SSP Daily Digest: 2/2

MI-Sen: Peter Hoekstra, having just started as a “senior adviser” at Dickstein Shapiro, let Politico know that, despite all appearances associated with his new job, he hasn’t ruled out a 2012 Senate bid, saying he’s keeping his options open. (I know that on my first day on the job, I like to loudly tell everybody that I may not be working there much longer. Really helps you get off on the right foot with your boss.)

MT-Sen: Jon Tester wasted no time in going after newly-announced Denny Rehberg, drawing connections between Rehberg and Michele Bachmann (and her proposed $4.5 billion in VA cuts). Bachmann will be a featured speaker at the event on Saturday where Rehberg formally announces. Tester raised $128K in Q4 with $562K, a decent amount for the small state of Montana but not much different from Rehberg’s $553K war chest.

TX-Sen: You might remember talk from a couple years ago where ESPN analyst Craig James was interested in running for what was then expected to be a Senate special election to replace a resigning Kay Bailey Hutchison. That faded into the mists of time, but here’s the first statement of interest I’ve seen from him since the race re-opened up thanks to her retirement. It comes up in the context of him saying that, yes, he believes people in Lubbock would still vote for him despite his role in getting Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach fired.

UT-Sen: An interesting piece about Orrin Hatch focuses mostly on how he’s trying to avoid the fate of Bob Bennett by reaching out and engaging the local tea party crowd as much as possible; a local ‘bagger comments that Hatch shouldn’t expect their endorsement but his efforts will really limit the outrage that seemed to overwhelm Bennett. (Hatch also has an interesting selling point to offer them: if he’s defeated but the GOP takes the Senate, that puts Olympia Snowe in charge of Finance.) Buried in the story is a provocative comment from Bennett’s vanquisher, Mike Lee, who only says that he’ll “fully support” the GOP nominee without saying anything about backing Hatch.

AK-AL, NY-13: Here are two House races where the potential challenger has the financial advantage, according to new Q4 numbers. One is the possible GOP primary for Alaska’s at-large seat, where Joe Miller has $825K left in the bank, thanks to money he didn’t get a chance to spend on his legal defense, whereas Don Young has $170K CoH. (Miller, of course, hasn’t said anything specific about a race against Young in 2012, but he and Young have publicly traded some barbs.) The other is NY-13, where surprise Republican victor Michael Grimm actually finds himself in debt, with a net minus-$36K while Democratic ex-Rep. Mike McMahon, who seems to be laying groundwork for a rematch, has $17K CoH leftover.

IN-05, IN-06: Roll Call looks at the slowly-developing race to replace Mike Pence in the 6th. Most (if not all) the action is on the GOP side so far, with former Wayne Co. Sheriff Matt Strittmatter the only one with a campaign account open so far (which contains $39K). Other GOPers include 1990s-era ex. Rep. David McIntosh, Henry County Council president Nate LaMar, ’10 Senate primary loser Don Bates, and ’10 IN-05 primary loser Luke Messer… but it sounds like Messer, who almost beat the unloved Dan Burton, may be running in the 5th again, seeing as how Roll Call got Burton’s office to confirm that Burton (frequent subject of retirement speculation) plans to run for re-election. One other wrinkle: Republican redistricting efforts to redden Joe Donnelly’s IN-02 may wind up making IN-06 less Republican, so that might encourage Dems to at least consider playing in the 6th.

MT-AL: With Montana’s at-large House seat suddenly looking like it’s on track to be an open seat, we may actually get some decent Democratic candidates in the race. It’s occasionally been a competitive seat, currently at R+7, though not really hotly contested since the last time it was open, in 2000. Democratic State Rep. Franke Wilmer of Bozeman is already floating her name for the race. (If she won, she’d be the first woman in the seat since the legendary Jeannette Rankin.)

SD-AL: Now this is interesting: Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (haven’t heard anything about a rematch, but this might perk up her ears) is actually leading a hypothetical rematch by one point (46-45) against new Republican Rep. Kristi Noem, according to PPP. PPP points out that she lost by three in 2010, so that small shift is consistent with the small nationwide bump upwards for the Dems over the last month or two. Herseth Sandlin’s favorables are 55/36, compared with Noem’s 38/35 approvals. Over on the Senate side, Tim Johnson (who isn’t up until 2014) is at 47/41 approval.

