Senate 2008 Guru: Following the Races

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

Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Two morning bites:

  • Iowa: Tom Harkin appears to be gearing up:

    As he apparently readies for a re-election bid, Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa raised $362,000 in the last three months of last year, according to Federal Election Commission reports due today.

    Harkin ended the year with $1.1 million cash in the bank. ...

    No Republicans have formally announced a bid to challenge Harkin, although Steven Rathje, a Swisher Republican and businessman, filed a statement with the Federal Election Commission last year indicating he is exploring a run. Rathje had raised about $16,000 through Sept. 30.
    With Harkin repeatedly fending off GOP Congressional challengers, I wouldn't be shocked if he faced no more than token opposition.

  • Colorado: Bob Schaffer confirms that he is still just considering a Senate bid and hasn't made a definite decision about getting in yet, though indications point towards a run. It'd be great to see a nasty primary between former Reps. Schaffer and Scott McInnis with maybe talk show host Dan Caplis thrown in for good measure.

  • Tuesday, January 30, 2007

    In? We'll Find Out Soon

    Two evening bites:

  • Colorado: Colorado Pols says former Rep. Bob Schaffer is in. The Coloradoan says he is still thinking about it, but indicating that he will get in. I hope he does get in. He will pull Scott McInnis to the right and send more independents, moderates, centrists, and the like to Mark Udall.

  • Maine: Chellie Pingree is leaving her role as President of Common Cause to return to Maine and "consider political opportunities." She is suggesting that she is looking at a run for Maine's 1st District House seat, held by Tom Allen, should Allen challenge Susan Collins (whose 2002 opponent was Pingree). But if Allen declines, we could see a Collins-Pingree rematch. I'd strongly prefer Allen since Collins beat Pingree by a wide 59-41 margin, while Allen's popularity rivals Collins.

  • Two-Faced Susan?

  • Maine: Despite Susan Collins claiming to want out of Iraq, she has gotten behind the presidential campaign of the field's biggest pro-escalation candidate, John McCain.

    First, Collins says in 1996 that, if elected, she would only serve two terms. Wayne Allard of Colorado made the same promise in the same year and is keeping his promise. Collins is breaking her promise.

    Second, Collins tries to position herself as a moderate centrist, and then is instrumental in returning to leadership far-right-wing segregationist Trent Lott by supporting him over the more moderate Lamar Alexander.

    Now, she claims to oppose the troop escalation, and then supports for President the most vocal pro-escalation candidate.

    This is establishing a narrative of political gamesmanship and talking out of both sides of her mouth that I hope the Maine press will highlight and the Maine Democratic Party will press her on as we try to recruit Rep. Tom Allen into the race.

  • More Speculations

    Some afternoon reading:

  • South Dakota: More positive recovery news from Senator Tim Johnson:

    "In talking to his physicians, we really feel optimistic and confident that he is going to make a full recovery," says Brendan Johnson, 31, one of the senator's three children and a lawyer in Sioux Falls. "It is something that takes time. Unfortunately, we don't have any type of exact timetable. What we do know from the therapists and physicians working with him at GW is that he is making much faster progress than anyone anticipated." ...

    An MRI showed that the speech center of his brain is undamaged. And an angiogram showed that the surgery successfully repaired the original problem, called an arteriovenous malformation. ...

    Amusing anecdotes from the hospital, hot off the BlackBerry, are savored and laughed about around the office: Watching football playoffs, the senator groaned when his wife kept referring to the Chicago Bears as the Chicago Cubs. He rolled his eyes when she asked why he wasn't rooting for the Patriots over the Colts, since South Dakota native Adam Vinatieri is the place kicker. Did she not know that Vinatieri had signed with the Colts!?
    Keep watching and hoping for the best.

  • Nebraska: The Hill reports on more speculation about a Chuck Hagel retirement:

    As of his third-quarter filing, Hagel had the least cash on hand of the 33 senators up for reelection in 2008. ...

    The senator with the second-least cash after the third quarter, Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.), is thus far the only one to announce he will not run again. ...

    At the same time, he [Hagel] has left open the possibility that he would retire, whether or not he would seek the presidency. Last week, he rebuffed a report that said he has assured the National Republican Senatorial Committee that he will seek reelection.
    Nebraska is a tough state, but Ben Nelson has shown that it is winnable, and a Hagel retirement would make it all-the-more competitive, and therefore more attractive to potential Democratic candidates. Let's hope Hagel's fundraising continues to languish.

  • Minnesota: Coincidence or not? One of the guests on the installment of the "Al Franken Show" in which Franken announced his mid-February departure: DSCC Chair Chuck Schumer.

  • Monday, January 29, 2007

    Rumblings from Idaho

    Finally some news from the Gem State:

  • Idaho: The Hill reports:

    Few 2006 candidates are girding for another battle as much as [Larry] Grant is right now. The Democrat is closely monitoring freshman Rep. Bill Sali’s (R) every vote in the House and is also considering a bid for Sen. Larry Craig’s (R) seat. ...

    He’s also been approached by the state Democratic Party about a Senate bid, and he said he will consider it. Former Rep. Larry LaRocco (D) is also weighing a run, and Grant said he will defer to LaRocco — a bigger name with statewide experience.

    But the Senate seat is much less attractive with Craig sitting in it, and while retirement rumors have circulated about members of the newly demoted Republican Caucus, Craig, at 61, is right in the middle of the Senate as far as his age.

    Craig, who was reelected with 65 percent in 2002, has not yet announced whether he intends to seek reelection. He already has a primary opponent in Robert Vasquez, a county commissioner who declared for the seat in October, citing Craig’s support for allowing illegal immigrants to apply for citizenship.

    State Democratic Party Chairman Richard Stallings said he thought the Senate seat could provide an opportunity for Grant, but that Grant is probably leaning toward running for the House seat again.
    It is important that we challenge Republicans everywhere, and it takes the cultivation of candidates to do so. I don't know much about Mr. LaRocco, but Mr. Grant waged a tenacious campaign, so it's clear we must have solid options. Should Craig not be enjoying his surroundings in the Senate minority and opt to retire, it'll make the seat all-the-more competitive.

  • Afternoon Miscellany

    Some tidbits:

  • The New York Times has Chuck Schumer discussing candidate recruitment in 2006.

  • Minnesota: Al Franken is going to announce his mid-February departure from his Air America show. We're told not to read anything into this. So let's all read something into this.

  • There are now almost 30,000 right-wingers who will not contribute to the NRSC unless Chairman Ensign puts in writing that none of the NRSC funds will go to support GOP Senators who vote for any resolution opposing the Bush troop escalation. Makes it easier to take down Senators like Coleman, Smith, and Collins.

  • Another Monday Morning

    Here's some morning reading:

  • Massachusetts: In case Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling's non-denial denial saying he wasn't considering a 2008 Senate challenge to John Kerry was not enough for you, he confirms that he wants to keep pitching in 2008. (It's always a pleasure to cite

  • Political Wire has the goods on a Roll Call piece following Senate Minority Leader McConnell and NRSC Chair Ensign begging potential GOP Senate retirees to make another run and promising strong party support. The highlighted list:

    With Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO) already announcing his retirement, "GOP leaders are keeping an eye on Senators who may opt to retire at the end of the Congress, such as Alexander and Sens. Thad Cochran (Miss.), John Warner (Va.), Elizabeth Dole (N.C.), Pete Domenici (N.M.) and Ted Stevens (Alaska),” though “Dole, Domenici and Stevens all have said they plan to run again."
    On that note, the promised Retirement Watch list from the Senate 2008 Guru will come out later this week. Stay tuned.

  • Friday, January 26, 2007

    Friday Night Miscellany

    Happy Friday night:

  • The NY Times/CQ Politics takes a look at all the 2008 Senate races. Democratic-held seats here. Republican-held seats here. An overall chart here.

  • South Dakota: Tim Johnson is continuing to recover steadily.

  • New Mexico: The Domenici camp is on the defensive about rumors of Domenici going the way of Jim Bunning.

  • Massachusetts: Kos begs Republicans to piss money away on a challenge to John Kerry.

  • Minnesota: Norm Coleman hangs out in dumpsters. (Hat tip: Political Wire)

  • Potential Kerry Opponents Dropping Like Flies

  • Massachusetts: Less than 48 hours after John Kerry announced he would pass on a 2008 Presidential bid and instead run for re-election to the Senate, the MA-GOP lost their two best potential candidates to challenge Kerry. Harvard Pilgrim CEO Charles Baker gave an unequivocal "no interest" (and sounded more like a possible 2010 Gov candidate in the process) and Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, who stumped for Bush in 2004, gave a "not something I ever thought about" reminiscent of former Broncos QB John Elway's similar decline to run for the Colorado seat being vacated by Wayne Allard. The MA-GOP's two biggest names remaining are Kerry Healey, the former Lt. Gov. who just got trounced in the 2006 Gov race, and Andy Card, Bush's former Chief of Staff (whose association to the Bush administration would, no doubt, be toxic). Not much to choose from.

