Senate 2008 Guru's Week in the Senate Races

Things are not looking too good for Senate Republicans lately.  The GOP is just getting older and more conservative, which may contribute to Democrats beating Republicans 50-32 in a generic congressional ballot, the 18-point lead almost doubling last month's 10-point lead.  NRSC Chair John Ensign assures us that things aren't really that bad:

"If you scratch the surface, things don't look necessarily that good," he said. "But when you get below the surface, things aren't nearly as bad as what they could be."

Exactly how bad things are for Senate Republicans could be shaped heavily by events in September.  The following numerous decisions will (likely) come to pass before the end of this month:

  • Tomorrow, Nevada's Nebraska's (duh - long day) Chuck Hagel is expected to announce his retirement.  A decision from former Senator Bob Kerrey on a 2008 Senate bid could come soon after.  In fact, the Nebraska GOP has already started very lamely attacking Kerrey's record in preparation for a Senate bid.
  • Later this week, popular former Virginia Governor Mark Warner is expected to announce a decision about whether or not to succeed - er, campaign to succeed - retiring John Warner in the Senate.  Numerous Virginia political insiders expect that Mark Warner will run for Senate.
  • Over in Oregon, former NEA Chairman John Frohnmayer is expected to enter the 2008 OR-Sen race as an independent candidate.  It is unclear who his candidacy would harm more, Republican Gordon Smith or the eventual Democratic nominee, but accurately refering to Frohnmayer as a George Bush appointee and the brother of Republican former state Attorney General Dave Frohnmayer is a good start.
  • According to popular former New Hampshire Governor Jeanne Shaheen's de facto spokesman, her husband Bill, a decision on a Senate bid should come by the end of the month.
  • Glancing over at the circus in Idaho, should Larry Craig resign at the end of the month as expected, Governor Butch Otter will have to make an appointment to fill the remainder of the term.  Republican Rep. Mike Simpson says that he does not want the job, noting a personal distaste for Mitch McConnell.  While Lt. Gov. Jim Risch is considered the front-runner for the appointment, so many Idaho Republicans are interested in the seat that Gov. Butch Otter is open to appointing a place-holder who will serve until the end of the term but not run for the seat in his or her own right in 2008.  At this point, I'd put it at 50-50 between Otter appointing Risch vs. appointing a place-holder.  Almost comically, the NRSC web site's News page lacks any mention of or official comment on the Craig scandal.

    Further, possible-to-likely Senate candidates are emerging in traditionally red states:

  • In North Carolina, State Representative and Afghanistan War veteran Grier Martin is closing in on a decision regarding a Senate bid.  Says The Independent Weekly's Bob Geary, "There was no mistaking the new bounce in his tone: He wants to run. And he's much closer to doing it." Last Tuesday, I offered an analysis of the potential of a Martin-Dole match-up.
  • In Tennessee, businessman and gubernatorial son Mike McWherter is making the rounds and sounding like he is ready to take on Lamar Alexander.  If/when McWherter officially enters, other Democrats considering a bid have already said that they would defer to McWherter and support his candidacy.
  • In Kansas, six-term former Congressman Jim Slattery has announced that he is considering a challenge to Pat Roberts.  I have long thought that Kansas could be the sleeper competitive Senate race of the 2008 cycle, for reasons ranging from Roberts' unintimidating approval ratings to Roberts' failures and scandals while Chairing the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
  • In South Carolina, former State Senator Tom Turnipseed is considering a Senate run, as well.

