Check out my rundown of the 2010 Senate races here

Saturday, May 9, 2009

House Recruitment Updates: 5/9

CA-47: Republicans are trying to go where they have not (recently) gone before, and targeting Democratic-leaning districts such as Loretta Sanchez's. The NRCC has recruited state Assemblyman Van Tran--who is Vietnamese--to run against Sanchez, in this heavily Vietnamese district. But Tran got off to a bad start, as he kicked off his campaign in the wrong district--CA-46.

OR-04: Following along those lines, the GOP has recruited Springfield Mayor Sid Leiken (R) to challenge Rep. Pete DeFazio (D). At this point, DeFazio does not look vulnerable, but he has not been seriously challenged in a long time (he ran unopposed in 2008). He is also reportedly considering running for governor, so the prospect of a tough challenger may nudge DeFazio in the direction of a gubernatorial run--and an open seat in this D+2 district would be a good pick-up opportunity for the GOP.

MN-06: Many Democrats are ready to pounce to get another go at ultra-conservative Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) in 2010, and two Democrats jumped in the race this week. The first is Elwyn Tinklenberg, the 2008 Democratic candidate who massively benefited financially from a series of inflammatory remarks that Bachmann made. The other Democrat that entered the race this week was Maureen Reed, the 2006 Independence Party candidate for Lieutenant Governor. The DCCC is not prepared to back either candidate, and expressed joy in the entries of both Democrats in the race against Bachmann.

CO-04: Republicans landed a credible challenger against vulnerable freshman Rep. Betsy Markey (D) in the form of state House Minority Leader Cory Gardner. But he will not have the primary field to himself, as University of Colorado Regent Tom Lucero has already entered the race.

ID-01: To the disappointment of the Idaho GOP, state Treasurer Ron Crane has opted out of a run against very vulnerable freshman Rep. Walt Minnick (D). But the GOP has a deep bench in this dark red district, with former Rep. Bill Sali, state Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and state Sen. John McGee as potential candidates.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

In Case You Missed It...

Here's some notable 2010 election developments since I last posted in early April. Oh yeah, and I'm covering 2010 House election news too now:

PA-Sen: Six-term Republican Sen. Arlen Specter announced that he will switch parties and run as a Democrat in 2010 after seeing abysmal polling that showed him losing by double digits to former Rep. Pat Toomey in the Republican primary. President Obama, Harry Reid, Bob Casey (Pennsylvania's other Democratic senator), and the rest of the Democratic establishment has lined up behind Specter. Democrat Joe Torsella, who announced his candidacy before Specter's switch, says he will stay in the race and Rep. Joe Sestak is considering jumping in the race. Meanwhile, the Republicans are trying to find someone more electable (i.e., moderate) to run against the ultra-conservative Toomey in the GOP primary. So far, they've come up with two names: Rep. Jim Gerlach and former Gov. Tom Ridge--both of whom would be strong recruits.

KY-Sen: After adamantly proclaiming that he would run for re-election in 2010 (despite the will of Senate Republicans), Sen. Jim Bunning (R) has hinted that he might retire next year. He reportedly encouraged Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson to form an exploratory committee to run for his seat, almost anointing him as his successor. Bunning has been known to do unconventional things in the past, so we'll keep an eye out to see if he actually decides to step down.

NH-01: Republicans landed one of their first major recruits for 2010 in Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta, who will be challenging sophomore Rep. Carol Shea-Porter. He does have an advantage in that Manchester in the state's most populous city and he has remained relatively popular in his tenure as mayor--and he also benefits from the fact that Shea-Porter is one of the most vulnerable House Democrats. But Republicans have underestimated Shea-Porter in 2006 and 2008--both of which were Democratic wave elections--so they hope not to make the same mistake again. This district is the more Republican of New Hampshire's two House seats, yet it gave Barack Obama 53% of the vote in 2008.

DE-AL: Rep. Mike Castle (R), a moderate, will face the strongest challenge he has ever had to face in his sixteen years as Delaware's lone representative from former Lieutenant Governor John Carney. Despite the district's Democratic lean, Castle has always won re-election by wide margins, but this time the 70-year-old will have a harder time. Castle has been considering running for the state's open Senate seat in 2010 or just retiring outright. If he does not run for re-election for whatever reason, this seat will be an easy pick-up in 2010 for the Democrats.