    UPDATE (11:41am): Former MA Governor Paul Cellucci is indicating that he is not interested in a 2008 challenge to Senator Kerry with his recent endorsement of former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani for President over recently-departed MA Gov. Mitt Romney, who sought Cellucci's endorsement and would have been helpful to Cellucci if he was interested in the Senate seat.

  • Thursday, January 25, 2007


    Some late night reading:

  • North Carolina: Political Wire with another hat tip. Though Governor Mike Easley has not expressed interest in a 2008 Senate race, this poll says that he'd beat Elizabeth Dole. Gov. Easley, run! Pretty please!!

  • Tennessee: Fresh off of taking the DLC Chairmanship, Harold Ford Jr. says he has no plans to challenge Lamar Alexander in 2008. Time (and polling) will tell if this is an absolute No or if this is a temporary "not planning on it."

  • Oregon: In a sign that he may be more seriously considering a challenge to Gordon Smith, U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer presents his plan to get out of Iraq in one year.

  • CQPolitics takes a look at new NRSC Chair John Ensign's challenges he will face and public naivete he is presenting.

  • The conservative blogosphere is nowhere near the progressive blogosphere in people-power or fundraising prowess. But what little there is may soon turn on the NRSC.

  • Doing Your Job

    Lots of news:

  • New Hampshire: Fresh off of voting against the minimum wage increase, John Sununu votes against requiring Congressional authorization before Bush can send more troops to Iraq. No, John Sununu isn't out of touch with the voters of New Hampshire! P'shaw, I say. P'shaw! This quote kinda says it all:

    Sununu has said he is looking for a way to call for change in Iraq that doesn't put him at odds with his party.
    It makes me think of the quote from The American President:

    I was so busy keeping my job I forgot to do my job.
    Sununu's job isn't to find a politically comfortable nook. It is to represent New Hampshire and be a leader. He is not representing New Hampshire. He is not leading. He is not doing his job. So New Hampshire, I anticipate, will relieve Sununu of his job in 2008.

  • Minnesota: Norm Coleman also voted against that measure to impede Bush's escalation in Iraq. MSNBC's Tom Curry looks at Coleman, much like Sununu, trying to play both sides of the Iraq issue.

  • Massachusetts: In the wake of Senator John Kerry's decision to forgo an '08 Presidential bid and rather run for re-election and continue doing his job, speculation begins on who the downtrodden MA-GOP will dig up to challenge Kerry:

    One potential GOP challenger, state Sen. Scott Brown, said last night that he “would consider” a run against Kerry in 2008 and that the senator is ripe for the picking. ...

    In addition to Brown, the pool of possible Republican challengers to Kerry’s Senate re-election bid next year could include Harvard Pilgrim CEO Charles Baker, real estate mogul and powerful GOP fund-raiser Chris Egan, state Sen. Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan, former Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey and President Bush’s former chief of staff, Andy Card."
    This looks like the same list of people considered for running mate to former Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey in her failed 2006 Gov bid to replace Mitt Romney (or to replace Healey when it became obvious that her campaign was flailing). It also looks like the same list as potential challengers to Gov. Deval Patrick in 2010. Why? Cuz there ain't many Republicans left in Massachusetts. Kerry should have a fairly comfortable re-election run.

  • Tennessee: Harold Ford will be taking the Chairmanship of the DLC after all. The article suggests that this position is a strong platform from which to challenge Lamar Alexander in 2008, but I think his taking this job makes him less likely to transition into another Senate campaign, opting instead to use the DLC Chair to operate as more of a party boss.

  • Kansas: It's pretty safe to take Pat Roberts off of retirement watch, since he is building up a re-election finance committee.

  • Political Wire looks at a Politico piece on the aging of the Senate. Along those lines, over the weekend, I will be putting out this blog's first official Retirement Watch post. Stay tuned.

  • Fear and Loathing in the Senate

    Some late-night reading for you:

  • Dick Cheney calls criticism of the Bush administration's handling of Iraq "hogwash." If he could attend campaign events for John Sununu, Gordon Smith, Norm Coleman, and Susan Collins and repeat that over and over again, I'd really appreciate it.

  • Virginia: Political Wire recaps ENPR's reporting of a scheme by conservative Virginians to undermine John Warner's electoral intentions. I guess honor among thieves isn't very high in the VA-GOP nowadays.

  • Voting to support a filibuster against increasing the minimum wage: Alexander (R-TN), Allard (R-CO), Chambliss (R-GA), Cochran (R-MS), Cornyn (R-TX), Craig (R-ID), Dole (R-NC), Domenici (R-NM), Enzi (R-WY), Graham (R-SC), Hagel (R-NE), Inhofe (R-OK), McConnell (R-KY), Roberts (R-KS), Sessions (R-AL), Smith (R-OR), Stevens (R-AK), Sununu (R-NH). Hat tip: Daily Kos. I suppose Gordon Smith and John Sununu are looking for more obstacles to re-election.

  • Libby Dole's successor as NRSC Chair, John Ensign, is urging GOP Senators to contribute more for 2008 than they did for 2006. These Republicans would rather sacrifice their majority than pony up some of their cash - and there are more of them up for re-election in 2008 than there were in 2006. Expect the NRSC to fall short of their goals and, wait for it, lose a few more Senate seats.

  • Meanwhile, the phenomenally successful DSCC Chair, Chuck Schumer, has a new book, Positively American. Courtesy of MSNBC, here is an excerpt.

  • Wednesday, January 24, 2007

    Kerry Reportedly Plans to Stay in Senate, Not Run for Prez in '08

    A substantial announcement:

  • Massachusetts: The Boston Globe reports:

    Senator John F. Kerry plans to announce today that he is bowing out of the 2008 presidential race, and will instead remain in Congress and seek reelection to his Senate seat next year, according to senior Democratic officials. ...

    Kerry plans to make his plans known with a speech on the Senate floor this afternoon, and is taping a message to e-mail his supporters to explain his decision.
    So there you go. It simplifies the 2008 Democratic presidential primary field a little, and probably frustrates more than a couple MA Congressmen.

  • Post-State of the Union

    Some Wednesday morning thoughts:

  • How about Senator Jim Webb's Democratic response to the State of the Union!! I'll quote Newsweek's Jonathan Alter:

    For the first time ever, the response to the State of the Union Message overshadowed the president's big speech. Virginia Sen. James Webb, in office only three weeks, managed to convey a muscular liberalism—with personal touches—that left President Bush's ordinary address in the dust.
    Well, how do you do?

  • Rhode Island: Former Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee gave an interview to Brown University's Daily Herald. While he doesn't make any reference to a possible (and remarkably unlikely) 2008 challenge to incumbent Democrat Jack Reed, he is asked about a 2010 bid for Governor. Chafee says that "it's absolutely not something [he's] considering" and that he's focused on his new teaching duties. While Reed's strong popularity in an already-heavily Democratic state makes us very comfortable about his re-election, it'd be nice to have a pass altogether.

  • Texas: An astute reader passed on this news about Republican John Cornyn's possible first challenger, failed gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman. Nevertheless, I wouldn't mind hearing rumblings about other candidates...

  • Tuesday, January 23, 2007

    Hagel Assures NRSC of Re-election Intentions

  • Nebraska: Contrary to rumors that have been swirling, Roll Call is reporting that Republican Chuck Hagel of Nebraska "has assured the National Republican Senatorial Committee that he intends to run for re-election next year." Big hat tip: Leavenworth Street. We'll see if the MSM picks up on this and confirms the story in tomorrow's papers.

    UPDATE (4:44pm): The Lincoln Journal Star reports:

    Despite a story in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, Sen. Chuck Hagel has not determined his 2008 political plans, his spokesman said Tuesday.

    “Senator Hagel hasn’t made up his mind,” said Mike Buttry. “Those close to him don’t know what he’s going to do.”

    Hagel has indicated he’s likely to make his decision within the next two weeks.
    Stay tuned.

  • Speculations and Preparations

    A few Tuesday morning bites for your reading pleasure:

  • Colorado: Just when it looked like the Colorado GOP might begin unifying behind Scott McInnis, a new rumor is afoot. According to ColoradoPols, current Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson is taking a look at the race, and McInnis is "more than a little bit concerned." With Colorado trending blue, anybody associated with the Bush administration would have to be fairly toxic in a general election, so I welcome Secretary Nicholson to the race!

  • Minnesota: Having reached out to legislators for background on running for office, Al Franken is now reaching out to academics for public policy guidance should he move forward with a Senate campaign. (Side note: Should we be worried that the news outlet most closely covering Franken's steps toward a campaign is Fox News?)

  • North Carolina: In another sign that Elizabeth Dole is going to move forward with a re-election bid, she is beginning an aggressive fundraising drive this month. Aggressive? Yes. Successful? We'll see. In fact, with such low cash-on-hand, the early success or failure of this fundraising drive may be a major, if not decisive, factor as she finalizes her 2008 plans.