    Indeed, September could prove a very decisive month in terms of shaping the 2008 Senate races.  This week also saw a plethora of interesting news around the country:

    South Dakota: Senator Tim Johnson returned to the Senate floor and made his first roll call vote in almost nine months.  Badlands Blue has the video of his return, including a nearly-minute-long standing ovation before Johnson spoke and another minute of standing ovation after Senator Johnson's comments.  Truly uplifting.
    Delaware: Senator Joe Biden is definitely moving forward with Senate re-election plans amid his Presidential campaign.
    Texas: Though a majority of Democratic primary voters are still undecided, State Representative and Lieutenant Colonel Rick Noriega currently has about double the support of attorney Mikal Watts, 27-14.  Attorney Emil Reichstadt, who may soon exit the race, clocks in at 6%.  Noriega also recently scored the support of Texas' firefighters.
    New Hampshire and Minnesota: In case anyone thought otherwise, both Sprintin' John Sununu and Smilin' Norm Coleman are still George W. Bush's lapdogs on Iraq.
    Alaska: Ted Stevens appears to be both a climatologist and a sociopath.  All of that insane behavior may just be to deflect attention from his latest earmark scandal.
    Colorado: Backwards Bob Schaffer's own poll numbers see him losing to Democratic Congressman Mark Udall by more than the margin of error.  Schaffer's camp is trying to spin this as a good thing!  I can't wait for the non-partisan numbers to come out.
    Louisiana: The candidate filing period for 2007 passed this week in Louisiana, and Republican state Treasurer John N. Kennedy is running unopposed for re-election while looking ahead to a possible 2008 Senate challenge to Senator Mary Landrieu.  Given Treasurer Kennedy's chronically mercurial career goals, hopefully someone in the Louisiana media can get him to answer questions like "If re-elected to the Treasurer's office, do you pledge to serve out your full term?" and "Why should the voters of Louisiana re-elect you if you're just going to run for another office in a few months?" So far, all that has gone on the record is:

    Kennedy declined to speculate on his political future, and would not commit to serving out his entire four-year term.

    "I've never made promises about things in the future that I can't control," Kennedy said, adding that he wanted to savor re-election before looking ahead.

    Hey, John, running for Senate isn't an involuntary action like sneezing or yawning - you do actually have control over whether or not you run for Senate. Totally disingenuous.
    Virginia: A VA-GOP Senate primary between Tom Davis and Jim Gilmore could get very ugly.  The Club for Growth is already attacking Tom Davis' economic record.  Meanwhile, Davis' campaign has apparently hired adviser Chris LaCivita, whose claims to fame include advising and producing commercials for the notorious Swift Boat Veterans and serving as direct supervisor to the man responsible for the infamous New Hampshire phone jamming scandal.  This could be a historically ugly primary.
    Kentucky: The Public Campaign Action Fund released an ad highlighting Mitch McConnell's record supporting the use of taxpayer dollars to fund iPod-like music players for Afghani tribesman but opposing body armor for our troops.  (Yes, you read that right; Ditch Mitch KY explains.  It of course involves a former McConnell staffer becoming a lobbyist, and McConnell securing an earmark for the clients of his former staffer while the lobbyist/former staffer raises thousands of dollars for McConnell.)  So what does McConnell do?  He uses his contacts and clout to get the ad pulled from cable stations!  In a completely unrelated note, defines "fascism" as "forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism."
    Arizona: Looking ahead to 2010, popular-but-term-limited Governor Janet Napolitano has established a federal political action committee, seen as an early step toward a 2010 Senate bid.  Meanwhile, early polling sees Governor Napolitano handily defeating John McCain by double digits in a hypothetical 2010 Senate match-up, 47-36.

    Some parting notes:

  • The DSCC announced a winner in its bumper sticker slogan contest.  I really like it - check it out.
  • When George W. Bush took office, the National Debt stood at less than $5.75 trillion.  Last week, the National Debt crossed the $9 trillion mark.  In other words, the National Debt has gone up $3.25 trillion, more than 56%, on George W. Bush's watch of just over six-and-a-half years. Just another indicator of the failure of Bush's policies.
  • Some enterprising soul turned my catalog of the Republican Culture of Corruption: 2007 So Far into a YouTube video.  I truthfully have no idea who did it, but it really is the Citizen Kane of YouTube videos:

    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

    Unfortunately for those of you looking for some exciting news - it's more of the same:

