Thursday Rundown

    • Rankings: A lot of activity in Open Left’s most recent 2010 Senate Outlook.  Take a gander for some quality analysis (noting that some analysis is predicated on “maybe”‘s like Republican Mike Castle entering Delaware’s Senate race).
    • Pennsylvania: The Republican Party is clearly scared of losing the Keystone State’s Senate seat held by Arlen Specter if unelectable right-winger Pat Toomey is their nominee, which is why Republicans have made a big push for former Gov. Tom Ridge to get in the race.  Well, we have another NRSC recruiting failure as Ridge has announced that he will not run for Senate in 2010.  This may increase efforts to recruit GOP Congresscritter Pat Gerlach to run for Senate instead of Governor, as currently planned.  This also amplifies considerably the fact that the Democratic primary will likely determine Pennsylvania’s next Senator, which is why Democrats should have a choice between recently-Republican Arlen Specter and a real Democrat like Congressman Joe Sestak.  Speaking of, well over 5,000 votes have been cast so far in the PCCC’s Draft Sestak poll.  Currently respondents are heavily in favor of drafting Congressman Sestak, at 88% nationally and at 85% among Pennsylvanian respondents.  Quite overwhelming.  And the effort to either pull Snarlin’ Arlen to the left or watch him lose in a primary is spreading throughout the netroots – to wit: Primary Arlen Specter.To that end, Research 2000 has new poll numbers.  In a Republican primary, Toomey led Ridge 41-33, as Toomey cements his hold on the GOP nomination.  For favorable-unfavorable ratings among Democratic voters, Specter is at 54-36, Sestak is at 29-15, and Joe Torsella is at 11-5.  I suspect that once ads are made out of Specter’s “I did not say I would be a ‘loyal Democrat’” soliloquy, Specter’s numbers will sink.  Additionally, only 37% of Democrats say that they’re “Definite Specter” votes.  23% would consider someone else, 16% are definitely voting for someone else, and 24% are not sure.  That doesn’t bode well for Specter, as the 63% that are not “Definite Specter” votes just need a reason to vote against Specter – and I think Congressman Sestak could provide those Pennsylvania Democrats with adequate reason.  For instance, the poll shows that, by about four-to-one, Democratic respondents are less likely (rather than more likely) to vote for Specter once they hear that he opposed the Obama budget and the Employee Free Choice Act.  It also doesn’t help Specter’s argument that both Sestak and Torsella already lead Toomey in head-to-head match-ups, ostensibly based largely on Party affiliation.
    • Florida: It looks like the conservative Club for Growth is eager to take sides in a possible 2010 Republican Senate primary scuffle between former state House Speaker Marco Rubio and Gov. Charlie Crist:

      But Rubio could also pick up some powerful supporters in the primary. Following his announcement Tuesday, the anti-tax Club for Growth, which is known for its ability to drive fundraising for candidates it supports, released a statement praising Rubio’s entry into the race.Rubio’s “fiscally responsible, pro-growth approach in the State Capitol stands in stark contrast with other elements of the state government, led by Charlie Crist,” club President Chris Chocola said.

      This is spectacular news.  CfG can further foment the conservative backlash against Crist, which will either help the weaker Rubio to the nomination or considerably soften up Crist for a general election.

    • Ohio: In another sign that Ohio’s Democratic establishment is largely lining up behind Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher‘s candidacy for U.S. Senate, Congressman Zack Space has endorsed Fisher’s bid.  Congressman Space had been rumored to be considering a bid, so his endorsement is a prominent get.
    • New Hampshire: Senate Republicans continue to beg Judd Gregg not to retire, but Gregg still seems set on retirement.
    • Louisiana: Thankfully, Democrats are not letting Hookerlover David Vitter off the hook for his reckless obstruction in preventing the confirmation of President Obama’s highly-respected appointee for FEMA head, again one month before the start of hurricane season.  Elsewhere, Stormy Daniels for Senate is no joke:

      Daniels’ platform contains a few issues she probably has professional knowledge of — backing efforts to remove child pornography from the Internet and keeping minors from viewing adult material — as well as the bread-and-butter issues of many other candidates: Support for a national sales tax to replace the income tax and pushing to get troops home sooner from Iraq.She doesn’t want to take questions about Vitter. “I think it’s about time David Vitter started answering David Vitter questions,” she said.

      Though the candidate may be unconventional, as long as the media continues to cover it, voters will continue to have a steady reminder of Vitter’s own hypocrisy, dishonesty, and criminal (and “sinful”) past.

    • Missouri: In an effort to further burnish Sarah Steelman’s credentials as an outsider, Republican Congresscritter Roy Blunt has locked in the endorsements of 71 of the 89 Republican members of the Missouri state House of Representatives.
  • To the average American who’s struggling, we’re in some other stratosphere.  We’re the party of Big Business and Big Oil and the rich.

    Sounds like Senator Snowe has her finger accurately on the pulse.

Wednesday Items

Wed May 06, 2009 at 16:12 PM EDT

  • Ohio: A new Quinnipiac poll offers numbers on OH-Sen’s Democratic & Republican Senate primaries as well as possible general election match-ups.  Democratic primary: Lee Fisher 20, Jennifer Brunner 16, Tyrone Yates 4, Undecided 59.  Republican primary: Rob Portman 29, Mary Taylor 8, Tom Ganley 8, Undecided 54.  Both top Democrats also beat both top Republicans head-to-head.  Fisher 42, Portman 31, Undecided 26.  Fisher 41, Taylor 29, Undecided 28.  Brunner 40, Portman 32, Undecided 27.  Brunner 38, Taylor 29, Undecided 31.  The numbers are very steady overall from their March poll.  The early numbers lean Democratic, but don’t forget that Republican two-time George W. Bush appointee Portman has the stronger bankroll for the time being.
  • Illinois: The Chicago Daily Observer says it has “excellent” sources:

    U. S. Rep. Mark Kirk, preferred by GOP ticket-planners to run for either governor or senator, will decline both jobs in order to seek reelection to his House seat, I have been told on what I believe is excellent authority.

    That is my prediction as well, but we’ll probably have to wait a bit to see how “excellent” these sources are.

  • North Carolina: An attorney and Democratic fundraiser, Kenneth Lewis, is preparing to enter the 2010 Senate race against freshman Republican backbencher Richard “Bank Run” Burr.  Lewis helped lead finance operations in North Carolina for the Obama Presidential campaign.  Democratic state Attorney General Roy Cooper has also been considering a 2010 Senate bid, but has been unspecific about a timetable for decision-making.
  • Louisiana: Even fellow Republican Senator Mel Martinez thinks that Hookerlover David Vitter’s reckless stalling of President Obama’s acclaimed nominee to head FEMA just one month before the start of hurrican season is simply a way of “getting attention.”
  • Florida: NRSC Chair John Cornyn expects that Republican Gov. Charlie Crist will enter the 2010 Senate race.  A Crist announcement is expected next week.  Republican former state House Speaker Marco Rubio has already entered the race.
  • Minnesota: Senator-elect Al Franken and Vice President Joe Biden are meeting today.  Senator-elect Franken will update Vice President Biden on where things stand in Republican Norm Coleman’s endless appeals; and, the VP will brief Senator-elect Franken on issues before the U.S. Senate.
  • Good for Maine and good for equal protection under the law.

Early Wednesday Morning Quick Hits

Wed May 06, 2009 at 05:26 AM EDT

Tuesday Tidbits

Tue May 05, 2009 at 16:32 PM EDT

    • Pennsylvania: Republican former Gov. Tom Ridge will decide on a 2010 Senate bid “in the next two weeks” according to WaPo’s Cillizza’s sources.  One obstacle to a Ridge candidacy: Ridge is a Maryland resident now, not a Pennsylvania resident anymore.  Meanwhile, the drumbeat for Congressman Joe Sestak to enter the race is only getting louder and Congressman Sestak’s rhetoric is only getting stronger.  Further, we can expect new Research 2000 poll numbers on Thursday looking at both Parties’ primaries in PA-Sen.Speaking of PA-Sen polling, the Pennsylvania Business Council commissioned a poll by Susquehanna Polling & Research (a Republican firm), showing Specter in weak shape.  Specter leads Pat Toomey by only 6, 42-36, held well under 50%; and, Specter trails Ridge by a statistically-insignificant one point, 39-38 (held under 40%!).  Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies also released numbers.  POS shows Ridge leading Toomey in a GOP primary by a huge 60-23 margin.  POS also sees Ridge leading Specter 48-41, while Specter leads Toomey 49-40, in possible general election match-ups.  Yesterday’s Qunnipiac pollput Specter-Toomey at 53-33 and Specter-Ridge at 46-43.To close out today’s PA-Sen update, it’s worth noting that Toomey is reporting a torrid fundraising pace, $500,000 in the last three weeks since announcing, including what he says was a “surge” in contributions when Specter left the GOP.  Also, both The Wall Street Journal’s Jonathan Weisman and ABC’s George Stephanopoulos are standing by their reporting that Specter told President Obama that he would be a “loyal Democrat.”  When Specter denied saying the line on Meet the Press, was he lying?  Oh, and for anyone not sold on a primary challenge to Arlen Specter: Specter still wants Norm Coleman to be declared the winner in MN-Sen against Senator-elect Al Franken.  Yeah…
    • Kentucky: Another Jim Bunning retirement clue?  Bunning says that he is still running, with one big-time condition attached: “he would abandon his re-election effort would be if he did not meet his fundraising goals later this year.”  Since his goal is $7 million for the campaign, his goal for the end of the year is, say, around $3.5 million.  His $260,000 Q1 clearly doesn’t put him on pace.  Is Bunning carving out his own back door to a retirement?  I don’t know.  But what I suspect is that Bunning lacks any inner monologue:

      “It is the fact that Arlen Specter is probably as selfish as our leader is in trying to survive, that’s the only way he thought he would survive in the U.S. Senate,” Bunning said.”Do you know Arlen Specter will be 80, has had four bouts with cancer and he still wants to run for the U.S. Senate?” Bunning continued. “And I’m being criticized at 77 and healthy for wanting to run for the U.S. Senate by certain leadership people in my party. Give me a break.”

      Asked if the leadership he was referring to was McConnell, Bunning answered: “Obviously. Do you want me to spell it out for you?”

      He said: “Do you realize that under our dynamic leadership of our leader, we have gone from 55 and probably to 40 (Senate seats) in two election cycles, and if the tea leaves that I read are correct, we will wind up with about 36 after this election cycle.  So if leadership means anything, it means you don’t lose … approximately 19 seats in three election cycles with good leadership.”

      Wow… I’ll type more when my head stops spinning.