  • Nebraska: Leavenworth Street offers political gamblers odds on what Chuck Hagel's 2008 intentions are. A re-election Senate bid stands all the way down at 20-to-1, with the following commentary:

    The signs for this point to no: he hasn’t been raising money and word is that he’s tired of the Senate and tired of his job. With Sen. Dick Lugar still there and Dems probably still in majority, he can’t be Chairman of Foreign Relations Committee, which would be one compelling reason for him to stay in. But if Ag Sec. Mike Johanns won’t run for Hagel’s seat, does Hagel disdain Attorney General Jon Bruning enough to run for re-elect (to keep Bruning out)?
    Returning to the minority party and losing Chairmanships are compelling factors for many GOP Senators considering retirement. We'll see what impact it has on Hagel as he announces his plans in the coming weeks and months.

  • Monday, January 22, 2007

    Taking a Stand or Just Covering Your Ass?

    Happy Monday:

  • It's common knowledge that maverick Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska is working with Senate Democrats on a resolution opposing Bush's plan in Iraq. Now, the Senate's most conservative Democrat, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, is working with some Republicans on what seems to be a watered-down version of the resolution - the weaker resolution would oppose the addition of 21,500 troops, but "it would not set a timetable for U.S. withdrawal nor threaten to withhold money to pay for U.S. military involvement." And who are the Republicans working with Nelson on the resolution-lite?

    The Senate resolution was being prepared by Nelson and three Republican: John Warner of Virginia, Susan Collins of Maine and Gordon Smith of Oregon.
    Hmmm, what do these three have in common? Potentially tough re-election bids in 2008. So Warner, Collins, and Smith sponsor a weak resolution so that they can go back to their constituents claiming to have sought a middle ground, when all they're doing is more meaningless political posturing.

  • North Carolina: With term-limited Gov. Mike Easley not biting to challenge Elizabeth Dole for the Senate seat in 2008, rumors abound that candidate recruiters will be looking to engage the Tar Heel State's first lady, Mary Easley.

  • Massachusetts & Nebraska: Political Wire highlights the deliberations of both Senator John Kerry (D-MA) and Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) as they ponder their 2008 plans.

  • Sunday, January 21, 2007


    Two Sunday morning bites:

  • North Carolina: Indicating that she may run for re-election, Elizabeth Dole is not ready to be a straight-up rubber stamp for Bush's escalation.

    Dole, who was in Iraq last spring, was more hesitant, saying she was "inclined" to support the troop increase.

    As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Dole said she "want(s) to know more details about the specific missions these men and women will perform, and how this new direction will get the job done, stabilize Iraq, and allow our troops in harm's way to return home."
    A healthy dose of skepticism from someone who seems to be concerned about keeping her job.

  • Iowa: The Iowa Democratic Party was perhaps the third most successful state party in 2006, after New Hampshire and Arkansas. And its no small indicator that Senator Harkin was the most frequent Bush-position opponent in 2006. With the clear blueing of Iowa, Harkin is more likely to face token opposition rather than a well-funded Congressperson or other institutional GOP official who would risk a current office for a Senate run.

  • Up from the Blogs

    Some late night reading:

  • Virginia: Raising Kaine takes John Warner to task for his continuing ambiguity over his position on Bush's escalation plan.

  • Minnesota: Eric Hananoki at the Al Franken Show's blog looks at Norm Coleman's special interest fundraising.

  • Georgia: Georgia Women Vote! looks at attorney Jim Butler's recent message on his Senate campaign considerations.

  • Louisiana: One of the big variables on how Mary Landrieu's re-election bid will go is what will come out in terms of Hurricane Katrina government response investigations. If there will be investigations. The Senator in charge of the committee that would oversee such an investigation - Joe Lieberman - who may sell Mary Landrieu out to continue currying favor with the Bush administration. But now, former FEMA Director Michael Brown is saying partisan politics played a big part in the Bush administration's response, which actively tried to make Louisiana's Democratic elected officials look bad. Unfortunately, if Governor Kathleen Blanco's re-election numbers are an indicator, Mary Landrieu does have an uphill climb.

    UPDATE (5:23am): Senator Landrieu will find herself as perhaps the top target of the NRSC despite supporting Bush's position the second most frequently of any Senate Democrat, after only Ben Nelson of Nebraska. The political moral of the story: there's no sense in agreeing with the opposition if the opposition is going to attack you regardless of whether or not you agree with them.

  • Saturday, January 20, 2007

    Smart Money On the Democrats

  • Political gamblers say that the Democrats are 70% likely to retain the House and Senate, so reports the Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire. (Hat tip: Political Wire)

  • Friday, January 19, 2007

    Friday Rundown

    Lots of reading for your Friday morning:

  • The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza, via his The Fix blog, offers his latest look at key 2008 Senate races. Nothing surprising in this latest update, as Cillizza keeps an eye on potentially-retiring Senators, following Wayne Allard's announcement.

  • South Dakota: In the first sign that Tim Johnson's camp may be preparing for a re-election bid, Johnson's office hired a top Democratic strategist, Steve Jarding, as its deputy chief-of-staff.

  • New Hampshire: Democratic activist Katrina Swett has filed papers to set up a campaign committee to challenge John Sununu. However, both Swett and announced-likely-candidate Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand give indications that they would clear the path to the Democratic nomination for former Governor Jeanne Shaheen if she decides she wants another shot (though she would have to decide soon). The article also offers:

    Other Democrats actively considering running against Sununu are Stonyfield Farm chief executive Gary Hirshberg of Concord and state Sen. David Gottesman of Nashua. Hirshberg said this week he intends to decide by mid-February, while Gottesman has not talked about a specific timetable.
    Additionally, the New York Times/CQPolitics takes a look at the changing political dynamics in New Hampshire.

  • Massachusetts: John Kerry suggests that he'll likely have a decision on 2008 - specifically Presidential plans, but also Senate plans if you read between the lines - by the end of the month. Several MA Congressmen are waiting with bated breath.

  • New Mexico: In case Pete Domenici retires, the Albuquerque Tribune looks at how the Land of Enchantment's Congresspeople voted on six key pieces of legislation from the Democratic leadership's First 100 Hours agenda, and how those votes could impact the Congresspeople statewide if they ran to replace Domenici. GOP Rep. Steve Pearce voted against raising the minimum wage, implementing the 9/11 Commission's recommendations, and taking steps to lower prescription drug costs - let's hope that Domenici retires and he becomes the GOP's nominee!

  • New York: Yes, New York. Not that they have a 2008 race, per se, but Robert Kennedy Jr. says that he'd be interested in a Senate run if Hillary Clinton ascended to the Presidency in 2008. (Hat tip: Political Wire)

  • Thursday, January 18, 2007

    Bloggers Catch GOP Hypocrisies

    Two afternoon bites:

  • Minnesota: Kagro X at Daily Kos catches Norm Coleman caving to Bush on escalation and parsing words to attempt to sidestep political responsibility.

  • Maine: Craig at Turn Maine Blue compares Wayne Allard holding to his two-term-limit pledge with Susan Collins breaking her identical promise to voters.

  • A Great Headline

  • The Albuquerque Tribune runs an AP article this morning with the headline "Bush tries to limit GOP dissent." Not only does Bush try to stifle the opinions of anyone who has the audacity to contradict his benevolent thoughtfulness and foresight, but he has now been reduced to herding his own cats in the Senate minority. Of the Senate resolution against Bush's Iraq escalation plan, the article notes:

    They [the Bush administration] also herded GOP skeptics to the White House Wednesday, where they tried to allay the concerns of Republican lawmakers including Sens. John Warner of Virginia, Sam Brownback of Kansas, Norm Coleman of Minnesota and Susan Collins of Maine.
    So Bush is personally leaning on Warner, Coleman, and Collins to stick with him. With some Republicans already signing on and most Democrats seemingly behind the measure, the resolution will likely pass. The only question is how many vulnerable Republicans will further stick their neck out and side with Bush's unpopular strategy? Does Coleman want to confirm electoral defeat? Does Collins want to give Tom Allen yet another issue to run on if he gets in against her? Does Warner plan on retiring anyway and just doesn't care anymore? And why isn't Bush leaning on John Sununu of New Hampshire? Is he already on board against the resolution, furthering endangering his own re-election chances in 2008? The policy implications are pretty straightforward - it will be very interesting, however, to see how the political implications shake out.

    UPDATE (12:19pm): Blue Hampshire answers that question about Sununu.

  • Wednesday, January 17, 2007

    Getting In

    Lots of evening news:

  • Iowa: Though DSCC Chair Chuck Schumer noted that Tom Harkin was the only Democratic Senate incumbent yet to make up his mind regarding a re-election bid, it seems that Harkin may be coming around:

    Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa said he's "doing everything" that would indicate he's seeking reelection in 2008.

    Harkin stopped short of saying he was committing to run, because he said he dislikes the lengthy campaign cycle. But, he said, he is raising money and putting together a campaign organization in advance of the 2008 election. "I feel good. My health is good," he said. ...

    No Republicans have announced plans to definitely run for the Senate in 2008, though Rep. Steve King, a Kiron Republican, and Rep. Tom Latham, an Alexander Republican, are considered possible challengers. ...

    Harkin raised $1.7 million through 2005 and 2006 and as of Sept. 30 had $940,000 cash on hand in his campaign fund.
    Go Harkin! Let's see another House Republican sacrifice his seat for a futile challenge.