    • July fundraising numbers are in; and, once again, the DSCC significantly outpaced the NRSC, $2.9 million to $2.2 million.  Starting off August, the DSCC had $20.6 million cash on hand (and saw its debt drop to $4 million after some repayment), while the NRSC had only $6.5 million cash on hand.
    • Survey USA's August poll numbers were released for several Senators.  While not-really-vulnerable Senator Tom Harkin saw a comfortable 57% approval, Norm Coleman (47-44), Pete Domenici (52-41) and Mitch McConnell (50-43) languished in and around the 50% danger mark, and Gordon Smith saw his lowest approval rating yet at 46-44.
    • Republicans remain so divided over the political ramifications of Iraq that they are spending millions of dollars to politically attack their own.  The right wing's "Freedom's Watch" is spending $15 million to slam, primarily, a bunch of Republicans, including Senators up for re-election in 2008: Pete Domenici, Susan Collins, Norm Coleman, John Warner, Gordon Smith, Elizabeth Dole, Mitch McConnell, Chuck Hagel, Saxby Chambliss, and Lamar Alexander.
    • Via a thorough look at fundraising and recruitment achievements so far in 2007 and to this point in 2005, I have concluded that, as ineffective an NRSC Chair as Elizabeth Dole was, John Ensign is shaping up to be even more ineffective.
    • Conservatives have more suggestions on how to enhance the image of the Republican Party, so suggests conservative pundit Fred Barnes:

    Transforming a negative image hardened over a period of years is no easy task. Still, there's a lot Republicans can do. First, they should clean house of Republicans caught up in scandal. Forcing two or three House members and at least one senator to retire would involve more than friendly persuasion and no doubt provoke strong resistance. But the effort would attract national attention--favorable attention, for a change.

    Not a bad idea, Fred.  But who to start with?  Scandal maven Ted Stevens?  His Alaskan colleague and, apparently, real estate investor Lisa Murkowski?  Pete Domenici for his involvement with the Attorney Purge scandal?  Prostitute-lovin' David Vitter?  Where to begin?

    I know.  Yawn.  If that sounds familiar, wait 'til you see the developments in the states:

    Maine: If you think Susan Collins faced copious embarrassments last week, this week brought more of the same.  The Collins camp last week tried to kick up a big fuss over the Maine Democratic Party sending a staffer to video record her public appearances.  Shocking, I know.  Well, it turns out that Collins has a history of manufacturing scandals and actually coordinating with local media stories that intentionally exaggerate facts and mislead voters regarding the actions of political opponents.  In her first Senate race, back in 1996, her camp was in close contact with reporter John Day to produce a story about her Democratic opponent hiring an "investigator to dig dirt on Collins." All her Democratic opponent did was hire a staffer to conduct opposition research, one of the most commonplace activities in any political campaign.  But the story portrayed the tactic as so unseemly, and it ran so close to Election Day, that it made an impact.  Of course the Collins camp denied coordinating with the reporter, but, after the election, that was proven a lie.  Yet another incident reinforcing "Two-Faced" Susan Collins' pattern of double talk and duplicity.  At least some members of the Maine media are calling Collins on her chicanery.

    But that wasn't all for Susan Collins this week.  It also came out that there appears to be a major conflict of interest between the Collins camp and the Bangor Daily News that has gone unreported during this election cycle.  Not only is a current staffer at Collins' Bangor office married to the executive editor of the Bangor Daily News, but that executive editor is also Collins' former press secretary.  Funny, I don't see a disclaimer mentioning this in the article that the Bangor Daily News ran on the Maine Democratic Party (though the BDN intimated in its reporting that it was Tom Allen's campaign) having a videographer taping Collins' public appearances (or any other BDN articles discussing Collins, for that matter).  Must be pretty nice for Susan Collins to have a former employee (and the spouse of a current employee) making editorial decisions about the coverage she receives.

