Thursday, July 26, 2007

Senate Race Notes

Chris Cillizza (second post referencing him - any guess where I am on my bloglines?) has another excellent roundup and ranking of next year's Senate contests, with a couple of surprises. The first one that hits you is Mitch McConnell's presence, even without a serious challenger (though check out CC's later post for a potential emergence of one); I'm not discounting the possibility of McConnell being in hot water for all the reasons he lists (Kentucky GOP and governor besieged, McConnell as the face of an unpopular party, etc.), but he's also an extraordinarily strong campaigner. So was Daschle - just saying.

Speaking of South Dakota, does Governor Mike Rounds run even if Senator Tim Johnson decides to seek reelection despite his recent brain surgery (from which he hasn't yet returned to work)? I dunno about that one, primarily because South Dakotans may be inclined to give Johnson the sympathy vote, even if Rounds may be more in line with many of their views (though the presidential dynamic may change things, as it likely did in Thune's victory over Daschle in 04). Talking to my sole friend from South Dakota, I get the sense that no one there wants another nasty, brutish, and overly-long race like the 04 contest, with an absurd amount of money spent by both candidates in a state with dirt cheap advertising. Everyone got sick of it pretty quick, and that's the sort of race Rounds may have to run to win.

Cilizza's got Nebraska too low on the list (#8) for my taste. Why? Because Hagel looks unlikely to seek reelection, even if he does, there's a credible Republican challenger in Jon Bruning (who also raised credible sums last quarter), and it's a very red state in a presidential year. There's also no serious Democratic contender at present, though Cillizza is the first credible source I've seen to note the rumors of Bob Kerrey coming back to run. I'd put this higher on the list, maybe replacing Oregon at #7, given that Democrats haven't got an announced, credible candidate yet.

His #6, Virginia, deserves to be higher, especially as the rumors of John Warner's retirement grow. If John Warner retires, Virginia Democrat friends tell me Mark Warner will run, and likely win (especially if ex-presidential nominee Jim Gilmore and Rep Tom Davis start attacking each other).

His #3 is Louisiana, but given the state's topsy-turvy politics, Mary Landrieu may not be in too much trouble, dropping this one a spot or two. We've got a Democrat-turned-Republican looking to run against her and (if I'm not mistaken) a Republican-turned-Democrat running for governor. Assuming that Rep Bobby Jindal wins this year's gubernatorial contest (seems likely), he won't run against her; he might be the GOP's best hope. On top of all of this is the Vitter mess, and the fact that he seems determined to tough it out, further muddying the waters (though if Jindal runs, I think the chances of Vitter resigning increase noticeably). I haven't recently talked to my Louisiana source, so maybe her insights will change my thinking.

Given what he says, I'd flip his #2 and #1 races, especially due to that New Hampshire poll showing Jeanne Shaheen just walloping John Sununu (not surprising since the state went left in a big way last year).

So let's sum it up; my ten:
1) New Hampshire
2) Colorado
3) Maine (blue state, not a good time for a Republican, even if she's a moderate)
4) Virginia
5) Minnesota (see logic on #3, but change pronoun)
6) Lousiana (I know, gasps of protest that it's dropped this far; also sad that this the Republicans' best pick-up opportunity)
7) Oregon
8) Nebraska (if we're sticking with CC's formula of likely to change parties, this may go RINO to R)
9) South Dakota
10) Kentucky

At present, I see no reason to put Dole on this list; the Democrats can't find anyone credible to run against her (best shot Mike Easley is a no-go, as are a lot of less-notable others), Dole's savvy and tough (and can always trot out Viagra Bob), and it's a presidential year.

But it's an overall bad picture for the GOP: I don't see them picking up a seat unless Landrieu blunders or Louisiana politics get a little more straightforward (ha!) or unless Johnson announces he's not running again, or something crazy happens elsewhere (still think Dick Durbin's more vulnerable than is acknowledged for all the crap he spews). Democrats stand to pick up some combination of at least two (VA if J.Warner backs out or NH if Shaheen gets in are my most likely). But again, a lot can change and if the environment for Republicans improves, they may be able to hold steady (and even if it doesn't, Warner's repositioned himself on the war to a degree that if he chooses to run again, he may be okay - and may help the Republican presidential nominee carry Virginia, a less surefire proposition than in 04). Sorry this is so lengthy and convoluted, hope it was at least somewhat insightful.

No comments: