SSP Daily Digest: 4/22


AZ-Sen: I keep saying that there’s no way Jeff Flake waltzes to the GOP nomination, but the Republican party has yet to prove me right. Fortunately, my deliverance may come in the form of rich guy Wil Cardon, who is supposedly giving the race a “very strong look” – and can self-fund.

CA-Sen, CA-Gov, etc.: Like another failed Republican gubernatorial candidate before her, it looks like we won’t have Meg Whitman to kick around anymore. Actually, that’s kind of confusing, because of course we did get to kick Dick Nixon around quite a bit more… but not until he kicked all of us around first. Anyhow, uh, where was I? Oh yeah, the former eBay chief says she “doubts” whether she’ll run for office again. Let’s hope she means it.

MA-Sen: Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead, and Deval Patrick still won’t run for Senate.

MT-Sen: For once, I’m hoping a Republican schedules more fundraisers – at least, fundraisers like this. Denny Rehberg just did an event in Denver that was co-hosted by BP’s “director of government and public affairs” (i.e., their chief in-house lobbyist)… on the one-year anniversary of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Good optics!

ND-Sen: This should scare absolutely no one off, from either party: Republican Public Service Commissioner Brian Kalk, the only declared candidate to succeed retiring Sen. Kent Conrad, raised all of $32K in Q1. John Hoeven he ain’t. While we’re on the subject of North Dakota, former Sen. Byron Dorgan, who retired last year, just donated the bulk of his remaining campaign funds – $1 million – to a new charity he founded, the Center for Native American Youth. A worthy cause, I’m sure, but I’ll bet Joe Sestak would have really appreciated that extra mil.

OH-Sen: It’s weird how the GOP went from utterly dominating last year’s Senate election in Ohio to digging out their barrel-bottom scrapers from the back of the utility shed. Ken Blackwell says he’s talking to the NRSC about a possible run… though I guess it’s not really clear if the NRSC is talking back. A lulzy quote: “You don’t just come out and build the sort of support base that I have overnight.” True – you probably need to spend two years running a crappy campaign to do as terribly as he did in the governor’s race back in 2006.

TN-Sen: This is a little odd: Sen. Bob Corker said he “came close” to not seeking re-election this cycle. Too bad we don’t have a candidate who could make hay out of Corker’s lack of fire in the belly (a phrase he actually uses with respect to some fantasy presidential run, but seems applicable to his day job, too).

VA-Sen: It’s starting to feel like the wingnut candidates are doing everything they can to make life easier for George Allen by piling into the clown car that is the GOP primary field. The latest is rich dude Tim Donner, whom we mentioned last month. Almost all of these weirdos claim to be teabaggers in good standing, so this almost assuredly means we’ll see some People’s Front of Judea/Judean People’s Front nonsense, rather than a united effort to stop Allen. Lame.


KY-Gov: Republican frontrunner David Williams raised just $450K in Q1 and has $670K on hand. (This compares to Gov. Steve Beshear, whose numbers we mentioned previously: $1.3m/$3.3m.)

NC-Gov: PPP’s monthly home-state poll shows Gov. Bev Perdue inching up against Republican Pat McCrory, trailing 49-38 instead of 50-36. That’s very similar to a new SurveyUSA poll which has McCrory up 51-39.

SC-Gov: The issues are a little too complex for me to try to summarize here in a digest bullet, but the link will take you to an interesting story exposing some pretty naïve political incompetence on the part of supposed GOP wunderkind Gov. Nikki Haley. One thing I’d like to remind folks of is that despite the Republican bloodbath of 2010, Haley didn’t perform all that impressively. In fact, she had the second-narrowest win out of all 20 victorious GOP gubernatorial candidates, just 4.3%. Only Rick Scott won more narrowly, and he’s Rick Scott. Dem Vincent Sheheen got almost no national attention but should have, given his strong performance in a tough state in an impossible year. If Haley continues to stumble, I think she could prove surprisingly vulnerable in 2014.

SSP Daily Digest: 4/19

HI-Sen: Both Rep. Mazie Hirono and Rep. Colleen Hanabusa have confirmed to Roll Call that they are looking at the Dem primary to replace retiring Sen. Dan Akaka, and Hanabusa says she’s meeting with the DSCC, presumably soon. She also says that the DS “has made it known it wants to speak with anyone interested in running, but it is not actively recruiting any one candidate” (Roll Call’s phrasing).

IN-Sen: So GOPer Richard Mourdock raised $157K, not much better than the $125K or so he predicted (in an obvious attempt to ensure he “exceeded analysts’ estimates,” as they might say after a Wall Street earnings call). But I flag this item because Roll Call says Mourdock plans to “raise money from a national donor base starting next year.” Does this mean he’s going the Sharron Angle/Michele Bachmann/Allen West BMW Direct-type direct mail scammery? (See related bullets below.) If so, then perhaps Dick Lugar is in better shape than he might have hoped.

MO-Sen: This is news to me: Sophomore GOP Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer is apparently thinking about a Senate bid, and has reportedly even met with the NRSC about his intentions. Dave Catanese says that “uncertainty about redistricting” is spurring Luetkemeyer to consider other options, but I’m not sure I buy that, seeing as the new maps being considered by the Republican-held legislature offer him a very comfy seat. The real puzzler is why he’s doing this when six-term Rep. Todd Akin seems to be gearing up for a Senate run, since there’s almost no way the two would want to fight it out in a primary. Maybe Lute thinks he can be Plan B if Akin demurs.

Another reason cited by Catanese (which applies equally well to both congressmen) is ex-Treasurer Sarah Steelman’s crappy fundraising. She pulled in just $186K in Q1, which would be unimpressive for a supposedly serious candidate in almost any state. If Akin gets in, I think there’s a non-zero chance that she’d drop out.

MT-Sen: Nice: Sen. Jon Tester (D) raised $1.2 million in Q1 and has $1.5m on hand. His Republican opponent, Rep. Denny Rehberg, raised less than half that, $580K, but has $932K in the bank.

NE-Sen: Sen. Ben Nelson raised $1 million in Q1 and has $2.3 mil on hand. His chief Republican rival, AG Jon Bruning, raised $1.5 million and has $1.2 in the bank, but Nelson pointed out that $600K was transferred from Bruning’s 2008 Senate account (when he briefly sought to primary Chuck Hagel; after Hagel announced his retirement, Bruning was squeezed out by former Gov. Mike Johanns).

OH-Sen: Former state Sen. Kevin Coughlin, whom we’d mentioned previously as a possible candidate, has filed paperwork for an exploratory committee, joining Treasurer Josh Mandel in this in-limbo category in the GOP primary.

TN-Sen: I feel like there’s an alternate universe not too dissimilar from our own where a Republican dude named Bob Corker is also freshman in the U.S. Senate, and he’s also up for re-election, except Corker Prime is actually vulnerable. Here on Earth, though, it really seems like Corker is well out of reach for us. He raised an impressive $1.9 million in Q1 and has over $4 million in the bank – and there are no Democratic candidates on the horizon.


MO-Gov: Gov. Jay Nixon lapped his likely Republican opponent, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, on the fundraising circuit, pulling in over twice as much money over the last six months, $1.7 million to $770K. Nixon also has a big cash-on-hand edge, $2.1 mil to $900K.

But other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the show? Well, pretty terrible, actually – Kinder’s had just an awful few weeks in the press. After the St. Louis Post-Dispatch revealed his penchant for spending taxpayer money to stay in luxury hotels to attend baseball games and society balls, Kinder promised to reimburse the state $35K… but two weeks later, he still hasn’t. That nimbus definitely isn’t moving anywhere just yet, and it’s his own damn fault. Let’s hope he runs the rest of his campaign the same way.

NC-Gov: This just doesn’t seem good. Gov. Bev Perdue, whose public image has already suffered enough damage, was out-of-state Saturday afternoon when a series of deadly tornadoes touched down in North Carolina. She was attending a horse race in Kentucky and didn’t make a public appearance back home until 11pm that night. I’m not going to predict what this will mean for Perdue, but it can’t be helpful.

WV-Gov: SoS Natalie Tennant’s first ad is a hokey spot set on a farm, in which she decries politicians wasting money… and a cow can be heard to moo. (Or a bull. I don’t know. It has horns. But small ones. So maybe still a cow? Do bulls moo? I’m from the city – sue me.) Tennant is generally seen as the candidate with the greatest appeal to liberals (yes, there are some in West Virginia), so she’s clearly trying to play against type here.


AZ-08: Rep. Gabby Giffords raised $358K in Q1 and has $556K in the bank.