    Oregon: Not only is Gordon Smith's approval at a low point of 46-44, as mentioned above, but in the first poll taken with Jeff Merkley's name in the mix, Smith only scores a 38%.  Given that the two-term Senator must enjoy a sizable name recognition advantage over the new Speaker of the Oregon House, this is awfully bad news for Smith.  In other news, it bothers me deeply when the few remaining supporters of Bush's Iraq War remain unable to separate support for the well-being of the troops from support for the war.  As such, it is really weak (but expected) that Oregon Republicans are dishonestly trying to turn Speaker Merkley's vote back in 2003 for a resolution in the Oregon House meant as a show of support for our troops into some sort of declaration of support for the war, as though it somehow exonerates Gordon Smith from his election cycle conversion on Iraq. Dishonest and shameful.  Jeff Merkley has supported the troops all along. Gordon Smith has supported Bush's Iraq War all along, up until his election cycle came up and his rhetoric had to disingenuously shift to prepare for a re-election bid. Very big difference.

    Colorado: "Backwards" Bob Schaffer could be self-immolating before our eyes. First, Schaffer says that the questionable contributions in his potential-votes-for-contributions scandal can't be a conflict of interest because the alleged favorable vote occurred on the Board of Education, while the contribution was to his Senate campaign. Ummm... yeah. Completely unrelated. The more Schaffer tries to defend himself, the guiltier he comes off. And then, Schaffer didn't even show up to the Board of Education's "Code of Ethics Discussion." Wow. Quite a hole Schaffer is digging.  If that wasn't enough, he further embarrassed himself and his campaign when he intimated that he still wasn't an official candidate, later explained by aides as Schaffer misspeaking.  To put the cherry on the sundae, Schaffer is watching his base divide and his support erode as "sportsmen, a traditionally Republican-leaning voting bloc in Colorado that swung blue in 2006's gubernatorial contest, are warily responding to 2008 Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bob Schaffer's ties to the energy industry."

    Nebraska: This week offered more signs that Chuck Hagel's Senate retirement was imminent.  The Lincoln Journal Star, the Omaha World-Herald, and the Washington Post all gave their write-ups on former Senator Bob Kerrey moving closer to a possible Senate bid, announcing that he has given the trustees of the New School University, his current employer, a heads-up that it is a possibility and that a decision is likely in the next couple weeks.  Kerrey says that he is "more and more certain" that Hagel will retire from the Senate and that he will decide his plans before Hagel announces his intentions.  Does he know something we don't?  Along those lines, Republican state Attorney General Jon Bruning is turning his attention away from Hagel and toward Republican U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and former Nebraska Governor Mike Johanns. Should we be expecting both a Hagel Senate retirement and Johanns Senate race entry soon?

    Kentucky: More of the same for Mitch McConnell this week.  The Washington Times highlighted his eroding base of support.  1995 GOP Gubernatorial nominee Larry Forgy sounded even more like a primary challenger.  Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Horne sounded even more like a Democratic challenger.  Powerful ads slammed McConnell on Iraq.  And, perhaps as a result of all of this, McConnell was too much of a coward to take calls from his constituents when appearing on local talk radio.  And there is your Republican Senate "leader."

    Alaska: It was only a matter of time until an Alaskan Republican called for Ted Stevens' resignation:

    A Republican member of the Alaska House of Representatives is calling for U.S. Rep. Don Young and U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens to step down at the end of their current terms.

    State Rep. Mike Kelly said it's a move needed to restore Alaskans' confidence in their government.

    Described as a conservative, Kelly happens to be correct.  The best way to remove the stench of corruption is to remove the individuals who are doing the stinking.

    Texas: It looks like John Cornyn broke an explicit campaign promise when he voted against SCHIP - in other words, voting against expanding and increasing health care coverage for sick children.  Not only is Cornyn bad for children (and people who like promises kept), but he is also bad for veterans.  But even Cornyn doesn't want to be seen with former Texas Governor George W. Bush:

    Q. Will you ask the president to appear with you on the campaign trail?
    A. I will probably ask the president to help me do some fundraising, but probably not on the campaign trail. ... We've talked about his poll numbers.

