KY-Sen: Competitive Primaries, Competitive General

Survey USA brings us new poll numberson the 2010 Senate race in Kentucky for both the primaries and for general election match-ups:

Democratic Primary
Dan Mongiardo: 39
Jack Conway: 31
Lillie E. Miller Johnson: 4
Darlene Fitzgerald Price: 3
Maurice Marion Sweeney: 1Republican Primary
Trey Grayson: 37
Rand Paul: 26
Roger Thoney: 5
Bill Johnson: 2
Brian Oerther: 0General Election Match-ups
Grayson-Mongiardo: 46-40
Grayson-Conway: 44-37
Paul-Mongiardo: 41-43
Paul-Conway: 38-43

This early on, both primaries are arguably jump balls.  On the Republican side, the primary poll did not include Republican fundraiser and former Ambassador Cathy Bailey, who has the potential to shake the numbers up.  Also, tomorrow will be the big Money Bomb day for Rand Paul by Ron Paul’s national fundraising base.  On the Democratic side, it appears that the primary is taking on a pretty aggressive tone, so I’d expect a tight race with the numbers going back-and-forth based on who threw the last punch.  In the general election, all four match-ups are separated by between 2 and 7 points.  Not a big gap this early on.

Tuesday Odds & Ends

Tue Aug 18, 2009 at 14:57 PM EDT

    • Illinois: Businessman & RFK son Chris Kennedy has announced that he will pass on a 2010 Senate bid.  As such, the Democratic primary appears cemented between state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and Chicago Urban League CEO Cheryle Jackson.
    • Florida: With Lincoln Diaz-Balart pulling out of consideration for the Senate vacancy created by the resignation of unpopular Republican Mel Martinez, it would appear that former U.S. Attorney Bobby Martinez (no relation to Mel) is the frontrunner.  Will Gov. Charlie Crist, looking to appeal to conservatives for his own 2010 Senate bid, ultimately pick Martinez?  Well, a new revelation may further incense conservatives should Crist pick Martinez:

      While the majority of [Martinez'] campaign contributions have gone to Republicans, he has made a few choice donations to prominent Democrats – including the current chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.Martinez gave $1,000 to then-congressman Robert Menendez for his House campaigns during the 1996 and 1998 election cycles. Menendez, now the junior senator from New Jersey, is tasked with helping elect a Democrat to the Florida Senate seat.

      Martinez also donated money to two Democrats in closely contested Senate races during the 2000 election cycle. He donated $1,000 to John Edwards’ campaign when he first ran for the Senate in 1999 and ousted a sitting Republican.

      He also donated $1,000 to former Democratic Sen. Chuck Robb in his unsuccessful campaign against Republican George Allen.

      Will Charlie Crist pick a donor to John Edwards and the current DSCC Chair for the Senate vacancy?  He is strongly considering it.  Stay tuned.

    • Colorado: A new Public Policy Polling poll shows Senator Michael Bennet in weak shape, bolstered only by the more severe weakness of his Republican opposition.

Favorable-Unfavorable*
Michael Bennet (D) 31-38
Bob Beauprez (R) 30-40
Ryan Frazier (R) 11-19
Ken Buck (R) 17-18   Bennet v. GOP
Bennet v. Beauprez 39-42
Bennet v. Frazier 38-33
Bennet v. Buck 39-35

  • *Bennet’s personal numbers were “Approve-Disapprove” rather than “Favorable-Unfavorable.”Senator Bennet’s personal numbers are weak, but Coloradoans have net negative views of everyone running for Senate.  Former Rep. Beauprez, last seen getting crushed in the 2006 gubernatorial race, may feel empowered by these numbers, as the only Republican with even a nominal edge on Senator Bennet.  Numbers like these may encourage me to shift CO-Sen from “Likely Dem” to “Lean Dem.”
  • California: Golden parachute recipient Carly Fiorina has filed paperwork to begin exploring a 2010 Senate bid against Senator Barbara Boxer.  The most recent poll of CA-Sen, last week’s Research 2000 numbers, saw Senator Boxer leading Fiorina 52-31.
  • Nevada: Indicted Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki has decided to run for re-election for Lt. Gov. instead of a Senate bid, which he had considered.  Not a shocker.
  • Pennsylvania: “Lest you forget, Arlen Specter is really, really old.”
  • Missouri: Note to Roy Blunt: selling your Georgetown mansion doesn’t make you any less a tool of corporate lobbyists.  Although it will raise him a little extra scratch to put into his campaign bankroll if he’s desperate for dollars.
  • Health care reform: The Senate Republican caucus’ #2 man, Jon Kyl, the emptiest suit in Washington, has declared that no amount of concessions to the GOP will bring significant Republican votes for health care reform:

    “I think it’s safe to say that there are a huge number of big issues that people have,” Kyl said, referring to Republican senators. “There is no way that Republicans are going to support a trillion-dollar-plus bill.” …”I have no doubt that they can make it revenue netural to find enough ways to tax the American people, but that doesn’t mean the Republicans will support it,” Kyl said.

    Once again, the Senate’s #2 Republican declared that Republicans are not voting for health care reform under virtually any circumstances.  So why on earth are Democrats negotiating with them when they will never win GOP support?

IA-Sen: Chuck Grassley Exhibits Symptoms of Frontotemporal Dementia

Tue Aug 18, 2009 at 10:50 AM EDT

First thing’s first.  I’m not a doctor.  I’m not suggesting that Republican Chuck Grassley has any particular illness.  Simply, I have noticed that Chuck Grassley, over the last many months, has been making increasingly bizarre, aggressive, explicit, and violent remarks – and that such comments coincidentally happen to be early symptoms of dementia, particularly frontotemporal dementia.  It stands out to me because, as a political junkie, I have long considered Grassley to be among the most mild-mannered denizens of the Capitol.  2009 has apparently become the year that the 75-year-old Grassley (he turns 76 next month) has shed his mild-mannered image, perhaps by choice, perhaps not.In response to the story this Spring about AIG executives receiving exorbitant bonuses after the company was rescued by a massive infusion of public dollars, Grassley said on March 16, 2009:

“I suggest, you know, obviously maybe they ought to be removed, but I would suggest that the first thing that would make me feel a little bit better towards them [is] if they would follow the Japanese example and come before the American people and take that deep bow and say I’m sorry and then either do one of two things: resign or go commit suicide.”Grassley added, “In the case of the Japanese, they usually commit suicide before they make any apology.”

The comment was rude, racist, and extremely aggressive, even violent.

The next day, still critical of AIG executives, but in an attempt to tone down the violent “suicide” comment from the previous day, Grassley went the more sexually explicit route:

“From my standpoint, it’s irresponsible for corporations to give bonuses at this time when they’re sucking the tit of the taxpayer,” Grassley explained.

When talking about government spending, “sucking on the teat” is not in and of itself bizarre rhetoric, but that Grassley used the more sexually explicit “tit” instead of “teat.”  In fact, such a nuanced difference might have flown under the radar entirely if not for a sexually explicit comment Grassley made at a budget hearing toward the end of the same month as his earlier comments, on March 26, 2009:

But yesterday he [Grassley] regained his bounce on the Senate floor, livening up an otherwise dull budget hearing with a joke about banging another senator’s wife. His opening came after he pressed Budget Committee chairman Kent Conrad to include an amendment of his to a budget resolution by bringing up the fact that Conrad owed him a favor.”Oh, you are good,” Conrad responded.

To which Grassley replied: “Well, your wife said the same thing.”

Sure, this comment, in a vacuum, could be one Senator good-naturedly ribbing a colleague.  But a joke intimating sex with a colleague’s wife, told, again, at a budget hearing, seems like bizarre behavior.  Further, when you add up these comments, what you have is a pattern of behavior.

Last week, Grassley’s pattern of behavior was reinforced by his take on health care reform:

We should not have a government program that determines if you’re going to pull the plug on grandma.

In fairness, this one comment has become a sick talking point of many Republicans shilling for corporate interests.  Nevertheless, it particularly stands out for Grassley given that, when he is not flying off the cuff, he is one of the GOP’s key negotiators on health care reform.  He should have had the self-control to avoid such aggressive rhetoric.  But that’s been Grassley’s pattern lately.

So what we have seen from Grassley in 2009 – and this is just in public; no telling what his comments and actions are in private – is a pattern of bizarre, rude, physically aggressive, sexually explicit, and even violent remarks.  Such a pattern even led The Iowa Independent to the headline: “Grassley: Strategic or just eccentric?”  Eccentric may be putting it mildly.

Grassley is not the first Republican Senator in recent years to have his mental health questioned.  During his 2004 re-election bid, the Kentucky media began openly questioning Jim Bunning’s mental health after a similar pattern of bizarre comments and actions.  Also, in 2006-2007, Pete Domenici’s mental health was questioned after a pattern of erratic behavior including reportedly walking around the Capitol in his pajamas.  Subsequently, in late 2007, Domenici revealed that he had a degenerative brain disease and opted against a 2008 re-election bid.  Domenici was 75-years-old at the time of his 2007 diagnosis, the same age Grassley is now.

