Senate 2008 Guru: Following the Races

Keeping a close eye on developments in the 2008 U.S. Senate races

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Guru is Moving!

Some exciting news: the Guru is moving!

Check out the new digs at:

Senate Guru

It will have the same thorough content, and even more interactivity.

For those who have been kind enough to link to the Guru's blog in your Blog Rolls, please update appropriately. Your support is greatly appreciated!

Thanks for your readership. Like Jack Black said in School of Rock, "I'll see you cats on the flip-flop."

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Saturday Rundown

  • You have kicked butt on the Expand the Map! ActBlue page! Tom Allen has gotten to 20 contributions, Rick Noriega has gotten to 30, and Andrew Rice has gotten to 50! Meanwhile, we're close to two milestones: Larry LaRocco is 3 contributions shy of 40, and the entire page is just $51 shy of the $6,000 mark. Can we get Larry LaRocco just 3 more contributions this weekend? You guys are great! Thank you so much!

  • Stu Rothenberg has updated his 2008 Senate Ratings. And the changes from his November ratings all look good for Democrats. The Virginia seat moves from "Lean Takeover" to "Likely Takeover," New Mexico moves from "Toss-Up" to "Lean Takeover," Minnesota moves from a "Narrow" incumbent advantage to "Toss-Up," and Alaska moves from a "Clear" incumbent advantage to only a "Narrow" one. All Democratic seats remain in "Currently Safe," except for Louisiana, which remains in "Toss-Up."

  • Oklahoma: State Senator Andrew Rice will liveblog on Firedoglake TODAY at 2pm Eastern, 1pm Central (in about one hour!). He will, of course, discuss his 2008 Senate bid to oust anachronism Jim "In Denial" Inhofe.

  • Tennessee: It sounds like former Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Bob Tuke will join the 2008 Senate race and probably announce next week:

    It's almost certain that I'll be making an announcement, probably next week, that I'll be running against Senator Lamar Alexander for the Senate and I'm anxious to do it and I think it's important. ...

    It'll have to be a ground game. It will be a ground game. I'm a Marine; I know how to do that. ...

    The principal issue is change and, frankly, the absence of leadership. I've been disappointed, and I think a lot of Tennesseeans have, that Senator Alexander, who certainly has all the ability, has failed to deliver on leadership.
    Tuke will join a Democratic primary alongside former Nashville Mayoral candidate Ken Eaton, former Knox County Clerk Mike Padgett, and former Green Party candidate Chris Lugo.

  • Louisiana: Some big names from Louisiana's business community are coming out in support of the re-election bid of Senator Mary Landrieu:

    Jim Bernhard, CEO of the Shaw Group, and more than 20 other Louisiana business leaders will today join U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., to discuss her success as a champion for Louisiana businesses and to show their support for her reelection later this year.

    The group of leaders endorsing Senator Landrieu will include Harmony Center founder and Baton Rouge Area Chamber board member Collis Temple, Jr., and Louisiana Recovery Authority board member Sean Reilly, COO and President of the Outdoor Division of Lamar Advertising Company.
    Senator Landrieu is demonstrating the broad range of support that will serve her very well in November.

  • Minnesota: If you look up "Norm Coleman" in a thesaurus, "bad for the economy" should be one of the synonyms. Meanwhile, both MN Blue and MNCR wonder why Mike Ciresi kicked $2 million of his own money into his campaign, with MNCR curious if it's a sign that Ciresi might go back on his pledge to have the DFL Convention determine the nominee and might fight on for a primary victory in September.

  • Texas: If John Cornyn is speaking, odds are he's being dishonest.

  • New Hampshire: Sprintin' John Sununu prattles on and on about his love of a regressive flat tax in front of a friendly right-wing crowd.

  • Which is worse for John McCain? His hypocritically close relationship with lobbyists or his close relationship with indicted Arizona Congressman Rick Renzi?

  • Stay tuned for a very big announcement from the Guru tomorrow!