  • Minnesota: Comedian/commentator Al Franken has been contacting lawmakers for advice about a possible Senate run. Franken says a decision is coming in "the next few weeks."

  • Colorado: Mark Udall sends a shot across the bow of Scott McInnis and any other Republican who might get in the race. Udall is effectively establishing the premise in the voters' minds that the open Senate seat is already his.

  • Just as Iraq as a wedge issue will likely cost John Sununu of New Hampshire his job (and who knows how many others), stem cell research as a wedge issue will likely cost Norm Coleman of Minnesota his job (and who knows how many others).

  • Definitive Statements

    Some afternoon tidbits:

  • Carl Levin, Chuck Hagel and others will offer a resolution opposing Bush's plan for an escalation/surge/build-up/augmentation/blue-on-black in Iraq. When it comes to the most vulnerable Senators in 2008 (Sununu, Coleman, Smith, Collins, etc.), particularly those in blue-ish states, voting for the resolution won't necessarily save them, but voting against it (i.e. supporting Bush's plan) will likely condemn them to electoral defeat in 2008. Can't wait for that roll call!

  • Colorado: For those who don't like relying on spokespeople, former Broncos QB John Elway himself says that he has no intention of running for the open Senate seat in the Centennial State in 2008.

  • South Dakota: Political Wire has the goods on a Roll Call report that Senator Max Baucus of Montana, also up for re-election in 2008, is setting up a special fundraising account to help Tim Johnson fundraise for a re-election bid as he recovers from brain surgery. It's too early to tell if Senator Johnson will be in a healthy-enough condition to run for re-election, much less if he'd want to run for re-election, but it is indeed forward-thinking to prepare.

  • Ford Not Planning On It, While Sununu Dances and Inhofe Gets Challenged

    A few bits for your Wednesday morning:

  • Tennessee: The Chattanooga Times Free Press and the Nashville City Paper both have Harold Ford suggesting that he has "no plans" to enter the 2008 Senate race, listing his other time commitments, from a possible DLC position to teaching at Vanderbilt to assisting Governor Bredesen.

  • New Hampshire: The Nashua Telegraph and Portsmouth Herald both run an AP piece on John Sununu's continued hedging on Iraq. It is good to see that this framing of Sununu is being pervasive as Democrats enter the race to challenge him.

  • Oklahoma: Global-warming-denier Jim Inhofe will have a primary challenge, so reports the Tulsa World:

    Tulsan Stephen P. Wallace says he intends to campaign for the U.S. Senate seat now held by fellow Republican Jim Inhofe in 2008.

    Inhofe is expected to seek re-election.

    Wallace, who might be best known for his unsuccessful 2004 challenge to the city of Tulsa's settlement of a lawsuit against several poultry producers, has filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission and issued a press release announcing his candidacy.

    Wallace, 57, said he intends to focus on judicial reform and accountability. He is a graduate of Cascia Hall and holds degrees from Loyola of Chicago and Southern Methodist universities.

    Wallace operates the Independent Justice Institute, a for-profit company that specializes in taxpayer demand petitions.
    It's always helpful when incumbent Republicans face primary challenges - just ask Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island.

    UPDATE (12:18pm): Sununu is really trying to dance his way out of a job. Iraq will wedge Senate Republicans and cost a few of them their jobs. CNN reports:

    At least seven Republican senators have said they flatly oppose the troop increase: Sam Brownback of Kansas, [Nebraska's Chuck] Hagel, Norm Coleman of Minnesota, Gordon Smith of Oregon, George Voinovich of Ohio, Susan Collins of Maine and Olympia Snowe of Maine.
    Brownback and Hagel are running for President. Coleman, Smith, and Collins are running for re-election. Voinovich just saw his old colleague, Mike DeWine, get ousted. And Snowe, like Collins, represents moderate Maine. And what is John Sununu of New Hampshire doing?

    Sens. Saxby Chambliss, R-Georgia, and John Sununu, R-New Hampshire -- both up for re-election in 2008 -- say they think Bush's plan might work, but only if the Iraqis come up with a way to share oil and reach other political milestones.
    That middle-ground, wait-and-see lack of leadership might work for Chambliss in Georgia, which is one of the fastest red-trending states in the nation; but it won't work for Sununu in rapidly-blue-trending New Hampshire.

  • More Allard Aftermath, and a GOP Senate Communication Breakdown

    Some late night reading:

  • Colorado: The AP's Steve Paulson looks at the race as though the primaries have already dictated a Udall-McInnis match-up, while The Hill focuses on the novelty of a John Elway candidacy, disregarding the fact that he does not appear to be interested.

  • The Hill also looks at GOP Senate efforts to repair a broken communications system, which I think just means increasing the incidence of mind-numbing repetition among Senators' press secretaries.

  • Tuesday, January 16, 2007

    Turning Red States Blue

    Two afternoon bites:

  • Virginia: For the second year in a row, the Democrat giving the response to the State of the Union will be a Virginia politician (last year was Governor Tim Kaine and this year, it was just announced, will be Senator Jim Webb). Similar to holding the 2008 Convention in Denver, this serves as an important geo-political symbol. And, hopefully, it will help convince John Warner that we will commit the resources and political capital necessary to defeat him if he doesn't just retire.

  • Oklahoma: One Senator I hope does not retire is global-warming-denier Jim Inhofe. I think he would be easier to challenge than former Governor Frank Keating:

    He said Tuesday that if U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., decided not to seek another term in office, he would contemplate running for the U.S. Senate.

    "I would encourage Senator Inhofe to run," Keating said. "If he were not to run, certainly I would consider it."
    Vote Inhofe in 2008 and he'll make sure it's sunny and warm all winter long!

  • Allard Aftermath and Sununu's Continued Hedge on Iraq

    Happy Tuesday:

  • Colorado: Between the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News, we know the following regarding Colorado's potential candidates for Senate in 2008:

    U.S. Rep. Mark Udall: "repeatedly said he is running for the seat but has not officially filed"
    Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper: "said Monday that he would 'absolutely not' run if Udall was in. But otherwise, he didn't want to 'close out options.'"

    Incumbent Senator Wayne Allard: retiring - "said he intends to resume his veterinary practice when he leaves office"
    Former U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis: "said that if Allard decided not to seek re-election, there was 'no question I will run.'"
    Former Gov. Bill Owens: "I'm not going to be a candidate for Senate."
    U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo: "On the list of those who have ruled out running for Allard's seat is U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, said the Littleton Republican's spokesman Carlos Espinosa."
    Owens & Tancredo: "On Monday, two men who were once considered possible contenders for Allard's seat, former Gov. Bill Owens and Rep. Tom Tancredo, of Littleton, both said McInnis was at the top of their list of would-be candidates."
    Former U.S. Rep. Bob Schaffer: "said Monday that he has been 'inundated with calls' encouraging him to run and that he 'had not ruled it out.'"
    State Attorney General John Suthers: "considering a run as well and will decide in the 'coming weeks,' said his spokesman Nate Strauch"
    Former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez: "also has not ruled out a run, said his spokesman Allen Fuller"
    Conservative radio talk-show host Dan Caplis: "said he needed to discuss it with his family and planned to travel around the state and talk to voters over the next few weeks"
    Secretary of State Mike Coffman: mentioned as a possible candidate
    Former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway: "has no intention of running, a spokeswoman said"

    So it seems to shake down like this: for the Democrats, it's Udall, all the way. For the Republicans, McInnis is hustling to line up institutional support and crowd out any other candidates (and seems to have Owens and Tancredo watching his back). Over the next several weeks, Schaffer, Suthers, and Beauprez will determine if they would have enough institutional support, organizational/field support, and financial support for a run. Suthers is the only one of the three currently holding office, i.e. he has too much to risk on a run. Schaffer and Beauprez will probably run if they think they have the support to maintain a campaign. I do hope that Caplis joins the race. He is not beholden to the state GOP institution and can pull his party further to the right in a primary - and further out of touch with mainstream Colorado that is already trending blue - damaging the eventual GOP nominee. Anyway, go Udall!

  • New Hampshire: Republican John Sununu continues to respond to questions with answers in the conditional future tense as he tries to carve out a politically-acceptable, blatantly-disingenuous position on Iraq. Right-wing enough for the President, but moderate-sounding enough to placate his electorate, which will hopefully see through his obvious political posturing.

  • Monday, January 15, 2007

    Wayne Allard to Retire - Should Susan Collins Follow Suit?

  • Colorado: Wayne Allard has, at long last, declared his 2008 intentions:

    Sen. Wayne Allard said today he will honor his term-limits pledge and leave at the end of 2008, creating a replacement fight that should turn Colorado into one of the country’s biggest electoral battlegrounds.

    "I just didn't think I could back away from the (term limits) commitment. It is a matter of integrity and keeping your commitments. I have never wavered on that," Allard told the Rocky Mountain News.

    Appearing with his wife, Joan, at a press conference at the state Capitol, Allard said, "The people of Colorado placed their trust in me based on a promise I made to them and I am honoring that promise. In an age when promises are cast away as quickly as yesterday’s newspaper, I believe a promise made should be a promise kept."

