Senate 2008 Guru: Following the Races

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

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Another Indication of the NRSC Behind the 8-Ball

  • [Cross-posted at my SSP diary.]

    Let's revisit candidate filing for the 2006 cycle. At this point in the 2006 cycle (i.e. April 1, 2005), 9 of the 28 listed Senate non-incumbent challengers had filed, or just about one-third. At this point, the Republicans had seen Bob Corker, Mark Kennedy, and Tom Kean Jr. file. The Democrats saw Amy Klobuchar, Bob Casey, and Sheldon Whitehouse file. In other words, while there is lots of time left to recruit candidates and to see strong challengers file, both parties should have a couple promising candidates to point to at this point.

    The Democrats, right now, can point to Mark Udall well-situated in Colorado for a pick-up. In New Hampshire, Sprintin' John Sununu lost in a hypothetical match-up to former Governor Jeanne Shaheen by 10 points, suggesting that she is the #1 potential recruit for the Democrats - though a spirited primary is underway with promising candidates. In Minnesota, Al Franken went from being down 20 points in mid-February, right after announcing, to being only down 10 points a month later. Mid-April polling will give us a fuller indication of the direction of this possible trend. Additionally, strong candidates are considering races in Alabama, Maine, and Nebraska. There is clearly still much work to be done as the year goes in, particularly in states like Kentucky, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia if Democrats are to take full advantage of the political opportunities before them.

    And how are the NRSC and the Republicans doing? Well, not so good. There are twelve Democratic incumbents and one open seat. Let's run through all thirteen potential battlegrounds, starting with the open seat.

    Colorado (open seat): The CO-GOP just saw their top candidate back out of the race and back-ups like state AG Suthers have some conservatives less than enthused. NRSC success or failure so far? Failure.

    Arkansas (Senator Mark Pryor): Just yesterday, it was reported that former Governor and Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, perhaps the only candidate that a weakened AR-GOP could put up to make the race competitive, has ruled out a Senate challenge. NRSC success or failure so far? Failure.

    Delaware (Senator Joe Biden): GOP Rep. Mike Castle is perhaps the only Republican who could offer even a somewhat challenging race against Biden, but he seems to have indicated, for yet another cycle, that he isn't interested. NRSC success or failure so far? Failure.

    Illinois (Senator Richard Durbin): The IL-GOP is reduced to begging wealthy conservatives to martyr themselves in a self-funded campaign to prevent Durbin from having a total cake-walk re-election. NRSC success or failure so far? Failure.

    Iowa (Senator Tom Harkin): Right now, the IA-GOP Senate primary consists of two token candidates in tongue-tied conservative Steve Rathje and part-time tae kwon do instructor Bob McDowell. Iowa's several flawed Republican Congresspeople and former Congresspeople are all still biding their time. NRSC success or failure so far? Failure.

    Louisiana (Senator Mary Landrieu): Senator Landrieu is supposed to be the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent. Then how come nobody has stepped up to her yet? Bobby Jindal seems to be the state's most popular Republican. But he is running for Governor, not Senate. And against a statewide GOP officeholder and potential opponent, LA Sec. of State Jay Dardenne, Landrieu vastly exceeds expectations, winning 53-38, as some Republican Congresspeople take their names out of the running. NRSC success or failure so far? Failure.

    Massachusetts (Senator John Kerry): There are two legitimate challengers (Harvard-Pilgrim CEO Charles Baker and former Governor Paul Cellucci) and one "spectacle" challenger (Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling) that could make a race against Senator Kerry. Baker and Schilling have taken their names out of the running and Cellucci has indicated no interest, particularly in endorsing Rudy Guiliani for President over former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. The rest of the MA-GOP is fairly irrelevant-to-nonexistant right now. NRSC success or failure so far? Failure.