Now for the coincidental symptoms.  If you hop over to WebMD.com, best friend of the armchair hypochondriac, you can find a page that lists symptoms of dementia.  Such symptoms include “having trouble finding the right words to express thoughts,” “having trouble exercising judgment,” and “having difficulty controlling moods or behaviors” while noting that “agitation or aggression may occur.”  What especially caught my eye was the following passage:

The first symptoms of frontotemporal dementia may be personality changes or unusual behavior. People with this condition may not express any caring for others, or they may say rude things, expose themselves, or make sexually explicit comments.

Agitation or aggression?  Check.  Personality changes or unusual behavior?  Check.  Saying rude things?  Check.  Making sexually explicit comments (again, at a budget hearing!)?  Check.  Lack of inhibition? Check.

Again, I’m not suggesting that the 75-year-old Chuck Grassley has frontotemporal dementia.  I am, however, noting that Grassley’s pattern of behavior over the last six months coincidentally happens to match the early symptoms of frontotemporal dementia.  With Grassley turning 77-years-old before Election Day 2010, it would not be unfair or unwise for Iowans to get a clean bill of health from Grassley before signing him up for another six-year term (at the end of which he will be 83-years-old).

Overnight Quick Hits

Tue Aug 18, 2009 at 02:47 AM EDT

  • Florida: Diaz-Balart out, Martinez meeting with Crist:

    Gov. Charlie Crist’s schedule shows a 1 p.m. meeting Tuesday with Roberto “Bobby” Martinez at Miami International Airport. The former U.S. Attorney is one of the candidates for the vacant U.S. Senate seat — and perhaps the front-runner given new developments.Late tonight, the Palm Beach Post’s Dara Kam reported that Lincoln Diaz-Balart has withdrawn his name from consideration.

    Is this it?  Stay tuned.

  • Colorado: Will the CO-GOP get a 2010 Senate candidate with more than just a modicum of name recognition?

    Former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton will decide in 30 days whether to run for the U.S. Senate. …”She’s seriously considering it, and she’ll make a decision in 30 days,” her husband, Mike Norton, said today.

    Norton only served one term as Lt. Gov., so the name ID won’t be sky high; but, it should exceed the name recognition of the relatively anonymous Republicans currently running, which include Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier, businessman Cleve Tidwell, and attorney Luke Korkowski.  State Sen. Tom Wiens and former Rep. Bob Beauprez are both considering bids, as well.  Jane Norton should not be confused with former Colorado Attorney General and George W. Bush Interior Secretary Gale Norton.

  • Iowa: Democrats should not be negotiating health care reform with Republican Chuck Grassley because Grassley may not vote for a reform bill that Grassley himself negotiates.  Seriously:

    In an interview today on MSNBC’s “Morning Meeting with Dylan Ratigan,” Senate Finance Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R) said he’d vote against any health-care reform bill coming out of the committee unless it has wide support from Republicans — even if the legislation contains EVERYTHING Grassley wants.”I am negotiating for Republicans,” he said. “If I can’t negotiate something that gets more than four Republicans, I’m not a good negotiator.”

    When NBC’s Chuck Todd, in a follow-up question on the show, asked the Iowa Republican if he’d vote against what Grassley might consider to be a “good deal” — i.e., gets everything he asks for from Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D) — Grassley replied, “It isn’t a good deal if I can’t sell my product to more Republicans.”

    In short, Grassley says he’s willing to walk away from legislation in which he gets everything he wants. Over to you, Max Baucus…

    If Grassley will not vote for a bill the he himself negotiates, Democrats should not negotiate with him!  This cannot be any clearer.  If Grassley is just using himself as a proxy for the entire Senate Republican caucus, there’s an easier process: ditch Max Baucus’ 3-on-3, and just go before the entire committee, where the partisan breakdown accurately reflects the manner in which Americans voted.

  • Texas: Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison seems to be tying her eventual Senate resignation to accomplishing budget appropriation goals:

    It could be deep into December, or perhaps shortly into October. Right now Kay Bailey Hutchison is not sure when she will leave the U.S. Senate and focus all of her attention on winning the Republican nomination for governor.”I haven’t set a timetable because there are certain things that I need to do,” she told me Monday night. “The end of the fiscal year is Sept. 30 and I’ve got huge responsibilities for Texas that I have to fulfill by Oct. 1″

    She said there are important appropriations needed for Texas, including the Trinity River Project in Dallas, Houston Metro and DART.

    And she wants to participate in the health care debate in Congress.

    If KBH can score a couple of appropriations victories to tout to Texans on her way out of Washington, my guess is that she’ll be out of the Senate by the end of October (assuming that health care reform matters have concluded).  She clearly wants out ASAP.

  • Georgia: An effort is afoot to draft the Georgia Democratic Party’s Chair, Jane Kidd, to run for U.S. Senate in 2010 against freshman Republican backbencher Johnny Isakson. (HT: Atlanta Progressive News)

FL-Sen: Is Diaz-Balart the New Vacancy Frontrunner? We’ll Know by Labor Day.

Mon Aug 17, 2009 at 19:06 PM EDT

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports:

Diaz-Balart emerging as a top choice for the SenateEmerging from the weekend, a new name seems to be gaining buzz as a top contender to take over for Sen. Mel Martinez.

On Friday, Gov. Charlie Crist specifically identified U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart as one of the people on his short list to fill Martinez’s final 15 months in the U.S. Senate.

I would have thought that Diaz-Balart would never give up his House career for a short term placeholder gig in the Senate.  However, reportedly, he’s considering it:

“To my surprise, Lincoln is seriously considering filling out the questionnaire and putting his name in the hat,” said lobbyist/fundraiser Ana Navarro. “It’s a historical opportunity where he feels he can make a difference. He is willing to lose his House seat in order to serve the state of Florida in the Senate.”

But that’s just step one in a much more complex game of political musical chairs, so the rumor/speculation goes:

The new rumor on the blocks is that by moving up, Lincoln Diaz-Balart would leave his seat open not for [Crist's Senate primary opponent Marco] Rubio, but for his younger brother, 25th District Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart. The idea is that Mario is not enjoying the Dem-trending nature of his own district (it voted for McCain by 1% last year, and MDB himself only won re-election by 6%), and thinks that the 21st is more hospitable territory for the Diaz-Balart brand. I’m not so sure how wise of a move that would be — the 21st isn’t all that more GOP-friendly than the 25th; LDB’s district went for McCain by 2%, but he crushed highly-touted but highly flawed Dem nominee Raul Martinez by 16 points during the same election. The theory, then, is that Marco Rubio would be free to run in the adjacent 25th District once MDB successfully swaps seats.

Ostensibly, after serving out the remainder of Mel Martinez’ term, Lincoln Diaz-Balart would just ride off into the Congressional sunset to join up with LobbyistLand or some other such career change.  Of course, this could all be a red herring to get Marco Rubio to blink.

Meanwhile, someone will be named, and soon:

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) will name a replacement for retiring Sen. Mel Martinez (R) before Congress returns from August recess, choosing from among what is likely to be a pool of seven potential candidates.On Friday, Crist’s office announced it had requested questionnaires from three potential candidates – ex-U.S. Attorney Bob Martinez, former Attorney General Jim Smith and Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R).

“He’s seriously considering it,” Diaz-Balart spokesman Andy Gonzalez said of Crist’s request.

Crist’s communications director, Erin Isaac, said the eventual list of candidates Crist considers will be composed of “seven or so” names.

Republican sources say former Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings, former Sen. Connie Mack (R), ex-Rep. Clay Shaw (R) and state Sen. Daniel Webster (R) could also be on the list, along with a surprise dark horse – former Crist chief of staff George LeMieux, now the chairman of a major Florida law firm.

“There’s additional names that will be released,” Isaacs said, though she would not address LeMieux’s chances specifically. LeMieux declined to comment for this story.

There’s no word on when Crist’s office will release the additional names.  However, August recess ends on September 7 with the conclusion of Labor Day weekend.  Clock’s ticking.

Monday Odds & Ends

Mon Aug 17, 2009 at 16:45 PM EDT

  • Pennsylvania: The Obama Administration support for recent Republican Arlen Specter is beginning to get more concrete.  First, Cabinet Secretaries are being deployed to stand by him at town hall events.  Second, details on big fundraising events are being finalized.  President Obama will headline one on September 15 (that will also be attended by Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter), and Vice President Biden will headline one on a date to be determined.  Arlen Specter’s hope is that, by standing next to real Democrats, voters will think he is one, too.  Arlen Specter’s apparent strategy: Democratic values by osmosis.  You can help counter the edict from on high that Arlen Specter is entitled to the Democratic Senate nomination by making a contribution to Congressman Joe Sestak‘s Senate campaign via the Expand the Map! ActBlue page.
  • Illinois: A new Rasmussen Reports poll shows a statistical dead heat between Republican Congresscritter Mark Kirk and Democratic state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, 41-38.  What’s interesting here is that both elected officials have 17% “not sure” rates in their name ID, suggesting equal statewide name recognition.  The poll also shows Republican Kirk with a 47-30 lead over Chicago Urban League CEO Cheryle Jackson, who just recently announced her entry into the race.  That Kirk couldn’t get to 50% against a Democratic unknown bodes unfavorably for his chances statewide in blue Illinois once a hard-hitting campaign is underway.
  • North Carolina: Did vulnerable freshman Republican backbencher Richard “Bank Run” Burr just admit that, in the health care debate, he supports a public option? (Emphasis added by me.)