    • Delaware: Susquehanna Polling & Research, the Republican firm that released the aforementioned PA-Sen poll, also offered numbers today on a hypothetical DE-Sen match-up between Republican Rep. Mike Castle and Democratic state Attorney General Beau Biden, putting it in Castle’s favor, 55-34.  That a GOP pollster found such a large margin is unsurprising, but I think the race does lean in Castle’s favor to start.  That said, once Attorney General Biden returns from his service in Iraq and actually campaigns and reminds Delaware voters of his accomplishments, coupled with a visit or two from Obama-Biden, along with a reminder that Castle is about to become 70-years-old and will not achieve the seniority in the Senate that helped make then-Senator Joe Biden such a force, we’ll see the race tighten up.  Further, it’s hardly a guarantee that Castle will even enter the race.  Stay tuned.
  • North Carolina: The usually-pretty-stiff DNC Chair and Virginia Governor Tim Kaine has some fun with freshman Republican backbencher Richard “Bank Run” Burr.  Video at right.  Definitely worth a watch.
  • Florida: Republican former state House Speaker Marco Rubio is 100% officially in the 2010 Senate race.  With some Florida conservatives unhappy with Gov. Charlie Crist, will Crist run the primary gauntlet against the more conservative Rubio to go for the Senate seat or play it safer with a gubernatorial re-election bid?  Campaign Diaries offers thoughtful analysis of Rubio’s impact on Crist.
  • Oklahoma: For what it’s worth, a new Sooner Poll poll finds Democratic Governor Brad Henry with a higher approval rate than Republican Tom Coburn, 66.3% to 60.4%.  Coburn remains uncommitted about running for a second Senate term in 2010, but term-limited Governor Henry has not displayed much enthusiasm for a bid either.

Monday Night Round-Up

Mon May 04, 2009 at 23:50 PM EDT

  • Committee Ratios: Republican Senators are laughably making demands for things that they are in no position to demand.  This is exactly the correct area in which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid should make Republicans sweat.  The Senate GOP doesn’t call the shots and they desperately need a reminder of that.
  • Pennsylvania: Congressman Joe Sestak said that he had a “great” meeting today with SEIU head honcho Andy Stern.  While the topic of the 2010 Democratic Senate primary was reportedly not directly addressed, Congressman Sestak predicted that labor would not support Arlen Specter without Specter supporting the Employee Free Choice Act, which Specter reiterated his opposition to last week.  AFL-CIO officer Richard Trumka echoed Congressman Sestak’s prediction, suggesting that labor would not support Specter without his support of EFCA.  Can we expect another Specter flip-flop for purely political reasons?  Elsewhere, how obvious is it that the NRSC is going to throw Pat Toomey under the bus?

    NRSC Chairman John Cornyn of Texas hesitated when given the opportunity to endorse Toomey on Friday.”I don’t think it’s wise for me to tell Pennsylvania Republicans who their nominee should be, so I’m not going to do that,” said Cornyn.

    Really?  Cornyn thought it was plenty wise to tell Pennsylvania Republicans who their nominee should be just three weeks ago when he endorsed Specter the Republican.  Cornyn and the NRSC must really think Toomey is unelectable.

  • New Hampshire: New Granite State poll:

    The poll also shows former GOP senator John Sununu leading Rep. Paul Hodes (D-N.H.) in a hypothetical Senate matchup by five points, 46 to 41 percent. Sununu has not indicated he’s interested in running, but would have first dibs on the race if he wanted to re-enter the political arena.The poll showed 47 percent of voters viewing Sununu favorably, with 36 percent having an unfavorable opinion. Hodes held a 34 percent approval rating, with 22 percent viewing him unfavorably.

    These numbers one year from now would worry me, absolutely.  However, Congressman Paul Hodes enjoys a solidly net positive approval while still working to introduce himself to half of the state for the first time; and, Sununu remains under 50% approval (not that I think he’ll give up his easy corporate money to run again anyway).  I think these numbers are another positive sign for a Democratic pick-up.  Not only that, but the polling sample is relatively weighted in Republicans’ favor:

    On Cloud Hampshire [in the poll], Democrats make up only 25.63% of the electorate, Republicans dominate with 31.63% of the share, and the remaining 42.72% are Undeclared.In New Hampshire, Democrats are actually the party in the driver’s seat, with 29.44% of the people’s choice, followed closely by Republicans with 29.26%. Undeclareds round it out with 41.27%.

    When the sample is re-configured to more accurately reflect the Granite State electorate, Congressman Hodes is looking all the more solid.  Aside from polls, Congressman Hodes is also showing leadership on good governance, proposing legislation to “bar lawmakers from taking contributions from anyone who benefits from their budget earmarks.”  Sounds great to me.

  • New York: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has posted her first diary at The Albany Project, one of New York State’s top political blogs.  In the diary, she announced a new website – – on which New Yorkers can submit questions to which Senator Gillibrand will reply via YouTube videos posted on the site.  Not bad.
  • Florida: Republican former state House Speaker Marco Rubio is set to formally enter the 2010 Senate race in the middle of this week.  Apparently, he’s not just playing chicken with Republican Gov. Charlie Crist – he’s really in.
  • Connecticut: Former Ambassador to Ireland Thomas Foley will decide “in the weeks and months ahead” whether or not to join State Senator Sam Caligiuri and former Rep. Rob Simmons in the 2010 Republican Senate primary to see who will face Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd.
  • Washington: Popular Senator Patty Murray has her first Republican challenger in the person of chiropractor Sean Salazar.  Salazar has one political run under his belt, a primary loss for a California Congressional seat in the 2002 cycle.  Salazar raised less than $7,000 for the Congressional run.  I think Senator Murray can rest easy.
  • Delaware: Talk about no integrity.  Republican Mike Castle showed up to enjoy the spotlight for a project whose funding he opposed.
  • Illinois: Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky is highlighting the support she is reportedly receiving from the public as fueling her consideration for a 2010 Senate bid.  Democrats have one announced candidate for Senate in 2010 so far, in the person of state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias.
  • Iowa: Republican Chuck Grassley pushing to become Republican ranking member on the Judiciary Committee for the next Congress is a good sign that he has absolutely no plans to retire from the Senate in 2010.
  • Minnesota: An astrology blogger says that the heavens portend a June 14th state Supreme Court appeal victory for Senator-elect Al Franken.  Speaking of Senator-elect Franken, I’m with you, Al; I get grumpy over Republican obstruction, too.
  • The GOP’s “Outside the Beltway” re-branding event took place, quite literally, inside the Beltway.  How stupid are these people?
  • I officially think that Joe the Plumber is in the closet.

Monday Briefs

Mon May 04, 2009 at 14:27 PM EDT

  • Rankings:  Nate the Great at 538 has posted his May 2009 Senate Rankings.  Delaware is looking more competitive based on Republican Mike Castle’s public consideration of a 2010 Senate bid, while Nevada is looking less competitive due to the NV-GOP’s empty bench.  Also, Pennsylvania drops down the rankings list on the news that the incumbent is now a Democrat and a Democrat is more likely to win Pennsylvania’s 2010 Senate race; however, that doesn’t mean PA-Sen isn’t full of drama or that Specter himself will win re-election.  Georgia also begins to shift up the list based on polling showing the vulnerability of Republican Johnny Isakson.
  • Pennsylvania: As promised, the new Quinnipiac poll, post-Specter-Party-jump, has been released.  The poll brings one piece of (obvious) good news for Arlen Specter – that he does better against Pat Toomey among all voters than among just Republican voters – but hardly assures Specter a smooth path to re-election.  Specter leads Toomey 53-33, but only narrowly leads Republican former Gov. Tom Ridge 46-43.  Some media outlets are pointing to the fact that Specter leads Toomey 85-4 among Democrats as a sign that Democrats have accepted Specter, but I’d argue that that notion is shortsighted.  It simply indicates that Specter is to the left of Toomey, which we already knew.  Those numbers should do nothing to dissuade a strong Democrat from challenging Specter.  However, Specter’s overall number remain decent for now: 56-36 approve-disapprove, 52-34 favorable-unfavorable.  Still, with Republicans kissing Specter goodbye and with Democrats awaiting the inevitable “I did not say I would be a loyal Democrat.  I did not say that.” ads, I’d hardly chisel Specter’s numbers in cement, especially with the possibility that Specter lied in his “loyal Democrat” denial.
  • Minnesota: Yes, the GOP wants this to go on as long as possible:

    With former Sen. Norm Coleman now standing between Democrats and their 60-seat supermajority, the GOP is prepared to back the Republican’s appeal to the federal level if even a shred of doubt emerges in the case currently before the Minnesota Supreme Court.”This makes it pretty darn important,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, of the race following Specter’s switch. “I expect they will pursue the appeals until they are exhausted, whenever that may be. … I would assume if they were unsuccessful in the Minnesota Supreme Court, there may very well be an appeal to the United States Supreme Court.” …

    “I saw this cartoon that says, ‘Al Franken, a final decision has been made, you are now the senator. And President Sasha Obama would like to swear you in,”” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the majority whip. “I think Cornyn’s idea is to drag this on as long as possible – he said as much – and I think that’s unfair to the voters of Minnesota.”

    To the Democratic National Committee, Americans United for Change, the DSCC, or any other outlet thinking about running ads in Minnesota: I’d suggest that it would be a far better strategy to focus the ads at urging Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty to prepare and sign the election certificate rather than at urging Coleman to concede.  Coleman’s too stubborn to concede; but, once Pawlenty prepares and signs the election certificate, Senator-elect Al Franken can get seated, defeating Republicans’ motivation for further funding Coleman’s appeals, effectively forcing a Coleman concession.

  • Kentucky: For those continuing to look for clues that Jim Bunning will retire, here’s one: he skipped this weekend’s Kentucky Derby, an unusual move for a top Bluegrass State politician.  However, all of this remains speculation.  That said, in addition to Republican Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson having set up a 2010 Senate exploratory committee, reportedly with Bunning’s blessing, Dr. Rand Paul, son of Congressman Ron Paul, appears ready to enter the 2010 Senate race the minute that Bunning retires, should he decide to step down.  If Bunning did step down, the KY-GOP could likely see a nasty and costly three-way primary between Grayson, Paul, and state Senate President David Williams.
  • New York: Bad polling day for Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.  Not only did Survey USA put her in net-negative approval numbers for the first time, but a new Marist poll is not much better:

    The poll shows Gillibrand trailing former Gov. George Pataki (R) 46-38 after leading him 45-41 in March. It also shows her lead over Rep. Pete King (R) halving from 49-28 to 42-31.Gillibrand’s name recognition has increased from 50 percent to 57 percent, but most of those voters have decided they don’t like her. In March, 18 percent of voters gave her good marks and 32 percent rated her subpar, those numbers are now 19 and 38, respectively.

    Senator Gillibrand does continue to narrowly lead Democratic primary opposition.  Senator Gillibrand’s saving grace is that, if she does win over her own Party, she should have smooth sailing against any Republican.  Regarding her approvals, 46% of Democrats remain “Unsure.”  Worse, in the Gillibrand-Pataki match-up, about one-third of Democrats back Pataki.  Whatever the reason, if Senator Gillibrand can stem this tide and hold Democratic voters, she should be safe on Election Day.  Senator Gillibrand should be focused heavily on outreach to NYC Democrats in the coming weeks and months.