  • Friday, February 22, 2008

    Friday Items

  • I haven't asked in a while; so, if Friday's your pay-day, or if you just want to see Democrats make competitive races out of Republican-held Senate seats that the GOP was hoping it could take for granted, please send a few bucks to worthy Democrats on the Expand the Map! ActBlue page. Pretty please!

  • January fundraising numbers are in; and, once again, the DSCC outraises the NRSC. This time, it's $3.95 million to $3.5 million, with a new cash-on-hand differential of $30.48 million to $13.2 million. And the DSCC's debt is down to $1 million.

  • Maine: Uh oh. It looks like the Collins camp doesn't have their excuses straight as to why Susan Collins failed in her oversight duties while Chair of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Susan Collins, back in 2004:

    But Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, chair of the Senate Governmental Affairs committee, says the panel will not be taking any action because Halliburton's contracts in Iraq already face probes by the General Accounting Office, defense auditors and the Pentagon inspector general.
    OK, Collins doesn't want to be duplicative. Sure, it sounds like she's passing the buck, but at least she gives a reason. But, wait! Now in 2008, that Collins is being pressed on her lack of oversight, her Senate chief of staff-slash-political campaign manager (huh?) Steve Abbott says:

    “It was all political,” Abbott said. “It was meant to be a theatrical side show.”
    Hmmm... Were they important hearings that were just being conducted by other offices (the GAO, the Pentegon, etc.) or were they just meant as political theater? As much as Two-Faced Susan might try, she can't have it both ways. Sounds like the Collins camp needs to get their stories straight.

  • Alaska: Despite being under federal investigation for his backlog of scandals, Ted Stevens has officially filed for re-election. His reason for running again? "Extreme environmentalists." People who would like to see an end put to Stevens' peerless brand of brazen appearances of impropriety eagerly await the announcement of Democratic Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, who beats Stevens in a hypothetical match-up according to a recent poll.

  • Mississippi: The DSCC catches Senate-appointee Roger Wicker in his latest blatant hypocrisy, this time on student loans to make college education more affordable.

  • Colorado: All-around yutz Dick Wadhams is formalizing his paid staff role with Backwards Bob Schaffer's 2008 Senate campaign. You may remember Wadhams from such greatest hits as George Macaca Allen's 2006 debacle.

  • Kentucky: Mitch McConnell is pretty unabashed about the fact that he's simply trying to bribe Kentucky voters to gain re-election:

    “When you're in the position of (Barkley) or myself, we're in the middle of every issue,” McConnell said. “We all have one vote, but the level of influence is different.”

    He said that can be seen in the amount of federal money Kentucky has seen over the years. From the current budget, McConnell said he's brought $500 million to the Bluegrass State. He also noted that through the tobacco buyout (which McConnell penned), $43 million made its way into Calloway County.
    Forget that McConnell is amid the worst approval ratings of his career and that the majority of Kentuckians think he's ass-backwards on Iraq. Hey, if he can squeeze a little extra pork spending, then Kentuckians should just disregard his record of unparalleled obstructionism and shoddy ethics.

  • Oklahoma: Don't forget: State Senator Andrew Rice will liveblog on Firedoglake tomorrow (Saturday) at 2pm Eastern, 1pm Central. He will, of course, discuss his 2008 Senate bid to oust anachronism Jim "In Denial" Inhofe.

  • North Carolina: Republican Senator Richard Burr provides us with the creepily gushing comment of the day:

    "If you really want to know what Elizabeth Dole is like, she's a rock star," he said. "When you go around with her, it doesn't matter whether they've known her their entire life or whether they meet her for the first time, they get this glow on their face."
    Mr. Burr must only see the faces of the less than 45% of North Carolinians who actually approve of Liddy Dole's job performance.

  • South Dakota: Badlands Blue offers an analysis of why a Steve Kirby challenge to Senator Tim Johnson just doesn't make any sense.

