Senate 2008 Guru: Following the Races

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

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Wednesday Night Items

  • We've climbed up to five contributions for Tom Allen on the Expand the Map! ActBlue page. Thank you guys so much! Can we get to ten by Thursday night? C'mon! Let's do it!

  • Maine: Need more reason to contribute to Tom Allen? While Susan Collins did jack-squat as Chair of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security to investigate Halliburton's no-bid contracts and war profiteering in Iraq, Congressman Tom Allen is actually demonstrating leadership on the issue and working to establish an independent Commission on Wartime Contracting to "investigate Iraq and Afghanistan wartime contracts and the contracting processes." You know, the work that Susan Collins was supposed to do, but didn't. When we look back on this decade, I have no doubt that Susan Collins will be considered Halliburton's best friend in the U.S. Senate.

    Oh, and do you remember Susan Collins' laughable op-ed this past weekend paying lip service to energy independence? Well, her disingenuous sentiments run in stark contrast to her record, courtesy of a Maine Democratic Party press release:

    Highlights of the Collins Record

    * Allow market manipulation. Senator Collins opposed closing the Enron Loophole. In 2003, she voted against an amendment to regulate online trading of energy derivatives and impose stringent penalties for market manipulation. [S14, Vote 218, 6/11/03; Oil Daily, 6/11/03]
    * Allow price gouging. Senator Collins voted against imposing windfall profits tax on oil companies. In 2005, Collins voted against an amendment that would impose a temporary windfall profit tax on crude oil and to rebate the tax collected back to the American consumer. [S2020, Vote 331, 11/17/05]
    * Support Bush-Cheney Big Oil Giveaway. Senator Collins voted to preserve $14 billion in energy tax incentives, including breaks for Big Oil and Gas. In 2002, Collins voted against prohibiting any of the approximately $14 billion in the energy bill's tax incentives, until new tax hikes or spending cuts were enacted to offset the revenue loss that would come from that $14 billion in tax relief. [S 517, 4/25/02, #93]
    Of course, Democratic Congressman Tom Allen is an original co-sponsor of the Federal Price Gouging Prevention Act who also supports The Close Enron Loophole Act and opposed the Bush-Cheney Big Oil Giveaway legislation. Seriously, contribute to Tom Allen if you can.

  • Idaho: Polling done in November found that, while Republican Jim Risch led Democrat Larry LaRocco 48-34, generic Democrat also led generic Republican 42-36. For a state that went 69% for Bush in 2004, these are pretty strong numbers. The generic numbers indicate that the Republican brand is pretty damaged in Idaho. If Larry LaRocco can do an effective job tying Jim Risch to the Republican tradition of failures, scandals, and corruption, while demonstrating to Idahoans, who have a historically libertarian (lowercase "L") bent, that he is better than his Republican opponent on civil libertarian issues (like warrantless wiretapping, telecom amnesty, etc.), we should see a neck-and-neck race. Stay tuned!

  • Colorado: Another poll shows a tight race in Colorado, with Congressman Mark Udall holding a narrow lead over Backwards Bob Schaffer. Meanwhile, the DSCC has a terrific new ad on Backwards Bob Schaffer's disappearing act when it comes to actually taking positions on important issues. Anybody interested in learning more about Schaffer's far-right positions that he's trying to hide, check out Bob Schaffer On the Issues.

  • New Mexico: Pete Domenici is the latest Republican interested in using his political campaign account as a slush fund to cover his legal bills amassed as a result of scandal. I'm sure ethically-compromised Heather Wilson will be keeping a close eye on the outcome of this latest incident.

  • Tennessee: Lamar Alexander says that if you don't speak English, you should be fired.

  • Oregon: Anybody who actually thinks that Gordon Smith is not a McConnell conservative might be curious as to why Smith is such a big fan of McConnell obstructionism. A vote for Gordon Smith is a vote for far-right, Mitch McConnell-style, obstructionist Republican leadership, plain and simple.

  • South Dakota: Senator Tim Johnson held his first news teleconference since returning to work and all accounts suggest that it went very well and covered a lot of ground. The Guru says, "Six more years!"

  • Georgia: In a new Strategic Vision poll, despite an approval of just over 50%, Spineless Saxby Chambliss continues to appear safe, leading all challengers by 30 points or more.

  • Y'know how Mitch McConnell is leading the Senate Republican minority toward the all-time record for most filibusters ever (by a HUGE margin on their current pace)? Well, it is not just governmentally reckless but also pretty hypocritical given that, just a few years ago, these same Senate Republicans wanted to take the filibuster away from the then-Democratic Senate minority.

