SSP Daily Digest 1/17

FL-Sen: State sen. President Mike Haridopolos already has a key endorser in his column for the likely-to-be-hotly-contested GOP Senate primary: former state party chair John Thrasher. Of course, Thrasher (the former state Sen. president, and who also just got appointed Rules Comm. chair by Haridopolos) and Haridopolos are tight from the state Senate, so it may not be a big surprise. Meanwhile, it seems like the Republican field may have its own Jeff Greene-type candidate, i.e. some guy with a lot of money and a senatorial itch to scratch but no credible reason to run for office: Nicholas Loeb. Loeb, who’s 35, is the great-grandson of one of the original Lehman Brothers and the son of a Ronald Reagan’s ambassador to Denmark, once ran briefly for a Florida state Senate seat but dropped out amidst a divorce from his wife. Loeb may currently be best-known as boyfriend to TV star Sofia Vergara.

IN-Sen: Richard Lugar is saying he’s preparing (in the form of ramped-up fundraising operations) for what, at this point, is the inevitable: a challenge from the right. Nevertheless, despite his imminent teabagging, he’s doubling-down on his reasonableness, this time with statements in favor of restoring the ban on assault weapons. And here’s an ironic blast from the past that really puts the increase in partisanship by Senate Republicans over the years into perspective: in 1977, as a freshman, Richard Lugar was deemed by CQ as having the highest party unity score of any Republican. At this point, only five GOPers are less loyal.

MA-Sen: Democrats seem to have their first “real” candidate announcing his presence in the Senate race, although I haven’t heard his name before and have to wonder whether he’ll turn into a credible presence here. Bob Massie was the 1994 candidate for Lt. Governor, but he’s better known for his entrepreneurial work, which includes investing in a fair amount of socially conscious stuff. He also has quite the interesting resume: Episcopal priest with a Harvard Business Ph.D who also happens to be one of the longest-surviving HIV patients ever.

MO-Sen: There’s one potentially interesting story for the Missouri Senate race that comes out of Friday’s RNC chair election (won by Wisconsin’s Reince Priebus): one of the losers was Ann Wagner, who had initially expressed some interest in running for Senate but then threw her hat in the RNC ring. Her loss frees her up to think about the Senate again, although there’s no comment from her camp on that beyond “Stay tuned.”

ND-Sen: PSC Commissioner Brian Kalk’s early start on seeking the GOP nomination in North Dakota seems to have just had the effect of painting a big target on his back. State House majority leader Al Carlson (whom I haven’t seen mentioned as a candidate before, and may be kneecapping Kalk on someone else’s behalf) says Kalk’s attempts to scare everybody else off won’t work. Gary Emineth, the former state GOP chair, also seems unimpressed, even floating his own name for the race.

PA-Sen: On Friday we mentioned that Mark Schweiker’s decision to become a lobbyist betrayed a pretty clear intent not to run for Senate, and over the weekend Schweiker confirmed that he’s not looking at the race. The Republican ex-Gov says the race “was never in the cards.”

TX-Sen: Two more heavyweights definitely seem moving toward the GOP gubernatorial battle. Dallas mayor Tom Leppert confirmed what everyone has expected for the last week: that he won’t run for a second term (while he didn’t specifically say he’d run for Sen., this certainly points that way). Leppert, who seems to occupy the most moderate position in the field, would have a good shot at following the Rick Snyder/Bill Haslam path against a field chock full o’ nuts if there weren’t the little matter of Texas having runoffs, which would force him into a one-on-one with a fire-breather. Speaking of which, Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams has now confirmed that he’ll run, and he’s resigning from his state post in order to campaign full-time for Senate. The other, less tea-flavored Williams — Roger Williams, the former SoS who’s also a big-name car dealer and the self-proclaimed big business candidate in the race — has already nailed down a name-brand endorser (although not one likely to help him much with today’s flavor of conservatives, especially given how useful his endorsement of Kay Bailey Hutchison was in the 2010 gubernatorial primary): George H.W. Bush.

Meanwhile, here’s a strange possibility: septuagenarian goldbug Ron Paul may actually be interested in making the race (and thus joining his son in the Senate). At least he’s polling visitors to on whether he should run. (Um, maybe someone should familiarize him with the concept of self-selection bias?) And finally, here’s a list of the recently-declared no-thankses: state Senator Florence Shapiro on the GOP side, and state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte and Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia on the Dem side.

