Senate 2008 Guru: Following the Races

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

Friday, August 31, 2007

Happy Labor Day Weekend

The Guru will be travelling over the weekend and will only have limited internet access, so please treat this as an open thread.

I'm watching the always fantastic Real Time with Bill Maher, and Bill just made a very astute comparison. I'm sure most of you have seen the video of Miss Teen South Carolina answering a question about education in America, specifically why she thinks so few Americans can locate America on a world map. Watch that video one more time, and then watch the video of George W. Bush from August 2004 answering a question from a reporter on the role of tribal sovereignty in 21st century America. Try not to shudder.

You shuddered, didn't you?

Despite most people being on vacation this weekend, we should see some fireworks, headlined by a Larry Craig press conference tomorrow at which his resignation is expected to be announced. Also, there will no doubt be analysis of the political aftermath of John Warner's retirement announcement. Maybe a couple more Republicans will get indicted for something - who knows? Share your thoughts in the comments, and have a safe, fun Labor Day weekend.

John Warner Will Retire at the End of This Term

  • Virginia: John Warner just announced that he will retire at the end of his current term, rather than seek re-election in 2008. Expectations are the following: for the Democrats, popular former Governor Mark Warner, who left office with an approval rating exceeding 80%, will enter the Senate race; for the Republicans, we may see a bloody primary battle between Rep. Tom Davis and former Gov. Jim Gilmore. Should expectations play out as such, Virginia should be considered to lean toward a Democratic pick-up. Let the polling (and hoping the Mark Warner does enter the race) begin!

  • The End of Summer Draws Nigh

  • Idaho: The audio of Larry Craig's post-arrest interview with the arresting officer has hit the Tubes. It is damning. The cop repeatedly suggests that Craig is lying. The cop's best line: "I'm just disappointed in you sir. I'm just really am. I expect this from the guy that we get out of the hood. I mean, people vote for you." There is much speculation about Craig resigning, but that is probably coming from the Republicans who want Craig out of the picture ASAP. All we can do is wait on a Craig announcement (or not) as time rolls on. Meanwhile, we see reports out that Idaho Governor Butch Otter already has Lt. Gov. Jim Risch fitted for the appointment should Craig resign.

    We also see two missives on the 2008 Idaho Senate race on the Huffington Post. One is former Senator Jean Carnahan warning us, "The next time you're in a public place and some politician peers into your eyes, broadens his stance, taps for your attention, and begins spouting 'family values' rhetoric, run for the nearest exit." The other is Democratic Senate candidate Larry LaRocco discussing his successful "Working for the Senate" campaign as Labor Day approaches.

  • Virginia: We'll know a little after 2pm whether or not John Warner plans on retiring. (Pssst, he's retiring. If he's not, I'll be shocked.)

  • Oregon: Following on the strong roll-out of Veterans for Merkley, Speaker Jeff Merkley's campaign has, with Labor Day just ahead, rolled out the first installment of Labor Democrats for Merkley, including Oregon's Labor Commissioner and several state legislators who are also union members. Meanwhile, Blue Oregon rightly points out that Gordon Smith prefers corporate tax loopholes more than veterans benefits. Real nice, Gordo. Stop Gordon Smith has more on why Smith is bad for veterans.

  • New Jersey: The 2008 Republican Senate primary combatants are beginning to get a little testy.

  • Thursday, August 30, 2007

    Republican Culture of Corruption: 2007 So Far

    [Cross-posted at my DKos diary.]

    Does it seem like there's a new Republican scandal in the news every single week? Well, that may be because there is:

    January 23, 2007: Republican radio personality Scott Eller Cortelyou of Denver arrested on suspicion of using the Internet to lure a child into a sexual relationship

    January 29, 2007: Republican former Jefferson County, Colorado, Treasurer Mark Paschall indicted on two felony charges "in connection with an allegation that Paschall solicited a kickback from a bonus he awarded one of his employees"

    January 31, 2007: Republican Congressman Gary Miller is named by Republicans as ranking member of oversight subcommittee of House Financial Services Committee despite the FBI's investigation into his land deals

    February 14, 2007: Major Republican fundraiser Brent Wilkes and former CIA executive director Kyle "Dusty" Foggo are indicted by a grandy jury for corrupting CIA contracts

    February 16, 2007: Major Republican donor Abdul Tawala Ibn Ali Alishtari, aka Michael Mixon, is indicted in federal court on charges of providing material support to terrorists

    March 5, 2007: Ethics complaint filed against Republican Senator Pete Domenici for his role in the Attorney Purge scandal

    March 6, 2007: I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney found guilty of obstruction of justice and perjury

    March 8, 2007: Republican former U.S. Congressman and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich admits to extramarital affair

    March 23, 2007: Former Deputy Interior Secretary J. Steven Griles, an oil and gas lobbyist who became an architect of George W. Bush's energy policies, pleads guilty to obstructing justice by lying to a Senate committee

    March 27, 2007: Criminal charges filed against Republican Pennsylvania State Senator Robert Regola in connection with the death of a teenage neighbor who was shot with the senator's gun; he is accused of three counts of perjury, allowing possession of a firearm by a minor, recklessly endangering another person and false swearing

    March 27, 2007: Ronald Reagan's budget director, David Stockman, "indicted on charges of defrauding investors and banks of $1.6 billion while chairman of Collins & Aikman Corp., an auto parts maker that collapsed days after he quit"

    March 28, 2007: Robert Vellanoweth, a Republican activist and appointee of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, is arrested on suspicion of gross vehicular manslaughter and felony driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, after a crash that killed three adults and one child

    April 18, 2007: The FBI raids the home of Republican Congressman John Doolittle, investigating his ties to Jack Abramoff

    April 19, 2007: The FBI raids a business tied to the family of Republican Congressman Rick Renzi, as part of an investigation into his business dealings

    April 23, 2007: The FBI questions Republican Congressman Tom Feeney about his dealings with Jack Abramoff

    April 23, 2007: Federal auditors find repeat violations of federal election law from the 2004 Senate campaign of Republican Senator Mel Martinez

    April 26, 2007: David Huckabee, son of Republican Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, is arrested at an Arkansas airport after a federal X-ray technician detected a loaded gun in his carry-on luggage

    May 4, 2007: Bruce Weyhrauch and Pete Kott, former Alaska state Republican legislators, were arrested and accused of soliciting and accepting bribes from the corrupt VECO Corporation

    May 4, 2007: Republican state Assemblyman Michael Cole is censured and stripped of his leadership position after the married father of two spent the night at a 21-year-old intern's apartment

    May 11, 2007: A field coordinator for Republican Congressman Patrick McHenry is indicted for voter fraud in North Carolina

    May 12, 2007: NBC News breaks the story that the FBI is investigating Republican Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons for suspicion of accepting bribes in exchange for securing government contracts

    May 15, 2007: Connecticut Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy is arrested for drunk driving (he pled no contest on June 1, but didn't publicly disclose the event until June 11)

    May 18, 2007: Republican former South Dakota State Representative Ted Klaudt is charged with eight counts of second-degree rape, two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, one count of sexual contact with a child younger than 16, two counts of witness tampering and one count of stalking against two foster children in his care

    May 21, 2007: Republican state Senate candidate Mark Tate is indicted on nine counts of perjury and two counts of election fraud by a grand jury

    June 11, 2007: Republican Senator Larry Craig is arrested for lewd conduct in the men's bathroom of an airport

    June 19, 2007: South Carolina Republican state Treasurer and South Carolina Chairman of Giuliani for President Thomas Ravenel is indicted by a grand jury on cocaine distribution charges

