Senate 2008 Guru: Following the Races

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

Monday, June 04, 2007

NRSC Recruitment Update

[Cross-posted at my SSP and MyDD diaries.]

A little over two months ago, I took a look at the state of NRSC recruiting in the one open seat (Colorado) and the twelve states with Democratic incumbents, concluding, up to that point in time, that the NRSC was 0-for-13 in recruiting so far. Keep in mind that we're approaching the dog days of summer, not a heavy recruitment period. (Note that during June-August of 2005, only five Senate candidates announced, all five of whom were Republican losers.) So where does the state of NRSC recruitment stand, and what has changed in the last two months?

Colorado: New CO-GOP chief Dick Wadhams muscled the more moderate Scott McInnis out to make room for his good pal conservative "Backwards" Bob Schaffer, who will, barring any unforeseen events, be the Republican nominee for Senate. Schaffer then proceeded to have a stammering start to his campaign, embarrassing himself right from the start, before hiring a bunch of electoral losers to staff his campaign. Never mind that Democratic Congressman Mark Udall has a significant advantage in fundraising and a big head start in reaching out to voters. I suppose we could credit the GOP with an accomplishment for finding a living, breathing human being who has held office before and ostensibly has a base of support to run. But, with Colorado's trending blue over the last few years, muscling out the more moderate choice for the more conservative one might not have been the best play.

Arkansas: Since Republican former Governor and current Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, arguably the only Republican to give Senator Mark Pryor a real challenge, ruled out a Senate bid, it also came out that Pryor saw better Q1 fundraising for his Senate re-election than Huckabee saw for his Presidential bid. So no Arkansas Republicans seem to be stepping up to the plate at present. Meanwhile, the new Chair of the AR-GOP, who should be out looking for challengers to Pryor, is instead getting himself in trouble with comments like "I think all we need is some attacks on American soil." In a nutshell, as it stands now in Arkansas, the Green Party is doing better than the Republican Party when it comes to Senate recruitment.

Delaware: Nothing new then; nothing new now. Still zip from the DE-GOP.

Illinois: The NRSC met with wealthy businessman Steve Greenberg. He however turned down their entreaties and is considering a House bid, leaving political unknown Steve Sauerberg as the sole announced Republican candidate. Having lost one potential self-funder in Greenberg, expect the GOP to seek out another potential self-funder before writing off the seat and settling for token opposition.

Iowa: While Senator Harkin had a strong Q1, GOP Rep. Tom Latham barely raised a solid amount by House standards, much less Senate standards; and GOP Rep. Steve King raised next to nothing, with a scant amount for cash-on-hand. It's getting safer to assume that Harkin won't have a strong opponent. The Iowa Republican Senate primary could wind up being between businessman Steve Rathje, businessman Troy Cook, and part-time tae kwon do instructor Bob McDowell. Um, yeah.

Louisiana: Here's the summary that I penned for Daily Kingfish a little less than a month ago:

Bobby Jindal is running for Governor. GOP Congressmen Charles Boustany and Jim McCrery have both taken their names out of the running. GOP Congressman Richard Baker has a whopping $66,000 cash-on-hand. And Jay Dardenne, who is already polling significantly behind the "vulnerable" [Senator Mary] Landrieu, is embarrassing himself. In fact, the only Republicans who have demonstrated any interest are Woody Jenkins and Suzanne Haik Terrell, the two Republicans Landrieu has already defeated.
Since this summary, the only development has been Karl Rove trying to get the Democratic state Treasurer to switch Parties to run against Landrieu. I suppose that even Rove doubts there are any strong Republican challengers. The LA-GOP and NRSC really don't have much to show for all of Landrieu's supposed vulnerability.

Massachusetts: A token opponent has stepped forward:

Jeff Beatty, who took less than 30% of the vote in a 2006 Congressional race and raised less than $50,000. The Congressional district Beatty ran in was the most favorable to Bush and least favorable to Kerry in 2004 of any of Massachusetts' ten Congressional districts; so, if Beatty couldn't crack 30% or manage any significant fundraising in that district, it's unlikely that he'd be able to accomplish anything further statewide.
It's not like the MA-GOP doesn't have access to some known quantities: Paul Cellucci, Jane Swift, Kerry Healey, Andrew Card, Curt Schilling. But they'll settle, for now, for Jeff Beatty.

Michigan: To plagiarize from the Delaware entry above: "Nothing new then; nothing new now."

Montana: Only two Republicans have been suggested as having the capability to give popular Senator Max Baucus a challenge: former Governor Mark Racicot, who has been silent; and, GOP Rep. Denny Rehberg, who CQPolitics characterized as "resisting GOP efforts to draft him into the race." The CQPolitics article also notes that former Montana House Republican leader Michael Lange was considered a possibility until his obscene tirade against Governor Brian Schweitzer. For now, it's all quiet on the Western front.

New Jersey: With known quantities like Christie Todd Whitman, Chris Christie, and members of the Kean family sitting out, it looks like there is an NJ-GOP Senate primary brewing between conservative assemblyman Michael Doherty and less-conservative real estate developer Anne Evans Estabrook. Estabrook has the support of GOP Rep. Mike Ferguson, Kean family ties, and sizable personal wealth. Doherty also has the support of several notable New Jersey Republicans, as well as the apparent backing of NJ's conservative mouthpieces. While Senator Frank Lautenberg should handily dispatch either, Estabrook's personal wealth and more moderate positions (at least compared with Doherty) would likely make her the less easily-beatable opponent.

Rhode Island: To plagiarize from the Michigan and Delaware entries above: "Nothing new then; nothing new now."