    “We’re leaving to an elected official the ability at any point now, five years from now ten years from now, to write the rules on mandates in a way the private sector couldn’t compete with the government option, that’s just not a smart thing for the congress to do,” Burr said. “It’s ok if you want to have a government option but you’ve got to leave the private sector private.”

    It’s OK to have a government option as long as the private sector remains private?  Sounds like a fine compromise to me.  Elsewhere, “Bank Run” Burr is the target of an ad campaign asking why, in the health care debate, Burr is siding with insurance companies over North Carolina families.

  • New Hampshire: Sarah Palin-esque quitter Kely Ayotte has made the first hire for her 2010 Senate campaign, campaign manager Brooks Kochvar.  And here are some of the items on Mr. Kochvar’s resume:2008: Campaign Manager for Oregon Republican Gordon Smith’s losing Senate campaign
    2007: Chief of Staff for wingnut Rep. Michele Bachmann
    2003-2006: Chief of Staff for wingnut Rep. Chris Chocola (who went on to head the Club for Growth)
    2000-2001: Aide to convicted, corrupt Rep. Duke Cunningham (before his convictions, of course)For those unsure of who Kelly Ayotte is, let her campaign manager’s experience inform you.  Ayotte chose to run her campaign someone who has managed among the most dishonest (Smith), the most radically right-wing (Bachmann and Chocola), and the most corrupt (Cunningham).  The Nashua Telegraph item also mentions that Ayotte’s likely GOP primary challenger, former gubernatorial nominee Ovide Lamontagne, “will ramp up his exploratory campaign by unveiling a new Web site.”  Looking forward to that divisive and costly primary.
  • Oklahoma: Wingnut Tom Coburn believes that legislators receiving threats of violence over health care reform have “earned” it.  Yeah, he’s out of his mind.
  • Texas: Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison has officially kicked off her gubernatorial campaign.  Now, if she could just start drafting that Senate resignation letter.
  • Republican hypocrite John Ensign is stepping back out into the public square on Thursday at the annual Tahoe Summit.  It will be his first public appearance since his press conference where he announced his infidelity (but not the who-knew-what-when details or the $96,000 in hush money that dripped out later).

IA-Sen: Might Bruce Braley Take On Chuck Grassley?

Mon Aug 17, 2009 at 15:29 PM EDT

Two Democratic former state legislators, Tom Fiegen and Bob Krause, are working on 2010 Senate bids to face Republican deather Chuck “pull the plug on grandma” Grassley.  Despite Grassley’s increasingly Looney Tunes demeanor, he does have just over $3.8 million in the bank as of the end of June.Still, the Des Moines Register ran the following:

I’m told by mostly reliable sources there is a well-known mystery candidate who’s about 75 percent ready to join the race. The mystery candidate supposedly has name recognition and money.

The item led Politico’s Scorecard blog to speculate:

Rep. Bruce Braley’s (D-Iowa) sharp recent criticism of Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) is bound to get the rumor mills cranking about a possible challenge in 2010.While there’s not a lot of evidence of Grassley’s vulnerability-he hasn’t won with less than 60 percent since winning the seat in 1980-he’s taken some hits recently, most notably for his “pull the plug on Grandma” town hall comments. …

Braley, of course, would fit that bill [the Des Moines Register's item] as a high-profile congressman with a background that includes heading the Iowa Trial Lawyers Association.

There’s a certain Iowa political logic to a Braley challenge as well. When Iowa was sending mostly Republican House members to Congress, one of them invariably challenged the state’s junior senator, Democrat Tom Harkin (Harkin himself rose from the House by defeating an incumbent senator in 1984).

Now, three of the five-member House delegation are Democrats and it may be Grassley’s turn.

Congressman Bruce Braley isn’t raising money like he’s preparing for an uphill, statewide campaign.  He had just under $350,000 in his campaign account as of the end of June, or about one-eleventh of Grassley’s money.  Still, with Grassley’s high profile role as a roadblock to health care reform, Congressman Braley could probably raise adequate funds.  On top of which, as founder of the U.S. House’s Populist Caucus, he could probably turn the health care debate and other issue messaging battles against Grassley better than any other Democrat in Iowa.

Keep in mind, Grassley is not unbeatable.  A December 2008 Research 2000 poll of a hypothetical IA-Sen match-up between Grassley and Democratic former Governor Tom Vilsack came up a statistical dead heat, with Grassley only narrowly leading 48-44.  And that was before Grassley got in bed with the deathers, serving as a top roadblock to health care reform.

Of course, all of this is just speculation; but, if Congressman Braley took the plunge, this could become a top tier battle, especially if Grassley’s rhetoric grows more and more outrageous.  Definitely worth keeping an eye on.  So who wants to jump on that Draft Braley effort?

MO-Sen, IL-Sen: Republicans Blunt, Kirk Mislead on Health Care

Mon Aug 17, 2009 at 13:42 PM EDT

There are two current Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives who are presently running for seats in the U.S. Senate, Missouri’s Roy Blunt and Illinois’ Mark Kirk.  Both have been telling easy-to-debunk lies in the health care debate.First, friend of all corporate lobbyists Roy Blunt tries to personalize the debate:

“I’m 59,” Mr. Blunt said last week during a meeting with Post-Dispatch reporters and editors. “In either Canada or Great Britain, if I broke my hip, I couldn’t get it replaced.”

Ooooh, scary!  There must be a lot of broken-hipped Canadian and British seniors hobbling around, huh?  Nope.  The St. Louis Post-Dispatch did their due diligence:

We fact-checked that. At least 63 percent of hip replacements performed in Canada last year and two-thirds of those done in England were on patients age 65 or older. More than 1,200 in Canada were done on people older than 85.

Oops.  Turns out Blunt had been lying the entire time.  Blunt’s lame excuse:

“I didn’t just pull that number out of thin air,” Mr. Blunt said in a subsequent interview. It came, he said, from testimony before the House Subcommittee on Health by “some people who are supposed to be experts on Canadian health care.””I had been given that example. I was told that 59 is the cutoff,” he said. “I’m glad you pointed that out to me. I won’t use that example any more.”

You won’t use that example anymore?!  How about you stop parroting all of the bogus non-statistics your right-wing corporate cronies feed you?  How about you stop engaging in scare tactics to mislead voters, senior citizens especially?  Roy Blunt is nothing but a dishonest corporate shill.

Second, Mark Kirk wants desperately to make a point – he’ll even use woefully out-of-date figures to make his baseless point:

In selling the Tuesday Group’s health care alternative, Rep. Mark Kirk likes to bring up the comparison between New Jersey (where [he says] health insurance costs $5,326 per patient) and California (where [he says] insurance costs dip to $2,565 per patient). …But there is one glaring problem:  Kirk is using out-of-date numbers.

In 2000, Families USA reported that the average annual premium (which is based on employer and worker premiums combined) in California was $2,365, just $200 less than Kirk’s figure. Last year, Families USA updated the figures and found that the average premiums rose $1,917 over the subsequent seven years, up to $4,282. Moreover, the organization estimates that the average cost of individual health coverage in New Jersey two years ago was only $4,744, a difference of just $462. Because Kirk doesn’t provide a citation (not even in the Powerpoint), it’s unclear where he is getting these particular numbers.  But it appears he is greatly overstating the disparity.

Interestingly enough, over the last decade premiums for publicly-purchased insurance in California rose much less slowly (between 2-4 percent per year) than premiums for employer-provided health insurance (10 percent).

Actual 2008 numbers for California and New Jersey show very little difference in health care costs.  So Mark Kirk just uses numbers nearly a decade old to make a point that utterly lacks merit.  (Not to mention, there’s the irony of Kirk pointing to California to make his point, when what California really shows is that a public option both is more cost-stable than private options and is able to exist without eliminating private competition.)

All Mark Kirk illustrates with his presentation is that he is a partisan Republican who will disseminate misinformation on behalf of right-wing Republican leadership and corporate special interests.  That dishonesty and blind partisanship is not what Illinois needs in the U.S. Senate.

Two Republican Congressmen running for U.S. Senate, two easy-to-prove liars on health care reform.

Sunday Quick Hits

Sun Aug 16, 2009 at 21:57 PM EDT

  • Shocked to have a few bucks left in your wallet after a crazy weekend?  Send ‘em to a terrific Democratic candidate for Senate via the Expand the Map! ActBlue page.
  • North Carolina: Democratic former Lieutenant Governor Dennis Wicker is considering entering the 2010 Senate fray against vulnerable freshman Republican backbencher Richard “Bank Run” Burr.  Wicker spent twelve years in the North Carolina state Legislature (1981-1993) and served two terms as Lieutenant Governor (1993-2001) before losing the 2000 Democratic gubernatorial nomination to then-Attorney General Mike Easley.  Wicker has reportedly had conversations with the DSCC about a bid.
  • Pennsylvania: The conservative Club for Growth is working on an outreach plan to further drain recent Republican Arlen Specter’s resources.  They just need the FEC’s permission first:

    Federal Election Commission lawyers couldn’t decide whether the Club for Growth’s plan to target party-switching Sen. Arlen Specter’s donors using his campaign finance reports was a violation of the donors’ privacy.So the lawyers drafted two conflicting responses to the Club’s request for permission to carry out the plan, and will put them to a vote of the full commission Aug. 27.

