Senate 2008 Guru's Week in the Senate Races

From Republicans losing their base to Republicans politically shooting themselves in the foot to significant drops in Republican voter registration levels, a lot of negative indicators manifested themselves this week for Republican Senate incumbents and candidates.  So let's get right to the rundown:

Louisiana: This week, the Pelican State was a study in the unpredictability of politics.  On Monday, Republican Secretary of State and possible Senate candidate Jay Dardenne was in a car accident, suffering a spinal injury and broken ribs.  He will have surgery this week, but says that he will proceed with his Secretary of State re-election bid this year.  Whether or not this impacts a possible Senate bid surely won't be known until Dardenne fully recuperates.  What also isn't known is Dardenne's possible liability for the accident.  Apparently, Dardenne's car "drifted" between lanes, hitting another car, and Dardenne "lost control," though it is reported that Dardenne was wearing his seat belt and was not using a cell phone or Blackberry.  Politics aside, we indeed wish him a speedy recovery.

If that wasn't enough drama for one week, joining Republican Congresscritters Charles Boustany and Jim McCrery, Rep. Richard Baker, a top choice of the GOP to challenge Senator Mary Landrieu, has apparently taken a pass on a 2008 Senate bid.  Also, currently-Democratic state Treasurer John N. Kennedy announced that he will run for re-election this year rather than run for state Attorney General.  Lest anyone be confused, this does not directly impact or necessarily preclude any electoral plans in 2008, including the possibility of a Karl Rove-sponsored Party switch and 2008 Senate bid.  With Baker's withdrawal from consideration and the possibility of Dardenne's car accident limiting his ability or desire to take on a Senate campaign, the currently-Democratic Treasurer could be the GOP's last chance for a well-known challenger to Landrieu, not counting contenders Landrieu has already vanquished in Woody Jenkins and Suzanne Haik Terrell.  I would hope that this would encourage the Louisiana media to get Kennedy on the record regarding his thoughts on a Party switch and 2008 Senate campaign while he runs for re-election to the Treasurer's office.

Alaska: And you thought matters couldn't get worse for Ted Stevens.  The FBI retrieved a note in which Ted Stevens personally claims to have paid $130,000 for the renovations to his home supervised by the corrupt VECO Corporation; the problem is that the Anchorage Daily News outlines how there is absolutely no way that the extensive renovations to Stevens' home could have been performed for that amount.  Since the numbers don't add up, I suppose we just need to keep on investigating.  While Stevens refused to answer any questions about the ongoing investigations in his first trip back to Alaska since the FBI and IRS searched his home, he was unable to avoid the spotlight as media outlets like Newsweek, The New York Times, The Economist, Congressional Quarterly, and CBS' Face the Nation all delved into the Stevens scandal.

Oklahoma: This week, State Senator and 2008 Senate candidate Andrew Rice sat down for a lively liveblog session at Daily Kos.  For those of you who don't think a Democrat can win statewide in Oklahoma, note that Democrats won eight of nine statewide offices in Oklahoma's 2006 election.  For those of you who don't think Oklahomans will elect a 30-something to statewide office, note that Democrat David Boren was elected Governor of Oklahoma and Republican Don Nickles was elected to the U.S. Senate from Oklahoma both before their 35th birthday.  As Rice will be taking on the better-funded Jim "In Denial" Inhofe, please consider ponying up and putting a few dollars toward unseating the Republican who notoriously called global warming the "greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people."

South Carolina: In yet another sign that Lindsey Graham is losing his base, the Greenville Country Republican Party adopted a committee resolution to censure Graham, saying that Graham is "not doing a good job." Ouch!  That certainly won't help Graham quell the prospects of a primary challenge.

Texas: Speaking of losing one's base, one of the "top Hispanic Republicans in the nation," Houston businessman Massey Villarreal, will be leaving the John Cornyn camp and heading over to the Rick Noriega camp, saying that Cornyn doesn't "hear" his community.  With an approve-disapprove at a horrendous 42-43, I imagine that Cornyn doesn't "hear" many communities.