    Michigan (Senator Carl Levin): There hasn't been a single substantial peep of noise from the MI-GOP regarding a Senate challenger; and speculation rests primarily (if not only) on the wives of former Michigan politicians. In the words of police officers everywhere, "Nothing to see here, folks." NRSC success or failure so far? Failure.

    Montana (Senator Max Baucus): Despite the redness of Montana in Presidential races, the MT-Dems have had major successes including the races of Governor Brian Schweitzer and Senator Jon Tester, as well as significant shifts in the Montana state Legislature. Also, Baucus is extremely popular in Montana. The only candidate who could even give Baucus a challenge is GOP Rep. Denny Rehberg, who the NRSC must be courting like crazy, only to get zero sustained interest so far. NRSC success or failure so far? Failure.

    New Jersey (Senator Frank Lautenberg): I expected the NJ-GOP to kick this potential race into gear early, but we've heard practically nothing from them. Lautenberg's relatively low approvals aren't as big of a concern as they'd be in another state, as NJ-Dems can get (re-)elected with low approvals (see: 2006's Menendez v. Kean Jr.). And the NJ-GOP's strongest potential candidate, U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, has taken himself out of the running, leaving, at best, a B-team for the NJ-GOP and NRSC to look at. NRSC success or failure so far? Failure.

    Rhode Island (Senator Jack Reed): The RI-GOP has been even quieter than the MI-GOP. In 2006, moderate-to-liberal Republican Lincoln Chafee got bounced primarily for having an R next to his name. Reed is very popular and the RI-GOP bench is slim. Again, "Nothing to see here." NRSC success or failure so far? Failure.

    South Dakota (Senator Tim Johnson): Senator Johnson is extremely popular and recovering from a serious health malady. It is unclear how the SD-GOP will approach this race. A political attack on Johnson while he is recovering could seriously backfire. Meanwhile, it is unclear if Johnson will run for re-election or not, though indications are that he will, barring a health setback. Had ultra-conservative Governor Mike Rounds gotten in the race early, he might have stood a chance, but now the SD-GOP and NRSC have to sit on their hands and wait. NRSC success or failure so far? Failure.

    West Virginia (Senator Jay Rockefeller): The WV-GOP has been almost as quiet as the MI-GOP and RI-GOP. At most, they have rumors, but not a single WV Republican has stepped forward, as they wait to see if GOP Rep. Shelley Moore Capito wants to take a shot. As Capito and other WV Republicans expect this term to be Senator Robert Byrd's last, they'll likely wait out that seat for an open race than challenge Rockefeller. NRSC success or failure so far? Failure.

    So there you go. The Democrats certainly have some recruiting work to do in some key states, but they have also seen some early success with the ball rolling in other states. Meanwhile, the NRSC is objectively a resounding 0-for-13 so far in challenges to open seats and Democratic-held seats.

  • 18 Comments:

    Blogger VA Blogger said...

    How can you, with a straight face, devote the first half of your blog to talking about how there's plenty of time to recruit solid candidates, then devote the second half of your blog to declaring the NRSC as a complete failure?

    Here's a better question: will there ever be a time, from now until Election Day, that you won't be a 100% sold-out cheerleader for your "team"?

    10:49 AM, April 01, 2007  
    Blogger Senate2008Guru said...

    Yet again, va blogger, I have to ask if you even bothered to read the entirety of the post.

    The first chunk of the blog mentions that there is a lot of time left but notes that, at this point in the 2006 cycle, both parties had at least a few strong candidates to point to.

    Then, as I go through every state, I clearly ask whether the NRSC has been a success or failure so far.

    And so far the NRSC and Republicans have been 0-for-13 in the 12 Democratic-held seats and one open seat in terms of challenges. And I don't see you arguing with that fact.

    You might want to go back and re-read the post...

    11:13 AM, April 01, 2007  
    Blogger VA Blogger said...