    At issue is the conservative Club’s proposal to use information contained in Specter’s regularly updated FEC reports to contact donors who gave to the Pennsylvania senator before he changed his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat in late April and remind them they can ask for a refund.

    Specter indicated he would honor such refund requests and his campaign reports show that he refunded $224,500 from April 1 through the end of June, though it’s difficult to tell how much of that resulted from requests from supporters upset with his switch rather than routine administrative refunds.

    Something I’d like to see a PA-Sen poll offer results on is the question to Republican voters in Pennsylvania who supported Specter over Toomey before the Party switch if they no longer support Specter now.  It’d be enlightening to get the attrition rate on GOP support for Specter.  If the FEC allows the Club for Growth to send their letters to previous Specter donors, it could be a good indicator.

  • Florida: Democratic Congressman and 2010 Senate candidate Kendrick Meek sat down with Think Progress for an interview in which he decried his Congressional colleagues who would back special interests standing in the way of health care reform.
  • In yet another Democratic display of effective diplomacy in 2009, Senator Jim Webb secured the release of an American citizen sentenced to years of hard labor in Burma for visiting a dissident human rights leader in that country without invitation.

Expand the Map! Weekend Appeal

Fri Aug 14, 2009 at 20:25 PM EDT

(Close to meeting the goal!  Please chip in if you can.  Thanks SO much!)Very meager goal for this weekend on the Expand the Map! ActBlue page:

CandidateCurrently AtGoalNeedsJoe Sestak$215 $225$250only $35 $25Paul Hodes$222 $247$250only $28 $3Robin Carnahan$202 $227$250only $48 $23

Whaddaya say?  Got an extra $10 or $20 you can send one of these terrific Democrats?  Thanks!!!

Saturday Quick Hits

Sat Aug 15, 2009 at 18:49 PM EDT

  • Pennsylvania: Greg Sargent points out more hypocrisy from recent Republican Arlen Specter:

    Specter To Netroots Nation: I’m Voting For EFCA. Specter To National Press: I’m Voting Against Card Check.

    Specter will pander to audiences.  Specter will not be forthright about his positions or his (lack of) commitment to Democratic principles.  In comparison, Congressman Joe Sestak actually has integrity.  The netroots understand the difference, as illustrated by the Netroots Nation straw poll of PA-Sen-Dem.  About half of respondents supported Congressman Sestak while only 10% supported Specter (with one-third of respondents still unsure).  You can support Congressman Sestak’s effort to oust Specter with a contribution to the Sestak campaign via the Expand the Map! ActBlue page.

  • Florida: Gov. Charlie Crist raised eyebrows when he requested that three people submit applications for the Senate vacancy caused by the resignation of unpopular Republican Mel Martinez.  Two of the three have been on the media’s short list since Martinez announced his resignation: former U.S. Attorney Bob Martinez and former Florida Secretary of State Jim Smith.  The third is primarily what caused the eyebrows to be raised: Republican Congresscritter Lincoln Diaz-Balart.  Crist is running for the office, so he is seeking a placeholder.  Why then bring a not-elderly Congressman into the mix?  SSP’s James suggests one theory:

    Charlie Crist may be hoping to create a House vacancy that would be too tempting to pass down for his primary opponent, Marco Rubio

    While very shrewd, I doubt Diaz-Balart would give up his Congressional career to be a short-term placeholder in the Senate.  More likely, I believe, is The Hill’s suggestion:

    A more likely explanation for Diaz-Balart’s inclusion in this round of vetting is that Crist wants to appeal to Florida’s Cuban-American population by appearing to consider as many Cuban-Americans as possible. (Both Diaz-Balart and Martinez are of Cuban heritage.)

    Anything Crist can do to pander to and cut into Rubio’s Florida Cuban base no doubt helps his primary prospects and suffocates Rubio’s.  For what it’s worth, my money’s on former U.S. Attorney Martinez.

  • Utah: In what promises to be a scathing Republican primary, state Attorney General Mark Shurtleff is lobbing a shot at incumbent Bob Bennett for accepting large amounts of campaign contributions from TARP recipients, suggesting a conflict of interest:

    Shurtleff’s campaign, in a news release, said that Bennett’s top five donors received $178 billion in Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds.

    In conservative Utah, Shurtleff is portraying Bennett as Mr. Checkbook while offering himself as a more fiscally conservative alternative.  Bennett is in for a long primary season.

  • Texas: Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison will spend next week officially kicking off her gubernatorial campaign.  This Dallas Morning News article reiterates that KBH “has said she will resign her Senate seat in October or November.”  Looking forward to it.

July Senate Approval Numbers from Survey USA

Fri Aug 14, 2009 at 18:19 PM EDT

SUSA is up with their July 2009 numbers.Republicans:

Chuck GrassleyJan. ’09Feb. ’09Mar. ’09Apr. ’09May ’09June ’09July ’09Approve71716859635862Disapprove22232732273430

Grassley’s numbers have bounced back a little from his all-time worst (albeit still solid) Survey USA numbers last month.  But will Grassley’s newfound status as a leading deather hurt his standing with sensible, moderate Iowans?  We’ll see next month.

Richard ShelbyJan. ’09Feb. ’09Mar. ’09Apr. ’09May ’09June ’09July ’09Approve60585651565762Disapprove29323741373331

July’s 62-31 for Shelby is a big turnaround from April’s 51-41.  And no Democrat on the horizon.

Democrats:

Barbara BoxerJan. ’09Feb. ’09Mar. ’09Apr. ’09May ’09June ’09July ’09Approve52434847544850Disapprove38474044414742

Senator Boxer hangs in there for another month with adequate approvals, while her match-ups against Republicans clearly indicate that she’s on her way to re-election.

Russ FeingoldJan. ’09Feb. ’09Mar. ’09Apr. ’09May ’09June ’09July ’09Approve61515155535654Disapprove31384237403737

Senator Feingold’s numbers remain quite stable and strong enough to avoid any serious GOP opposition as (again) Republicans wait out Herb Kohl’s likely retirement in 2012.

Kirsten GillibrandFeb. ’09Mar. ’09Apr. ’09May ’09June ’09July ’09Approve413936414041Disapprove333439373240

Senator Gillibrand’s approve-disapprove in NYC is only 34-42 (and her 40% approval among Dems is lower than her 46% approval among Republicans!).  Perhaps her avoiding a primary challenge from the Congressional delegation (and subsequent securing of endorsements from said delegation) will help her standing among Democrats and NYC residents.  We’ll see next month.  For the time being, it’s clear that she should spend a lot of time in the five Boroughs.

Patty MurrayJan. ’09Feb. ’09Mar. ’09Apr. ’09May ’09June ’09July ’09Approve55545454505650Disapprove36373432343545

I have no idea what we should attribute the steep jump in disapproval to.  Survey USA hasn’t clocked a Senator Murray disapproval rate of above 40% in over two years, so this is likely an outlier.  We’ll see next month.

Chuck SchumerJan. ’09Feb. ’09Mar. ’09Apr. ’09May ’09June ’09July ’09Approve63615962636258Disapprove27313331303036

Safest incumbent in 2010.

Ron WydenJan. ’09Feb. ’09Mar. ’09Apr. ’09May ’09June ’09July ’09Approve62575556555553Disapprove25312933333734

Senator Wyden’s numbers once again remain steady, solid, and cruising to re-election.

End of Week Odds & Ends

Fri Aug 14, 2009 at 16:49 PM EDT

    • North Dakota: Republican Gov. John Hoeven continues to mull whether or not to challenge popular Senator Byron Dorgan in 2010.  Hoeven says that he hasn’t set a timeline for a decision; but, in the past, he has called a Labor Day decision deadline reasonable.
    • Iowa: Before Republican Chuck Grassley was a deather, he supported legislation providing funding for counseling for end-of-life care.  Fear-mongering hypocrite.
    • Pennsylvania: As promised yesterday by Political Wire, Research 2000 is out with their latest poll of the 2010 Democratic Senate primary.  The 56-11 May lead for recent Republican Arlen Specter over Congressman Joe Sestak has shriveled to a 48-33 lead.  kos points out how reminiscent this is of the 2006 CT-Sen-Dem Lieberman-Lamont race, but that Congressman Sestak has a much bigger head start than Lamont did, boding very well for Congressman Sestak and very poorly for Specter.  R2K also sees Toomey narrowly losing to either Democrat: Specter 45, Toomey 40; Sestak 42, Toomey 41.Perhaps most telling in the crosstabs are the three politicians’ No Opinion numbers, the percentage of respondents still unsure or unaware of the particular candidate.  Specter’s at a scant 8% – after decades in office, he’s a known quantity.  Toomey’s at 29% – largely known, but still a little room to grow.  Congressman Sestak, however, is at 44% unknown.  He’s polling well and stillhas plenty of room to grow those numbers.  Looking good for Congressman Sestak.In other PA-Sen-Dem news, both Specter and Congressman Sestak spoke to attendees at Netroots Nation, and CQPolitics offers a write-up of their appearances, with video.
    • Florida: 2010 Senate candidate & Gov. Charlie Crist is being assailed for being painfully slow in getting Florida’s share of federal economic stimulus dollars committed to actual projects in waiting.  Likely 2010 Democratic Senate nominee & Congressman Kendrick Meek is not wasting any time criticizing Crist for being asleep at the switch.  Maybe Crist has just been taking even more vacation days.
    • Connecticut: Here’s some news that’s as crazy as a professional wrestling match.  World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon (wife of Vince McMahon, the longtime public face of the company) is “seriously considering” running in the 2010 Republican Senate primary.  Not only does McMahon bring business experience to the GOP primary, but she also has public service experience, as CLP’s Heath points out:

      McMahon was appointed to the Connecticut State Board of Education by Gov. Jodi Rell earlier this year, which raised some eyebrows.  But as a successful female CEO of a billion dollar company, McMahon could run as a business professional at a time when government seems to be neither businesslike nor professional.