  • Gosh, the supposedly anti-lobbyist "maverick" John McCain employs more lobbyists on his Presidential campaign than many lobbying firms!

  • Thursday, February 21, 2008

    LCV Releases Environmental Scores for 2007

    The League of Conservation Voters released their National Environmental Scorecard for 2007, grading members of Congress on their votes on legislation affecting the environment. A score of 100 reflects a record of voting the pro-environmental way every time on the tracked legislation; a score of zero, of course, reflects a wholly anti-environmental voting record on the tracked legislation. Tracked legislation included bills on CAFE standards, renewable energy, offshore drilling, and much more. So let's go to the scores:

    GOP Senators Running for Re-election2007 Score'03-'04 ScoreDem Senators Running for Re-election2007 Score'03-'04 Score
    Lamar Alexander (TN)33%4%Max Baucus (MT)67%52%
    John Barrasso (WY)33%n/aJoe Biden (DE)67%92%
    Saxby Chambliss (GA)7%0%Richard Durbin (IL)93%88%
    Thad Cochran (MS)0%0%Tom Harkin (IA)87%73%
    Norm Coleman (MN)33%16%Tim Johnson (SD)33%*52%
    Susan Collins (ME)100%64%John Kerry (MA)93%44%**
    John Cornyn (TX)0%4%Mary Landrieu (LA)53%32%
    Elizabeth Dole (NC)7%8%Frank Lautenberg (NJ)93%92%
    Mike Enzi (WY)13%0%Carl Levin (MI)67%88%
    Lindsey Graham (SC)7%8%Mark Pryor (AR)60%48%
    Jim Inhofe (OK)0%4%Jack Reed (RI)93%96%
    Mitch McConnell (KY)7%0%Jay Rockefeller (WV)73%84%
    Pat Roberts (KS)0%0%
    Jeff Sessions (AL)13%4%
    Gordon Smith (OR)73%28%
    Ted Stevens (AK)27%4%
    John Sununu (NH)53%36%
    GOP Senators' Average23.9%11.3%Dem Senators' Average73.3%70.1%
    *missed significant number of votes due to illness - counts in LCV ratings as negative
    **only rating in recent career below 89% - likely an outlier due to many missed votes while running for President

    Current GOP House Members Running for Senate2007 Score'03-'04 ScoreCurrent Dem House Members Running for Senate2007 Score'03-'04 Score
    Steve Pearce (NM)0%3%Tom Allen (ME)100%90%
    Heather Wilson (NM)15%16%Mark Udall (CO)95%100%
    Tom Udall (NM)100%97%

    A few observations become very clear:

    1) Democrats are wildly better than Republicans when it comes to protecting our environment. But reducing overall energy consumption and expanding renewable energy development is not just about protecting our environment. It's also about - catch phrase alert - reducing our dependence on foreign oil, which strengthens our hand (read: reduces the Middle East's leverage against us) in the fight against terrorism.

    1a) In 2007, only three Republicans scored above 35%, and all three were obviously from blue-leaning states (Maine, Oregon, New Hampshire). By contrast, only three Democrats scored below65%, one of whom (Senator Tim Johnson) only scored so low because of many missed votes due to illness.

    1b) Both Republican House members running for Senate are clearly horrible for the environment, while all three Democratic House members running for Senate get A's.

    2) Democrats are far more steady in their positions on environmental/energy policy. The reason I posted each Senator's score from the '03-'04 cycle is that it was the Congress right after their last election - in other words, the Congress furthest from their next election cycle. As such we could compare how they vote when their name is on the ballot versus when it's not. Democratic Senators' average score between 2007 and '03-'04 fluctuated only about 3%, but Republican Senators' average score between 2007 and '03-'04 fluctuated by a much larger amount, nearly 13%!