  • Florida: Republican former state House Speaker and 2010 Senate candidate Marco Rubio continues the aggressive rhetoric against Gov. Charlie Crist:

    “If you agree with Susan Collins or Olympia Snowe on some of these issues, you might as well become a Democrat,” said former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, a Republican who is likely to run for the Senate, whether or not Crist does.

    Rubio is setting himself up as the real conservative option against Crist the liberal, should Crist enter the 2010 Republican Senate primary against Rubio. (HT: SSP)

  • Delaware: Weak reporting from Politico.  In an analysis of whether Republican Rep. Mike Castle will retire in 2010, run for re-election to the House, or run for Senate, the Politico article fails to mention that the DE-GOP does have an announced Senate candidate in the person of conservative 2008 Republican Senate nominee Christine O’Donnell.
  • Senate Judiciary: Chez Pazienza offers his expectations for Supreme Court nominee confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee.  What’s no joke, regarding the Judiciary Committee, is that, with current Republican ranking member Arlen Specter leaving the GOP caucus, it looks like Alabama’s Jeff Sessions will become ranking member.  This is highly ironic (and a bit troubling) as it was the Specter-led, GOP-majority Judiciary Committee that bounced Sessions in 1986 as a Ronald Reagan nominee for a U.S. district judgeship over Sessions’ “racially insensitive” patterns.  And now “racially insensitive” Sessions is set to be the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee.  Swell.  The brilliant Steve Benen offers further analysis.  Apparently, Republican Jeff Sessions is no fan of having civil rights “forced down the throats of people.”  Again, swell.  Think Progress adds:

    In 2005, Sessions spoke out against the use of the filibuster to block President Bush’s Supreme Court nominees – will he do the same for President Obama?

    Super duper swell.

April Senate Approval Numbers from Survey USA

Mon May 04, 2009 at 12:15 PM EDT

SUSA is up with their April 2009 numbers.Republicans:Jim BunningJan. ’09Feb. ’09Mar. ’09Apr. ’09Approve42413934Disapprove43444852

Bunning’s numbers continue their horrific trend.  The approval number is at its lowest mark ever in Survey USA’s tracking.  The disapproval breaks 50% for the first time.  These are Dead Man Walking numbers.  Every Party affiliation gives Bunning net-negative numbers now: Dems 30-59, GOP 39-44, and independents 43-44.  (It is interesting that Bunning does worse among the GOP than among independents.)  These are the kind of numbers that would lead even someone as detached as Bunning to consider retirement.

Chuck GrassleyJan. ’09Feb. ’09Mar. ’09Apr. ’09Approve71716859Disapprove22232732

This month displays a bit of a dip in net approval for Grassley, from 41 points to 27 points.  While significant, it is hardly significant enough to be a warning sign to Grassley, particularly with no top-tier Democratic opposition on the horizon.  We’ll see next month of there is a trend or if April’s dip is an outlier.

Johnny IsaksonApr. ’09Approve48Disapprove33

When Survey USA last polled Johnny Isakson’s numbers, back in November 2006, he stood at 51-36.  April 2009′s 48-33 is not much different, but it is below the 50% danger mark, confirming Research 2000′s numbers from last week putting Isakson’s favorable-unfavorable at 47-41.  Isakson appears vulnerable if a top-tier Democrat like former Governor Roy Barnes, state Attorney General Thurbert Baker, or Congressman Jim Marshall were to challenge him.  Public Policy Polling also sees Isakson as quite vulnerable.

Richard ShelbyJan. ’09Feb. ’09Mar. ’09Apr. ’09Approve60585651Disapprove29323741

Well, this is interesting.  Shelby’s net approval has tightened for the fourth month in a row, from 31 points in January to 26 points in February to 19 points in March to just 10 points in April, with Shelby just a hair over the 50% mark.  This is a trend – Shelby’s net approval is playing limbo – how low can it go?  Shelby’s massive $13.5 million bankroll and no Democratic opposition on the horizon means that Shelby is quite safe for now.  That said, if his numbers continue to sink, Dems might give this race a look and force Shelby to burn through that bankroll.


Barbara BoxerJan. ’09Feb. ’09Mar. ’09Apr. ’09Approve52434847Disapprove38474044

Although Senator Boxer’s match-ups against Republicans have been solid, her personal approval remains under 50% according to Survey USA, as it has for nine of the last eleven months.  Could the NRSC be tempted (read: teased) into pouring resources into expensive California?  I’d be more worried about Senator Boxer’s numbers but that her one announced Republican opponent, state Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, has virtually no money to spend; and, her one possible opponent of note, businesswoman Carly Fiorina, will no doubt be weighed down by that golden parachute of hers.

Russ FeingoldJan. ’09Feb. ’09Mar. ’09Apr. ’09Approve61515155Disapprove31384237

Senator Feingold’s numbers take a hop in the safe direction, as his net approval doubles from 9 points to 18 points.  If Senator Feingold’s approval can stay in the mid-50′s or higher (and stay out of the low-50′s or lower), he should avoid any serious Republican opposition, especially with fellow Democratic Senator from Wisconsin Herb Kohl expected to retire in 2012.

Kirsten GillibrandFeb. ’09Mar. ’09Apr. ’09Approve413936Disapprove333439

While a quarter of respondents remain “Not Sure” about Senator Gillibrand, she has dipped into net-negative territory for the first time in Survey USA’s three months of polling her Senate approval numbers.  This poll should serve as a wake-up call that Senator Gillibrand has to heighten outreach to voters however possible.  With her approval among Dems at only 40 approve, 34 disapprove, 26 not sure, now would be a great time for a round of mailings or radio ads to Democratic voters in New York City.

Patty MurrayJan. ’09Feb. ’09Mar. ’09Apr. ’09Approve55545454Disapprove36373432

Senator Murray’s numbers remain remarkably stable and quite safe with little Republican opposition on the horizon.

Chuck SchumerJan. ’09Feb. ’09Mar. ’09Apr. ’09Approve63615962Disapprove27313331

I’ll say it again: there remains every reason to expect that Senator Schumer is the U.S. Senate’s safest incumbent in 2010.

Ron WydenJan. ’09Feb. ’09Mar. ’09Apr. ’09Approve62575556Disapprove25312933

Like Senator Murray, Senator Wyden’s numbers remain stable and he remains quite safe.

The Latest from PA-Sen

Mon May 04, 2009 at 01:54 AM EDT

Congressman Joe Sestak, while not committing to a 2010 Democratic Senate primary challenge to recently-Republican Arlen Specter just yet, has been everywhere in recent days – including today’s appearance on CNN and liveblogging session at FireDogLake – suggesting that he is quite serious about a bid.  Heck, he got the video of the CNN appearance (at right) up on his YouTube page really quickly, and he even Tweeted the video’s link out to the world.  (And PA Labor is impressed.)  The money line of the interview, Sestak on Specter, “I’m not sure he’s a Democrat yet.”Meanwhile, NRSC Chair Emeritus John Ensign thinks he’s taking a shot at Specter, but he’s really just insulting Pennsylvania Republican activists:

Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), the former head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said Sunday that the GOP would pull out all the stops to try to knock off party-switcher Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) in 2010. …Ensign, now the Senate GOP policy committee chairman, said the party is “recruiting some great candidates” and expects to end Specter’s Senate career next year.

All of those conservative activists at the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference in March who were beyond enthusiastic for Pat Toomey are being told by Washington D.C. Republicans to shut up.  I doubt they’ll be too happy about that.  (It’s not like I’m all that thrilled that Gov. Ed Rendell is dictating to me that Arlen Specter will be the Democratic nominee.)  However, those same activists might not recall that Toomey began his Congressional career with pro-choice positions on reproductive rights.

Also, keep an eye out today for new Quinnipiac polling, reportedly conducted after Specter’s switch.  And, if you want a chuckle, check out David Letterman’s “Top Ten Reasons Arlen Specter Switched Parties.”

Below: a key graphic from the CNN interview.

PA-Sen: Specter Denies “Loyal Democrat” Declaration

Sun May 03, 2009 at 14:55 PM EDT

This past Tuesday, according to ABC News(emphasis added by me):

At 10:32am, President Barack Obama reached Specter and told him “you have my full support” and “thrilled to have you.”Specter told the president, “I’m a loyal Democrat. I support your agenda.”

This morning, on Meet the Press (emphasis added by me):

MR. GREGORY:  It was reported this week that when you met with the president you said, “I will be a loyal Democrat.  I support your agenda.” Let me test that on probably one of the most important areas of his agenda, and that’s health care.  Would you support health care reform that puts up a government-run public plan to complete with a private plan issued by a private insurance company?SEN. SPECTER:  No.  And you misquote me, David.  I did not say I would be a loyal Democrat.  I did not say that. And last week, after I said I was changing parties, I voted against the budget because the budget has a way to pass health care with a 51 votes, which undermines a basic Senate institution to require 60 votes to impose cloture on, on key issues.  But I…

MR. GREGORY:  All right, just to be clear, Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal Jonathan Weisman and Greg Hitt reported that when you met with the president you said, “I’m a loyal Democrat,” and, according to people familiar with the White House, “I support your agenda.” So that’s wrong?  You didn’t say those things?

SEN. SPECTER:  I did not say I’m a loyal Democrat.

It was a pretty horrible Meet the Press appearance in a vacuum.  It was downright atrocious if Arlen Specter’s goal was to gain the support of Pennsylvania Democrats across the grassroots.  Some quotes that could be plucked out and used against him in an ad:

I don’t expect people to agree with all my votes.  I don’t agree with all of them at this time.

That’s what I’ve worked for for a long time, trying to bring back the Republican Party in the city of Philadelphia, trying to bring back the Republican Party nationally.

MR. GREGORY:  All right, let me ask you about this switch from the Republican to the Democratic Party.  Back in April of this year on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” you said this:  “So I’m trying to bring back those voters to the Republican Party.  We need balance and I’m trying to get people to register Republican. We need a second party.  Look here, our country is built on checks and balances.  The only check and balance in America today are the 41 Republican Senators who can talk and filibuster, otherwise, the White House, the House of Representatives will be a steamroller.” Well, Senator, you’ve now decided to join that steamroller.  What changed?SEN. SPECTER:  Well, well, since that time I undertook a very thorough survey of Republicans in Pennsylvania with polling and a lot of personal contacts, and it became apparent to me that my chances to be elected on the Republican ticket were, were bleak.

You get the idea.  Not only were Snarlin’ Arlen’s “chances to be elected on the Republican ticket” “bleak,” but his chances of being confused for a person who puts principles above polls are also “bleak.”  MyDD’s Todd Beeton has further thoughtful analysis of Specter’s horrendous appearance.