Maine: Still speaking of losing one's base, a Republican from Susan Collins' own hometown offered up an op-ed in the Bangor Daily News calling Collins "feckless,""weak-kneed," and a "quisling," suggesting that Collins "spews defeatist poison." In case you don't have a dictionary handy, those are all bad things.  Also hurting Collins' 2008 re-election prospects, the Maine media is beginning to recognize the clear difference between Collins' "stay the course" stance on Iraq and Olympia Snowe's "bring the troops home safely" stance on Iraq, so reports the Portland Press Herald:

By contrast, several people on Thursday who thanked Snowe for her war stand quickly added that they want Maine's other senator, Republican Susan Collins, to either join Snowe in calling for a withdrawal of troops or lose her seat next year. Collins is being challenged for re-election in 2008 by Democratic Rep. Tom Allen, who opposes the war.

It would be nice if that paragraph was a little higher up in the article, but it's a start.  Make no mistake, Collins will do everything she can to muddy the difference between the Bush-Collins "stay the course" position and the Snowe-Tom Allen "bring the troops home safely" position, and try to continue basking in Snowe's reflected popularity. But for all of Collins' rhetoric about the need for a change in Iraq, she continues to vote the way George W. Bush wants her to on Iraq.

Oregon: Several storylines on the shortcomings of Gordon Smith gained momentum this week.  Oregon state House Speaker and 2008 Senate challenger Jeff Merkley slammed Smith for his "election night conversion" on Iraq and lack of leadership on health care.  Smith's "election night conversion" on Iraq was further illustrated by the DSCC's compilation of quotes outlining Smith's ephemeral stance(s) on Iraq, which seems to have clearly followed public support for the war.  Also, Smith's lack of leadership on health care was further highlighted by the Democratic Party of Oregon's exposition of Gordon Smith's real record on health care, a record that hurts retirees and, well, anybody that prefers affordable prescription drugs.  Further, the clamor over Gordon Smith's SalmonGate is getting louder. Not only does Smith have "no regrets" over his role in the decimation of fishing businesses in Oregon and the die-off of 77,000 salmon, but it appears that he is now lying about what he knew regarding the events leading up to the salmon die-off. Back in 2001, Smith touted (and even ran TV ads on) his coordination with Dick Cheney and the White House over the planning; but now Smith has the gall to deny knowledge of Cheney's plans. This appears to be a blatant lie, and the story is only going to get worse for Smith, who is very much shooting himself in the foot with his dishonesty on the issue.

Colorado: Speaking of shooting oneself in the foot, it appears that "Backwards" Bob Schaffer's camp's over-the-top reactions to the allegations of wrongdoing in the case of Schaffer not disclosing existing relationships with and campaign funds raised from financial beneficiaries of Schaffer's votes on the Colorado state Board of Education is keeping the story alive and putting the story in the pages of the major daily papers.  (We learned from George Allen's "macaca" imbroglio that Dick Wadhams doesn't handle campaign crises well.)  It also doesn't help Schaffer that, in addition to taking heat for accepting the controversial contributions and not disclosing the existing relationships, Schaffer is now apparently also guilty of hypocrisy as, just last December, Schaffer decried such conflicts of interest and was charged with drafting a conflict of interest policy for the Board, a task he has yet to complete.

Kentucky: Still speaking of shooting oneself in the foot, a pro-war group is running ads in Kentucky thanking Mitch McConnell for his ongoing support of Bush's Iraq War.  Problem is, a majority of Kentuckians want us out of Iraq.  So, keep those ads a'runnin'!  McConnell also advanced his assault on intellectual honesty this week by submitting an op-ed to the The Courier-Journal attacking the Democratic plan to reauthorize SCHIP, a plan to expand health care coverage for sick children; problem is, McConnell's op-ed was riddled with untruths and inaccuracies.  Meanwhile, however unscientific, a local news station ran an online poll regarding preference in the 2008 Senate race.  At last look, McConnell, the only Republican option, stood at under 41%, while the five Democratic choices added up to over 52%, with None of the Above at just over 7%.  Further, another bad sign for McConnell has appeared: Republican voter registration in Kentucky is at its lowest level in almost a decade.

New Hampshire: Speaking of bad omens in voter registration, just five years ago, registered Republicans outnumbered registered Democrats in New Hampshire by almost 77,000. Well, that lead has shrunk by more than half in the last half-decade to only 35,000.  That decrease in Republicans' voter registration advantage by 42,000 seems all the more substantial when one recalls that Sununu's margin of victory over popular Governor Jeanne Shaheen in 2002 was only 19,000 votes.

