:

"I'd like the Legislature to take up the bill quickly and get it to my desk and I will sign it,'' Patrick said in an interview with the Globe, reiterating in his strongest terms what he had been saying throughout the day, as the state and nation absorbed Kennedy's death and what it would mean for Massachusetts, and for the chamber he served for a half-century.

Patrick's public statements add to growing momentum for Kennedy's plea, which he made last week in a poignant letter to the governor and legislative leaders. Kennedy said that while he supported the state's current method of filling vacant a Senate seat through a special election, Massachusetts could not afford to go without two senators at such a critical time.

Kerry, Harry Reid, and Vicki Kennedy have both been lobbying state leaders to make the change. House Speaker Robert DeLeo has said nothing publicly but seems to support the change privately. Senate President Therese Murray has been more reluctant but her opposition seems to be softening.

I would be remiss if I did not end a post on Ted Kennedy, however, by again expressing dismay. This New York Times op-ed from former staffer Adam Clymer (whose biography of Kennedy should arrive from Amazon tomorrow) is one of the better tributes I've seen.

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Romney for Senate?

With the speculation that Mitt Romney might run to replace the late Ted Kennedy in the United States Senate, I thought it useful to look at some of the polling on the former Republican Governor from the commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Heading into his 2006 reelection campaign -- which he bowed out of rather than face the voters of Massachusetts again -- Romney trailed all of his potential Democratic rivals. Come election day 2006, Romney's approval rating was the third worst of any Governor in the nation -- behind even the scandal-plagued Ernie Fletcher and Matt Blunt, behind, too, Katrina-tarnished Kathleen Blanco -- with an awful 34 percent positive/65 percent negative rating. The next year, with Romney spending tens of millions of his own dollars on an unsuccessful White House bid, Rasmussen Reports pitted Romney against Hillary Clinton in a hypothetical Bay State match up, which Romney lost by a margin not too dissimilar to his earlier approval rating, 60 percent to 34 percent.

I'm sure there are more numbers on Romney out of Massachusetts, but this smattering of polling culled from some quick googling is likely not unrepresentative of the general dislike Massachusetts voters hold towards Romney. He's really the person the GOP would want to run to replace Kennedy?

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Despite a nearing end, Ted Kennedy still puts health care and Massachusetts first

Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) has sent a letter to Governor Deval L. Patrick, MA Senate President Therese Murray, and MA House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo asking that state law be amended to keep his seat filled should it - when it - soon becomes vacant. Current law allows for a special election five months after the vacancy; Kennedy would like the law to allow the Governor to appoint someone to hold the seat for those five months on the condition they not run. From the Boston Globe:

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, in a poignant acknowledgment of his mortality at a critical time in the national health care debate, has privately asked the governor and legislative leaders to change the succession law to guarantee that Massachusetts will not lack a Senate vote when his seat becomes vacant.

In a personal, sometimes wistful letter sent Tuesday to Governor Deval L. Patrick, Senate President Therese Murray, and House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, Kennedy asks that Patrick be given authority to appoint someone to the seat temporarily before voters choose a new senator in a special election.

Although Kennedy, who is battling brain cancer, does not specifically mention his illness or the health care debate raging in Washington, the implication of his letter is clear: He is trying to make sure that the leading cause in his life, better health coverage for all, advances in the event of his death.

This whole story is heartbreaking, absolutely heartbreaking. Edward Kennedy is a modern American hero, a gracious and gregarious man, and one of the most effective legislators in Congressional history. The worst day I had in Washington was the day his illness was announced; there was a black pall over the Hill all day.

This news comes on the heels of yesterday's Politico story about how his absence has impacted the health care debate. Kennedy, of course, has been seen less and less over the past few months, missing Justice Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation vote, his own White House Medal of Freedom ceremony, and his sister's funeral.

