Senate 2008: Democrats Looking Good

SurveyUSA just released a slew of polls of competitive Senate races around the country (all of which are currently held by the Republicans) commissioned by Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, and by and large the numbers are encouraging for the Democrats.

Virginia (Open Seat)

R/DWarner
Gilmore35/57
Allen*42/52

New Mexico (Open Seat)

R/DRichardson*ChavezDenish*Wiviott
Pearce37/5843/4843/4749/32
Wilson37/5944/4843/4947/38

Colorado (Open Seat)

R/DUdall
Schaffer41/48

New Hampshire

R/DShaheenBuckey
SUNUNU42/5349/36

Minnesota

R/DFrankenCiresi
COLEMAN46/4544/44

Oregon

R/DNovickMerkley
SMITH45/3948/39

Maine

R/DAllen
COLLINS55/38

Note:

CAPS indicates incumbent
* indicates not likely to run

As you can see from these numbers, the Democrats already hold leads in races for at least four seats currently held by the Republicans, including one race in which an incumbent (Sununu) is running. Democrats have two other incumbents under 50 percent, as well, with one (Coleman) unable to hold a lead wider than the margin of error and the other (Smith) unable to receive a majority of the vote even against two candidates whose name recognition is still quite low. Even the one race where the Republican candidate is above 50 percent (Collins) shows some signs of hope, as other Democratic challengers in the past have overcome even greater margins in the past.

Click through the link to SurveyUSA above to get access to favorable numbers for the candidates, Bush approval in all of the states and other useful numbers, which I'll try to make a useful compendium of at some point if I get a chance.

New Senate rankings: Republicans push back, but are still in a tight spot

September was an awful month for the GOP: John Warner and Hagel retired, Shaheen and Mark Warner jumped in for Democrats... October started much the same way, as New Mexico's Pete Domenici announced he would not run for re-election, opening up yet another very vulnerable seat. But Democrats then ran into a bad patch of their own that culminated in the disastrous news that Bob Kerrey would not run in Nebraska. That by itself made a race that was leaning towards Democrats become a likely hold for Republicans. Meanwhile, the shuffle in New Mexico has still not been resolved, with Democrats scrambling to find a strong candidate.

That Nebraska and New Mexico have dominated Senate news in the past month is obvious in these new rankings: New Mexico rose from the 11th to 4th, while Nebraska collapsed from 4th to 13th (Reminder: Races are organized in order of vulnerability, so that the first ranked race is the most likely to turn-over). But there was some other movement: The departure of Tom Davis from the Virginia Senate race solidified the contest's number one ranking, while Democrats are significantly more upbeat this month about their chances in Kentucky and even in North Carolina. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) should be worried at the Democratic determination to avenge Tom Dashle's 2004 loss and target him for defeat.

The Senate situation is still very fluid with more retirement and recruitment rumors floating around, so that a lot of things could still change in the coming months. But an increasing number of races are settling down, so that we are starting to get a clearer idea of which states are likely to be hotly contested.

Outlook: Democratic pick-up 4-7 Senate seats.

Prediction: Democrats pick-up a net 5 seats, for a 56-41 majority.

Full rankings are available here, on Campaign Diaries. The lean take-over and toss-up seats are listed here.

There's more...

NH-Sen: Shaheen Maintains Lead Over Sununu

It's not often that you get a race in which a challenger leads an incumbent from day one of the campaign. We saw it last cycle in the race between Bob Casey and Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania, but I believe that was the only Senate race of the cycle in which that was the case. But now it seems we are seeing such a race again. Take a look at the latest survey commissioned from the University of New Hampshire by CNN and WMUR on the New Hampshire Senate race between freshman Republican John Sununu and Democratic challenger Jean Shaheen:

SununuShaheenUNH
9/17-24/073854Rasmussen Reports
9/16/074348ARG
9/14-17/074146Research 2000
7/14/073456UNH (.pdf)
7/9-17/073854ARG
6/28/072957ARG
3/29/0734441-Month Ave.40.749.37-Month Ave.36.751.3

There was some initial concern that Shaheen's lead in the first two polls after she announced her candidacy was not as big as some had expected. This new poll from UNH, while potentially being an outlier (it's always better to see a couple of polls coming to a similar conclusion before putting too much stock in one new set of data), may assauge some of these concerns.

