Don’t Believe the Hype!

As we look toward the unsettled Senate race picture of 2008, one of the hot topics of discussion lately has been rampant will-they-or-won’t-they speculation surrounding the potential retirements of Republican Senators like Pete Domenici (NM), Thad Cochran (MS), and John Warner (VA).  All three of these Senators have sent signals with varying degrees of certainty that they will indeed be running again in 2008.  Cochran, for instance, has started to rev up his fundraising engines.  But as we look at these three Republican geezers and others like them, keep in mind the familiar refrain from SSP hero Chuck D: Don’t Believe the Hype!

Senators can be annoyingly coy about seeking re-election, often issuing firm statements and strong signals that they’ll seek another term while postponing a formal retirement announcement.  Let’s look at a few recent examples.

Halfway through his Senate term, Mark Dayton (D-MN) was firmly committed to his re-election prospects (at least publicly).  He hired a new public relations firm and made plans to tour his home state more extensively to increase his visibility, while at the same time hiring top shelf talent to bolster his anemic fundraising (as of January, 2004, he had a scant $60,000 in his re-election coffers).  A year later, he had already announced his retirement.  While Dayton’s move was borne out of a desire to avoid a costly defeat (something that popular Senators Warner, Domenici, and Cochran probably don’t have to worry about), it does illustrate that plans do indeed change.

Take Republican Senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee, for instance.  In 2001, he was heavily leaning towards retirement after he lost his chairmanship of the Governmental Affairs Committee when the Democrats took control of the Senate.  However, on September 25 of that same year, he announced quite firmly that the gravity of 9/11 compelled him to seek another Senate term.  It only took a few months before he reneged in March, claiming that he didn’t have “the heart” for another six years.

Or how about Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO), who in June of 2003 was fundraising at a decent clip and making statements that he was indeed going to stay on for another Senate term?  It was not until March of 2004 that he decided that another Senate term was not in the cards.

And how’s this for another example?  Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ).  After the 1998 midterms, he quickly promised that he would run for a fourth term.  “I’ve said I’m going to run, and I intend to,” he told the New York Times that November.  Three months later, in February 1999, he threw in the towel.  (But as we all know, it’s funny how these plans go: Lautenberg was Torricelli’s emergency replacement in 2002, and is preparing another run for 2008.)

My point here is that I highly doubt that John Ensign and the NRSC will escape 2008 without dealing with at least one more retirement (Colorado Senator Wayne Allard has already jumped ship).  With the 2008 and 2010 Senate race maps offering Republicans minimal obvious opportunities to reclaim the majority position, I suspect that we’ll see more retirements on their side of the aisle now that they’ve lost their swanky committee chairmanships and other trappings of power.  They just might not be admitting it yet.

Can anyone think of similar examples of other Senators sending firm re-election signals, only to issue a surprise (or not so surprising) retirement notice?

UPDATE: In the comments over at the Dailykos discussion of this diary, kywddavid takes a look at some historical numbers:

From 1920 through 2006 (the years covered by Wikipedia for this), 215 Senators retired in 44 cycles.  That’s an average of 4.88 Senate retirements per cycle.  The number of retirements has never been lower than two (most recently in 1964) or higher than eleven (1996) [thirteen, not eleven, Senators actually retired in 1996–James].  Over the last ten elections, the average was 5.7 but that included 1996’s eleven.

Senate retirements played a huge role in 2004 as five southern Democrats retired and Republicans won all of those seats.  Retirements have tended to run a tad higher in Presidential election years, maybe because it is [harder] to raise the cash needed to survive.

Even more evidence that lends weight to the theory that Allard probably won’t be the only retirement of the 2008 cycle.

SSP Quiz: Lethal Primaries

Poor Atrios must be beating his head against the wall dealing with a mental midget like Joe Klein. To recap: Klein is one of those beltway asshats who thinks that primary challenges to incumbents are (to use his reference) something to delight the likes of Robespierre. In other words, anyone who supported Ned Lamont is a  bloodthirsty tyrant and, presumably, deserves to be guillotined. Just call me St. Just.

Anyhow, the immediate context for this non-debate is the possibility of a primary challenge to Rep. Ellen Tauscher (CA-10), who sits in a district that went for Kerry 59-40. Suffice it to say, I’m not worried that, even if Tauscher were to lose a primary, a Republican would win the general. I say that in no small part because the bluest seat currently held by a Republican is DE-AL, which went 53-46 Kerry – and as many of you know, there are only eight GOP-held Kerry districts overall. In short, the GOP no longer plays very well in districts where voters like to pull the Dem lever at the top of the ticket.

But that’s not to say that “lethal” primaries never happen (as in, lethal to the party in which the primary upset took place). Indeed, they occasionally do. One relatively recent example: Party-switcher Michael Forbes (R to D) narrowly lost his primary in 2000, and the woman who beat him, Regina Seltzer, went on to lose to Republican Felix Grucci that fall.

So, going back to, say, 1980 (just to pick an arbitrary limit), what other lethal primaries for Senate and House seats are you aware of? And, so that we have a basis of comparison, how many incumbents lost primaries overall?

MS-Sen Cochran Makes Moves Toward 6th Term In Mississippi

Democrats hoping for an open U.S. Senate seat in Mississippi will apparently have to wait a few more election cycles. Incumbent GOP Sen. Thad Cochran started a major fundraising drive with a fundraiser in Jackson Tuesday night and is expected to raise some $650,000.00 this week.

