Senate 2008 Guru: Following the Races

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

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Wednesday Round-Up

  • Although a majority of Senators support restoring habeas corpus rights, Republican obstructionism won out as the majority of Senators couldn't cross the 60-vote threshold to overcome the Republican filibuster. Among those voting against habeas corpus rights were: Lamar Alexander, John Barrasso, Thad Cochran, Norm Coleman, Susan Collins, John Cornyn, Elizabeth Dole, Pete Domenici, Mike Enzi, Lindsey Graham, Jim Inhofe, Mitch McConnell, Pat Roberts, Jeff Sessions, and Ted Stevens. These Republicans spat on the Constitution, the rule of law, and the right to due process. (The most notable name on the list, to me, is Susan Collins. It's just another example of how much further to the right Collins is compared to Olympia Snowe. Also, blue-stater Norm Coleman won't escape scrutiny for this vote.)

  • Nebraska: Former Gov. Mike Johanns is resigning his post as Secretary of Agriculture to join the crowded 2008 Republican Senate primary that also features state Attorney General Jon Bruning, former Omaha Mayor Hal Daub, and businessman Pat Flynn, and could soon include businessman Tony Raimondo. Meanwhile, in anticipation of former Senator Bob Kerrey's potential entry into the race, the NRSC has already begun preparing a sleazy attack website. The NRSC musn't think too highly of those who work in the educational field because they will ostensibly be attacking the former Nebraska Governor and Senator for spending a few years out of state running the New School University in New York. It's coincidental that Republicans would focus on Kerrey's address, as a passage in the Lincoln Journal Star today stood out for me:

    Johanns and his wife, Stephanie, went house-hunting over the weekend when he was in Lincoln to attend a Saturday event at which he was honored by the Nebraska Republican Party.
    I suppose Johanns did not keep a residence in Nebraska while he worked in Washington D.C. as Secretary of Agriculture. I certainly won't slam Johanns for leaving the state for a while to engage in public service elsewhere - it's perfectly legitimate and defensible - but I would argue that Kerrey's situation isn't much different. If the NRSC wants to make a sleazy attack out of Kerrey's out-of-state job working at a college, they ought to be prepared to discuss Johanns' own "house-hunting."

  • Maine: The Bangor Daily News gets half-credit for their article on Susan Collins breaking her own term-limits pledge, while other Republican Senators who made similar pledges at the same time Collins did, including Colorado's Wayne Allard and Nebraska's Chuck Hagel, are honoring their pledges. Why only half credit? Because the headline reads: "Democrats say Collins broke two-term pledge." This isn't a political attack that Democrats are waging. It is a fact. Susan Collins made a two-term pledge to the voters of Maine and now she is breaking it. It's not a matter of conjecture. It would be nice if the Bangor Daily News appropriately reported this as fact, not simply as a Democratic line. Collins Watch shares my frustration. What is doubly frustrating is that, while Collins has been accused of using Senate resources and personnel for political campaign purposes, Collins flaunts it by having this political campaign question responded to not by a campaign official but by her taxpayer-funded Senate spokeswoman [emphasis added by me]:

    "This attack is a sign that despite all the money raised and spent more than a year before the election, the Allen campaign is floundering," Collins spokeswoman Jen Burita said.
    Ms. Burita is not on Collins' campaign staff; she is on Collins' Senate staff. So why is she fielding political campaign questions? Further, Jen, this isn't an "attack." Collins made a promise to voters and is now happily breaking her promise. And we wonder why voters are cynical.

  • Idaho & Louisiana: Larry Craig made his return to his Senate duties in Washington D.C. this week for the first time since his scandal broke. Headlines included: "GOP Supporters Are Hard to Find on Craig's List" and "Craig shunned on return to Senate." Quite a stark contrast from the "thunderous applause" David Vitter received when he made his return to the Senate Republican cloakroom following his scandal. Why the different reactions do you think? Hmmmm...