    2a) Excluding Tim Johnson (many missed votes in 2007 due to illness) and John Kerry (many missed votes in '03-'04 due to Presidential campaign), the largest Democratic fluctuation between '03-'04 and 2007 was 25% (Joe Biden). Excluding John Barrasso (who wasn't in the Senate in '03-'04), there were three Republican Senators with fluctuations of over 25% between these two time periods (Lamar Alexander, Susan Collins, Gordon Smith).

    2b) Clearly, Republicans in blue states (i.e. vulnerable Republicans) felt the need to posture themselves as more pro-environment than they really are when the electoral spotlight isn't on them. Note the shifts among these most vulnerable incumbent Republicans:

    Vulnerable Republican2007 Score'03-'04 Score
    Norm Coleman (MN)33%16%
    Susan Collins (ME)100%64%
    Gordon Smith (OR)73%28%
    Ted Stevens (AK)27%4%
    John Sununu (NH)53%36%
    Vulnerable GOP Senators' Average57.2%29.6%

    These most vulnerable Republican Senators nearly doubled their environmental rating scores in a desperate and disingenuous attempt to appear more moderate in their election cycle. Let's hope their Democratic opponents do an effective job of highlighting this obvious election cycle political posturing.

    Thursday Tidbits

  • Virginia: Broken record alert: yet another poll shows popular former Governor Mark Warner with a huge lead over - shall we say - less popular former Governor Jim Gilmore in their 2008 Senate race. Rasmussen Reports' latest numbers show a 20-point lead for Warner with a 57-37 margin.

  • Maine: Senator Frank Lautenberg will hold an endorsement event with Congressman Tom Allen today. Why is this particularly notable? Because Lautenberg was perhaps the most vocal Senator in calling for Susan Collins to hold oversight hearings on Iraq waste and mismanagement while Collins was Chair of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Oversight, hearings that Collins seemingly never got around to holding.

  • Idaho: The 2008 Senate campaign of former Congressman Larry LaRocco offers an update on grassroots outreach, fundraising (including the Jon Tester event), and his new radio ad via a post on the terrific Idaho blog Red State Rebels.

  • New Jersey: Republican Senate candidates Joe Pennacchio and Murray Sabrin are accusing a third Republican candidate, Anne Evans Estabrook, of violating campaign finance law by hiding the amount of money she has put into her own campaign, ostensibly to avoid triggering the "Millionaire's Amendment," which would allow Estabrook's opponent to raise their contribution limits. Love those bloody GOP primaries. (HT: Blue Jersey)

  • Massachusetts: Republican state sen. Scott Brown, who had earlier suggested that he would consider a 2008 Senate challenge to Senator John Kerry, has instead opted to run for re-election to the Massachusetts state Senate.

  • Texas: State Representative and Lieutenant Colonel Rick Noriega has released his first TV ad, highlighting his military service, accomplishments in the state Legislature, and some priorities for when he's in the Senate:

  • Wednesday, February 20, 2008

    Wednesday Evening Rundown

  • The DSCC has released a scorching new web ad highlighting Republican Senators' own comments on Iraq, illustrating both how wrong GOP Senators have been and how committed they are to the Bush-McCain policy of endless war:

  • Idaho: Republican Idaho Senator Mike Crapo has publicly commented in support of Larry Craig's efforts to clear his name. So why hasn't Republican Senate candidate and Idaho Lt. Gov. Jim Risch done likewise?

  • Oregon: Here's another bad omen for Republican Gordon Smith: the Oregon Republican Party is over a quarter-million dollars in debt, including $35,000 owed to the IRS for "about two years' worth of payroll taxes it failed to pay for its employees." In other news, the Portland Tribune offers a glowing profile of Speaker Jeff Merkley as he juggles a Senate campaign with leading an accomplished state House while enjoying only a one-vote Democratic majority.

  • Nebraska: Rumor has it that Democrat Scott Kleeb will join the 2008 Senate race next week. Fact has it that, on Monday, Kleeb will announce... something.

  • Oklahoma: State Senator Andrew Rice will liveblog on Firedoglake this Saturday at 2pm Eastern, 1pm Central. He will, of course, discuss his 2008 Senate bid to oust anachronism Jim "In Denial" Inhofe.