While not yet committing to a 2008 race Cochran indicated he was leaning heavily toward a race despite reports in recent months that he would like to retire. If Cochran had retired the Mississippi Democratic Party had a number of strong candidates who would have a good chance to return the seat to Democratic hands. They included former Gov. Ray Mabus, former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, Cong. Gene Taylor, former Cong. Ronnie Shows, former Sec. of Agriculture and Cong. Mike Espy, and others.


UPDATE: Help Me Respond to a Right-Wing Editorial (Draft of Letter to the Editor included)

Yesterday, I posted a diary asking help in formulating a response to an editorial printed in my local newspaper that slanders those who oppose Bush’s escalation.

I have written a draft of a response (quoted over the flip).  There were many things I wanted to talk about such as the fact the all three Iraq war veterans in Congress voted for the resolution, how the Iraq War took time, effort, troops, materiale, and attention away from the hunt for Osama, and so on.  However, I decided to keep in short (158 words) and focus only on the question of supporting the troops, hoping it will increase the chances of getting printed.

This letter is in response to Monday’s editorial by Cal Thomas, an article full of untruths, faulty logic, and distortion.  What I really want to address is Thomas’ main argument that those who oppose Bush’s plan to escalate the Iraq War by sending 20,000 more troops into Iraq do not support the troops.  In fact, quite the opposite is true.  The greatest test of one’s support for the troops is not how fervently one waves the flag or how quickly one gets behind whatever plan the President has, it’s making sure that troops are asked to risk and give their lives only when absolutely necessary and only when some good will come of it. 

So, those of us who oppose escalation support our troops by demanding that they not be sent into the crossfire of a civil war, knowing that past troop increases have not helped and that the President has no clear definition of what constitutes victory.

GA-10: Field Taking Shape for Special

We still don’t know the date of the special election to fill GA-10, but the field is already taking shape. From CQ Politics, the GOP side:

Republican state Sen. Jim Whitehead announced Monday that he is a candidate for the not-yet-scheduled special election in Georgia’s 10th District, ensuring that there will be competition between politically experienced candidates for the seat left vacant by the death of veteran Republican Rep. Charlie Norwood. …

Whitehead was preceded into the race by a fellow Republican state senator, Ralph T. Hudgens, who lost to Norwood in the 1994 Republican House primary. …

Republican Bob Young, a former mayor of Augusta, is considered a potential candidate. The Athens-Banner Herald reported Monday that Willie Green, a former National Football League player who was born in the district, is interested in running either as a Republican or an independent.

Former Athens-Clarke County Mayor Doc Eldridge is also considering entering the race. Eldridge, who ran for mayor as a Democrat, told local news outlets that he will run as a Republican if he does indeed enter the election.

And the Dem half:

One Democrat moved swiftly to establish a place in the special election contest: Terry Holley, a small-business owner who took 33 percent of the vote in a lopsided loss to Norwood last November. …

Former Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Tom Chasteen is rumored to be weighing a bid, as well as state Rep. Alan Powell and lawyer David Bell, who as the 1996 Democratic challenger gave Norwood the closest race of his House career, holding him to 52 percent.

It’s worth noting that Norwood was a member of the GOP class of 1994 (knocking off one-term incumbent Don Johnson, Jr.). So his relatively weak performance against Bell in 1996 came when he was at his most vulnerable. However, Norwood outspent Bell nearly 3-1 that year (scroll to bottom). On the flipside, this district was a lot more Dem back then – Bill Clinton won it both times, in fact. (It had a PVI of R+1.7 then, but it’s R+12.7 now.) So I don’t know how strongly one can rate Bell’s performance.

Anyhow, got any opinions on any of these candidates?

UPDATE (James): According to CQPolitics, June 19 is the likely date for this election.

Help Me Respond to an Editorial by a Right-Winger

I have noticed recently that my local newspaper, The Daily Tribune-News (Cartersville, Georgia) runs only editorials from right-wing talking heads like Mike Reagan, a former chair of the county Republican Party, and the like.  A couple years ago, there was balance.  The chair of the county Democratic Party, Howard Dean, and a local Democratic activist all had columns at one time.  Now, that’s changed.

But I digress.  The object of this diary is not to complain about the right-wing slant of my local paper.  It’s to ask help in formulating a response to one column published recently.

More over the flip.

In this column (linked and quoted), one wingnut spouts out the typical Democrats undermine troop morale bullshit:


Before political correctness, a person who gave someone a gift and later took it back was called an “Indian giver.”

This is what a majority in the House did last week when they “gave” their support to American forces fighting to stabilize Iraq and defeat our enemy and then promptly took it back. How else should one interpret this “nonbinding” resolution when part one said, “Congress and the American people will continue to support and protect the members of the United States Armed Forces who are serving or who have served bravely and honorably in Iraq,” but part two negates part one: “Congress disapproves of the decision of President George W. Bush announced on Jan. 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq.”

This is like sending your love a valentine last week and this week sending a note withdrawing the sentiment.

Last Saturday, Republicans managed to block a similar effort in the Senate, but by only four votes. Senate Democrats — and a few like-minded Republicans — vowed to try again.

Once, most members of Congress supported the president’s prosecution of the war. That was when his approval numbers were sky-high. Now that those numbers have fallen, so has congressional support. Most Democrats claim, falsely, that the November election was a referendum on the war. If the president’s policy succeeds, though, two things will happen. First, some members who opposed him will claim they were behind the troop surge all along. Second, most Democrats will assert that success is actually failure because they can’t afford politically to admit they were wrong.