      The Republican primary already includes former Rep. Rob Simmons, State Senator Sam Caligiuri, former Ambassador Tom Foley, and economist & Ron Paulist Peter Schiff.  All four are at least reasonably well-funded.  (Further, Senator Dodd’s 2004 opponent, businessman Jack Orchulli, is considering another bid.)  McMahon entering the mix would provide the primary with its only female candidate and with someone who could probably largely self-fund a campaign.  A five- or six-way primary with each candidate bringing credibility and adequate funds to the race would indeed be a political Battle Royale (and would invite a great deal more references to professional wrestling).  And Senator Christopher Dodd can sit back and watch the barbs fly.

    • New Hampshire: Remember when Sarah Palin talked about “palling around with terrorists”?  Well, Palin-esque quitter Kelly Ayotte is apparently palling around with “terrorist fist jabbers.”
    • Louisiana: Vietnam veteran William Robert Lang has announced that he will challenge Hookerlover David Vitter in the 2010 Senate race. (HT: Kingfish)  Lang self-describes as a “conservative independent” – it’s unclear if Lang is running as a Republican or an independent/third Party candidate.  Lang differentiates himself from Vitter by saying that he “will not embarrass the citizens of Louisiana.”  This will be a fun little distraction for the Hookerlover.
    • Arkansas: It’s official: I no longer care whether or not Blanche Lincoln wins re-election.  I’d support just about any Democratic primary challenger who’d take her on.
    • I’ve always been a fan of Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND), understanding that he’s a more conservative Democrat.  But this just aggrivates me to no end.  Procedurally, TPM is right that Senator Conrad can oppose a public option when it’s at a final vote, but still vote to end a filibuster, as a procedural half-step, to prevent obstruction.  That would be fine and dandy.  But if Senator Conrad upholds a filibuster, man, I’ll be really disappointed in him.  UPDATE: A spokesman for Senator Conrad denies the report, citing a miscommunication.
    • New York: Congressman Anthony Weiner is the latest endorsement for Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, bringing her endorsement count among New York’s Democratic House delegation to 13 of 26:

Endorsed:
Rep. Michael Arcuri
Rep. Yvette Clark
Rep. Eliot Engel
Rep. John Hall
Rep. Brian Higgins
Rep. Maurice Hinchley
Rep. Nita Lowey
Rep. Mike McMahon
Rep. Gregory Meeks
Rep. Scott Murphy
Rep. Edolphus Towns
Rep. Nydia Velazquez
Rep. Anthony Weiner   Not Yet:
Rep. Gary Ackerman
Rep. Tim Bishop
Rep. Joseph Crowley
Rep. Steve Israel
Rep. Dan Maffei
Rep. Eric Massa
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy
Rep. Carolyn Maloney
Rep. Jerrold Nadler
Rep. Charles Rangel
Rep. José Serrano
Rep. Louise Slaughter
Rep. Paul Tonko

LA-Sen: David Vitter Is the Senate’s Biggest Coward

Fri Aug 14, 2009 at 13:45 PM EDT

Remember last week how Republican Hookerlover David Vitter talked tough regarding “angry mobs”appearing at elected officials’ town hall events:

This and any other angry mob is welcome to my town hall meetings whenever you want to come.

Of course, it was then reported that the questions Hookerlover so bravely took from the mob were pre-screened:

The Louisiana Republican spoke at what was billed as a town hall meeting at Louisiana College’s Guinn Auditorium. It was a friendly audience but there was little chance for disagreement to be expressed.The panel of speakers all joined Vitter in opposing the reform package being debated in Congress. Questions from audience members were screened and selected in advance of the event.

Well, sports fans, that’s not all.  Now it’s being reported that, not only were the questions pre-screened but, the audience was handpicked!  And when I say handpicked, I mean that Vitter’s harem shipped in Teabaggers and turned away constituents! (emphasis added by me)

Unlike his Democratic colleagues who take all comers at their town halls, Vitter has sought to enforce a strict code of message control. According to a citizen journalist attending the August 8 Vitter town hall, “No one was allowed to spontaneously address the podium. There were no questions read that presented anything other than Vitter’s view and those who spoke with him. … Vitter was said to have no time to answer questions from the press.” Indeed, Vitter only responded to questions that were written on cards by audience members and screened in advance by his staffers.Many of those attending Vitter’s town halls have been shepherded to the events by local chapters of TeaPartyPatriots.org, a supposedly grassroots network of national activists that happens to “partner” with the health-care and insurance industry-funded lobbying firm Freedom Works, which has directed angry mobs to Democratic events. At a town-hall meeting on August 10 in Jefferson Parish, many local constituents were  reportedly turned away while Tea Party activists were allowed to enter. When the event concluded, Vitter rushed out of the back door and away from the press and his constituents, guarded by a phalanx of police officers.

Vitter has good reason to fear public scrutiny. Had he not pre-screened his audiences, some wily constituent might have asked the senator to address his affair with Wendy Cortez, a high-priced New Orleans escort, or asked how his name showed up on the client list of Jeanne Palfrey, the so-called DC Madam, who killed herself in May 2008 after being convicted of money laundering. The constituent could have framed the question in terms of the health-care debate by asking Vitter why he reportedly wore a condom when he visited Cortez but subsequently tried to introduce an amendment barring health-care providers that offer free STD testing and contraception from receiving federal funds.

David Vitter has not answered to his constituents or to the law for his criminal acts, his dishonesty, his hypocrisy, or his shudder-inducing cowardice.  He’s not even willing to answer to a skeptical constituent on his opposition to health care reform, much less his opposition to not sleeping with prostitutes.  I imagine that he will continue “rushing out of the back door” of events in order to avoid constituents and the press throughout the 2010 cycle.  Seriously, how does this coward look in the mirror?

NC-Sen: “Bank Run” Burr Can’t Top 43% Against Any Democrat

Fri Aug 14, 2009 at 13:04 PM EDT

Public Policy Polling offers the latest unintimidating numbers for vulnerable freshman Republican backbencher Richard “Bank Run” Burr:

Burr v. Generic Democrat 42-35Burr v. Elaine Marshall 43-31Burr v. Cal Cunningham 43-28Burr v. Kevin Foy 43-27Burr v. Kenneth Lewis 43-27

On top of Burr’s inability to top 43% against anybody, his approve-disapprove stands at 38-32.  PPP points out:

For sake of comparison Elizabeth Dole was at 48% in August of 2007. …That 43% he’s earning against all four Democrats publicly contemplating making a run for it is identical to the 43-27 lead Dole had when first tested against Kay Hagan. So overall Burr is in a very similar position 15 months out to where his defeated former colleague was.

“Bank Run” Burr is in an identical position as Liddy Dole was when it comes to match-ups v. Democrats; and, Burr is in a significantly worse position than Dole was when it comes to personal approval ratings.  Burr is hardly toast yet.  If the economy doesn’t pick up enough, leading to a Republican year in 2010, he could yet survive a challenge.  Further, which Democrats will enter the Senate primary is still an unknown.  That said, there is every reason to presume that Burr is the most vulnerable Republican incumbent running for re-election in 2010.