WY-Sen: Back when we did our Teabagger Cattle Call last month, we easily stipulated that John Barrasso, one of the most conservative members of the Senate, was the least likely incumbent up in 2012 to get teabagged. Nevertheless, buried in this article on Sal Russo’s plans for the Tea Party Express, is an astonishing line that, if true, is indicative of just how mindless the orgy of uncritical own-eating has become on the GOP’s far-right:

Democrats still control the Senate and White House, he noted in an interview from Wyoming, where he was visiting potential Senate candidates for 2012.

(H/t to Brian Valco for the catch.)

ME-Gov: Paul LePage seems to fancy himself a Chris Christie-type in the making, figuring he might survive his blue-leaning state by endearing himself to independents through a lot of everyman-style blustering and sacred cow-punching. He seems to have gotten off to a complete fail of a start, though, with Friday’s comments telling the NAACP to “kiss my ass” in response to questions about why he wasn’t attending any Martin Luther King Day celebrations. Rather than trying to own that, though, LePage seems to have already backed down, slinking unannounced into Waterville’s MLK Day breakfast after all.

MS-Gov: If you’ve ever wanted to see teabagging in its purest, most undistilled form, look no further than the just-announced candidacy of state revenue department “employee” James Broadwater for the GOP gubernatorial primary. His two main action items: eliminating all taxes other than sales tax, and using the state National Guard to enforce immigration laws.

NY-Gov: Siena has a new poll of New York state out that shows the state’s famously cantankerous residents’ views about nearly everything improving, whether it be the President, the legislature, or race relations. The most eye-popping numbers are those of new Gov. Andrew Cuomo, still in the honeymoon period but for now with a deity-like 70/17 approval.

MO-05: With the likelihood that the 5th will have to take on more Republican voters in the face of Missouri losing one of its nine House seats (since Kansas City is surrounded by red exurbs and rural counties in each direction, there’s really no other way to play it), it’s sounding like Emanuel Cleaver might face a stronger challenge than he’s used to in 2012. Republican former state Sen. Bill Kenney is scoping out the race, assuming that the currently D+10 district will become somewhat less solidly-Dem than before. (Recall that Cleaver’s 2010 victory, against little-known Jacob Turk, was a pretty unconvincing 53-42, although that was against a backdrop of statewide destruction for the Dems.)

NC-08: Here’s a pretty clear sign that Robin Hayes (the Republican holder of this seat until 2008, and a rumored rematch in the early part of the 2010 cycle) won’t be running in a potentially-friendlier (thanks to GOP-controlled redistricting) 8th in 2012. He’s taking over as head of the North Carolina state GOP organization.

KY-AG: In his bid for re-election, Democratic AG Jack Conway seems to have dodged his most compelling remaining Republican opponent. Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Joseph Lambert decided not to run against Conway after not being able to secure a leave of absence from the state’s senior judge program (which lets him sit in as a temp judge when needed). With Trey Grayson already backing up his moving van to leave the state, that leaves Hopkins County state attorney Todd P’Pool as the only logical GOP candidate left.

TX-LG: With David Dewhurst about to move on from his long stint as the state’s #2, a couple other statewide Republicans are already jostling for that position: Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Comptroller Susan Combs. (Note that the LG election is in 2014, though, so if Dewhurst wins the 2012 Senate race there will be an appointee already filling that slot who’d have an incumbency advantage… and if Dewhurst loses, he may decide to keep on being LG on to infinity.)

Mayors: Columbus mayor Michael Coleman, up for re-election in November, already knows who his Republican opponent will be (as apparently the nominee gets picked by the county’s central committee, rather than by primary). He’ll face Earl Smith, a familiar face to voters from his former job as the police department’s spokesman.

SSP Daily Digest: 1/11

ME-Sen: The attempt to primary out Olympia Snowe by the state’s various fractious Tea Party factions seems to be sputtering, partly for lack of a credible challenger to rally around (with Some Dude Scott D’Ambroise the only one officially in the race right now) but also as the various Judean People’s Front and People’s Front of Judea wings of the ‘baggers start to increasingly turn their fire on each other rather than on Democrats and alleged RINOs.