LA-AG: We’ve seen a couple dozen legislative party-switchers from the Democrats to the Republicans in southern states in the last few months, in the wake of several states’ chambers finally completing their realignment all the way down to the state level, but nobody at a statewide level doing so… until now. Louisiana AG Buddy Caldwell, facing a potentially tough general election, plans to switch to Republican status. (I’d invoke the cautionary specter of Parker Griffith, but Louisiana uses a jungle primary so switching to a potentially tough primary instead may not be the kiss of death.) Since Caldwell was already the only Democratic AG who had joined the multi-state lawsuit against healthcare reform, his “Democrat” status was pretty negligible at this point.

MA-St. House: This may be one of the largest constituencies where I’ve seen a race end in a tie (although I’m sure someone in the comments can come up with a historic example of an even bigger race that tied). The November election in Massachusetts’s 6th Worcester district in the state House was just declared a tie by a superior court judge, and (rather than flipping a coin, drawing lots, or sending them to Thunderdome) a do-over special election was ordered. Democratic incumbent Geraldo Alicea and GOPer Peter Durant both got 6,587 votes. No date has been set yet, but we’ll all be on pins and needles that night, seeing as how Dems control that chamber by only a 128-31 margin.

CA-Referenda: A statewide special election is planned for some point in June, as Jerry Brown seeks a public mandate for extending increases in three different taxes (and he seems to think he has a better shot getting this through a public vote than the legislature). This is likely to be an entirely vote-by-mail affair, presaging a potential California shift in the direction of its west coast brethren. Somewhat counterintuitively (since vote-by-mail is usually considered to boost Dems), though, observers think this might skew the election toward older, whiter voters, as mail delivery is “unreliable in spots” (?!?) in heavily-minority Los Angeles County and voters there still tend to rely heavily on polling places. On the plus side, though, a recent PPIC poll found more support for extending the taxes among the 55+ set (56 yes/38 no) than among the entire population (where there was 50 yes/48 no support). Have the most seriously tax-hating seniors all fled to Arizona?

Fundraising: The Fix has a bunch more Senate fundraising numbers to report, building on the numbers we gave you yesterday. For the Dems, Bob Casey Jr. seems to be fully engaged with his race, pulling in $621K in Q4 for $1.3 million CoH, while the publicity surrounding FiliBernie seems to have been a big cash cow for Bernie Sanders, who raised $485K for $536K CoH. Bob Menendez raised $237K for $2.4 million CoH, while freshly-elected Joe Manchin seemed to take a breather from fundraising, raising only $18K for $377K. Among not just vulnerable Republicans but basically everybody else in the Senate, Scott Brown is still the unstoppable money machine, in terms of both cash raised and CoH: $734K raised for $7.2 million CoH. Richard Lugar raised $173K for $2.35 million CoH, while Olympia Snowe raised $79K for $1.2 million CoH.

Census: We’re still waiting for this week’s released of detailed 2010 data for Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Virginia, but the Census Bureau is letting us know that next week they’ll be out with four more: Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, and Maryland.

WATN?: Rod Grams somehow managed to be one of the least memorable Senators of my lifetime who managed to serve a full term (surprisingly swept in in Minnesota in 1994, easily turned out in 2000), and now he’s working a job that seems befitting his anonymity. He’s working as a Hill staffer, and not even on the Senate side: he’s the new chief of staff to new MN-08 Rep. Chip Cravaack. (Recall that Cravaack did what Grams couldn’t do in 2006: knock off Jim Oberstar, in what was a strange comeback attempt by Grams.)

SSP Daily Digest: 9/9

CO-Sen: The NRSC got its sort-of-top-tier challenger to Michael Bennet in the Colorado Senate race: former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton filed to form an exploratory committee and launched her campaign website, suggesting that the exploratory period will be a brief one. Norton’s never been elected on her own (just while joined to popular Gov. Bill Owens), but, unlike the rest of the GOP field, she’s at least known statewide.

CT-Sen, AR-Sen: Chris Dodd finally made his decision about which Senate committee to chair, and he opted to return to Banking, instead of continuing at HELP where he shepherded through health care reform legislation in Ted Kennedy’s absence. He still has a lot on his plate; he’ll be focusing on bolstering financial services regulations and creating a new banking consumer protection agency (all stuff that would seem less likely to happen if Tim Johnson took over Banking). The WaPo says that all signs point to Tom Harkin of Iowa, #2 on HELP, ditching his coveted Agriculture chair to take over HELP. This means the Agriculture chair is likely to fall to Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas (bypassing a few other more senior Senators with better chairs), who, while not from a big farm state, is facing a difficult re-election and will benefit from the profile and money that come from a chair.