CA-19: Freshman GOP Rep. Jeff Denham (I admit it – I had already forgotten who he was and had to Google him) is already making a name for himself. That name is “idiot.” He staged a mega-lavish DC fundraiser in January when he was sworn in which featured singer Leann Rimes and spent an amazing $212,250 on the event. Total raised? $212,900 – which means he netted exactly $650. That’s quite the feat. It’s even more amazing when you consider it was all supposed to benefit a joint fundraising committee for 11 GOP frosh. To rub it in, Michael Doyle of the Modesto Bee archly observes: “If the $650 netted from outside contributors were to be divvied up evenly, each of the 11 GOP lawmakers would receive $59.”

CA-36: Janice Hahn outraised Debra Bowen in Q1, $273K to $195K, and has about double the cash-on-hand, $171K to $93K. Surprisingly, Marcy Winograd managed to raise $50K. (And if you care, Republican Craig Hughey lent his campaign $250K.)

Bowen also put out an internal from the Feldman Group. In a test of apparently all the candidates who have filed, she and Hahn tie for 20, with Republican Mike Gin the next-closest at 8 and Winograd at 6. The memo also says that in a two-way runoff, Bowen leads 40-36 with 16% undecided. The poll also claims that Hahn’s unfavorability rating is “double that of Bowen,” but a self-respecting pollster really shouldn’t include such tripe, because the refusal to release actual numbers means we’re talking about something like a 12-to-6 comparison (i.e., meaningless). As mi hermano G.O.B. Bluth would say, “COME ON!”

FL-08: Hah! Does Daniel Webster want to lose? The GOP freshman raised just $30K in Q1, but the really funny part is that the guy he defeated, Alan Grayson, raised more! Grayson took in $38K, apparently from small donors who hope he’ll make a comeback bid.

FL-22: Allen West raised a seemingly-impressive $434K in Q1, but as you know, he’s a major practitioner of the churn-and-burn style of shady direct-mail fundraising, and it really shows in his burn rate. He spent an amazing $266K last quarter, which both as a raw total and a percentage rate is exceedingly high… but see the MN-06 and NV-02 items below.

IA-04: Interesting, though not surprising: Politico says that DCCC chair Steve Israel warned Christie Vilsack off of challenging Dave Loebsack in the new 2nd CD, assuring her that the D-Trip would back the incumbent. He also apparently promised to support her if she took on Rep. Steve King (as she supposedly might do), though who knows what kind of $ that might translate into.

IL-03: Insurance exec John Atkinson, who is apparently challenging Rep. Dan Lipinski in the Democratic primary, raised $535K in Q1, including $312K from his own pockets. Lipinski raised just $138K but has $637K on hand.

MN-08: Freshman GOPer Chip Cravaack raised just $121K in Q1 – so why are we having such a hard time finding a Dem willing to take this guy on?

MN-06: Michele Bachmann raised a MIND-OBLITERATING $1.7 million in the first quarter… and yes, I’m being sarcastic, because she also managed to spent $756K. Of course, netting a million bucks ain’t bad (and she has $2.8 mil on hand), and if she truly pulls the trigger on a presidential run, I’ll bet the spigots will open even wider. But that’s still quite the burn rate.

NV-02: Sharron Angle makes Allen West look as parsimonious as Scrooge by comparison. Everyone’s favorite nutter (okay, it’s a multi-way tie, but you know you love her) raised an amaaaaaaaaazing $700K in Q1, but spent an actually amazing $550K, mostly to BaseConnect, the scam artists formerly known as BMW Direct. She has only $176K in the bank.

NY-26: Republican Jane Corwin is not fucking around: She raised just $102K in Q1, but gave her own campaign a whopping million dollars. Yow. Meanwhile, Crazy Jack Davis has raised zilch, but has loaned himself $1.5 mil and already spent $1.4 mil.

Other Races:

Denver Mayor: SSP commenter Kretzy has a really good run-down on the May 3rd Denver mayor’s race, necessitated by John Hickenlooper’s ascension to the governor’s mansion. I won’t try to summarize it – you should just click through. Timely, too, because SUSA has a poll out on the race, showing James Mejia and Chris Romer tied at 22, with Michael Hancock next at 18. Again, read Kretzy’s summary if you want to know more about these people.

Wisconsin Recall: Signatures were filed yesterday to force a recall election for a third Republican state senator, Luther Olsen, and Dems expect to file petitions for Sheila Harsdorf today. (Number of Dem state sens who’ve had petitions filed against them so far: 0.) Also, the state’s Government Accountability Board says it will try to consolidate the recalls into as few elections as possible.

Grab Bag:

DSCC: In an item about Herb Kohl raising $0 last quarter (he can cut himself a fat check any time he pleases, so this isn’t meaningful), Dave Catanese says that DSCC chair Patty Murray said “she was confident all of the remaining incumbents were running for reelection.” Kohl is the most obvious candidate for retirement, and of course Murray could be wrong, but maybe this is it.

Fundraising: The NYT has a list of fundraising by freshman Republicans, and also notes that IN-08 Rep. Larry Bucshon took in just $45K. Not really wise for a guy whose district is likely to be made at least a bit more competitive. The Fix also has a fundraising roundup.

LCV: The League of Conservation Voters is launching a $250K radio ad campaign targeted at four members of the House who voted in favor of a bill that would bar the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions. The ads are hitting two Republicans running for Senate, Denny Rehberg and Dean Heller, as well as Energy Cmte Chair Fred Upton (R) and Jason Altmire (D). Here’s a sample ad (targeted at Heller), which I actually find kinda weird and confusing.

Passings: Former Rep. Harold Volkmer, who represented mostly rural northeastern Missouri’s 9th CD for ten terms, passed away at the age of 80.

Redistricting Roundup:

Colorado: Now this at least is a fight that makes sense: Republicans control the Colorado House, while Dems control the Senate – and tempers have already exploded with the release of proposed redistricting plans from both sides. (See yesterday’s digest for the maps.) Speaker of the House Frank McNulty flipped out, accusing Democrats of drawing districts that would benefit two legislators in particular: Senate President Brandon Shaffer and Sen. Morgan Carroll.

However, Carroll said she has no plans to run for Congress, while the Dem point-man on redistricting, Sen. Rollie Heath, pointed out that the new 4th CD (which McNulty thinks Shaffer wants to run in) has a 10 percent GOP registration edge… in other words, not the kind of seat you’d drawn for yourself if you were an ambitious Democrat. So either McNulty is just a garden-variety moran, or he’s just trying to cast fact-free aspersions against the other side. We’ve seen a lot of this kind of crap from Colorado Republicans already, so door number two is a definite possibility (but of course, it’s not mutually exclusive of door number 1).

Missouri: Trying to unlock a stalemate that seems remarkably picayune to outsiders such as myself, Republican power brokers in Missouri met yesterday to talk things over. Among the participants were most of the Republicans in the state’s congressional delegation, the heads of the state House and Senate, and the chair of the MO GOP. No sort of deal has been announced as yet.

Virginia: Hah – so much for lawmakers racing back to work to deal with Gov. Bob McDonnell’s veto of their redistricting plans. Legislators had planned to be off this week, so rank-and-file members declined leadership’s entreaties to show up.

SSP Daily Digest: 3/30


AZ-Sen: Jeff Flake then:

That’s the difficulty of a campaign. I mean, it’s easy to just say, “Seal the border and enforce the law.” What does that really mean? What does that entail? And when you’re able to explain it, then they’re alright. And I think for those who don’t agree with my position-think that it ought to be something different-at least I think they give me a little credit for sticking with my position because I’ve always believed this is what we need and I continue to believe regardless of the political environment.

Jeff Flake now:

In the past I have supported a broad approach to immigration reform – increased border security coupled with a temporary worker program. I no longer do. I’ve been down that road, and it is a dead end. The political realities in Washington are such that a comprehensive solution is not possible, or even desirable, given the current leadership.

In other AZ news, the subscription-only Arizona Guardian says that ex-Rep. Matt Salmon may endorse Rep. Trent Franks, rather than his old buddy Flake (who succeeded him in Congress when he unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2002), something they characterize as a “snub” on their home page. Franks of course hasn’t announced a run yet, but Dave Catanese claims he’ll do so this Saturday. Just hope whoever told Dave this is more truthful than the dipshit who dissembled about Connie Mack last week. (And I still maintain that Dave had every right-if not an obligation-to burn that source.)

FL-Sen: Adam Hasner has to be feeling pretty good about himself these days. Rep. Connie Mack inartfully bowed out of the race, and Mike Haridopolos has already scored a few own-goals. So the former state House Majority Leader took to his Facebook to declare that “this election still needs a proven limited government leader, who is solid across the board on the conservative principles.” Why golly, that sounds just like Hasner, doesn’t it?