Do the troops feel supported by this House resolution? There are no opinion polls of military and civilian workers in Iraq, but two comments have come to my attention. One is a letter to the editor of The Washington Times from John McFarlane, a military trainer for Northrop-Grumman Technical Services in Elizabethtown, Ky. McFarlane writes that he has just returned from Iraq “after coming out of retirement to go there … I can tell you that the greatest fear of the young service members over there is that the American public will fail to pursue total victory and will leave early, thereby wasting their battle buddies’ life and blood. They feel pain every time somebody pays lip service to his or her conscience with the line: ‘I support the troops, but not the policy.’ (They) know they are the policy and that you should feel shame if you as an American would commit them to anything less than total victory.”

The second letter is from Army Sgt. Daniel Dobson, about whom I wrote in a column last week. Sgt. Dobson says he was in the chow hall in Mosul, watching CNN on the day of the House vote. He writes in an e-mail, “…it made me furious to see congressmen unashamedly proclaim their cowardice, but the reaction of the soldiers tore my heart in two. The faces were that of men that looked as if they were just told there is no United States to go home to. The fury gives way to depression: the thought alone that our elected representatives do not represent us anymore is more than depressing. We see cowardice, sickening spineless cowardice and it makes soldiers sick.”

So much for the assertion by some members of Congress that the House resolution, with the promise of more and binding ones to come, will have no affect on troop morale. How many other soldiers feel this way? How many others might be affected by these “no-confidence” votes? Of equal importance, how emboldened does the enemy feel as he sees the prophecy of Osama bin Laden coming true, that America doesn’t have the stomach or staying power for a long war and will eventually give up if enough death and injury is inflicted upon American troops?

If Congress wants to end this war, it should immediately vote to cutoff funds and receive whatever benefits, or consequences, that result. But too many who lack the spine to win also lack the spine to accept accountability for defeat. The only victory they appear committed to is the next election.

Some points I would like to make:
1. Thomas leaves out that all three Iraq war veterans in Congress are Democrats and all three voted for the resolution.

2. Voting for this resolution does support the troops by saying they should not be thrown into the middle of a civil war.  What is so hard to comprehend about that?

3. He leaves out the fact that most Americans oppose the escalation.

4. His saying the election was not a referendum on the war is bullshit and the exit polls say so.

5. Keeping point four in mind, is he saying that most Americans don’t support the troops and are enabling the terroists.

Please chime in with points, information (citations especially), ways to word things, etc.

Thomas Schaller, Louisiana and the GOP: Please Do Not Whistle Past Us

(The importance of holding on to what we can in Louisiana is critical. This will be a make-or-break year for Louisiana Democrats. Are we ready? – promoted by James L.)

Having had penned multiple diaries on Louisiana politics and the plight of the Democratic party in my state here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here, I am elated Thomas F. Schaller of Whistling Past Dixie fame has written this 20 FEB 2007 article for on the GOP’s planned 2007 sweep of Louisiana.  The situation is grim, and the graphic accompanying his article, a blue Louisiana in the process of being delaminated into a red Louisiana, aptly summarizes the state of affairs in my state.

Here are some of the key passages from Schaller’s article, key passages I hope will compel my readers to begin participating in the mobilization project on behalf of Louisiana Democrats I am trying to enact here and elsewhere in the blogosphere:

“The polls show him [Bobby Jindal] ahead big.” Not surprisingly, state Republicans are licking their chops. “The GOP is very organized and aggressively fundraising,” says a top Louisiana Democrat, who asked not to be named. “They will be well financed and looking to use a big gubernatorial win [in 2007] to catapult other GOP wins down ballot.” Louisiana is, in short, perhaps the only state in the nation where George W. Bush’s policies may end up creating a permanent Republican majority.

In fact, however, Louisiana was trending away from Democrats even before the hurricane. Bill Clinton carried the state in both 1992 and 1996. But Al Gore — who spent little time there, despite the fact that his campaign manager, Donna Brazile, knows the state’s politics better than almost anyone — received just 45 percent of the vote in 2000. Four years later John Kerry slipped to 42 percent. So recently a swing state, Louisiana will be on neither party’s 2008 target list.

Notice how the second paragraph establishes a causal connection between the national Democratic party’s lack of investment in Louisiana and the state’s rightward trend.  Somehow the fifty-state strategy of Dr. Dean flew over Louisiana, and state Democrats on the local, state and federal level are paying dearly.  And 2007 will be no different.  All statewide, executive offices are on the ballot, as is the entire state legislature, and I have written many diaries that are cited above on the 2007 situation.  Republicans can sweep both state legislative chambers and control redistricting after the 2010 census, lending them the opportunity to gerrymander districts to the favor of the Republicans.  And if a Republican governor in Bobby Jindal is elected, the gerrymander will be especially damaging to Democrats, as he and Sen. David Vitter (R) have been planning the 2007 collapse of the Louisiana Democratic Party for many years.  Discussion of this latest installment of the Southern Strategy can be found in the diaries I cite above, which contain links to other writers who have elaborated on the cynicism undergirding the Republicans’ power grab in Louisiana.

So Schaller has alerted a broader audience of a problem about which I have been writing for at least three months.  What can be done?  Will we bring the fight to the Louisiana GOP?  Or will we allow them to steamroll over our state? 

The first step would be donating to a grassroots Democratic candidate who is running in a special election to be held on 10 March for Louisiana House District Seat 94, a seat vacated by a Republican named Peppi Bruneau, who has held that seat since 1974.  I have penned a long article about this race here, noting how the grassroots, Democratic challenger, Deborah Langhoff, who in my opinion is an excellent candidate we should all support, has a real chance at winning this race.  Her strongest opponent, Jeb Bruneau, Peppi Bruneau’s son, has raised a lot of money with the help of his father and lobbyists in Baton Rouge.  But the cynicism of his father’s last minute retirement has upset voters in District 94, and this gives Langhoff a chance to win this race with her compelling message of governmental reform and change.  