  • George W. Bush still hates kids and prefers them sick.


    Blogger VA Blogger said...

    Aside from your pitifully laughable statements about President Bush "preferring" sick children, it seems as if you've gone out of your way to misrepresent reality as much as possible in this most recent post.

    Are we really to believe that any "anti-price gouging" legislation is nothing more than punishing oil companies who are only reacting to the increase in the price of oil and the decrease of production, due to, among other reasons, increases in tax burden for supplying the American consumer with fuel? And your response to them is to tax them even further? I understand as a liberal, you want absolutely nothing to do with the free market. However, even someone as dumb as you should understand that, when the government imposes undue regulation and taxes on a company that produces a product, that extra and unneccesary fee will make its way to the consumer. So ultimately, what you're saying is that Susan Collins preventing the working class from paying even more for gasoline than what they need do.

    I bet you support an increase in the gasoline tax, too.

    I also appreciate how you absolutely neglect to mention that Senate Republicans, two years ago, wanted to strip away the ability to filibuster judicial nominees, not the right to filibuster all together. But honesty is about the absolute last thing I expect from this blog.

    12:00 AM, December 13, 2007  
    Blogger Senate2008Guru said...

    va blogger ridiculously asked: "Are we really to believe that any "anti-price gouging" legislation is nothing more than punishing oil companies who are only reacting to the increase in the price of oil and the decrease of production, due to, among other reasons, increases in tax burden for supplying the American consumer with fuel?"

    Huh? Seriously? First, I have to ask, are you pro-price gouging?

    If oil companies were only reacting to an increase in the price of oil and a decrease in production, profits would have remained relatively constant. Instead, the result was record profits for oil companies. Hmmm... maybe they weren't so benevolent after all.

    Of course, to a two-dimensional conservative such as yourself (note: not all conservatives are two-dimensional by any means - you, however, are), any attempt at oversight or investigation of possible wrongdoing in the private sector should be comically criticized as an assault on the free market.

    12:20 AM, December 13, 2007  
    Blogger VA Blogger said...

    Its a simple math equation:

    More people are buying gasoline than ever before = more revenue for oil companies.

    Hopefully even you'd be able to understand that.

    Despite the fact that the profit margin for oil companies is far lower than most other producers in the country.

    Only clueless liberals such as yourself would actively seek out successful facets of the market and try to steal money from them at every turn for doing their job. Meanwhile, the money you gain for government-subsidized benefits gets paid for out of the pockets of the lower class, who have to pay more for fuel, due to either idiotic tax increases (which are rightfully passed onto the consumer), or decreased production, which results in less supply and therefore higher prices.

    When you get on your little soapbox and preach about "price gouging", looking at nothing but the revenue flow of companies and paying absolutely no attention to the increase in consumption, you are not only engaging in the most sensationalist and dishonest form of government, but you're doing so at the expense of those you falsely claim to help.

    In short, you're either dumb or a hypocrite. I'm fine with calling you both, but I'll let you pick out which one you want to be.

    1:01 AM, December 13, 2007  
    Blogger Senate2008Guru said...

    And va blogger just lost what little was left of his mind, ladies and gentlemen.

    You're right, va blogger, 32% more people just started using Exxon from out of nowhere, oh and 38% for BP and 56% for Conoco Phillips. Consumption skyrocketed that much! Up until 2003, these people were driving steam-powered cars, I forgot.

    1:22 AM, December 13, 2007  
    Blogger VA Blogger said...

    Yes, consumption of oil has increased dramatically in the last half-decade. However, as always, you fail to account for the real issue here: industrialized countries like China whose populations are starting to drive cars. When you have a population of a billion people and a significant portion of them are driving for the first time, then yes, you will see sky-rocketing rates of consumption. Its yet another reason why energy independence is much more important now than it was in 2000.

    If you want to bitch and moan about price-gouging, or ridiculously try to refer to someone as "pro-price-gouging", first we have to take a look and see if such a thing is even happening. Look at the profit margin for these companies. Its lower than average, and it hasn't increased in the years you're talking about. Therefore, by definition, it absolutely cannot be price gouging. Its that plain and simple. I don't know if you fell asleep during ECON 101, or if you're simply so desperate to pimp yourself out for Democrats that you don't care, but you are absolutely 100% wrong.

    Thankfully, there are reasonable members of Congress who didn't fall for the uber-populist, ultra-reactionary, pandering, backwards, and flat-out regressive "success tax" on oil companies, which I guarantee you would cause gas prices to go up even further, and for absolutely no good reason, and all in the name of "helping the working class", despite the fact that the working class would be hurt most by the proposed taxes that Susan Collins voted against.