Georgia: "Shameless" Saxby Chambliss will say anything to anyone to get elected, and is as duplicitous and craven as they come.  (Please reconsider, Max Cleland!  Please!)

Idaho: Dan Popkey says that an announcement from Larry Craig on retirement vs. a re-election bid will come in mid-September. Also in Popkey's article, GOP Rep. Mike Simpson apparently shuts the door on the possibility of a Senate bid should Craig retire.  I would bet on a retirement announcement, but Popkey's last paragraph alludes to the expectation of a re-election bid. Help encourage a Craig retirement by sending a campaign contribution to 2008 Democratic Senate candidate and former Congressman Larry LaRocco.

New Mexico and Minnesota: Not only is Norm Coleman (who has no idea what "alternative energy" means) soon to be suckling at the fundraising teat of George W. Bush (mark your calendars for August 21), but Pete Domenici is happily grabbing an udder (mark your calendars for August 27).  By the way, George W. Bush's approve-disapprove in New Mexico is a ghastly 30-68, and in Minnesota it's an every-so-slightly worse 29-68.  Suffice it to say, let's hope these Bush fundraisers are high-profile affairs.

Virginia: Former Governor and now-former Presidential candidate Jim Gilmore, whose gubernatorial term was very poorly regarded, confirms that he is considering a 2008 Senate bid if/when John Warner retires.  With Tom Davis' eyes on the prize, the prospect of a VA-GOP Senate primary is getting more likely.

New Jersey: Speaking of Republican Senate primaries, while conservative state assemblyman Michael Doherty has withdrawn from the NJ-GOP Senate primary, he has endorsed assemblyman Joe Pennacchio, whose candidacy is getting ever more likely, ensuring a primary against businesswoman Anne Evans Estabrook, with the state Assembly's Republican Whip, Jon Bramnick, still not ruling out a Senate bid of his own.

South Dakota: On a happy note, Senator Tim Johnson took another major step in his recovery this week.  Best wishes, Senator Johnson!

Five parting questions to consider:

  1. Especially in light of all of the Republicans disenchanted with their Republican elected officials, will it be long before "Republicans for None of the Above" has its own PAC?
  2. Isn't it unpatriotic (and, well, criminal, too?) to leak classified information?  (I only ask because Republican elected officials are getting awfully comfortable doing just that lately.)
  3. Why is it, do you think, that Rudy Giuliani, a man who has been married more times (three times) than Mitt Romney's gone hunting (two times), can earn the support of cokeheads and prostitute patrons, but not the support of his own daughter?
  4. How reprehensibly, disgustingly low can the Republican National Committee go to raise a buck?
  5. How much will it hurt Republican Congressional candidates that Bush's top man in Iraq, General David Petraeus, says that "success" in Iraq would require a decade-long military presence and that "War Czar" Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute says that a military draft"has always been an option on the table"?

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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Senate 2008 Guru's Week in the Senate Races

From Republican Senator David Vitter's scandal to second quarter fundraising numbers to Iraq to news from Senate races around the country, a lot happened this week.

First and foremost, the Vitter scandal is not simply a caricature of a seedy politician screwing around.  It's another reminder of the hypocrisy endemic to the Republican Party at the national level.  For those who don't know, Republican Senator David Vitter confessed to having been a client of the infamous DC Madam after his phone number was found in her found records.  He claimed to have received the forgiveness of his wife and his God (I don't know how he confirmed that one).  As a side note, his wife did once intimate that if her husband ever cheated on her, she'd more likely castrate than forgive.  Just when we thought that was all there was to the story, it turns out that he also frequented a New Orleans brothel.

The hypocrisy that exists in this sordid tale exists on many levels.  First is the standard that Vitter himself set.  Vitter called for President Bill Clinton's resignation when Clinton's marital infidelities came to light.  If Vitter held himself to his own standard, he'd have already resigned.  Vitter discusses the "moral fitness to govern" readily when it is someone else being judged.  Heck, forget about moral fitness to govern; how about the presence to govern?  Vitter apparently received phone calls from the DC Madam during roll call votes while he was a House member.  And, amid the current scandal, he opted to go into hiding rather than actually do his job, leading him to miss seven roll call votes between Wednesday and Friday on such minor issues as Iraq, Iran, and al Qaeda.  He was even more than happy to lie to constituents back in 2002 when asked explicitly about one particular prostitute by name.