Langhoff’s race is important, as this is one of the first competitive races in 2007.  With the entire legislature up for reelection in November,  a Langhoff victory will send the Louisiana GOP a signal that they have a very big fight on their hands if they want to change this state red.  It will also give beleaguered voters the hope that they will have representatives in Baton Rouge who understand their plight.  

Louisiana, as many of you may recall, was a swing state in 2000.  Clinton won the state in 1992 and 1996, and Mary Landrieu managed to eke out wins for her Senate seat in 1996 and 2002.  If Louisiana falls to the GOP, Arkansas will be the only Democratic leaning state in the South, and the GOP will eventually focus their efforts there.  We must stop the Southern Strategy, and this begins with supporting Deborah Langhoff now.  

Schaller claims that John Breaux, who may run for Governor, may be the only hope for the Louisiana Democratic Party.  Perhaps he is.  But we can also help out by participating in races such as LA-HD94 that may at first seem very insignificant.

Expect more diaries on Louisiana politics.  If the GOP sweeps the state, our displaced residents will most probably never be able to return home.  The GOP has been cynically exploiting Katrina and Rita for political gain, and it is incumbent upon us to inform them that we as citizens will not allow them to destroy a wonderful state in order to expand their political power.  I hope you will join me on behalf of this beautiful albeit struggling state.  And please accept my apologies for the rushed diary.

GOP fratricide over Iraq (with Poll)

the conduct of the Civil War in Iraq may assist the Democrats in unforseen ways in 2008.

The “Surrender Caucus” of GOP incumbents faces right wing primary opposition as Right wing activist Hugh Hewitt is launching a group dedicated to generating primary challenges over the roll call vote on the Iraq war resolution. 

If Hewitt’s group proves effective they could prove to be a good group for the Democrats to shadow hoping to pick off wounded GOP incumbents in 2008.

The potential target include:

-DEL at large Mike Castle: It would be an ominous development for Castle if a serious primary foe were to emerge. The DCCC has a great big bull’s eye on Castle already and he risks his seat if he panders too far to the political right.  Hewitt could be the Democrats Secret Santa in 2008 in Delaware.
-FL8 Rick Keller: Keller is already on the Democrats hit list after an anemic 52.8 – 45.7 re-election victory in 2006.
-IL10 Mike Kirk: Kirk is already vulnerable and a withering Democratic attack in 2008 is anticipated.  Hard to see how a primary challenge from the right boosts Kirk’s electabilty.
-MD1 Wayne Gilcrest: Easily re-elected in 2006.  Hard to see a credible primary foe making life very difficult for Gilcrest’s anticipated re-election in 2008.
-MD6 Roscoe Bartlett: Bartlett won with less than 60% of the vote in 2006.  If a serious GOP primary opponent emerges it behooves the Democrats to have a quality candidate in MD6 in 2008.
-MI6 Fred Upton: a McCain backer probably has little to fear politically from a primary challenge.  Given that the Dems need to compensate for their 2006 neglect of Michigan taking a shot at Upton forces the GOP to play defense on their turf and perhaps a contested primary might generate defectors to team blue.
-MN3 Jim Ramstead: Re-elected with almost 65% of the vote in 2008.  With Jack Coleman already a primary Dem target in 2008 it would help to build strength up and down the ticket.  If Ramstead faces a challenge from the right more effort should be made to secure a Democratic opponent in 2008.
-NY25 James Walsh: he is already near the top of the Democrats 2008 hit list and if he needs to fend of a serious primary opponent so much the better.
-NC3 Walter Jones: hard to see a serious primary contest here given Jones was one of the first GOP congressional critics of the war and he romped to re-election with a shade under 69% of the vote.  They didn’t care he was anti-Iraq in 2006, why would they in 2008?
-NC6 Howard Coble: the fact 2 NC Republicans are even on this list shows the times they are a changin in NC as a Democrat resurgence gains momentum.  If Coble is going to face a serious primary challenger we should make certain the Democrats have a better nominee than in 2006 when Coble won re-election with nearly 71% of the vote.
-OH14 Stephen LaTourette: the hits keep coming from the right as LaTourette replaced his wife with a PYT and that did not sit well with many values voters in the district.  A serious primary might well be in the works here. They could merge the values attack with the Iraq attack to question his very loyalty to Conservative values.  LaTourette was re-elected with 57.6% of the vote in 2006.
-PA3 Phil English: The Democrats are in the process of generating serious challenge here already.  If Phil English faces an attack from the right it plays into the Democrat’s hands.
TN2 John Duncan: Re-elected in 2006 with 78% of the vote.  Seems impervious to much mischief making from left or right.
-TX14 Ron Paul: it is hard to see him losing a primary challenge based on Iraq.  The district knows he is quirky and it has yet to cost him his seat.  Why would 2008 be any different?
-VA11 Tom Davis: Davis might retire  He might run for John Warner’s Senate seat.  So a Hewitt based primary insurgency seems problematic in 2008 as they may not have a target in VA11.

By what margin will Bob Shamansky win?

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Month 3 of Tracking the Top 50 House Pick up Chances

With the Presidential race gearing up at a its fastest pace ever, it is extremely important to remember that 2008 is still a chance to strength our majority in the House and as importantly, punish the Republicans who stood with Bush every step of the way until it was politically inconvenient. So this is Month Three.