  • Idaho: Speaking of Idaho, GOP Gov. Butch Otter has interviewed "about 19 people," mostly by telephone, for the Senate appointment, should scandal-embattled Larry Craig resign at the end of the month as planned. Otter has met in person with Lt. Gov. Jim Risch and state AG Lawrence Wasden. Otter has not announced a date by which he expects to have a decision made. Otter, however, has ruled out naming a place-holder, instead intending to name an appointee who will run for Senate next year, citing the need to build up seniority. With Otter wanting to build up seniority, it may give a leg up to the 49-year-old Wasden over the 64-year-old Risch.

  • New Hampshire: StopSununu.com has officially launched! Meanwhile, even Sununu's Republican predecessor, former Senator Bob Smith, says popular former Governor and current Senate candidate Jeanne Shaheen "is in a strong position to be the next senator from New Hampshire."

  • North Carolina: Public Policy Polling catches Elizabeth Dole further embarrassing herself over her hilariously questionable poll numbers.

  • Tennessee: Former Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell will be teaching next Spring, i.e. not running for Senate. Businessman and gubernatorial son Mike McWherter remains the most likely Democrat. (HT: KnoxViews)

  • 13 Comments:

    Blogger VA Blogger said...

    NE: There's a difference between moving to Washington to serve as a Cabinet Secretary and moving to New York to work in the private sector. And correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't believe Johanns ever re-registered to vote in D.C./Virginia, or publically considered running for political office in a state other than Nebraska. Kerrey retired and left; Johanns was asked to serve and did so.

    ME: Other notable two-term pledge breakers include Paul Wellstone. Funny how you always mention Wayne Allard and Chuck Hagel, but never mention Wellstone.

    And PPP just reinforces what I argued earlier this week that they are far from an unbiased, objective source, especially when polling Elizabeth Dole. They may have reached different numbers, but their public statements this week (and their polling methodology and results for the last six months) show that they are just as biased as the pollster that Liddy Dole's camp got to do her internal ratings.

    5:08 PM, September 19, 2007  
    Blogger Senate2008Guru said...

    va blogger:

    Nebraska: Kerrey runs a university. Surely there's more than a hint of "public service" in that - you say "private sector" like he's chasing big bucks on Wall Street. If the NE-GOP has to stoop to questioning the hometown credentials of a former Governor and Senator who has been out of the state for just over half-a-decade to run a school, they seem awfully desperate.

    Maine: I mention Allard and Hagel because they're seats are up this year. I don't mention Wellstone because he has been dead for over five years. And, yeah, Wellstone was breaking a promise. Breaking a promise is still bad. It doesn't change the facts. So I don't get your point. If this was Senate 2002 Guru, Wellstone's term-limit pledge would no doubt come up. But it's 2008. So what's your point? What next - in response to Ted Stevens' corruption investigations, are you going to bring up Bob Torricelli? The fact that some past Democrat did something similar doesn't exonerate Republicans today from their actions. To presume otherwise is a cynical, craven view of politics.

    North Carolina: Why is it "far from unbiased" to make a very rational observation. Dole is trying to present a press release as some kind of substantive "memo" - it's laughable. It's not "biased" to call it what it is, even if it's not to your liking.

    5:33 PM, September 19, 2007  
    Blogger VA Blogger said...

    Its more than "just left for a few years to run a school". He retired from the Senate, concluded his public service for Nebraska, then moved away. Mike Johanns was in the middle of his term as Governor when he was asked to serve by the President. Bob Kerrey changed his voter registration, and even considered running for public office in another state. Mike Johanns, as far as I can tell, remained registered in Nebraska and has never considered, at least publically, running for office anywhere else. The differences are dramatic, and trying to set up an argument that the NE-GOP is being hypocritical for attacking Kerrey on this legitimate issue is coming off a bit week.

    I'm not excusing Susan Collins, I'm pointing out your selective criticism.