  • North Carolina: Public Policy Polling's latest numbers see Elizabeth Dole's approve-disapprove at a lousy 43-32, but she still manages to cling to the 50% mark against her Democratic challengers, leading State Senator Kay Hagan 50-33 and businessman Jim Neal 50-29. Part of the explanation for the gap between Dole and the Dems is the Dems' lag with key constituencies. Both Democrats have the support of less than 55% of registered Democrats and less than 45% of African-Americans. Meanwhile, Dole has filed the paperwork to make her re-election bid official.

  • New Mexico: Republican Congresscritters Steve Pearce and Heather Wilson matched up in a GOP Senate primary debate yesterday, and the mud flew. Wilson attacked Pearce for a vote against more funding for border patrol agents and a vote for a plan that included the closure of a local Air Force base. Pearce painted Wilson as the big spending, big government type not welcome in real Republican circles. Man, this primary is fun! In other news, Pearce apparently thinks that legalizing same-sex marriage will lead to legalized pedophilia. Class act.

  • Good for Stanford University! Let's hope other fancy-pants universities with huge endowments follow this model and make top-notch educations more affordable.

  • Tuesday, February 19, 2008

    Tuesday Night Round-Up

  • Mississippi: Former Congressman Ronnie Shows has withdrawn from the 2008 Senate race to succeed Trent Lott. This clears the way for former Governor Ronnie Musgrove as the Democrat in the race against ethically questionable Republican Senate-appointee Roger Wicker. In his statement, Shows gets behind Musgrove's candidacy:

    Ronnie Musgrove has a long history of working with all Mississippians to bring about change and I believe he is now our best hope to be the Independent Voice this state needs in Washington. I look forward in the coming months to helping Governor Musgrove win this election so Mississippi will have a Senator who will work to end the partisan bickering that prevents Washington from getting anything done.
    This race is expected to be very tight, with one poll showing Musgrove with a lead and another showing Wicker with a lead.

  • Oregon: Political commentator for The Oregonian, Jeff Mapes, reports on new Rasmussen Reports polling numbers on the 2008 Senate race. Both Democrats hold Republican Gordon Smith under 50%, but the gap is in double digits. Smith leads Oregon state House Speaker Jeff Merkley 48-30 and activist Steve Novick 48-35. Mapes doesn't think much can be made of the 5-point difference between Merkley's and Novick's results, but notes that the advantage still lies with Smith.

  • Idaho: Former Congressman Larry LaRocco has released his radio ad taking on Republican Jim Risch's broken promises on taxes, and it is scathing. You can listen to it online or read the text (in PDF).

  • South Dakota: Republicans continue to insist that they will find a top tier opponent for Senator Tim Johnson. With state rep. Joel Dykstra and businessman Sam Kephart looking like absolutely no match whatsoever for Senator Johnson, former Lt. Gov. Steve Kirby is reportedly considering a bid. Kirby was last seen finishing a distant third in the Republican gubernatorial primary in 2002. A decision from Kirby is expected "by the end of the month." Amongst the other names bandied about is Republican former Gov. Bill Janklow who, some of us may remember, killed a man in 2003. Bottom of the barrel much?

  • Montana: Senator Max Baucus made his 2008 Senate re-election bid official by filing with the Montana Secretary of State's office this morning.

  • Tennessee: Former Knox County Clerk Mike Padgett is jumping into the 2008 Democratic Senate primary race to determine Lamar Alexander's opponent.

  • Tuesday Items

  • Maine: It has now been three weeks since I sent my open e-mail to Susan Collins' communications staff about hearings she held (or didn't hold) during her tenure as Chair of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. I guess I'll just have to send it again and hope for a response.

