Senate 2008 Guru: Following the Races

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

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Ethics, Immigration, and Family Names

  • The Cook Political Report offers its updated 2008 Senate Race Rankings (in PDF). On the Democratic incumbents' side, there are no toss-ups and only Mary Landrieu in the "lean dem" category, with Tim Johnson and Mark Pryor in "likely dem" and the rest in "solid dem." On the Republican incumbents' side, Colorado's open seat sits in the toss-up category, with Susan Collins and Norm Coleman in "lean rep." Cook's writers must be very keen to ethics problems as Ted Stevens and Pete Domenici join John Sununu, Elizabeth Dole and Gordon Smith in "likely rep," with the rest in "solid rep." My primary critique here, as will be with any ranking that doesn't include this, is that John Sununu should be in the most vulnerable category possible. With each successive vote and issue that comes along demonstrating how out of step he is with New Hampshire and how in step he is with Bush, Big Oil, Big Pharma, etc., I just can't fathom how Sununu gets re-elected against Jeanne Shaheen or Steve Marchand or just about any competent Democrat.

  • New Mexico: Speaking of being keen to ethics problems, following the revelation that Pete Domenici's call to Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty was "a signficant factor" in former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias' ouster, The Albuquerque Tribune highlights the story, keeping the scandal salient in New Mexico. And the bad press for Domenici continues.

  • Alaska: And speaking further of being keen to ethics problems, the invaluable Talking Points Memo offers more scandal involving the Stevens family:

    Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) had his son, former state Senate President Ben Stevens, head a board that distributed $12 million in federal grants to promote seafood companies that, at the same time, paid the younger Stevens upward of $775,000 in "consulting fees."
    I'm not accusing anybody of anything. I'm just saying that if someone wanted to concoct a scheme that involved nepotism, money laundering, fraud, graft, and general corruption, it could look a lot like this.

  • South Carolina: Immigration reform has taken a significant toll on Lindsey Graham's approval rating:

    Graham’s approval rating has sunk to 31 percent and he has a 40 percent disapproval rating, according to a poll released Friday by Atlanta-based InsiderAdvantage. The new poll points to Graham’s support for the Senate immigration bill, which includes a path to citizenship, as a likely reason for his apparent unpopularity.

    His disapproval among Republicans is higher — 46 percent — than among Democrats —30 percent. Both give him an approval rating in the low 30s.
    This should pretty well embolden the folks at The Payback Project to seek out a primary opponent for Graham. (HT: Atrios)

  • Kentucky: Seeing the toll immigration is taking on Lindsey Graham, all eyes should be on the $200,000 Grassfire is putting into its Kentucky media presence against Mitch McConnell. It will be notable if it impacts next month's Survey USA approval rating for McConnell, especially among Republican voters. (HT: Draft Forgy)

  • Tennessee: The Nashville Post has the story on what could be Lamar Alexander's first challenger:

    Michael Ray McWherter, 51, son of former Tennessee Gov. Ned McWherter, is considering a run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Lamar Alexander, according to sources.

    Mike McWherter, as he is known, is owner and operator of Central Distributors, a Jackson, Tenn.-based Anheuser-Busch distributing company, as well as vice chairman of First State Bank of Union City. ...

    From 1987 to 1995, Ned Ray McWherter served as Tennessee's governor. Arguably one of the most popular politicans in recent Tennessee history, alongside Republicans like former U. S. Sen. Howard Baker and the late East Tennessee Congressman Jimmy Quillen, the elder McWherter still looms large over Tennessee's political landscape. In the years after he left office, it was not uncommon to see "I miss Ned" bumper-stickers on cars throughout the state. ...

    Most political observers had anticipated Tennessee Democrats to put up a sacrifical lamb against Alexander. Should McWherter enter the race, it will be apparent that they are not taking the election lying down.
    The McWherter name is clearly still very big in Tennessee. If Mike can demonstrate Ned's appeal, we could indeed have an interesting race on our hands. (HT: R o o k)


    Blogger Matt said...

    About Sununu, remember that he was not supposed to win election the first around. This is a Republican who can win in a swing state. That is why most analysts at this point still give him a decent chance at reelection.

    12:23 PM, June 23, 2007  
    Blogger James L. said...

    Maybe so; but is New Hampshire really a "swing state" anymore?

    1:34 PM, June 23, 2007  
    Blogger VA Blogger said...

    On top of that, in order to win the first time, he had to top an incumbent Senator in the primary, then the incumbent Governor in the general. How many other Senators have defeated two sitting state-wide officials on their way to office?

    1:35 PM, June 23, 2007  
    Blogger Senate2008Guru said...

    Remember that 2002 was a big GOP year. In the primary, incumbent Senator Bob Smith had for a short while left the GOP and was considered the independent, moderate Republican while Sununu was the conservative Republican, so he won the primary. And, despite '02 being such a big GOP year, Sununu only edged Shaheen by a few percentage points. Every indication is that '08 will be much more like '06 than '02 and since his election Sununu has voted less and less with the will of New Hampshire voters. He is wildly vulnerable. I really put his level of vulnerability on par with the open seat in Colorado all factors considered.

    2:35 PM, June 24, 2007  
    Blogger VA Blogger said...

    No one is disputing that he is vulnerable. However, despite the favorable year, its a difficult challenge to knock off one sitting statewide office-holder, let alone two. '08 may be more challenging for Republicans than '02, but Sununu now has the protection of the incumbency. Again, not saying he's not vulnerable, but perhaps the reason why so many pundits write New Hampshire as "likely GOP" rather than "lean GOP" is because 1) of the lack of a top-tier challenger, and 2) because of Sununu's proven ability to win.

    8:51 AM, June 25, 2007  

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