Top 50

1. MI 7
  Republican Tim Walberg
  06 Winning Percentage  51%
  04 Bush Percentage  54%
  Reason for Weakness
  Tim Walberg is the most vulnerable Republican member of Congress because running against an opponent in a general election who spent only $ 55,000.  He got just 51% in a 54% Bush District. His defeat of a Congressman Schwarz who was widely liked will cause him problems.  If the Democrats can find a centrist in the Schwarz model we should be able to defeat this Freshman.

Change: No Change
Tim Walberg continues to vote like a right-winger on everything and his district just isn’t built for that rightwing a record.  Joe Schwarz remains the wild card.

2. PA 15
  Republican Charlie Dent
  06 Winning Percentage  53%
  04 Bush Percentage 50%
  Reasons for Weakness
  Charlie Dent has only been re-elected once in now one of only eight Republicans to hold a seat that John Kerry won.  He also was one of only two incumbents in Kerry won districts not to have a well-financed challenger. The fact that he was only able to get 53% under these circumstance means that he is a very good target for defeat. 

Change: No Change
Charlie Dent’s vote for the troop surge solidified his vulnerability in my mind.  There also appear to many possible Democratic Challengers. Finding a challenger quickly will be important

NV 3 
  Republican Jon Porter
  06 Winning Percentage 48%
  04 Bush Percentage 50%
  Reasons for Weakness
  As a Member of Congress you never want to be getting less than 50% and that is exactly the position that Jon Porter find himself as he confronts life in the minority.  The Democrat was able to get 47% with 5% going elsewhere. If the Democrats can recruit a slightly more experience candidate and Ms. Hafen now counts. This race will be extremely close.

Change Up
Reason: Keller move on Iraq will make him less vulnerable; also Nevada’s first Democratic Caucus should give Democrats a great chance to get organized to beat Porter.  Democratic Nominee for Gov in 06 Diana Titus is one potential challenger.

4. WA 8
  Republican Dave Reichert 
  06 Winning Percentage  51%
  04 Bush Percentage 48%
  Reasons for Weakness
  A two term Congressman from one of eight Kerry won Republican held seats is by definition vulnerable, also a minority member. That he was able to get only 51% in both cycles adds to that vulnerability. This race will be very tight again. The Presidential should be helpful.
Change Up
Reason. His Iraq vote is particularly damaging in this district.  Washington State simply despises the War.

5.  FL 8
  Republican Ric Keller
  06 Winning Percentage 53%
  04 Bush Percentage 55%
  Reasons for Weakness
  You never want to run below the President of Your own Party in your district and this is exactly what happened to Ric Keller. This is particularly bad in a state where Republican loses were less than in other states. His 53% against a good but not great opponent in a peripherally targeted race was trouble enough, but he is now breaking a term limits and already has a republican primary challenger.

Change Down
Reason: His Iraq flip flop will probably benefit him slightly. More importantly he seems to be engaging hard to keep his seat and that makes you inherently

CA 4
  Republican John Doolittle
  06 Winning Percentage 49%
  04 Bush Percentage 61%
  Reasons for Weakness
  A congressperson never wants to get less than 50%, when that is combined with such a massive running behind of party ID It shows a member with a serious problem. The large amount spent on the legal defense fund might be why.  If Charlie Brown gives it another shot this could be a race.  We sure should make sure it is.
Change Up
Reason: Charlie Brown is in, corruption remains; this race will be a barn burner to the finish.

7. NJ 7

  Republican Mike Ferguson
  06 Winning Percentage  49%
  04 Bush Percentage 53%
  Reasons for Weakness
  Another Republican under 50% spells danger for him. He also is still a relative junior member just reaching the minority for the first time.  Linda Stender should be encouraged to make the challenge again and regardless this can be a very close race.  Ferguson’s positions on social issues are also out of step for the district.
Change Up
Reason Iraq will focus more importantly in this district as Ferguson voted to defend the Surge.

6. AZ 1
  Republican Rick Renzi
  06 Winning Percentage 51%
  04 Bush Percentage 54%
  Reasons for Weakness
  Hints of corruption, a weak re-election performance including running behind the President of your own party and being a relatively junior member now in the minority these are the challenges now faced by Rick Renzi.  This is a member who is beatable.
  Change Down
Reason: The other districts all seem to have at least possible challengers AZ 1 lacks that currently and Iraq will not cause as much of an issue here. Renzi corruption still makes him vulnerable but he is more likely to escape.

NC 8
  Republican Robin Hayes
  06 Winning Percentage 50%
  04 Bush Percentage 54%
  Reasons for Weakness
  Winning by less than 500 vote against the same opponent who was generally under-funded last time is all one needs to make the top ten list of vulnerable members, I think Larry Kissell should be the first person on the New Blue Majority List.
Change None
Reason: The race is the same, everyone else has a district fit issue  while this a straight even issue.

MI 9
  Republican Joe Knollenberg
  06 Winning Percentage 52%
  04 Bush Percentage 51%
  Reasons for Weakness
  This was probably the worst under-target in the nation besides PA 15 with less reasons for it. The good news however is that Joe Knollenberg now a minority member spent a huge amount of money his campaign money just to hold on.  He is also relatively old so a retirement would not be surprising. Either way this seat should be a top priority.  Nancy Skinner was a very good candidate that not only the DCCC but us in the Netroots missed as well. If  she runs again I think supporting  her would be justified.
Change Up
Reason. Joe Knollenberg is thought of as possibly retiring either way, he is a relic, in a Presidential, change has a real chance to sweep out Knollenberg. DCCC also seems to be very interested.