South Dakota: With Senator Tim Johnson's recovery moving along steadily, South Dakota Republicans are beginning to step up to the plate. Two have indicated interest in a run: state representative Joel Dykstra and businessman Sam Kephart. With Tim Johnson's existing popularity coupled with sympathy from his impressive recovery, it is doubtful that either of these challengers would be formidable, while far-right conservative Gov. Mike Rounds remains mum on possible Senate plans.

West Virginia: About a month ago, I summed up the situation in West Virginia:

With Shelley Moore Capito taking a pass on a Senate bid, Republicans are now looking to GOP Secretary of State Betty Ireland and multiple-time-loser John Raese to take on popular Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller. In 2004, Ireland squeaked to a 52-48 victory; and, in 2006, Raese lost to Senator Robert Byrd by a 64-34 thrashing. Not exactly rainmakers on the WV-GOP bench.
Nothing has changed since that point.

So, among the thirteen seats discussed here, ten states (Arkansas, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Rhode Island, and West Virginia) currently offer no Republican opposition or only token opposition. Two states (New Jersey and South Dakota) see Republican opposition in the more-than-token but less-than-strong range. And one state (open seat Colorado) sees a Republican contender, though the race still favors the Democrat and is the likeliest of seats up for election in 2008 to switch control (from GOP to Democrat). With the dog days of summer ahead, the NRSC just doesn't seem too concerned with candidate recruitment.


Blogger Kirkland said...

You leave off Virginia, where Tom Davis continues to travel around the state.

Look for an announcement soon I'd say from John Warner...real soon.

4:38 PM, June 04, 2007  
Blogger VA Blogger said...

The focus of his post was on Democratic-held seats, not the 21 Republican seats.

Its no big secret that there are only two good shots for a GOP pickup this cycle, Louisiana and South Dakota. States like Iowa, Montana, Arkansas, and New Jersey would only be competitive if a home-run candidate entered the race, much like GOP states like New Mexico, North Carolina, and Oklahoma. However, unlike the shaky Democratic prospects in New Hampshire, Minnesota, Oregon, and Maine (four of the five serious pick-up opportunities for the Dems), the outlook still has a "the sky is the limit" potential in South Dakota and in Louisiana.

In South Dakota, it shouldn't surprise anyone that operations are on hold until Senator Johnson has recovered. However, his illness and recovery doesn't eliminate his vulnerability. Mike Rounds is still lurking over the race, and the GOP bench is very active. Due to the unusual circumstances, its simply impossible to reach a conclusion one way or another on the race.

Louisiana is the Guru's favorite state to put on the blinders for. Even though the Secretary of State, who is an unknown quantity, polls ten points better against Landrieu than Tom Allen does against Susan Collins, he still considers Dardenne to be "significantly" behind in polling. Even though any candidate in the 2006 who declared their candidacy in the Fall of 2005 or later had zero dollars raised for a campaign the summer before the Election Year, he still writes off Richard Baker for having $66K, though we're still 17 months out. This is the same Richard Baker, BTW, who beats Mary Landrieu in polling where the two have similar name ID. And though Treasurer John Kennedy has been rumored to be wanting to switch parties for a few years now, waiting for the right time to make a splash (much like recent GOP defector Walter Boasso), the Guru naively chalks it up to a lack of a GOP bench, rather than a smart recruitment effort of a dangerous statewide officeholder.

With a usual, tired bluster, S2G blithely brushes aside three top-tier challengers to the drastically vulnerable Mary Landrieu due to his inability to seperate his wishful thinking from reality. It really shouldn't surprise anyone, though, given his cheerleader-esque loyalty to the Democratic Party.

5:01 PM, June 04, 2007  
Blogger jay said...

just out of curiousity va blogger, do you have a life outside of this blog? can you offer something else than being a bitter partisan hack?

back on topic, michigan is pretty quiet lately, some of the potental gop canidates are state attorney general mike cox,Secretary of State terri lyn rand, repesentive candice miller,and 2006 canidate oakland co. sheriff mike bouchard.

his last election win back in 2002 against a unknown gop canidate(60% to 38%). unless the national mood changes michigan is safe dem hold.

7:52 PM, June 04, 2007  
Blogger VA Blogger said...

That's quite an odd statement, Jay, since I only spend about twenty minutes a day on this blog. Interesting how I attract so much attention-- perhaps because I'm the only person here who doesn't wear rose-colored glasses when it comes to these races?

Carl Levin isn't going to attract a big-name challenger like those that you mentioned. Bouchard maybe, but GOP Reps like Miller, Rogers, and Camp, and statewide officials like Lynn and Cox are going to be waiting for GOV '10 or SEN '12, instead of losing badly to Carl Levin.

9:31 AM, June 05, 2007  
Blogger George Ajjan said...

re: NJ race

I urge you not to take a conventional view on Michael Doherty.

He has a lot of intelligent things to say about non-intervention and corporate influence on politicians that put him at odds with many Republicans, but at the same time more closely track the sentiments of the average Garden State Joe.

Estabrook will read from the Larry Weitzner "campaign in a can" script that has failed time and time again.

Keep your eyes on Doherty. If he's clever, he will redefine the debate.

10:13 AM, June 05, 2007  
Blogger Senate2008Guru said...

George - Thank you for your thoughts. I don't doubt that Doherty will have a thought-out conservative message to contribute to the debate. I just don't see a majority of New Jersey voters responding to that message in the current political climate. Doherty would have to do a pretty historic job of "redefining the debate" in order to overcome a political climate that currently isn't too keen on the far right. (As such, I'd sooner see Lautenberg face Doherty than Estabrook, but I suppose that isn't complimentary to Doherty.)

11:20 AM, June 05, 2007  

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