    The first thing we do is recognize that there are races that will not be competitive, not because of the strength of either party, but because of the state that the race is in and the incumbent in question. In addition to more GOP states being up this year, there is a higher percentage of "safe" Democratic seats than Republican. So let's eliminate those safe seats first:

    GOP-held:
    AK, GA, ID, KS, KY, MS, NE, OK, SC, TN, TX, and WY.

    Dem-held:
    DE, IL, MA, MI, NJ, RI, and WV.

    That leaves 10 GOP seats and only 5 Democratic seats. Again, this has nothing to do with the strength or weakness of either party, but is the inherent nature of the map.

    We'll take a look at the NRSC recruitment first:

    AR: With Huckabee, all we have is Chuck Banks. Since we're up against a non-controversial incumbent riding his father's fame, there's not much chance here.

    IA: The entry of King, Latham, Nussle, or Branstad would make this race competitive. None of the four have said "no", so this is a race where its far, far too premature to label it a failure.

    LA: Richard Baker remains the strongest possible challenger (except for future Governor Bobby Jindal), and he's still in contention. And Jay Dardenne's deficit would be easily made up once he has a chance to introduce himself to the voters statewide. Another case of being extremely premature to label it a failure, especially since any challenge to Landrieu would be a struggle for her.

    MT: Rehberg hasn't ruled out a bid yet, and niether has former Governor Marc Racicot. Another absurudly premature label of failure.

    SD: It takes a jackass to fault the NRSC and the Republican Party for not campaigning against Johnson. It also crass for Democrats to prepare for Johnson's re-election bid while expecting Republicans to do nothing about it.

    And the open seat, Colorado. Losing Scott McInnis is tough, but there are enough Republicans in the state who would make the race competitive against the liberal Mark Udall. To assume, based on nothing, that recruitment efforts will pan out is, again, moronically premature.

    So what's the NRSC's record? 0-1, with five races yet to be determined.

    Meanwhile, what are the Democrat's top races? Easy: CO, ME, MN, NH, and OR. How did the DSCC fair here?

    Since Mark Udall announced his intentions to run for the seat in 2005, its a bit disingenuous to credit the DSCC. But since you treat national politics as a "team sport" for which you're a cheerleader, we'll give you a point there.

    In Maine, you have Tom Allen (if he decides to run). Allen still has an uphill battle against the uber-popular Susan Collins.

    In New Hampshire, you have not only one, but two recruitment failures, the only two people who would put this race away from the start: Shaheen and Lynch. Now you have a small-town mayor and a failed Congressional candidate running. They'll make the race competitive because of New Hampshire's trend, but against the most vulnerable GOP incumbent, the DSCC fell short twice.

    In Minnesota, you have an unknown attorney with deep pockets, and an unelectable Al Franken. Another very vulnerable incumbent that has a better-than-fighting chance to keep his seat due to lackluster challengers.

    And in Oregon, you can release all the polls you want showing Gordon Smith down by a mere four points, but until you have a candidate, you can't call recruitment efforts here successful.

    Isn't it amazing how somebody can take the same facts that you're using, and not make it seem as if there is no possible outcome but an overwhelming Democratic victory?

    If you were being truthful with yourself, you would put down your pom-poms and stop being a cheerleader. Unfortunately, your aim with this blog isn't to educate. Its not to "follow the races". Its to be a sold-out hack for the Democratic Party.

    12:44 PM, April 01, 2007  
    Blogger Blue South said...

    dear va blogger
    blogs are not newspapers, and bloggers are not journalists.
    your partisan friend,
    Blue South

    1:08 PM, April 01, 2007  
    Blogger Senate2008Guru said...

    Sounds like more whining from va blogger - "Unfortunately, your aim with this blog isn't to educate. Its not to "follow the races". Its to be a sold-out hack for the Democratic Party."

    My "aim" with this blog, if you want to call it an "aim," is to opine about the Senate races in 2008. I'm not the daily newspaper. I'm not in the White House press room. I follow the news and share my thoughts. If you don't like my opinions, don't read the blog. If I'm doing nothing more than cheerleading for the Democrats, what are you still doing here reading the blog several times a day?