John Cornyn Gives Reverse Psychology a Shot

Sun May 03, 2009 at 01:35 AM EDT

When all else fails, NRSC Chair John Cornyn gives reverse psychology a shot:

Some Republicans also said a liberal nominee would pose risks for Senate Democrats representing conservative states.”It puts a lot of pressure on Democrats in red states, particularly those running for re-election in 2010, if it is someone who is dramatically outside of the mainstream,” said Mr. Cornyn, who, as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, has a deep interest in the politics of the nomination.

Cornyn’s sentiment is predicated on the notion that the Chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee is deeply concerned with making sure that Democratic Senators get re-elected.  Since any extremely competent, intelligent, accomplished, not-crazy-radical-drooling-over-their-gavel Supreme Court nominee that President Obama would see fit to pick should be confirmed – with only the most partisan of Republicans opposing any nominee no matter what ($100 says Hookerlover David Vitter votes nay – and I’m giving odds!) – Cornyn’s trying reverse psychology to frighten President Obama into choosing a more centrist jurist than needbe.  Because President Obama is sooooo frightened of Big, Bad John Cornyn.

Saturday Quick Hits

Sat May 02, 2009 at 13:43 PM EDT

  • Louisiana: How amazingly stupid is Hookerlover David Vitter?

    A Louisiana senator is stalling Florida emergency management director Craig Fugate’s nomination as head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.Fugate had sailed through his nomination hearing and Monday cleared the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee by a unanimous voice vote. Republican Sen. David Vitter said, however, that he’d blocked Fugate because of concerns he has with FEMA.

    “I have a hold on the FEMA nomination because I sent a list of hurricane recovery questions and projects to FEMA, many of which have not been adequately addressed,” Vitter said in a statement. “I’m eager to get full responses and meet with the nominee immediately.”

    The hold – which comes a month before the start of hurricane season – was reported in CQ Today, a Capitol Hill newspaper, which noted that Vitter’s home state “bore the brunt of the botched agency response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.”

    At that time, FEMA was led by Michael Brown, who had little emergency management experience. Fugate, however, garnered widespread praise for deft handling of back-to-back hurricanes in Florida and won bipartisan support at his confirmation hearing and was expected to be confirmed swiftly.

    Vitter, who represents Katrina-ravaged Louisiana, is delaying the confirmation of a qualified FEMA director one month before the start of hurricane season.  And he’s delaying the widely-acclaimed pick because he is awaiting answers from FEMA.  Well, Hookerlover, maybe you’d get those answers more quickly if FEMA had a director who could respond to you, dolt.

  • Pennsylvania: Worried that Pat Toomey is unelectable, Republicans are insisting that Republican former Gov. Tom Ridge is the cure to what ails them.  The only problem: Ridge ain’t talking.  Those pesky anonymous Republicans say he’s as good as in:

    Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge is considering running for the Republican Senate nomination in his home state, according to a senior Republican aide with knowledge of the situation.National and Keystone State Republicans have been publicly and privately urging Ridge to consider a Senate bid since Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) announced earlier this week that he was switching parties and would run for re-election as a Democrat in 2010.

    Ridge’s enthusiastic response:

    We tried to reach Ridge yesterday to ask him about his plans. Through a spokeswoman, he declined a request for comment.

    Maybe Ridge will run, but he’s not talking for now.  And how will the anti-Specter conservative Republican activists who got behind Toomey react when they’re told to back the less-than-conservative Ridge if he does run?  My guess is “not well.”

  • North Carolina: Freshman Republican backbencher Richard “Bank Run” Burr really doesn’t get it.  Typically a guy who receives little to no press coverage for anything, he received a mountain of terrible press coverage when it spread that he told his wife to rush the ATMs when the fiscal crisis was brewing – behavior that would have crippled the economy had too many Americans done what “Bank Run” Burr did.  And what did “Bank Run” Burr learn from the experience?

    Burr’s comments spread across the blogosphere and were slammed as irresponsible. Some suggested he was encouraging a bank run. Now, Burr says he has no regrets and would do the same thing again.”Absolutely I’d do it [again],” Burr told WFAE, a public radio station in North Carolina. “The exact situation we were faced with was a freeze bank to bank. And as I stated, my attempt was to make sure my wife had enough cash at home to make it through the next week.”

    But Burr added that the bank in question was never in trouble, which raises questions about why he feared it would run out of cash.

    “It was not an attempt to run a bank,” Burr said. “Nor was it a bank that was even considered then or now to be in trouble.”

    So not only is “Bank Run” Burr too dense to get why people might have been disquieted by his behavior, but he also doesn’t even realize his own lack of logic – if the bank wasn’t in trouble, why did he need to rush the ATMs?!  Keep on digging, “Bank Run” Burr.

  • Missouri: Yes, Republican Congresscritter Roy Blunt said the following:

    “Just because we’re in a situation now where we vote no doesn’t mean we are the ‘party of no’ or have no ideas.”

    Dumbfounded?  Awestruck?  Contribute to Missouri Secretary of State and likely 2010 Democratic Senate nominee Robin Carnahan.

End of Week Round-Up

Fri May 01, 2009 at 17:27 PM EDT

  • Pennsylvania: Senator Bob Casey Jr. has gotten in line behind the Democratic establishment’s orders and endorsed Arlen Specter for re-election.  State Representative Bill Kortz has joined Joe Torsella in saying that he is continuing his pursuit of the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in 2010 regardless of Specter’s status.  Meanwhile, the NRSC reveals their fear of a Senate candidacy by Congressman Joe Sestak as they follow up their anti-Specter robocall with an anti-Sestak & vaguely pro-Specter robocall.  This stunt may only prove to water down any coherent Republican message (and may further encourage a Sestak candidacy).  Elsewhere, the labor community continues to put pressure on Specter.  Also, a new blog, Specter Watch, has popped up to apparently focus on Democratic alternatives to Specter.
  • Illinois: Republican Congresscritter Mark Kirk said back on April 15 that he would make a decision about his 2010 electoral plans over “the next two weeks.”  Since that timeframe lapsed two days ago, we await his answer.  Sure, we have Lynn Sweet’s “poised to jump in” blurb about Republican Kirk, but we still await comment from him.
  • North Carolina: A new Civitas poll – with some curious new details, which I’ll elaborate on in a moment – shows a statistical dead heat between freshman Republican backbencher Richard “Bank Run” Burr and Democratic state Attorney General Roy Cooper, with Burr up 35-34.  So what’s so curious about the poll?  It appears that the wording and the pollster are different from earlier Civitas polling:

    You might have noticed that the very first line of this post refers to a polling outfit called “McLaughlin and Associates,” a Republican firm from Alexandria, Virginia. I’m not familiar with them, and in fact, I’ve never seen Civitas identify McLaughlin as their pollster.More importantly, McLaughlin changed the wording of the horserace question from what Civitas had been using in the past. In other words, we don’t have a true trendline. …

    The choices were “definitely X,” “probably,” “lean,” and perhaps “undecided.” The key change is that the old poll actually pushed leaners – it doesn’t look like the new one did. And the less-than-traditional phrasing of the new question seems a bit wonky to me. I’ve never really seen a straight horserace question tested in quite that way before.

    The motives for the wording change are unclear, but even a tinkered-with poll by a Republican firm still shows “Bank Run” Burr well under 40% and stuck in a statistical dead heat.  Burr is highly vulnerable; and, the sooner that Attorney General Cooper enters the race, the better.

  • Utah: Well, this is interesting.  It looks like Democrats will have an at-least-somewhat-prominent candidate for Senate in 2010:

    Popular deli chain owner Sam Granato will run for Sen. Bob Bennett’s seat in 2010.Granato, who owns several Granato’s delis throughout the Salt Lake Valley, also is chairman of the Utah Liquor Control Commission. He confirmed to me Thursday that he is in the race for sure as a Democrat, and he has secured early support from several Democratic insiders and officials. He will make the formal announcement June 1. …

    Meanwhile, Attorney General Mark Shurtleff told me Thursday he has made the decision personally to challenge Bennett for the Republican nomination, but he has given his wife one more week to talk him out of it.

    Sure, Utah’s Utah.  Ruby red.  I get it.  But if Shurtleff v. Bennett does turn nasty and expensive, a prominent figure like Granato could take advantage.  We’ll see if lightning strikes.  Stay tuned.

  • Kentucky: Stats maven Nate Silver offers that KY-Sen, much to the GOP’s dismay, will be a toss-up whether or not Jim Bunning retires.  Silver also points out that Democratic state Attorney General Jack Conway measures up better against Republicans than Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo.
  • Louisiana: Adult film star Stormy Daniels will begin a listening tour next week as she travels around Louisiana and considers a run 2010 Senate bid against Hookerlover David Vitter.  You can learn more at
  • New Hampshire: Manchester’s Republican Mayor Frank Guinta has filed to challenge Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter for her House seat, meaning that there’s another prominent Republican who will not challenge Congressman Paul Hodes for Senate.
  • Minnesota: I wonder if Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty suffering from all-time low approval numbers might have an impact on the expediency with which he moves to certify Senator-elect Al Franken‘s victory after the state Supreme Court rules.  A strong majority of Minnesotans want Senator-elect Franken seated ASAP.

Early Friday Morning Items

Fri May 01, 2009 at 03:27 AM EDT

  • How many “dangerous signals” can Olympia Snowe tolerate?
  • Kentucky: Politico, Roll Call, and The Hill all have expanded “Jim Bunning ready to retire” stories up.  Only problem: it may be totally bogus, manufactured by Mitch McConnell (HT: MyDD):

    Until Bunning confirms this story, I would view it with a great deal of skepticism as this smells like another weak Politico hit piece with nothing in it but “GOP operatives” who are trying to bring down Bunning. This is part of the coup, not a plan that Bunning is part of. …Just as I suspected…From the New York Times this evening:

    A prominent Kentucky Republican – Secretary of State Trey Grayson – has formed an exploratory committee for a possible run for United States Senate next year, fueling speculation in Kentucky and in Washington that Senator Jim Bunning may be planning to retire.But a spokesman for Mr. Bunning, Mike Reynard, refuted those rumors. “Senator Bunning has every intention of running,” he said in an e-mailed statement.

    I can’t wait for Jim Bunning to personally respond to this latest volley.

  • Georgia: A new Research 2000 poll shows that, with strong recruitment, GA-Sen could be a serious sleeper race, with Republican freshman Johnny Isakson looking vulnerable.  Isakson’s favorable-unfavorable is a fairly weak 47-41.  Further, he is held under 50%, only narrowly leading two Democrats.  Former Governor Roy Barnes only trails 47-43, and Congressman Jim Marshall only trails 48-40.  Last year, we saw Saxby Chambliss’ first re-election bid become much more exciting than we had originally expected.  Can lightning strike twice in a GA-Sen race?  We’ll see.
  • Pennsylvania: Analysis from RealClearPolitics’ HorseRaceBlog:

    I’ll put it simply: a Democrat with credibility, message, and money could give Specter just as much trouble as Toomey was set to. There is a very straightforward strategy to be pursued: win the Democrats who don’t particularly care for Specter, either. By and large, this would be working class white Democrats in the west, upper income white liberals in the east, and African Americans of all income groups and ideological dispositions statewide. These groups have voted against Arlen Specter for nearly 30 years. A Democrat who can unite them under his banner could defeat him.