LA-Sen: The Charlie Melancon campaign released an internal poll taken by Anzalone Liszt that’s getting a little stale (taken in mid-May, long before Melancon announced), but that shows Melancon in striking distance. The head-to-head has David Vitter beating Melancon 47-37 (and Melancon winning the bogus “after hearing positive info” vote 49-41). The good news is that Vitter’s re-elect number is down to 39%, with 45% preferring someone new. Melancon has 35/13 favorables.

TX-Sen: Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst sent a letter to supporters that he’s running for re-election in 2010. While he may be the initial odds-on favorite to replace Kay Bailey Hutchison in the Senate, I wouldn’t take this to mean he’s not running in the Senate special election — since he doesn’t need to give up his seat to run and he’d probably like to keep being Lt. Gov. if he loses the election, and there’s also still a possibility that KBH doesn’t resign after all, if she senses the gubernatorial primary heading south on her. (H/t DTM,B!)

AK-Gov: No surprise here, but Democratic former state House minority leader and 2008 House candidate Ethan Berkowitz filed his candidacy papers today. He’ll likely face off against Sean Parnell, who inherited the office after Sarah Palin’s re$ignation, but first he’ll need to survive a primary against state Sen. Hollis French and Bob Poe. (Parnell will also need to survive a primary against state Rep. John Harris.)

MA-Gov: Tim Cahill picked a strange day to make his announcement, on a day when everyone is fixated on the Massachusetts Senate race instead, but today he made official what has long been suspected: he’s running for Governor. The Dem-turned-Independent state Treasurer has a $3 million warchest, giving him a big edge over incumbent Dem Deval Patrick, who has $464K (of course, if Christy Mihos wins the GOP primary, he can put all his expenses on his own tab). Polls that have included Cahill have shown him running neck-and-neck with Patrick, although Cahill is running against tradition — there has apparently never been an Independent elected to statewide office in Massachusetts.

MN-Gov: I’ve completely lost track of how many people are now running for Minnesota Governor — let’s just say it’s a number somewhere between 10 and 800 — but one more guy got in the race on Labor Day: state Rep. Tom Rukavina, for the DFL. Rukavina is from the town of Virginia in the rural but very pro-union Iron Range.

OR-Gov: While the Dem side of the Oregon Governor’s race is narrowing, the GOP side keeps growing: former state Senator John Lim from Portland’s eastern suburbs said he’d get in. Lim is best-known for losing the 1998 Senate race to Ron Wyden (with a whopping 34% of the vote).

SC-Gov: While it’s unclear whether “calls for resignation” on Mark Sanford’s part will ever turn into a tangible move for impeachment or just some pre-emptive ass-covering by state Republicans so it looked like they tried, those calls are getting louder. The state’s House Speaker, Bobby Harrell, made the call yesterday, and now there’s talk of a letter with the signatures of at least 60 House GOPers (out of 72, and almost half the entire House) calling on Sanford to step down.

VT-Gov: As we reported yesterday, Vermont Auditor Tom Salmon did in fact follow through on his decision to switch to from the Democrats to the Republican Party. However, Salmon sounds likely to run again for Auditor, saying there’s a “10% chance” he’ll run for Governor instead. Salmon said that he’d support Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie if Dubie were to run for Governor, and wouldn’t challenge him in a primary. There’s been no word from Dubie, though, on what he plans to do.

FL-08: Rep. Alan Grayson… well, let me try to be kind here and say that he courageously ignores all that conventional wisdom about who and who not to piss off. He’s picking a fight with his hometown paper, the Orlando Sentinel, referring to them in a fundraising e-mail as “a trashy tabloid that dresses up bias and gossip as news.”

FL-24: Former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz may have decided against a run in his current home district, the 24th, but he’s holding a fundraiser on behalf of Winter Park city councilor Karen Diebel, one of the three GOPers seeking the nod to go against Rep. Suzanne Kosmas in this R+4 district.