IN-Sen, IN-02: Rep. Joe Donnelly sure sounds like he’s interested in running for Senate. He told Robert Annis, a reporter for the Indianapolis Star, that he thinks his “experience is best served in the Senate.” Annis also characterized Donnelly as “leaning toward” a run. A different reporter at the same event characterized him as “leaning strongly toward” a Senate bid if the GOP makes his current district redder.

MI-Sen: PPP has the remainders from their Michigan poll last week, a kitchen sink GOP primary:

Pete Hoekstra is the clear first choice of Republicans in the state for who they’d like as their nominee to take on Debbie Stabenow next year. 38% say he’d be their pick compared to 18% for Terri Lynn Land. No one else cracks double digits, with Saul Anuzis at 5%, Justin Amash, Randy Hekman, and Tim Walberg at 4%, Chad Dewey at 3%, and Tim Leuliette with the big egg at 0%.

Speaking of The Hook, he said he’ll decide whether to challenge Stabenow in two weeks. In an amusing side note, Hoekstra admitted he got all butthurt when MI GOP chair Bobby Schostak said in a recent interview that he expects a candidate to emerge who is ” head and shoulders” above the current crop of potentials-a group which obviously includes Hoekstra. Of course, Schostak also said of this mystery candidates: “I don’t know who it is. They haven’t met with me yet, if they’re out there.” We don’t know who they are either!

NV-Sen: Rep. Dean Heller, presumably trying to scare off would-be primary opponents, raised a pretty massive $125K in a single event in Vegas on Monday night.

OH-Sen, OH-12: This is… getting strange. Top-tier Ohio Republicans have all pretty much taken a pass on challenging Sherrod Brown, or at least seem to be leaning against a run. But one guy all of a sudden put his name into the hopper: Rep. Pat Tiberi, who sits in the very swingish 12th CD. Tiberi’s spokesman made sure to remind Dave Catanese that he’s on Ways & Means, though, so that’s a pretty tasty perch to give up. Catanese also notes that state Sen. Kevin Coughlin is preparing a run.

RI-Sen: I guess rich guy Barry Hinckley is running against Sheldon Whitehouse? The founder of a software company called Bullhorn (“the global leader in On Demand, integrated front office software for the staffing and recruiting industry”), Hinckley is apparently trying to burnish his Republican credentials by holding some fundraisers at California yacht clubs. (Not joking about that.)


LA-Gov: 2010 Lt. Gov. nominee Caroline Fayard is starting to sound very much like a gubernatorial candidate… that is, if you can hear her over her foot-stuffed-in-mouth. She didn’t do much to help her cause by declaring at a recent even that she “hates Republicans” because they are “cruel” and “eat their young.” (Uh, I talk a lot of shit about the GOP, but what does “eat their young” even mean?) Fayard later tried to wiggle her way out of this by claiming “I’m against the president, but I don’t need to see his birth certificate.” So she’s managed to kill her crossover vote and her support among African Americans in one fell swoop. Well, uh, she sure is getting some free media out of this. (Hat tip: Daily Kingfish)


CT-05: I guess I thought that former state Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D) had already announced she was running for Chris Murphy’s seat, but apparently she’s only just formed an exploratory committee.

MN-06: It’s not particularly meaningful, since the funds can be transferred to another federal account, but Michele Bachmann did just file to run for re-election yesterday.

NY-25, VA-02: Dan Maffei apparently says he’ll decide on a rematch “in the next two months,” while Glenn Nye (I’d forgotten he was still considering) will wait until “sometime in the summer.” (That’s how The Hill phrased it in both cases.)

RI-01: With the city of Providence’s finances imploding, freshman Rep. David Cicilline is taking a beating over his stewardship of the city he used to be mayor of. Among other things, a new Brown University poll finds him with a statewide approval rating of just 17-49. Could Cicilline be vulnerable in the general election? I doubt it, but he could underperform annoyingly and require help that could best be expended elsewhere, like a Paul Kanjorski. I think he might be more at risk in a primary.

Other Races:

Wisconsin Recall: In just the last two months, the Wisconsin Democratic Party reports raising $1.4 million-or, a quarter million more than it did in all of 2010. In other news, a coordinator of the petition drive against Randy Hopper seems to have gone off-message with his intimation that volunteers would have “closer to 30,000 than 15,000” signatures by Tuesday (a month before the deadline). 15,269 sigs are needed for the recall to happen, but a spokesperson for the Democratic Party told the Journal Sentinel that these figures (such as they are) “are not accurate” and wouldn’t say more. Quite understandably, t’s pretty much been the policy of the party not to talk about where things stand.

Wisconsin Sup. Ct.: JoAnne Kloppenburg is out with TV and radio ads that tout her independence.


WATN?: Artur Davis, douchebag from beyond the grave. This is actually the same link as the NY-25/VA-02 item above; Davis did an event with Maffei and Nye at which he said that President Obama would bear the brunt of the blame for any government shutdown. Davis’s claim: “I think that voters always focus on the executive as the responsible officer.” That’s why Bill Clinton lost so badly in 1996, right?

In other WATN? news, I’m guessing that ex-Rep. Bart Gordon (D) is probably ruling out a run for the seat he voluntarily gave up last year (TN-06), or a Senate bid – he just took a job at the law firm of K&L Gates. (The “Gates” is Bill Gates, Sr., the Microsoft founder’s dad, who is now retired.)

Redistricting Roundup:

Indiana: Have an idea for an Indiana state Senate map? Sen. Tim Lane (D) wants to hear from you! (Seriously!) Contact information is at the link.

Louisiana: Even though he had said he’d stay out of it, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s been weighing in on the redistricting process-and Dems, as you might guess, aren’t happy about it. Click through the article to learn more about the exact nature of the dispute. Ultimately, though, it sounds as though Jindal will get his way, which more or less preserves the status quo.

Funnymanders: What happens when a very careful redistricting job blows up in your face because the state Senate Majority Leader’s son being groomed for the new seat tells the media he can’t even remember being arrested for getting into a dispute over chicken fingers at Applebee’s? Well, I’m calling that a funnymander. Nathan Gonzales has the details on that story, and a few other anecdotes as well, about redistricting gone awry.

Dark Money: On the darker side of redistricting is all the unregulated cash flooding into various coffers, which Politico takes a look at. A big reason is an FEC decision last year which allowed members of Congress to raise unlimited soft money for redistricting groups, and both Dems and Republicans are, of course, going at it full bore.

SSP Daily Digest: 3/1

FL-Sen: Mike Haridopolos is starting to look like one of those guys who just seems to track muck wherever he goes – or has been. How do you like this for both ridiculous and corrupt? He received an astounding (a) $152K (b) in taxpayer money to (c) write a book that (d) no one would ever read – and that (e) never got published because (f) the manuscript was too shitty to print. Getting that much (a) to do (c) is remarkable in any environment, but particularly when (a) is in the form of (b), and (d) ensures that the whole venture will be a major money-loser. (E) and (f) are really just the punch line – which makes Haridopolos the joke (and Florida taxpayers the serious losers here).

MA-Sen: I get the sense that Deval Patrick’s decision to blab to the National Journal about the candidates he’s talked to who might run for senate must either have been deliberately planned or really unappreciated. Patrick said that 2010 special election candidate Alan Khazei and Newton Mayor Setti Warren told him they are “in, for sure” – leading Warren to tell Wicked Local Newton that he’s merely considering the race and has no timetable for an announcement. Was Patrick fluffing Warren in a helpful way, or was he just cracking out of turn?

MT-Sen, MT-Gov: Was this even a thing? Dave Catanese asked Gov. Brian Schweitzer if he and Sen. Jon Tester might trade places – the term-limited Schweitzer running for senate and the flat-topped Tester running for governor. Schweitzer said nuh-uh.

TN-Sen: I won’t call it a “must-read,” but a strong “should-read” piece in the Tennesean gives some good background on Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, who may be one of the strongest (only?) Dem options to take on Sen. Bob Corker in 2012. Dean has a Phil Bredesen-like “moderate” background, has been largely successful as mayor, and also has a very wealthy wife. But the article notes that Dean first has to win re-election as mayor this August (though he’s the favorite) – and more importantly, he hasn’t express any particular interest in running for senate. Maybe a run against freshman Gov. Bill Haslam in 2014 might be a better choice.

VT-Sen: Republican state Auditor Tom Salmon says he’ll decide on whether to challenge Sen. Bernie Sanders this week. He has a conference planned for noon Thursday.

IN-Gov: Mike Pence, a very likely gubernatorial candidate, offered quite a bit less than a full-throttled defense of Gov. Scott Walker’s attempts at union busting, perhaps in an effort to avoid a rift with the man he’s hoping to replace, Gov. Mitch Daniels. But given that Daniels’ decision not to follow Walker’s lead engendered a ton of teabagger vitriol, I’m wondering if Pence’s move to go soft here might cause him trouble in a potential GOP primary.