    And it's great that you're able to write-off races left and right, but those of us who knowledgeably follow politics don't write races off early.

    And I don't know how you can call it cheerleading when I close the second paragraph with: "There is clearly still much work to be done as the year goes in, particularly in states like Kentucky, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia if Democrats are to take full advantage of the political opportunities before them."

    But, so far, in every single state that is held by a Democrat or that is an open seat, the GOP has failed so far to put up a strong candidate. 0 for 13. Last cycle, at this time, they had Bob Corker, Mark Kennedy, and Tom Kean Jr.. This cycle, at this point, they have nobody. That's my point. And it is factually correct. Now, you can make excuses for the NRSC and whine all you want. But it doesn't change the facts of the situation. That's my take as I follow the races. If you disagree, share a fact to explain why. Or just don't read the blog. But, I'm begging you here, stop whining!

    1:18 PM, April 01, 2007  
    Blogger VA Blogger said...

    I shared several facts, and I explained clearly why its mind-bogglingly stupid to call the NRSC recruitment efforts "failures", as you did in bold, when, as you pointed out, there's more than enough time to recruit strong candidates.

    Would you like to respond to any of the points I brought up? Its easy to dismiss everything I say as "whining" just because I point out your leaps of logic and inconsistency.

    1:37 PM, April 01, 2007  
    Blogger Senate2008Guru said...

    I can't respond to any of your points because you ignore that I say the NRSC is a failure "so far" in its efforts. If the NRSC coaxes Jindal out of running for Gov and into a Sen bid two months from now, then they have a success. But, SO FAR, it's a failure. As is the case in EVERY STATE held by a Democrat or facing an open race. SO FAR, the NRSC is 0 for 13. That can change as the year goes on. But, right now, SO FAR, the NRSC is 0 for 13. You haven't offered a single point to contradict THAT FACT. You've made excuses for the NRSC as why it's 0 for 13 so far, but you haven't offered a single point to contradict the fact that the NRSC is 0 for 13.

    2:09 PM, April 01, 2007  
    Blogger VA Blogger said...

    Because only an idiot would say the NRSC is "0-13", just like only an idiot would see a team give up two runs in the first inning of a baseball game, and conclude that they lost.

    The fact that the NRSC hasn't locked in solid challengers in those states is not in dispute. The conclusion that this represents a failure on their part is. Your conclusion is flawed. Moreover, you know your conclusion is flawed, but you continue it anyway in order to paint a rosy picture for your "team".

    Its also incredibly galling since, besides Mark Udall, your "team" hasn't recruited any top-tier challengers either, and Udall announced his intentions well before the DSCC began recruiting for this cycle. Yet you over-play how well the DSCC is doing, and under-play the possibilities for the NRSC, in order to further "support" your incredibly flawed conclusion.

    2:28 PM, April 01, 2007  
    Blogger Senate2008Guru said...

    I don't underplay the possibilities for the NRSC. That's why I repeatedly said "so far" over and over again, which you happily keep ignoring.

    There is, as I've said repeatedly, lots of time to recruit candidates; but I am opining that the NRSC's prospects aren't as good as the Dems. I said that the NRSC is 0-for-13 RIGHT NOW. I didn't say "and the NRSC will continue to be 0-for-13 for the rest of 2007." Try to respond to what I actually said. And if you think it's wrong to bother with analyzing where the DSCC and NRSC stand at this point in the cycle, then why are you bothering to read about it? I find it interesting, so I started a blog to opine about it.

    Based on the numbers we've seen, it's more likely, I'd opine that Steve Marchand could beat John Sununu or that a Democratic Congressman in Oregon will step up to beat Gordon Smith than it is likely that Jay Dardenne would beat Mary Landrieu or that one of the Republican Iowa Congressmen will step up and beat Tom Harkin.

