IA-Sen: Grassley Embarrasses Majority of Iowans; Less Than Half Would Re-Elect

{Originally posted at my blog Senate Guru.}

New polling by Research 2000 finds that Republican Chuck Grassley is far more vulnerable than the conventional wisdom gives him (dis)credit for.

When asked if Grassley should be re-elected, only 42% said re-elect, while 31% said it was time for someone new, and 27% were not sure.  (Remember, being unsure about an incumbent of twenty-nine years bodes poorly for the incumbent.)  Among independents, only 39% said re-elect.  Not too hot.

The money question of the poll was:

When Senator Chuck Grassley says President Obama and Democrats would QUOTE “pull the plug on grandma” UNQUOTE do you think that does Iowa proud in Congress or embarrasses Iowa?

By more than a 2-to-1 margin (53% to 26%), Iowans responded that Grassley’s comments embarrassed them rather than made them proud.  Among independents, the embarrass-proud ratio was an overwhelming 61-21.  Research 2000 broke down the responses by Congressional district.  Outside of right-wing radical Steve King’s 5th Congressional district (which saw a 30-51 embarrass-proud ratio), every other district was overwhelmingly embarrassed by Grassley’s remarks.  The other four Congressional districts ranged from 53-64% embarrassed while only 19-24% proud.

Very interestingly, while only 35% of respondents favored the Senate version of the health care reform bill, while 56% opposed it, 62% of respondents favored a public option (a 2-to-1 margin over the 31% of respondents that opposed a public option); and, moreover, by more than a 3-to-1 margin, Iowans want Democratic Senator Tom Harkin to fight harder for a public option and would respect him more if he did.

The message from these numbers is clear: Iowans are open to voting for an alternative to Republican Chuck Grassley, would support a public option (and many who opposed health care reform in Iowa simply feel that it didn’t go far enough), and were embarrassed by Grassley’s dishonest kowtowing to the teabaggers with his “pull the plug on grandma” routine.

The Iowa Independent reminds us:

The “pull the plug on grandma” statement, which was part of the death panel meme Pulitzer Prize winning Web site PolitiFact named its “Lie of the Year,” dogged Grassley throughout the last few months of 2009 and was cited by at least one of the three Democrats vying to unseat him as the reason for entering the race.

Grassley’s own numbers must be telling him that his lies could constitute a politically fatal flub given how freaked out he got over the discussion of his comments and how he tripped over himself backpedaling:

By the end of the year, though, Grassley was blaming media reports for his association with the death panels meme. In a letter to a constituent forwarded to The Iowa Independent, Grassley said some “commentators” took his comments and twisted them as saying that health care reform would establish death panels.

“I said no such thing,” Grassley said. “As I said then, putting end-of-life consultations alongside cost containment and government-run health care causes legitimate concern.”

Who was that Democrat who cited Grassley’s comments as a reason for entering the race?  Attorney and Democratic former gubernatorial nominee Roxanne Conlin.  She got into the race in late 2009, so this past quarter’s fundraising report will be the first test of her campaign’s financial viability.  Word is, she’s a fairly prodigious fundraiser.

On top of that, Grassley has handed her the issue and according message frames on which to run.  Notably to me, Conlin has five grandchildren.  In other words, she is a grandma.  I think it would be powerfully resonant for Conlin to put out an ad highlighting Grassley’s “pull the plug on grandma” comments that embarrassed a majority of Iowans and to close the ad (while talking to the camera, surrounded by her five grandchildren) with the line, “I’m Roxanne Conlin, and I approved this message because I’m a grandma and I’m embarrassed that Chuck Grassley is talking about pulling the plug on me.”

Keep a close eye on IA-Sen; I’m expecting a competitive race that will surprise the traditional media.

Fundraising Quarter Ends in Ten Days!