August 2009 Meta-Ratings for 2010 Senate Races

Fri Aug 14, 2009 at 10:47 AM EDT

Safe DemLikely DemLean DemToss UpLean GOPLikely GOPSafe GOPRothenberg 7/27CA, DE, HI, IN, MD, NYA, NYB, ND, OR, VT, WA, WIAR, CONV, PACT, IL, KY, MO, NH, OHLA, NCFLAL, AK, AZ, GA, ID, IA, KS, OK, SC, SD, UTCook 7/30AR, DE, HI, IN, MD, NYA, NYB, ND, OR, VT, WA, WICA, NVCO, PACT, IL, KY, MO, NH, OHLAFL, NCAL, AK, AZ, GA, ID, IA, KS, OK, SC, SD, UTSSP as of 8/11AR, CA, DE, HI, IN, MD, NYA, NYB, ND, OR, VT, WA, WINV, PACO, ILCT, KY, MO, NH, OHNCFL, LAAL, AK, AZ, GA, ID, IA, KS, OK, SC, SD, UTSenate Guru 8/13AR, CA, DE, HI, IN, MD, NYA, NYB, ND, OR, VT, WA, WICO, NV, PAIL, NHCT, KY, MO, OHLA, NCFL, GAAL, AK, AZ, ID, IA, KS, OK, SC, SD, UTCQPolitics as of 8/14CA, HI, IN, MD, NYA, ND, OR, VT, WAAR, CO, DE, NYB, WINV, PACT, IL, KY, MO, NC, NH, OHFL, LA, SCAZ, GA, KS, SDAL, AK, ID, IA, OK, UTAUGUST META-RATINGAR, CA, DE, HI, IN, MD, NYA, NYB, ND, OR, VT, WA, WICO, NVPACT, IL, KY, MO, NH, OHLA, NCFLAL, AK, AZ, GA, ID, IA, KS, OK, SC, SD, UT

Senate Guru’s 2010 Senate Race Ratings

Thu Aug 13, 2009 at 20:40 PM EDT

Safe D
13 D, 0 RLikely D
3 D, 0 RLean D
1 D, 1 RToss Up
1 D, 3 RLean R
0 D, 2 RLikely R
0 D, 2 RSafe R
0 D, 10 RAR (Lincoln)
CA (Boxer)
DE (Open)
HI (Inouye)
IN (Bayh)
MD (Mikulski)
NYA (Schumer)
NYB (Gillibrand)
ND (Dorgan)
OR (Wyden)
VT (Leahy)
WA (Murray)
WI (Feingold)Colorado
(Bennet)
Nevada
(Reid)
Pennsylvania
(Specter)
Illinois
(Open)
New
Hampshire
(Open)
Connecticut
(Dodd)
Kentucky
(Open)
Missouri
(Open)
Ohio
(Open)
Louisiana
(Vitter)
North
Carolina
(Burr)
Florida
(Open)
Georgia
(Isakson)
AL (Shelby)
AK (Murkowski)
AZ (McCain)
ID (Crapo)
IA (Grassley)
KS (Open)
OK (Coburn)
SC (DeMint)
SD (Thune)
UT (Bennett)

Your thoughts?  Where am I too optimistic?  Too pessimistic?  Share in the comments.

(Note: Until Kay Bailey Hutchison announces official resignation plans, I’m holding off on adding Texas.  That said, if I did add Texas, I’d put it at Likely R to start.)

CA-Sen: Boxer Looking Safe for Re-election

Thu Aug 13, 2009 at 17:12 PM EDT

Research 2000 polled Californiaon their 2010 Senate race and got the following results:

Republican primary
Carly Fiorina 29
Chuck DeVore 17
Undecided 54   General Election
Barbara Boxer (D) 52
Carly Fiorina (R) 31   Barbara Boxer (D) 53
Chuck DeVore (R) 29

Senator Barbara Boxer enjoys 20+ point leads over both potential Republican challengers.  These are exactly the type of numbers that would discourage golden parachute recipient Carly Fiorina from even bothering to make the race – down more than twenty points on the incumbent and not even guaranteed the nomination.

Beyond that, consider the favorable-unfavorable ratings for the three.  Boxer’s at 49-43; Fiorina’s at 22-29; and DeVore’s at 21-27.  It’s not surprising that Senator Boxer’s the only one of the three with a net positive favorability rating in blue state California.  Fiorina’s only known for her golden parachute and her role in the losing McCain campaign.  DeVore is one of the most public faces for the unpopular state legislative Republican caucus.

To really drive the point home, delve deeper into the crosstabs.  Among independents specifically, Senator Boxer leads Fiorina 50-30 and leads DeVore 52-28.

If Fiorina wants to blow through a few million of her golden parachute on a vanity campaign, more power to her.  But numbers like these suggest that Senator Boxer is well on her way to re-election.

Thursday Quick Hits

Thu Aug 13, 2009 at 15:40 PM EDT

  • NRSC: Roll Call headline: “NRSC Still Has Key Recruiting Holes to Fill”  I’ll say.  I’d stipulate that the NRSC has had 1.5 recruiting successes for Democratic Senate seats so far this cycle.  Mark Kirk is Republicans’ strongest option in Illinois (even though he impressively bungled his entry into the race and has had a lousy summer); and, they got their preferred candidate in Connecticut in Rob Simmons (though they were unable to prevent what will be a costly and divisive three- or four-way primary, which is why I only give the NRSC half-credit for this one).  Still, 1.5 recruiting successes is already 0.5 more than John Ensign had as NRSC Chair in the 2008 cycle – although, in Ensign’s defense, he was distracted.Meanwhile, the Republicans running in Nevada, Colorado, Indiana, and Arkansas should have their names followed by a “Who?” rather than an “R.”  If NRSC Chair John Cornyn can score Mike Castle in Delaware and Carly Fiorina in California, it will give him a little bit more to crow about.  That said, I think Castle is bound for retirement and Fiorina is too flawed to win (she’s a golden parachute endowed, failed corporate CEO).  Meanwhile, NRSC recruiting is still completely fruitless in New York, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Washington, Oregon, Vermont, and Maryland.
  • Ron Paul: The Washington Independent has a thoughtful piece up on the impact of Ron Paul on the 2010 Senate races, specifically in Connecticut and Kentucky, where economist (and Paul adviser) Peter Schiff and anti-tax activist (and Ron Paul’s son) Rand Paul are running, respectively, both in Republican primaries rather than on the Libertarian line.  The early focus is on how Ron Paul’s dedicated national fundraising base will support Schiff and Paul the Younger in that regard, earning their campaigns credibility through heavy campaign bankrolls.  The counter on Schiff’s website declares over $870,000 raised in a relatively short time; and, the Washington Independent article mentions that Ron Paul organizers are preparing a “moneybomb” fundraiser for Paul the Younger one week from today, on August 20th.  Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson raised eyebrows when he raised $600,000 in the three months of Q2.  Rand Paul could raise half of that or more in just one day next week.  Stay tuned.
  • Kentucky: Speaking of Kentucky, the latest endorsement being touted by Democratic state Attorney General Jack Conway in his Senate primary against Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo is that of former state treasurer Jonathan Miller.  Why is this endorsement particularly noteworthy?  Because Miller is currently Secretary of Finance in the Beshear-Mongiardo administration.
  • Oklahoma: Unsurprisingly, Republican Tom Coburn is a deather.
  • Iowa: Yesterday, Republican Chuck Grassley revealed himself to be a deather.  Well, since Grassley’s own grandson, a legislator in the Iowa House of Representatives, voted for similar, sensible living will and end of life care provisions at the state level as President Obama is advocating at the federal level, Republican Chuck Grassley must think his own grandson wants to “pull the plug on grandma!”  I wonder how tense Grassley family gatherings are, what with Chuck Grassley apparently fearing that his own grandson wants to “pull the plug” on Mrs. Grassley.
  • Pennsylvania: Political Wire has an advance look at results in a forthcoming Research 2000 poll showing recent Republican Arlen Specter leading Congressman Joe Sestak in the 2010 Democratic Senate primary by only a 48-33 margin.  The result is almost identical to the 47-34 result found in yesterday’s Rasmussen poll.  Not only does this show Specter again under 50%, but it is a huge shift from the last Research 2000 poll, in May, showing a 56-11 gap.  According to Research 2000, from early May to mid-August, Congressman Sestak has closed the gap on Specter from 45 points to just 15 points.
  • Florida: Gov. Charlie Crist says that there are “seven or so names” swirling around his head for who he might pick to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of unpopular Republican Mel Martinez.  However, Crist says that “there is no formal list” and that he isn’t naming names.
  • Nevada: Nevada Republican Party executive board member Bernie Zadrowski says that a decision from NV-GOP Chair Sue Lowden regarding a possible 2010 Senate bid will come “within weeks not months.”  Until Lowden speaks for herself, though, I’m doubtful she’ll run.  For now, it seems that a prospective Lowden candidacy is just hype created by Robert Uithoven, a GOP strategist and former aide to scandal-plagued Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons – like the political equivalent of a pump-and-dump stock market scam.
  • Arkansas: Republican businessman and 2010 Senate candidate Curtis Coleman demonstrated through his notorious “visa and shots” comment that he’s liable to say any moronic thing that enters his head.  Well, his previous political experience has shown that he’ll say literally anything to win.  In 1992, Coleman was campaign manager to Mike Huckabee’s failed Senate bid.  The race is remembered for one particular aspect:

    In that first Senate race Huckabee zeroed in on social issues and the political back-and-forth between he and Bumpers got nasty. Huckabee went after Bumpers for his support for the National Endowment for the Arts, and critics complained the campaign ads he ran against Bumpers painted the senator as a pornographer.

    Coleman was perfectly content to liken support for the National Endowment for the Arts to a U.S. Senator being a pornographer.  Sounds like Coleman is being groomed for the birther and deather crowds.  In fact, someone in the Arkansas media ought to ask Mr. “Visa and Shots” what his opinions are on those issues.

  • Nevada Republican Rep. Dean Heller has some sincerely good advice for Republican disgrace John Ensign:

    When asked by Ralston in a TV interview whether Ensign should be talking about the situation, Heller said, “I think he should.””I don’t want to speculate, but until John talks, we haven’t seen the end of it,” Heller said, according to the Las Vegas Sun.