    1) The Colorado GOP, already in bad shape, will likely be further fractured by a tough primary to replace Allard, with the likes of Scott McInnis, Tom Tancredo, Bill Owens, Bob Schaffer, Bob Beauprez, John Suthers, and even John Elway looking at this race.

    2) Democrat Mark Udall will be in the driver's seat with the wind at his back. Between the fractured GOP, his already healthy fundraising, his popularity, the fact that it's an open seat, the fact that Colorado is trending blue, and the fact that Denver is hosting the DNC in 2008, Udall is in very good shape.

    3) Given how Allard pointed primarily to his term limits pledge, and the integrity attached to keeping that pledge, what impact will this have on Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, who like Allard was also first elected in 1996 on a two-terms-and-out pledge? Can we use Allard's comments to illustrate how Collins, by running for a third term, is breaking a promise to voters and lacking integrity?

    UPDATE (4:25pm): Tom Tancredo, it looks like, will not run for the Senate and is, instead, getting behind Scott McInnis' effort.

  • Monday Morning Roundup - Happy Martin Luther King Day

    The Monday news:

  • I hope you're having a pleasant and thoughtful Martin Luther King Day. Take a few minutes to re-read the I Have a Dream speech here.

  • Colorado: Republican Wayne Allard will announce his retirement vs. re-election bid intentions later today.

  • Minnesota: Minnesota Public Radio questions whether Republican Norm Coleman's flip-flop on Iraq is motivated by principles or politics. Call me a cynic, but I'd guess politics.

  • Louisiana: The Shreveport Times looks at incumbent Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu's role as a leading centrist in the Senate. Hopefully, her leadership and centrist credibility in Louisiana will help her withstand the GOP's inevitable attacks as the 2008 election approaches.

  • Friday, January 12, 2007

    Dems in NH; GOP on Iraq

    A few Friday morning bites:

  • New Hampshire: The flood gates have apparently only just opened with Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand saying he will run for Senate in 2008 to challenge Republican John Sununu. Katrina Swett, a Democratic congressional candidate in 2002 and the daughter of long-serving California Representative Tom Lantos and the wife of former New Hampshire Representative Dick Swett, describes herself as "98 percent in." Further, "Stonyfield Yogurt chief executive Gary Hirshberg, a long-time Democratic activist and fundraiser, says he is seriously weighing a run for the U.S. Senate against Republican John Sununu." It looks like there will be one heck of a spirited primary in New Hampshire, allowing Democrats to dominate the press spend months bashing Sununu's record.

  • Colorado: Earlier, this blog highlighted that Wayne Allard says he has made up his mind between retirement and a re-election bid, but is keeping the decision a secret for now. Well, the Washington Times has another sign that Allard may be planning for retirement:

    An informal survey by The Washington Times yesterday, for instance, found nine Senate Republicans who have "doubts" about Mr. Bush's proposal, and seven who reject it. Eleven other senators expressed conditional support.

    Twenty-one Republican senators offered unqualified support. Only Sen. Wayne Allard, Colorado Republican, did not respond to requests for comment. [Emphasis added.]
    Now why wouldn't he be in a rush to go on the record?

  • Speaking of Iraq, Chris Bowers at MyDD highlights members of the GOP critical of Bush's escalation plan, and notes that it is "amazing how many of the Republicans voicing 'concerns' have dicey re-election prospects in 2008: Sununu, Collins, Smith, and Coleman." Sununu, Collins, Smith, and Coleman should all have to wear a scarlet "O" around their necks for "opportunist." Hopefully, their respective constituencies will call them on their blatant political opportunism come Election Day 2008.

  • Allard's Got a Secret

  • Colorado: And the Colorado news keeps on coming. Fresh off of Denver being the announced site for the 2008 Democratic convention, Republican Senator Wayne Allard says he has a secret:

    Colorado Republican Sen. Wayne Allard says he has decided whether or not he will seek a third term in 2008 — but he isn’t ready to share it just yet.

    “Stay tuned,” he told Congressional Quarterly reporter Daphne Retter Thursday. The senator declined to elaborate further, other than to say that only he and his wife know what he has decided. ...

    The possibility that Allard might not run again has long been the subject of speculation. The winner of a 5 percentage-point victory over Democrat Tom Strickland in 2002, Allard is a supporter of term limits and had promised to serve no more than two six-year terms — a pledge Democrats are demanding that he keep.

    The senator also does not have a bulging treasury. As of Nov. 27, Allard had just $122,000 cash on hand in his Senate campaign account.
    I think he has decided to retire. The first obvious tell is the lack of campaign funds. The second is his term limit pledge. The third, and perhaps most important (and a factor that I think will play into Virginia Republican John Warner's potential decision to retire), is that he doesn't want to end his career on a loss. Colorado has gone big for the Democrats over the last few years, so the momentum is against Allard, who barely won in 2002. Meanwhile, he'll face a popular, well-funded, energetic opponent in what would be the stiffest competition of his political life. Why break a term-limit campaign promise only to run an underfunded campaign that you'll probably lose and spend two years with a giant target on you courtesy of the DSCC? Expect a retirement announcement soon. Then watch the number of potential stand-ins further fracture the Colorado GOP.

  • Thursday, January 11, 2007

    Denver to Host 2008 Democratic Convention

  • Colorado: Denver will host the 2008 Democratic Convention, as many had hoped. This further solidifies both Colorado as the likeliest R-to-D flip in the '08 Senate races as well as the Democrats overall presence in the Rocky Mountain states. The only question this raises, as it pertains to the '08 Senate race, is whether this makes Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper more likely to run for Senate, given the attached prestige, or less likely, given the additional work required to coordinate convention planning.

  • Thursday Ins and Outs

    Lots of tidbits for your Thursday reading:

  • NPR's Ken Rudin offers a thorough analysis of the 2008 Senate landscape, with a quick hit for each race.

  • South Dakota: The Hill glances at a possible Rep. Herseth vs. Gov. Rounds battle if Senator Johnson is unable to run for re-election. Aside from Rounds, the article mentions, "other possibilities for federal office include attorney Jim Seward and Barb Everist, a former state Senate majority leader."

  • New Hampshire: A day later and a day more certain: The Portsmouth Herald reports that Mayor Steve Marchand is in for a 2008 Senate run. The article also mentions, "Marchand said his choice was made easier after he received information that neither Gov. John Lynch nor former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen were interested in taking on Sununu next year." I guess Shaheen is out. Go Marchand!

  • West Virginia: Perenially the possible challenger, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito is considering a challenge to Senator Jay Rockefeller. The Hill also mentions that others considering a possible run include 2006 Byrd challenger John Raese, former state senator Steve Harrison, Secretary of State Betty Ireland, and newly-elected state senator Mike Hall.

  • Tennessee: Harold Ford Jr. is considering a role that would probably preclude him from running for Senate in 2008, Chair of the Democratic Leadership Council.

  • Political Wire looks at the latest Cook Political Report analysis.

  • Wednesday, January 10, 2007

    We'll Know Next Month

    A lot of decisions will be made regarding 2008 in "the coming weeks" or "next month" or "soon." Here are two such decisions:

  • New Hampshire: The Portsmouth Herald reports:

    [Portsmouth, NH] Mayor Steve Marchand said he may be entering the U.S. Senate race in the next few weeks.
    The report adds:

    Marchand is just one of a number of Democrats being mentioned in political circles for the coveted spot on the ballot, along with state Sens. Maggie Hassan, Joe Foster, Peter Burling, David Gottesman, and Stoneyfield Farm president Gary Hirshberg. Former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, who lost to Sununu in 2002, told the Boston Globe last fall she has not ruled out a rematch against Sununu. But according the recent Roll Call article that cites Marchand, those close to Shaheen say she will likely not run again.
    Marchand even has his core message down:

    "The right candidate has an ideology that matches the state of New Hampshire, fiscally conservative, socially moderate and environmentally progressive," he said. "I think that's what New Hampshire is, that's what I am, and I think that's the kind of representation we need in Washington."
    Former Governor Shaheen would likely be the favorite if she got into the Democratic primary, but Marchand would indeed be a strong candidate to replace Sununu.

  • Nebraska: The Lincoln Journal Star reports on polling done to see who would win a GOP Senate primary if Chuck Hagel did not run for re-election:

    Attorney General Jon Bruning led a December poll measuring the strength of potential Republican successors to Sen. Chuck Hagel if Hagel chooses not to seek re-election next year. ...

    Bruning, re-elected last November without opposition, appears on course to bid for the Senate seat in 2008 if Hagel opts not to seek re-election.

    Hagel is expected to announce this month whether he will pursue the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, seek re-election or leave elective office at the conclusion of his second Senate term. ...

    However, the attorney general clearly appears to be laying groundwork for a possible bid. He spent nearly half a million dollars on positive TV campaign ads prior to his unopposed re-election.
    I'd like to see a Nebraska press outlet release polling numbers matching up Bruning against Democrats Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey and 2006 Congressional candidate Scott Kleeb to see what kind of shot we have at this seat.

  • Tuesday, January 09, 2007

    No's and Maybe's

    Some Tuesday afternoon news:

  • South Dakota: In some very reassuring news, "Sen. Tim Johnson's condition has been upgraded from critical to fair."