{First, a quick plug for my blog Senate Guru.}

As we await the historic vote on health care reform, it’s important to remember that we’re just ten days away from the end of the first fundraising quarter of 2010.  The fundraising totals reported in this quarter will be pivotal to determining the tenor of many races for the rest of the year.  If there is any time to contribute, now is the time!

Please head over to the Expand the Map! ActBlue page and contribute whatever you are able to these terrific Democratic candidates for Senate.

Democrat Currently At End-of-Quarter Goal Distance to Goal
Kendrick Meek
Bill Halter
Joe Sestak
Paul Hodes
Robin Carnahan

Remember, the contribution you can make isn’t just a donation to a single candidate or political campaign.  It’s an investment against Republican obstruction (and conservaDem enabling) and an investment toward achieving that more perfect union.

Kendrick Meek In Position to Win, Added to Expand the Map!

{First, a cheap plug for my blog Senate Guru. You can contribute to terrific Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate via the Expand the Map! ActBlue page.}

Recent polling from Public Policy Polling and Research 2000 suggests that Democratic Congressman Kendrick Meek is in terrific position to win Florida’s 2010 U.S. Senate race. With Republican Marco Rubio well ahead of primary challenger Charlie Crist in the polls, but far behind on fundraising, Rubio will likely emerge victorious from the primary, but out of campaign funds and politically badly bruised, as well as positioned to the extreme right ideologically. Congressman Meek, on the other hand, is steadily campaigning and fundraising and will be well-positioned for the general election.

As such, Senate Guru has added Congressman Meek’s campaign to its Expand the Map! ActBlue fundraising page, which has raised tens of thousands of dollars for Democratic candidates for Senate in the 2008 and current 2010 cycles.

To kick off the addition of Congressman Meek, we’re looking to start off with just $100 raised to get the ball rolling. Just five $20 contributions would be a great start! Can you chip in $20?

Visit the Expand the Map! ActBlue page to chip in if you can!

Senate Races Without a Democratic Candidate Yet

{Originally posted at my blog Senate Guru.}

Best I can tell, there are five 2010 U.S. Senate races that still don’t have a Democratic candidate.

State Republican Incumbent Filing Deadline
Alaska Lisa Murkowski June 1
Georgia Johnny Isakson April 30
Idaho Mike Crapo March 19
Oklahoma Tom Coburn June 9
South Dakota John Thune March 30

It should be unacceptable to not run a candidate.  For Party building and grassroots organizing, for holding the Republican incumbent accountable, and for the rare occasion when we catch lightning in a bottle, there should not be a race for U.S. Senate that doesn’t feature a Democratic option on the ballot.

Of the five, the soonest deadlines are Idaho (March 19 – this Friday!) and South Dakota (March 30 – two weeks from today).  While no race should go unchallenged, these two would be among our most uphill of challenges.  In 2008, of course a very Democratic-friendly year, the Democratic nominee in Idaho, a former Congressman, could only achieve 34% on Election Day.  (Note that Idaho is, technically, not without a Democratic candidate.  Attorney William Bryk has said that he will seek the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in Idaho.  The one hang-up: he lives in Brooklyn, New York.  He simply believes that no race should go unchallenged and doesn’t think that the Idaho Democratic Party will field a candidate.  Though Idaho law states that a candidate need only be a resident of the state by the day of the general election, obviously no out-of-state candidate will be taken seriously.)  Further, John Thune enjoys significant popularity in South Dakota, without any recent murmurs of Democratic challengers.  While seemingly unlikely at this point, I hope Democratic candidates of some substance emerge in these two states.