IL-10: Rep. Mark Kirk (R), another moderate, drew his first Democratic challenger--state Sen. Michael Bond. Kirk is considering running for Senate in 2010, and if he does, this seat will be an easy pick-up for the Democrats. But if he chooses to run for re-election, it is now guaranteed that he will face a tough challenger--perhaps a tougher challenge than he has faced in 2006 and 2008.

FL-10: The DCCC is touting State Sen. Charlie Justice as a top recruit against Rep. Bill Young (R), another House Republican who is considering retiring. Young has not faced serious competition in quite some time, and a strong candidate like Justice could nudge him in the direction of retirement. If he did retire, the open seat would be a toss-up and would create another opportunity for the Democrats to pick up a seat.

AR-Sen: Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D), one of the most conservative Democrats in the Senate, has drawn her first Republican challenger in state Senate Minority Leader Kim Hendren. Hendren is in his 70's, and is not expected to give Lincoln a scare, but other Republicans are considering jumping in the race. Lincoln is not incredibly popular back home, and given the right political environment and the right candidate, this race could become competitive.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

AK: Palin Won't Challenge Murkowski

Gov. Sarah Palin (R) announced that she will be holding a fundraiser for the re-election campaign of Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R)--ending speculation that she will challenge Murkowski in the GOP primary in 2010.

This essentially clears the path for Murkowski to win re-election and makes it so the Republican party will not have to deal with a media-frenzied, expensive and nasty primary next year.

Palin has not yet announced if she plans on running for re-election in 2010 as she gears up for the 2012 presidential race.

Monday, April 6, 2009

NY: Gillibrand Raises $2.3 Million

In an email to her supporters, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) announced that she has raised $2.3 million in the two months since she has been appointed.

Gillibrand is proving her mettle as a prodigious fundraiser with this impressive sum. And figures like these may prove to deter other Democrats, such as Reps. Carolyn McCarthy and Carolyn Maloney, from challenging Gillibrand in the primary--and it proves that taking her on won't be cheap.

But as of now, she is still not well-known in the state. According to a new Quinnipiac poll, nearly two-thirds of New Yorkers don't know enough about her to form an opinion of her. So she clearly has some work to do to pick up these lagging name recognition numbers.

The poll also found that Gillibrand narrowly trails McCarthy in a Democratic primary match-up, 33% to 29%, but--much like Gillibrand--68% don't know enough about McCarthy to form an opinion of her.

In a general election match-up, Gillibrand leads Rep. Peter King (R-NY) 40% to 28%.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

FL: Mack Won't Run For Senate

Rep. Connie Mack (R-FL) wrote a letter to Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) today informing him that he will not be running for the state's open Senate seat in 2010, according to the Associated Press.

Crist is openly considering running for the seat next year instead of seeking re-election as governor, and Mack had been one the top Florida Republicans publicly taking a look at jumping in--but instead, he is throwing his full support behind Crist.

Mack wrote to Crist: "I will be your strongest supporter and champion -- regardless of whether you seek re-election or election to the Senate."

This further fuels the speculation that Crist is indeed planning on running for Senate rather than for another term in Tallahassee. The only Republican who might stand up to Crist in the GOP primary is former state House Speaker Marco Rubio, who formed an exploratory committee earlier this month. But he has said earlier that if Crist jumped in the race, he would probably run for governor.

Whether it is Rubio or somebody else, Crist--if he runs--will almost undoubtedly face some sort of opposition from the right in the Republican primary, as he has been getting a bit chummy with President Obama and the left of late.

Is Chris Dodd the New Jim Bunning?

The results of a new Quinnipiac poll should be sending shivers down the spines of Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) and the DSCC. The survey finds Dodd in deep trouble for 2010, with only 33% of voters approving of the job he is doing and 58% disapproving--truly scary sign for a 30-year incumbent, especially one in a blue state like Connecticut.

A whopping 74% blamed Dodd for the AIG bonuses, while 54% don’t believe Dodd is honest and trustworthy. Dodd also only garners the support of half of his own party.

He also shows some poor numbers when matched up against some Republicans in the general election. He trails former Rep. Rob Simmons, the likely Republican nominee, by 16 points, 50-34. He also trails little-known state Sen. Sam Caligiuri 41-37 and former ambassador Tom Foley 43-35.

These terrible numbers can be attributed to the firestorm of criticism regarding his role in the AIG bonuses fiasco, his ties to Countrywide, and his failed 2008 presidential bid that seemed to piss off his constituents in Connecticut.