  • Tennessee: While officially trying to minimize speculation about his 2008 plans, Harold Ford Jr. will maintain a high profile in Tennessee in the near future as a special volunteer to Governor Phil Bredesen. Is this another sign that Ford is planning a 2008 challenge to Republican Lamar Alexander?

  • New Jersey: The U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, Republican Christopher Christie, while rumored to be considering a 2008 challenge to Frank Lautenberg, has effectively taken his name out of consideration.

  • Chris Bowers at MyDD looks at the implications of Senator Schumer's recent statement on Democratic incumbents and what it means for the 2008 Presidential race, MA and NJ Congresspeople, and Tim Johnson.

  • Monday, January 08, 2007

    Monday Morning Round-up

    A few morning bites:

  • Alabama: In this morning's most disappointing political news, "U.S. Rep. Artur Davis said he will not run for the Senate in 2008." Back to the candidate recruitment drawing board...

  • New Jersey: Frank Lautenberg continues to talk like he is definitely going to run for re-election.

  • Missouri: Republican "Kit" Bond denies the rumors that he is leaving the Senate to head the University of Missouri.

  • The New York Daily News has a terrific piece on Senator Schumer, and offers this on his role as DSCC Chair:

    Schumer has also begun to assemble candidates for the 33 Senate seats that will be contested in 2008. It's seen as a year that favors Democrats, with 12 Democratic incumbents up for reelection compared with 21 Republicans.

    His first goal is ensuring that no Democrat retires.

    "We have now gotten 11 of the 12 Democrats to commit to running again. [Iowa Sen.] Tom Harkin is still making up his mind," Schumer said, going on to lavish praise on the 67-year-old Democrat. "He's a great senator. He does more in a couple of years than many senators have done in a lifetime."

    Schumer said the three most vulnerable Republicans are Colorado Sen. Wayne Allard, New Hampshire's John Sununu and Minnesota's Norm Coleman - who went to high school with Schumer in Brooklyn. He said a Democrat, Rep. Mark Udall, had already stepped forward to challenge Allard, but that he hasn't yet recruited challengers for the other two seats.
    Senator Harkin must miss serving in the Majority, so I hope that being in the Majority again will ensure that Harkin opts for a (fairly safe) re-election bid. And given that the Iowa Dems had maybe the third best 2006 of any state Democratic party (after New Hampshire and Arkansas), retaining the Gov. seat by 10 points and showing an impressive win in IA-02, the wind would be at Harkin's back. And, I think everybody agrees at this point that CO, NH, and MN are our top three targets.

  • Sunday, January 07, 2007

    Nobody Wants to Challenge Durbin

  • Illinois: The IL-GOP is not in great shape. This is further evidenced by their inability to find an opponent for Democratic incumbent and new Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin. In fact, among the Illinois Republicans to publicly express having no interest in the 2008 Senate race are state party chairman Andy McKenna, U.S. Reps. Mark Kirk, John Shimkus & Ray LaHood, State Sens. Bill Brady & Christine Radogno, State Rep. (and '02 Durbin challenger) Jim Durkin, and business Jim Oberweis. While we continue to challenge all Republicans, it will certainly be helpful and resource-conserving if the GOP puts up nothing more than token opposition against our guys.

  • Ranking Their Targets - Democratic Vulnerabilities

    Who will the GOP be targetting in 2008? Here's the initial list:

    First Tier

    1) Mary Landrieu - Louisiana - Age 51
    Landrieu will be the Republicans' #1 target. After being unable to turn any Democratic Senate seats to the GOP in 2006, they will pour ungodly sums of money into Louisiana to try to pull away one victory. Landrieu has a diminished popularity, and a heavily weakened base due to Hurricane Katrina-related displacement, forcing out far more New Orleans-based black and low-income voters who would traditionally vote Democrat than it did traditionally-Republican voters. And keep in mind that Landrieu only barely won her 2002 run-off election for a second term 52-48. Louisiana's 2007 Gubernatorial election will be a strong indicator of Landrieu's chances in 2008. If GOP Rep. Bobby Jindal doesn't win his 2007 gubernatorial bid, expect him to take a shot at Landrieu in 2008. If Jindal does win the Governorship in 2007, expect several Republicans to smell blood and jump in, including Louisiana's other GOP Congresspeople and GOP Secretary of State Jay Dardenne.

    2) Tim Johnson - South Dakota - Age 60
    If you're reading this, you no doubt know about Johnson's well-publicized medical condition. He seems to be steadily recovering, and may even be able to perform his senatorial duties and serve out the remainder of his term, but it is probably a safe assumption until there is news to the contrary that he will not run for re-election (though, if he did, even with reduced public activity, his 70-26 approval rating could see him through - Jim Bunning squeaked to victory in 2004 in Kentucky with less broad support and a rumored-to-be-increasing mental instability). If Johnson does retire, expect Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth (who was the top vote-getter for any South Dakota office in 2006) to step up to the plate for the Democrats. For the Republicans, Governor Mike Rounds would be their top pick, but he hasn't given a consistent indication that he'd be interested in a Senate bid. Republicans also hold every state constitutional office except Public Utilities Commissioner, so their bench is deep enough. Expect a tight race, assuming Johnson is unable to run again, though Herseth would start off as the front-runner.

    Second Tier

    3) Frank Lautenberg - New Jersey - Age 82
    Lautenberg says he is planning on a re-election bid. However, given his advanced age, terribly low approval rating, and relatively low cash-on-hand for a New Jersey candidate (who has to buy media in both NYC and Philadelphia), don't be surprised by a retirement announcement in the spring of 2007. New Jersey teases Republicans, who routinely poll better than they perform on Election Day, as Tom Kean Jr. and Doug Forrester will attest. However, if Lautenberg stays in and the GOP has a strong candidate, this could become much more competitive than needbe, entering the top tier. Meanwhile, there are a number of Democratic Congresspeople in New Jersey itching for a promotion. Assuming polls continue to appear poor for the octogenarian Lautenberg, expect Party leaders to urge him to retire in favor of a younger, more dynamic, and more popular Congressman. For now, though, the ball is in Lautenberg's court as we all await his decision.

    Third Tier

    4) Max Baucus - Montana - Age 65
    Baucus tends to be ranked as more vulnerable in most lists simply because Montana is reliably red for Presidential candidates. But Baucus enjoys an approval rating over 70% and plenty of campaign cash, as well as an energized Montana Democratic Party, following recent victories by Brian Schweitzer for Governor and Jon Tester for Senate. Montana's at-large Congressman Denny Rehberg would be the GOP's top candidate, but he has not made any public decisions about 2008 yet. Rehberg's decision may come down to how much he dislikes serving in the House as a member of the minority party and how much he is willing to gamble because of it. If Rehberg enters the race, it does move up to the second tier or higher.

    5) Tom Harkin - Iowa - Age 67
    Harkin enjoys less-than-stellar popularity (53-40 approval), but leaves Republicans in the dust by solid margins every six years. He also has very solid cash-on-hand. Additionally, the Iowa Democratic Party had a very strong year in 2006, holding the Governor's office by a healthy margin and even picking up a surprise victory in IA-02 Congressional district. It's not unreasonable to believe that credible Republicans may choose to steer clear of Harkin, offering up only token opposition.

    6) Jay Rockefeller - West Virginia - Age 69
    This race has the chance to be the surprise tight race of the cycle for the Republicans if they can put somebody strong up, as West Virginia has been slowly moving redder over the last several years. Nevertheless, as of now, Rockefeller enjoys strong approval and a sizeable wallet, so we just need to confirm that he's running for re-election and wait for the GOP to put somebody up.

    Fourth Tier

    7) Dick Durbin - Illinois - Age 62
    Durbin's scenario is much like Harkin's: a 60something with so-so approvals, but solid cash-on-hand and in a state with a very strong Democratic Party currently. Durbin will also enjoy the support of his colleague uberpopular Barack Obama. Durbin might also have the luxury of facing only token opposition. We'll have to wait and see what Illinois Republicans are willing to step up.

    8) Joe Biden - Delaware - Age 64
    Biden is serious about his Presidential run, but he doesn't have to back out of a Senate bid until late in the process under Delaware's timetable, so he can wait and see if his national bid gains traction. If he focuses on the Presidential race, expect a tight match-up between Biden's son, state AG Beau Biden, and longtime at-large Rep. Mike Castle. If Biden does go for re-election, then the tightness of the race, like in Montana, comes down to whether or not the at-large GOP U.S. Rep. decides that its worth giving up a minority party House seat for an underdog shot against a popular incumbent Senator.

    9) Mark Pryor - Arkansas - Age 43
    The Arkansas Democratic Party had the second best 2006 of any state party after New Hampshire, so the wind is at Pryor's back. With the Arkansas GOP on a downswing, it isn't clear who they'd put up, but until they float a credible name, Pryor's seat is fairly safe.