    It is biased, and unprofessional, for a seemingly objective reporter of public opinion to publically criticize one of the people they consistently poll. It is also a bit shallow that the point they're criticizing Dole on is that her polling numbers disagree with theirs. Any pollster can tell you that there are several legitimate reasons why polls between two firms may not match up--not the least of which is the difference between live-call polling and robo-polling. To criticize Dole's internal polling in light of this fact suggests that they have another reason to go after her. And, in fact, the results of their polling, and thier questionable methodology, reinforces that suggestion. The only question is whether PPP is making these public comments because they are acting on behalf of a client--in which case, they should disclose such a conflict of interest--or whether they simply dislike Senator Dole, for political reasons or otherwise. Either way, PPP and their polls are no less biased than Dole's internal polls.

    5:59 PM, September 19, 2007  
    Blogger Senate2008Guru said...

    As for Johanns, if he sold his residence and moved out of state (i.e. was no longer a legal resident of Nebraska), but kept his voter registration there, isn't that unlawful? Again, I don't know Johanns' residency status (besides his "house-hunting") or Nebraska electoral law, but typically it's unlawful to keep your voter registration at a place you're no longer living at, isn't it? If the NRSC lamely wants to make Kerrey's residency an issue, I'm sure Johanns' will be similarly looked into.

    As for Collins, it's not selective criticism - Wellstone isn't up for election this year which is why he isn't discussed; and I never defended his breaking his term limits pledge which makes your argument intellectually dishonest. So, again, what's your point?

    As for Dole, if she is trying to present a questionable poll results press release as a substantive memo worthy of moment, then it is "reporting" to call Dole's move silly.

    6:58 PM, September 19, 2007  
    Blogger JeremiahTheMessiah said...

    I would like to note, with Johanns registering in the media as going to run, CQ Politics has left Nebraska as "Leans Republican" it hasn't moved at all. I wonder if Bob Kerrey running will shift anything.

    7:50 PM, September 19, 2007  
    Blogger Josh said...

    Not wanting to get in the way of VA "Blogger"'s attacks on the late Senator Wellstone, but I believe if you "go to the tape" you'll discover that Collins said she'd serve only two terms IN A CAMPAIGN PLEDGE. Wellstone's comment that he only planned to serve two terms was made in a TV interview AFTER he was elected.

    Here's my analogy:

    Class president candidate #1: "Elect me and I'll bring in pizza tomorrow for the whole class."
    After being elected, the next day decides "I don't want to bring in pizza for everyone. It's too expensive. But thanks for electing me anyway."

    Class president candidate #2:
    "Elect me please." After being elected, is ecstatic and tells a classmate, "Wow, this is great. I am gonna bring everyone pizza tomorrow to celebrate." Then decides, "I don't think I can bring pizza tomorrow."

    VA Blogger: Because in the midwest, class president candidate #2's story happened six years ago, before class president #2 tragically died, no one in New England can say anything critical of class president #1.

    And VA Blogger---pizza's one me.

    Not really.

    7:56 PM, September 19, 2007  
    Blogger The Sleep said...

    There is a political philosophy that insists people should not leave the place of their birth and if they do, recommends they face severe consequences. It's known as feudalism. It's not much in fashion any more. Who cares who leaves their state for any reason, including chasing big bucks on Wall Street? Are polticians the serfs of the modern world? I take it the charge is that Kerrey is moving back and forth as dictated by his own personal ambition. But Reagan moved to Washington to be President, clearly a move motivated by personal ambition. Did the people in California say, Fine, just don't ever try to come back you ungrateful bastard? Let the Republicans spend their money attacking him on this, I say.

    9:56 PM, September 19, 2007  
    Blogger VA Blogger said...

    S2G-- even if his registration expired in Nebraska, he may not have registered in D.C. or Virginia. Alternatively, he could have maintained a residence in Nebraska, and they are simply looking for a house closer to where the action is in Nebraska. The NRSC wouldn't be making Kerrey's lack of residency an issue if they didn't have some indication that it was useful.

    There are several things wrong with your Dole argument:

    1) There is no indication that Dole's results are "questionable", other than their difference from PPP's results. However, PPP is also biased, and there are many legitimate reasons why two polls taken at the same time may differ.

    2) PPP isn't "reporting" anything. They're commenting on their blog, much like you do, and have said that you do on repeated occasions.

    3) Even if they were reporting as you claim, calling something "silly" is not the mark of an objective news story.