11.  CO 4
  Republican Marilyn Musgrave
  06 Winning Percentage 46%
  04 Bush Percentage 58%
  Reasons for Weakness
  46% is a terrible number for an Incumbent.  It means serious problems particularly when your last election performance before was already 7% the President behind that of the President of your own party.
Change Down
Reason:  Colorado seems to have just too much going on,  No candidates are emerging and this district is just going to be very tough. Musgrave is still outside the mainstream, though being in the minority actually gives her a smaller chance to say the kind of things that got her in trouble in the first palce.

12.  PA 18
  Republican Tim Murphy
  06 Winning Percentage 58%
  04  Bush Percentage  54%
  Reasons for Weakness 
  Scandal appears to be rearing itself into this district in a way that helps us.  This combined with a district remarkably similar to PA 4th where Melissa Hart was recently beaten. If not for the scandal this district would rank lower but for now it is a prime target
Change Up
Reason:  Hastert appears to be re-emerging as less talk of retirement appears edging this district up.

13. OH 16
  Republican Ralph Regula
  06 Winning Percentage 59%
  04 Bush Percentage  54%
  Reasons for Weakness
  When a nothing challenger holds you under 60% that is a problem. When you are already in your Eighties that is also a problem. When you are about to drop a tremendous amount in power that spells trouble. The Democrats already have a challenger and more will probably emerge.
Change Up
Reason: Retirement seems like a real possibility and a challenger has already appeared. Ohio seems to be trending Blue also.

14.  IL 6
  Republican Peter Roskam
  06 Winning Percentage 51% 
  04 Bush Percentage  53%
  Reasons for Weakness
  This was the DCCC’s greatest folly, by choosing a non-local candidate. It allowed the Republicans to frame the race in a way favorable to them and ultimately win it.  That said the race was extremely close. A freshman Republican minority member has to beatable.  Finding a local candidate will be essential.
Change  Up
Reason: Hastert moving down combined with Roskam deep conservative record makes this race the best in Illinois

15.  IL 14
  Republican Dennis Hastert
  06 Winning Percentage 60%
  04 Bush Percentage 55%
  Reasons for Weakness
  How the mighty have fallen. It is quite likely this seat will open up in 08 and if not Dennis Hastert is damaged goods, a bygone relic of an era that is gone. Illinois is also a state trending clearly our way.  This is a great chance.
Change: Down
Reason: Hastert looks more and more likely to run and this seat could drop far and fast if he runs for re-election

PA 6
  Republican Jim Gelach
  06 Winning Percentage  51%
  04 Bush Percentage  48%
  Reasons for Weakness
  51%,  three straight elections. It seems as  if  Jim Gerlach  is a survivor which makes him difficult to defeat and yet he clearly has to deal with transition from majority to minority.  A good Democratic Candidate will make this a  race again and quickly.
Change None
Reason Gerlach is vulnerable for the very same reasons he always has been and that stays the same this month.

17.  NM 1
  Republican Heather Wilson
  06 Winning Percentage 50%
  04 Bush Percentage  48%
  Reasons for Weakness
  Another absolute squeaker and another chance to take a Republican held seat. Heather Wilson is as slick as they come, though people do seem to think that Patricia Madrid made a late debate error. Regardless, she is vulnerable but difficult to beat.
Change Up
Reason: She took the wrong position on Iraq with the resolution and that is going to be  a problem.

Republican Barbara Cubin
  06 Winning Percentage  48%
  04 Bush Percentage  69%
  Reasons for Weakness
  No one likes Barbara Cubin and her extremely weak showing shows, and yet trying to overcome the Republican tilt of Wyoming is extremely difficult, particularly in a Presidential Year. It would not be surprising to see a better Republican challenge her in the primary. 
Change  Up
Walsh is dropping like a stone and this district benefits
OH 15
  Republican Deborah Pyrce
  06 Winning Percentage  50%
  04  Bush Percentage  50%
  Reasons for Weakness
  If you basically run  in a tie with your opponent in a Congressional Race, you are vulnerable. However Deb Pryce is a seasoned campaigner and I am readily able to change roles, as her shift out of Republican Leadership shows.  This is a tough one but completely winnable.
Change Up
Reason:  Moves up as a Result of Walsh

CT 4
  Republican Chris Shays
  06 Winning Percentage  51%
  04  Bush Percentage 46%
  Reasons for Weakness
  In many ways Chris Shays is like many of the other close races except that he has more long term incumbency and will be expect a challenge. I am from CT so I know of recruiting difficulties.  It is a winnable race but one that requires a complete commitment to it.  Still  only eight Kerry won districts have Republican Incumbents this is one of them.
Change  Up
Reason: His Iraq vote was bad for him, he moves up mostly because of Walsh but has a chance to move up more because of his Iraq vote.

21. .NY 13
  Republican Vito Fosella 
  06 Winning Percentage 57%
  04 Bush Percentage 55%
Reasons for Weakness
This race moved into the rankings from spot 26 because the DCCC targeted it for ethics violations. New York’s Democratic Lean in the last election makes it seem entirely possible that this race will finally get hot. 
Change up
  The other moved down and Vito’s corruption move him up also.

22. NY 25
  Republican Jim Walsh
  06 Winning Percentage  51%
  04 Bush Percentage  48%
  Reasons for Weakness
  After not having a real challenger in a long time Jim Walsh was faced with the scare of his life. Democrat Dan Maffei was also not as well funded as he could have been.  As  one of the eight Republican in Kerry won districts. Jim Walsh can expect a real challenge though unlike other members he will be ready for it.
Change Down
Reason: Flipping on Iraq clearly helps him in his district and make him slightly less vulnerable.