    Further, on the prospect of a primary from Congressman Joe Sestak:

    Hmmm…a progressive Democrat with military credentials. It sounds to me like he’d have a leg up with two of those three voting groups: western working class Dems and (mostly eastern) upscale liberals.Keep an eye on Sestak. Snarlin’ Arlen certainly will.

    I’m certainly keeping an eye on a possible Sestak campaign, too.  In other news, Republicans’ desire to recruit former Gov. Tom Ridge to run likely will not come to fruition:

    Nothing could be more unrealistic.  After a lifetime of public service, Mr. Ridge had virtually no money to his name. Facing the prospects of putting several children through college, he leveraged his political experience and entered the private sector and now enjoys the benefits of a lucrative position.  Earning a fraction of his current income likely would not appeal to Mr. Ridge.

    The GOP could very well be stuck with unelectable Pat Toomey.

  • Missouri: Says Republican climatologist Roy Blunt: “There isn’t any real science to say we are altering the climate path of the earth.”  Reward his idiocy by contributing to Democratic Senate candidate and Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan.
  • Indiana: Evan Bayh is extremely safe:

    A new poll conducted by Dave Beattie (of Hamilton Campaigns) for Sen. Evan Bayh suggests little reason for concern as the Indiana Democrat looks toward a race for third term in 2010. Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of Indiana voters see Bayh in a favorable light while just 23 percent view him unfavorably. Bayh’s favorability ratings are high across party lines with 74 percent of Independents and 61 percent of Republicans viewing him in a positive light. Republicans made some noise about challenging Bayh earlier this year but that talk has largely faded amid glowing poll numbers (like these) and the Democratic incumbent’s massive campaign warchest ($11.4 million on hand at the end of March).

    Instead of going around the country vacuuming up unneeded campaign dollars, I wish Bayh would use his resources to help further Party building.

  • Thank you for your service, Justice Souter.

PA-Sen: Will Joe Sestak Challenge and Beat Arlen Specter? – Updated

Thu Apr 30, 2009 at 17:39 PM EDT

So Snarlin’ Arlen is going to change his voter registration from R to D.  More like R&D, as in research & development.  He did the research; he said very explicitly that the reason for the jump is not principles but rather polling data that said he could not win a Republican primary.  And then the development: he hopped from one ship to the other.Despite telling President Obama that he is now a “loyal Democrat,” he has already voted against President Obama’s budget, reiterated his opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act, reiterated his opposition to Dawn Johnsen’s nomination to the Office of Legal Counsel, and voted against bankruptcy reformsproposed by Democrats.In fact, regarding the Employee Free Choice Act, Pennsylvania’s organized labor comunnity isn’t going to let Specter off the hook just because of a cosmetic Party label adjustment.  If Specter continues to opposed EFCA, as he promised, labor won’t support him.  Further, with Specter’s seniority in the Senate threatening to knock Democrats (who have been Democrats for longer than 48 hours) down a rung in the seniority ladder, some Senate Democrats are very unhappy with any committee leadership rolesthat Specter might get (and that Senate Democrats might have to cede to him).While Specter now enjoys the support of President Obama and Governor Ed Rendell, he is not guaranteed support from Pennsylvania Labor, the bulk of the Senate Democratic caucus, Pennsylvania’s Democratic Congressional delegation, or Pennsylvania’s grassroots activists.  And why should he?  Specter said just over a month ago:

To eliminate any doubt, I am a Republican and I am running for re-election in 2010 as a Republican on the Republican ticket.

Further, the NRSC is reminding Democratic voters of Specter’s close relationship with one George W. Bush.  Ideologically, Specter isn’t all of a sudden going to be a “loyal Democrat,” his words notwithstanding; and, personally, Specter has displayed that he is not trustworthy and that he’ll put personal politics well ahead of any principles.

So what are Democrats who want to support a real Democrat for Senate in Pennsylvania to do?

I think the answer to that question is: urge Congressman Joe Sestak to challenge Specter in the Democratic primary.  Why Joe Sestak?  A few reasons.

First, who could beat Arlen Specter in a Democratic primary?  Based solely on my looking over the field of potential Democratic candidates, I think only three names spring up: Sestak, Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, and state Auditor Jack Wagner.  Schwartz has reportedly already decided against a Specter challenge.  Weeks ago, Wagner was reported to not be interested in a Senate bid.  (All due respect to announced candidate Joe Torsella and his solid $600,000 Q1 haul – my guess is that much of it came from contacts through Torsella’s poltiical mentor, Rendell, who could turn off the spigots in Q2.)  Sestak, however, refused to close the door to a run in the immediate wake of Specter’s announcement.

Subsequently, Sestak has further widened the door to a primary challenge.  He has been “playing phone tag” over the past few days with DSCC Chair Bob Menendez.  Further, Sestak “feels strongly” that Democratic voters in Pennsylvania, not Washington dealmakers, should decide who the nominee will be.  Click here for video of Sestak on MSNBC’s Morning Joe this morning; and click here for audio of Sestak on The Bill Press Show.

Second, can Sestak put together and finance a credible campaign, even with Ed Rendell pushing Pennsylvania Democrats toward Specter?  Yes.  At the end of March, Sestak had a bankroll in excess of $3.3 million.  Just pulling an estimate out of the air, Sestak might only need $5 million for the primary, so he’s two-thirds of the way there already.

Third, would his politics be an upgrade over Specter?  According to the National Journal’s 2008 Vote Ratings, Congressman Sestak was the 150th most liberal member and the 277th most conservative member.  He also has a Progressive Punch score of 93.25.  By no means is Sestak a liberal – but he’s very solid.  Further, he brings a powerful profile: the highest-ranking former military officer to serve in Congress who happens to also be leading the charge on revoking Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  Sestak is 100% pro-choice, has enjoyed big support from labor, and gets high marks on middle class issues.

Add it all up.  Congressman Sestak has the profile, the resources, and the will to run.  He would be a major upgrade over the status quo.  He may be the only person who could ensure that a real Democrat is nominated for Senate over Arlen Specter.

Will he make the jump?  Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Adam Green, the brains behind the “One Dollar a Day to Make Norm Coleman Go Away” effort, had an idea for PA-Sen.  Says Green:

On the very day Arlen Specter became a Democrat, he lamented that not enough right-wing Bush judges got confirmed, he opposed workers’ right to organize, and he compared himself to Joe Lieberman. The DSCC and Pennsylvania Democratic Party will be supporting Specter in the primary.If there is a potential progressive challenger to Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania, they are probably scratching their head right now asking, “Would I have any chance at all if I ran, or is the fix in?”

What can progressives to do create an environment where this person feels they can run?Legally, we can’t put money in a pot for a fictional candidate. But we can pledge now that if a real progressive steps up, we’ll get their back.So, here’s a little experiment. I just created a Facebook fan page (like a Facebook group) called “I support a real progressive against Arlen Specter.“People who join are pledging to give at least $25 to a credible progressive challenger who steps up. It’ll either succeed or flop — and that will solely be determined by whether the energy is there for people to join and pass it along to their friends. Real Progressive Against Specter

If enough folks join, media will probably pay attention — but more important, a progressive challenger would be paying attention. If not many people join…same thing. The destiny of a “challenge Specter” movement is in your hands. And the window to make this idea credible is likely short.

I joined.  It’d be super cool if you did, too.

Thursday Tidbits

Thu Apr 30, 2009 at 16:23 PM EDT

    • Illinois: Public Policy Polling released Democratic match-up numbers against Republican Rep. Mark Kirk, the GOP’s strongest and perhaps only chance for a competitive IL-Sen.  It’s not news that Kirk leads Roland Burris 53-19 in a hypothetical match-up because Burris will not be the Democratic nominee for Senate in 2010 under any circumstances.  His chances are nil.  As for viable candidates, Kirk ties state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias 35-35 and narrowly leads Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky 37-33.  In both of those match-ups, however, PPP points out that those numbers are “optimistic” for Republicans as “more than 30% of Democrats but fewer than 20% of GOP voters are undecided.”  In short, when Democrats come home to the Party in these polls (as can be safely expected in blue Illinois, home of Obama), Kirk likely loses (probably by a comfortable margin) to a credible Democrat.  To boot, in a match-up against state Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Madigan crushes Kirk 49-33.  While I expect that Kirk will avoid a Senate bid, Chicago Sun-Times’ Lynn Sweet reports that Kirk is “poised to jump in the 2010 Illinois Senate race.”
    • Pennsylvania: Gov. Ed Rendell insists, almost nervously, that Arlen Specter will run unopposed in the Democratic primary for Senate in 2010.  However, contradicting Rendell’s earlier claims, Senate candidate Joe Torsella says that he has not received a call from Rendell asking him to step aside, yet.  Meanwhile, The Washington Times and Roll Call both have stories up about Republicans demanding campaign contribution refunds from the Party-switching Specter.  Specter will likely have the most interesting Q2 fundraising report of any Senator come July.  Additionally, in an unusually clever move from the NRSC, to deflate Democratic support for Specter, the NRSC has put out a robocall targeting Democratic primary voters that plays the audio of George W. Bush’s 2004 endorsement of Specter.  Further, the NRSC seems ready to toss Pat Toomey under the bus and seek out another candidate that they deem to be more electable.
    • Kentucky: Kentucky’s Republican Secretary of State Trey Grayson has formed an exploratory committee for a 2010 Senate bid.  Grayson says that it is just a precaution in case Jim Bunning decides to retire, and he reiterated that he would not oppose Bunning in a primary.  Is this a precursor to a Bunning retirement?  We’ll see.
  • Minnesota: Americans United for Change has launched a TV ad, video at right, to put pressure on Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty to prepare and sign the election certificate for Senator-elect Al Franken once the state Supreme Court issues its ruling, likely in mid-to-late June.  (You can add to that pressure by joining the “One Dollar a Day to Make Norm Coleman Go Away” effort.)  The ad is timely as Republican Norm Coleman is filing his full appeal with the state Supreme Court today.  Elsehwere, while John Cornyn deludes himself or others into thinking that a Coleman defeat is “unlikely,” Paul Ryan levels with the media, telling Katie Couric of a Franken victory: “Yeah, most of us think that that’s going to happen.
  • Colorado: Little-known Republican Senate candidate Ken Buck must be from the Dick Wadhams school of political tactics, as Buck is caught lying about polls, citing polls that quite literally don’t exist.