    Again, this is a case of simple economics. There is no argument here. You are simply wrong.

    7:36 AM, December 13, 2007  
    Blogger Senate2008Guru said...

    You're absolutely right - I would indeed call Dennis Hastert and Bill Frist "uber-populist, ultra-reactionary, pandering, backwards, and flat-out regressive" for wanting to investigate price-gouging too.

    Basically, when it comes to oil company oversight and price gouging, Susan Collins is to the right of Dennis Hastert and Bill Frist.

    Oh, and for a woman who claims to want us energy independent, I also don't remember her saying a word when her boss Bush led the effort to slash funds for renewable energy.

    By the way, I know it's a bit of a trouble for you, given how much stuff you absolutely make up and pull out of thin air to support your often flat-out dishonest statements, but it wouldn't hurt to actually link to something that gave a factual basis to anything you're claiming. Thanks. (Yeah, you insulting me, while fun for all, doesn't count as "facts supporting your claim.")

    9:46 AM, December 13, 2007  
    Blogger GeorgiaValues said...

    Saxby is cruising to reelection!

    Georgia has gone Republican and is not turning back.

    11:08 AM, December 13, 2007  
    Blogger rural independent said...

    The reason why Chambliss is cruising is because none of the candidates are not familiar to the state. I am a loyal republican & I can tell you right now I'am not happy with chambliss' job performance. Republicans are scared to put up someone to challenge him in the primary. They seem to be satisfied with his performance, especially with that awful immigration bill ne co-sponsered with kennedy. If Jim Marshall, or Michael Thurmond were to challenge him, I would support one of those gentlemen instead of Chambliss who is not cutting it as senator of this great state. Anyboby but Saxby.

    11:59 AM, December 13, 2007  
    Blogger GreenGuy said...

    New Landrieu poll out:

    A new SurveyUSA/Roll Call poll in Lousiana shows Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) edging likely GOP rival John Kennedy, 46% to 42%, within the survey's 3.9% margin of sampling error.

    Key findings: "Kennedy leads by 12 among men; Landrieu leads by 19 among women; a 31-point Gender Gap. Kennedy leads by 22 among whites. Landrieu leads by 60 among blacks. Kennedy holds 76% of the GOP base. Landrieu holds 73% of the Democrat base."

    Roll Call: "The increasingly large target on Landrieu’s back stems from her close winning percentages in her two previous elections (52 percent in 2002 and 46 percent in 1996) and her state’s conservative bent (President Bush carried Louisiana with 57 percent in 2004)."

    A CQ backgrounder says the race Leans Democratic.

    12:29 PM, December 13, 2007  
    Blogger Anthony_Distler said...

    It was wishful thinking that a state like Georgia or Kansas could switch in this election cycle, seeing as there are so many targets for the DSCC. Now with Ted Stevens being vunerable, I'm sure that they will shovel in tons of money for that race, plus the races in Colorado, New Mexico, New Hampshire, and keeping Louisiana. We may have a lot of money, but not infinite amounts.

    2:57 PM, December 13, 2007  
    Blogger VA Blogger said...

    Here's a source I know you'll trust.

    Because the demand for gasoline is what economists call inelastic, which means that people cannot quickly reduce their consumption when prices rise sharply, abrupt supply shortages lead to steep price increases without any immediate decline in sales.

    The most common reason for such increases in gasoline prices is a steep increase in the price of crude oil. But crude oil prices are set in global markets, and even the biggest American or European oil companies are modest players compared with state-controlled oil companies in the Persian Gulf, Russia and Latin America.

    Even the mighty Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, which defines itself as a competition-limiting cartel, has only a limited grip on world oil prices. OPEC countries watched helplessly as oil prices plunged in the early 1980s and remained mired below $20 a barrel for most years (excluding the time of the Persian Gulf War in 1991) through the mid-1990s.

    It seems hard to believe today, but world oil prices briefly drifted below $11 a barrel in 1998. Not surprisingly, few lawmakers in Congress took that opportunity to denounce “unconscionably excessive” price declines.

    The Federal Trade Commission has been skeptical about accusations of price-gouging on gasoline prices. In 2004, the agency studied price changes in gasoline from 1991 through late 2003. It concluded that about 85 percent of the price variability — both up and down — reflected changes in crude oil prices.

    4:22 PM, December 13, 2007  
    Blogger Peter said...

    Stop right there VA,

    I know you're not a very intelligent person, and even though you seem to have a fair understanding of the free market, it's time for you to get your facts straight.