    For John "Net Negative Approval" Cornyn to be belittling someone's poll numbers certainly says something.  Meanwhile, State Representative and Lieutenant Colonel Rick Noriega is gaining institutional support in his bid to unseat Cornyn.

    Virginia: Rumblings of a Jim Gilmore for Senate campaign in 2008 are getting louder. A Gilmore-Tom Davis Republican primary would be bloody fun to watch. I'm sure that Gilmore hopes that a Senate campaign would be better regarded than his term as Governor was.

    Oklahoma: Jim "In Denial" Inhofe in the same article vilifies the "Hollywood crowd" that will allegedly be funnelling money to Oklahoma to unseat him in his 2008 re-election bid and, at the same time, announces his support for Hollywood's own Fred Thompson for President, saying Thompson is the "only one" of the Republican Presidential candidates who can beat Hillary Clinton.

    South Carolina: The South Carolina Republican grassroots and conservative netroots continue their disapproval of Lindsey Graham.

    Alabama: Democratic State Senator Vivian Figures made her official announcement entering the 2008 Senate race against Bush rubber stamp Jeff Sessions, asking of Sessions (and answering), "Has he made our schools better? Has he lowered the cost of health care? Has he even made insurance affordable? No. No. No." We'll see if it resonates in the inevitable polling to come.

    Tennessee: Following businessman/gubernatorial son Michael Ray McWherter and former TN-Dems Chair Bob Tuke, Nashville attorney Mike Doherty has indicated that he is considering a 2008 Senate challenge to Lamar Alexander.

    Idaho: Democratic former Congressman, and the only announced candidate at present for the 2008 Senate race in Idaho, Larry LaRocco offers this video look at one of his latest jobs in his Working for the Senate campaign, discussing the needs of Idaho's families and the value of unions in our workforce. As it turns out, this weekend was LaRocco's 61st birthday and his and his wife's 40th wedding anniversary.  And you can personally ask Larry LaRocco questions during his latest liveblog session on Daily Kos this Wednesday (August 29th) at 2pm Eastern, 1pm Central, Noon Mountain, 11am Pacific.

    Minnesota: These two videos offer much insight into the state of MN-Sen:

    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

    So, the Senate Democrats have never been more united over the last decade, and Senate Republicans never more fractured.  It's so bad that a small band of Republicans are considering airing their grievances against their Leadership publicly.  Meanwhile, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has yet to come up with a single top-tier challenger to a Democratic Senate incumbent.  But that is no reason to get cocky.

    With trends all apparently working against Republicans at the moment, several Republicans are taking it upon themselves to hurt their chances further by politically shooting themselves in the foot.  This week, that phenomenon was on display nowhere more clearly than in Maine.

    Maine: Susan Collins would do anything to remove from the public discourse discussion of the difference between the Susan Collins-George W. Bush "stay the course" position on Iraq versus the Tom Allen-Olympia Snowe "bring the troops home safely" position on Iraq.  And what she did was implode over the otherwise-universally agreed upon role of video and internet in political campaigns.  Collins' nightmare of a week began when the Maine Democratic Party dispatched a staffer to record Collins' comments at public events.  Well, heaven forbid Collins actually be held accountable for her public comments.  That led Collins' taxpayer-funded Chief of Staff to write a letter (for political purposes - indeed a no-no according to Senate ethic policy) to the Senate campaign of Congressman Tom Allen (I don't know why, as it was the Maine Democratic Party, not the Allen campaign, who dispatched the video recorder) pleading to have the recording stopped.  Collins' Chief of Staff argued that such tactics "demean the political process," even though, as Turn Maine Blue and CNN remind us, Collins' own Party's campaign leadership at the National Republican Senatorial Committee advocate for those very same tactics!  Then, some overreacted about the physical closeness of the video recorder - but, when the video of the recorded event hit the web, it was clear that the recorder was remarkably respectful and polite and that it was Collins who approached the recorder, introducing herself and having a very pleasant exchange.  So, no dice there.  The Maine Democratic Party even raised the very salient point that it was hypocritical for the Collins camp to complain about privacy issues and recording at public events when Susan Collins supports George W. Bush's policy of invading the privacy of law-abiding Americans through warrantless wiretapping.  (It is perhaps a coincidence that Collins' meta-macaca meltdown occurred at just about the one-year anniversary of George Allen's historic slur.)

