Senate 2008 Guru: Following the Races

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

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Is NRSC Chair Ensign Auditioning for The Onion?

  • I'm sincerely curious as to whether NRSC Chair John Ensign is trying out for a writing gig with the online satire publication The Onion. I wonder this because he gave an interview with Roll Call that is absolutely hilarious. (I'm actually surprised that Ensign would put an interview so laughable on his PAC's website.)

    The article begins:

    While acknowledging that he will fall short of his $119 million fundraising goal this cycle, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Ensign (Nev.) said Wednesday that the committee is on its strongest footing in at least two cycles with cash in the bank to take on a powerful Democratic money machine.
    Thanks for the reminder that Ensign's goal for the cycle was $119 million (the amount that the DSCC took in last cycle as the then-minority Party in the Senate). You may remember that the NRSC brought in only $31.8 million for the 2007 calendar year. If 2008 is similar to 2007 for NRSC fundraising, they'll finish with $63.6 million, or with 53% of his stated goal. A 53 in school is an F. The article then reads:

    But Ensign said he has a lot more to crow about after the final quarter of 2007 proved that Republican donors are renewing their commitment to the party, and that his restructuring has made the NRSC leaner and a better manager of its books.
    A lot to crow about after the final quarter of 2007? When the DSCC outraised the NRSC $13.3 million to $8.4 million? That final quarter of 2007? He's "crowing" that he raised less than two-thirds of his Democratic counterpart? Later in the article:

    Ensign noted that in December 2003, the NRSC had just $8.56 million in the bank, while it finished 2005 with only $10.5 million.
    That's great... if Ensign's NRSC was up against Elizabeth Dole's NRSC or George Allen's NRSC; but, he's up against Chuck Schumer's DSCC, and he's getting whooped. The next highlight:

    While Republicans look to put a positive spin on their position, Democrats are quick to argue that Ensign’s problems go deeper than fundraising, and include candidate recruitment and incumbent retention.

    The incumbent retention charge could be considered dubious, as Republican incumbents have chosen to re-up in the tough, Democratic-leaning states of Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Oregon, while two of the retirements — Sens. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and John Warner (R-Va.) — could be chalked up to illness and age, respectively.
    Ummm, the willingness of Republicans in those Dem-leaning states to re-up could also very easily be chalked up to age, too, as the incumbents in Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Oregon are only 55, 58, 43, and 55, respectively. I mean, in recent years, there have been very few retirements from the U.S. Senate by people under 59, especially when there's not a Presidential bid involved. Ensign's job then gets nutshelled:

    “This NRSC has raised less money, recruited fewer challengers and retained fewer incumbents than [North Carolina Sen. Elizabeth Dole] did,” DSCC spokesman Matthew Miller said.
    Exactly. Ensign then closes the interview blaming his Republican Senate colleagues:

    Ensign acknowledged the challenges the NRSC still faces in 2008, especially in persuading his Senate colleagues to contribute and raise money on behalf of the committee. Senator participation has been a perennial problem for the NRSC, exacerbated by the fact that Democratic Senators have consistently been strong contributors to the DSCC, with several already handing over hundreds of thousands of dollars during this cycle.

    “Campaign transfers are by far the most difficult,” Ensign said. “Members always feel that if they raise money for their campaign that their donors won’t like it if they give it away.”

    Ensign said that while he’s making as many fundraising calls as DSCC Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.), “there’s a huge difference in the commitment of their Members than with ours.”

    The Nevada Republican promised “consequences” for Republican Senators who don’t do their part, including refusing future NRSC help to any individual who won’t participate.

    “Our guys aren’t hungry enough,” Ensign added. “They don’t realize the consequences. That’s the reality. There’s been a few of them [who are helping], but not enough of them.”
    This should deflate any enthusiasm among GOP donors. If Republican Senators aren't willing to contribute to their cause, why should donors pony up to bail them out?

    It adds up to big trouble for Senate Republicans. But that doesn't mean Democrats should take anything for granted. Want to make the NRSC's woes all the more painful? Contribute to the DSCC today.


    Blogger Ari said...

    On a different topic . . . a new poll out of the University of Minnesota shows Al Franken with the lead over Sen. Norm Coleman! Granted, it is a statistical dead heat-- 43% to 40%-- but this is the first time Franken-- or any of the Democrats in the race, to my knowledge-- is ahead of Coleman. That's big news! With the right campaign at the top of the ticket, we could sweep Minnesota into our column after all!

    12:37 PM, February 01, 2008  
    Blogger Joe said...

    Ensign is worried about his ability "to take on a powerful Democratic money machine." Wow - sounds familiar. Maybe because that's what Democrats have been worried about for the last 15 years. My, how the tables have turned. And, really, couldn't be happening to a better guy.

    Also, excellent job in getting incumbents "to re-up in the tough, Democratic-leaning states of Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Oregon." That's a fine bit of work, considering the GOP is going to lose at least two of those seats and I'd probably put even money on them losing three.

    4:21 PM, February 01, 2008  

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