    July 2, 2007: President George W. Bush commutes the sentence of former Cheney Chief of Staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby following Libby's conviction on obstruction of justice and perjury

    July 3, 2007: A grand jury report declares that the sale of public land to Republican Congressman Ken Calvert and his business partners violated the law

    July 11, 2007: Republican state Representative and Florida co-Chairman of McCain for President Bob Allen is arrested for soliciting a male undercover police officer, offering to pay $20 to perform oral sex

    July 16, 2007: Republican Senator David Vitter holds press conference acknowledging being on the D.C. Madam's list and past involvement with prostitutes

    July 16, 2007: Story breaks that Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski was involved in a sweetheart real estate deal

    July 19: Republican former state legislator Coy Privette is charged with six counts of aiding and abetting prostitution

    July 24, 2007: Michael Flory, former head of the Michigan Federation of Young Republicans, pleads guilty to sexual abuse

    July 26, 2007: Media report that Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski will sell back land purchased in a sweetheart deal, following close scrutiny of the shady transaction

    July 29, 2007: Glenn Murphy Jr., recently-elected Chairman of the Young Republican National Federation, is accused of sexually assaulting a sleeping man

    July 30, 2007: The FBI and IRS raid the home of Republican Senator Ted Stevens following investigations into Stevens' dealings with the corrupt VECO Corporation

    August 2, 2007: Bush administration senior adviser Karl Rove disregards a Congressional subpoena and refuses to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee

    August 6, 2007: Investigation called for after House Republican Leader John Boehner leaked classified information regarding a secret court ruling over warrantless wiretapping

    August 8, 2007: Republican Senator Larry Craig pleads guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct following his June 11 arrest

    August 9, 2007: Major Republican donor Alan Fabian is charged with 23 counts of bankruptcy fraud, mail fraud, money laundering, obstruction of justice, and perjury

    August 15, 2007: Republican state House candidate Angelo Cappelli is arrested for perjury and grand theft

    August 22, 2007: Republican political consultant Roger Stone resigns his role with the New York state Senate Republicans after reports surfaced that he made a "threatening, obscenity-laced" phone call to the 83-year-old father of Governor Eliot Spitzer

    August 27, 2007: Story breaks that Republican Senator Larry Craig was arrested and pled guilty - he had not publicly disclosed the events to that point

    That seems like an awful lot of corruption, scandal, hypocrisy, impropriety, and jail-worthy crime, huh? A lot of corruption. One might say an entire Culture of Corruption.

    Thursday Round-Up

  • While the Associated Press circulates the latest 'Republicans reeling from scandal' story, Republican leaders think they have the solution to GOP woes:

    According to party officials, the emerging campaign game plan will play off the voters' deepening disapproval of the Democratic-run Congress by urging Republican challengers to run an anti-incumbent, anti-Washington, insurgent campaign.
    So the Republicans' big plan is to run challengers against Democratic incumbents? Brilliant! Who would have thought of that?! Be that as it may, according to the Evans-Novak Political Report, "Republican Senators are now talking about losing four seats in 2008."

  • Idaho: Republican colleagues are calling for Larry Craig to resign and Craig has given up his committee posts, a common precursor to a resignation. My number one question here is, "Where were the calls for David Vitter to resign when he admitted to soliciting prostitutes?" It's a crime - in fact a worse crime than Craig pled guilty to. There are only two differences: 1) Vitter wasn't arrested and found guilty because he kept his crime under wraps long enough for the crime to exceed the statute of limitations - but, make no mistake, it was a crime; and, 2) Vitter's crime involved heterosexual sex (albeit allegedly with diapers), while Craig's crime involved gay sex. While Republican elected officials have demonstrated a distinct disregard for the rule of law, I think the second difference is more at play than the first here. TPM offers its thoughts on that topic. Think Progress also chimes in.

    In other news, Democratic former Congressman and current candidate for Senate Larry LaRocco held another lively liveblog yesterday at Daily Kos. If you haven't already, throw his vibrant campaign a few bucks to help the cause.

  • Minnesota: Nobel Laureate Dr. Peter Agre has decided against running for Senate in 2008.

  • Virginia: John Warner will apparently announce his 2008 Senate plans (read: retirement) tomorrow. Meanwhile, Real Clear Politics says that a Tom Davis-Jim Gilmore 2008 Republican Senate primary "could be the bloodiest primary in the nation" and veteran Republican strategist Craig Shirley declares that it would "be a bloodbath." (HT: RK)

  • Maine: The indefatigable Talking Points Memo picks up on the Susan Collins-Bangor Daily News conflict of interest story. It would be nice if the Maine media were as diligent.

  • Nebraska: Is U.S. Agriculture Secretary and former Governor Mike Johanns putting together a platform for a 2008 Senate bid in case Chuck Hagel retires?

  • Georgia: Spineless Saxby Chambliss goes to Vietnam, about four decades too late.

  • The DSCC has narrowed it down to four finalists in their bumper sticker contest. Check it out and vote for your favorite. All four are good, but I'm debating between "About Dem Time" and "Sorry W, I'm the Decider" as my favorite.

  • Wednesday, August 29, 2007

    Latest Larry Craig Update and Other News

  • For those wondering what affect Republican scandal, corruption and hypocrisy will have on the 2008 elections, conservatives already checked after 2006:

    “Exit polls show that was the No. 1 factor in depressing Republican enthusiasm,” Mr. Perkins said in an interview Tuesday. “There is an expectation that leaders who espouse family values will live by those values. And while the values voters don’t demand perfection, I do believe they want leaders with integrity.”
    And it's only August 2007; there's still over fourteen months until Election Day 2008 rolls around for Republican "leaders" to illustrate their lack of integrity.

  • Idaho: Here's the latest interesting contradiction in Larry Craig's story:

    Meanwhile, newly released police records of the bathroom incident that led to Craig's arrest show that Craig revisited the Minneapolis airport 11 days later to complain about how he had been treated by police. He said he wanted information so his lawyer could speak to someone, according to a police report.

    Craig said Monday that he did not seek legal counsel before deciding to plead guilty to disorderly conduct. Today, Craig said he has hired a lawyer to advise him what to do next.
    So, let me get this straight. The incident occured on June 11. Craig returns to the airport 11 days later (June 22) to get information "so his lawyer could speak to someone." And then he enters his guilty plea on August 8 but maintains that "he did not seek legal counsel" before entering is guilty plea. On June 22 he wanted information for his lawyer. But on August 8 he claims to have pled guilty without a lawyer's counsel. Hmmmm. Could Craig possibly be lying about something? Elsewhere, a man claiming to have shared a special moment with Cruisin' Craig has stepped forward for an interview.

    Meanwhile, what do the chieftains of the ID-GOP have to say?

    On one side we have Mike Crapo and J. Kirk Sullivan:

    "Sen. Crapo supports any decisions Senator Craig makes regarding his political future and will not make any judgments regarding any part of the incident or any rumors regarding it," the spokeswoman said.

    The chairman of the Idaho Republican party, J. Kirk Sullivan, released a statement urging residents not to rush to judgment, saying Craig has been a "stalwart in supporting Idaho."
    Not make judgments? Not rush to judgment? The "judgment" has been made. Craig pled guilty in a court of law. That is the judgment!

    Amid the Craig scandal, don't forget that Democratic former Congressman and current Senate candidate Larry LaRocco will be liveblogging today at Daily Kos at 2pm Eastern, 1pm Central, Noon Mountain, 11am Pacific. I'll see you there in about 90 minutes!

  • Kentucky: Ditch Mitch KY has some great video of the latest protest against Mitch McConnell and Bush's Iraq War.