    But that didn't stop Susan Collins' assault on technology (or Senate ethics policy) this week.  The Collins camp had attacked Daily Kos as a hate site, that is, until hate posts calling for a terrorist attack on U.S. soil were uncovered on Collins' own blog!  And then Collins' camp was caught red-handed lying about the source of the hate posts!  Also, in Collins' camp's attack on blogs, they let slip an awfully sexist remark against female bloggers.  Heckuva role model, Susan.  This all led Collins to limit access to her blog, conceding that it was poorly trafficked anyway.  But it doesn't stop there.  In another abuse of Senate ethics policy using Senate resources for political purposes, it appears that Susan Collins' Senate staff has been editing her Wikipedia entry to appear more moderate and politically palatable.  So there ya go.  Collins' foot must be riddled with metaphorical bullet holes.  Firedoglake offers a comprehensive rundown of events.  Perhaps Collins would be better off if she took the unthinkable step of actually keeping her oft-repeated promise to Maine voters and announced her Senate retirement after two terms.

    Oregon: Over in the Beaver State, Gordon Smith did what he could to shoot himself in the foot a couple times, including stumbling over his own lies regarding SalmonGate and effectively saying that he'd be willing to prolong a policy that has led to the deaths of over 3,700 American soldiers because he doesn't want to hurt his friend's feelings.  The Eugene Register-Guard added that Smith is "willing to bend and selectively omit the facts to justify ideologically driven political positions." That doesn't exactly sound like an endorsement.  Forget about the press - even Smith's allies are laying it on him over his lame excuses in SalmonGate.  On the Democratic side, however, Governor Ted Kulongoski and former Governor Barbara Roberts have gotten behind Speaker Jeff Merkley's Senate campaign, while radio personality Jeff Golden has withdrawn from consideration.

    Alaska: Wanting to expedite the shooting-himself-in-the-foot process, Ted "Tubes" Stevens lost it at an editorial board with the Anchorage Daily News.  A thorough hit-by-hit can be found here, but, to summarize: Stevens doesn't necessarily think al Qaeda is a Sunni organization; Stevens both does and doesn't think that we have the volunteer military capacity to continue in Iraq; Stevens said we had to take out Saddam because he was bad but that we have to stay in Iraq because we made it worse; and, finally, Stevens accused the Anchorage Daily News editors of trying to "assassinate" him.  Yeah, it's that ridiculous.  It doesn't help Stevens that the FBI is further scrutinizing Stevens' earmarks, including $170 million in federal contracts to the corrupt VECO Corporation to provide a service in which the company had zero experience in the field.  This has all led to very visible protests of Stevens.  Stevens even made his first appearance on WaPo's Cillizza's monthly Senate Line of the ten most competitive Senate races, due to his numerous scandals but despite not having an announced top-tier opponent yet.

    Nebraska: Though still just a Senate candidate, Republican Jon Bruning didn't want to miss out on what the cool Republican kids were doing.  It turns out that Bruning has had some shady dealings with Nelnet, a student lending company that got into some hot water, only to have Bruning work out a pretty nice settlement and then actually forgive the settlement (only to later reinstate the settlement):

    ...the original settlement came only weeks after Bruning's campaign got a $16,000 boost from Nelnet execs. In fact, the settlement was announced without Bruning's office ever launching an investigation...

    That doesn't look good.  I believe the term is "appearance of impropriety."

    Colorado: In the case of another wannabe Senator, Republican "Backwards" Bob Schaffer's self-inflicted wounds, taking contributions from the financial beneficiaries of his votes, got worse this week as the donor was revealed to have a history of trading campaign contributions for votes.