.  IL 10
  Republican Mark Kirk
  06 Winning Percentage  53%
  04  Bush Percentage 47%
  Reasons for Weakness
  The seventh  Kerry won district on the lists. Mark Kirk is much like Chris Shays was  after 2004. A scare yes, but he  still  had some breathing room. Picking him off will be very difficult, though Dan Seals giving it another try would be serious. 

Change Down
Reason: Mark Kirk leaving of the administration on Iraq is very bad for them but it is very good for his re-election prospects.

24. PA 3
  Republican Phil English
  06 Winning Percentage 54%
  04  Bush Percentage 53%
  Reasons for Weakness
  This was another under-target in PA , an area which trended toward the party in a serious way. There have also been rumor’s abounding about Phil English. Finding a good challenger will be difficult but he is clearly vulnerable because of his underperformance.
Change Down
Reason: Though he didn’t move, he seems less vulnerable because of his Iraq switch.

GA 10
Republican Open
04 Bush Percentage 65%
Open seats are always likely to flip more than others, the picture on this seat will get more clear soon. But it needs to be included in the top 25 for now. .

Entered Top  25
GA 10

Left Top 25
MI 11

Republican Scott Garrett
  06 Winning Percentage  55%
  04  Bush Percentage  57%

27. Republican Tom Davis
  06 Winning Percentage 55% 
  04  Bush Percentage 50%

28. OH 1
  Republican Steve Chabot
  06 Winning Percentage 53%
  04 Bush Percentage  51%

29.  IA 4
  Republican Tom Latham
  06 Winning Percentage  57%
  04  Bush Percentage  51%

30. NY 3
  Republican Peter King
  06 Winning Percentage  56%
  04  Bush Percentage 53

31. IL 11
  Republican Jerry Weller
  06 Winning Percentage 55%
  04  Bush Percentage  53%

32. .  NY 29
  Republican Randy Kuhl
  06 Winning Percentage  52%
  04  Bush Percentage 56%

33. OH 2
  Republican Jean Schmidt
  06 Winning Percentage 51% 
  04  Bush Percentage 64%

  Republican Bill Young
  06 Winning Percentage  66% 
  04  Bush Percentage  50%

35.  DE AL
  Republican Mike Castle
  06 Winning Percentage 57% 
  04  Bush Percentage  46%

36. CA 26
  Republican David Drier
  06 Winning Percentage 57% 
  04  Bush Percentage  55%

37. OH 3
  Republican Mike Turner
  06 Winning Percentage 59% 
  04  Bush Percentage  54%

38. FL 24
  Republican Tom Feeney
  06 Winning Percentage  58%
  04 Bush Percentage  55%

39.  NJ 3
  Republican Jim Saxton
  06 Winning Percentage  58%
  04  Bush Percentage  51%

40. MN 6
  Republican Michelle Bachmann
  06 Winning Percentage  50%
  04  Bush Percentage 57%

41. VA 2
Republican Thelma Drake
06  Winning Percentage 52%
04 Bush Winning Percentage  58%

42.  OH 12
  Republican Pat Tiberi
  06 Winning Percentage 58% 
  04  Bush Percentage  51%

43. NJ 2
  Republican Frank LoBiondo
  06 Winning Percentage  62%
  04  Bush Percentage  50%

NY 23
  Republican John McHugh
  06 Winning Percentage  63%
  04  Bush Percentage 51%

45. OH 14
  Republican Steve LaTourette
  06 Winning Percentage  58%
  04  Bush Percentage  53%

46. CO 6
Republican Tom Tancredo
06 Winning Percentage 59%
04 Bush Percentage 60%

Reason Likely to be open

  47. WI 1
  Republican Paul Ryan
  06 Winning Percentage  63%
  04  Bush Percentage 54%

48. ID 1
  Republican Bill Salli
  06 Winning Percentage 50%
  04 Bush Percentage 69%

49 . 
MN 3
  Republican Jim Ramstad 
  06 Winning Percentage  65%
  04  Bush Percentage  51%

50.  MI 4
  Republican Dave Camp
  06 Winning Percentage  60%
  04 Bush Percentage  55%

No changes in Top 50

MN-Sen: Interview with Al Franken

Cross-posted from Minnesota Campaign Report – feel free to drop by and keep track of what promises to be an exciting race for the better part of twenty months!

On February 14th, humorist and Air America radio personality Al Franken made official what political observers have long expected:  he will run for the DFL nomination for U.S. Senate in 2008, hoping to face off against incumbent Republican Norm Coleman.  In the wake of the announcement and, according to reports, several successful events to kick off the campaign, Franken took a few minutes to answer some questions about why he’s running, major issues, and standing up to the right-wing smear machine.

MNCR:  Straightforward question out of the gate:  Why are you running for the United States Senate?

Al Franken:  Here’s a straightforward answer: I’m not happy with the leadership Senator Coleman has provided on the issues that matter to me and to Minnesota families, and I know I’ll be a leader in the Senate. I’m going to lead on universal health care, on renewable energy, on taking care of our veterans, and on restoring America’s standing in the world.  I think we need more of that kind of leadership.  That’s the kind of Senators Minnesota has given the country: leaders like Hubert Humphrey and Paul Wellstone and Amy Klobuchar.  And that’s the kind of Senator I’ll be.

Read more after the break.

MNCR:  Moreso than most recent candidates for statewide office, your name is already known to many Minnesotans.  Which particular aspects of your experiences do you think prepare you both to run for and serve in the U.S. Senate?