IL-10: Bob Dold is running for the GOP nomination in the 10th District, joining state Rep. Beth Coulson and rich guys Dick Green and Bill Cadigan. Bob Dold is a lawyer who also owns a pest control business. In keeping with district’s lean, Bob Dold says that Bob Dold is fiscally conservative and socially moderate.

NE-02: Jim Esch, who’s coming off two back-to-back losses to GOP Rep. Lee Terry, switched his party affiliation to “independent” last week, but said yesterday that he has no plans to seek elected office at any level in the future. Esch defended his decision to the Omaha World-Herald: “I feel a little hypocritical when I go to Democratic parties and say, ‘I’m a Democrat’ when I don’t believe in the party.” (J)

Meanwhile, across town, state Sen. Tom White (who’s apparently still a Democrat) officially launched his campaign against Terry today.

PA-03: Suddenly there’s a backlog of challengers to Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper, the Dem freshman in this R+3 district. Republican Meadville businessman Paul Huber, who ran a heating equipment company and served on a local medical center board, filed campaign paperwork. AG’s office investigator Elaine Surma is already in the race for the GOP, and former Erie County Solicitor John Onorato sounds likely to run.

PA-06: Here’s a likely minor, but certainly interesting, challenge to Doug Pike (who seems to have the establishment support locked down) in the Democratic primary in the open seat race in the 6th. Manan Trivedi is a Reading native born to Indian immigrants; he is an Iraq vet and a primary care physician. He formally announced his campaign yesterday.

Redistricting: Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita has gone off the deep end in anticipation of the next round of redistricting in Indiana: he wants to make it a felony to consider politics in the redistricting process. Um… considering that Rokita is a Republican and that Republicans are likely to control the redistricting process post-2010, I don’t quite get it. (And neither do Republican legislators, who are telling him to shut up.)

Votes: The Hill compiles a list of 23 Democrats who have indicated opposition to “the health care plan moving through the House.” (Nancy Pelosi can afford to lose up to 38 votes.) It’s unclear what “opposition” means, and the rationale isn’t always the same (Eric Massa, for instance, opposes it, but only because he’s stuck in single-payer mode), but it’s an interesting list, generally of the vulnerable and/or the hardcore Blue Doggish (although New Jersey’s John Adler strangely stands out like a sore thumb).

MA-Sen: What’s Next

Having had some time to let the passing of Ted Kennedy sink in, speculation inevitably turns to who succeeds him (and when). There hasn’t been an open Senate seat in Massachusetts since 1984, so there’s a backlog of long-time Representatives with huge bank accounts all trying to crash the door at the same time… and with a mid-term special election meaning no one would have to give up a safe seat to run, expect a lot of people running.

While Massachusetts currently has a system where there is no gubernatorial appointment but rather a mid-term special election (a result of a legislative change passed in 2004 to prevent Mitt Romney from appointing a Republican successor to John Kerry), there is now a push to update the law to a system more like what is done in Texas: a short-term appointment until the special election can be held. This was suggested by Kennedy himself in a letter released a week prior to his death (which met some initial resistance last week), but with Democrats painfully aware that Kennedy’s absence leaves Senate Democrats at 59 and at least one vote short on a health care reform cloture vote, momentum is building for a quick post-Labor Day vote that would change the law again to allow for the short-term appointment. Governor Deval Patrick said on MSNBC that he would sign such a bill, and state House Speaker Robert DeLeo has given it his tacit approval.

Roll Call suggests that, if this passes, the short-term appointee is unlikely to be someone who would contest the special election. They point to former Governor (and Presidential candidate) Michael Dukakis as a likely appointee; he has already given assurances that he will not run in the special.

The next question is: what’s the timetable on the special election? It doesn’t seem like any changes to the law regarding interim appointment will involve changes to the special election timetable. The Hill calculates:

The special election must be held between 145 and 160 days after the vacancy occurs. Since Kennedy died late Tuesday, that puts the window between Jan. 17 and Feb. 1. Holding the race on a Tuesday, a traditional Election Day, would mean Jan. 18, Jan. 25 or Feb. 1.

So who runs, among the Democrats, in the special? Speculation centers on as many as five of the state’s ten Democratic House members, and two former House members as well.

