PA-Sen: Toomey Gets Closer to Specter

Quinnipiac University (5/20-26, “Pennsylvania voters,” early May in parens).


Arlen Specter (D-inc): 50

Joe Sestak (D): 21

Undecided: 27

(MoE: ±4.1%)

Pat Toomey (R): 38

Jim Gerlach (R): 10

Peg Luksik (R): 3

Undecided: 47

(MoE: ±4.3%)


Arlen Specter (D-inc): 46 (53)

Pat Toomey (R): 37 (33)

Undecided: 14 (10)

Arlen Specter (D-inc): 45

Jim Gerlach (R): 36

Undecided: 15

Joe Sestak (D): 37

Pat Toomey (R): 35

Undecided: 23

Joe Sestak (D): 36

Jim Gerlach (R): 30

Undecided: 30

(MoE: ±2.8%)

I still gag whenever I have to put a (D) after Arlen Specter’s name, and I don’t think I’m the only one. Specter’s approval margin among both Dems and independents dropped a dozen points over the last month. And the ratio of Dems willing to vote for him fell from 85-4 to 73-10. These numbers are still pretty high, though, so is there enough discontent for Joe Sestak to get in?

Interestingly, Sestak & Jim Gerlach have almost identical approvals, yet Sestak starts with a six-point lead. That points up the natural advantage Dems hold over Republicans in Pennsylvania these days.

P.S. In a move sure to anger wingnuts already steamed about the NRSC’s endorsement of Charlie Crist, Big John Cornyn said it was “premature” for the GOP to back Toomey, even though there are no other Republicans in the race (and the prospects of any getting in look slim).

AK-Gov: Berkowitz Gearing Up to Challenge Palin

You can’t keep a good man down. From CQ:

The Alaska Democrat who almost toppled Rep. Don Young last year is gearing up for another statewide race — against Gov. Sarah Palin, if she chooses to run for re-election.

“My sights are now on the governor’s race,” Ethan Berkowitz, a former leader of the Democratic minority in the state House, said in a phone interview on Wednesday.

Of course, we still aren’t exactly sure what Palin’s plans are for 2010. She’s already ruled out a primary challenge against Lisa Murkowski, but has otherwise stayed mum on the prospect of seeking a second term in the Governor’s cabin (something that would impede her ability to run for President in 2012).

As for any formal announcement from Berkowitz, don’t hold your breath:

Though he sounds ready to begin another campaign, don’t look for a Berkowitz candidacy announcement any time soon.

“It’s summertime here,” he said. “People don’t want to hear about all this yet. They want to go fishing.”

On another note, Alaska Democrats may want to think about looking for a new candidate to take on Don Young in 2010.

CT-Sen: Dodd Gets a Little Healthier, but It’s Still Ugly

Quinnipiac University (5/20-25, registered voters, late March in parens):

Chris Dodd (D-inc): 39 (34)

Rob Simmons (R): 45 (50)

Undecided: 13 (12)

Chris Dodd (D-inc): 41 (37)

Sam Caligiuri (R): 39 (41)

Undecided: 17 (17)

(MoE: ±2.5%)

Still terribly ugly, but at least the trend is in the right direction. Perhaps all the positive press Dodd got regarding his just-passed credit card legislation has been helping. Let’s just hope we don’t see any renewed feeding frenzies over Countrywide, AIG or the like.

Quinnipiac also took a look at some primary matchups:

Chris Dodd (D-inc): 44

Merick Alpert (D): 24

Undecided: 30

(MoE: 4%)

Rob Simmons (R): 48

Sam Caligiuri (R): 10

Undecided: 39

(MoE: 5%)

As Q notes, it’s pretty disturbing that a nobody like Merick Alpert – unknown to 91% of Democrats – should already be pulling a quarter of the primary vote as an “ABD” choice.

And finally, Quinnipiac asked a free-answer question about why exactly voters like and dislike Dodd:

In an open-ended question, allowing for any answer, 34 percent of voters who approve of Dodd list his experience and/or ability as the main reason.

For those who disapprove, 24 percent list Dodd’s overall dishonesty or lack of integrity, with 17 percent who cite his failure to deal with banking industry problems and 11 percent who point specifically to the Countrywide mortgage deal.

Needless to say, these aren’t easy things to overcome.

PA-Sen: Sestak Tells Supporters That He Intends to Challenge Specter

Fresh from TPM:

“He intends to get in the race,” says Meg Infantino, the Congressman’s sister, who works at Sestak for Congress. “In the not too distant future, he will sit down with his wife and daughter to make the final decision.” […]

Earlier today, a Sestak volunteer and contributor received a handwritten note from Sestak himself, announcing his intent to run and asking for a contribution. The source provided TPMDC a scan of the letter.

The note says, “I am writing you as especially dear supporters to let you know I intend to run for the U.S. Senate…my candidacy’s credibility will have much to do with my fundraising success by the 30 June FEC filing deadline at the end of this quarter. Would you help me bring the change for the future we Pennsylvanians need[?]”

