Stop the Debate, Loose in '08

That should be our slogan for the next 20 months.

The following people deserve to be defeated in 2008, and here's my advice to Senator Schumer on who can defeat them;

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Senate 2008: Sununu in Dems' Scope in New Hampshire

Fresh off of being listed by DSCC chairman Chuck Schumer as one of the Senate Dems' top three targets for 2008, New Hampshire's freshman Republican Senator John Sununu today indicated his skepticism about President Bush's plan to escalate the Iraq War, effectively adding his name to the "Up for Reelection in 2008/Change of Heart on Iraq" caucus in the Senate. But that, apparently, is not stopping at least one of the more than a dozen Democrats potentially looking to challenge Sununu next fall to move closer to throwing his name in the ring, as John DiStaso writes for the Union Leader.

STONYFIELD YOGURT chief executive Gary Hirshberg, a long-time Democratic activist and fundraiser, says he is seriously weighing a run for the U.S. Senate against Republican John Sununu.

Hirshberg's name was thrown into the mix in a speculative article in the Capitol Hill publication Roll Call this week. He told the Status that he'll decide quickly, probably by the end of this month, whether he'll be a candidate.

[...]

There's plenty of interest in this race. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., calls Sununu of the three most vulnerable GOP senators up for reelection in 2008. State Sen. David Gottesman and Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand are also considering running, and former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen is not ruling it out.

Gottesman, Marchand and Shaheen are not the only ones looking at this race in addition to Hirshberg. Other possible candidates whose names are floating around include at least four members of the state senate, two state representatives (including House Speaker Terie Norelli), 1996 Senatorial nominee Dick Swett, and a handful of others. Getting back to the candidate at the focus of DiStaso's article for a moment, though, Hirshberg has been quite supportive of Democratic candidates in his state, maxing out to Netroots star Paul Hodes during the general election and donating $36,450, along with his wife, to Democratic candidates in just the last two cycles, according to a recent Roll Call article (subscription required). It is not clear from the DiStaso article if Hirshberg would necessarily be a self-funding candidate, but according to information on his company's website, Stonyfield, where Hirshberg remains the CEO and President, has annual sales in the range of $250 million per year.

But even overlooking the specifics of the potential race for the Democratic senatorial nomination in New Hampshire, there are a lot of reasons why many in the party are looking at the race as a great pick-up possibility. For one, trends within both the region, broadly, and the state, specifically, bode well for the Democrats; Republican Congressional candidates performed miserably in New England in 2006, including in New Hampshire, and New Hampshire Dems retook control over both chambers of the state legislature for the first time in 132 years -- and reelected a Democratic Governor with 74 percent of the vote to boot.

And it's not just the political climate in the state and the region that have Democrats salivating. Even leaving aside the fact that Sununu's first election as Senator was tainted by a major scandal that sent high-ranking GOP officials to jail, the state's junior Senator has proved out-of-touch with his state's electorate, supporting George W. Bush's position 90 percent of the time and voting with his caucus on party-line votes 91 percent of the time. With numbers like these, it's no wonder that Sununu's approval rating fell to just 47 percent according to a SurveyUSA poll conducted in November. If these approval numbers persevere in this range for much longer, Sununu is going to find it awfully difficult to win a second term in November -- particularly if the Republicans repeat their virtual no-show in the Northeast as they did in 2004 and 2006.

Update [2007-1-12 14:0:28 by Jonathan Singer]: According to The Boston Globe, Katrina Swett, daughter of Congressman Tom Lantos and husband for former Rep. Dick Swett, is "98 percent in." I'd imagine that means her husband will not run. Additionally, the Portsmouth Herald reports that Marchand will run.

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NH-Sen a toss-up again?

The ads against Ayotte, the predictions of a Palin backfire - it seems to be working. NH-Sen between progressive champion Paul Hodes and likely Repub contendor Kelly Ayotte was supposed to be one of the marquis races of the cycle, a perfect chance for a Democratic pick-up in a Repub year. And yet five different polls have had Ayotte leading by double digits, and only 2 of 16 polls had Hodes cracking 40 points - that is, until now.

A new PPP poll out today shows that this race has turned into a dead heat: Ayotte 45, Hodes 42 with 13% undecided. I was right - Palin's endorsement backfired. Hodes is also now leading two of the other four GOP candidates for the first time. Obama has a net approval rating at 49-47, and the health care bill also does better than in the nation at large, tied at 47-47. Focusing on health care could actually help Hodes with GOTV rather than lose him votes.

PPP's polls are automated, so I look forward to a new live interviewer poll, but at least they have a three-day frame unlike Rasmussen's one. One thing I like is that respondents said they voted for Obama by a 48-45 margin, much lower than the actual 54-45 results. That's probably a decent way of reflecting what 2010 voter turnout may be.

The next poll will tell us if this is an outlying fluke or not. I doubt it, given that it's not coming out of the blue, but after an aggressive Democratic push and several developments favorable to Hodes. To enshrine the results and keep the momentum going, donate to Hodes at our ActBlue page.

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