ME-Gov: Speaking of Scott Walker, Gov. Paul LePage, elected with 38% of the vote, says that he, too, will pursue his lifelong dream of destroying collective bargaining rights. LePage may run into static from the GOP legislature, though, before he has the chance to fully transform himself into Kochbot 2.0.

MS-Gov: It’s always a little tricky when someone is referred to as a businessman of some sort, but I’m going to guess that newly-announced Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron Williams, “owner of Pascagoula-based Hazmat Services Inc.,” is a lot closer to the Some Dude end of the spectrum than the zillionaire kapitalist side.

WI-Gov: Speaking of Scott Walker yet again, the RGA has a new ad coming out in support of said governor, but of course, NWOTSOTB. Meanwhile, a fellow who says he did “micro-targeting” for Obama in 2008, Ken Strasma of Strategic Telemetry, has a poll out which he says supports the idea that Walker could be vulnerable to a recall. And through the use of un-revealed “micro-targeting models,” Strasma also thinks that there would be more than enough people willing to sign a petition in each of the eight Republican state senate districts where senators are currently exposed to the legal possibility of a recall.

WA-Gov: Show of hands – does anyone here think Gov. Christine Gregoire will actually seek a third term? Hey, maybe we’re all wrong, but the very fact that she’s even been entertaining the idea has already been a big enough surprise. Anyhow, Gregoire says she’ll decide by “early summer.”

Meanwhile, Democratic King County Executive Dow Constantine, whose name proverbially “came up” last December (see SSP Amazing Daily Digest, Issue #44) as Rep. Jay Inslee was seen to be holding his fire, sounds largely like a “no.” Constantine said he might “at some point be interested in an opportunity,” but “I have on my plate a few matters in King County government and I’m going to remain focused on that this year.” Of course, with Gregoire now fogging in the control tower, everyone else is probably going to be put in a holding pattern.

CA-36: This may not be a huge surprise, but Janice Hahn said that now ex-Rep. Jane Harman was querying her about her future political plans when she was a guest of Harman’s at the State of the Union address in January (going so far as to ask Hahn whether she’d be interested in running for CA-36), then tipped Hahn about her resignation announcement hours before she made it. This helps explain Hahn’s particularly energetic burst out of the gates, but it doesn’t explain – or excuse – Debra Bowen’s anemic start. Two weeks after announcing, Bowen’s website is still nothing more than a splash page with a big “Contribute” button, and I haven’t seen a single announcement of any high-profile endorsements. Does a sitting Secretary of State really have that few friends in high places?

FL-25: When you’ve lost Eric Cantor… the no. 2 Republican in the House was in Miami for a fundraiser, but already-doomed Rep. David Rivera was pointedly asked to stay away. Worse, Cantor said he has “concerns” about Rivera, and worse still, he was seen meeting with former state Rep. Renier Diaz de la Portilla, a possible replacement for Rivera. (Diaz de la Portilla, who served just one term in the state House a decade ago, is the brother of former state Sen. Alex, who was touted as a possible FL-25 candidate last cycle, and current state Sen. Miguel.)

NY-13: Rep. Mike Grimm is obviously doing the sensible thing here, working with Democrats (and somewhat less-insane-than-usual Republicans) to secure funding for government programs that actually matter to New Yorkers. Money for cops = popular! Of course, “the sensible thing” has pissed off local teabaggers, which could prove a problem for Grimm as he seeks re-election.

NY-25: The namejacking anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List is running an ad thanking Ann Marie Buerkle for her vote to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood. Kudos to Dave Catanese, who says the size of the buy (which includes online ads) is $75,000, and that the ad itself is expected to run 182 times. It sounds like SBA is also planning to spend another $125K running radio ads in a number of other GOP-held districts: IL-08, IL-14, NH-01, PA-07, and PA-08.

OR-01: Another GOP name has surfaced as a possible challenger to David Wu: State Sen. Bruce Starr says he’s considering a run. I think it would be more interesting to get a sense of which Dems are likely to succeed Wu, though, since odds seem slim that a Republican will hold this seat. But of course, most Democrats aren’t saying much, and that includes DCCC chair Steve Israel. When your own party’s re-election chief says “no comment” about your future, you’re long past the point where you should be stepping aside.

Census: The good folks at the Census Bureau will have redistricting data this week for DE, KS, NE, NC, and WY. In other census news, be very glad that Robert Groves is the director of the bureau and the guy he replaced is long-gone. Steve Murdock told the Houston Chronicle that “it’s basically over for Anglos” in Texas and that it’s a “terrible situation.” Wow.

Crossroads GPS: Karl Rove’s dark money front organization says it’s already spent a million bucks on House race ads this year, which the DCCC “has been unable to come close to matching,” according to The Hill. The article makes reference to the David Brock-Kathleen Kennedy Towsend (oy) group that’s supposed to be the Dem answer to Crossroads, but has anyone heard a peep from “American Bridge” yet?

Dave’s Redistricting App: Dave’s got some new census data for all you mappin’ fools to play with.

Las Vegas Mayor: Diarist atdleft has a good roundup of ads currently in rotation in the Las Vegas mayoral race. If you haven’t been following this one, current mayor Oscar Goodman is term-limited out, and a field including two Dems (Larry Brown and Chris Giunchigliani), one Republican (Victor Chaltiel), and one independent (Goodman’s wife Carol) is vying to replace him. There’s a top-two primary on April 5th and a run-off (if no one gets 50%) on June 7th.

Teabaggers: Even though 84 Republican freshman joined the House this January, just 11 have joined Michele Bachmann’s Tea Party Caucus – and the caucus is now actually smaller than it was when it first started. Anyhow, at least a few of these (click the link for the article) are probably sitting in blue enough territory that this decision will cause heartburn for them on the campaign trail. (But see the classic rock-and-hard-place conundrum faced by Mike Grimm in the NY-13 bullet above.)

Twitter: The Fix compiled a list of their favorite Twitterers in all fifty states. I haven’t checked it out yet, though, so I don’t even have an opinion. But enjoy!

TN-Sen: Corker Vulnerable to Bredesen, Teabagging

Public Policy Polling (PDF) (2/9-13, Tennessee voters, no trendlines):

Bob Corker (R-inc): 41

Phil Bredesen (D): 46

Undecided: 12

Bob Corker (R-inc): 50

Jim Cooper (D): 32

Undecided: 18

Bob Corker (R-inc): 55

Harold Ford, Jr. (D): 32

Undecided: 14

Bob Corker (R-inc): 52

Bart Gordon (D): 29

Undecided: 19

Bob Corker (R-inc): 53

Al Gore (D): 38

Undecided: 9

Bob Corker (R-inc): 50

Tim McGraw (D): 28

Undecided: 22

(MoE: ±4.4%)

Clearing the decks on this poll from last week. Unless former Gov. Phil Bredesen (who has crazy 63-19 approvals) makes the race, freshman Sen. Bob Corker looks to be in pretty strong shape. Most of these other names – none of whom I think is seriously considering the race – aren’t especially well known and have middling favorables and are at least half unknown (except Harold Ford, who is despised).

As for Bredesen, while the DSCC would probably be thrilled to have him run, he doesn’t seem very likely, either. In a recent interview, when asked if he’d ever run for office again, he said: “Well, you never say never, but that is not my intention.” But the indispensible Brian Valco digs up an article from a year ago in which Bredesen had this to say about his future plans: “I really like the public sector, and if there are some opportunities there, I’d be open.” So maybe there’s any opening there – though I suspect Bredesen would at best be a Joe Manchin-type candidate. Still, he’d draw resources away from other races, at the very least.

PPP also put out GOP primary numbers (PDF):

Bob Corker (R-inc): 38

“More conservative challenger”: 43

Not sure: 19

Bob Corker (R-inc): 50

Marsh Blackburn (R): 30

Undecided: 20

Bob Corker (R-inc): 66

Hank Williams, Jr. (R): 13

Undecided: 21

(MoE: ±4.9%)

I personally think a 50-30 margin over an little-known member of the House who hasn’t even come close to announcing a campaign (that would be Blackburn, who represents the 7th CD) is not especially good – nor, of course, are those generic numbers. Hank Williams, Jr., by the way, is the country star, who apparently has said in the past that he’s interested in running for office. Amusingly, PPP also tested country star Tim McGraw in the general – would be kind of awesome if we had a Biggie vs. Tupac-style senate race down in Tennessee between Williams and McGraw.