  • MSNBC is now talking about the prospect of a filibuster-proof 60-seat Democratic Senate majority. While I don't necessarily think Democrats can achieve that in 2008 without major stars aligning, I do think a 60-seat majority is possible by 2010 given the number of vulnerable Republicans up for re-election or facing retirement then.

  • Tuesday, August 28, 2007

    Tuesday Night Briefs

  • South Dakota: You can watch the video of Senator Tim Johnson's inspiring return to South Dakota and the public eye at He addressed his condition, his recovery, and the road ahead with humor, humility, gratitude, and perseverance. Senator Johnson is badass. While we can't all line up to give Senator Johnson a hug or a high five, we can help out his re-election campaign.

  • Idaho: Both Senate Republican leadership and the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington are calling for a formal Senate Ethics investigation into Larry Craig's unfolding scandal. (It is interesting to note that while Senate Republicans are advocating for an ethics inquiry into Craig's scandal, they didn't say a word regarding recent scandals involving Republican Senators Pete Domenici, Lisa Murkowski, Ted Stevens or David Vitter. How is one not like the others?) At least Craig has a friend in Fox News who gave very little coverage to the unfolding scandal, despite numerous segments covering the arrest of Democratic former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney in 2006.

    While we await Craig's expected September announcement regarding his 2008 plans, it looks for now like he will try to ride out the remainder of his term rather than resign. Meanwhile, 55% of Idahoans think Craig should resign, compared with 34% who think he should stay (matching his 34% approval rating). The poll also gauged the approval ratings of Democratic Senate candidate Larry LaRocco (22%-21%-33%) and likely Republican candidate (if/when Craig retires) Lt. Gov. Jim Risch (a strikingly similar 26%-17%-32%). TCR informs us that Craig has one legal silver lining, however far-fetched:

    Under Minnesota law, the Senator could file a motion requesting the withdrawal of the guilty plea. According to University of Minnesota Law School professor Steve Simon, Craig would have to allege ‘a manifest injustice’ in that motion, which he would have to file with the Hennepin County District Court judge who presided over his case. ‘He would have to allege some defect in the plea process,’ Simon said on Tuesday. ‘In other words that there was an inadequate factual basis or that his rights were not explained.’
    That seems like a very high threshold, especially for a U.S. Senator. We'll see.

  • Alabama: The first poll matching up Republican Bush rubber stamp Jeff Sessions and Democratic State Senator Vivian Figures shows Sessions with a 59-37 lead. Given the massive name ID advantage Sessions must currently enjoy and the fact that Sessions currently has the support of 30% of Democrats, this actually isn't terrible for Figures. Once she raises her name ID, ropes back in some of the Democrats who don't yet know there is an alternative to Sessions, and (hopefully) effectively ties Sessions to numerous failed Bush policies (even in Alabama, Bush has a net negative approval rating), we could see this deficit shrink to low-double-digits in short order. While Democrats focus on takeovers in states like Colorado and New Hampshire, Republicans are forced to actually hustle on defense in states they were hoping to take for granted.

  • Louisiana: One of the reasons that it's important for Democrats to field a candidate against Treasurer John N. Kennedy in his 2007 re-election bid is to get him to answer questions like "If elected, do you promise to serve your entire four-year term?" and "If you plan on running for another office next year, why should voters elect you to this office this year?" Why is that important? Treasurer Kennedy has a history of flip-flopping on his career goals. In 2003, as Treasurer, he flirted with the idea of running for Governor, but "abruptly" dropped out in favor of a Treasurer re-election bid, "a move that angered some donors." Then, just three months after being re-elected Treasurer, he was willing to junk that role in favor of his first failed Senate bid in 2004, a race in which he only garnered 15%. And then, earlier this year, he of course danced between another re-election bid for Treasurer and a run for state Attorney General, another office for which he had earlier run (in 1991) and lost. And now he is swapping Parties, in what appears to be the politically expedient maneuver. The bottom line is that it is clear that Treasurer Kennedy is always ready to trash his current role to climb the next rung on the ladder and better-deal whatever office he currently holds. Ambition in and of itself is not a bad thing; but when it trumps integrity, then there's a problem.

  • Kentucky: Attorney General Greg Stumbo sent a letter to supporters letting them know that his Senate exploratory committee was up and running to consider challenging Mitch McConnell. Consider sending a message to McConnell by helping Stumbo out.

  • Virginia: The local Virginia media isn't even indulging the possibility that John Warner won't retire. Notice the opening of this article on Republican Tom Davis: "U.S. Rep. Tom Davis met with area GOP leaders Tuesday, as he explores a possible Senate bid." The "if John Warner retires" clause doesn't even show up until the second paragraph.

  • South Carolina: Hotline On Call's Quote of the Day today:

    You know what my goal is? Not for universal agreement. But for a little bit of respect."

    -- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), being heckled on immigration, Columbia State, 8/28
    Awww, I'm getting all teary-eyed. Graham continues to not get the love from his base.

  • New Mexico: Pajamas Pete Domenici loves George W. Bush. The vast majority of New Mexicans do not feel the same way.

  • Republican Senator Caught in Illicit Scandal? Blame the Media!

    Cruisin' Larry Craig made a public statement today following the revelation of his arrest and subsequent guilty plea for lewd conduct in the men's bathroom of an airport. Compare Cruisin' Craig's statement with that of Republican David Vitter just over six weeks ago following the revelation of his cheating on his wife with prostitutes:

    You may have noticed a glaring similarity in their crisis responses: they both claimed to be victimized by the evil, vicious, harrassing media.


    For eight months leading up to June 11, my family and I have been relentlessly and viciously harassed by the Idaho Statesman. If you saw the article today, you know why. Let me be clear: I am not gay; I never have been gay. Still, without a shred of truth or evidence to the contrary, the Statesman has engaged in this witch hunt. In pleading guilty, I overreacted in Minneapolis, because of the stress of the Idaho Statesman investigation and the rumors it has fueled around Idaho.
    I see. It's the newspaper's fault that Craig, a United States Senator, didn't have the wherewithal to retain counsel or enter a "not guilty" plea if, in fact, he thought he had done nothing wrong. It's the newspaper's fault that Craig was hoping, it seems, to sweep the incident under the rug and hide it from his constituents by paying a fine and forgetting about it. (He says he has now retained counsel to advise him on how to proceed. Bad news, Larry. You pled guilty. It's over. If you thought that you had really done nothing wrong, you should have pled "not guilty" and had your Constitutionally-protected day in court. That was your chance to argue your case. But you wanted expediency and secrecy. You dug your hole. You have no recourse.)


    Now, having said all this, I'm not going to answer endless questions about it all over again and again and again and again. That might sell newspapers, but it wouldn't serve my family or my constituents well at all.
    Mrs. Vitter:

    It's been terribly hard to have the media parked on our front lawn and following us every day. And yesterday the media was camped at our church. At our home and at our church every day.
    You betcha! It was the media that made "Mr. Family Values" David Vitter cheat on his wife with prostitutes. And it was the media that made him lie to his constituents for several years about his indiscretions and his hypocrisy.

    But you don't have to be involved in an illicit sex scandal to blame the media. Here, Ted "Tubes" Stevens blames the Anchorage Daily News for sullying his reputation by reporting on the numerous investigations by the FBI, IRS, and U.S. Department of the Interior into Stevens' dealings:

    Q. I wanted to touch just briefly on your own situation and legal controversies.

    A. You're not going to touch it at all or I'm going to leave. We had the understanding it was not going to come up.

    Q. I understood the investigation wouldn't come up.

    A. It's not going to come up at all.

    Q. OK. What about your ability to be effective in Congress?

    A. What about it? You're destroying it. More people are repeating what you're writing in your paper than anything else in the country. This paper has caused me more difficulty, and I've told you that before, than anything else. You've created me as the senator-for-life. You've been hanging me weekly.