Infantino confirms that the note is genuine and that “Joe Sestak has written a number of similar notes.”

It seems that the DSCC’s efforts to keep the field clear for Specter have not produced the intended result, even with Specter seemingly becoming more comfortably in his new baby blue threads as of late. Perhaps Sestak was encouraged by a recent labor-commissioned poll showing Specter ahead by only 55-34 (Sestak’s best margin yet).

Sestak’s 7th District in suburban Philadelphia used to be a Republican stronghold, but it has veered sharply to the left in recent elections; while John Kerry won the district by six points in 2004 (an improvement over Al Gore’s four-point win in 2000), Obama crushed McCain by 13% in the 7th CD last year. While the GOP will likely have a bench of candidates to choose from should Sestak take the plunge, the emerging consensus is that state Rep. Bryan Lentz, an Iraq War veteran who briefly ran for this seat in 2006, will be the Democratic flag bearer with Sestak out of the picture.

(H/T: Taegan)

SSP Daily Digest: 5/27

FL-Sen: Some guys just don’t seem to be getting the message that the NRSC is trying to consolidate support for Charlie Crist and shut down the competitive primary challenge from former state House speaker Marco Rubio. Thing is, these are some major players, starting with Mike Huckabee, whose latest fundraising e-mail from HuckPAC cited Rubio. (Rubio was one of Huckabee’s early backers in the GOP presidential primary.) Also, today Jeb Bush Jr. (son of the former Governor) endorsed Rubio. The elder Bush remains on the sidelines and probably will continue to do so… but this seems like the kind of thing someone in Jr.’s shoes doesn’t do without consulting dad (especially when you share the same name).

IL-Sen: When you’re facing long odds in a primary and sitting on $845 in funds, the words “FBI wiretap” aren’t likely to make your situation better. A just-released transcript of a conversation with Rod Blagojevich’s brother Robert shows Roland Burris promising to “personally do something” for Blago, although without creating the impression he was “trying to buy an appointment.” In the meantime, although he hasn’t announced re-election plans, Burris persists in acting like a candidate for 2010, taking a swing through a number of downstate cities this week.

OH-Sen: Rob Portman had a Memorial Day weekend he’d probably like to forget, as he visited to the Dayton-area VA Hospital on Sundary to do a little meet ‘n’ greet. Not only did he get a chilly reception from officials, who told him that campaigning on federal property is illegal, but from the vets as well, who peppered him with questions about Bush administration cuts to the VA budget, while Portman was OMB director.

MI-Gov: Unfortunately-named Republican Attorney General Mike Cox made it official; he’s running for Michigan Governor. Cox finished third in the one poll so far of the GOP primary, but the winner of the poll was Oakland Co. Executive L. Brooks Patterson (who has since announced he won’t run), and Cox, who’s also based in the Detroit suburbs, is likely to benefit from Patterson’s absence.

AL-Gov: As expected, Bradley Byrne, the chancellor of Alabama’s Two-Year College System and a former state Senator, announced his candidacy for Governor today. In a very cluttered GOP field, observers give Byrne something of front-runner status.

MO-07: State Senator Gary Nodler is publicly announcing something tomorrow, most likely that he’s running for the open 7th District seat being vacated by Roy Blunt. It’s already a crowded field, but a March internal poll gave Nodler the edge with 35%, leading state Sen. Jack Goodman and auctioneer Billy Long at 25% each. Nodler has the “my turn” factor working for him, as he lost the GOP primary for this seat the last time it was open, losing to Blunt in 1996.

PA-10: The GOP seems to be floundering in its efforts to find a candidate to take on sophomore Rep. Chris Carney in this R+8 district in northeastern Pennsylvania. All they have lined up so far is Lackawanna Trail School Director Dan Naylor and chiropractor David Madeira; Dan Meuser, who narrowly lost last year’s GOP primary to Chris Hackett, is “keeping his options open” but unlikely to run.

PA-11: Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty, in an interview, wouldn’t rule out running in a primary against weary Rep. Paul Kanjorski. (Doherty definitely sounds interested in moving up to something, although more focused on the open Lt. Gov. slot. Former Philadelphia controller Jonathan Saidel may have the inside track on that job, though.) This follows news that Lackawanna County Commissioner Corey O’Brien is also interested in Kanjorski’s job.

PA-12: Another possible changing of the guard in Pennsylvania: former State Dept. employee and Navy officer (and Navy Academy placekicker) Ryan Bucchianeri announced he’ll challenge John Murtha in the Dem primary. Somehow I doubt this is the kind of challenge that would prompt the 77-year-old Murtha to shrink in fear and contemplate retirement; more likely, Bucchianeri is positioning himself in case the increasingly cumulative weight of investigations into Murtha’s earmark quid pro quos takes Murtha down.

WI-03: Rep. Ron Kind hasn’t faced a serious challenge since his first election in 1996 in his Dem-leaning (D+4) rural Wisconsin district, but he may face an honest-to-gosh state Senator in 2010. Dan Kapanke is strongly considering making the race.