But stepping back and reiterating a point mentioned above, it's a very rare occasion in which a challenger leads an incumbent this early in the cycle. Yes, Shaheen is well known from her successful tenure as Governor of the Granite State and she faced off against Sununu previously. Nonetheless, it's still remarkable to see her leading this soon -- and these numbers (either the slightly earlier ones showing her with a smaller lead or these new ones showing her up by a double-digit margin) augur well for her hopes of winning and, perhaps more importantly, the Democrats' hopes of her winning without the DSCC needing to invest excessive amounts of money.

NH-Sen: Shaheen Trouncing Sununu

Well this certainly is a steady race:

CNN/WMUR The Granite State Poll, 508 adults, Sept. 17-24, MOE 4.4% (July in parentheses)

Shaheen 54 (54)
Sununu 38 (38)
Undecided 7 (7)

Their respective favorable/unfavorable ratings tell the story:

Shaheen 56/25
Sununu 40/37

This is starting to look like 2008's equivalent of last year's PA-Sen race. Check out the eerie similarities between where Casey and Santorum were two years ago this week and where Shaheen and Sununu are today:

Casey 52 (50)
Santorum 34 (39)

Santorum approval ratings

Approve 43 (51)
Disapprove 41 (35)

There's more...

Senate 2008 Guru's Week in the Senate Races

This week saw the release of August fundraising numbers, with the DSCC continuing to outpace the NRSC, $2.58 million to $2.36 million.  The NRSC continuing to get beat in fundraising month after month may be why they seem willing to exploit any fundraising opportunity, however crass and tasteless it may be.

Speaking of fundraising, Senate 2008 Guru started a new ActBlue page: the Expand the Map! ActBlue page, focusing on Senate races in states that don't typically have competitive Senate races, but could see strong competition with enough resources.  The page's inaugural campaigns are Idaho's Larry LaRocco and Oklahoma's Andrew Rice.  The first-day goal on Friday of ten contributions for both candidates was met, and we're closing in on our weekend goal of twenty contributions apiece.  With today being the last day of the third fundraising quarter of 2007, please contribute if you can!  These relatively early dollars coming in help demonstrate these campaigns' viability and competitivity.  So if you can chip in $100, that's great.  If you can chip in $5, that's great!  But, please do chip in if you can!

Also released this week were Survey USA's September poll numbers.  While Mitch McConnell's (51-40), Norm Coleman's (46-45), and Gordon Smith's (48-42) poll numbers all remained in the danger zone, the lowlight of the month was Pete Domenici's poll numbers plummetting to an atrocious 41-54.  You read that right: 41-54.  It looked like Domenici's descent in the polls as a result of his role in the Attorney Purge scandal had levelled off in the low 50's.  We'll see next month if the low 40's is an aberration or Domenici's new norm.

With Senate Republicans still stuck in the mud, it's no wonder that vulnerable political targets like Norm Coleman and John Sununu "routinely turn down" cable news interview requests.  I guess these vulnerable Republicans are too cowardly to stand up and defend their votes in favor of prolonging Bush's Iraq War and their myriad other votes putting them out-of-step with their constituents.  And here are many other stories affecting the Senate races this week:

Alaska: Hays Research conducted a poll finding that only 40% of Alaskans view Ted Stevens positively while 38% view Stevens negatively.  Further, only 43% of Alaskans said that they were likely to vote to re-elect Stevens while 45% said that they were unlikely to vote to re-elect him.  Very bad news for Stevens, especially in light of the fact that GOP Gov. Sarah Palin, perhaps the most popular elected official in the state, is leaning on Stevens to be more forthcoming with voters about his various scandals and investigations.  And that is all the more perilous for Stevens as the far-right conservative Club for Growth is seeking a primary challenger for the pork-loving Stevens.

Nebraska: Former Omaha Mayor Hal Daub backed out of the crowded Republican primary about two weeks after entering the scrum.  Nevertheless, incompetent NRSC Chair John Ensign seems to have insured a nasty primary between former Gov. and chronic quitter Mike Johanns and state Attorney General Jon Bruning when it became public that Ensign was urging local GOP leaders to help push out other opponents like Bruning in favor of Johanns.  Heckuva job, Ensign.  And it's not like Bruning hasn't already displayed a willingness to take the fight right to Johanns.  Meanwhile, as we continue to await former Senator Bob Kerrey's decision, he has laid out his current position on Iraq: "downsize the military commitment" but do not cut off funds.

Georgia: Lieutenant General David Poythress, Georgia's retiring adjutant general and a former Georgia Secretary of State and Labor Commissioner, is being eyed as a possible Senate challenger to Spineless Saxby Chambliss in 2008.  If it can't be Max Cleland, it would be great to have another military man lay out for Saxby what a coward Chambliss really is.  Also, the Athens Banner-Herald's political blogger called Chambliss out for his hypocrisy on voting against more rest time for soldiers when Chambliss himself took four deferments to get out of service in Vietnam.