    You read any paper, the information -- most of it is not true -- started right here. And your guys just yesterday, they taunt me. They taunt me with statements that really no respectable reporter would ask a senator. It was already said I'm not going to answer your questions. They say, don't you have any concerns for your own integrity? Don't you have any conscience? That's what your reporters do to me. ...

    I've spent hours here with you here in the past, and I've never seen any result of it at all. ... This paper has done nothing but try to assassinate me.
    Damn the media for reporting on the allegations of impropriety by powerful elected officials. How dare the media inform the electorate that these Senators have or appear to have committed immoral or illegal acts. It's all the media's fault that Larry Craig pled guilty to attempting to pick up a sexual partner in the men's room of an airport; and it's all the media's fault that David Vitter cheated on his wife with prostitutes and lied to his constituents about it while portraying himself as a champion of "family values;" and it's all the media's fault that Ted Stevens had a shady arrangement with powerful business interests to renovate his house (among numerous other dealings) leading to pervasive appearances of impropriety. Damned media!

    Tuesday Tidbits

  • South Dakota: Talk about the comeback kid! In an interview that will air tonight, Senator Tim Johnson says that he will seek re-election in 2008. (HT: PW) This afternoon will be Johnson's first public appearance since his injury, at a thank-you event for supporters in Sioux Falls.

  • Idaho: News of Republican Larry Craig's arrest and guilty plea for lewd conduct in the men's bathroom of an airport is receiving a lot of, well, blowback. Mitt Romney's Presidential campaign, for which Craig served as a Senate liaison, is cutting all ties to him. Meanwhile, WaPo reminds us that "because Craig pleaded guilty to a crime, the incident may be reviewed by the Senate ethics committee. Its chairman, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), declined to comment last night." Craig's local paper of record, the Idaho Statesman, offers a look at both the current scandal and Craig through the years, going back to the 1982 Congressional page scandal and, even earlier, his college days, where his fraternity brothers dubbed him - I'm not joking - "Mother Craig." I'm sure developments in this story will continue to unfold. In the meantime, both Cliff Schecter and the Group News Blog have terrific missives on "overblown media scandals" and Republican hypocrisy.

  • North Carolina: State Representative and veteran of the War in Afghanistan Grier Martin continues to give careful consideration to a 2008 Senate challenge to Elizabeth Dole. Given his record of service in the state Legislature and the military, as well as the promise shown by early poll numbers, I hope he does opt for a bid. Blue NC concurs.

  • Oregon: has a section on Smith vs. Smith, highlighting some of his more notable flip-flops in rhetoric and votes.

  • Minnesota: The anti-tax zealots are displeased with Smilin' Norm Coleman for breaking his pledge to vote against "any increase of any tax."

  • Nebraska: The Lincoln Journal Star reports: "In a prelude to a possible Senate bid, Hal Daub resigned Monday as the Nebraska Republican Party’s national committeeman." The former Omaha Mayor says a decision on a 2008 Senate bid will come "soon."

  • Kos offers his latest Senate rankings, with a number of caveats.

  • Also, of the Senate Ethics Committee, Kos asks "Is there such a thing? Because if there is, why aren't Sens. Craig, Vitter, Stevens, Domenici, and Murkowski being investigated for their ethical and criminal violations?" It has been reported that there is a Senate Ethics Committee investigation ongoing regarding Domenici's role in the Attorney Purge scandal, but I've heard nothing of the other four. But all five do indeed have legitimate claims to an Ethics investigation. That's more than ten percent of the Senate Republican caucus. Makes one think.

  • Monday, August 27, 2007

    Larry Craig Caught Cruising

  • Idaho: Here's a fun fact: Idaho Republican Senator Larry Craig was arrested two and a half months ago for "lewd conduct" in an airport bathroom, to which he subsequently pled guilty in a court of law:

    Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) was arrested in June at a Minnesota airport by a plainclothes police officer investigating lewd conduct complaints in a men’s public restroom, according to an arrest report obtained by Roll Call Monday afternoon.

    Craig’s arrest occurred just after noon on June 11 at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. On Aug. 8, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct in the Hennepin County District Court. He paid more than $500 in fines and fees, and a 10-day jail sentence was stayed. He also was given one year of probation with the court that began on Aug. 8.
    And what was it exactly that constituted this disorderly conduct to which Craig pled guilty?

    According to the incident report, Sgt. Dave Karsnia was working as a plainclothes officer on June 11 investigating civilian complaints regarding sexual activity in the men’s public restroom in which Craig was arrested. ...

    “I could see Craig look through the crack in the door from his position. Craig would look down at his hands, ‘fidget’ with his fingers, and then look through the crack into my stall again. Craig would repeat this cycle for about two minutes,” the report states.

    Craig then entered the stall next to Karsnia’s and placed his roller bag against the front of the stall door. ...

    “At 1216 hours, Craig tapped his right foot. I recognized this as a signal used by persons wishing to engage in lewd conduct. Craig tapped his toes several times and moves his foot closer to my foot. I moved my foot up and down slowly. While this was occurring, the male in the stall to my right was still present. I could hear several unknown persons in the restroom that appeared to use the restroom for its intended use. The presence of others did not seem to deter Craig as he moved his right foot so that it touched the side of my left foot which was within my stall area,” the report states.

    Craig then proceeded to swipe his hand under the stall divider several times, and Karsnia noted in his report that “I could ... see Craig had a gold ring on his ring finger as his hand was on my side of the stall divider.”

    Karsnia then held his police identification down by the floor so that Craig could see it.

    “With my left hand near the floor, I pointed towards the exit. Craig responded, ‘No!’
    Despite Craig's pleading guilty to the incident and paying the ensuing fines and fees, a Craig spokesman still described the incident as nothing more than a "he said/he said misunderstanding." Indeed. Previous to this incident, I was expecting a retirement announcement from Larry Craig. Upon the revelation of this incident, I don't see how he runs for re-election. (HT: TPM)

    UPDATE (8:57pm): Here is the entirety of Larry Craig's statement in response to the Roll Call article:

    "At the time of this incident, I complained to the police that they were misconstruing my actions. I was not involved in any inappropriate conduct.

    "I should have had the advice of counsel in resolving this matter. In hindsight, I should not have pled guilty. I was trying to handle this matter myself quickly and expeditiously."
    I see. Larry Craig thinks we're all very, very stupid.

  • Monday Afternoon Round-Up

  • Louisiana: Six weeks after Louisiana's highest ranking elected Republican, Senator David Vitter, made it clear that he cheated on his wife with prostitutes, the state's Treasurer, John N. Kennedy, declared that "I have concluded that the Republican Party is the party that best reflects my values today." Some great values, huh? Treasurer Kennedy is now a Republican, which heightens expectations that he will challenge Senator Mary Landrieu in 2008. Hopefully Democrats will run a credible candidate against Kennedy, if only to get him on the record with answers to questions like "If re-elected, do you promise Louisiana voters to serve your full term?" and "If you're just going to run for another office next year, why should voters re-elect you to this office this year?"

  • Kentucky: Here's another sign that former KY-GOP gubernatorial nominee Larry Forgy may challenge Mitch McConnell to a primary: Forgy is apparently very close with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The two went to law school together, Forgy's son once worked in Reid's office, and Forgy once gave Reid a campaign contribution. Forgy running for Senate would antagonize a current political foe (McConnell), assist a personal friend (Reid), and offer him another chance at statewide political office. I don't see any reason why Forgy shouldn't give it a go!