The second level on which the hypocrisy exists is the level of "family values." Vitter ran on a platform of "family values," making his wife and kids the stars of his campaign ads, inserting them into the public sphere and inserting his personal values and private life into public scrutiny.  He also explained to us immoral heathens that "marriage is truly the most fundamental social institution in human history" while legislating how others should live their lives and regard the institution of marriage.  All the while, he had debased his own marriage.  To say that Vitter is falling short of his own standard is an understatement.

The third level on which the hypocrisy exists is the level of the rule of law.  Soliciting a prostitute is a crime in Washington, D.C. and Louisiana.  As much as some Republicans might scoff at the idea, the rule of law still applies to them.  Vitter committed a crime, and simply receiving the forgiveness of one's wife does not qualify as legal absolution.  Any legal researchers want to dig up what the statute of limitations is in both Washington, D.C. and Louisiana on soliciting?

Much more below the fold.

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NRSC Recruitment Update

[Cross-posted at my blog Senate 2008 Guru: Following the Races.]

A little over two months ago, I took a look at the state of NRSC recruiting in the one open seat (Colorado) and the twelve states with Democratic incumbents, concluding, up to that point in time, that the NRSC was 0-for-13 in recruiting so far.  Keep in mind that we're approaching the dog days of summer, not a heavy recruitment period.  (Note that during June-August of 2005, only five Senate candidates announced, all five of whom were Republican losers.)  So where does the state of NRSC recruitment stand, and what has changed in the last two months?

(Much more below the fold.)

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So Will the GOP Waste Some More Cash in New Jersey in 2008?

We've seen it happen a number of times in recent years. Republicans come to the conclusion that they are on the verge of winning a big statewide contest in New Jersey and plow much-needed resources and time into challenging the Democratic nominee. It happened during the 2002 Senate election, when former Senator Frank Lautenberg was tapped to replace then-Democratic Senator Bob Torricelli on the ballot and Republicans thought they could sneak off with a victory, but in the end Lautenberg won by 10 points. It happened in 2004, when the folks in the Bush-Cheney campaign thought they could make a run on New Jersey, only to lose by a 7-point margin on election day. It happened in 2005, when Republicans thought they had a shot at defeating Jon Corzine in the gubernatorial election but ended up losing by a double-digit margin. And it happened again in 2006 when Republicans believed they could defeat recently-appointed Democratic Senator Bob Menendez with the son of a former Republican Governor, Tom Kean Jr., only to see him go down in flames, losing by 8 points. So will Republicans fall prey to this situation again? If they take too close a look at the latest Quinnipiac poll they might.

Do you approve or disapprove of the way Frank Lautenberg is handling his job as United States Senator? (2/20-25/2007; MoE +/- 2.7%)
Total (1/25)GOPINDDEM
Approve40 (44)263756
Disapprove32 (32)453814

With Lautenberg's approval rating at 40 percent and trending slightly downward, Republicans have to mount a serious challenge in New Jersey, right? We should certainly hope they do. New Jersey is a notoriously expensive state in which to advertise (perhaps the most expensive, in fact), with candidates needing to spend not only in the New York media market but also the Philadelphia one in order to blanket the state with their message through television or radio.

And the money that Republicans spend in New Jersey is money that they cannot spend in other states. Taking a look at the 2006 cycle, for example, if the National Republican Senatorial Committee had devoted a portion of the more than $4 million it spent attacking Menendez in New Jersey to, say, Virginia, Montana or Missouri, each of which saw Republican Senators going down to defeat by much narrower margins that the one by which Kean lost in New Jersey, it's quite possible (and perhaps even likely) that the GOP would have still been in control of the Senate today.

So let's hope that Republicans take a look at these numbers on Frank Lautenberg and fall for the same mistake they have so often in recent years by deciding that this is the cycle during which they will break their long losing streak in New Jersey by dumping several million dollars into a race that you and I and even they (in the back of their minds) know is futile.

NYT endorses Menendez (NJ-Sen)

New York Times endorses Menendez for NJ Senate:

New Jersey voters have a choice between a lawmaker who has done a good job of representing the state's concerns and the nation's interests in the House and the Senate and a state legislator with a shallow grasp of the issues and a famous name. Our unqualified endorsement goes to Robert Menendez.

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