GA-09: State Representative Tom Graves jumped into the field for the GOP primary to replace retiring Rep. Nathan Deal (who’s running for Governor). Expect a crowded GOP field in this R+28 district: former state transportation board chair Mike Evans, former state Sen. Bill Stephens, county commissioner Mike Cowan, and activist Jeremy Jones are all already in.

NYC-Mayor: Weiner Is Out, Officially

Via the Daily News:

Citing a combination of factors – from Mayor Bloomberg’s overwhelming financial advantage to his own desire to “build a family” – Rep. Anthony Weiner has officially bowed out of this year’s mayoral race via an OpEd in the New York Times.

The news comes just hours after the Queens Democrats endorsed Comptroller Bill Thompson, giving him a clean sweep of the city’s five  Democratic county committees, and in the wake of a City Hall news report that Weiner had decided not to challenge Thompson for their party’s mayoral nomination.

Thompson will have a hell of a time against Bloombo’s $80 million, but this at least means Dems can avoid a potentially divisive primary, something Weiner specifically cited as he pledged to help Thompson.

FL-Sen-GOP: Jeb Bush Sons Oppose Charlie Crist

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

Republican former Governor Jeb Bush, who remains a popular figure among Florida Republicans, has two sons, George P. and Jeb Jr..  Back in February, George P. Bush offered a stinging rebuke of current Gov. and 2010 Senate candidate Charlie Crist’s lack of conservative cred:

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) is only a “light” version of a Democrat, former Gov. Jeb Bush’s (R) son claimed Saturday.

“There’s some in our party that want to assume that government is the answer to all of our problems,” Bush said at a meeting of young Republicans, as reported by the Orlando News. “You know who I’m talking about,” he added, referencing Crist.

After the speech, Bush said Crist is perhaps becoming more of a “D light” politician, not adequately in line with Republican politics.

Fast forward three months and Jeb Bush’s other son, Jeb Jr., announces his endorsement of Charlie Crist’s 2010 Republican Senate primary opponent, former state House Speaker Marco Rubio:

Today I would like to let you know that I will be enthusiastically supporting my friend Marco Rubio for his bid for the United States Senate.

Florida and our country are at a crossroads. Not only in our economic life, but in who we are as Republicans. …

With Marco, we have a great opportunity to elect a true conservative and a greater obligation to elect a man of principle. …

If you can make a donation today to keep this effort going it will go a long way to bring back common sense and a return to conservative principles in Washington.

According to Jeb Jr., Republicans are at a “crossroads” over their identity and Rubio is the only “true conservative” in the race who can return “conservative principles” to Washington.  Read: Charlie Crist does not represent the Republican Party.

I can’t imagine that these statements from Jeb’s boys go out without Daddy Jeb’s blessing.  Make no mistake, former Governor Jeb Bush does not want his gubernatorial successor to win the Republican nomination for Senate.  Further, couple the support of Jeb’s boys for Rubio with the recent endorsement of Mike Huckabee for Rubio and we see the underdog picking up steam.  Anybody rushing to anoint Charlie Crist as Florida’s next Senator better slow down.  Conservatives still run the GOP, and Charlie Crist simply isn’t up to snuff.

NC-Sen: Burr Under 50 Against All Comers

Public Policy Polling (PDF) (5/19-21, “North Carolina voters,” Shuler trendlines from January). I’ve put each of the Dem candidates’ favorables in brackets.

Elizabeth Edwards (D): 35

Richard Burr (R-inc): 46

Walter Dalton (D): 29 [24-29]

Richard Burr (R-inc): 48

Dan Blue (D): 33 [24-31]

Richard Burr (R-inc): 44

Richard Moore (D): 34 [36-25]

Richard Burr (R-inc): 47

Bob Etheridge (D): 31 [31-27]

Richard Burr (R-inc): 47

Heath Shuler (D): 28  (28) [25-25]

Richard Burr (R-inc): 44 (39)

Cal Cunningham (D): 34 [46-16] ‡

Richard Burr (R-inc): 42

(MoE: ±3.5%)

‡ Cal Cunningham is a one-term state Senator & Iraq veteran (more here). PPP tested him using a positive two-sentence bio as a lead-in, to compensate for his otherwise low name rec – hence the high favorables. A February poll without the bio showed Cunningham with a 10-23 approval rating (sort of odd, huh?), but still holding Burr to a 46-27 margin.

Here’s how Tom Jensen of PPP sums up the situation:

Pulling together all the information we have, here’s the state of the race: when Roy Cooper decided not to run Democrats lost the only candidate who would have made this an instant tossup. But Richard Burr is still in a vulnerable position pretty comparable to where Elizabeth Dole found herself at this time two years ago. But whoever the Democratic standard bearer ends up being will have to be molded into a formidable candidate, as Hagan was, rather than just inherently starting out as one.

Now Democrats are going to have to make a choice – do they get a Shuler or McIntyre who have big bank accounts and a good position from which to raise more or do they go more towards a Cunningham who might need more help raising money but can run as an outsider in an election cycle where not having any Washington taint could be a very good thing? It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

That sounds about right to me.