    JUST because oil companies have lower profit margins doesn't necessarily mean they are getting squeezed tighter.

    Here's some math for you since you seem to like it. You would do well to read about ROA (Return on Assets). It is probably the most important tool to any retailer or business. It is composed of two things: Net profit margin (which is net profit divided by net sales) and Asset turnover (net sales/total assets). You can calculate ROA by dividing Net profit by Total Assets.

    Thus, a company with very high turnover and low margins (like a bakery) can still make as much money as a diamond shop with high margins and low turnover.

    So you seem to think the Oil Industry is justified in their record profits just because they are a low margin industry? Companies like Costco have VERY low margins but make up for it in profits with high turnover.

    Most companies have to work hard to find ways to increase efficiency and productivity to lower the price for consumers. The oil industry, increasingly unregulated, is dangerous thing.

    Maybe you're right though, the Texas billionaires really do need all that money....

    11:35 PM, December 13, 2007  
    Blogger VA Blogger said...

    You're arguing that there's a lack of competition? In the oil business? Not only have American oil companies improved the way that oil is processed and refined, they are also on the forefront of the search for alternative fuels. Why? Because the next thing that replaces gasoline will make millions of dollars.

    Do I think Texas billionaires need that much money? Of course not. But who the hell am I, and who the hell are you, to tell them that they can't keep what they earned. Its their money. Its not obligated to be redistributed, and its certainly not obligated to the government.

    The goverment tried price caps in the 1970s. Look what happened. Hawaii, as recently as a decade ago, tried price caps. As soon as crap started hitting the fan, they pulled them.

    The fact of the matter is that screaming "price gouging" when oil companies turn a profit is the lowest form of pandering there is, when anyone with half-a-brain can look at see the reality of the situation. It happens when politicians not only assume that the voters are dumb, they actively encourage the voters to remain dumb by telling them that its the oil companies who are to blame. The men and women of Congress who stood up against such extraordinary stupidity deserve a medal.

    But here's the bottom line, which no matter what you believe about the oil companies, remains to be true: a tax increase on oil companies hurts the working class. Period. Either one of two things occurs: 1) The tax is passed on to the consumer, and the consumer pays more at the pump for gasoline. 2) The oil companies eat the burden, and therefore have less money to allocate towards production, reducing supply and raising prices, and the consumer pays more at the pump for gasoline.

    To be perfectly honest, I'm not terribly worried. I recognize that I'm fortunate enough to be able to pay for gas, even if it went up to $5.00/gallon (though I would certainly alter the choices I made). But I recognize that not everyone is in that situation. It absolutely galls me that people who claim, with a self-righteous smirk, to be friends of the working class so blatantly and dishonestly exploit their financial insecurity, then completely betray them by costing them more money for gasoline, all without a single good reason.

    11:53 PM, December 13, 2007  
    Blogger Peter said...

    I never said there was a lack of competition in the industry, as the product itself, although slightly refined, is the some stuff you and I were pumping 10 years ago.

    I did refer to other industries that reduce prices for consumers with cutting edge technologies, inventory management, and other efficiencies.

    "They are also on the forefront of the search for alternative fuels."

    It's pretty clear that even after research and development, alternative fuels aren't going to be as profitable until oil itself is gone. You should know pretty damn well that those billionaires will squeeze out every last drop of money from the oil until they have NO CHOICE but to utilize new forms of energy.

    These technologies have been patented and protected by oil companies who have little interest in actually using them in the present which could be very dangerous a couple decades down the road when we actually are going to need them.

    Alas, it is unfortunate that the oil companies actually are at the forefront of the technologies, in that sense.

    Also, you keep using the argument that the tax would be passed on to the consumer. Although I agree that is a possibility, you haven't accounted for the fact that demand would go down if oil really became that expensive. Before you begin shouting how inelastic oil is, I recommend you imagine how consumers have squeezed their other budgets to pay for 3-4$ per gallon, but imagine what a 5-7$ per gallon could do to a product generally considered inelastic. Hopefully it would spur people to find other ways to travel and governments to put money towards more effective forms of transportation (which I'm sure you're on the side that DOT's don't need higher taxes for things like bridges in MN or pipes in NY).

    Lastly, companies are very careful about letting people know what their margins are. For example, Best Buy doesn't want consumers to do an information search and realize the cables they're buying with their new TV are half the price elsewhere. Why don't you find some reputable sources to back up your argument about oil companies and low margins. I also would like some comparisons to other industries so we can see the whole picture of how low their relative margins really are.

    And again, tone done the anger.

    6:36 PM, December 14, 2007  

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