  • New Mexico: Today is "Pete Domenici Loves George W. Bush" Day. (Bush's approval in New Mexico, by the way, stands at an abysmal 32-67. I hope Domenici gets a lot of photos of he and W together!)

  • Monday Briefs

  • Oregon: From an e-mail sent out by Speaker Jeff Merkley's Senate campaign:

    Retired Air Force General Tony McPeak, former Army Special Forces officer Jim Rassmann, and Iraq/Afghanistan war veteran Paul Evans have been tapped to lead the Veterans for Jeff Merkley effort, Merkley's U.S. Senate campaign announced Monday. Rassmann will serve as the chair, with McPeak and Evans serving as co-vice chairs.
    Indeed an impressive trio. It is also noteworthy that Evans had earlier considered a 2008 Senate run himself. I suppose it is safe to say that his support for Merkley effectively closes the door on a potential bid from him. This leaves businesswoman Eileen Brady as the only person publicly considering a bid, but not formally in the race. Also, as we bask in the resignation of Alberto Gonzales, it should be remembered that, one week ago, Speaker Merkley called for Gonzales' impeachment.

  • Minnesota: MN Blue offers a handy comparison of the Democratic candidates for Senate in 2008, looking at their positions on issues, comparing endorsements, and so on.

  • Nebraska: In separate articles, the Lincoln Journal Star's Don Walton praises former Senator Bob Kerrey as the "Democrats' best hope" for a competitive Senate race and praises former Omaha Mayor Hal Daub as a potential candidate not to be overlooked in the Republican Senate primary.

  • New Mexico: Iraq Summer offers it protest schedule in New Mexico for today and tomorrow. More bad news for Pajamas Pete Domenici.

  • Kentucky: Mitch McConnell lamely pleads that "there’s a good chance that in September we’ll go in a different direction" in Iraq. Is there anyone buying it anymore?

  • Sunday, August 26, 2007

    Sunday Tidbits

  • Alabama: State Senator Vivian Figures has officially announced that she is a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2008. She asks of Jeff Sessions, and answers: "Has he made our schools better? Has he lowered the cost of health care? Has he even made insurance affordable? No. No. No." We'll see if it resonates in the inevitable polling to come.

  • Oregon: It deeply bothers me when the few remaining supporters of Bush's Iraq War still can't separate support for the well-being of the troops from support for the war, that one can say both that the Iraq War was wrong and Bush's execution of the war has been a failure and also that the troops have performed admirably and done the best they could. Supporting the troops and supporting the war are two very different things - which is why it also bothers me that Oregon Republicans are dishonestly trying to turn Speaker Jeff Merkley's vote back in 2003 for a resolution in the Oregon House meant as a show of support for our troops into some sort of declaration of support for the war, as though it somehow exonerates Gordon Smith from his election cycle conversion on Iraq. Dishonest and shameful.

  • Colorado: "Backwards" Bob Schaffer sees his latest setback, a wary base:

    Sportsmen, a traditionally Republican-leaning voting bloc in Colorado that swung blue in 2006’s gubernatorial contest, are warily responding to 2008 Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bob Schaffer’s ties to the energy industry. ...

    Eddie Kochman, a retired fisheries manager who spent 35 years with the Colorado Division of Wildlife, said the ties of any candidate to the energy industry are a subject of increasing concern to hunters, anglers and other outdoorsmen.

    “I’m not saying the energy industry is bad, and I’m not saying there aren’t people there who want to do things right because there are,” Kochman said. “But I’ve seen too dang many times both in my career and even since I’ve retired that when the lobbying’s all done … most of the time, wildlife gets short-shafted big time.”

    Kochman said the thought that one candidate might be in bed with the industry could push outdoorsmen to support Schaffer’s opponent, 2nd District Congressman Mark Udall, a Boulder County resident with strong ties to the organized environmental movement.
    Schaffer's eroding support from a divided base is just the latest reason why his Senate campaign is hurting.

  • Idaho: Democratic former Congressman, and the only announced candidate at present for the 2008 Senate race in Idaho, Larry LaRocco offers this video look at one of his latest jobs in his Working for the Senate campaign, discussing the needs of Idaho's families and the value of unions in our workforce. As it turns out, this weekend is LaRocco's 61st birthday and his and his wife's 40th wedding anniversary. And you can personally ask Larry LaRocco questions during his latest liveblog session on Daily Kos this Wednesday (August 29th) at 2pm Eastern, 1pm Central, Noon Mountain, 11am Pacific.

  • Nebraska: WaPo offers its edition of the "Bob Kerrey is getting closer to running for Senate" story.

  • Saturday, August 25, 2007

    More Unethical, Cowardly, and Hypocritical Republicans and Other News

  • Maine: Further conflict of interest in the Collins camp! Not only is a Bangor office staffer of Susan Collins married to the executive editor of the Bangor Daily News (without so much as a disclaimer attached to articles run by the BDN on Collins), but the executive editor himself, Mark Woodward, was once Collins' press secretary! I'm sure Susan Collins is all too happy to have her former staffer (and husband of a current staffer, surely with a vested interest to see his wife maintain employment) making editorial decisions about what does and doesn't get covered (and how it gets covered) in the 2008 Maine Senate race. I wonder if Susan Collins thinks these conflicts of interest "hurt the political discourse."

  • Kentucky: Mitch McConnell is such a coward that when he goes on local talk radio, he doesn't even take calls from constituents! How this guy claims to listen to his constituents is beyond me.

  • Minnesota: Curious what it's like when three people who would be far superior Senators to Smilin' Norm Coleman discuss issues?

  • Oklahoma: Here's an interesting hypocrisy, courtesy of Jim "In Denial" Inhofe. Where does Inhofe see national money coming in from to Oklahoma to oppose his 2008 re-election?

    He said he expects the "Hollywood crowd" and environmentalists will be providing money to defeat him.
    Hmmmm, sounds like Inhofe doesn't like the "Hollywood crowd" and would be plenty eager to vilify any political opponent who takes money from the "Hollywood crowd." But, wait! Who is Inhofe supporting for President?

    "I've looked at it very carefully, and it's my belief . . . (that) the only one I know can beat Hillary Clinton is Fred Thompson," Inhofe told about 150 people at a Broken Arrow Chamber of Commerce breakfast at Cedar Ridge Country Club.
    Wait a second. Isn't Fred Thompson part of that evil "Hollywood crowd"? He has had roles in over three dozen movies and television shows. Yet, Thompson is the only candidate who Inhofe "knows can beat Hillary Clinton." According to Inhofe, Romney, McCain and Giuliani can't beat Hillary Clinton, but the Hollywood guy can. Yet, it's the same evil Hollywood that will funnel money to Oklahoma for Inhofe's defeat. (HT: DocHoc) Send Inhofe a message that it's more than just Hollywood who wants Inhofe out. Contribute to Democratic State Senator Andrew Rice's campaign to depose Inhofe right away!

  • New Mexico: New Mexico's Democrats know from good protests!

  • Georgia: Max Cleland is ten times the man Saxby Chambliss claims to be. Please, Senator Cleland, reconsider and run for your old seat!

  • Nebraska: Hal Daub talks a lot but says nothing.

  • Friday, August 24, 2007

    Friday Briefs

  • The Cook Political Report is out with its new 2008 Senate Race Ratings for August. The only two changes from the June ratings are that Democratic Senator Mark Pryor has shifted from "likely dem" to "solid dem" and Republican John Sununu has dropped from "likely rep" to "lean rep," both pro-Democratic shifts.