Rep. District Age CoH
Ed Markey MA-07 63 $2.89 mil
Richard Neal MA-02 60 $2.5 mil
Stephen Lynch MA-09 54 $1.39 mil
John Tierney MA-06 57 $1.29 mil
Michael Capuano MA-08 57 $1.2 mil
Martin Meehan was MA-05 52 $4.8 mil
Joe Kennedy II was MA-08 56 $1.7 mil

One high-profile House member who has already indicated that he won’t run is Barney Frank. The 69-year-old Frank is at the pinnacle of his power as House Financial Services Chair. Ed Markey is a something of a question mark; he’s also one of the most powerful House members, as a 33-year veteran and chair of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee, making it less likely he’d be willing to give up his gavel… but there’s also no question he’s been stockpiling money for this very contingency for many years.

The remaining members of the House delegation are 72-year-old John Olver (considered a likely retiree soon), 68-year-old Bill Delahunt, 63-year-old Niki Tsongas (who just got to the House), and 49-year-old Jim McGovern. McGovern, based in Worcester’s MA-03, is sitting only only $536K, which apparently isn’t enough for prognosticators to consider him a likely candidate.

Former Reps Meehan and Kennedy are also question marks. Meehan has by far the most money of anyone, and has been sitting on it in miserly fashion since leaving the House to become chancellor of UMass-Lowell. Although he’s reportedly happily ensconced in his new job, his hunger for a Senate seat while still in the House was palpable, and the fact that he’s still hoarding his cash is a red flag. Kennedy has a huge intangible advantage, perhaps a field-clearing one, in that, well, he’s a Kennedy, and there’s understandable sentiment about keeping at least one Kennedy in the Senate. Kennedy, however, has been out of office for a while, and a subsequent ugly divorce and controversy of Venezuelan oil deals may cast a bit of a shadow over him. (Plus, more generally, the Kennedy name may not have the iconic power it used to, as seen in the Caroline Kennedy and Chris Kennedy flameouts this year, as well as the 2002 loss of Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.)

There are two other non-House, female candidates who could make the race. One is Kennedy’s widow, Vicki Kennedy, who hasn’t held office but could be a sentimental favorite; however, indications are that she isn’t interested in running (although she could be another possible short-term appointee). The other is AG Martha Coakley, who has had her eye on the Senate seat for some time, polling the race several times. While she doesn’t have a big stash of federal dollars like the other candidates (she has only $144K), she would bring something of a demographic advantage to the race by being the only woman, as well as the only statewide official. Coakley has been quick to hit cable TV in the last couple days.

There must be some Republicans to run, right? What passes for GOP top talent in the Bay State (Christy Mihos, Charlie Baker) is already looking at the Governor’s race, where they’ve been historically more successful and where Patrick is unpopular. That leaves former Lt. Gov. (and 2006 gubernatorial loser) Kerry Healey, former US Attorney Michael Sullivan, former Ambassador Chris Egan, state Senator Scott Brown, former Justice Dept. official Wayne Budd, and businessman David Sukoff as GOPers who’ve been mentioned. Former Bush CoS Andy Card, and Jim Ogonowski, who ran well in the MA-05 special election, are reportedly not interested.

There’s one other name being floated: former Governor Mitt Romney. To most observers, that’s comical, considering that Romney a) is busy running for President, and won’t want to get involved in the relatively small ball time-suck of the Senate, and b) didn’t run for re-election as Massachusetts Governor because he would have had his ass handed to him, after veering to the right in order to prep for his Prez run and repeatedly dissing his own state while doing so. US News’s delusional Peter Roff still sounds hopeful, saying that the fact that being in the Senate would help Romney prove his conservative bona fides — but offering no evidence for Romney’s electability in Massachusetts other than his 100% name ID.

Meanwhile, there’s one other entirely separate game of musical chairs: Senate committee assignments. Kennedy was chair of Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (or HELP), one of the two key Senate committees on health care reform. The acting chair of HELP while Kennedy was out has been Chris Dodd, who has been doing double-duty while also chairing Banking. The ball’s basically in Dodd’s court now: whether he wants to switch full-time to HELP, or go back to Banking. This actually impacts his re-election strategy, interestingly: does he go to HELP, and focus on building accomplishments there in order to distract from lingering dissatisfaction (not necessarily deserved, but either way, the perception is there, especially regarding the AIG bonuses) from his tenure at Banking? Or does he go back to Banking in order to show his constituents he’s focused on cleaning up the mess there? (State Sen. Sam Caligiuri, one of his minor GOP contenders, is already jumping on Dodd over possibly moving to HELP.)