    New Hampshire: In the case of Sprintin' John Sununu, he has already shot himself in the foot and dug his hole and made his bed (and any other metaphor you can come up with).  His votes put him far out-of-step with mainstream New Hampshire, but any deviation would easily be decried as an election cycle conversion, so reports The Hill:

    Democrats are hammering Sununu on his votes in an effort to alienate him from independent voters, who make up a whopping 43 percent of the electorate in his state.

    "Sununu has just been in a very difficult position," said Linda Fowler, a professor of government at Dartmouth College. "If he breaks too publicly ... it will look like political opportunism, but he has got to get some air between himself and the Republican Party."

    CQPolitics even says that Sununu is hanging his hopes on "the mantra that 2008 can't possibly be as bad for them as 2006." Tough break for Sununu since all indications point to 2008 being as bad as or worse than 2006 for the NH-GOP, noted by the Associated Press already declaring popular former Governor though currently-unannounced Senate candidate Jeanne Shaheen as the favorite to win the 2008 Senate race.  What can Sununu do but continue touring New Hampshire touting George W. Bush's failed policies.

    Kentucky: Mitch McConnell is grasping at straws.  Perhaps Kentucky's most popular Democrat, Congressman Ben Chandler, as well as possible primary opponent 1995 KY-GOP gubernatorial nominee Larry Forgy both refuse to rule out a 2008 Senate campaign.  While a Chandler campaign probably won't happen (as he'll wait out a safer challenge to Jim Bunning in 2010 - or an open seat if Bunning retires), Forgy continues to be a thorn in McConnell's side.  Meanwhile, corrupt Governor Ernie Fletcher does everything he can to duck out of an endorsement of McConnell's re-election bid.  And while McConnell demonstrates that he is either dishonest or ignorant when it comes to the Bush Administration's planning on Iraq, his lame attacks on Democrats are getting weaker and weaker.  To top it off, state Attorney General Greg Stumbo has his Senate campaign's exploratory committee website up and running.

    North Carolina: The latest Public Policy Polling results (in PDF) find that: Elizabeth Dole's approve-disapprove stands at a shabby 48-41; and that Dole is held to under 50% by two ostensibly unknown-to-the-general-electorate names: NC-Dems Chair Jerry Meek and Forsyth County Commissioner Ted Kaplan. Dole is vulnerable; she can't break 50% against anybody lately.  Perhaps that's why she's so happy to take contributions (and apparently unwilling to return them) from donors indicted on 23 counts fraud, money laundering, yadda, yadda, yadda.

    Minnesota: The press is taking note that Norm Coleman will be playing host to the wildly unpopular George W. Bush.  Coleman's going to really need the money since he is not the "clear favorite" in his Senate race, according to CQPolitics.  That sounds right with a new DSCC poll showing that Smilin' Norm Coleman's "approval rating has sunk to 41 percent, with only 37 percent of Minnesotans saying they would vote to re-elect him while 49% would vote for someone else." Those numbers are very close to the non-partisan SurveyUSA poll results showing Coleman at a dismal 43-48.  How long before Smilin' Norm is Frownin' Norm?  I don't know, but I do know that Fox News was caught red-handed editing Senate candidate Al Franken's Wikipedia entry.  Fox News: Fair and balanced propaganda.

    Mississippi: With GOP Rep. Chip Pickering's announcement that he is retiring from the House for a K Street job, Republican Thad Cochran's staff is letting it out that Cochran is preparing for a re-election bid.

    Tennessee: It's good to hear more rumblings out of the Volunteer State as businessman Mike McWherter, son of the popular former Governor Ned McWherter, and Bob Tuke, an ex-marine and former Chair of the state Democratic Party, both confirmed that they are considering challenges to Lamar Alexander, citing Alexander's serving as a George W. Bush rubber stamp.

    South Dakota: In other good news, Senator Tim Johnson is scheduled to make his first public appearance since his brain hemorrhage on August 28 in Sioux Falls to thank South Dakotans for their ongoing support.