  • Maine: Holy conflict of interest, Batman! Both Collins Watch and Daily Kos are reporting that, as it turns out, the executive editor of the Bangor Daily News is married to one of Susan Collins' Bangor office staffers! Funny, I don't see a disclaimer mentioning this in the article that the Bangor Daily News ran on the Maine Democratic Party (though the BDN intimated in its reporting that it was Tom Allen's campaign) having a videographer taping Collins' public appearances (or any other BDN articles discussing Collins, for that matter). Hmmmm, maybe somebody ought to mention that one of the heads of the BDN is married to a staffer of a politician the paper is covering. It only seems, what's the word?, ethical.

  • Texas: Even Bush rubber stamp John Cornyn doesn't want to campaign with former Texas Governor George W. Bush!

    Q. Will you ask the president to appear with you on the campaign trail?

    A. I will probably ask the president to help me do some fundraising, but probably not on the campaign trail. ... We've talked about his poll numbers.
    For John "Net Negative Approval" Cornyn to be belittling someone's poll numbers certainly says something! (HT: Carpetbagger) Meanwhile, State Representative and Lieutenant Colonel Rick Noriega is gaining institutional support for his bid to unseat Cornyn.

  • Nebraska: The Lincoln Journal Star reports that former Senator Bob "Kerrey edges closer to Senate bid" and that a decision is likely "within the next couple of weeks." While, certainly, Republicans other than Jon Bruning will enter the race if/when Chuck Hagel announces a Senate retirement, if Hagel had to pick solely between Bruning and Kerrey as his successor, I'd bet he'd pick Kerrey. New Nebraska Network has more from the Omaha World-Herald.

  • Minnesota: MN Blue clips local coverage of George W. Bush's fundraiser for Smilin' Norm Coleman and the ensuing protest.

  • New Mexico: The Democratic challengers to Pajamas Pete Domenici are having a radio interview forum this Sunday on KSFR Santa Fe.

  • Idaho: Larry LaRocco continues his successful "Working for the Senate" voter outreach tour, this time "working at the U.S. Geothermal Raft River Phase One plant in southern Idaho."

  • Does George W. Bush really want to listen to the Generals regarding Iraq policy?

  • Thursday, August 23, 2007

    Thursday Tidbits

  • I share Tom Matzzie's thanks to Ari Fleischer for leading Republican political attacks on Iraq against Pete Domenici, Susan Collins, Norm Coleman, John Warner, Gordon Smith, Elizabeth Dole, Mitch McConnell, Saxby Chambliss, Lamar Alexander and many other Republicans.

  • Speaking of Iraq, it looks like "insurgent and sectarian violence will remain high" for a while yet.

  • Alabama: State Senator Vivian Figures will officially announce her Senate campaign on Saturday. Some are skeptical that she can offer Bush rubber-stamp Jeff Sessions a competitive race, preferring to have seen Commissioner Ron Sparks enter the race. I do think Commissioner Sparks would have provided a more competitive race. At this point, I will be content if Figures keeps it close enough to force Sessions to spend a good chunk of dough and keep him busy in-state instead of campaigning for vulnerable nearby Republicans in 2008 Senate races in Texas, North Carolina, Kentucky, and other southern states.

  • Maine: The local media is openly mocking Susan Collins for her manufactured controversy over her video tracker. Y'see, Collins has a history of making up fake controversies and misrepresenting commonplace political tactics in order to gain politically, dishonest though it is. Meanwhile, Tom Allen offers his reality-based thoughts following his most recent trip to Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Speaking of Iraq, Susan Collins' chief web guy once again puts his foot in his mouth with "listening to him [Tom Allen] rail against the Iraq war is just another example of this strange lottery the Democratic Party has won with this war." Is that how craven the Collins' camp's politics are? The Iraq War, having cost the lives of 3,700+ American troops and approaching half-a-trillion dollars, is nothing more than a political calculation to the Collins camp, a "lottery." Shameful.

  • Kentucky: The American Prospect concludes that "Mitch McConnell should be seriously worried about his '08 re-election bid," offering that "the bloodhounds are out, and they're already nipping at McConnell's heels." (HT: DMKY) To make matters worse for McConnell, Iraq War vet Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Horne is sounding more like a potential 2008 Senate candidate. (HT: The Bridge)

  • Oklahoma: The Edmond Sun offers a stirring chronicle of State Senator and 2008 Senate candidate Andrew Rice's background. (HT: DocHoc)

  • Virginia: Rumblings of a Jim Gilmore for Senate campaign in 2008 are getting louder. A Gilmore-Tom Davis primary would be bloody fun to watch. I'm sure that Gilmore hopes that a Senate campaign would be better regarded than his term as Governor was. Kos offers further insights.

  • Texas: Republican John Cornyn is bad for veterans.

  • New Jersey: Republican wannabe-Senate candidate Joe Pennacchio is shoring up his whacko-right-wing conservative credentials with the support of former Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler.

  • Check out the DSCC's new bumper sticker contest!

  • Wednesday, August 22, 2007

    Wednesday Round-Up

  • The official numbers are in, and the DSCC once again outpaces the NRSC:

    This was borne out again in July — as it has been in every other month this year. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) reported raising $2.9 million last month to $2.2 million for the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), according to reports filed Monday by the two organizations that will oversee their parties’ Senate campaigns in 2008.

    The DSCC raised a total of $34.1 million in the first seven months of this year, while the NRSC raised $18.1 million. The gap between the committees’ cash reserves was even greater proportionately: The Democratic committee had $20.6 million cash on hand as August began, and the Republican committee had just $6.5 million left in the bank.
    Keep it comin'.

  • Conservative pundit Fred Barnes has a suggestion on how the GOP can improve its image:

    Transforming a negative image hardened over a period of years is no easy task. Still, there's a lot Republicans can do. First, they should clean house of Republicans caught up in scandal. Forcing two or three House members and at least one senator to retire would involve more than friendly persuasion and no doubt provoke strong resistance. But the effort would attract national attention--favorable attention, for a change.
    Not a bad idea, Fred. But who to start with? Scandal maven Ted Stevens? His Alaskan colleague and, apparently, real estate investor Lisa Murkowski? Pete Domenici for his involvement with the Attorney Purge scandal? Prostitute-lovin' David Vitter? Which Senator to begin with? (HT: Carpetbagger)

  • Minnesota: Instead of the overused symbols that fill political ads (waving flags, smiling kids, happy families), I wish all political ads were simply the candidate talking to the camera, which may be why I like this message from Al Franken so much:

    It may also be why Blue Majority has added Al Franken to its Act Blue page. In other news, Minnesotans know how to do up a protest.

  • Oregon: Loaded Orygun points out that Gordon Smith's most recent approval rating of 46% is a 28-month low. Meanwhile, the Associated Press refers to Smith as "a reliable conservative vote" and "an early and vocal supporter of the Iraq war." And the DSCC makes it crystal clear that it will commit all necessary resources to deposing Gordon Smith in 2008.

  • Alaska: A Republican state legislator has called for Ted Stevens' resignation:

    A Republican member of the Alaska House of Representatives is calling for U.S. Rep. Don Young and U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens to step down at the end of their current terms.

    State Rep. Mike Kelly said it's a move needed to restore Alaskans' confidence in their government.
    Kelly is described as a conservative and is taking heat from Republicans unhappy that he is badmouthing fellow partisans while taking heat from Democrats who claim that his motivation is doing what is in the Republican Party's best interests rather than Alaska's best interests. Either way, Kelly is correct here. The best way to remove the stench of corruption is to remove the individuals who are doing the stinking.

  • Colorado: Is it possible that "Backwards" Bob Schaffer doesn't consider himself an official Senate candidate yet? Schaffer's self-immolation continues.