    I base my opinion on Sununu's downright lousy approval and the blue trend in NH, Smith's mediocre approval and the poll that had Smith losing to DeFazio as well as Oregon's relatively blue status, the poll that had Landrieu beating Dardenne by a surprisingly large margin, and Harkin's track record against IA-GOP Congressmen and each of their individual flaws. I don't cheerlead for the sake of cheerleading - I look at facts and form opinions.

    Note for example that I'm not saying "Ron Sparks will crush Sessions!" I am saying "Hey, I didn't expect Alabama to be competitive, but I'm not writing it off; and, hey again, here's a guy with terrific rhetoric and a strong record who has won in Alabama statewide. He could give Sessions a run for his money, and that's exciting."

    You, va blogger, can offer facts to contradict; OR you can say, "Hey, even though Sununu's approval is lousy, Shaheen isn't in, so I'm hopeful that Sununu can pull it out against a lesser known candidate, even though I don't have any facts to show that Sununu has any momentum"; OR you can stop reading this blog entirely since it clearly doesn't suit you; OR you can just keep whining because the trends aren't going your way. Unfortunately, you keep choosing the fourth option. I would beg you, however, to stop whining simply because I have an opinion that is not in line with yours. Please.

    3:32 PM, April 01, 2007  
    Blogger VA Blogger said...

    You bolded the word "failure" 13 times in your original post. "Failure" implies an ending. You can't "fail" at something "so far". If a baseball team is down in the 1st inning, you can't say "they so far have failed to win". I'm not taking umbrage with the fact that you've pointed out the lack of recruitment successes (and ignored the potential for success in the future), I'm taking umbrage with the fact that you've reached a conclusion when hardly enough time has passed for that to happen. If you want to prove that you're not underplaying the possibility for the NRSC to recruit candidates, then you would edit your original post and take out the word "failure".

    Why do you continue to persist on labelling my disagreements with you as "whining"? You have an opinion that differs from mine, and I'm telling you why. It seems to me that you are the one who reacts to any divergence from your opinion with whining. Sort of like how you whined that the Politico poo-pooed the Democrats' chances in New Hampshire, despite them being far, far more knowledgable about politics than you. I will continue to post my opinion, whether you like it or not, regardless of how whiny you think somebody who disagrees with you is. I know you'd prefer if you and your liberal friends could just sit back and congratulate yourselves without a challenge.

    And based on the facts, I think that Marchand or (especially) Swett will have a far more difficult time in New Hampshire than you think, given that Republicans still hold an edge in party registration in New Hampshire, the state is far more moderate in Presidential years than it was in 2006, and that Senator Sununu is a much better politician than you give him credit for. As an example, in order to win in 2002, he had to defeat two statewide office-holders. Clearly, the man has some game.

    Based on the facts, I think any Democrat who challenges Gordon Smith will not be assured of victory, and therefore the Democratic congressmen would rather not risk their safe House seat on a potentially career-ending run at the Senate. That's why Wu and DeFazio have already said no, and Blumenauer has remained entirely non-committal.

    Based on the facts, Mary Landrieu will have a hard time against any credible GOP challenger, including Jay Dardenne, and especially Richard Baker. Landrieu enjoys near 100% name ID, while Dardenne is not nearly as well known, and most of the people that do know his name have not formed an opinion about him. Meanwhile, a significant portion of Landrieu's base has left the state, Louisiana always trends Republican in a Presidential year (such as in 2004, when David Vitter won outright in the open primary), and Bobby Jindal seems unstoppable in his quest for the Governor's mansion, which will provide a boost to all state Republicans.

    And its undeniable that Tom Harkin will have the advantage over any challenger (except Branstad) who gets into the race, but if that opponent is King, Latham, or Nussle, it will be competitive, and force both the DSCC and the NRSC to invest there. Harkin has never enjoyed stellar approval ratings, nor has he ever solidly won re-election.