SSP Daily Digest: 12/17

AZ-Sen: There have been vague rumblings that maybe Jon Kyl, the GOP’s 68-year-old #2 in the Senate, may not be running for another term… but that seems to be coming into sharper relief all of a sudden. Kyl has refused to publicly discuss his plans, the GOP’s state chair is saying Kyl is not likely to run again, and people are starting to notice that he’s sitting on only $620K CoH and hasn’t engaged in any fundraising yet. (Although it’s likely, once he decides, that he could quickly do whatever fundraising was needed to win.)

CT-Sen: Ex-Rep. Rob Simmons sounds torn about another Senate run in 2012, and refuses to rule it out. However, he sounds unenthused, not so much because of his odds in the general as the likelihood of butting heads with the NRSC in the primary, whom he thinks has a fixation on Linda McMahon and her self-funding ability. Meanwhile, Rep. Chris Murphy is busy framing his “no” vote on the tax compromise in populist terms, clearly trying to set up some contrasts with Joe Lieberman.

NE-Sen: I’d thought AG Jon Bruning was supposed to be some sort of killer-app for the local GOP to go against Ben Nelson, but you wouldn’t know it by the way they’ve kept casting about for more talent. Local insiders are still publicly airing their wish list, adding a couple more prominent names to it: Rep. Jeff Fortenberry and state Auditor Mike Foley. One lower-tier option is also floating her own name: state Sen. Deb Fischer, who represents that big empty north-central part of the state and says she’ll decide on a run once the legislative session is over.

OR-Sen: Best wishes for a quick recovery to Ron Wyden, who will be undergoing surgery on Monday for prostate cancer. While it sounds like he’ll be back on his feet soon, he’ll be unable to vote for anything next week, which could complicate the final rush to wrap up stuff in the lame duck.

TN-Sen: Bob Corker occasionally gets mentioned, at least in the rightosphere, as the possible recipient of a tea party primary challenge in 2012. The Hill finds that this may be fizzling on the launching pad, for the very simple reason that no one seems to be stepping forward to consider the race.

WI-Sen: PPP is out with its poll of the 2012 GOP Senate primary, with another one of those let’s-test-everyone-and-their-dog fields, but unlike some of the other states they’ve looked at in the last few weeks, a U.S. Rep. wins, rather than a statewide figure. Paul Ryan (who probably gets enough Fox News attention to trump the disadvantage of representing only 1/8th of the state) is far in the lead at 52. Ex-Gov. Tommy Thompson (who if he didn’t run this year surely isn’t going to in 2012) is at 14, ex-Rep. Mark Green is at 9, AG JB Van Hollen and new Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch are at 6, new Rep. Sean Duffy is at 5, and already-forgotten 2010 contender Dave Westlake is at 1.

IN-Gov, IN-09: Baron Hill says he most likely isn’t going to be running for anything in 2012, not Governor, and not his old seat in the 9th, saying he’s looking into private sector jobs for now, though also leaving the gubernatorial door “slightly open.” Interestingly, he seemed more enthused about a run for Governor in 2016 (which may be a tougher road to hoe, if there’s an entrenched GOP incumbent then instead of an open seat like 2012), although he also commented that “I don’t know if I’ll be alive in 2016.”

MO-Gov: In case there was any doubt, Democratic incumbent Jay Nixon confirmed that he’ll run for re-election as Governor in 2012. Nixon also said that he’s raised $1 million for that race just since November; he’ll need it.

WV-Gov: For what it’s worth, two of the state’s largest unions would like to see an expedited special election to replace Joe Manchin. Democratic House Speaker (and likely gubernatorial candidate) Rick Thompson agrees with them, saying there’s a constitutional conflict of interest in acting Gov./Senate president Earl Ray Tomblin’s dual position. In what may not be a surprise, Tomblin disagrees, saying that the law is clear that the special will be held in 2012.

CA-06: Rep. Lynn Woolsey is seeming like she may be one of the first retirements of the cycle, if the flurry of activity among lower-level Marin County politicos jockeying for position is any indication. The 73-year-old is publicly weighing retirement, and state Assemblyman Jared Huffman has already formed an exploratory committee to run in her stead. State Sen. Noreen Evans, Sonoma Co. Commissioner Shirlee Zane, and Petaluma mayor Pam Torliatt are also listed as possible replacements.

FL-25: It certainly didn’t take newly-elected Rep. David Rivera to get in legal trouble, and it’s something completely new, instead of anything having to do with that whole let’s-run-that-truck-off-the-road incident. He’s under investigation for an alleged $500,000 in secret payments from a greyhound track that he helped out to a marketing firm that’s “run” by his septuagenarian mother.

ID-01: Don’t count on a rematch from Walt Minnick (or a run for higher office in Idaho, either): he says he’s done with elective politics. An oft-overlooked fact about Minnick: he’s a little older than your average freshman, at 68. He wasn’t going to be in the seat for much longer or look to move up anyway.

NY-14: Remember Reshma Saujani, after losing the Dem primary in the 14th, said “I’m definitely running again” and “There’s no way I’m going to be ones of those folks who runs, loses, and you never see them again.” Well, fast forward a few months, and now she’s definitely not running again, although she may be looking toward a run for something in 2013 at the municipal level.

DCCC: The DCCC held its first real strategy session of the cycle yesterday, and the list of top-tier targets that emerged is pretty predictable (Dan Lungren, Charlie Bass, Charlie Dent, Bob Dold!) except for one: Leonard Lance, who’s proved pretty durable so far. They may be counting on Lance’s NJ-07, which occupies roughly the middle of the state, to get tossed into the blender in the redistricting process.

Votes: Here’s the vote tally from yesterday’s vote in the House on the tax compromise. It was a very unusual breakdown, with Dems breaking 139 yes/112 no and the GOP breaking 138 yes/36 no, with the “no”s coming generally from each party’s hard-liners, in a manner vaguely reminiscent of how the TARP vote broke down. (Also, some defeated or retiring Blue Dogs still voted “no,” like Allen Boyd, Gene Taylor, and Earl Pomeroy… while Dennis Kucinich was a “yes.”)

History: Here’s an interesting story about the end of a little-known but important era in North Dakota politics: the effective end of the Non-Partisan League, a vaguely-socialist/populist farmers’ party that cross-endorsed Democrats for many decades, and had an outsized influence on the state (as seen in their state-owned bank and similar enterprises). With Byron Dorgan retired, most NPL stalwarts dead or aging, and agribusiness having replaced the family farm, it looks like the end of the NPL’s line.

Redistricting: Dave Wasserman is out with a preview of next week’s reapportionment, and he’s rightly treating it like the NCAA playoffs draw, in that there a bunch of states on the bubble of getting or losing seats. Here’s how that plays out:

Georgia, Nevada, and Utah are all but certain to gain an additional seat in the House, while Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania are all but certain to lose a seat and Ohio is all but certain to lose two seats…. the ten states in contention for the “last five” seats in the House (in order of likelihood to make the cut) are South Carolina, Florida, Minnesota, Washington, Texas, New York, California, Arizona, North Carolina, and Illinois.

He’s also been tinkering around with Dave’s Redistricting App, and has some maps that you’ll want to check out. Maybe most interestingly, there’s a solution to the IL-17 problem that actually makes it more Democratic while letting Aaron Schock and Bobby Schilling get much better acquainted with each other (the Fix also takes a look at Illinois today, coming up with similar ideas). Also worth a look: a good 10-district Washington map that gives Dave Reichert a heaping helping of eastern Washington.

Site news: Due to holiday travel, other time commitments, and hopefully what will be a very slow news week, the Daily Digest will be on hiatus all next week. Don’t worry, though: I’ll make sure to be around on the 21st for the Census reapportionment data release (hell, maybe I’ll even liveblog the news conference), and if there’s any important breaking news, someone will get it up on the front page. In the meantime, happy holidays from the whole SSP team!

Teabagger Cattle Call

Here’s something fun. There are ten Republican senators up for re-election in 2012, so my question to you is, who among that group is most likely to get teabagged to death? There are of course a lot of factors which go into this question, but at the end of the day, all we’re asking is which GOP incumbents are most likely to get derailed on their way to seeking their party’s (re-)nomination?

I’ve taken a stab at ranking this gruesome tensome, in order of likelihood of getting consumed by the tea-flavored beast:

  1. Olympia Snowe
  2. Orrin Hatch
  3. Kay Bailey Hutchison
  4. Richard Lugar
  5. Bob Corker
  6. Scott Brown
  7. John Ensign
  8. Roger Wicker
  9. Jon Kyl
  10. John Barrasso

Ensign deserves an asterisk. While he’s probably vulnerable in a primary, I don’t really see such a race turning into a teabagger-fueled challenge. So on an ordinary list, he’d rate much higher, but here, he’s toward the bottom of the pack.