  • Arizona: In a hypothetical 2010 Senate match-up, Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano beats Republican John McCain by double-digits, 47-36.

  • August Senate Approval Numbers from Survey USA

    SUSA is up with their August numbers.

    New August numbers in bold, 7/24/07 numbers in italics, 6/19/07 numbers underlined, 5/24/07 numbers in arrows, 4/24/07 in brackets, 11/22/06 in parenthesis

    Norm Coleman: 47-44 43-48 48-41 <51-42> [53-41] (48-43)
    Pete Domenici: 52-41 55-41 51-42 <52-42> [54-38] (68-25)
    Mitch McConnell: 50-43 48-44 52-42 <54-39> [53-40] (54-39)
    Pat Roberts: 54-33 52-34 51-37 <52-36> [48-39] (51-36)
    Jeff Sessions: 59-33 58-33 59-33 <60-31> [54-36] (58-32)
    Gordon Smith: 46-44 48-43 47-45 <48-39> [51-41] (54-37)
    John Warner: 57-33 53-40 53-34 <62-29> [55-33] (60-28)

    Tom Harkin: 57-35 55-38 51-38 <56-36> [57-38] (53-40)
    John Kerry: 47-45 52-42 50-46 <47-47> [54-41] (48-50)

    1) While Senator Tom Harkin continues to look safe, Senator John Kerry's approval has dipped back below 50. C'mon, NRSC! Just $10 million separates you from a Senate seat in Massachusetts. Tempting...
    2) Gordon Smith sees his worst numbers ever (just as Speaker Jeff Merkley is entering the race in Oregon), and Coleman, McConnell, and Domenici all languish.
    3) Pat Roberts' numbers crept back up into the mid-50's, but I still think we can have a competitive Senate race in Kansas in 2008 pitting the right Democrat against a lackluster Roberts record.
    4) For the second month in a row, Survey USA doesn't have numbers from Texas. I wouldn't be shocked if the Cornyn camp paid off the poll sponsors to stop polling, since Cornyn's numbers were so utterly lousy.

    Tuesday, August 21, 2007

    Is John Ensign a More Ineffective NRSC Chair than Liddy Dole Was?

    Elizabeth Dole's tenure as Chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee was regarded as a complete flop. Democrats out-raised her and out-recruited her, and the result was a six seat net gain for Democrats and a reclaiming of the majority status in the U.S. Senate.

    As Dole's ignominious tenure as Chair was coming to an end, it became clear that no Republican Senator wanted to pick up where Dole was leaving off. South Dakota Republican John Thune was the top choice to take over, with Missouri Republican Jim Talent the second choice, if Talent survived his 2006 challenge from Democrat Claire McCaskill. Thune turned down entreaties to take the NRSC reins; and Talent, of course, lost his 2006 race.

    Further, several other Republican Senators indicated that they were not interested in becoming NRSC Chair, including South Carolina's Jim DeMint, Louisiana's David Vitter (Can you imagine how much more explosive Vitter's prostitution scandal would have been if he was also NRSC Chair when the story broke?), North Carolina's Richard Burr, Florida's Mel Martinez (who went on to take a lead role with the Republican National Committee), and, at first, Nevada's John Ensign.

    But, Ensign eventually reconsidered and took the role. Just to drive home the degree to which no Republican Senator wanted to be NRSC Chair, consider Ensign's comment when making his case for why he deserved the seat on the Senate Finance Committee that opened up due to the death of Wyoming Senator Craig Thomas more than Wyoming's other Senator, Mike Enzi, who had more seniority than Ensign:

    I’ve obviously done a lot to help my colleagues by taking [that] job when nobody else wanted it, and I think folks should be rewarded for extra work.
    When Ensign took the role, Republican optimists suggested that, even though it was a job that nobody wanted, Ensign would, at the very least, excel as a Party fundraiser, given his connections to Las Vegas money and wealthy real estate developers - a silver lining that does not seem to have substantially materialized. It appears that Ensign's heart has not been fully in the NRSC Chairmanship, to say the least. But, beyond that, I raise the question: "Is John Ensign an even more ineffective NRSC Chair than Elizabeth Dole was?"

    How can we determine that? Moreover, how can we determine that at this point in the current election cycle? There are two primary functions that the NRSC serves: 1) to raise money for Republican Senate candidates; and, 2) to recruit Republican Senate candidates. So, let's measure by those two metrics.


    Since we only have the first two quarters of Ensign's Chairmanship of the NRSC to compare with Dole's tenure, let's compare the first six months of 2007 to the first six months of 2005. But, to give additional perspective, let's compare the NRSC's first half of 2005 and first half of 2007 with the DSCC's comparable time periods and measure the relative differences.

    NRSC Total RaisedDSCC Total RaisedDSCC Lead% DSCC Outraised NRSC
    Jan-Jun 2005$20.9 million$22.7 million$1.8 million8.6%
    Jan-Jun 2007$15.7 million$31.2 million$15.5 million98.7%
    Difference-$5.2 million$8.5 million
    % Difference-24.9%37.4%

    The difference in percent by which the DSCC outraised the NRSC during the two timeframes is quite pronounced. Chuck Schumer only outraised Dole by less than 9% between January and June 2005. However, Schumer has outraised Ensign by about 100% during the first six months of 2007. But the Democrats are operating in this cycle with a Senate majority while Dole enjoyed majority status during her tenure, you might contend. To that, I'd point to the drop-off between Dole's first six months and Ensign's first six months, roughly one-quarter, a massive drop-off. While corporate donors and PACs follow the power (i.e. the majority status), they also hedge their bets, especially when it comes to supporting the more corporate-friendly and regulatory-averse Republican Party. While it is understandable that Democrats' fundraising advantage would increase, Ensign should have been able to do a better job of at least maintaining the donors the NRSC had in 2005, to at least get those previous donors to repeat-contribute (or get Republican Senators to contribute more, an area in which Dole notably failed). Ensign did make a ham-handed effort to beseech the RNC (during a Presidential election cycle, no less - something typically not done) to put money toward the 2008 Senate races, recognizing the dire straits into which he was leading the NRSC, but that effort proved fruitless.

    While Ensign's inability to keep pace with Dole's 2005 numbers indicates a demoralized Republican base following their 2006 losses, it also further contributes to the ongoing demoralizing of the Republican base moving forward. Ensign's failure to keep pace not with the DSCC but simply with Dole's 2005 numbers (i.e. get previous donors to give again) suggests that, on the fundraising front, Ensign can indeed be considered a more ineffective NRSC Chair than Dole.


    We are past the midpoint of August. Certainly there is more time in the cycle to recruit candidates to run credible campaigns. Nevertheless, by this point in the cycle, we should have a very good idea of how races are shaping up. Let's compare Republican recruiting by mid-August of 2005 versus mid-August of 2007, both in open races due to retirement and in races where Republican challengers are opposing Democratic incumbents.

    For the 2006 cycle, Senate retirements included Bill Frist of Tennessee, Mark Dayton of Minnesota, Paul Sarbanes of Maryland, and Jim Jeffords of Vermont. While only going on to win one out of these four races (retaining Tennessee for the GOP), Republicans did a very strong job for the most part in lining up top-tier challengers. Tennessee saw a competitive GOP Senate primary, the winner of which, Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker, went on to defeat Congressman Harold Ford Jr. in a closely-contested battle. Meanwhile, the NRSC did get their top-choice recruits in Minnesota and Maryland with Rep. Mark Kennedy and Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, respectively, despite their eventual general election losses.