MI-Sen: Joining a major law firm after an electoral loss isn’t, in itself, dispositive of future political runs a few years down the line. But observers are taking the decision by former AG Mike Cox (who lost last year’s GOP gubernatorial primary) to join a Detroit law firm as an indicator that he isn’t considering the 2012 Senate race.

MO-Sen: There are increasing signals that Jim Talent may not run for Senate in 2012, after all. Dave Catanese talks to various Show Me State insiders who say that Talent hasn’t been doing the behind-the-scenes reaching-out that one usually does at this point, and they point to him not only having got caught off guard by Sarah Steelman’s abrupt early entry into the primary but also his close relationship with Mitt Romney. Talent is currently traveling with Romney in an advisory role in Afghanistan, and there’s speculation his 2012 plans may involve hitching his wagon to Romney in the hopes that he’s the next President and that a Cabinet role (SecDef?) may be in the offing.

OH-Sen: With Mike DeWine having passed on a rematch against Sherrod Brown, the speculation has turned to newly-elected Lt. Gov. and former Auditor Mary Taylor. It sounds like she’s game; local insiders are saying she’s at “90%” in terms of likelihood of running. She may not have the field to herself even if she does, though; another newly-elected statewide GOPer, 33-year-old state Treasurer Josh Mandel has been impressing the local GOP in his first week on the job and is starting to attract some buzz for a quick promotion.

WY-Sen: Wyoming promises to be the least dramatic state in the 2012 election, so PPP’s decision to poll here this early seems a little odd. At any rate, they find Wyomingites love their politicians: outgoing Dem Gov. Dave Freudenthal gets a 71/18 approval, making him the nation’s most popular governor, while the state’s two GOP Senators, John Barrasso (69/25) and Mike Enzi (63/24) are the nation’s two most popular Senators. Despite his popularity (and, well, despite the fact that he’s never expressed any interest in running for federal office), Freudenthal loses a hypothetical 2012 matchup against Barrasso, 56-36, thanks to the GOP’s huge registration advantage here.

RI-Gov: There’s already one Dem reportedly gearing up for the 2014 Governor’s race: state Treasurer Gina Raimondo, who’s build a war chest and getting friendly with DC consultants. (Alternatively, she could also be running for Senate in 2014 instead, if Jack Reed isn’t running again.) No mention of whether she’d be challenging new indie Gov. Lincoln Chafee (last seen more or less declaring war on local talk radio) from the left or the right (as Frank Caprio tried to do, and failed).

FL-14: With Rep. Connie Mack IV looking like one of the House’s likeliest retirements right now (in order to pursue a Senate bid against Bill Nelson), speculation has already begun about who’ll fill his seat. One thing is pretty predictable, given the Fort Myers-area district’s R+11 bent and lack of any Dem tradition or bench: it’ll be a Republican. GOP names to watch include ex-state Rep. Dudley Goodlette and Lee Co. Commissioner Ray Judah. The most prominent name, though, may be former Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp (though he might have trouble getting out of a GOP primary unless he can find a way to wash the stank of the Charlie Crist administration off his suit). State Sen. Garrett Richter (whose district closely overlaps the 14th) says no thanks to the race.

HI-01: GOP ex-Rep. Charles Djou, seeming a bit testy after the abrupt end to his very short tenure in the House, seems to have thrown all that feel-good ohana crap out the window in his exit press conference, blaming Dem successor Colleen Hanabusa in advance for expected future failures. He may feel free to speak his mind as he also says he has “no plans to run for any political office ever again.”

NM-01: Rep. Martin Heinrich has already drawn some seemingly-credible Republican opposition for 2012, although he has the kind of district that seems much safer for a Dem in a presidential year than last year’s narrow win. Republican Albuquerque city councilor Dan Lewis has formed an exploratory committee.

State legislatures: Two state House speaker elections are in the news today. The big one may be in Texas, where an expected coup from the right against GOP speaker Joe Straus didn’t ever seem to materialize. He got the support of 70 of 100 GOP House members in a pre-vote caucus, and then was easily elected to another term by the whole House. Meanwhile, in Oregon, an unusual power-sharing arrangement was cobbled together with a surprising degree of civility and equanimity, as the parties figure out how to grapple with a never-before 30-30 tie. GOPer Bruce Hanna and Dem Arnie Roblan will be co-speakers, handing the gavel to each other on alternating days.