What do you say? How would you rank this list? I see a lot of juicy targets for the Sharron Angle/Christine O’Donnell brigade!

Step Up for Red State Democratic Candidates for Senate

One of the primary ways to Expand the Map of competitive U.S. Senate seats in 2008 is to empower with resources Democrats in states that Republicans hope to take for granted, so that they can focus on more traditionally battleground states.  Four such red states in 2008 are Mississippi, Kansas, Georgia, and Tennessee, where former Governor Ronnie Musgrove, former Congressman Jim Slattery, former state legislator Jim Martin, and former Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Bob Tuke are running to oust ethically questionable Roger Wicker, Bush-cover-up-artist Pat Roberts, Shameless Saxby Chambliss, and Lamar!, respectively.

You can blow the Senate Guru‘s mind by helping meet the below goals in the week ahead by contributing to these red state Democrats via the Expand the Map! ActBlue page:

Red state Democrat
Currently At
Goal Amount
Distance to Goal
Bob Tuke
$60 to go
Jim Slattery
$150 to go
Ronnie Musgrove
$87 to go
Jim Martin
$240 to go

$100 makes a huge difference.  $10 makes a huge difference.  We’re now less than two months from Election Day.  Supporting these red state Democrats at this critical juncture expands the map, makes the NRSC sweat even more, and increases Democrats’ chances for overcoming historic Republican obstructionism in the U.S. Senate.  Let’s keep that momentum going!

8/7 Primary Results Round-up

TN-01: Probably the biggest news last night was Johnson City Mayor Phil Roe’s 500-vote victory over incumbent Rep. David Davis. Davis, a freshman, won the open-seat GOP primary last cycle with just 22% (Roe finished fourth), so in some sense this isn’t too surprising. But man is that one short congressional career. Note to Democrats: One of Roe’s most successful lines of attack was to link Davis to “big oil.”

TN-07: Uber-wingnut Rep. Marsha Blackburn held off a challenge by Shelby County Register of Deeds Tom Leatherwood, winning 62-38.

TN-09: Thursday’s best result was progressive Rep. Steve Cohen’s resounding 79-19 thrashing of Nikki Tinker. After running a racist and antisemitic campaign remarkable for its ugliness, Tinker deserved to be humiliated – and was. The other big loser was EMILY’s List, which backed Tinker’s play despite Cohen’s vastly better politics. All in all, a big win for the good guys.

TN-Sen: With just 32% of the vote in a crowded field, former Dem state party chair Bob Tuke earned the right to take on Lamar! Alexander this fall.

A look at the 2008 Senate races, August edition

So with about three months to go, with Ted Stevens’ indictment dominating the Senate news, it’s time for another look at all the 2008 Senate races.  There are 35 seats up for election because of a scenario in Wyoming and Mississippi where both seats are up, due to the passing of Craig Thomas and the resignation of Trent Lott, respectively.  Now obviously, quite a few of the races are considered “safe” for the incumbent.  So what are the competitive races?

I’ll rank these in terms of tiers.  The top tier will be the races where the party holding the seat has a real shot of switching (but I ain’t guaranteeing anything).  The second tier are races that could become top tier races, but are not at this point.  Tier III are ones where a major event would need to happen for the seat to come into play.  And the safe seats?  Well, Mike Gravel has a better shot at winning the presidency than those incumbents have of losing their races.

This is meant to be a primer for both newcomers and political junkies alike, so some of the information may seem repetitive for you junkies out there.  Also see my previous May diary to see what things have changed since my last update.

(Just so you know, I don’t do predictions.  Every time I do, horrible things happen.  So I won’t even make an actual prediction on the Virginia Senate race, because doing so would effectively jinx Mark Warner.)

FYI, whenever I refer to fundraising numbers in the races, I’m using the latest numbers we know of, from the end of June 2008.  “Q2” refers to the period of April to June 2008, the most recent quarter that we have the fundraising numbers for.  Major hat tip to Senate Guru for putting all the numbers in an easy to read table format.

Tier I

1. Virginia: Incredibly popular former Governor Mark Warner (D) is running for this seat that opened up when John Warner (R), no relation, announced his retirement.  Warner left the governorship with a whopping 80% approval rating.  That’s freaking unheard of.  He’ll face another former Governor, Jim Gilmore (R), who some of you may remember tried running for President last year.  Gilmore was known as the governor who helped drive the state into near-bankruptcy with his car tax cut, and Warner as the one who fixed the problem when he took over for Gilmore.  Not a single poll shows Gilmore getting even 40%.  Warner’s sitting on 20+ point leads.  And oh yeah, Warner also pulled in almost $3 million in Q2, while Gilmore raised less than $500K.  To top it off, Gilmore’s been burning through the little cash he got, and ended up with less than $117K left at the end of Q2, which was almost $5 million less than what Warner was sitting on.  This is about as lopsided as you’re gonna get, but still, no official predictions from me.

2. New Mexico: Rep. Tom Udall (D) announced for this seat shortly after Pete Domenici (R) announced his retirement.  Yes, he is part of the famed Udall political family; his father Stewart served as Interior Secretary under JFK, and his uncle Mo was an Arizona Congressman for 30 years who ran for President in 1976.  Stewart Udall was largely responsible for just about all the environmental laws that were passed in the 1960s.  Rep. Steve Pearce (R) won a bitter GOP primary over Heather Wilson, ending her career in Congress.  So the entire New Mexico U.S. House delegation was running for this Senate seat!  The polling just keeps getting better and better for Udall, as he’s hit the 60% mark in several polls now. I wrote back in May that I expected to see a sort of “unity bounce” once the GOP primary was decided.  Instead, the opposite happened, and Udall’s numbers went up even more.  Combine this with Udall having over 5 times as much cash on hand as Pearce, and Udall would be number 1 on the list if it weren’t for Mark Warner.

3. New Hampshire: John Sununu (R) is about to become 2008’s version of Rick Santorum.  Democrats could run a ham sandwich against him, and it would be a competitive race.  But why settle for a ham sandwich when you can run the former governor?  Jeanne Shaheen (D), who Sununu beat in 2002 along with some illegal phone-jamming on Election Day for which several GOP operatives went to prison, has led Sununu in every single poll taken in 2008.  The latest Rasmussen poll has her leading 50%-45%.  A general rule of thumb: any incumbent polling under 50% in an election poll is in trouble.  Add to that, the fact New Hampshire strongly went blue in 2006 all over the place, kicking out both Republican Congressmen and flipping over 80 seats in the state House, giving Democrats control of both state legislature for the first time since 1910, and Sununu has to be considered the most endangered incumbent.  The only thing keeping this race from being tied at number 2 is that while Shaheen outraised Sununu in the first two quarters this year, Sununu still has almost $3 million more cash on hand than Shaheen has.  That money will probably make this race closer, but given how much New Hampshire has changed, I’m not sure how much that money advantage is really going to help Sununu.

4. Alaska: 84-year-old Ted Stevens (R) is seeking a sixth term, but earlier this week, he was indicted on 7 felony counts for not disclosing the gifts (over $250,000 worth) he got from oil company Veco Corp.  This started when the FBI raided his home last June.  Several Veco executives have already pled guilty to bribing Ted’s son Ben, who was the former Alaska state senate president, with former Veco CEO Bill Allen having admitted some bribe money also went towards Ted Stevens.  Democrats got their top choice when Anchorage mayor Mark Begich entered the race.  His father Nick Begich was a former Congressman, who was killed in a plane crash along with House Majority Leader Hale Boggs (D-LA) in 1972.  Even before the indictment, several polls had already shown Begich leading Stevens.  In the wake of the indictments, Rasmussen now has Begich leading Stevens 50%-37%.  Jury selection will begin on September 24, and Stevens wants the trial to take place before the election.  What remains to be seen is if he’ll survive the August 26th primary, and even if he does, if the Alaska GOP would try to replace him with someone else.  But Rasmussen also showed that among some of the other GOP challengers, Begich leads them by even bigger margins, so it’s unclear if that will help the GOP out.  On the fundraising side, Begich pulled in over $1 million in Q2, over a quarter million more than Stevens brought in, though Stevens still has twice as much cash on hand as Begich, though that may not help him now.