    10) Carl Levin - Michigan - Age 72
    Levin has said he'll run again and should be in strong shape as the Michigan GOP has sputtered in recent years. As an indicator, note that Levin enjoys similar popularity to Senator Debbie Stabenow and greater popularity than Governor Jennifer Granholm. Stabenow and Granholm won their 2006 re-election bids by margins of 57-41 and 56-42 respectively. Expect similar results for Levin in '08.

    Fifth Tier

    11) John Kerry - Massachusetts - Age 63
    Expect Kerry, like Biden, to keep his Senate options and Presidential options both open for as long as possible. Kerry should retain the seat comfortably if he runs for re-election; and, if he doesn't, Massachusetts features the nation's largest entirely-Democratic Congressional delegation, all waiting for a promotion. Meanwhile, the Bay State's GOP is practically non-existent.

    12) Jack Reed - Rhode Island - Age 57
    Reed enjoys massive popularity and a solid pocketbook. Meanwhile the RI-GOP is in almost as bad shape as the MA-GOP, with Lincoln Chafee getting knocked out of office and Donald Carcieri barely winning re-election. This seat is very comfortably Reed's.

    Saturday, January 06, 2007

    Ranking Our Targets - Republican Vulnerabilities

    In what will become a regularly feature of the Senate 2008 Guru's blog, here is the first Ranking Our Targets. Tomorrow will feature Ranking Their Targets.

    First Tier

    1) Wayne Allard - Colorado - Age 63
    Allard (44-43 approval), when first elected in 1996, promised to only serve two terms. If he runs again, he has to break that promise, stunting his re-election bid from the get-go. On top of that, his campaign cash-on-hand is relatively non-existent, suggesting a retirement. If he runs as an unpopular, cash-strapped promise-breaker, he'll be an incumbent with a big disadvantage against popular Democratic Rep. Mark Udall, who is ready to go against Allard or any of the would-be stand-ins from a fractured and defeated Colorado Republican Party. Trends in the Centennial State have favored Democrats in recent years, seeing Ken Salazar (D) beat Pete Coors (R) for Senate 51-47 in 2004 and Bill Ritter (D) trounce Bob Beauprez (R) for Governor 56-41in 2006. Even Bob Beauprez's CO-07 Congressional seat that he gave up to run for Governor (which he won 55-43 in 2004) went to Democrat Earl Perlmutter 55-42 in 2006. If the Democratic National Convention gets sited in Denver, that will just be the icing on the cake.

    2) John Sununu - New Hampshire - Age 42
    Sununu only ekes out a 47-44 approval rating presently, lousy for any incumbent. (The standard rule is that anything below 50 is highly vulnerable.) Couple that with the fact that former Governor Jeanne Shaheen looks to be preparing for a rematch of 2002, when Sununu only edged Shaheen 51-47 (a 19,000 vote margin out of 432,000 votes cast). Couple that with the fact that 2002 was a strong year for Republicans, after 9/11 but before the start of the Iraq War. Couple that with the fact that NH went bright blue in 2006, flipping not just one but BOTH Congressional seat from GOP to Democrat, as well as the state legislature. Sununu has a giant target on him.

    3) Norm Coleman - Minnesota - Age 57
    Coleman (48-43 approval) only won the seat in 2002 because popular Democrat Paul Wellstone tragically died in a plane crash while campaigning for re-election. Simple as that. And even then, he only edged late-entry stand-in former Vice President Walter Mondale 50-47. Jive that with 2006's Senate race seeing Democrat Amy Klobuchar demolish seemingly-popular Republican wonderboy Mark Kennedy by a resounding 58-38. Even incumbent Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty only held on to edge Democrat Mike Hatch 47-46. Beyond that, Minnesota has a remarkably deep Democratic bench of potential Senate candidates featuring Mike Hatch, U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak (who lately has claimed he is not planning on running), Commentator Al Franken, Attorney Mike Ciresi, and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman (no relation). I can't wait to start seeing polls on this one.

    4) Gordon Smith - Oregon - Age 54
    Smith (54-37 approval) is the only Republican to win statewide in Oregon in the last 12 years. He is clearly to the political right of the rest of Oregon, which is why so much was made about Smith's conversion (flip-flop?) on the Iraq War right after Election Day 2006. Several similarities exists between Oregon and Minnesota. Both feature an unaccomplished Republican incumbent who is further to the right wing than the mainstream of their state. Both states have trended blue, particularly on the presidential level (2008 is a presidential election year!). And both have deep Democratic benches of potential Senate candidates - Oregon's includes term-limited Governor Ted Kulongoski, former Governor John Kitzhaber, and U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer.

    Second Tier

    5) John Warner - Virginia - Age 79
    Warner remains a popular figure in Virginia politics, but he is very much on retirement watch. Further, Virginia has famously trended blue over the last half-decade, featuring Mark Warner's 2001 gubernatorial victory, Tim Kaine's 2005 gubernatorial victory, and Jim Webb's 2006 Senate victory. If John Warner stays in, Mark Warner is the only Democrat who could give him a definite run for his money, though John Warner isn't unbeatable given Virginia's Democratic trend. If John Warner retires, the likely Republican candidate would be GOP U.S. Rep. Tom Davis, with George Macaca Allen likely to be a spectator to 2008 politics and former Governor Jim Gilmore looking at a possible Presidential run. The Democrats could top Davis with Mark Warner, Tim Kaine, former Lt. Gov. Donald Beyer, State Senator and former AG candidate Creigh Deeds, or Jim Webb's 2006 primary opponent Harris Miller. If John Warner retired and Mark Warner got in, this would become a first-tier pickup opportunity. While matters are in limbo, it remains a second-tier race.

    6) Susan Collins - Maine - Age 54
    Collins is simply a more popular version of Wayne Allard, with several similarities between the Maine and Colorado races. Like Allard, Collins was first elected to the Senate in 1996 and also promised to only serve two terms. Running in 2008 would break that self-imposed, term-limit pledge, an immediate campaign issue. Collins, like Allard, does not have an impressive cash-on-hand showing. And, most importantly, Collins, like Allard, has a potential showdown with a popular Democratic U.S. Rep.; in Maine's case it is Tom Allen. However, unlike Colorado's Mark Udall, Allen isn't as publicly committed to a Senate race - he is still debating whether or not to give up his House seat to take the chance. If Allen gets in, this race becomes one of the more exciting ones in the country. If Allen declines, this race probably drops into Tier Three or lower.

    7) Jim Inhofe - Oklahoma - Age 72
    Before you poo-poo a Democrat's chances here, I'd ask you to note a couple things. First, Inhofe's approvals currently stand at a very unimpressive 46-41. Second, Democrat Brad Henry was just re-elected Governor over GOP Rep. Ernie Istook by a massive 67-33. Also, Former Congressman Brad Carson (D) gave an impressive showing against Tom Coburn in 2004. And, since then, the Montana Democratic Party, through the victories of Gov. Brian Schweitzer and Senator Jon Tester, has given similar states a blueprint on how to win by properly framing environmental, energy, and agricultural issues - and keep in mind that Inhofe is the most anti-environment Senator possibly in history, notoriously calling global warming a big hoax. While Gov. Henry and U.S. Rep. Dan Boren have indicated that they are not planning a 2008 Senate bid, if Brad Carson wanted another go-around, he could give Inhofe a real race. In the meantime, let's all chip in and buy every Oklahoma resident a copy of An Inconvenient Truth.

    8) Elizabeth Dole - North Carolina - Age 70
    Dole: 1) is not terribly popular, with only a 52-40 approval margin; 2) does not have a significant cash-on-hand showing; 3) may go down as the worst Chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee ever; 4) turned 70-years-old this year; 5) just had hip replacement surgery. She is pretty high up on the retirement watch herself and probably would not run the best re-election campaign. The problem is a reluctant Democratic bench. Gov. Mike Easley has said he is not interested in the Senate race at this time, and former Senator John Edwards is obviously preparing for a Presidential bid (and taking Elizabeth Edwards with him). North Carolina has thirteen Congressional seats, 7 Democrat, 6 Republican; no word yet on which Republican would step up to stand in for Dole if she retires, but speculation has focused on NC-02's Bob Etheridge for the Democrats, with speculation also noting former Gov. Jim Hunt. Democrats and Republicans alike are probably waiting for a formal decision from Dole on retirement or re-election before making their own plans.

    Third Tier

    9) Pete Domenici - New Mexico - Age 74
    Domenici enjoys solid popularity, but his relatively light cash-on-hand and increasing age (he turns 76 in 2008) puts him high on the retirement watch. If he runs, he's not unbeatable, but we would do much better in an open-seat race. The New Mexico Democratic Party enjoys a solid bench though, featuring Rep. Tom Udall, outgoing state AG Patricia Madrid, Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez, and Lt. Gov. Diane Denish. New Mexico is as purple a state as there is on the map, with Democrats holding most state offices, but Republicans holding two of three Congressional seats, and the two parties enjoying one Senator each. In 2000, NM went Gore over Bush by 0.1%, and in 2004 Bush squeaked over Kerry 50-49. Anything could happen in New Mexico.