Special elections: Two southern states have special elections scheduled today, although there should be very little drama in any of the elections, as these are Republican-leaning districts replacing promoted Republican legislators in lightly-contested races (and icy conditions should reduce turnout to microscopic levels). In Mississippi, the races are to replace Alan Nunnelee in SD-6 and Steven Palazzo in HD-116. (With a recent party switch by state Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, the GOP is poised to tie the state Senate with today’s election.) In Virginia, the races are to replace Robert Hurt in SD-19 and Morgan Griffith in HD-8.

Primaries: In a nice bit of symmetry, two states are going in very different directions with their primary election rules. In Idaho, where the GOP seems fearful of meddling in its primaries by the state’s Democrat (I think his name is Jerry), the state GOP is pushing to change from open primaries to closed primaries. Meanwhile, in Louisiana, after a period of closed primaries for federal-level offices (which was extremely confusing, since they kept using open primaries for state offices), they’re expecting federal approval of a switch back to all open primaries this month. The state legislature has already approved it, but as a VRA state, they’re waiting for DOJ preclearance.

Redistricting: Finally, here’s some redistricting news. Bob McDonnell has thrown a bone to fans of redistricting reform with the creation of a new redistricting commission with 11 members. It’s not a very interesting bone, though, since the commission’s role is purely advisory and the commission doesn’t even have a budget. Meanwhile, the Hill looks at what might happen to the House districts in New Jersey, a state where the hard work is actually done by commission (which has traditionally focused on incumbent protection, but has to eliminate one seat this year). For now, everyone is waiting for more complete Census figures to see if the population stagnation was more concentrated in the state’s north (which would probably hit the Dems) or the state’s middle (which would hit the GOP).

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!

A Democratic bench…in Wyoming?!

(This was posted in reply to Andy Dufresne in the recent WY-AL topic, but I thought this topic might merit its own entry.)

In order to build a bench in Wyoming, we’re going to have to start helping Democrats (fundraising and otherwise) to build strong positive reputations in the state, even if they have no chance of winning.  I seriously doubt that Rothfuss can win against Enzi short of a scandal (and even with a scandal it’d be hard as heck), but I believe he’s the kind of fresh new Democrat that the party could use.  Running for Senate as a scientist and policy wonk concerned about science policy–that’s an admirable goal.  It’s almost guaranteed to be insufficient to put him over the top, sure, but we’ve gotta start building a Democratic brand somewhere.

Trauner’s strong chance at the House seat and Freudenthal’s popular governorship are a good groundwork on which to start.

As for Nick Carter and Keith Goodenough (running against Barrasso) and Al Hamburg (also running against Enzi), I don’t know enough about them.  But–no offense to them–and I’d love to hear about anything interesting that they’re doing!

(Granted, I’d rather people who aren’t lawyers or career politicians to run for office, because (1) I think legislatures deal with very practical issues that people of other professional backgrounds might be better suited to manage, and (2) I don’t like it when the Republicans can point at us and say that we’re a bunch of trial lawyers, even if they’ve got their own load of trial lawyers on their side anyway.)

And just ’cause I think it’s worth posting here:……

WY-Sen: Could Freudenthal Buck the State GOP?

The Hotline picks up on an article written by FindLaw’s Vikram David Amar exploring the constitutionality of a state legislature’s ability to constrain the Governor’s choices for a U.S. Senate vacancy, such as in Wyoming, where Democratic Gov. Dave Freudenthal must select one of three options presented to him by the state Republican Party in the wake of Republican Sen. Craig Thomas’ recent passing:

He notes that the U.S. Constitution only says that state legislatures may “empower” govs to make SEN appointments. This raises the question whether 1). A legislature can force a governor to appoint a senator if a governor choses to leave a SEN vacancy, and 2). Whether the legislature, once it’s empowered the governor to make an appointment, can give itself or a state party any ability to shape that appointment.