On the Failure of Republican Messaging and Branding

Thu Apr 30, 2009 at 13:44 PM EDT

Given how very few people want to identify as Republicans these days, the GOP is undertaking an effort to re-brand the Party (again).  The effort will be led by the rainbow coalition of John McCain and Jeb Bush.  In addition to McCain and Bush, the panel will include:

In addition to Sen. McCain and Gov. Bush, GOP sources familiar with the plans tell CNN others involved in the new group’s “National Panel Of Experts” will include:*Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a former national GOP chairman
*Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal
*Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney

It will report to GOP congressional leaders, and among those signing the announcement that will be made public Thursday are:

*House GOP Leader John Boehner
*House GOP Whip Eric Cantor
*House GOP Conference Chairman Mike Pence
*Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell
*The No. 2 Senate Republican, Jon Kyl
*And the Senate GOP Conference Chairman, Lamar Alexander

So let’s go through that rundown one more time:

Hmmm… John McCain (wealthy, Christian, white, 72-years-old), Jeb Bush (wealthy, Christian, white, 56-years-old), Haley Barbour (wealthy, Christian, white, 61-years-old) – well, you’re getting the idea.

Among the 11 Republicans listed who are tasked with re-branding the Republican Party: zero are female; zero are African-American; zero are Hispanic; and, only three are below the age of 55!  In fact, if you hold aside Cantor being relatively young & Jewish and Jindal being relatively young, Indian & Catholic, there is virtually no hint of diversity whatsoever on this wealthy, old, white, Christian, Republican council of elders.  And they will figure out how to re-brand the GOP in order to better appeal to… who?  Women?  African-Americans?  Hispanics?  Young people?  The middle class?  Those living at poverty levels?  Who?!?

They can’t be that dense, can they?

A 100-Day, Party Switching, Full Cabinet Open Thread

Thu Apr 30, 2009 at 02:51 AM EDT

Lots of events from the week to process: President Obama’s 100th day in office, Arlen Specter’s Party switch, and Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ confirmation.  What’s on your mind?  What’d you think of the President’s Day 100 presser?  What do you think will be the short and long term impacts of Specter’s new groove?  Any clever observations or shocking predictions?  Share in the comments.Oh, and if you haven’t already, here’s some to-do items that will help expand the Senate Guru community to “urban-suburban hip-hop settings“:1) Join the Senate Guru Facebook group;2) Subscribe to Senate Guru’s RSS feed; and,

3) If you want to send Senate Guru some “slum love” and you have a Daily Kos account, add Senate Guru to your Daily Kos Blog Roll to increase the frequency with which Senate Guru appears in Daily Kos’ “10 Random User Blogroll Links.”

Extra Credit) If you want to be on my super duper cool list, join the “One Dollar a Day to Make Norm Coleman Go Away” effort.  It’s the best investment you can make toward a progressive legislative agenda for just one dollar a day.  And it might just make a well-heeled Republican think twice about helping prolong Norm Coleman’s endless appeals.

Wednesday Briefs

Wed Apr 29, 2009 at 17:04 PM EDT

  • In an op-ed today in the New York Times, coincidentally a publication reviled by wingnuts, the U.S. Senate’s last moderate Republican, Olympia Snowe, laments the departure from the GOP of Arlen Specter, saying that the Republican Party “failed to learn the lessons of Jim Jeffords’s defection in 2001.”  Snowe suggests that the GOP can’t function as a national Party while remaining unwelcome to moderates.  Given Republican leadership’s dogmatic intolerance of dissent in its ranks, I don’t imagine that the GOP will begin welcoming moderates anytime soon.  In fact, Fox News seems eager for Snowe to leave the GOP.
  • Illinois: New Public Policy Polling numbers.  Here are approve-disapprove numbers among Democratic primary voters: Roland Burris 27-49; Jan Schakowsky 42-8; Alexi Giannoulias 53-10; Lisa Madigan 74-13.  Head-to-head, Giannoulias leads Burris 49-20.  When Schakowsky is added in, the result is Giannoulias 38, Schakowsky 26, Burris 16.  However, when Madigan is added, the result is Madigan 44, Giannoulias 19, Burris 13, Schakowsky 11.  With state Attorney General Madigan reportedly more interested in a gubernatorial bid (and leading Gov. Pat Quinn 45-29 according to PPP), she may not be a factor in IL-Sen.  Tomorrow, PPP will release numbers matching up the Democrats against Republican Rep. Mark Kirk, considered the GOP’s strongest possible candidate.
  • Pennsylvania: Comically, Republican Orrin Hatch, Vice Chair of the NRSC, has declared that fellow Republican Pat Toomey can’t win (note Hatch’s hilarious attempt at a backtrack):

    “I don’t think there is anybody in the world who believes he can get elected senator there,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch, the vice chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.Asked if the NRSC would back Toomey, Hatch said, “I don’t think so” and that the party should look for “someone who can win there.” …

    Hatch later equivocated and said, “I’m not saying he can’t win – nobody gave me a chance when I ran.”

    Too freakin’ funny.  Some Republicans are making noise about reaching out to Republican former Gov. Tom Ridge to run for Senate in 2010.  No word yet on whether the 63-year-old is even remotely interested.  However, Republican Congresscritter Jim Gerlach, currently focused on a gubernatorial bid, says that he is not going to “rule anything out” regarding a possible 2010 Senate bid.  In other news, Democratic Governor Ed Rendell is calling on Joe Torsella, a Rendell protege, to step aside for new-Democrat Arlen Specter.  For now, Torsella is pressing forward.  In related news, Adam Green, the brains behind the “One Dollar a Day to Make Norm Coleman Go Away” effort, asks “Would YOU step up to help a progressive challenger to Specter?”  The following words of Steve Benen may prove prescient: “It’s obviously still very early, but I wouldn’t be shocked if neither Specter nor Toomey were on the general election ballot in November 2010.”

  • Florida: The DSCC unveils its first TV ad of the cycle, pre-emptively hitting Republican Charlie Crist for considering bolting Florida from Washington D.C. while leaving Florida with a budget mess:
  • Louisiana: A new Southern Media & Opinion Research poll suggests that Hookerlover David Vitter’s overall approval is in OK shape, but that he is vulnerable.  Vitter enjoys a 58% job approval, but:

    But the pollster said Vitter should be particularly aware of opinions among the white voters who dominate Republican primaries. Fewer than 35 percent of white voters said they will definitely vote to re-elect Vitter; 39 percent said they would consider someone else; and 22 percent said they will definitely vote for someone else.

    A Republican primary challenge to Vitter could gain significant traction.

  • Minnesota: Despite Republican Norm Coleman holding the Senate seat hostage through endless legal appeals, Senator-elect Al Franken has begun moving forward with staffing so that he’ll be ready to go as soon as he is sworn in.  It was announced today that he has hired a Chief of Staff.
  • I love this political cartoon (HT: TPC): FDR & Obama

Arlen Specter’s Impact on Al Franken

Wed Apr 29, 2009 at 13:03 PM EDT

Your support will strengthen that message!

Before Arlen Specter’s Party switch announcement yesterday, the Senate’s Democratic caucus stood at 58 members.  Senator-elect Al Franken represented Democrats’ 59th vote toward cloture, still short of reliably ending Republican filibusters.  But now, with Specter joining the Democratic caucus, Senator-elect Franken represents the big 6-0, which is why Republicans will redouble their efforts to delay Senator-elect Franken’s seating – and why we in the netroots must redouble our efforts to send obstructionist Republicans a message and also provide them with adequate disincentive from delaying Senator-elect Franken’s seating any further.Since the “One Dollar a Day to Make Norm Coleman Go Away” effort started just a couple weeks ago, about $40,000 has been raised to remind the Republicans funding Norm Coleman’s endless appeals that, for every single day that they delay the implementation of the will of Minnesota voters, progressive voters will raise money to use against these Republicans on Election Day 2010.
Norm Coleman and his fellow Republicans recently scored a success in further delaying Senator-elect Franken’s seating, as the trial schedule adopted by the state Supreme Court for Coleman’s appeal is such that oral arguments before the Court won’t begin until June 1st, over a month from now.  Further, although Minnesota election policy dictates that Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty must prepare and sign Senator-elect Franken’s election certificate once the state Supreme Court hands down its decision, Pawlenty has hemmed and hawed as to whether he would follow state election policy accordingly.With a D next to Arlen Specter’s name, Republicans will go full force to block Senator-elect Franken’s seating.  Please join us in eliminating Republicans’ incentive to delay Senator-elect Franken’s seating any further by taking part in the “One Dollar a Day to Make Norm Coleman Go Away” effort.  At right is video of the segment on MSNBC’s Hardball highlighting the effort.

Michael Steele’s First 100 Days: A Retrospective

Wed Apr 29, 2009 at 10:32 AM EDT

Countless media outlets are paying close attention to the benchmark of President Obama’s 100th day in office.  Not as many are focusing on the first 100 days of Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele.Steele was elected Chair of the RNCon Friday, January 30, ten days after President Obama was sworn in.  The 100 day mark will be on May 9.  While it’s 10 days early, I thought today would be a good time to reflect on the highlights of RNC Chair Michael Steele’s first 100 days.January 30 (Day 1): Michael Steele is elected RNC Chair.February 4 (Day 6): Steele makes his first visit to New York’s 20th Congressional district to help Republican nominee Jim Tedisco in the upcoming special election.  Steele subsequently boasts that a Tedisco victory would be a “credible repudiation” of President Obama and the Democratic Congress.  The race is thought to be an easy pick-up for Republicans given that the GOP enjoys a 70,000+ voter advantageover Democrats in the district.

February 9 (Day 11): Steele refers to President Obama’s economic stimulus bill disparagingly as “bling bling.”  The ensuing laughter is at Steele rather than with Steele.

February 19 (Day 21): The Washington Times runs an interview with Steele in which Steele commits to an “off the hook” PR effort aimed at younger voters by applying conservative principles to “urban-suburban hip-hop settings.”  The laughter at Steele continues.

February 23 (Day 25): Steele makes clear that he is open to withholding RNC funds from the re-election campaigns of the three Republican Senators who voted in support of President Obama’s economic stimulus bill, perhaps making them feel no longer welcome in the Republican Party.

February 25 (Day 27): Steele sends “slum love” to Republican Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.

March 1 (Day 31): Steele belittles conservative radio personality Rush Limbaugh as “ugly,” “incendiary,” and just “an entertainer.”

March 2 (Day 32): Steele promptly apologizes to Limbaugh for his comments, illustrating who truly runs the Republican Party.

March 10 (Day 40): Rumors emerge that Steele may face a no-confidence vote before the Republican National Committee.

March 25 (Day 55): In an interview with CNN, Steele insists that “there is a rationale, there’s a logic behind” his mistakes and gaffes.

April 24 (Day 85): Republican Jim Tedisco concedes defeat in the NY-20 special election that Steele earlier boasted would be a “credible repudiation” of President Obama and the Democratic Congress.

April 28 (Day 89): Senator Arlen Specter announces that he will defect from the Republican Party and join the Democratic Party.

May 9 (Day 100): ???

In less than 100 days, Steele led the GOP to defeat in what should have been an easy pick-up in a House special election, lost a Senator to a Party switch, became the subject of no-confidence vote rumors, embarrassed himself over and over again, and convinced America that Rush Limbaugh controls the Republican Party.  I’ll give Steele considerable credit – one must keep extremely busy to fit that many “strategic” gaffes into less than 100 days.