    Texas: State Representative and Lieutenant Colonel Rick Noriega has another powerfully compelling internet ad up while the Texas Latino community's support for John Cornyn and the TX-GOP continues to erode.

    New Mexico: Pajamas Pete Domenici's report card includes atrocious ratings from numerous issues groups including an F from the National Education Association, a D from Citizens for Global Solutions, and a D from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, as well as bad marks on energy, children's issues, seniors' issues, and the environment.

    Georgia: I really, really, really, really, really loathe Shameless, Spineless Saxby Chambliss.

    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 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.

    There's more...

    Online Video in the Texas Senate Primary

    Both contenders to dethrone John Cornyn have launched videos to introduce themselves to voters online.

    Here's Rick Noriega's:

    And here's Mikal Watt's:

    Oh wait, his isn't embeddable so I'll just have to post Roll Call political analyst Stu Rothenberg's take instead.

    ... the candidate you meet in July of the off-year is not always the same person you see again 15 months later. Candidates, and their campaigns, often improve with experience, and they start to look better if and when their opponents start to fade.

    Texas Senate hopeful Mikal Watts is getting plenty of attention these days because he has committed to putting as much as $10 million behind his bid for the Democratic nomination (against state Rep. Rick Noriega, a favorite of some in the party's netroots) and his challenge to incumbent Sen. John Cornyn (R). I haven't yet met Watts, so I have little to judge him by except for his campaign bank account - currently standing at more than $4 million -- and his Web site.

    His money obviously is impressive. But money rarely is enough. If it were the only thing that mattered, Michael Huffington (R) would have been elected to the Senate from California in 1994, Al Checchi (D) would have been elected governor of that state in 1998 (or at least won the Democratic nomination), Blair Hull (D) would now be a senator from Illinois and Tony Sanchez (D) might have come close in his Texas gubernatorial bid in 2002.

    So Watts' wallet gets my attention, but where do I look after that? His video is one of the few things on his Web site, other than a bunch of photographs of early campaign events, a bio and a donation form. So I watched it. The first half of the four-minute, 15 second video is straightforward enough. Watts introduces himself and talks about his education, his parents, his own family and his interest in public service. He's a trial lawyer, so it's not surprising that he's poised, articulate and polished. The second half of the video probably is the silliest, most transparent attempt to deliver a message I have ever seen.

    Watts wants us to know that he is a "fighter" and a "leader," and he apparently thinks that viewers of his video are a little dense. You'd either have to be in a coma or not understand English to miss Watts' message. The Democratic hopeful uses a form of the word "fight" 11 times in the last two minutes and 15 seconds of the video. And he uses a form of the word "leader" another eight times during that same period. In one section of the video lasting 37 seconds, Watts uses the word "fighter" six times -- an average of once every 6.17 seconds:

    "I have been a fighter my entire career, fighting for the rights of average, working families here in Texas. And I have proven that I will stay in that fight and give it my all until we win. Texans are looking for a Senator who is a leader, who will fight for them. Someone who will fight for families here in Texas rather than special interests there in Washington. I am certain that as we travel around the state and see more and more good Texans, that my message of real leadership and real change in Washington is a message that is going to hit home here in Texas. I am confident that Texans will join me in this fight."

    There are plenty of attributes that voters want in their candidates. They certainly want leaders and, at least now, forces for change. I certainly wouldn't criticize Watts or any candidate for mentioning them. It's the way he talks about them that is so aggravating. It sounds as if he thinks he's the first guy to run on those buzzwords.

    I'm not certain whether Watts' rhetoric is classic political boilerplate or an effort to neutralize the positioning of Noriega, a state legislator and veteran of the war in Afghanistan. If and when I meet Watts, I may have a completely different view of him and his prospects. But for now, I'd suggest that he re-do his video, making it more professional and more thoughtful.

    Watts' video is here.

    [Note: These are both videos intended strictly for internet use so don't post comments saying they're not good enough for TV. They are NOT TV ads.]

    There's more...


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