Because we are still in the midst of the financial crisis and Dodd plays a central role in the process of doling out money to banks and companies like AIG as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, we can be sure that these numbers aren't likely to improve much in the near future.

Thus, Dodd's position is starting to look more and more like Sen. Jim Bunning's (R-KY). Both are clearly the most endangered incumbents of their respective parties and have extremely high negatives. Both are from states that--given their political leanings--should give them inherent advantages for re-election. And in both cases, another candidate from their party would have a better shot of retaining the seat that they would.

The Republican establishment not-so-secretly tried to get Bunning to retire, and it turned into a nasty back-and-forth between Bunning and the leaders of his own party. Their next thought was to possibly support a primary opponent to Bunning, but the Senator threatened to sue the NRSC for going against their pledge of supporting Republican incumbents, turning into yet another nasty exchange. Finally, NRSC chairman John Cornyn publicly agreed to back Bunning in 2010, but the situation was handled very poorly by Cornyn and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and there still appears to be bad blood between them and Bunning.

The Democrats can learn from the mistakes of the way that the GOP handled Bunning when trying to figure out what to do about Dodd. They have already said that they will not try to ask him to step down before 2010. Said one senior Democratic operative: “It’s up to Senator Dodd, there’s no indication that he’s willing to do that. We’re not going to have a Jim Bunning situation our hands."

Another option they might have to get around having Dodd run against someone like Simmons in 2010 is to primary him, presumably with a popular statewide official like state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, but Democratic insiders seem to think that there is no way Blumenthal would challenge Dodd in a primary.

Some other options for Democratic alternatives to Dodd can be found in the state's congressional delegation. Rep. John Larson would be unlikely to run because of his position in the House leadership, and Rep. Jim Himes has direct ties to the very financial world that has recently come under fire. But Reps. Rosa DeLauro, Chris Murphy and Joe Courtney could all be compelling alternatives.

But the only other option besides asking Dodd to step down and supporting a primary challenger that the DSCC has left--and the one they will most likely take--is to rally around the embattled Senator and hope that this is his point of rock bottom. His numbers have nowhere to go but up...right?

Anyway, I think that there is a good possibility that Dodd and Bunning--now indisputably the two most vulnerable incumbents of the 2010 cycle--will both lose their seats next November, effectively canceling each other's losses out. If that is the case, the Democrats will have to look elsewhere for their 60th seat.

P.S. I'm officially moving this race into the "Toss-Up" category.

Update: When asked if he might seek a new candidate, DSCC chairman Bob Menendez replied, "Are you serious? Chris Dodd is going to be re-elected. He's a great senator."

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

No Winner Yet in NY-20

After a long, bitterly fought, expensive special election campaign to replace Kirsten Gillibrand in New York's 20th congressional district--we still have no winner.

Democrat Scott Murphy leads Republican Jim Tedisco by 65 votes, 77,344 to 77,279, with 100% of precincts reporting. That lead is merely symbolic at this point, because between 6,000 and 10,000 absentee and military ballots have yet to be counted, and probably won't be counted until at least April 13.

Neither side won or lost big here, but in this case a tie goes to the Democrats. But overall, maintaining the status quo is not good news for the Republicans, especially in a conservative upstate district in NY-20. They invested a lot of money into this race, and they really should have won back a district that should rightfully be theirs.

So neither side really gets to spin this their way--Republicans can't say that this is a sign of the people's rejections of Obama's policies, and Democrats can't say this is validation of their leadership.

This one isn't over and won't be for at least two weeks, but expect updates and analysis of the results of this race to be few and far between until then.

Update: Due to the carelessness of some election officials and some recounting, Scott Murphy's lead has shrunk to 13 votes. The Scorecard reports: "Three counties--Essex, Greene and Delaware--haven't re-canvassed the vote yet, and won't do so until later in the week." That could alter the vote total even more.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hodes Leads Sununu in NH; Dodd Draws Second Challenger

A new American Research Group poll out of New Hampshire shows Rep. Paul Hodes, the likely Democratic nominee, leading former Sen. John Sununu (R) 42% to 36%.

Further, Hodes leads Sununu 38% to 31% among independents--a tell-tale sign for the rest of the independently-minded (if not libertarian) state.

The Scorecard reports: "Sununu has not yet announced his intentions, but New Hampshire GOP operatives are skeptical he will run after losing his seat to Sen. Jeanne Shaheen last year. These numbers probably won’t encourage him."