Amar notes that the phrase “”as the legislature may direct”, which appears elsewhere in the Constitution, does NOT appear in the relevant SEN appointment section, which might lead one to conclude that a legislature may only give its governor no power or total power regarding a SEN appointment.


But let’s say Freudenthal doesn’t want to feel obligated to pick one of the WY GOP’s 3 nominees? As Amar points out, he simply could appoint a Dem or GOPer of his own choice, at which point the U.S. Senate (the “Judge of the … Qualifications of its own members”) would have to determine if it accepts the new member or not. Of course, a SCOTUS case could also easily ensue from such a move.

As a Dem in such a deep-red state such as WY, one wonders if Freudenthal would really pursue such an “in-your-face” move as simply trying to appoint his own selection, on the assumption he wants to preserve good relations with the GOP legislature and his own political viability. Ultimately, there’s a good chance he’ll simply appoint one of the 3 GOP nominees presented him. And yet, one wonders if it’s not out of the question that he might attempt to dangle the threat of a peremptory appointment as a bargaining chip. Perhaps he would send word to the GOP central cmte regarding which candidates he would prefer or dislike, hinting that he might force the constitutional question if they fail to comply?

Perhaps he might insist on a compromise whereby he appoints a GOPer if the legislature agrees to pass a special election bill that would elect a new senator in November 2007 (when a Dem might have a better chance of winning, with no presidential coattails to worry about)? Who knows?

Of course, the major caveat is that we’re talking about Dave Freudenthal here, a guy who is probably the least partisan Democratic Governor in the country.  Who could forget his 11th hour support of Gary Trauner, even as he cruised to an easy re-election?  Or his dismissal of Howard Dean and the national party as ‘too liberal’ and ‘out of touch’?

It’s pretty hard to imagine Freudenthal playing hardball with the state GOP.  But, who knows?  He’s term-limited, and perhaps if the choices presented to him are that bad, maybe his passions will be stirred into provoking a constitutional battle?

UPDATE: Rollicking DailyKos discussion here.

Race Tracker: WY-Sen

WY-Sen: Craig Thomas Dies

From the Associated Press:

Wyoming Sen. Craig Thomas, a three-term conservative Republican who stayed clear of the Washington limelight and political catfights, died Monday. He was 74.

The senator’s family issued a statement saying he died Monday evening at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. He had been receiving chemotherapy for acute myeloid leukemia.

Just before the 2006 election, Thomas was hospitalized with pneumonia and had to cancel his last campaign stops. He nonetheless won with 70 percent of the vote, monitoring the election from his hospital bed.

Our deepest condolences to Senator Thomas’ family.  As for his successor in the Senate, the AP cites Wyoming law:

Gov. Dave Freudenthal, a Democrat, will appoint a successor from one of three finalists chosen by the state Republican party.

Race Tracker: WY-Sen

Thoughts on “Unknown”

(From the diaries – promoted by DavidNYC)

[Cross-posted at my blog Senate 2008 Guru: Following the Races.]

In the left-hand column of the Guru’s website, there is a list of “Democratic Senatorial Incumbents and Candidates” featuring Democratic incumbents, announced Democratic challengers for GOP-held seats, and Democrats considering bids for GOP-held seats.  Though there is still much time left to recruit challengers, there are seven states on the list featuring only “unknown” – in other words, there are seven states with Republican incumbent Senators where there are no Democrats even publicly considering a Senate bid, only rumors at best.  Let’s look at those seven states.

(Much more after the jump.)

Alaska: Given Ted Stevens’ advanced age (he’s 83), his penchant for flying off in a tizzy from time to time, and his proximity to scandal, Democrats ought to field someone credible just in case.  Much speculation has focused on Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, who is term-limited out of office in 2009.  I think he should definitely run.  Best case scenario, he wins.  Worst case scenario, he loses but he increases his statewide profile for a 2010 challenge to Lisa Murkowski, who is significantly less popular than Stevens at a time when the Murkowski name isn’t worth what it used to be in Alaska.  (Her father, former Senator and now-former-Governor Frank Murkowski, had a dismal 19% showing in his 2006 primary bid for re-election after having taken heat for the nepotism associated with naming his daughter to his old Senate seat.)  If the DSCC offered him continued support in 2010 if he didn’t win 2008, he could go for it.  Otherwise, we ought to check with Alaska Democratic mainstay former Governor Tony Knowles or, perhaps more quixotically, former Senator and current Presidential candidate Mike Gravel to see if they wouldn’t mind having their name on the line just in case.  Race tracker wiki: AK-Sen