    Now, how is that whining, and how is that any different than any one of my other posts?

    5:13 PM, April 01, 2007  
    Blogger Senate2008Guru said...

    va blogger - this is how it is whining: answer this simple question: in each case of the word "Failure" being bolded, what sentence immediately preceded every instance?

    I believe it was: "NRSC success or failure SO FAR"

    That is why you are whining - the immediately preceding sentence notes that it is only up to this point, indicating that things can change.

    SO FAR the NRSC has failed to recruit anybody anywhere in each of the 13 states.

    But you ignore the immediately preceding sentence each time and just complain that they haven't failed because there is more time left in the cycle. No kidding! But I'm assessing where things stand SO FAR, using historical precedent as a benchmark. And you choose to ignore that and whine.

    You're really boring me and repeating yourself, so, once again, I have to say I'm done responding to your comments on this string. Feel free to whine some more and get the last word if you like.

    11:52 PM, April 01, 2007  
    Blogger VA Blogger said...

    I had the last word already, because you've yet again declined to address any of my actual points relating to any of the actual races.

    7:34 AM, April 02, 2007  
    Blogger StealthBadger said...

    I wonder if VA blogger used the same logic to explain his quarterly (or semesterly) grades in school.

    Yes, you can (and you often do hear sportscasters do exactly this) talk about how a team has succeeded or failed to take advantage of opportunities presented to them in the first innings, or even the first inning.

    S2008G, I truly empathize with you.

    11:21 AM, April 02, 2007  
    Blogger Johnny C said...

    VA - Can you help me out. I am composing a letter of complaint to my local TV station because in a bizarrely premature fashion and with no acknowledgement that things could change the sportscaster said, at ten minutes into the hockey game, "the home team has FAILED to register a single shot on net." Obviously this sportscaster needs to be chastized.

    S2008G - given the frequency of VAs posts and his cryptic references to his job that won't let him own a blog I suspect he may be a paid political operative. All the guy does is cheerlead so I sugest a new rule: No one should ever again respond to his posts. I'm sure he'll get bored and leave.

    12:29 PM, April 02, 2007  
    Blogger Johnny C said...

    VA - Can you help me out. I am composing a letter of complaint to my local TV station because in a bizarrely premature fashion and with no acknowledgement that things could change the sportscaster said, at ten minutes into the hockey game, "the home team has FAILED to register a single shot on net." Obviously this sportscaster needs to be chastized.

    S2008G - given the frequency of VAs posts and his cryptic references to his job that won't let him own a blog I suspect he may be a paid political operative. All the guy does is cheerlead so I sugest a new rule: No one should ever again respond to his posts. I'm sure he'll get bored and leave.

    12:30 PM, April 02, 2007  
    Blogger Johnny C said...

    Sorry about the double post.

    12:30 PM, April 02, 2007  
    Blogger VA Blogger said...

    No, Johnny, all I do is raise points to counter the biased information that S2G presents. I didn't give "cryptic" information about my job. I work at a political firm. We have clients. If I maintained a blog, it could be traced back to me, and could be interpreted as a reflection upon my company. Since our clients include some politicians, it would be a conflict of interest. For those reasons, I'm also being very non-specific about where I work. I don't care if you believe me or not.

    You hear sportscasters talk about missed opportunities after those moments have passed. As S2G's original post pointed out, those moments haven't passed yet. If they have, then things aren't looking too good for the Democrats, either.

    And Johnny, a team can fail, or not succeed, in scoring up to a certain point in the game. That doesn't mean that the team is a failure. And the analogy ends there, because there are many very strong candidates in these states who have not said "yes" or "no" yet.

    12:56 PM, April 02, 2007  
    Blogger Blue South said...

    Those moments havent passed? So it is still November of 2006? Not April? I had no idea.

    2:24 PM, April 02, 2007  

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