    Instead of coming clean with the constituents to whom he has only doled out sanctimonious hypocrisy, Ensign is instead taking the David Vitter approach of stonewalling the media, staying quiet on the matter, and hoping that it all blows over.  Lots of integrity there.

PA-Sen: Joe Sestak Flips the Electability Argument (Rasmussen Part Two)

Thu Aug 13, 2009 at 13:00 PM EDT

Following its PA-Sen Democratic primary numbers released yesterday showing Congressman Joe Sestak closing the gap on recent Republican Arlen Specter, Rasmussen Reports released general election match-up numbers:

Pat Toomey (R) 48
Arlen Specter (D) 36
Other 4
Not Sure 12       Pat Toomey (R) 43
Joe Sestak (D) 35
Other 5
Not Sure 18

Two obvious takeaways here.  One, Toomey has taken the lead.  Is it discontent over the protracted health care reform debate?  Is it burgeoning discontent with Specter himself harming the Democratic brand in Pennsylvania?  And how temporary will this lead be?  Unclear.

Two, the “electability” argument in the Democratic primary has flipped.  In previous polls, Specter matched up against Toomey better than Congressman Sestak did (no doubt relying largely on Specter’s strong name ID).  In this poll, however, Congressman Sestak matches up better.  His deficit against Toomey is only 8 points (and, remember, Congressman Sestak has never run statewide, unlike Toomey, and is still working to build name recognition across the state, which should improve his numbers significantly), while Specter’s deficit against Toomey is 12 points.  This is probably due to a plummetting favorable-unfavorable rating for Specter, as Rasmussen points out; Specter’s is down to 43-54.

While the numbers against Toomey are nothing to celebrate, this poll further cements the notion that Arlen Specter would not serve Democrats well as the Party’s Senate nominee.

By the way, want integrity?  Congressman Sestak went on Fox News to promote that he is “a strong proponent of the public health care plan option.”  He’s not going to pander or sugar coat.  He’s going to fight for Democratic values everywhere.  (And you can help Congressman Sestak’s fight with a contribution via the Expand the Map! ActBlue page.)

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

PA-Sen: Joe Sestak Closes the Gap on Arlen Specter

Wed Aug 12, 2009 at 21:40 PM EDT

45, 29, 19, 20, 32.  What are those numbers?  Those numbers are the gaps between recent Republican Arlen Specter and Democratic Congressman Joe Sestak in the five public, independent, non-partisan polls of the 2010 Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania from May to July.13.  What’s that number?  It’s the gap between Specter and Congressman Sestak in the latest Rasmussen Reports poll.  Specter’s lead over Congressman Sestak is only 47-34 according to Rasmussen.  Rasmussen’s last poll, in June, showed the 19-point deficit, a 51-32 result.Rasmussen also reminds us that Specter still remains “much better known” across the state than Congressman Sestak.  In other words, Congressman Sestak still has plenty of room to grow in terms of name ID as his campaign gets underway, but has already cut his deficit by a third.  Also, this is the very first non-Franklin & Marshall poll (F&M’s numbers were relatively very low for both candidates) to show Specter under 50%.

Additionally, the Rasmussen poll found the following:

Among voters who favor the congressional health care plan, Specter leads 55% to 26%. However, among those who oppose the plan, Sestak leads 61% to 25%.

Assuming that those who favor health care reform are more liberal Democrats and opponents are more conservative, this would indicate that Congressman Sestak has already made inroads into the moderate-to-conservative Democrats that one would think ought to lean toward Specter.  If Congressman Sestak can hold these Democrats while later making inroads with more liberal Democrats (perhaps by pointing out that Specter was a pretty staunch ally of George W. Bush’s), the gap between the two should tighten further still.

This poll is bad news for Specter and great news for Congressman Sestak – not just because it shows Congressman Sestak closing the gap, but also because it adds credibility to his campaign.  Specter winning is not remotely a foregone conclusion.  The more that PA-Dem primary voters recognize that, the more open they’ll be to Congressman Sestak’s candidacy, and the less power the Ed Rendell machine will have to stop the political dam from breaking.

As polls continue to tighten, Congressman Sestak’s fundraising continues to grow, and endorsements for Congressman Sestak’s campaign get announced, a critical mass of political will to unseat Specter will be achieved.  You can help that critical mass get reached with a contribution to Congressman Sestak via the Expand the Map! ActBlue page.

Odds & Ends

Wed Aug 12, 2009 at 16:31 PM EDT

    • Senator Christopher Dodd’s surgery for prostate cancer was reportedly a success, with him resting comfortably post-surgery.  Great to hear.
    • New Hampshire: Palin-esque quitter Kelly Ayotte made her public debut as a Senate candidate at a well-heeled Republican social and she couldn’t introduce herself without illustrating fiscal hypocrisy:

      She criticized government’s bailouts of the banks and the auto industry as well as the fiscal stimulus package. “They spent nearly $1 trillion of our money and said this is something that will stimulate our economy,” Ayotte said. …The criticism angered state Democrats, who pointed out that Ayotte previously supported aspects of the economic stimulus bill. Ayotte, for example, worked with Gov. John Lynch to use federal stimulus money to open a cold case unit within the state police.

      “Did her D.C. handlers tell her that she now has to be against the bill she previously endorsed?” said Victoria Bonney, communications director for the New Hampshire Democratic Party. “Is she just taking orders from Washington insiders who would rather play politics than ensure our country’s economic recovery?”

      Republican Ayotte, like Congressional Republicans across the country, talks tough in opposition to President Obama’s economic stimulus bill; but when it’s time to fund pet priorities or time for the photo op with the giant novelty check and the community group, they’re right there.  Utter fiscal hypocrisy.  Does Kelly Ayotte’s hypocrisy bother you?  Contribute to Congressman Paul Hodes via the Expand the Map! ActBlue page.

    • Pennsylvania: Another sign that recent Republican Arlen Specter’s cosmetic partisan adjustment hasn’t gone smoothly: still only two members of Pennsylvania’s twelve-member Democratic House delegation has endorsed him.  And that’s with Gov. Ed Rendell pushing for more public support for Specter.  A bad sign for Specter and the Rendell machine and a good sign for Congressman Joe Sestak.  (You can help Congressman Sestak out with a contribution to him via the Expand the Map! ActBlue page.)
    • Iowa: Republican Chuck Grassley is getting a second Democratic challenger in the 2010 Senate race in former State Senator Tom Fiegen.  Fiegen joins military veteran Bob Krause in the Democratic primary.  In other news, it would appear that Republican Grassley is a “deather,” one who portrays health care reform as an insane march toward “death panels” and other ludicrous withholding of health care.
    • Arkansas: The latest poll from Talk Business finds the following numbers on Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-WalMart):

Q: Do you approve or disapprove of the job Blanche Lincoln is doing as U.S. Senator?15%  Strongly approve
34%  Somewhat approve
17%  Somewhat disapprove
23%   Strongly disapprove
10%   Don’t Know  Q:  If the 2010 election was held today and you had to make a choice, would you vote to re-elect Blanche Lincoln as our United States Senator no matter who ran against her?27%  Yes
60%  No
13%  Don’t Know

  • 49% in total approve of Senator Lincoln but 60% would definitely not vote to re-elect Senator Lincoln regardless of the opponent.  That means that at least 9% of poll respondents both approve of Senator Lincoln and would definitely not vote to re-elect her.  I find that a bit odd.  However, I find it entirely believable that her approval number hovers right around 50%.  She should be more concerned but that the field of candidates the Republicans are putting up to challenge her are, um, flawed to say the least.  Meanwhile, one of those flawed candidates, businessman Curtis “visa and shots” Coleman has formally announced his entry into the 2010 Senate race.
  • New York: With no primary opposition from New York’s Congressional delegation, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand should expect the support of the bulk of the Empire State’s Congressional Dems.  She alread had eleven endorsements, with Congressman Eliot Engel becoming the twelfth after Carolyn Maloney backed away from a primary challenge.
  • Illinois: Chicago Urban League President and new entry into the 2010 Senate race Cheryle Jackson addresses her previous work for scandalicious Rod Blagojevich:

    Jackson said that millions of Illinois voters initially backed Blagojevich, who succeeded the scandal-plagued Republican Gov. George Ryan in the 2002 election, because they believed he would help working families and make health care more available and affordable.”Those are things that people got excited about, and I was excited about, and that’s why I went to go work for him,” Jackson said. “When it became less about that, and more about the infighting … that’s not what I signed up for.

    “I signed up to help families, to help people get jobs and health care. And when it became less about that, I left,” she said.

    Jackson wanted to serve.  When she came to see the Blago-freakshow first-hand, she bolted for the Urban League opportunity to help families.  Fine with me.

NC-Sen: Is Richard Burr a Birther Like His Base?

Wed Aug 12, 2009 at 12:04 PM EDT

“Birther” has entered the parlance as someone who doubts or flat-out denies President Obama’s natural born citizenship.  It turns out that a sizable chunk of southern Republicans are birthers.Public Policy Polling tested North Carolina voters to find out how prevalent the birther phenomenon was in the Tar Heel State.  As for the results, wow:

Only 54% of North Carolina voters say with certainty that they believe Barack Obama was born in the United States, with 26% saying they think he was not, and 20% unsure. …47% of Republicans in the state think Obama was not born in the US, with 29% unsure, and just 24% stating that they think he was.