I’ll close this retrospective with the DNC’s video montage of Steele’s epic fail in the NY-20 special election:

Early Wednesday Morning Quick Hits

Wed Apr 29, 2009 at 02:46 AM EDT

CNN’s Rick Sanchez: You tell me what you think of this.  You’re shrinking the electorate to an extreme, to a point where a regular Republican can’t win.  What do you make of that argument?Republican Jim DeMint: That’s quite the opposite.  We’re seeing across the country right now that the biggest tent of all is the tent of freedom.  And what we need to do as Republicans is convince Americans that freedom can work in all areas of their life for every American, whether it’s education or health care or creating jobs.

  • Sanchez: What the hell does that mean?!  The biggest tent is freedom?!  Freedom?! You gotta do better than that!

    DeMint: What it means is what has worked in America are free people, free markets, for years.  And what we see now is a government expanding into all areas of our economy and increasing spending and debt at levels we’ve never talked about.  Americans who are normally not even political are coming out to tea parties and protesting.  These aren’t Republicans or Democrats.  These are just concerned Americans.  I think what we’ve seen is both Parties have pushed the envelope too far, and now America is pushing back.  I think you’ll see this next election to be totally different.  Pat Toomey who is running in Pennsylvania is one of the most mainstream Americans I know.  He’s for the simple concepts of limited government and more personal freedom, free markets, and that’s what works in our country, and that’s what we need to stand up for as Republicans and, I think, as all Americans.

    A) I think the “tent of freedom” talking point will die a quick and graceless death in the GOP lexicon.  B) The “concerned Americans” who came out to the tea parties, to which DeMint referred, seemed most concerned with likening President Obama to genocidal dictators because he wants to make sure that the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share of taxes.  C) On Election Day, almost six months ago now, when Americans elected Democrats at historic levels, it seems that they were indicting only Republicans of “pushing the envelope too far,” but thanks for playing, Mr. DeMint.  D) I am 100% certain that Pat Toomey is one of “the most mainstream Americans” that Jim DeMint knows.  Jim DeMint only associates with that brand of wingnut conservative that passes for “mainstream America” to Jim DeMint.  And, for that matter, I don’t doubt that Mssrs. DeMint and Toomey are for “simple concepts.”  The complex ones are often lost on them.

    And now the second impressively stupid thing DeMint has recently uttered:

    I would rather have 30 Republicans in the Senate who really believe in principles of limited government, free markets, free people, than to have 60 that don’t have a set of beliefs.

    I agree with BooMan: let’s do all we can to help DeMint’s wish of only 30 Republican Senators come true!

  • Kentucky: Even though Mitch McConnell isn’t helping colleague Jim Bunning raise money, it appears that Bunning is having a solid April in fundraising:

    Bunning, a former Major League Baseball player, said he pulled in up to $75,000 in a recent fundraiser with former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda and snagged some $50,000 with Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, according to local press reports.

    Bunning could be well on his way to a half-million-dollar Q2, which isn’t phenomenal but would be a step up from his Q1.

  • Missouri: One member of Team Blunt says that the reason Republican Roy Blunt should be Missouri’s next Senator is – I’m not joking – that he is a man.  If that pisses you off, you can vent the frustration by contributing to Missouri Secretary of State and likely 2010 Democratic Senate nominee Robin Carnahan.
  • California: Not that this is really news, but, at the recent California Democratic Party state convention, Senator Barbara Boxer formally announced that she will run for re-election to the Senate in 2010.
  • Professional coward Sean Hannity talks a big game but wimps out when it’s time to match his tall rhetoric with action.

Tuesday Items

Tue Apr 28, 2009 at 21:15 PM EDT

  • According to that annoying information source known as “history,” Senate Republicans are baselessly opposing President Obama’s Cabinet appointments at rates unmatched by any recent President.  Senate Republicans are saying “No!” at a record pace, often with no reason beside political posturing. (HT: noonan2)
  • Nathan L. Gonzales of The Rothenberg Political Report (and a superior writer to Rothenberg himself) delves into whether any parallels can be drawn between the Senate re-election bids that lie ahead for Republicans Jim Bunning and Richard Burr & Democrat Christopher Dodd and the failed re-election bids of Republican former Senators Rick Santorum, John Sununu, and Gordon Smith.  While Santorum, Sununu, and Smith can point to their inability to control the message of their respective races – something that Bunning, Burr & Dodd (and any candidate running for any office, at that) have to be wary of – as a broad explanation for their losses, for the former Senators the message was the same: that they were out of step with their constituencies.  Of the three current Senators, only Burr has that as a main concern.  Though Bunning is far to the right, his central concern as it relates to voters’ perceptions is that he has simply lost his mind.  Also, while Senator Dodd is a perfect fit for Connecticut, ideologically-speaking, it’s his inability thus far to address voters’ concerns about issues that have developed into scandals that may be his political undoing.
  • Republican Senator Richard Lugar is the closest that the Senate Republican caucus has to a statesman, and he can be very sensible and fair-minded.
  • Missouri: Republican former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman is reportedly staffing up for her upcoming 2010 Republican Senate primary against Roy Blunt.
  • Texas: Burnt Orange Report raises a smart question: now that “Arlen Specter the Democrat” and, eventually, Senator Al Franken put the Dems at 60 seats, what’s keeping Kay Bailey Hutchison from resigning her seat to put her full energy into her gubernatorial bid?  It’s not like she’s the firewall between the Dems and 60 anymore.  Positive externality, perhaps?
  • Florida: Rasmussen Reports asks: “If Charlie Crist runs for the Senate in 2010 how likely is it that you would vote for him?”  The responses: Very likely 23%; Somewhat likely 34%; Not very likely 28%; Not at all likely 9%; Not sure 6%.  If the “Somewhat likely” can be chipped away at, a “Senator Crist” is hardly inevitable.
  • Colorado: Relatively unknown Republican Weld District Attorney Ken Buck, who is entering the 2010 Senate race, is denying that he is entering the 2010 Senate race as of yet despite a fully functional Senate campaign website with campaign announcement.  It is precisely similar to how 2008 Republican Senate nominee Bob Schaffer “entered the race” two or three times, embarrassing himself.  This is how Buck wants to introduce himself to Coloradoans.  Good news for Senator Michael Bennet that this is the caliber of his opposition.
  • Kentucky: A growing issue in Kentucky is mountaintop removal mining.  This type of coal mining generates a lot of waste, waste whose disposal the George W. Bush administration turned a blind eye to.  The Obama Administration, however, is tightening environmental regulations on mountaintop removal to protect waterways.  As it relates to Kentucky’s 2010 Democratic Senate primary, it appears that Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo supports unfettered (and environmentally dangerous) mountaintop removal, while state Attorney General Jack Conway supports some sensible restrictions to protect the environment.
  • Georgia: A new Strategic Vision poll of GA-Gov’s Democratic primary shows former Governor Roy Barnes leading state Attorney General Thurbert Baker 56-29.  It makes me wonder if Attorney General Baker could be persuaded to run for Senate instead.
  • New York: Suffolk County Legislator Jon Cooper has formed an exploratory committee to look at running in the 2010 Democratic Senate primary against Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.  Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer is the other Democratic pol to have taken that step.  No Democratic Congressperson has yet taken the step forward.
  • Illinois: Businessman Chris Kennedy, son of Robert F. Kennedy, is reportedly putting out feelers about entering the 2010 Senate scrum.  He has reportedly commissioned a poll (using Obama pollster John Anzalone) and is talking to high profile media consultants.  A close source puts the likelihood of a 2010 Senate campaign by Chris Kennedy at 85%.
  • Minnesota: Republican Norm Coleman’s latest nonsense is to say that whoever wins the Senate race (note to Norm: Al already won!), the winner will have “a cloud hanging over them.”  No word yet on if that cloud has a liberal bias.  Elsewhere, the DNC has unveiled its latest web ad criticizing Republican Norm Coleman, comparing his obstinance with Jim Tedisco’s sense:

Breaking: PA-Sen: Arlen Specter Reportedly to Switch Parties – Updated x15

Tue Apr 28, 2009 at 12:21 PM EDT

WaPo’s Cillizza has the scoop:

Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter will switch his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat and announced today that he will run in 2010 as a Democrat, according to a statement he released this morning.Specter’s decision would give Democrats a 60 seat filibuster proof majority in the Senate assuming Democrat Al Franken is eventually sworn in as the next Senator from Minnesota. (Former Sen. Norm Coleman is appealing Franken’s victory in the state Supreme Court.)

“I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary,” said Specter in a statement. “I am ready, willing and anxious to take on all comers and have my candidacy for re-election determined in a general election.”

He added: “Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans.”

Specter as a Democrat would also fundamentally alter the 2010 calculus in Pennsylvania as he was expected to face a difficult primary challenge next year from former Rep. Pat Toomey.

Specter isn’t just departing the GOP to become an independent, like Jim Jeffords did in 2001.  Specter is becoming a Democrat (in name only?).

As this relates to his 2010 Senate re-election bid, clearly Pat Toomey becomes the frontrunner for the Republican nomination (go Peg Luksik!).  Will Pennsylvania and Washington D.C. Democrats get behind Specter?  Given that PA and DC Dems have lobbied Specter to switch Parties, I would imagine that the Democratic leadership would at least tacitly have his back.  Will anyone more well-known than Joe Torsella and Bill Kortz enter the Democratic primary?  Will any of the Allyson Schwartz-Joe Sestak-Patrick Murphy Congressional trio take him on?  Time will tell.

MSNBC is reporting that Specter’s statement makes note of the fact that he will not be a reliable 60th cloture vote and that his opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act will continue.  It was just over a month ago that Arlen Specter said:

To eliminate any doubt, I am a Republican and I am running for re-election in 2010 as a Republican on the Republican ticket.

If he remains an unreliable vote for cloture and continues to oppose EFCA and other initiatives that help working Americans, he will be no more of a Democrat moving forward than he has been previously.  A prominent progressive Democrat could boot Specter.  Congresswoman Schwartz is the most liberal of the aforementioned Congressional trio.  But will she or anyone else put their House seat on the line?  No doubt polling will ensue.  Stay tuned as the story unfolds.

UPDATE: Here is Arlen Specter’s full statement:

April 28, 2009 Statement by Senator Arlen Specter

I have been a Republican since 1966. I have been working extremely hard for the Party, for its candidates and for the ideals of a Republican Party whose tent is big enough to welcome diverse points of view. While I have been comfortable being a Republican, my Party has not defined who I am. I have taken each issue one at a time and have exercised independent judgment to do what I thought was best for Pennsylvania and the nation.

Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans.

When I supported the stimulus package, I knew that it would not be popular with the Republican Party. But, I saw the stimulus as necessary to lessen the risk of a far more serious recession than we are now experiencing.