    For the 2008 cycle, there is, so far, only one retirement, that of Colorado's Wayne Allard. Did Republicans get their top-choice recruit to run for the open seat? No. The Republican nominee is shaping up to be far-right conservative former Rep. Bob Schaffer in an uncontested battle, that is, after first choice and less-far-right former Rep. Scott McInnis backed out of the race in March.

    While there may be more chances for the NRSC to prove itself in open seat recruiting in the months ahead in states like Virginia, Nebraska, and Idaho (and possibly even Mississippi, Alaska and New Mexico), so far, Dole's NRSC is trumping Ensign's NRSC in open seat recruiting.

    Well, let's look at how well the NRSC recruited challengers to Democratic incumbents in 2005 compared to 2007. Looking at the list of candidates who had filed by mid-August 2005, the top three most impressive recruits to challenge Democratic incumbents appear to be:

    1) Ameritrade CEO Pete Ricketts (Nebraska)
    2) Safeco CEO and former Chief of Staff to U.S. Senator Slade Gorton Mike McGavick (Washington)
    3) State Senator and gubernatorial son Tom Kean Jr. (New Jersey)

    Though none of the three went on to win their races, by most measures it is an impressive list of recruits that could provide their states' respective Democratic incumbents with competitive races. Now, let's list the top three most impressive (or at least "notable") recruits to step forward to challenge Democratic incumbents in this election cycle so far:

    1) Disgraced state representative Mike Lange (Montana)
    2) Extremist state representative Joel Dykstra (South Dakota)
    3) Businesswoman Anne Evans Estabrook, who is "impressive" primarily for her ability to self-fund a campaign (New Jersey)

    If you don't care for the three challengers selected to represent the current election cycle, perhaps you'd prefer Congressional loser Jeffrey Beattie in Massachusetts or issue-garbling businessman Steve Rathje in Iowa. I think it's safe to say that, from a resume standpoint, the 2006-cycle Republican challengers to Democratic incumbents blow the doors off of the current cycle's crop of Republican challengers.


    Elizabeth DoleJohn Ensign
    Raw FundraisingX
    Fundraising vs. DSCCX
    Open Seat RecruitingX
    Recruiting vs. Dem IncumbentsX

    Believe it or not, as failed as Elizabeth Dole's tenure as NRSC Chair was, as far as the first two quarters of the cycle are concerned, John Ensign is proving to be categorically more ineffective than Elizabeth Dole was as NRSC Chair by every single measure. With more than fourteen months until Election Day 2008, indeed much can happen. But John Ensign has unquestionably had a lousy start and is amid an equally lousy middle.

    Tuesday Briefs

  • Early estimates put the DSCC's July take at $2.9 million versus $2.2 million for the NRSC. Official word should be coming soon.

  • Minnesota: Don't forget: Today is "Norm Coleman Loves George W. Bush" Day.

  • Kentucky: The Washington Times highlights Mitch McConnell's eroding base of support while Larry Forgy is sounding more and more like a likely primary challenger to McConnell. And it doesn't help McConnell that he is getting slammed by powerful ads like these.

  • Oregon: Oregon House Speaker and 2008 Senate candidate Jeff Merkley boldly calls for the impeachment of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, apparently becoming the first major Senate candidate or Senator to do so. Also, the first poll including Gordon Smith and Merkley has been released, and there is, as expected, much in the way of undecided/unknown. Two-term Senator Smith clocks in at a weak 38%, while still ostensibly-unknown statewide Merkley starts off at 19%. The poll did not measure current name ID rates, but I'd imagine the gap starts off as sizable. Meanwhile, the OR-Dems discuss Smith's latest lies and contradictions.

  • Colorado: "Backwards" Bob Schaffer could be self-immolating before our eyes. First, Schaffer says that his questionable contributions can't be a conflict-of-interest because the alleged favorable vote occurred on the Board of Education, while the contribution was to his Senate campaign. Ummm... yeah. Completely unrelated. The more Schaffer tries to defend himself, the guiltier he comes off. And then, Schaffer didn't even show up to the Board of Education's "Code of Ethics Discussion." Wow. Quite a hole Schaffer is digging.

  • Nebraska: An omen of developments to come? Republican state Attorney General Jon Bruning is turning his attention away from Chuck Hagel and toward Republican U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and former Nebraska Governor Mike Johanns. Should we be expecting a Hagel Senate retirement and Johanns Senate race entry soon?

  • Texas: It looks like John Cornyn broke an explicit campaign promise when he voted against SCHIP - in other words, voting against expanding and increasing health care coverage for sick children. What can you do? Fill Rick Noriega's boots!

  • Tennessee: Following businessman Michael Ray McWherter and former TN-Dems Chair Bob Tuke, Nashville attorney Mike Doherty has indicated that he is considering a 2008 Senate challenge to Lamar Alexander.

  • North Carolina: Former Senator John Edwards' former law partner, David Kirby, has said that he is not considering a challenge to Elizabeth Dole, citing his commitment to Edwards' Presidential campaign.

  • Louisiana: Harumph. A poll taken about two weeks after prostitute-aficionado David Vitter held his press conference shows that he still maintains solid job approval ratings. No word in the article if there were related questions polled like "Does David Vitter's scandal impact my view of him or my likelihood to vote for him in the future?"

  • Georgia: Keep an eye out. There could be an open seat race here in 2010.

  • Monday, August 20, 2007

    David Vitter, Bobby Jindal, and the GOP Hope We Have Short Memories

    [Cross-posted at my DKos diary and Daily Kingfish.]

    Though it may already seem like quite a long time ago, it was just a little over a month ago that Republican David Vitter held his press conference, vaguely acknowledging that he frequented prostitutes behind his family's back and trying his darnedest, with his wife in tow, to play the victim card, chastising his political opponents and the press for seeking to profit from his egregiously immoral actions.

    Vitter acknowledged that he had indeed commited acts that, years earlier, he suggested that President Bill Clinton should resign his office for having committed, calling Clinton "morally unfit to govern." Further, we cannot trust anything that escapes Vitter's mouth, as he has a record of lying when asked directly about his misdeeds.

    We see Vitter guilty (though, unfortunately, not convicted) of the criminal act of soliciting prostitutes and the moral indiscretions of infidelity, hypocrisy, and deceit against both his family and his constituents.

    And now, just over a month later, David Vitter firmly hopes that the entire episode has been swept under the rug and forgotten.

    There was much talk about whether or not Vitter would, in fact, resign his Senate seat in the wake of his scandal. Political observers noted that, had Vitter resigned right away, Democratic Governor Kathleen Blanco would have been responsible for naming Vitter's successor. With a gubernatorial election later this year in Louisiana, and a Republican, Congressman Bobby Jindal, the front-runner to win, it was also noted that Republicans would politically benefit from Vitter riding out the scandal as long as he could, until a Republican Governor was in office. Then, Vitter could resign and a Republican could appoint a fellow Republican to succeed him.

    In short, Bobby Jindal, David Vitter, and the Republican Party hope we have short memories. They hope that we have already forgotten David Vitter's admission from just over a month ago (an admission lacking any true demonstration of responsibility) and have already forgotten that his career is soaked in hypocrisy and lies, frequently speaking of "family values," but never living up to those values.

    Should Bobby Jindal win the 2007 Louisiana Gubernatorial election and, shortly thereafter, David Vitter decides it is then time to resign his seat, after months of "soul searching," in order to spend more time with the family he betrayed, I hope that we will all remember this and hold Vitter's successor (or Vitter himself, should he actually run for re-election in 2010 as scheduled) accountable for the Republican Party once again putting rank partisanship ahead of the "family values" they falsely claim to champion.

    Please have long, clear, sharp memories.