So, if Dodd moves to HELP, that means Tim Johnson of South Dakota takes over Banking. However, the moderate Johnson is still slowed by his brain hemmorhage from several years past, and has been a low-key participant since then; he might defer to the 3rd in line, the much more liberal Jack Reed of Rhode Island, which would certainly improve our chances of robust re-regulation of Wall Street in the coming year.

On the other hand, if Dodd stays at Banking, Tom Harkin is 2nd in line at HELP. While Harkin certainly has had a stake in such issues, he may prefer to remain as chair of Agriculture, the defining issue in his state of Iowa. Either way, we’d then likely get the only female committee chair: if Harkin stays at Agriculture, 3rd in line to chair HELP would be Barbara Mikulski. If Harkin moves to HELP, the Ag order then goes Patrick Leahy (chair of Judiciary), Kent Conrad (chair of Budget), and Max Baucus (chair of Finance). It’s hard to see any of them wanting to give up those gavels, so next in line to lead Agriculture would be Arkansas’s Blanche Lincoln — which might give her something valuable to honk her horn about as she faces a potentially difficult re-election.

UPDATE (James L.): This shouldn’t be considered a surprise to anyone with their head properly screwed on, but Mittens says that he won’t run for Teddy’s seat.

KS-Sen, SD-Sen, IA-Sen: Midwest Roundup

Rasmussen (7/14, likely voters) (6/11 in parentheses):

Jim Slattery (D): 30 (39)

Pat Roberts (R-inc.): 57 (48)

(MoE: ±4.5%)

Rasmussen (7/9, likely voters) (6/10 in parentheses):

Tim Johnson (D-inc.): 60 (60)

Joel Dykstra (R): 35 (34)

(MoE: ±4%)

Rasmussen (7/10, likely voters) (6/10 in parentheses):

Tom Harkin (D-inc.): 52 (53)

Christopher Reed (R): 36 (37)

(MoE: ±4%)

Rasmussen unleashed a torrent of midwest Senate polls yesterday and today. Kansas is the only eye-opener here. After their previous poll showed ex-Rep. Jim Slattery showing surprising strength against three-term Sen. Pat Roberts (and Roberts in the danger zone below 50%), things gravitated back toward more typical second-tier numbers this month.

Democratic Senators Johnson and Harkin both seem entirely safe. In fact, the big surprise is that Johnson, who, until New Jersey became interesting, was usually slotted in as the GOP’s second-best pickup opportunity after Landrieu (more a statement on their paltry chances than on actual likelihood of flipping the seat), is safer than Harkin. (Although I’m not sure Harkin has ever broken 60% in a Senate race, so maybe it’s not that surprising.)

When the GOP is left praying for 3 of its members to resign!

Congressional politics is defying all electoral norms these days. Usually, parties fear retirements more than anything and do as much as they can to get their representatives and senators to run again. Last week, however, Republicans breathed a small sigh of relief when Rep. Renzi announced he would not seek re-election in AZ-1. Stuck in ethical investigations, Renzi was playing right in the hands of the Democratic argument that Republicans are ethically challenged, and he could have doomed GOP chances in his district. Republicans learned the lesson of 2006, when they lost many of their House seats in heavy Republican territory because the incumbent was embroiled in scandals. (The worst were girlfriend-beating and mistress-strangling allegations made against Sweeney in NY-20 and Sherwood in PA-10). An open seat, Republicans reason, might actually be easier to defend.

The same thing is happening now: the resilience of Senator Craig, Senator Stevens of Alaska and Rep. Doolittle (CA-4) in the face of scandal are making their seats pick-up opportunies for Democrats. If any of these Republicans were to retire, Democratic chances would diminish.

Read full analysis – as well as an analysis of the South Dakota Senate race, where Republicans are also looking for a resignation to have any hope of having the seat – here, at Campaign Diaries.

  • Idaho

Senator Craig is the only one I believe should not retire, given the shady nature of the police report and Republican hypocrisy. But it is undeniable that his running for re-election is what gives Democrats the best shot. Yesterday, Mitch McConnell talked to Craig and confirmed reports that Craig was going to fight to invalidate his own guilty plea — and would stay in the Senate if he succeeded. McConnell implied he thought Craig should stay away from the Senate, and furious Republicans said the same, and moved to already replace Craig on the Senate committees he vacated last week.