Idaho: Larry Craig had his day in court this past week, but the judge says a ruling will not come until the end of this coming week at the earliest.  As such, Craig is not resigning (for the time being) and will continue his Senate work as scheduled.  GOP Gov. Butch Otter has a short list of possible replacement appointments ready to go, but he may not get the chance to use it as observers see Craig leaving rhetorical wiggle room to possibly serve out the remainder of his term regardless of the decision in his court case or to even actually consider running for re-election in 2008.  I think Craig should stick it out in order to send a message to a Senate Republican caucus that would throw him under a bus while welcoming back prostitute-lovin' David Vitter with thunderous applause.

Maine: Following a manufactured scandal in Susan Collins' 1996 Senate run in which she worked with a reporter to portray her opponent's very typical opposition research effort as a seedy witch hunt, and another manufactured scandal earlier this year in which Susan Collins wildly overreacted to the Maine Democratic Party having a staffer record her public appearances (ooh, the horror!), the Collins camp is now working to manufacture yet another dishonest political attack, trying to portray Congressman Tom Allen's impressive 98% voting record as something less than outstanding.  Collins would much rather focus on the rate of votes rather than the substance of votes, which puts her far to the right of mainstream Maine.  Meanwhile, the Rockland Courier-Gazette slammed Collins for her continued support for Bush's endless Iraq War, noting that "Collins has strayed so far into the camp of President George W. Bush that she can't free herself," and calling Collins' votes "destructive to the country and the state."

Texas: Daily Kos commissioned a poll by Research 2000 finding that John Cornyn held a 51-35 advantage over State Representative and Lieutenant Colonel Rick Noriega. The 51-35 figure is not too dissimilar from the 53-30 figure Rasmussen Reports released almost two weeks ago, which is pretty good considering most Texans probably have never heard of Rick Noriega yet. The Research 2000 poll also found that 40% of voters would re-elect Cornyn, 15% would consider another candidate, and 35% would vote to replace Cornyn. Those numbers are very promising.

Kentucky: Another week, another opportunity for the Kentucky media to call Mitch McConnell out for "utter hypocrisy" and "selective outrage." And now the far-right conservative Club for Growth is sniffing around the Bluegrass State for a primary challenger for McConnell.

North Carolina: According to an Elon University poll, voters said that the top four issues that would "influence their vote for U.S. Senator" were The Iraq War (78%), Economy (76%), Health Care Costs (75%), and Immigration (73%).  And what were the voters' satisfaction levels with Elizabeth Dole on those four issues?  Very poor: 32% for The Iraq War, 39% for Economy, 32% for Health Care Costs, and 28% for Immigration.  Elizabeth Dole will have a very hard time defending her record if less than 40% of voters are satisfied with her on issues that about 75% of voters will be basing their vote on.

Minnesota: Senate candidate Al Franken offered a powerful op-ed in the Star Tribune this week discussing how ridiculous it is for the Senate to actually debate over the MoveOn.org ad, with Norm Coleman continuing to play politics over the issue, while our soldiers continue to fight and die in Iraq.

Tennessee: Businessman and gubernatorial son Mike McWherter took another step toward a challenge to Lamar Alexander as McWherter formed a Senate exploratory committee.  Also, it came out that www.MikeMcWherter.com was reserved back in May, just in case.

Oregon: The Oregon Democratic Party this week examined Gordon Smith's lousy records on making education affordable, global warming and Big Oil, and, in light of his company's third fine for illegally dumping wastewater into a nearby creek, environmental protection, including a lifetime 26% rating from the League of Conservation Voters.

New Jersey: Stu Rothenberg concluded that Republicans have "no reason for even a shred of optimism" in a race against Senator Frank Lautenberg.

New Hampshire: Sprintin' John Sununu was the only New England Senator of either Party to oppose the hate crimes amendment (that even New Hampshire Republican colleague Judd Gregg supported), yet again demonstrating how out of touch Sununu is with Granite State voters.

Michigan: 2002 GOP MI-Sen nominee Rocky Raczkowski is considering giving it another go.  Also, GOP state rep. Jack Hoogendyk is considering a challenge to Senator Carl Levin.  The political mood in 2002 favored Republicans even more than the 2008 political mood is shaping up to favor Democrats.  Nevertheless, Levin crushed Raczkowski 61-38 in '02.

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

There's more...

Diaries

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