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MA-Sen: Kerry Gets Challenge from Mediocre House Candidate

Back in October, Republicans made a lot of hay about an unsuccessful congressional candidate who ran behind his party's 2006 gubernatorial nominee in a district carried by his party as recently as the 2002 Governor election and the 1992 presidential election. This was a Democratic special election candidate who failed to meet the rightful expectations for his candidacy, right? Wait, he was a Republican. And now he's gearing up to wage what will likely be another futile and underwhelming bid, this time a Senate campaign against John Kerry.

Republican Jim Ogonowski, who narrowly lost a congressional race to Niki Tsongas in October, is preparing to challenge U.S. Sen. John Kerry, The Associated Press has learned.

Ogonowski, the brother of an airline pilot killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, said he's been attending Republican events around the state since his 6-point loss to Tsongas, a Democrat.

Think that Ogonowski ran an amazing race? The establishment media certainly came to that conclusion. But taking a look at the actual results, you see a different story. Nicki Tsongas, the Democratic nominee in the district, ran 3 points better in the district than did 2006 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Deval Patrick, who won statewide by more than 20 points. Ogonowski lost the district even as Mitt Romney had won it just five years earlier.

This is, of course, not to say that Kerry is not in need of support from his friends. If you want to get involved in his campaign, whether from inside or outside of Massachusetts, head over to today. At the same time, the Democrats need not worry too much about Ogonowski just yet.

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NRSC Recruiting and Democratic Senate Incumbents

No, it's not Sunday.  And this isn't the Senate 2008 Guru's Week in the Senate Races.  It's been over nine months since Election Day 2006; and it's less than fifteen months until Election Day 2008.  In other words, the 2008 election cycle is more than one-third over already.  With all of the discussion about vulnerable Republican-held Senate seats taking place, I thought it might be useful to take a look at how the races are shaping up for the twelve Democratic-held Senate seats in 2008.  Soak it in:

StateIncumbentGOP's Ostensible 1st Choice1st Choice Running?Current GOP Opponent(s)Possible GOP Opponent(s)Announced Not Running or Expressed No Interest
ARMark PryorFormer Gov. Mike HuckabeNoNone?Huckabee
DEJoe BidenRep. Mike CastleNoNone?Castle
ILRichard DurbinYour guess is as good as mine.NoSteve SauerbergWho knows? A return from Alan Keyes?Steve Greenberg
IATom HarkinRep. Tom LathamNot Yet (Rumored Possibility)Steve Rathje,
Troy Cook,
Bob McDowell
Latham, Rep. Steve King-
LAMary LandrieuRep. Bobby JindalNoNone*Sec. of State Jay Dardenne,
Treasurer John N. Kennedy,
'02 Sen. candidate Suzanne Haik Terrell
'96 Sen. candidate Woody Jenkins
Rep. Richard Baker,
Rep. Jim McCrery,
Rep. Charles Boustany;
Jindal running for Governor
MAJohn KerryYour guess is as good as mine.NoJeffrey BeattieState Senator Scott BrownFormer Govs. Mitt Romney, Bill Weld, and Paul Cellucci,
Former Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, Former Bush Chief of Staff Andy Card,
Businessman Charles Baker, Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling
MICarl LevinRep. Candice MillerNoNoneSecretary of State Terri Lynn Land,
2002 Candidate Rocky Raczkowski
Miller, Rep. Mike Rogers
MTMax BaucusRep. Denny Rehberg NoState Rep. Mike Lange?Rehberg
NJFrank LautenbergFormer Gov. Christie Whitman,
U.S. Attorney Chris Christie
No, NoBusinesswoman Anne Evans EstabrookState Assemblyman Joe Pennacchio,
State Assemblyman Jon Bramnick
Whitman, Christie,
Tom Kean Sr. & Jr.,
Assemblyman Mike Doherty
RIJack ReedFormer Sen. Lincoln ChafeeNoNoneJon ScottChafee, '06 Sen. candidate Steve Laffey, Gov. Don Carcieri
SDTim Johnson*Gov. Mike RoundsNoState Rep. Joel Dykstra,
Businessman Sam Kephart
WVJay RockefellerRep. Shelley Moore CapitoNoNoneSecretary of State Betty Ireland,
Businessman John Raese

So what do we see here?