But all might not be lost for Democrats even if Craig does resign. Idaho Governor Otter was reported yesterday to be considering appointing a place-holder, meaning someone who will not run for a full-term in 2008. Otter reportedly said that too many Republicans want the job, so that it would be unfair of him to act as a one-man Republican primary. In such a case, Otter would allow Lt. Gov Rish, Rep. Simpson and otehr Idaho Republican figures to fight it out in the primary, and then compete for an open seat. Republicans would probably still be favored, but La Rocco would at least have an opening.

  • Alaska

Alaska Democrats have not been able to capitalize on opportunities the past few cycles, with former Governor Knowles losing a very tight Senate race in 2004 and a not-so-tight race for Governor in 2006. The Republican bench in Alaska is deep, and the Palin v. Knowles race 2006 indicated that the GOP has a huge edge in case of open seats. So, Dems have no chance against veteran Senator Stevens in 2008? Not so fast. We all remember how the FBI raided Stevens’s house last month. Yesterday came news from The Hill that the allegations of unethical behavior are mounting against Stevens:

Sen. Ted Stevens has quietly steered millions of federal dollars to a sportfishing industry group founded by Bob Penney, a longtime friend who helped the Alaska Republican profit from a lucrative land deal, according to public records and officials from the state. Critics say those earmarked federal dollars could be the first example of how Stevens rewarded Penney for a land deal in Utah that reportedly earned the senator more than $125,000. Penney’s group, for its part, rewarded Stevens with several expensive gifts at the time it was receiving the earmarked dollars.

With Anchorage Mayor Begich possibly getting in the race, Democrats would have an easier time making a case against Sen. Stevens than winning an open seat.

  • CA-4

Rep. Doolittle represents a very Republican district of California that should be no trouble for Republicans. But he is being investigated for corruption and for his ties to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Plagued by the scandal, Doolittle barely survived in the 2006 election, edging Democrat Brown by a few points. Brown is back for a rematch, and knows that the Republican edge of the district would be to much to overcome if it wasn’t for Doolittle’s troubles. Yesterday, things got a bit more difficult for Doolittle, as two of his aides were subpoenaed to testify in front of a grand jury.

And then came out this poll from a Republican polling firm (Wilson Research Strategies) showing that Doolittle would lose against Charlie Brown 51% to 31%. Doolittle, who is facing a Republican primary against several candidates, would edge out his competitors with only 34% of the vote. You better believe Republicans are praying for Doolittle to resign or lose the primary. Or they might as well give up any hope of keeping CA-4 come November 2008.

Read full analysis – as well as an analysis of the South Dakota Senate race, where Republicans are also looking for a resignation to have any hope of having the seat – here, at Campaign Diaries.

Senate 2008 Retirement Watch

(From the diaries. – promoted by James L.)

(Cross-posted on my DKos diary.  I originally posted this to my blog on February 4, but I want to get the input of the DKos and SSP communities on the topic.  What have you heard in your states?  Note that since I posted this, Thad Cochran has delayed his retirement vs. re-election bid decision, and Pete Domenici has made stronger assertions toward a re-election bid.  Also, Frank Lautenberg has made his intentions crystal clear.)

We know that the numbers favor Senate Democrats in 2008.  21 GOP vs. 12 Democratic Senators up for re-election gives the GOP a great deal more territory to have to protect.  And, as hard as it can be to hold incumbent seats, it’s even harder to retain open seats.  This again favors the Democrats, as there are many more Republican Senators on “Retirement Watch.”

DSCC Chair Chuck Schumer has said that he has gotten assurances from every Democratic Senator that they are all running for re-election, except for Iowa’s Tom Harkin, who has since demonstrated public steps toward a re-election bid.

Aside from Harkin, I’m not sold that New Jersey’s Frank Lautenberg is definitely going to run for re-election, which might not be a bad thing given Lautenberg’s low approval ratings and NJ’s wealth of Democratic Congresspeople waiting for a promotion, not to mention that Lautenberg is the Democrats’ oldest 2008 incumbent by just over a decade.

Also, Delaware’s Joe Biden is looking at the White House, but is hardly a favorite to win the nomination in 2008, meaning that he will likely opt for Senate re-election and have plenty of time to do so.

