SSP Daily Digest: 10/19 (Afternoon Edition)

AK-Sen: I thought Joe Miller (last seen praising the COMMUNISTS!!1! in East Germany for their wall-building skills) wasn’t going to talk about his personal life anymore (i.e. personal stuff like his on-the-job politicking while working for the borough of Fairbanks)? Well, now he is, and he’s openly admitted on CNN that he was disciplined by the borough for an ethical violation. “John, I’ll admit I’m a man of many flaws,” he said. Apparently one of those flaws was using his various co-workers’ computers while they were away for lunch to rig an online poll intended to displace Randy Ruedrich as state GOP chair, then wiping out their caches to cover his tracks, then getting caught when the wiped caches were discovered. Miller said he was reprimanded and docked pay as a result. However he maintains the incident had nothing to do with his departure from the office a year and a half later (which others maintain was imminently before he was about to be fired). So… a guy is possibly about to go from not being able to hack it as a contract attorney for a city of about 25,000, to a Senator, in the space of about a year? Geez, only in America.

CT-Sen: Linda McMahon’s no slouch either on the self-funding front: she loaned herself $20 million last quarter, bringing her all-cycle total to $41.5 million. (No word, of course, on how much of that $20 million actually has been or will be spent.) Meg Whitman was heard sniffing disdainfully and saying McMahon should call once she reaches the eight digits.

DE-Sen: Sometimes, it’s best to keep your mouth shut and let everyone assume you’re a fool, rather than open your mouth and categorically prove it. The highlight of last night’s debate:

Republican Senate nominee Christine O’Donnell of Delaware on Tuesday questioned whether the Constitution calls for a separation of church and state, appearing to disagree or not know that the First Amendment bars the government from establishing religion….

“The First Amendment establishes the separation, the fact that the federal government shall not establish religion,” Coons said.

“The First Amendment does?” O’Donnell interrupted. “You’re telling me that the separation of church and state is found in the First Amendment?”

KY-Sen: With Aqua Buddha suddenly back dominating coverage of this race, no one’s really stopped to ask Aqua Buddha lady what she thinks of all this. She thinks that Jack Conway’s ad’s tone is over-the-top, but agrees with the fundamentals, that it’s an accurate reflection of Rand Paul’s past views and that he should acknowledge that he’s just changed his religious views since then (instead of playing the victim).

MA-Sen: Wait, the 2010 election hasn’t happened yet? Still not too early to talk about 2012. Rep. Mike Capuano, runner-up in the Dem primary in the special election and considered the likeliest opponent against Scott Brown in two years, is openly “mulling” the race, although his official line is “Talk to me in December.”

NV-Sen: We finally have some confirmation on what we’d suspected, regarding Sharron Angle’s burn rate, thanks to Salon’s crack team. She may have raised $14 million, but she also spent $5.3 million on direct mail expenses last quarter in order to get that money. $920K of that went to BaseConnect and its affiliates, with $1.5 million to somebody called Patton-Kiehl, who seemed responsible for the actual printing and postage. Another $4 million went to TV ads, leaving her with the $4 million CoH she reported.

MD-Gov: This one looks closer and closer to being wrapped up in favor of Martin O’Malley. On top of today’s Gonzales poll, there’s also news that the RGA is scaling things back in Maryland, planning to spend less than $200K for Bob Ehrlich in the final two weeks. O’Malley may also benefit from an across-the-aisle endorsement (although it’s from a figure who’s committed his fair share of apostasies): ex-Rep. Wayne Gilchrest gave him his backing today.

MN-Gov: Here’s one more across-the-aisle endorsement (the only kind we’d bother reporting on, at this stage in the game). Tom Horner, the Independence Party candidate in Minnesota, got an endorsement from Mike Ciresi, a wealthy attorney who you might remember from losing the 2000 DFL Senate primary to Mark Dayton (wonder if there are any hard feelings there?) and ran again for Senate in 2008 but dropped out pre-convention. That may make things a smidge harder for Dayton, who needs Horner to draw votes mostly from the R column.

AL-02: This has to be one of the weirdest IEs of the cycle: Blue America is spending in AL-02 of all places, and they’re spending $48K against Bobby Bright. I guess they hate Blue Dogs just that much.

FL-22: You know, if you’re fighting allegations that you have links to the outlaw biker gang conveniently known as the Outlaws, probably the best way to do that is by not having bikers providing security at your rallies. Well, that’s what happened at an Allen West appearance, where bikers physically drove off a Ron Klein tracker. Video is available at the link. (At least “Sympathy for the Devil” wasn’t playing in the background.)