Georgia: The Peach State has arguably shifted more than any other state in the nation from Democratic- to Republican-trending over the last decade.  Right now, the only thing Democrats have resembling a candidate under the Democratic banner is self-proclaimed “conservative Democrat” and 2004 Bush voter Vernon Jones, the weak-fundraising CEO of DeKalb County.  Beyond that, some Democratic insiders have been urging Congressman Jim Marshall to consider a Senate bid, though Marshall may have a tough House re-election bid on his hands (could that motivate him to just jump into the Senate fray?).  Meanwhile state Attorney General Thurbert Baker has done nothing to quash speculation about Senate interest.  DKos diarists biglib (also now at Tondee’s Tavern), Mister Gloom, and VolvoDrivingLiberal offer thoughts on the GA-Dem bench – mostly just rumors, former candidates, or current office-holders that like where they are.  “Shameless” Saxby Chambliss is the Republican incumbent I would most like to see lose in 2008 as a result of his despicable 2002 campaign, so I hope the GA-Dems come up with something interesting.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: not a day goes by where I don’t hope that true American patriot and former Senator Max Cleland doesn’t reconsider a rematch of 2002.  (If you’ll forgive the triple-negative in the previous sentence, I just really want Cleland to get in the race and give Chambliss his comeuppance.)  Race tracker wiki: GA-Sen

Kansas: Pat Roberts’ approval hovers right around the 50% zone, but Kansas is still a red state.  The dream candidate remains popular Governor Kathleen Sebelius, who has expressed no interest in a 2008 Senate race and may be holding out for the 2008 Veepstakes.  With an approval in the 60-70% range and approval among Republicans over 50%, I’m confident she could beat Pat Roberts.  Kansas does enjoy other Democratic statewide elected officials, including Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson (a former KS-GOP Chair who switched parties to run with Sebelius) and state Attorney General Paul Morrison, as well as Democratic Congresspeople Dennis Moore and Nancy Boyda (half of Kansas’ four-person House delegation), but none have indicated interest in a Senate bid.  It would be disappointing to see a potentially competitive race in the heartland fall by the wayside; and, as long as Roberts hovers around 50% approval, Kansas is potentially competitive.  Race tracker wiki: KS-Sen

Mississippi: There is a question as to whether or not incumbent Thad Cochran will run for re-election.  Despite the unusual signals that might suggest retirement, if I had to make a prediction right now, I would offer that Cochran would run for another term, given Cochran’s steady fundraising compared with the meager showing of Cochran understudy Chip Pickering.  The dream candidate in Mississippi would be former state Attorney General Mike Moore, but it has been suggested that Moore would only put the effort into a run if Cochran retired – the catch-22 being that Cochran might only retire if he faced a stiff challenge from someone like Moore.  Like Kansas, half of Mississippi’s four-person House delegation is Democratic, but there have been no rumblings.  Even yearnings for celebrity candidates like author (and former state legislator) John Grisham or actor Morgan Freeman have made the rounds.  But, so far, silence.  Race tracker wiki: MS-Sen

South Carolina: With a very lean SC-Dem bench, Lindsey Graham could be more likely to face a primary challenge from a Club for Growth-style right-winger unhappy with Graham’s maverick nature than a viable Democrat.  Nevertheless, every state should have a challenger.  The race tracker wiki only offers speculation on the SC-Dems’ 2004 Senate challenger, former State Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum, and former state Party Chair Joe Erwin.  Tenenbaum’s successor as Superintendent, Jim Rex, remains South Carolina’s only statewide elected Democrat (and barely, at that, with Rex taking 47.50% percent of the vote to the Republican’s 47.45% of the vote, winning by less than 500 votes in a race where the Green Party candidate took about 9,000 votes, while the Libertarian, Independence, and Constitution Party candidates combined for over 45,000 votes or over 4% of the total vote).  The Palmetto State’s six-person House delegation features two Democrats, both of whom have plum committee assignments in the new Democratic House majority that they probably would not want to part with.  A second-look at the 2006 state election results offer that the top vote-getting Democrat was not Jim Rex but rather Robert Barber, who narrowly lost his bid for the Lieutenant Governor’s office and who has a very interesting background.  If I were the DSCC, I’d give Mr. Barber a ring and find out if there was any interest.  Race tracker wiki: SC-Sen