    4) I don't understand what standard you're using to determine whether something is worthy of a press release. Clearly, you are not familiar with the concept of press releases.

    5) None of this changes the fact that PPP's move is, at best, unprofessional, and sheds a questionable light on all of their polling results, as if their shady methodology and IVR polling didn't already accomplish this.

    JTM-- With the news only a day old, as CQ updated their rankings? Sometimes they are on top of things, and other times they are not. It is also possible they're waiting to see what Bob Kerrey does, or they're waiting on public polling to be released on the race.

    Josh-- If you can point out where I have ever said no one can be critical of Susan Collins, then I will PayPal you $100.

    Sleep- There is no gold standard. In a democracy, its all what the voters care about. If the voters care that Susan Collins is breaking her pledge, then they can vote on it. If not, then they won't. If voters care that Bob Kerrey left the state and is now wanting to come back, then that is a legitimate issue. Some people take into consideration the ability of their representatives to relate to them, as his constituents, when they vote for someone. If they believe someone like Mike Johanns would relate to them better than someone who hasn't lived in Nebraska since he retired from the Senate, that's their choice.

    11:02 PM, September 19, 2007  
    Blogger The Sleep said...

    va blogger, you're right, my mistake was trying to inject into the debate some consideration of what constitutes a good or justifiable reason for voting for someone, rather than focusing on how the masses can be manipulated. I apologise to all readers of this thread for the distraction.

    11:19 PM, September 19, 2007  
    Blogger Anthony_Distler said...

    I don't think it's about whether or not you left the state. It's more about if you still have TIES to the state. I know a big deal was made up here last year about the fact that Rick Santorum had a house in Virginia and his kids and wife still lived there. I don't think that had an outcome in the race, but it was brought up a lot.

    12:39 AM, September 20, 2007  
    Blogger VA Blogger said...

    That's a very dangerous road you're walking down. Its not up to you to decide how I should vote or what reasons should be important to me. If I want to look at both candidates and line up all of their issues and public statements, then make a decision of which one I think will enact the best policies, I can do that. If I want to look at each of their names and vote for the one that has the most vowels, I can do that as well. Its my vote, guaranteed to me by the Constitution, and I'll use it how I see fit.

    If a Nebraska voter decides its important to them whether the person they're sending to Washington has lived in their state for the last five years, then that's their choice. You may disagree with it, but its dangerous to start suggesting that issues that some people may care about shouldn't be brought up because people are too dumb to vote properly.

    7:45 AM, September 20, 2007  
    Blogger jak said...

    va blogger, YOU have decided what is to be important to Nebraska voters by trying to influence their PERCEPTION of the relative importance of an issue as ultimately inconsequential to their lives as the residency status of a former public official outside his time in elected office.

    As usual, you deliberately confuse causality to further your own sinister agenda. An issue like residency does not affect the quality of life of most voters, but only becomes relevant when cynical political operatives like you belabor the issue until it becomes woven into the larger media narrative. It's the purest form of manipulation - overexposure to otherwise innocuous stimuli until it generates a negative reaction in the subject.

    But you know all this. You know that Republican base voters tend to be more xenophobic and intolerant of perceived outsiders - those who do not look, sound, or act like they do - and you exploit these reprehensible traits for political gain.

    1:36 PM, September 20, 2007  
    Blogger VA Blogger said...

    "[my] sinister agenda"? "cynical political operative"? "exploit these reprehensible traits"? Just exactly who do you think I am, Jak? I am a commenter on a blog, not even an operator of an independent blog, who has, at most, 100 people read my thoughts, and I guarantee you very few, if any, live in Nebraska or would be influenced by what I say.

    I haven't "decided" anything. I'm commenting on what is a legitimate issue. You may believe it to be illegitimate--after all, it is an attack against a Democrat, and it is therefore not valid--but that's not a decision you or I can make. I don't decide what issues are present and what issues Nebraska voters care about. The candidates themselves decide the first matter, and the voters themselves decide the second. Since I am neither a candidate nor a Nebraska voter, and I am not a member of the press, what exactly is your complaint again?

    2:33 PM, September 20, 2007  

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