NC-07: Here’s some interesting scuttlebutt out of the 7th, where Mike McIntyre is joining the I-won’t-vote-for-Pelosi brigade but where he’s also saying that he’s heard that she won’t be running for Speaker again. (That would, of course, presume having a majority; no word on whether he’s heard if she plans on running for minority leader.) Relatedly, even Mike McMahon, who’s looking like a good bet to survive his red-leaning district this year, is now sounding noncommittal but at least Pelosi-skeptical.

OR-04: Wondering who the mysterious Concerned Taxpayers of America are, who’ve trained most of their advertising firepower on Peter DeFazio, turning this into at least a mildly competitive race? Well, it turns out there’s a grand total of two of them, each of whom has ponied up hundreds of thousands of dollars. One of them, Robert Mercer, appears to be the one with the beef against DeFazio, probably because he’s a hedge fund manager and takes issue with DeFazio’s leadership on taxing major hedge-fund transactions.

VA-05: I guess demanding the moon and the sun when you make your initial offer in a negotiating session is a good strategy, but independent teabagger Jeffrey Clark may have taken that ridiculously far in his attempts to negotiate a dropout from the race and an endorsement for GOP candidate Robert Hurt. Clark offered to drop out if he got the chance to debate Hurt one-on-one, and then if subsequent polling didn’t have him at 25% of the vote! Hurt has refused to appear any at any debates where Clark is included, and doesn’t seem any likelier to do so now.

WA-08: I know it’s fashionable to paint Dave Reichert as not being one of the sharpest tools in the shed, but it’s hard not to do so when he gives you so much material: at a forum with opponent Suzan DelBene, confessed in response to a question that he wasn’t familiar with the Glass-Steagall Act. (The resurrection of Glass-Steagall was one of the main things being debated as part of the financial reform package passed this year.)

DCCC: Here’s some activity from the D-Trip that doesn’t bode well: they’ve started going on the air in NC-11 for Heath Shuler, previously thought safe based on most of the polling we’ve seen so far but has been in the crosshairs of a lot of third-party advertising from folks like Americans for Job Security. (NWOTSOTB.) They’re also increasing their buys in the coming weeks in neighboring districts SC-05 (John Spratt) and NC-07 (Mike McIntyre). Also, file this under a sorta-kinda triage decision: the DCCC is cutting off ads in NM-02, on behalf of Harry Teague. Chris Van Hollen says they’re leaving Teague in “great position,” which (shades of Steve Kagen here) is probably code for “he’s personally wealthy” and it’s time for him to buy his own bandaids.

Polltopia: PPP is letting you choose an unprecedented six states to poll in, as part of their final round of polling. They must be renting some extra robots, because they’re planning to poll 18 different states the week before the election, although 12 states (basically, the most obvious ones) are already locked in. Go vote!


CA-Sen: EMILY’s List is out with a TV spot featuring an opera guy singing a ditty about Carly Fiorina (and her time as Hewlett-Packard CEO)

NV-Sen: Both the DSCC and NRSC are out with ads; the DSCC says that while you’re angry, don’t take it out by voting for Sharron Angle, while the GOP says Harry Reid lives in a fancy hotel and parties with supermodels

WA-Sen: One of the Dems’ few big-money behind-the-scenes groups, Commonsense Ten, looks at Dino Rossi’s cozy connections

WV-Sen: Joe Manchin’s new ad just flat out says “John Raese uses people”

CA-Gov: Too bad this is only a Jerry Brown web ad, because it’s one of the most effective ones we’ve seen this cycle: it ties Meg Whitman to unpopular Arnold Schwarzenegger, matching them quote for quote (UPDATE: Good news, everybody! The ad is going to be running on television, despite its one-minute length! It’s that good.)