This leaves only the recovering Tim Johnson of South Dakota as a significant question mark, and even his camp is showing signs, from staffing to fundraising, that a re-election bid could still be on the horizon, health-permitting.

Meanwhile, more than half of the GOP’s 21 incumbents are on the retirement watch spectrum.  After spending much of the last decade-plus in the majority party, many of these Senators will find that spending 2007 in the minority will make for a less pleasant work environment.  And with many states, like Colorado and Virginia, on a blue-trend, some Republican Senators may opt for retirement rather than risking ending their career on a loss.  Beyond that, many Republican Senators are just really old.

1) Colorado’s Wayne Allard: Definitely retiring

2) Maine’s Susan Collins: Is under a self-imposed term-limit-pledge, but is planning a re-election bid.  However, if Tom Allen gets in the race and Collins’ broken promise becomes a major issue, with polling going strongly Allen’s way, it’s not inconceivable that Collins would step aside

3) Virginia’s John Warner: Publicly leans one way, then publicly leans the other – definitely considering retirement

4) Alaska’s Ted Stevens: Is 200 years old and threatens to retire every time he doesn’t get his way on a vote – claims to be preparing for a re-election bid, but we’ll see

5) Mississippi’s Thad Cochran: Publicly undecided on a re-election bid and says he may not make up his mind until November

6) Nebraska’s Chuck Hagel: Considering a White House bid, with rumors afoot that he may retire from the Senate regardless of a Presidential bid

7) Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander: Was considering retiring until he received choice committee assignments – still not publicly confirmed for re-election, though – if he dislikes serving in the minority enough, he may just hang it up

8) New Mexico’s Pete Domenici: not publicly committed to a re-election bid, as rumors of retirement thoughts persist, as well as rumors of a questionable mental state, including wandering the halls of Congress in his pajamas

9) North Carolina’s Elizabeth Dole: her staff has claimed that she’s planning on re-election, but she has not made any definitive comments; meanwhile, many factors, including her age, her horrible job as NRSC Chair, and her recent hip replacement, suggest that retirement may be a strong possibility – also, polling has the reluctant Mike Easley ahead of Dole; if he got in, maybe she’d prefer to avoid a tough re-election campaign

10) Texas’ John Cornyn: While he is very clearing planning a re-election bid, he is also one of Bush’s top choices (if not Bush’s first choice) for a Supreme Court opening should there be one more before the end of Bush’s term – granted, I’d rather have Cornyn in the Senate running for re-election than enjoying a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court

11) Oklahoma’s Jim Inhofe: Rumors exist that he is considering retirement, though this is a rare situation (perhaps akin to NJ’s Lautenberg) where the non-incumbent party might have an easier time beating the incumbent than a replacement (say former Governor Frank Keating)

12) Idaho’s Larry Craig: Another situation of more rumors circulating while Craig waits on a formal public announcement one way or the other

Running (or most likely running) for re-election: Saxby Chambliss (GA), Norm Coleman (MN), Mike Enzi (WY), Lindsey Graham (SC), Mitch McConnell (KY), Pat Roberts (KS), Jeff Sessions (AL), Gordon Smith (OR), John Sununu (NH)

Though only one retirement is announced, if the stars aligned well enough, the GOP could face a meltdown with more than a half-dozen retirements.  While we can’t hang our hats on that many open seats, we can probably expect a couple more to follow Wayne Allard.

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SD-Sen: Keep Tim Johnson in Your Prayers

Courtesy of Hotline on Call:

Admiral John Eisold, Attending Physician of the United States Capitol said, “Subsequent to his admission to George Washington University Hospital yesterday, Senator Tim Johnson was found to have had an intracerebral bleed caused by a congenital arteriovenous malformation. He underwent successful surgery to evacuate the blood and stabilize the malformation. The Senator is recovering without complication in the critical care unit at George Washington University Hospital. It is premature to determine whether further surgery will be required or to assess any long term prognosis.”

Barbara Johnson, wife of Senator Johnson, said, “The Johnson family is encouraged and optimistic. They are grateful for the prayers and good wishes of friends, supporters and South Dakotans.

“They are especially grateful for the work of the doctors and all medical personnel and GWU hospital.”

Now is not the time to engage in ghoulish speculation over the consequences for Senate control, especially this close to the holidays.  Let’s just keep the Senator and his family in our thoughts and prayers in this trying time.