Over in Connecticut, Sen. Chris Dodd (D)--arguably the most endangered Democratic incumbent in 2010--drew a second challenger today in the form of state Sen. Sam Caligiuri (R).

Caligiuri, a conservative, will first have to get past former Rep. Rob Simmons, a moderate, in the Republican primary. That will be no easy task, as the GOP establishment seems to be behind Simmons, believing that in a blue state like Connecticut, a moderate Republican will have a better shot at the seat rather than a conservative.

Monday, March 30, 2009

A Recap of NY-20

Tuesday's special election in New York's 20th congressional district--for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's (D) old House seat--is all the buzz right now, so I thought I'd spend today recapping everyone on what the outlook is for Team Red and Team Blue going into tomorrow.

The race features Democrat Scott Murphy--a businessman and venture capitalist (i.e., rich guy)--squaring off against Republican Jim Tedisco--the state Assembly Minority Leader.

NY-20 is pretty evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, with the GOP having the slight edge in voter registration. The district has typically leaned slightly to the right, but Barack Obama carried the district 51% to 48% in 2008 and Gillibrand won her reelection bid by an impressive margin--showing that there are a significant number of cross-over Republicans.

But as is the case with all special elections, ground game and getting the base out to vote will be the deciding factors--factors which were originally thought would favor Tedisco.

Last month, Tedisco led by 12% in a Siena poll and was showing no signs of vulnerability. But then as the campaign went on, that all started to change. His biggest mistake was refusing to take a side regarding President Obama's stimulus package--which made him look like he had no backbone and was not willing to make tough decisions. He later came out against it.

Two weeks passed and he significantly dropped in another Siena poll, which showed that he now only led Murphy by 4%. Since then it's been nothing but good press for Murphy and bad press for Tedisco. Obama cut a radio ad for Murphy--getting him some positive media coverage in the district--while the Libertarian candidate was forced out of the race and endorsed Murphy, which was a slap in the face to Tedisco.

The most recent poll from Siena shows Murphy with a 4% lead over Tedisco, just outside the margin of error. Internal polls from both sides yielded similar results and show the race to be a complete toss-up.

So Tedisco's relatively strong advantage at the outset of this campaign has essentially evaporated leading up to election day, so much so that he revamped his entire campaign two weeks ago. And from the recent polling, it appears that undecided voters are breaking for Murphy.

But be wary with all of this poll analysis because it is notoriously difficult to poll accurately for special elections, mainly because of the unpredictable turnout.

Either way this thing turns out--and it really could go either way--the victorious party is going to spin the hell out of it. If Tedisco wins, the GOP will tout it as a rejection of Obama's policies, and how a district represented by a Democrat flipped to a Republican because the people no longer support him and his "big spending." If Murphy wins, the Democrats will trumpet it as support for Obama's presidency thus far.

But in reality, the Republican have much more to lose than the Democrats from this election.

The Republicans were expected to win this race, and it would be a terrible sign for a party who is already in the midst of a civil war and an identity crisis to suffer this big of a moral (and financial) defeat. Republicans would call for RNC chairman Michael Steele's head, and start pointing fingers at each other--further igniting the civil war within the party. Conservatives would blame Tedisco for being too moderate, and the bickering and scapegoating would self-perpetuate.

If Murphy loses, the Democrats lose a House seat--which they can afford to lose with their large majority--and they waste some money and let the Republican base cheer for a day. But since their party is currently stable and united around Obama, they won't go into panic mode, but will just use this race as a lesson for the 2010 midterms.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

KY: A Democratic Proxy War's A-Brewin'

It appears that Kentucky Democrats are already taking sides in what is likely to be a hotly contested primary to take on the highly vulnerable Sen. Jim Bunning (R) next year.

In a rather unsurprising move, Gov. Steve Beshear (D) endorsed his lieutenant governor, Dan Mongiardo, for his 2010 Senate campaign--despite the fact that Mongiardo will likely face prominent opposition for the Democratic nomination.

Politico reports that state Attorney General Jack Conway (D) is set to announce his candidacy in the coming weeks. Conway has recently talked with two other Democrats who have been considering jumping in the race--state Auditor Crit Luallen and Rep. Ben Chandler--and it appears that they will stay out of the race and line up behind him.

Thus, a proxy fight emerges between Beshear-Mongiardo and Conway-Luallen-Chandler. The uglier this fight gets, the better it is for Bunning, who will need all the help he can get to win what will be the toughest re-election challenge of his life.