TX-Gov: Bill White’s new ad hits Rick Perry on his rental mansion

SC-02: Joe “Yewwwwww Laaaaaah!” Wilson talks about dodging mortar fire in his newest ad (mortar fire that apparently landed on the other end of the airport while on what Rob Miller has been calling a Congressional junket, but that’s OK)

TX-17: Here’s a sign that Chet Edwards has done something to show that he’s stemmed the bleeding (or at least that he called in some serious favors), as the DCCC’s back on the air here with an effective ad about bailout funds for Bill Flores’ oil company

Original recipe Rasmussen:

KY-Sen: Jack Conway (D) 42%, Rand Paul (R) 47%

MI-Gov: Virg Bernero (D) 34%, Rick Snyder (R) 54%

NV-Gov: Rory Reid (D) 37%, Brian Sandoval (R) 56%

Extra crispy Rasmussen (aka Fox/Pulse):

CA-Gov: Jerry Brown (D) 48%, Meg Whitman (R) 43%

CA-Sen: Barbara Boxer (D-inc) 48%, Carly Fiorina (R) 44%

CO-Gov: John Hickenlooper (D) 40 45%, Dan Maes (R) 10%, Tom Tancredo (C) 45 40%

CO-Sen: Michael Bennet (D-inc) 45%, Ken Buck (R) 46%

MO-Sen: Robin Carnahan (D) 43%, Roy Blunt (R) 49%

OH-Gov: Ted Strickland (D-inc) 43%, John Kasich (R) 49%

WV-Sen: Joe Manchin (D) 45%, John Raese (R) 48%

MN-Sen: Handicapping Franken and Ciresi’s Chances

I’ve been giving alot of thought in recent months regarding next year’s Minnesota Senate race.  It’s very difficult to predict how it will unfold as there are a variety of converging forces in play.  Have the second-ring suburbs that helped elect Norm Coleman to the Senate in 2002 tired of him enough to vote him out?  Will anybody outstate be willing to take Al Franken seriously?  Would Mike Ciresi put more of the state in play than Franken would?  It’s a crap shoot across the board.  Minnesota has clearly taken a leftward turn since 2004 and I expect that to continue next year.  On the other hand, I’m not confident in the positive coattail capacity of Hillary Clinton if she’s at the top of the ticket, which the odds seem to favor at this point.  For the first time in years, I really don’t know what direction this could go, but I’ll give it a shot nonetheless with thoughts on the candidate’s personal and demographical strengths and weaknesses.

I closely track Minnesota political demographics and go into every election cycle confident that I can guess how each region of the state will vote.  Some years my predictions are dead-on, such as 2004, while other years I’m not nearly as clairvoyant.  The 2006 midterm elections fit the latter.  At this point in 2005, I had predicted close races would ensue in both the Senate and gubernatorial elections.  The Senate race, in my estimation a year in advance, would be a classic Old Minnesota vs. New Minnesota slugfest in which Klobuchar would dominate Hennepin and Ramsey Counties, along with northeastern Minnesota, while Kennedy would be competitive by scoring stratospheric numbers in outer suburbia and western Minnesota farm country, both of which he had represented in Congress and which I expected to bristle at “big-city lawyer” Klobuchar.  Needless to say, I botched that prediction badly, as did most of the pundits who also expected a close Senate race in Minnesota, failing to foresee that alleged wunderkind Mark Kennedy would run the worst Minnesota Senate campaign in recent memory.  Meanwhile, in the gubernatorial race where I expected Democrat Mike Hatch to do well outstate and for Tim Pawlenty to score the same boffo numbers in the nonurban metro area that he did in 2002, the Old MN vs. New MN contest I expected to see in the Senate race actually did play out.  Needless to say, it was a humbling experience for a guy who thought he had it all figured out. 

Hopefully, I fare a little better this year, but the campaign dynamic doesn’t strike me as being as clearcut this year.  With that in mind, I’ll start with the incumbent and cite scenarios where each of the three candidates could win or lose next year….

Norm Coleman–The 2002 Senate election was very much an Old MN vs. New MN election, with Coleman compensating for his deficiencies among elderly outstate  voters by sweeping through suburbia with absolutely astounding numbers.  Conventional wisdom is that Coleman will need to hang onto the same Democrat-trending second-ring suburbs (Bloomington, Minnetonka, Shoreview, Eagan) if he’s to be re-elected in 2008.  That might be correct, but not necessarily so, as Coleman’s outstate numbers in 2002 were below-average for a Republican, based partly on Mondale nostalgia among the area’s older voters, but also the perception that Coleman was a city slicker disconnected with rural values.  It’s not clear whether that perception will hold outstate next year, particularly if Al Franken is the Democratic nominee. 