5. Colorado: Wayne Allard (R) kept his pledge of only serving two terms, and is retiring from the Senate.  Rep. Mark Udall (D) is Mo Udall’s son, and Tom Udall’s cousin.  He’ll face off against former Congressman Bob Schaffer (R).  Colorado has been trending bluer recently, picking up a Senate seat in 2004 (Ken Salazar), and a congressional district and the governor’s office in 2006.  Schaffer had previously lost the GOP primary for that Senate seat back in 2004 to Pete Coors.  At the end of Q2, Udall was sitting on an almost $4 million warchest, with Schaffer over $1 million behind.  Schaffer also has close ties to Jack Abramoff and human rights abuses on the Marianas Islands, and was helping out Aspect Energy push an oil deal that would hurt U.S.-Iraq policy.  Recently, though, some right-wing front groups have been running TV and radio ads filled with falsehoods attacking Udall.  That may explain why Rasmussen shows the race getting narrower, though Udall still leads.  The other polls still show Udall with some kind of lead (other than Quinnipiac, though its crosstabs make it look like they undersampled Democrats), and not a single poll has come out with Schaffer holding any kind of lead.  Update: 9News in Colorado went through one of those attack ads and found every single statement the ad made was misleading, false, or conflating opinion with fact.

6. Oregon: Oregon House Speaker Jeff Merkley (D) won a close primary over lawyer/activist Steve Novick to take on Gordon Smith (R).  The two quickly joined forces in a unity event to take on Smith.  Smith seems worried, as his recent commercials have him embracing Barack Obama and John Kerry and fighting Bush!  Merkley raised over half a million more than Smith did in Q2, but much of that was spent on the primary, and now Smith has almost $4 million more in his campaign war chest at the end of Q2.  The DSCC has stepped in with an $850,000 cable TV ad buy starting in September to help out Merkley.  Also, the latest Rasmussen poll now shows Merkley with a lead for the first time ever in any poll, at 43%-41%.  In an interesting twist, Smith is actually a cousin of the two Udalls running for Senate.

7. Mississippi-B: Roger Wicker (R), appointed by governor Haley Barbour (R) on New Year’s Eve after Trent Lott (R) resigned to become a lobbyist, won’t have all the incumbency power Lott had accumulated over the years.  Wicker was the Congressman from MS-01, so he’s won elected office previously.  But that seat then went blue when Travis Childers (D) won it in May.  So things are changing even in Mississippi.  That has to be a shot in a arm for former Governor Ronnie Musgrove (D).  However, Wicker showed himself to be a prolific fundraiser, bringing in over $2.5 million in Q1.  But in Q2, the two were almost even in fundraising, each raising a little over $800K.  The latest polls still show this to be a tight race, with Wicker slightly up.  It may all come down to the African-American turnout in this state.  The 2004 exit polls showed they made up 34% of the electorate.  The Rasmussen poll showing Wicker up by 6 seems to also have a 34% black breakdown in their sample.  So if black turnout increases, that should benefit Musgrove.  And because this is technically a special election (to fill out the remainder of Lott’s term), there will be no party identification on the ballot in November.  That can actually work to our benefit in a state like Mississippi.  As a result, Wicker went up with a TV ad back in May introducing himself to voters.

8. Minnesota: Norm Coleman (R) won this seat in 2002 only after Paul Wellstone (D) died just a few weeks before the election.  Comedian Al Franken got the DFL (basically the Democratic Party for Minnesota) nod.  The polls had been steadily favoring Franken, until late April when a story came out that Franken owed $70,000 in back taxes to 17 different states.  Now, it turns out that as a traveling comedian, having visited lots of states, he was supposed to pay taxes to those individual states, but paid them instead all to the states he had homes in.  Then the GOP hammered Franken for a Playboy article he wrote over a decade ago, calling it “juicy porn“.  As for the fallout, there are very conflicting stories.  SurveyUSA has Coleman up by double-digits, while Rasmussen has Franken up by 3.  However, the SurveyUSA poll shows Coleman’s best support comes from young people, which doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.  Combined with their presidential poll, which shows Obama TIED with McCain among young voters, and something doesn’t quite make sense in their numbers.  The Senate poll also shows the electorate will be made up of 32% Republicans, only 33% Democrats, and 21% Independents.  It strangely leaves out 14% of the population.  So take that poll with a huge grain of salt.  Plus, Franken did outraise Coleman for three straight quarters until Q2, when they both raised over $2.3 million, with Coleman getting $50,000 more, though Coleman ended Q2 with $3 million more in his coffers.

9. North Carolina: After Kay Hagan easily won her primary in May, the polls showed a primary bump, with some polls even putting her ahead of incumbent Elizabeth Dole (R).  That led Dole to fire her campaign manager.  Then her campaign asked the DSCC and NRSC not to spend money on the race.  Um, isn’t that’s the whole point of those campaign committees?  However, since the primary bump, Dole’s lead has gone back to about 10 points.  But something to note about those polls, they all seem to underestimate the black turnout.  In 2004, blacks made up 26% of the electorate, while these polls have a sample that’s 22% or less black.  Conventional wisdom says black turnout will be significantly higher than in 2004, so keep that in mind.  Hagan’s been keeping pace in fundraising, pulling in 91% as much as Dole did in Q2, though Hagan still trails by a little over a 2:1 margin in cash on hand.  Interesting fact, Hagan is the niece of the late Lawton Chiles, the longtime Senator and Governor of Florida, who came from behind to win re-election to the governorship in 1994 by defeating Jeb Bush.

10. Maine: Rep. Tom Allen (D) is running to challenge Susan Collins (R).  But even though Maine is a blue state, he has an uphill climb.  Collins has worked hard to craft her moderate credentials.  The most recent Rasmussen poll has some good news for Allen, with him only trailing Collins 49%-42%.  Allen’s fundraising was pretty strong in Q2, with both him and Collins netting a little over $1 million each, though he trails in cash on hand by $2 million.  The DSCC has now reserved $5 million for ad buys in the state.  And it will be needed, as the Maine newspapers suck at telling the truth about Collins.  I mean, really suck.  When they consistently let Maine GOP officials shill for Collins in letters to the editor without letting the readers know that fact, you know something’s up.

11. Louisiana: Mary Landrieu (D) is the most endangered Democratic incumbent in 2008.  But how endangered that really is remains to be seen.  She was still able to win in 2002, a decidedly strong year for the GOP.  Karl Rove was able to woo state treasurer John Neely Kennedy (no relation to the Kennedy family in Massachusetts) to switch parties to run for re-election to State Treasurer as a Republican last August, and after winning, he announced he would challenge Landrieu for her Senate seat.  (Party switching actually seems rather common in Louisiana.)  As for how endangered Landrieu really is, well, there’s lots of conflicting data.  On the one hand, hundreds of thousands of residents from New Orleans and the surrounding areas never came back to the state after Hurricane Katrina, making the state more red than it used to be.  Bobby Jindal (R) didn’t even need a runoff to win the governor’s race last year, getting over 50% of the vote on the first ballot and performing stronger than expected.  On the other hand, Mary’s brother Mitch won the Lt. Governorship by an even bigger margin.  And the win by Don Cazayoux (D) in LA-06, a Republican district, may bode well for Landrieu.  Kennedy did outraise Landrieu in Q1, but she outraised him in Q2, and has almost $3 million more in cash on hand than he does.  All the non-Zogby polls show Landrieu ahead; the question is by how much.  A boost came to the Landrieu campaign when the Huffington Post obtained an NRSC memo from 2004 that attacked Kennedy when he ran for the Senate that year… as a Democrat.  After ripping him for being so wrong for Louisiana, they’re suddenly going to say he’s the right person for the job?

12. Texas: Democrats got the challenger they wanted to face John Cornyn (R).  State rep. and Texas National Guard Lt. Col. Rick Noriega (D) served in Afghanistan after 9/11, and was chosen to coordinate relief efforts in Houston after Hurricane Katrina.  The biggest news this summer so far is probably the Big Bad John ad Cornyn’s people released, which drew mockery and laughter from just about everywhere.  Then the Texas Medical Association rescinded their endorsement of Cornyn after he and other GOP Senators blocked the Medicare bill that would have prevented 10% cuts in Medicare payments to doctors, and the American Medical Association said they were going to run ads against Senators like Cornyn who voted against it.  But no polls have been taken of this race since June, when Rasmussen showed Noriega down by 13, though Cornyn was under the 50% mark.  However, the fundraising numbers are troubling, with Cornyn having outraised Noriega by more than a 4-to-1 margin in Q1.  Noriega did better in Q2, raising almost $1 million, but Cornyn finished Q2 with over 10 times as much cash on hand.  And in a huge state like Texas, money will most definitely matter.  Unless some polls come out showing this is a closer race, this will remain in Tier II.  Update: And right after writing this, Rasmussen shows Noriega down by 10 points, with Cornyn under the 50% mark.  So I’ve moved it back to Tier I status.