AF:  You know, I’ve been in this debate for a while now, with my writing and my radio show.  People, I think, know me not just as a guy they’ve seen on TV, but as a guy who stands up for his principles and is willing to speak out on important issues.  Take my show – we’ve gone in depth on issues ranging from Iraq to stem cell research to renewable energy to health care to early childhood education to tax policy to Social Security.  I know the issues.  But more importantly, I know where I stand on the issues.  I’m for universal health care and against privatizing Social Security.  I’m for stem cell research and against the president’s Iraq policy.  I’m for comprehensive immigration reform and against CAFTA.  You’ll never have to check which way the political winds are blowing to know where I stand.

MNCR:  Is there a role for humor in the upcoming campaign season?  How will you tell Minnesota that you’re a serious candidate for a serious job?

AF:  Well, I think people have a right to be skeptical, and I’m going to have to prove that I take this seriously.  Again, I think if you listen to how I’ve dealt with the issues on my show and around Minnesota over the past year, you understand that I take the issues seriously.  How can you not?  That said, I don’t think humor and seriousness are necessarily incompatible, and I think this is going to be a fun campaign.  I’m not a career politician, and I’m sure I’ll make some mistakes as we go, but we’re going to run a really creative, really exciting race.  Oh, and, if I could, I’d like to acknowledge and apologize for all the mistakes in advance.  Can I do that?

MNCR:  Hmmm??No.

AF:  Ah, nuts.

MNCR:  The particulars are probably sensitive information, but what can you tell me about your strategy?  Will there be a focus on urban, rural, or suburban areas of the state?

AF:  I’m going to be a Senator for all of Minnesota, not just the Twin Cities.  Obviously, the Twin Cities represent one of the nation’s epicenters of the progressive movement, and I’m excited about being part of that.  The suburbs are growing and becoming more Democratic, and I think we will do really well there.  People there are interested in economic security and fiscal responsibility, and after how badly this Republican Party has screwed up in Congress, those are now Democratic issues.  And the rural communities around the state are what make Minnesota Minnesota.  It was so great to go around to Fergus Falls and Winona and Virginia and Crookston this past year and see the energy in these small towns.  You can bet I’ll be there a lot again during the campaign.

MNCR:  Does the fact that you’re running for the seat once occupied by Paul Wellstone have a role to play in this race?  What do you see as the single biggest failing of the seat’s current occupant?

Paul used to say, “The future belongs to those who are passionate and work hard.”  That’s how I approach politics – I’m not afraid to show that I’m passionate, and I’ll work harder than anyone in this race to earn the support of Minnesota’s families.  And I think this race is really going to be about character.  People disagreed with Paul sometimes, but they knew that he led based on his values, and they trusted someone who stood by his principles.  They knew what they were getting with Paul.  And I think that’s what leadership is.  So if you hear me say that Senator Coleman’s biggest failing is that he’s not a leader, that’s what I mean by that. 

MNCR:  What are your three biggest substantive issues right now, and what do you want to do about them in the Senate?

AF: Obviously, the biggest issue facing our country now is Iraq.  For the past four years, the Republican Congress gave Bush and Rumsfeld a blank check instead of fulfilling their constitutional responsibility to provide oversight.  That has to change.  Congress has to find the best way out of this mess with the least damage to our national security and to the people of Iraq.  Right now, I think that means putting pressure on the Maliki government to cut the Sunnis in on the oil, start a reconciliation process, and clamp down on sectarian death squads.  We need a regional conference that includes Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt, and a redeployment of our troops so they’re not caught in the crosshairs of sectarian violence.

2. Universal health care, starting with every single child in this country.  That we let kids go uninsured isn’t just wrong, it’s downright stupid.  It doesn’t cost that much to insure kids, and it keeps them in school, keeps them from developing chronic disease, keeps families economically secure if a kid gets sick.  It’s a no-brainer, and I’ll start fighting for that in my first 100 minutes in the Senate.

3. An Apollo program for renewable energy.  We can save our environment, make ourselves more secure by reducing our dependence on foreign oil (and actually DOING it, instead of just talking about it like the president does every year in the State of the Union), and create jobs here in Minnesota – it’s win, win, win, WIND.  Sorry.

4. Veterans’ health care.  Regardless of what people want to do with our Iraq policy, everyone supports the troops over there.  Me, I want to also support the troops when they get back here.  Senator Coleman has a 40% rating from the Disabled American Veterans.  That is really embarrassing.  I’ll fight to make sure we fully fund veterans’ health care.

Sorry, that’s four.

MNCR:  Already we’ve seen quite a bit of mud being slung your way from conservative pundits in Minnesota – what’s the best way, in your mind, to combat these attacks, and what outcome will you be fighting for in doing so?

AF:  I take it as a compliment – they’re obviously very worried.  And, you know, I was a comedian for a long time, and I’ve been in the public eye for a long time.  I’m sure they’re going to dig up anything I ever said in front of a camera or a reporter and see if they can make it sound bad.  If they want to turn this race into a referendum on my career as a comedian, I guess that’s their prerogative.  But I think Minnesotans are smart people with a very low tolerance for b.s., and I’m going to keep talking about how we can make things better for working families.  The attacks didn’t work in 2006, and they’re not going to work in 2008.  They may work in 2010; it’s too early to say.

MNCR:  Finally, what does the 60-second stump speech look and sound like, here at the very beginning of things?

AF:  It looks and sounds pretty much like my answers to the last seven questions, except I say it out loud instead of typing it.  Also, there are hand gestures and facial expressions.  Really, your readers are getting a bit cheated having to read this.  Maybe they should come out and see me around the state.

Or they could watch my announcement video, which is a bit longer than 60 seconds: watch here.