A Look at the 2008 Senate Races, September Edition

So with the Alaska primary and the conventions now over, it's time for another look at all the 2008 Senate races.  There are 35 seats up for election because of a scenario in Wyoming and Mississippi where both seats are up, due to the passing of Craig Thomas and the resignation of Trent Lott, respectively.  Obviously, quite a few of the races are considered "safe" for the incumbent.  So what are the competitive races?

Again, just to be clear, I don't do predictions.  Every time I do, horrible things happen.  So I won't even make an actual prediction on the Virginia Senate race, because doing so would effectively jinx Mark Warner.  So, I'll rank these in terms of tiers.  The top tier will be the races where the party holding the seat has a legitimate chance of switching (but I ain't guaranteeing anything).  The second tier are races that could become top tier races, but are not at this point.  Tier III are ones where a major event would need to happen for the seat to come into play.  And the safe seats?  Well, Mike Gravel has a better shot at winning the presidency than those incumbents have of losing their races.

This is meant to be a primer for both newcomers and political junkies alike, so some of the information may seem repetitive for you junkies out there.  Also see my previous August diary to see what things have changed since my last update.

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Road To 60 Challengers At Netroots Nation

Bumped - Todd

One of the things I've been extremely impressed by about this year's Netroots Nation is the diversity of candidates who are here and the access we have to them. I've been here for less than 24 hours and I've already met three of our five Road To 60 senate challengers: Mark Begich running for senate in Alaska, Rick Noriega running here in Texas, and Jim Slattery running for senate in Kansas. Our intention with creating our Road To 60 list was to support red state challengers that represent the firewall between Democrats winning 6-8 seats and winning 8-11 seats for a true (i.e. Lieberman-less) 60 seat Democratic majority. We knew that by picking red state challengers  we may be sacrificing some ideological purity (i.e. "better Democrats") in favor of pure numbers ("more Democrats") but the environment that we find ourselves in in 2008 it was a trade-off well worth making. But here we are in Austin where three out of our five endorsed challengers are mixing with progressive bloggers, making the distinct calculus that even in their red states, speaking to the crazy basement-dwelling partisan bloggers is more asset than liability. Will they get some pushback from being here? Probably, in fact Rick Noriega already is. From Noriega's dailykos diary up right now:

Like last year, I've met hundreds of activists from across the country who are concerned about the direction our country has taken under George W. Bush and John Cornyn's failed leadership. So I'm not sure what John Cornyn was talking about yesterday when his campaign sent out a fundraising email attacking our community, saying that "Rick Noriega and his far left-wing blogger cronies are out of touch with Texas values."

Classic. The reason Cornyn feels the need to attack Noriega is that, as Rick told me when I met him this morning, 6 years ago in July of 2002, John Cornyn began pulling away from Ron Kirk, the Democrat running against him. Not so this year. It's telling that not only is Rick Noriega not hiding from his association with us but he is boasting about it at dailykos.

You can reward good behavior over at our Road To 60 ActBlue page.

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A Phenomenal Fundraising Quarter For Our Senate Challengers

Some really great fundraising figures from our 2008 Democratic senate challengers. The warchests that some of these GOP senators are sitting on is a reminder of just what a challenge it is to unseat an incumbent and of the work we still have to do. First from MyDD's Road To 60 list:

AK-Sen: Mark Begich

Mark Begich had a great second quarter, having raised $1,034,660, which is pretty stunning considering:

We received 4099 contributions -- a whopping 73.6% were under $100.

That and the fact that Alaska only has only 626,000 residents.

Ted Stevens's fundraising has not yet been released.

NC-Sen: Kay Hagan

The Politico reported the good news last week:

Kay Hagan, a five-term state senator from the Greensboro area, announced this afternoon that she raised over $1.6 million over the last three months, with $1.2 million left in her campaign account at the end of June.

Still an uphill battle if she's going to unseat the flush with cash Dole though, who had a solid quarter herself:

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole says she raised more than $2.1 million in the second quarter.

In a press release, the Salisbury Republican's campaign announced that it had $2.7 million in cash on hand at the end of the second quarter.

TX-Sen: Rick Noriega

Noriega had a solid fundraising quarter. From a press release via e-mail:

·        Total Raised: $961,169.59 2QTR
·        Cash On Hand: $915,506.12
·        # of Donors this quarter: 5,702
·        # of Contributions this quarter: 6,768

This speaks to Noriega's online fundraising strength. It's no accident that he is consistently one of the top featured campaigns on ActBlue.

If you can, please help these three worthy challengers over at our Road To 60 ActBlue page.

OR-Sen:  Jeff Merkley

Jeff Merkley entered his general election campaign like a slingshot, having outraised Gordon Smith in the second quarter:

Merkley=$1.42 million
Smith=$1.35 million

But Smith's warchest is daunting:

Cash on hand:

Merkley=$560k
Smith=$4.5 million

All the same, Merkley's accomplishment should not be underestimated:

Jeff Merkley's campaign for U.S. Senate raised more than $1.42 million in the second quarter, three times what the campaign raised during the first three months of the year. [...]