Almost half of North Carolina Republicans think President Obama is not a natural born citizen and more than a quarter aren’t sure.  All told, 76% of North Carolina Republicans – seventy-six percent – qualify as birthers!  It also turns out that some of these folks are utter morons:

We also threw in a question about whether people considered Hawaii to be part of the United States, and 8% of respondents either said they did not or that they were unsure.

A prominent subsection of North Carolina birthers doesn’t think Hawaii is part of the United States or isn’t sure.  Wow.  Just… wow.  But back to Richard Burr.  Public Policy Polling also shares this statistical tidbit (emphasis added by me):

I’d be interested to see someone in our North Carolina Press Corps get Richard Burr’s take on the birthers. I’m guessing he thinks it’s a crackpot theory, but our poll found that 38% of voters who approve of his job performance think Obama was not born in the US while only 35% think he was, so he risks antagonizing his base if he goes too far.

A plurality of those who approve of Burr’s job performance are birthers.  In other words, the birthers are Burr’s base.  (Feel free to make a “Burrther” joke here.)  This rightly begs the question (that Public Policy Polling thinks should be asked by the North Carolina media, and I wholeheartedly agree): Where does Richard Burr stand on the birther issue?  Does Burr think that President Obama is a natural born citizen?  Is he not sure?

If Richard Burr agrees with the birthers, then he is a crackpot, too.  If Richard Burr agrees with common sense, he risks alienating his birther base.  And if Richard Burr gives an “I’m not sure” halfway response, he’ll alienate both his birther base and those with common sense.

Do you want a fun little project?  Give Burr’s Senate offices a call (Asheville: 828-350-2437; Rocky Mount: 252-977-9522; Winston-Salem: 336-631-5125; Gastonia: 704-833-0854; Wilmington: 910-251-1058; Washington DC: 202-224-3154) and note that a vast majority of North Carolina Republicans question whether or not President Obama was born in the United States and very politely ask if Burr also questions whether or not President Obama was born in the United States.  Share what you find out in the comments.

AR-Sen: A Brief History of Arkansas Republican Senate Candidates’ Bigoted Comments

Wed Aug 12, 2009 at 01:50 AM EDT

In 2008, Arkansas Republicans were unable to field any challenger to Democratic Senator Mark Pryor.  In the 2010 cycle so far, the AR-GOP has been scrambling to find a credible Senate candidate to challenge Senator Blanche Lincoln as several third tier Republican candidates audition for the role.  A big problem for the AR-GOP, though, is that several of the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate in Arkansas have recently made racist, anti-Semitic, or otherwise bigoted comments.The pattern of bigoted comments by Arkansas Republicans running for Senate began in May with the Arkansas state Senate’s Republican leader, Kim Hendren, when he notoriously referred to U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York as “that Jew.”  As inappropriate as the comment was, Hendren’s explanationwas even more jaw-dropping:

“I was attempting to explain that unlike Sen. Schumer, I believe in traditional values, like we used to see on ‘The Andy Griffith Show,’” Hendren said.

I must have missed the episode of The Andy Griffith Show where Andy taught Opie the “traditional value” of anti-Semitism.

That was May.  Then June rolled around and Republican businessman Curis Coleman, while campaigning for Senate, decided to open his mouth:

“You go from here to southeast Arkansas, and you might as well get a visa and shots because I’m telling you the world changes,” he said, talking about the differences across the state.

Southeast Arkansas contains a sizable African-American population; and, Curtis Coleman joked that people might need “a visa and shots” before visiting the region.  I suppose this is the Arkansas Republican version of racial sensitivity.  Like Hendren’s incident the previous month, Coleman’s explanation only compounded the idiocy:

Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Curtis Coleman said today his comment that traveling to Southeast Arkansas one “might as well get a visa and shot” was not meant to be derogatory, but rather as a metaphor for the diversity of Arkansas. …Coleman said he was trying to “accentuate or maybe even celebrate the enormous diversity we have in Arkansas.”

“I’ve done a lot of international traveling since the 70′s, and when going to a new and different land, you had to have a visa and shots. I only meant it to show the tremendous differences you see from one corner of the state to the other. I love Southeast Arkansas and meant it only as a metaphor,” he said.

“Maybe even” celebrating Arkansas’ diversity by suggesting that a heavily African-American region of the state is a “new and different land” requiring “a visa and shots.”  Way to keep digging your own political grave, Mr. Coleman.  (By the way, Mr. Coleman, the “digging your own political grave” line, that is a metaphor.)

That was June.  Then July rolls around and Arkansas Republicans give us a two-fer.  First, Kim “that Jew” Hendren was back in the news as he referred to U.S. District Judge Brian Miller, an African-American judge who coincidentally happened to be working on a desegregation case at the time, as “this new minority judge.”  (Seriously, Hendren must either be uncontrollably bigoted or the dumbest person on the planet.)  Second, Republican Senate candidate and retired Army officer Curtis Reynolds offered the following statements, highlighting the “other-ness” of President Barack Obama and, I suppose, President Obama’s supporters:

“When I joined the military I took an oath to defend the Constitution against enemies foreign and domestic,” Reynolds said. “I never thought it would be domestic, but in today’s world I do believe we have enemies here. It’s time for people to stand up. It’s time for us to speak out.”He added: “We need someone to stand up to Barack Obama and his policies. We must protect our culture, our Christian identity.”

When he got to the Q&A session, he said that he would be careful with his answers, “I don’t want to do a Kim Hendren,” and later clarified that he was not categorizing President Obama as a domestic enemy.

Wow, it’s sure swell that he wasn’t calling President Obama a domestic enemy, only implying that his policies don’t do enough to protect “our Christian identity,” because Heaven forbid if a non-Christian tries moving into our neighborhood or if someone (whose Christianity is questioned) tries running for President without the courtesy of an Anglo name!  At the very least, Mr. Reynolds beats out both Hendren and Coleman for the most veiled bigoted commentary.

I suppose that the Arkansas Republican Party is lucky that Karl Rove protege Tim Griffin decided against a Senate bid.  Griffin has long been regarded as expert when it comes to the racist campaign tactic known as “voter caging,” which seeks to block African-Americans from voting or having their votes counted.  That wouldn’t have helped the AR-GOP against suggestions that Republican candidates in Arkansas are less than racially sensitive.

These comments are just from May, June, and July of 2009.  We’re not yet halfway through August.  I wonder what comments we can expect next from the Republicans running for U.S. Senate in Arkansas.  At the very least, we have a very disturbing pattern.

Tuesday Quick Hits

Tue Aug 11, 2009 at 15:59 PM EDT

  • Stu Rothenberg offers, what is for him, an extremely reasonable column on the outlook of the 2010 Senate battleground.  He sees Democratic vulnerabilities in Connecticut, Illinois, Nevada and Delaware (only if Mike Castle runs).  He sees Republican vulnerabilities in Kentucky, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio, North Carolina, and Louisiana.
  • Nevada: A partisan Republican poll shows a Republican candidate (NV-GOP Chair Sue Lowden) edging out Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.  Yawn.  Nevada Republicans are starving for a credible Senate candidate as the biggest names in the current field are two-time campaign loser Danny Tarkanian, wingnut former assemblywoman Sharron Angle, and New York banker John Chachas (who hasn’t lived in Nevada since high school).  The desperation may have come to a fever pitch today as it was announced that Republican Rep. Dean Heller, perhaps the NV-GOP’s last best chance for a competitive challenger, has decided against running for Senate in 2010.  (Apparently, George W. Bush begging Heller to run proved unpersuasive.)
  • Florida: Conservatives continue their love affair with 2010 Senate candidate and former state House Speaker Marco Rubio as the National Review gives Rubio a glowing profile.  The profile’s subtitle is “U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio won’t abandon his conservative principles,” perhaps implying that Republican Senate primary opponent and current Gov. Charlie Crist either will happily abandon conservative principles or entirely lacks conservative principles.  Elsewhere, former Gov. Jeb Bush says that he’s not interested in filling the vacancy caused by unpopular Republican Mel Martinez’ resignation.  The names most frequently discussed for the vacancy are former secretary of state & attorney general Jim Smith, former Gov. Bob Martinez (no relation to Mel), and former state House Speaker Allan Bense, with former Rep. Clay Shaw getting increasing attention.
  • Illinois: State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias‘ latest union endorsement comes from the Illinois SEIU, “one of the most politically powerful unions in the state.”
  • Kansas: In the KS-GOP 2010 Senate primary, Jerry Moran has opened a small lead over Todd Tiahrt according to Suvery USA, 38-32.  As of the end of June, Moran also enjoyed a large cash-on-hand lead, $3.1 million to $1.4 million.
  • Colorado: It’s good to see Senator Michael Bennet using language like “urgent moral obligation” when discussing health care reform.  The money paragraph from his HuffPo post: “I also believe providing patients with a public insurance option — that increases competition and drives down prices — would help to achieve these goals.”
  • The working relationship between Senators Mark Begich and Al Franken has gotten off to an extremely contentious start.
  • Condolences to the family, friends, and supporters of Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

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