13. Kentucky: Even though Mitch McConnell (R) became the Senate Minority Leader, he is a top target of the Democrats.  And with former Governor Ernie Fletcher (R) losing his re-election bid to Steve Beshear (D) 59%-41% last November, that made Kentucky Democrats even more confident.  But then Kentucky Attorney General Greg Stumbo and State Auditor Crit Luallen both declined to run, and netroots favorite Lt. Col. Andrew Horne, a Marine who has served in both the Persian Gulf War and the Iraq War, dropped his bid.  Wealthy businessman Bruce Lunsford hasn’t exactly been a netroots favorite in the past, having ticked off a lot of Democrats in the past by endorsing Fletcher over Ben Chandler (D) for Governor back in 2003 after he lost the primary to Chandler.  But it looks like Kentucky Democrats quickly unified behind Lunsford and are all pledging to do their part to defeat McConnell.  McConnell has a HUGE warchest of over $9 million, but Lunsford can afford to self-fund.  And this quote from Lunsford after winning the primary is nice to read.  “[McConnell is] going to spend millions of dollars trying to destroy my reputation.  But I don’t care how many names he’s going to call me, because in January he’s going to call me ‘Senator.'”  Well played, sir.  Things like that will help assuage the netroots.  Two recent polls show Lunsford behind by about 10 points.  Lunsford actually brought in more money in Q2, largely due to loaning himself $2.5 million to keep pace, but McConnell still has almost 7 times as much cash on hand.  But by keeping pace, if Lunsford can force McConnell (and his campaign coffers) to stay in Kentucky instead of going to help other Senators, that will only serve to benefit the other Democrats running for Senate.

Tier II

I decided, for the sake of my own sanity, not to try to rank the Tier II and III races.  These are given in alphabetical order, by state.

Idaho: With Larry Craig (R) retiring after his airport bathroom… ah… incident, it’s looking like a rematch between Lt. Governor Jim Risch (R) and former Congressman Larry LaRocco (D), who lost the 2006 Lt. Gov. race to Risch by a sizable 58%-39% margin.  While LaRocco finished 2007 with more cash on hand than Risch, he was absolutely blitzkrieged in Q1, with Risch raising over 4 ½ times as much money as LaRocco raised, and again outraised in Q2, leaving Risch with over 4 times as much cash on hand as LaRocco.  A recent Research 2000 poll showed LaRocco down by 10 points, 42%-32%.  The wild card in this race may be independent rancher Rex Rammell, who despises Risch, and may be able to pull away some of Risch’s support.  Rammell actually outraised LaRocco, and has a little more cash on hand, and will spend that money attacking Risch.  There are also two other right-wing candidates on the ballot that will split the conservative vote even more.

Kansas: Pat Roberts (R), known for covering up issues related to intelligence and domestic spying for Bush, looked to be coasting to an easy re-election until former Congressman Jim Slattery entered the racein mid-March.  Given that late start, he still managed to raise over $250,000 in just the first two weeks, and brought in a decent haul in Q2 also.  Rasmussen had given encouraging news in June, showing Slattery within single digits, but in July, their poll showed Slattery down by 27 points.  There are signs, however, that Roberts is nervous, as his people lashed out, attacking Slattery for criticizing the Iraq War, considering he voted for going to war with Iraq.  Except… the war he voted for was the FIRST Gulf War in 1991.  So… voting for that war makes you unable to criticize this war?  Um, OK, that’s some great Republican logic for you.  And then, they attacked Slattery for missing a lot of votes in his last year in Congress.  Why only that year?  Because that was the year Slattery was back in Kansas running for Governor.

Oklahoma: James Inhofe (R) looks pretty safe, though interestingly enough, Inhofe has never gotten to 50% approval in the history of SurveyUSA’s polling.  State senator and netroots favorite Andrew Rice (D), who lost his brother in the 9/11 attacks, is now the formal Democratic nominee, having won his primary last week by a 20-point margin.  Rice and Inhofe could not be farther apart when it comes to energy and environmental issues.  Rice pulled in decent fundraising numbers in Q2, but still trails Inhofe by over $1.7 million.  A Research 2000 poll from June showed Rice down by 22 points.  Those two factors would normally make this a Tier III race, but then came the news that veteran political operatives Geri Prado and Phil Singer have joined Rice’s staff.  Those two both worked on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and for the DSCC.

Tier III

Alabama: The Democrats’ top hope in Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks announced he was not running, leaving little-known state senator Vivian Figures (D) as the only challenger to incumbent Jeff Sessions (R).  But, Jeff Sessions does play a role in the Don Siegelman case.  And it seems Sessions was desperate enough to try and kill the 60 Minutes piece about Siegelman before it aired.  So if Sessions gets ensnared in this scandal, his seat may not be so safe.  And the prospect of that, which grows dimmer by the day, is the only thing keeping this from going into the “safe” category.

Georgia: A crowded field of relatively unknown Democratic challengers to Saxby Chambliss (R) didn’t seem to go anywhere, until former state representative Jim Martin entered the race in March.  Martin was the 2006 Democratic Lt. Gov. nominee, so he’s run a statewide race before.  And in just 12 days, Martin raised $346,675, which dropped a lot of jaws.  Martin would first have to get by DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones, who is black and is depending on African-American turnout to win the primary runoff on August 5th.  Except… Jones voted for Bush… twice, still doesn’t know what to think about Iraq, and likes calling Democrats “losers”.  Way to, um, not endear yourself to the netroots.  The 3rd and 4th place finishers in the primary have already endorsed Martin in the runoff.  Remember, Chambliss ousted triple amputee Max Cleland (D) in 2002 by running a despicable ad blending the images of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein into Cleland’s face.  If Martin bests Jones in the primary next Tuesday, I’ll move this up to Tier II, as polling shows Martin would at least be competitive, though he’d still be seriously behind in funds.

Nebraska: With Chuck Hagel (R) retiring, former governor Mike Johanns (R) quit his job as Bush’s Agriculture Secretary to run for this seat.  The netroots were thrilled when rancher and history professor Scott Kleeb (D) threw his hat in the ring.  While Kleeb lost the NE-03 House race in 2006, that district is the most Republican in Nebraska, and Kleeb got a higher-than-expected 45% of the vote.  That’s had a lot of people thinking he would actually win in the other two districts, and thus a statewide race.  Of course, that doesn’t take into account how he’d be running against the former governor of the state.  Kleeb easily won his primary against Republican-turned-Democrat Tony Raimondo, but the polls show Kleeb still has quite a ways to go.  The last two Rasmussen polls show Kleeb down by over 25 points to Johanns.  The one bright spot was that Kleeb outraised Johanns in Q2, though he still trails in cash on hand by almost $800K.

New Jersey: Frank Lautenberg (D) is running again, but as he is already 84 years old, his age is always going to be a concern.  His poll numbers also don’t look that good, but no New Jersey politician’s numbers ever look really good.  He easily beat back a primary challenge from Rep. Rob Andrews.  On the GOP side, it’s been a wild roller coaster ride as multiple candidates have been declaring, and then dropping out of the race, before they finally settled on former Congressman Dick Zimmer.  Blue Jersey has a wild recap of it all.

South Dakota: Tim Johnson (D) is fully back at work after suffering a brain hemorrhage in December 2006.  His illness had made Republicans hesitant to challenge or attack him.  And the polling shows Johnson may be the most popular Senator in the country, to boot.

Tennessee: Former Tennessee Democratic Party chair Bob Tuke entered the race in late February.  It remains to be seen if Tuke can make this a real race against Lamar Alexander (R), who was also a two-term governor of Tennessee and the Secretary of Education under George H.W. Bush.  Tuke has a little over a quarter million on hand, while Alexander has over three million.

Democratic safe seats

Arkansas (Mark Pryor)

Delaware (Joe Biden)

Illinois (Dick Durbin)

Iowa (Tom Harkin)

Massachusetts (John Kerry)

Michigan (Carl Levin)

Montana (Max Baucus)

Rhode Island (Jack Reed)

West Virginia (Jay Rockefeller)

Republican safe seats

Mississippi (Thad Cochran)

South Carolina (Lindsey Graham)*

Wyoming (Michael Enzi)

Wyoming (John Barrasso)

*South Carolina is now a safe seat, as Lindsey Graham easily won his primary in June, and Michael Cone ended up barely losing the Democratic primary by 0.6% to Bob Conley, a Republican-turned-Democrat who voted for Ron Paul in the South Carolina primary.

So there you have it, my personal rankings for the 2008 Senate races, as they stand at the beginning of August.  Things can still change, people who only pay attention after Labor Day may shake things up, and we won’t know exactly what the national mood will be 3 months from now.  Still, given that, these are my picks, and I’m sticking with them… until my next update, at least.

Feel free to rip me apart in the comments, telling me I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, how could I possibly put a certain race in Tier II or III when it’s so obviously a top tier race, why I’m being too optimistic in some seat, etc.  Have at it.  🙂