The next two deadlines on the list – Georgia (April 30) and Alaska (June 1) – would be the most unforgivable of the five if Democrats were unable to find credible challengers.  Georgia is a state where Democrats can surprise Republican incumbents.  Recall the 2008 election in which Democrat Jim Martin entered the race relatively late, won a crowded primary, and forced incumbent Republican Saxby Chambliss to a run-off by holding him under 50% on Election Day.  On top of that, the 2010 Republican incumbent, freshman backbencher Johnny Isakson, has poor approval numbers.  Public Policy Polling recently put Isakson’s numbers at 36% approve, 38% disapprove.  Less than a year ago, a hypothetical match-up by Research 2000 between Isakson and Democratic former Governor Roy Barnes showed a statistical dead heat.  Isakson can be beaten.  Georgia has Democrats strong enough to take on and defeat Isakson.  Currently, the Democratic primary for Governor is crowded, though former Governor Barnes has comfortably led the pack.  Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker has been running second to Barnes in the primary pack.  Also in the Democratic scrum is David Poythress.  Poythress hasn’t been able to get traction with primary voters to climb out of single digits in any poll, but he brings with him an outstanding resume of service to Georgia: an Air Force veteran, a former Georgia Secretary of State, a former State Labor Commissioner, and a former Adjutant General leading Georgia’s National Guard, having been elected statewide multiple times and appointed to office by Governors of both Parties.  If either Baker or Poythress switched gears from a gubernatorial bid to a Senate bid, either could sew up the nomination and offer Isakson an extremely tough race.  Baker is running strongly enough in some primary polls that it would be unlikely that he’d switch gears; but, Poythress – again, unable to climb out of single digits in the Democratic primary against Barnes and Baker – might be more amenable to a switch from a likely-fruitless gubernatorial bid to a high profile, winnable Senate campaign.

In Alaska, incumbent Republican Lisa Murkowski apparently enjoys higher approval among her constituents than Isakson does among his.  Nevertheless, Murkowski is beatable.  In recent years, the Alaska Republican Party has become synonymous with corruption.  The blowback from this Alaska GOP Culture of Corruption culminated with the 2008 dethroning of Ted Stevens.  And Murkowski herself has been touched by considerable controversy of her own.  You may recall that she started off on the wrong foot when she won her job courtesy of nepotism.  Her dad, Frank, appointed her to his old seat when he became Governor.  (Thanks in part to this nepotism, Frank was himself kicked out of office courtesy of a primary loss to small town Mayor Sarah Palin.)  Since then, Murkowski dipped her toe into the Alaska GOP Corruption pool when she took part in a sweetheart land deal, purchasing prime property at well below market value from, of all people, one of Ted Stevens’ corporate cronies – only selling back the land at the discount price for which she received it once the media caught wind of the shenanigans.  Murkowski’s shady dealings earned her a spot in the 2007 edition (in PDF) of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington’s annual “most corrupt members of Congress” list.  Alaska Dems have about two and a half months to secure a credible challenger.  Please share your thoughts on a potential strong recruit in the comments.

Finally, Oklahoma (June 9), like Idaho earlier on this list, had a 2008 Democratic Senate nominee who enjoyed substantial charisma and a solid message, but was unable to crack 40%.  No doubt, Oklahoma would be a similarly uphill race for any Democrat.  Even popular Democratic Governor Brad Henry trailed Republican incumbent Tom Coburn by double digits in a 2009 hypothetical match-up by Public Policy Polling.  Still, as always, not finding any Democratic candidate of substance to run is political malpractice.

Of the five U.S. Senate races still seeking a credible Democratic candidate, two are not only potentially competitive but truly winnable with the right candidate.  Your thoughts?  Do you have a preferred candidate in Georgia or Alaska (or the other three states)?  Do you have a preferred course of action – a movement to urge/persuade/beg David Poythress to switch races or a draft effort in Alaska?  Share in the comments!

Encourage Progressive Leadership

{First, a cheap plug for my blog Senate Guru.}

It’s been almost a year since Election Day 2008, but some of our ’08 champs could still use a little help.  Just sayin’.