  • Minnesota: Rasmussen Reports just released a poll showing Al Franken with a narrow 49-46 lead over Smilin' Norm Coleman (and Coleman with a narrow 47-45 lead over Mike Ciresi). This represents an overall ten point gain for Al Franken since Rasmussen's October poll showing Coleman with a 49-42 lead. This is also the second polling operation to see Franken with a narrow lead over Coleman, but Coleman with a narrow lead over Ciresi, following a Minnesota Public Radio poll conducted at the end of January.

  • Louisiana: Despite the support of former Governor Jeb Bush's political machine and an edge in the polls within days of the primary, Mitt Romney managed to lose the Florida Republican primary to John McCain by almost 100,000 votes. Romney's campaign director in Florida was Mandy Fletcher, who is now joining the campaign of recent-Republican state Treasurer John Neely Kennedy. With Fletcher's recent experience in stunning losses, we hope more of the same is brought to Treasurer Kennedy's campaign against Senator Mary Landrieu. Does Fletcher have extensive familiarity with the political landscape of Louisiana, at least? Says Fletcher, "The only two people I know in Louisiana is a guy from high school who works for the Saints and Alan Levine." We'll take that as a "No."

  • Idaho: Serving as another signal that Democrats across the country are committed to a competitive Senate race in Idaho, Montana Senator Jon Tester will be the special guest at a fundraiser in early March for Senate candidate and former Congressman Larry LaRocco. Also, today is the day that LaRocco will unveil his new radio ad criticizing Republican Jim Risch for dishonestly breaking his promise regarding tax increases.

  • New Mexico and Colorado: The Udall boys, Congressman Tom and Mark, get some great press in Outdoors Magazine in a profile that outlines one of the methods by which Democrats have worked to reclaim the Mountain West:

    They've positioned themselves as conservationists, forging alliance with sportsmen and farmers while painting Republicans as tools for mining and gas.
    The Democratic agenda clearly works best for Americans. I fully expect Congressmen Udall to effectively make the case to their respective states in this regard.

  • Tennessee: Former Nashville Mayoral candidate Kenneth Eaton is about to enter the 2008 Senate race against Lamar Alexander. On the Democratic side, only former Green Party member Chris Lugo is in the race, while former Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Bob Tuke continues to consider a bid.

  • Over at Booman Tribune, an analysis is offered as to which Democratic Presidential candidate would offer the longest coattails to Democratic candidates for Senate, based on the Presidential candidates' performances in each state's primary/caucus. If you consider Virginia, New Hampshire, and New Mexico relatively safe Democratic Senate pick-ups, the next five tightest races are Minnesota, Colorado, Oregon, Maine, and Alaska. Four of those five states have already had their Democratic primary/caucus (Oregon's turn isn't until May 20). All four were won by Barack Obama, and won by a very sizable average margin of over 34% (ranging from 19% in Maine to 49% in Alaska). By this particular metric that BooMan analyzes, Obama stands out as a potentially much more helpful top-of-the-ticket for Democratic candidates for Senate than Hillary Clinton would be.

  • Monday, February 18, 2008

    Monday Miscellany

  • New Hampshire: In true dog-whistle political style, Sprintin' John Sununu makes it abundantly clear that he adheres strictly to the George W. Bush economic policies of tax cuts for the rich and privatizing social security.

  • Idaho: A very good sign for Democrats in the Gem State, including Senate candidate and former Congressman Larry LaRocco: the Idaho Dems are organizing more strongly at the grassroots than at any time in recent history.

  • Charles Barkley for Governor of Alabama in 2014.

  • Booman highlights polls showing Barack Obama matching up better against John McCain than Hillary Clinton does in several key states.

  • With massive recalls recently of goods like children's toys, baby food, pet food, lettuce, spinach, trucks, batteries, and now the largest beef recall in American history, doesn't it make you feel all safe and snuggly to know that John McCain vilifies appropriately regulating the marketplace to maintain consumer safety at every opportunity? In other words, shorter McCain: "Wiretapping law abiding Americans, good. Regulating industries with massive product recalls, bad."