    10) Thad Cochran - Mississippi - Age 69
    Cochran is arguably the most popular figure in Mississippi politics. Arguably the second most popular, however, is Democratic former AG Mike Moore. If Moore gets in to face Cochran, this becomes a second-tier bout, but Cochran remains the favorite. If Cochran retires, which is not unlikely, the go-to Republican is well-funded Rep. Chip Pickering (Pickering has close to $800K on hand, compared to Cochran's $350K). Moore-Pickering would be a high second-tier race, with the edge narrowly going to Moore. However, the shrewd Moore doesn't seem to want to run against the popular Cochran, and Cochran has said he won't make a final decision on re-election until next September - giving Pickering plenty of time to continue fundraising while boxing Moore out, unless Moore decides on a bold move earlier in 2007.

    11) Lamar Alexander - Tennessee - Age 66
    Reports had Alexander flirting with retirement until he was awarded some choice committee assignments. Whether or not this race moves up a tier depends entirely on which Democrats get in. People are waiting to see if outgoing Rep. and 2006 Senate nominee Harold Ford Jr. wants another shot or if Governor Phil Bredesen wants to get in. Another potential candidate to watch is party chairman Bob Tuke, at first glance in the Jon Tester-mold.

    12) John Cornyn - Texas - Age 54
    Democrats have had a lot of trouble getting elected statewide in Texas over the last few years. But the freshman Cornyn possesses an abysmal 45-42 approval rating and has offered Texans an unimpressive first term thus far. TX's other GOP Senator, Kay Bailey Hutchison, enjoys a 59-35 approval rating and just got re-elected by a similar 62-36 margin against an less-than-top-tier opponent - which does not bode well for Cornyn. While other third tier races could sneak into the second tier with the right match-up, this race could shoot into the first tier with a strong opponent. Unfortunately, Cornyn is amongst the best funded of the 2008 incumbents. If the right candidate can adapt the Montana model on environmental and agricultural issues while motivating the large Latino base in Texas, this could be the surprise race of the cycle (what Arizona could have been in 2006).

    Fourth Tier

    13) Mitch McConnell - Kentucky - Age 64
    McConnell enjoys so-so approval, at 54-39. His Kentucky colleague, the possibly-dementia-ridden Jim Bunning, holds an attrocious 44-47 rating but still narrowly won re-election 51-49 in 2004 against token opposition that came on surprisingly strong in the final weeks of the race as Bunning's mental health came into question. In the coming legislative session, McConnell will enjoy the trappings of being the Senate's GOP Leader, but a minority leader at that. Speculation among the Democrats have run the gamut from Bunning's 2004 opponent Daniel Mongiardo to state AG Greg Stumbo to actor George Clooney.

    14) Ted Stevens - Alaska - Age 83
    The guy is basically an evil, crazy Yoda. Despite low cash-on-hand, advanced age, and repeated "threats" to retire, he claims he's running again and enjoys significant popularity in the state. And Alaska Democrats don't have much to put in his way if he does run for re-election. With former Gov. Tony Knowles having run-and-lost for Senate in 2004 (46-49) and Governor in 2006 (41-49), his time may be up. The Democrats' hope in this race may be focusing on term-limited Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich.

    15) Jeff Sessions - Alabama - Age 60
    In what could challenge Texas as the potential surprise race of the cycle, Sessions is facing a possible challenge from Rep. Artur Davis, a skilled politician and orator. While no one will question Alabama's red state status, 2006 did see Democrats win statewide for Lt. Governor and Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court (an elected position in Alabama). Sessions is popular and well-funded, but Davis could make a race out of it if he jumped in.

    16) Saxby Chambliss - Georgia - Age 63
    Readers of this blog know that there is no one I'd more like to see lose in 2008 than Chambliss, who ran a despicable campaign in 2002 against incumbent Democrat and war hero Max Cleland. Unfortunately, Cleland has publicly declined a rematch. The Georgia Democratic bench contains more rumors than bodies, unfortunately. Former Gov. Roy Barnes, U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall and GA Secretary of State Cathy Cox have had a lot of speculation focus on them, while attorney Jim Butler and Dekalb County CEO Vernon Jones have both expressed interest. Chambliss only has a 52-36 approval rating, but he is extremely well funded and Georgia has had one of the reddest trends over the last half decade.

    Fifth Tier

    17) Chuck Hagel - Nebraska - Age 60
    Hagel enjoys solid popularity in the state, but is looking at a Presidential bid. If Hagel didn't go through with the bid, he would be tough to unseat. If he did, Republicans hold all three Congressional seats and most state offices, so they have no shortage of replacements. Unless Ben Nelson can hold both Senate seats at once, we will have quite the uphill climb. Speculation has focused on Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey and 2006 Congressional candidate Scott Kleeb. Rumors about Hagel's Senate retirement have surfaced, but have yet to be significantly corroborated.

    18) Pat Roberts - Kansas - Age 70
    Roberts does not have especially strong support (51-36 approval), but he does have a strong piggy bank for Kansas. The dream candidate would of course be Governor Kathleen Sebelius who was just re-elected by a 58-40 margin. Her entry could shoot this race all the way up to the second tier or higher, but she just took the reins of the Democratic Governors Association and is seemingly not interested in challenging for a Senate race - in fact, she could be on a lot of 2008 short lists for Vice President. Democrats now hold two of Kansas' four Congressional seats - rumblings from either of them could inch this race into the fourth or third tier, but there has been no speculation yet.

    19) Mike Enzi - Wyoming - Age 62
    Enzi's colleague Craig Thomas was up for re-election this year, and his 70-30 victory is pretty similar to his 68-25 approval rating. Enzi, similarly, enjoys a 65-26 approval rating and has enough cash for what media market there is in Wyoming. Republicans hold most elected seats in the state, with the notable exception of popular Democratic Governor Dave Freudenthal. If he entered the race, it would shoot up the competitive charts, but Freudenthal has not indicated any interest in a race. The only other prominent Democrat at present is Gary Trauner who made a splash in his very, very narrow loss to Barbara Cubin for Wyoming's at-large House seat.

    20) Lindsey Graham - South Carolina - Age 51
    Graham, strong in cash-on-hand and solid in approval, has established himself as more of a moderate Republican than most expected. He is more likely to get challenged from the right by a Club for Growth-type radical than from a credible Democrat. On top of which, the Democrats' bench in South Carolina is pretty weak. The only statewide office held by a Democrat is is State Superintendant of Education Jim Rex, though Democrat Robert Barber only narrowly lost the Lt. Governor race. Two of South Carolina's six Congressional seats are held by Democrats: John Spratt, who will take over as Chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee, and is therefore very unlikely to give that up for a Senate run; and Jim Clyburn, whose seat on the House Appropriations Committee gives him more power than he'd want to risk on a Senate run. Maybe Barber would like to take a swing.

    21) Larry Craig - Idaho - Age 61
    Craig, like Enzi, seems to be in very strong shape, with high approvals and more than enough cash for the Idaho media market. Republicans hold all statewide offices and Congressional seats. The Democrats' bench in Idaho right now seems to only consist of Larry Grant, who surprised many by his strong showing this year for the ID-01 Congressional seat against Bill Sali, and Jana Jones, the only Democrat in Idaho to garner more than 200,000 votes for any office in 2006, in her narrow loss for Superintendent of Public Instruction. There is some speculation that Craig might retire, but the GOP's bench is plenty deep. Idaho is a toughie, and Craig is officially the safest Republican in the Senate for now.

    Thursday, January 04, 2007

    Kirk Will Not Challenge Durbin

  • Illinois: The IL-GOP has been in weak shape for the last several years. And it won't get any easier, as one of their bigger names says that he will not challenge incumbent Democrat Richard Durbin for the Senate seat in 2008:

    U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk said as firmly as possible Wednesday he won't run for the Senate in 2008.

    When pressed, Kirk chuckled and said he isn't likely to change his mind "unless I run into a wall at high speed."

    "I'm entirely focused on the 10th Congressional District in Illinois," said the Highland Park Republican, adding that he is "overwhelmingly likely to run again" for the House in 2008.
    Durbin's seat is a pretty safe bet for a successful re-election bid. But it's easier with no significant challenge.

  • Who Will Be the Next Jim Talent?

  • Kos takes a look at the closeness of a potential stem-cell filibuster showdown in the Senate, and offers this on the issue's implications on 2008 Senate races:

    But here's the rub for opponents -- the following "no" Republicans face tough reelection fights in tough battleground states, and won't want to be the next Jim Talent (who lost his reelection bid in large part because of this issue):

    Allard in Colorado, Coleman in Minnesota, Dole in North Carolina, and Sununu in New Hampshire. Do they really want to give Democrats such an easy, fat, juicy target? I would bet that at least one flips. And if they don't, I would bet that stem cell research would be one of the biggest bats used to beat them to a bloody electoral pulp in 2008.
    I would not be surprised if Coleman flipped after "further study and consideration" of the issue, or somesuch, given how he has taken public steps to distance himself from the GOP leadership and White House since Election Day 2006, with his impending forced-retirement looming. Also, with Judd Gregg supporting stem cell research and taking other steps to distance himself from the GOP, Sununu will be under great pressure to do likewise. So, we either get heightened stem cell research or another prime issue with which to evict these Senators so far out of step with their constituencies.