Given that 2008 is a Presidential election year, it’s likely that turnout will be disproportionately higher compared to 2002 in the urban DFL strongholds of Minneapolis and St. Paul, which produces an immediate math challenge for him.  Assuming that prediction is correct, Coleman will have to pick up votes elsewhere to compensate for the deficit.  Potentially key to Coleman’s chances is the increasingly unpredictable white-collar city of Rochester in southeastern Minnesota, formerly a Republican stronghold but growing significantly less so in recent election cycles.  Nonetheless, certain kinds of Republicans (like Governor Tim Pawlenty) still do very well in Rochester, and if Coleman can adeptly portray himself as a centrist with growing doubts about the war in Iraq, Rochester voters might be inclined to hang with him.

Al Franken–The ultimate wild card of a candidate.  On the basis of fundraising alone, he’s a force to be reckoned with, and will have every opportunity to revamp his image.  But at least so far, there is little evidence voters are ready to take him seriously.  His funnyman history poses a unique challenge in that he can’t simply come across as the class clown slumming in politics, but will also be expected to produce moments of levity during the campaign so he doesn’t disappoint people as “just another boring politician”.  From my observations, he has a hard time with that balance and can be less than riveting when speaking on meat-and-potatoes issues in front of crowds.  But if his ground game and political skills prove as effective as his fundraising skills, he has a helluva good chance against an incumbent with a 45% approval rating, but that’s a big “if”.

Franken needs to run at least 50-50 in the aforementioned second-ring suburbs to have a chance, because he’ll be smashed in the fast-growing exurban doughnut and will most likely face a struggle outstate, particularly if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee.  Outstate Minnesota has never had much of a fondness for Coleman in the past, so it’s not a lost cause for Franken, but he’ll have to earn his chops by touring some dairy farms and iron mines yet still avoid a “Dukakis in the tank” moment in the process.  That’s gonna be a tough needle to thread with Republicans chomping at the bit for an opportunity to portray him as “out of touch with Minnesota”.  I can’t say I’m optimistic, but am certainly not to the point where I can’t be persuaded to take Franken’s campaign seriously.

Mike Ciresi–In the interest of playing it safe, I would prefer to see Ciresi get the nomination over Franken, but I’m increasingly doubtful that will happen unless Franken makes a gaffe.  Ciresi is the “safe” candidate on every front, particulalry his self-financing ability, but there’s a fear he will be too safe, failing to excite the base enough to take down Coleman.  He was the presumptive favorite in the crowded field of candidates in 2000, but failed to seal the deal……against the uber-dreary Mark Dayton!  If Ciresi lacked the fortitude to hold back Dayton seven years ago, it’s worth asking whether he has what it takes to topple Coleman, who’s a much better politician in his sleep than Dayton.  Nonetheless, Ciresi hits the right buttons on the issues and could have a Klobuchar-esque ability to court GOP-leaning independents.  That’s just speculation, but back in 2000, Rod Grams was most worried about facing Ciresi compared to the handful of other contenders.

Demographically, Ciresi seems like an easier sell to second-ring suburbanites than Franken…..and these voters will almost certainly decide the outcome.  Ciresi’s “big-city lawyer” background is not a natural fit for outstate voters, but that didn’t hurt Klobuchar nearly as much as I expected last year…..and Coleman is much less loved outstate than what former country boy Mark Kennedy was expected to be, so I won’t take anything for granted.  Again, however, it’s almost a certainty that Minnesota’s outer-suburban growth zones will produce huge margins for Coleman, so Ciresi (and every Dem for that matter) will have to continue to improve their numbers in the rest of the state to compensate for the tens of thousands of new Republican voters coming out of the doughnut every four years.  In a hotly contested Presidential election, turning out the urban base and shaking out those “compensatory” votes doesn’t seem like it should be a problem.

That’s my early handicap of the 2008 Minnesota Senate race.  Expect to see this analysis expand and evolve as the campaign unfolds, and feel free to provide me any information I may have missed that falsely colored my thoughts at this stage.

MN-SEN: Ciresi Is In

For those who are looking for an alternative to Al Franken, Mike Ciresi has officially thrown his hat into the ring.

Minneapolis attorney Mike Ciresi (sir-EE’-see) is expected to announce today whether he will run for U.S. Senate.

Ciresi announced in February that he was looking into the D-F-L nomination for the Senate seat now held by Republican Norm Coleman.

Comedian Al Franken is already in the race for the D-F-L nomination.

Ciresi is best known for winning a 6.1 billion dollar settlement with the tobacco industry on behalf of the state of Minnesota. He made an unsuccessful bid for the D-F-L Senate nomination in 2000.

Personally, I would prefer Betty McCollum. Stay tuned.