As of September 30, 2009:

Democrat Cash on Hand Debt Amount in the Red Where to Contribute
Al Franken $242,128 $450,859 $208,731 Contribute to Al
Jeff Merkley $137,221 $271,589 $134,368 Contribute to Jeff

I’m not saying there aren’t plenty of 2010 candidates that need our help.  (There are!  Please help!)  I’m just saying that helping our previous progressive winners to close their books and retire their debts could encourage other Democrats currently running to follow in more progressive footsteps, knowing we have their backs.

I’ll leave you with a few reasons to be very, very proud of Senator Al Franken’s first months as a U.S. Senator (and very, very motivated to help retire his campaign debt):

And a dash of Senator Merkley for good measure:

End of Quarter Fundraising Push for Democratic Candidates for Senate

{First, a cheap plug for my blog Senate Guru.}

The last day of the third fundraising quarter of 2009 (whoa, time really flies!) is this Wednesday, September 30.  Our Democratic candidates for Senate need to make as big a fundraising splash as possible in the third quarter to help refute the growing conventional wisdom among the traditional media pundits that 2010 could be a Republican year.

Please, please, please consider making a contribution today to our Democratic candidates for Senate via the Expand the Map! ActBlue page.  I’ve set some lofty, pie-in-the-sky goals that, if we were able to meet them, I’d be wonderfully surprised and gratified and blown away by your generosity.

Democrat Currently At
Distance to Goal
Robin Carnahan
Paul Hodes
Joe Sestak
Charlie Melancon

Please click on over to the Expand the Map! ActBlue page and make a contribution to help stop ongoing Republican obstruction in the Senate.  Every contribution makes a real impact whether it’s $100 or $25 or $10 or, well, any amount.  Want to rebel against multiples of five and contribute $63 or $39 or $27, knock yourself out!

Remember, the fundraising quarter ends this Wednesday, so please contribute today if you can.  Thank you SO much!

PA-Sen: Congressman Joe Sestak to Liveblog at Senate Guru This Thursday (Sep. 10) at 5pm

I’m very pleased to let you know that Democratic Congressman Joe Sestak, candidate for U.S. Senate from Pennsylvania, will join us at Senate Guru tomorrow, Thursday September 10, at 5pm Eastern Time for a live blog session.  I’m sure he will update us on how his campaign is going, discuss a variety of issues, offer his thoughts in response to tonight’s Presidential address on health care reform, and, of course, field your questions.

I hope you will be able to join us for the first candidate liveblog session of the 2010 cycle at Senate Guru.  Bring your questions for Congressman Sestak and invite your political junkie friends to join us.  (And, if you’re really excited for the conversation, support Congressman Sestak with a contribution via the Expand the Map! ActBlue page.)

In the meantime, enjoy reading Congressman Sestak’s diary from yesterday at Daily Kos – here’s an excerpt:

This week, join me in signing a petition, which calls on our congressional leaders, Republicans and Democrats in the House and the Senate, to hold an up or down roll call vote on the public option.

Right now, 14,000 people are losing their health care coverage every day because our costs are skyrocketing. Meanwhile, too many politicians in Washington, who seem to be ignoring the lessons from Wall Street, would rather leave our health insurance reform up to the insurance companies.  No matter what the final bill looks like, we deserve to know how our Representatives and Senators will vote on a public option – up or down!

On the web:

Joe Sestak for Senate

Senate Guru

Senate Guru Facebook Group

Senate Guru’s Expand the Map! ActBlue Page

OH-Sen, KY-Sen: Democratic Senate Candidates Appeal to the Progressive Netroots

With the 2010 Senate races in Ohio and Kentucky featuring two of the most competitive Democratic primaries of the cycle, in two of the key Senate battleground states, Senate Guru contacted the Democratic primaries’ major candidates – in Ohio, Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher and Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner; in Kentucky, Lieutenant Governor Dan Mongiardo and state Attorney General Jack Conway – to ask them all one question:

Why should the progressive netroots support your campaign in you state’s 2010 Democratic Senate primary?