First and foremost, we see that (unless Tom Latham challenges Tom Harkin or Bobby Jindal unexpectedly loses the LA-Gov race and opts for a Senate bid) Republicans don't have a single top choice challenging a Democratic incumbent.  Keep in mind, this is not a comparison to Democrats, who have had ups and downs with recruiting (though, with 22 Republican-held seats up compared with only 12 Democratic seats up, that is to be expected).  Simply put, I don't know how much time NRSC Chair John Ensign spends recruiting, but if it's more than zero, it may be wasted time.  Certainly, there is still plenty of time for candidates to enter a Senate race, as Senators Claire McCaskill, Sherrod Brown, and Jim Webb will tell you (all officially entered their races after August 2005), but, after this point in the 2006, only one single Republican entered a Senate race: Michigan loser Mike Bouchard.  If 2006 is at all indicative, the NRSC should be just about done recruiting by now, not just starting.

You'll also note two asterisks, in Louisiana and South Dakota.  In Louisiana, statewide elections occur later this year.  While several Republican Congressmen have announced that they will be opting against a 2008 Senate challenge to Mary Landrieu, it is not unreasonable that other potential candidates would wait until after the 2007 state election before making any decisions, particularly in the case of statewide officeholders Secretary of State Jay Dardenne and currently-Democratic Treasurer John N. Kennedy.  In South Dakota, Senator Tim Johnson is, of course, still recuperating from illness.  If he feels able to run for re-election, it is reasonable to assume that he will, and that Gov. Mike Rounds is unlikely to challenge him.  However, if Johnson opts against a re-election bid, that changes the entire dynamic, which could lead to a top-tier battle between Gov. Rounds and possibly Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth.

We also see a lot of previously unheard-of names.  Jeffrey Beattie in Massachusetts and Jon Scott in Rhode Island are both Congressional race losers, I suppose looking for a promotion to losing Senate races.  The announced challengers in Illinois and Iowa are all unknown political entities, charitably considered third-tier opponents.  As it currently stands, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota feature a smattering of second- and third-tier opposition.  Assuming both that Joe Biden drops his Presidential bid and runs for re-election and that Iowa's Republican Congressional delegation all opt to take a pass on a 2008 Senate bid, it is not unreasonable to expect (barring out-of-the blue surprises) that incumbent Democratic Senators will face no more than token opposition in Arkansas, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Rhode Island, and West Virginia.  (At the same time, it wouldn't be wildly shocking if: Tom Latham did enter the race in Iowa; Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land did enter the race in Michigan; Joe Biden did retire from the Senate; and the AR-GOP did find somebody to offer Mark Pryor at least minimal opposition.)

Further, assuming that Senator Tim Johnson is up for a re-election campaign, it is not unreasonable to expect that incumbent Democratic Senators will face no more than second-tier opposition (and thus be strong favorites) in Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota.  Now, I recognize that I'm suggesting that, given a few reasonable caveats, eleven of twelve Democratic Senate seats are fairly to very safe (though it is also, in part, due to the hurting Democrats took in the Senate in 2002, losing close races in Colorado, Georgia, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee, which in turn thinned out Democratic vulnerabilities and created pick-up opportunities for 2008).  That is pretty close to a "best case scenario." But it is also a fairly reasonable scenario.  The catch is that Republicans, wanting to avoid a repeat of 2006 when they failed to turn a single Democratic-held Senate seat (or House seat or Governor's office) Republican, may pour relatively large sums of money into Louisiana once they have a candidate.  With the DSCC trouncing the NRSC in fundraising, Democrats can counteract that, but it could be very expensive.

What do you think?

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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