Tennessee: Tennessee actually enjoys a fairly solid, intriguing bench of potential Senate candidates.  Still, pretty much nothing but silence.  Meanwhile, Lamar Alexander’s approval looms unintimidatingly in the low-50’s.  2006 Democratic TN-Sen nominee former Congressman Harold Ford Jr. has taken the reins of the DLC and seems to have backed off of speculation about a repeat bid in ’08.  Extremely popular Governor Phil Bredesen has not shown any interest in a Senate bid that he could very reasonably win.  Perhaps he, like Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, is waiting on the 2008 Veepstakes.  (Come to think of it, the “popular Democratic Governor uninterested in a very winnable Senate challenge against a lackluster Republican incumbent in favor of the ’08 Veepstakes” motif fits a few states, including Tennessee, Kansas, and North Carolina, and even Wyoming minus the Veepstakes angle.)  Ford’s 2006 primary opponent, state senator Rosalind Kurita, lost a lot of goodwill when she voted for the Republican Speaker of the Senate/Lt. Gov. over the Democratic incumbent.  Speculation has also surrounded Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell, former state Party Chair Bob Tuke, Tipper Gore, and musician & Bush critic Tim McGraw.  DKos diarist Sidof79 keeps regularly tabs on the potential candidates, offering a near-monthly update.  However, so far we have only heard speculation.  Race tracker wiki: TN-Sen

Wyoming: It frequently feels like there are only two Democrats who live in Wyoming: extremely popular Governor Dave Freudenthal, who has demonstrated no interest in a Senate bid; and Gary Trauner, who very narrowly lost his 2006 at-large House challenge to Barbara Cubin and looks like he may be opting for a rematch there.  If I were to gauge the landscape right now, I would deem Mike Enzi the safest Republican up for re-election in 2008 (and the most likely to get a free ride), unless Governor Freudenthal finds the desire to run for Senate.  Surely, somewhere in Wyoming is a Jon Tester/Scott Kleeb-style progressive, populist farmer/rancher.  Race tracker wiki: WY-Sen

Again, every state should find a challenger.  These seven states are not un-winnable.  In fact, most of these states have the potential to be highly competitive races.  Of the seven, three (Kansas, Tennessee, and Wyoming) have very popular Democratic Governors who could immediately make for top-tier races in their respective states.  Alaska has, in my mind, a clear choice to pursue in Mayor Begich, with the offer of continued support through 2010.  Mississippi sees a possible retirement in Cochran as well as another obvious preferred candidate in former AG Moore.  In Georgia, Chambliss’ approval also looms around the low-50’s; maybe if we ask for Senator Cleland politely enough he’ll change his mind and immediately turn Georgia into a highly competitive race.  South Carolina is tough, but there should be no free rides.

By what margin will Bob Shamansky win?

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Senate Recruitment Thread #4 (OR, SC, TN, TX, VA & WY)

Tonight brings our fourth and final installment in our series of Senate recruitment open threads.  For the past several weeks, the Swing State Project has been cracking open the field of GOP-held Senate seats up for grabs in 2008, and inviting you to submit your recruitment ideas for each of these races.  For a look back at the previous discussions, see here (AK, AL, AR, GA & ID), here (KS, KY, ME, MN & MS), and here (NC, NE, NH, NM, OK).

Here are our targets for this week.  Links are to the 2008 Race Tracker wiki for inspiration, and incumbents are in parens:

16) Oregon (Gordon Smith)

17) South Carolina (Lindsey Graham)

18) Tennessee (Lamar Alexander)

19) Texas (John Cornyn)

20) Virginia (John Warner)

21) Wyoming (Mike Enzi)

As always, don’t feel limited to submitting the names of traditional politicians.  Businesspeople, community leaders, activists, writers, musicians, athletes or celebrities are all fair game.  I have already seen a number of very creative suggestions in previous weeks.  You never know who’s reading or what kind of traction these ideas could generate.  So have at it!