To see the Ohio candidates’ responses side-by-side, click here.  To see the Kentucky candidates’ responses side-by-side, click here.

On the web:

Senate Guru

Senate Guru Facebook Group

PA-Sen: Sestak Leads on Health Care Reform

{Originally posted at my blog Senate Guru.}

Congressman Joe Sestak has been an unwavering voice for real health care reform.  Check out his latest diary on Daily Kos:

We have to bring health care costs down, while covering all Americans. To do this, all Americans need access to preventive care, and all health insurance providers need competition. The best way to accomplish this goal is through a strong “public health insurance option.”  A public health insurance option is a choice – a choice that is subsidized only by the co-pays and premiums of those who choose to join it – just like a private health care plan. But it is less expensive – and forces private insurance companies to lower costs because of this competition – by not having to pay CEOs $20 million salaries, or $50 million severance pay, for example.

Congressman Sestak also put together this video on health care reform, following him on the stump and on cable news, advocating for a public option.  It’s only three and a half minutes long, and I encourage you to watch the entire video:

Congressman Sestak’s leadership has seemingly been the only thing pulling recent Republican Arlen Specter to the left on key issues (emphasis added by me):

Sen. Arlen Specter just posted on his Twitter account: “People who like their current insurance ought to be able to keep it – but let’s have one more choice: a public option.”

And this comes just after his Democratic primary opponent in the 2010 Pennsylvania Senate race, Rep. Joe Sestak, said Tuesday he would “find it hard” to support a health care bill without a public option.

After becoming a Democrat in April, Specter has marched to the left (he initially opposed a public option) and will likely continue to do so in the face of what could be a tough primary challenge. But will that include opposing a Senate health care bill if it lacks the public option – and if Sestak comes out opposed to it?

Specter initially opposed a public option.  Congressman Sestak is fighting for a public option.  So Specter disingenuously tacks left.  While Specter panders and postures, Congressman Sestak displays genuine conviction and real leadership.

You can support Congressman Sestak’s campaign with a contribution via the Expand the Map! ActBlue page.

PA-Sen: Joe Sestak Flips the Electability Argument (Rasmussen Part Two)

{Originally posted at my blog Senate Guru.}

Following its PA-Sen Democratic primary numbers released yesterday showing Congressman Joe Sestak closing the gap on recent Republican Arlen Specter, Rasmussen Reports released general election match-up numbers:

Pat Toomey (R) 48

Arlen Specter (D) 36

Other 4

Not Sure 12
Pat Toomey (R) 43

Joe Sestak (D) 35

Other 5

Not Sure 18

Two obvious takeaways here.  One, Toomey has taken the lead.  Is it discontent over the protracted health care reform debate?  Is it burgeoning discontent with Specter himself harming the Democratic brand in Pennsylvania?  And how temporary will this lead be?  Unclear.

Two, the “electability” argument in the Democratic primary has flipped.  In previous polls, Specter matched up against Toomey better than Congressman Sestak did (no doubt relying largely on Specter’s strong name ID).  In this poll, however, Congressman Sestak matches up better.  His deficit against Toomey is only 8 points (and, remember, Congressman Sestak has never run statewide, unlike Toomey, and is still working to build name recognition across the state, which should improve his numbers significantly), while Specter’s deficit against Toomey is 12 points.  This is probably due to a plummetting favorable-unfavorable rating for Specter, as Rasmussen points out; Specter’s is down to 43-54.

While the numbers against Toomey are nothing to celebrate, this poll further cements the notion that Arlen Specter would not serve Democrats well as the Party’s Senate nominee.

By the way, want integrity?  Congressman Sestak went on Fox News to promote that he is “a strong proponent of the public health care plan option.”  He’s not going to pander or sugar coat.  He’s going to fight for Democratic values everywhere.  (And you can help Congressman Sestak’s fight with a contribution via the Expand the Map! ActBlue page.)