Online contributions soared for Merkley over the past three months. The Merkley team raised more than $420,000 online in the second quarter, double the previous three quarters combined.

ME-Sen: Tom Allen

Roll Call (via brownsox) brings us the good news that Allen is pretty well keeping pace with Susan Collins:

Collins raised $1.06 million in the financial reporting period from April 1 to June 30. The Collins campaign reports it had raised $6.58 million this cycle and had more than $5.13 million on hand.

Meanwhile, Allen's campaign reported raising just over $1 million in those three months. Allen had $3.13 million in cash on hand.

OK-Sen: Andrew Rice

Via Brownsox, Rice had a really strong quarter:

A stellar fundraising quarter for Orange to Blue candidate Andrew Rice culminates in this report: $451,000 raised for the quarter, with nearly $750,000 cash-on-hand despite having spent fairly heavily on radio ads.

This was the Rice campaign's best quarter so far.

There's no word yet on what Jim Inhofe raised, but he had roughly $2.2 million on hand at the end of Q1.

NE-Sen: Scott Kleeb

Scott brought us the good news in his diary from yesterday:

I wanted you to be the first to hear the good news: thanks to your contributions, our grassroots campaign has managed to shatter expectations and outraise our opponent, a former two-term Governor and Bush Cabinet member, for the most recent fundraising quarter. Make no mistakes about it - change is in the air here in Nebraska.

The Journal Star reports: "Democratic Senate candidate Scott Kleeb seems to be finding fundraising traction in this heavily Republican state, bringing in nearly $700,000 in the latest reporting period and besting Republican Mike Johanns for the first time."

Kleeb's opponent, Mike Johanns still has $1.2 million cash on hand but it's great to see Kleeb eating into that advantage.

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Doctors Come Out Against Endangered GOP Sens.

Throughout the entirety of the current Congress, Republicans have adhered to a strict obstruction whenever possible regimen in the hopes of thwarting any and all progressive change. While by and large the media have given the GOP a pass on the subject (save for a few stories here and there from McClatchy or The Washington Post), it was bound to be the case that the GOP's tactics would come back to bite them at some point.  

According to Congressional Quarterly (subscription required), for instance, the American Medical Association, a group that has overwhelmingly backed Republicans in the past (giving at least 61 percent of their contributions to GOP candidates since 1990), is now not only withdrawing support from Republicans but is going so far as running ads against endangered GOP Senators up for reelection this fall on the topic of harsh cuts in Medicare payments to doctors supported on Capitol Hill by those members.

The Senate vote has made for an easy talking point for Democrats and doctors. In the AMA ads, a narrator charges: "A group of U.S. senators voted to protect the powerful insurance companies at the expense of Medicare patients' access to doctors."

The ads name GOP Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas; John E. Sununu of New Hampshire; John Barrasso and Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming; Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee; Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran of Mississippi; and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

Alexander, Cornyn, Sununu, Barrasso, Enzi, Cochran and Wicker all face elections this year. Sununu and Wicker are seen by Democrats as particularly vulnerable.

An AMA spokeswoman would not say what the association is paying to run the ads, but called the buy "significant."

Per the CQ article, this fracas is making particular waves in Texas, where the local AMA actually withdrew its support for GOP incumbent John Cornyn, and Mississippi, where Democrat Ronnie Musgrove is talking about the issue at all of his events. (Note that both races are being targeted in the MyDD Road to 60 effort). For those interested, a version of the ads the AMA is running in these races is available online here.

For those not entirely familiar with the GOP obstruction on this front, here's The New York Times' Robert Pear:

Doctors face a 10 percent cut in Medicare payments next week, following the Senate's failure on Thursday to take up legislation that would have averted the cuts.

Republican senators blocked efforts by Democrats to call up the bill, which was approved Tuesday in the House by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 355 to 59.

In the Senate, supporters fell two votes short of the 60 needed to close debate. The vote was 58 to 40.

Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said, "We have to pass this bill to avoid catastrophic cuts to doctors."

Dr. Nancy H. Nielsen, president of the American Medical Association, said the cuts would force many doctors to "limit the number of new Medicare patients they treat."

All in all, there is a simple narrative, one that we have heard over and over again in recent years (and indeed for the past several decades, at least since the New Deal): When push comes to shove and the Republicans have had to choose between the people and the special interests that fund GOP efforts, Republicans will almost invariably choose the latter.

By the way, nice work John McCain for not even bothering to show up for the vote -- particularly given that your support for the measure would have meant that the bill would have passed (Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid switched his vote to "no" for parliamentary reasons so that he could bring the measure up again in the future, so the bill actually had the support of 59 Senators).

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Senator Sock Puppet, This One's For You

I realize it's a bit of a challenge to know where to draw the ethical line when you've made your bones on behalf of an utterly corrupt regime, John Cornyn, but here's a quick and easy rule of thumb.

If you're going to have people who work for you go onto blogs and talk you up, they need to disclose who they're working for.

Otherwise, crap like this happens:

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