Since then, I have traveled the State, talked to Republican leaders and office-holders and my supporters and I have carefully examined public opinion. It has become clear to me that the stimulus vote caused a schism which makes our differences irreconcilable. On this state of the record, I am unwilling to have my twenty-nine year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate. I have not represented the Republican Party. I have represented the people of Pennsylvania.

I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary.

I am ready, willing and anxious to take on all comers and have my candidacy for re-election determined in a general election.

I deeply regret that I will be disappointing many friends and supporters. I can understand their disappointment. I am also disappointed that so many in the Party I have worked for for more than four decades do not want me to be their candidate. It is very painful on both sides. I thank specially Senators McConnell and Cornyn for their forbearance.

I am not making this decision because there are no important and interesting opportunities outside the Senate. I take on this complicated run for re-election because I am deeply concerned about the future of our country and I believe I have a significant contribution to make on many of the key issues of the day, especially medical research. NIH funding has saved or lengthened thousands of lives, including mine, and much more needs to be done. And my seniority is very important to continue to bring important projects vital to Pennsylvania’s economy.

I am taking this action now because there are fewer than thirteen months to the 2010 Pennsylvania Primary and there is much to be done in preparation for that election. Upon request, I will return campaign contributions contributed during this cycle.

While each member of the Senate caucuses with his Party, what each of us hopes to accomplish is distinct from his party affiliation. The American people do not care which Party solves the problems confronting our nation. And no Senator, no matter how loyal he is to his Party, should or would put party loyalty above his duty to the state and nation.

My change in party affiliation does not mean that I will be a party-line voter any more for the Democrats that I have been for the Republicans. Unlike Senator Jeffords’ switch which changed party control, I will not be an automatic 60th vote for cloture. For example, my position on Employees Free Choice (Card Check) will not change.

Whatever my party affiliation, I will continue to be guided by President Kennedy’s statement that sometimes Party asks too much. When it does, I will continue my independent voting and follow my conscience on what I think is best for Pennsylvania and America.

UPDATE 2: This is brilliant:

Until a new organizing resolution is adopted, Specter’s committee seats (Appropriations, Judiciary, Veterans’ Affairs, Environment & Public Works, Special Aging) are locked in. He’ll be caucusing and (sometimes, anyway) voting as a Democrat, but will be occupying Republican seats.Democrats should demand Republican agreement to seat [Senator-elect Al] Franken and give him his committee assignments now, or they’ll just block a new organizing resolution until he arrives, and change it as they see fit later on. After all, with 60 Democrats (once Franken is finally seated), they can give themselves any ratios they want, whether they opt to remain true to the 60/40 split in the Senate or not, since there won’t be enough votes to filibuster an unfair organizing resolution.

But we wouldn’t want it to come to that, would we?

Until there’s a change, Appropriations goes effectively from 17-13 in favor of Democrats to 18-12. Judiciary to 12-7. Environment to 12-7. Veterans’ Affairs to 10-5. Special Aging to 12-7.

UPDATE 3: Specifics from the Obama-Specter phone call:

At 10:32am, President Barack Obama reached Specter and told him “you have my full support” and “thrilled to have you.”Specter told the president, “I’m a loyal Democrat. I support your agenda.”

We’ll have to wait and see how Specter defines “loyal” and “support.”

UPDATE 4: Republicans respond.  NRSC Chair John Cornyn:

“Senator Specter’s decision today represents the height of political self-preservation. While this presents a short-term disappointment, voters next year will have a clear choice to cast their ballots for a potentially unbridled Democrat super-majority versus the system of checks-and-balances that Americans deserve.”

RNC Chair Michael Steele:

Some in the Republican Party are happy about this. I am not.Let’s be honest-Senator Specter didn’t leave the GOP based on principles of any kind. He left to further his personal political interests because he knew that he was going to lose a Republican primary due to his left-wing voting record.

Republicans look forward to beating Sen. Specter in 2010, assuming the Democrats don’t do it first.

A clear theme of political expediency and self-preservation.  I can’t disagree.

UPDATE 5: Congressman Joe Sestak was just on MSNBC.  He didn’t immediately jump on the bandwagon.  He’s taking a “wait and see” approach.  Good!  (If there’s one Pennsylvania Democrat who will march to his own beat, it’s Joe Sestak.)  State Representative Josh Shapiro, however, is stepping back:

Democratic State Rep. Josh Shapiro told PoliticsPA he would not run for Senate “under the circumstances.””Senator Specter is now the incumbent Democratic Senator,” Shapiro said. He was considered a likely candidate for the US Senate.

I’ll keep an eye out for comments from Joe Torsella, Bill Kortz, Allyson Schwartz, and other Democrats.

UPDATE 6: Specter’s presser going on now.  Amongst other things, he said that he has gotten assurances that President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Reid would campaign with Specter in Pennsylvania and Gov. Rendell would help with fundraising.  If accurate – particularly about President Obama – that could keep a Joe Sestak or Allyson Schwartz from running a primary challenge.  (Rendell’s support would ostensibly also end Joe Torsella’s candidacy, one would presume.)  Regardless of any Dems’ comments, though, I think everyone is taking a wait-and-see approach.  For instance, Specter just reiterated his opposition to the Dawn Johnsen nomination at DOJ the Office of Legal Counsel.  Terrific…

UPDATE 7: Is Maine Republican Olympia Snowe next?

UPDATE 8: Mitch McConnell speaks:

“This is not a national story. It is a Pennsylvania story,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters in a news conference following Tuesday’s GOP policy luncheon.

It’s like Mitch is relying on the Jedi mind trick, but he just can’t pull it off.

UPDATE 9: Specter is offering refunds to unhappy shoppers:

Specter said in a statement earlier Tuesday that he planned to return donations if he was asked to do so. “Upon request, I will return campaign contributions contributed during this cycle,” he said.

UPDATE 10: Democratic Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania isn’t endorsing Arlen Specter just yet.

UPDATE 11: Joe Torsella is staying in the race for now – though, if Ed Rendell shifts his machine to back Specter, I don’t see how Torsella can last long.

UPDATE 12: Don’t forget that just one week ago, the founder of the Pennsylvania chapter of the Club for Growth said that Pat Toomey couldn’t win a general election.

UPDATE 13: Republicans who think Pat Toomey is too far to the right to win statewide in Pennsylvania have already started talking up Republican former Gov. Tom Ridge as a possible 2010 Senate candidate.  The GOP has no faith in Toomey!  Hilarious.

UPDATE 14: Count out Allyson Schwartz:

Aides to Rep. Allyson Schwartz say the third-term Pennsylvania Democrat will not seek her party’s nomination for the U.S. Senate in 2010.

Congressman Joe Sestak and state Auditor Jack Wagner may be the only Dems who could give Specter a primary challenge at this point.  With President Obama’s pledge to help Specter, that might be that.

UPDATE 15: Republican state Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati is being discussed as a less-extreme potential alternative to Pat Toomey in the GOP Senate primary.

How Irresponsible Are Senate Republicans? Part Three

Tue Apr 28, 2009 at 00:53 AM EDT

As Republican Susan Collins takes heat for having led the charge to strip flu preparedness funding from the economic stimulus bill earlier this year, Collins’ staff has the audacity to pass the buckonto the Obama Administration:

A spokesman for Collins seemed to shift some of the blame to the Obama administration, noting the unfilled seats at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Is it the Obama Administration’s fault that Senate Republicans continue to obstruct appointments to HHS?  (Short answer: No.  It’s the Senate GOP’s fault.)

So  Kathleen Sebelius will get her confirmation vote as Health and Human Services secretary tomorrow in the Senate – but even with the flu outbreak, her confirmation will still have to clear a big hurdle, requiring 60 votes.So says the office of GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell, anyway.

This is the standard Republican shell game.  They do everything possible to prevent our government from functioning properly and then campaign on a “government doesn’t work” theme.  In the Senate’s Republican caucus, the insane are running the asylum.

Monday Rundown

Mon Apr 27, 2009 at 15:06 PM EDT

  • Does new DSCC Chair Bob Menendez have the Schumerosity to effectively succeed Chuck Schumer at the helm of the DSCC?

    The DSCC raised $10.4 million through March 31 – and had $7.2 million cash on hand, according to campaign finance reports. That’s a faster pace than Schumer clocked in his first quarter as DSCC chairman.

    Strong fundraising, even in the economic downturn, along with early recruitment successes including Robin Carnahan in Missouri and Paul Hodes in New Hampshire show that Menendez has the chops; but, there’s a lot of time left on the clock, and Menendez has to keep up the pace.

  • Illinois: Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky is considering a 2010 Senate bid and says that she will make a decision by June 8.  An internal poll that Congresswoman Schakowsky released shows her narrowly leading but in a statistical dead heat with state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, 24% to 22%, with Roland Burris at 18% and 36% undecided.  I find any poll with Burris at 18% a bit questionable.  We should know Schakowsky’s decision in six weeks, so stay tuned.
  • Colorado: A second little-known Republican has entered the 2010 GOP Senate primary.  Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck announced that he will join the primary scrum alongside Republican Aurora councilman Ryan Frazier to see who gets to challenge Senator Michael Bennet.  Republicans still considering a bid include conservative talk radio personality Dan Caplis and former Rep. Bob Beauprez, who got crushed by Bill Ritter in the 2006 gubernatorial race.
  • Florida: WaPo’s Cillizza reports that a decision from Republican Gov. Charlie Crist regarding a 2010 Senate bid is expected by May 5, just eight days from today.  (Florida’s legislative session concludes this Friday.)  I’d suggest that the sooner the announcement, the more likely that he’ll run for Senate; as such, if he does announce something next week, I’d expect a Senate run.  That said, at least one veteran political reporter in Florida thinks that Crist would have a tougher go of it in a 2010 Senate campaign than a lot of people think.
  • Louisiana & Pennsylvania: Susan Collins wasn’t alone. Hookerlover David Vitter and Arlen Specter were among the first Republicans to talk up eliminating pandemic flu preparedness funding from the economic stimulus bill.  Meanwhile, the threat of the pandemic swine flu is already compromising our economic health as well as the public health.
  • Missouri: In another sign that Senate Republicans just don’t get it, Kit Bond says that releasing photos documenting torture will endanger our troops.  Ummm, “Kit,” anyone with half a brain might counter that the fact that the George W. Bush administration engaged in torture is what might endanger our troops – not that there are photos of it.  I wonder how Roy Blunt and Sarah Steelman, the Republicans vying to succeed Bond, feel about the issue.
  • Ousted Republican John Sununu has an opinion piece in today’s Wall Street Journal with a resoundingly ridiculous premise.  The headline and subheadline:

    National Health Care With 51 Votes
    Ramming a bill through Congress is not in the public interest.

    Republican Senators, current and former, are possibly the only people on the planet that would describe having a majority vote as “ramming a bill through Congress.”  This is how out-of-touch with reality Sununu and his former Republican colleagues are.  The op-ed contains hilarious lines like:

    The historic precedent of open debate, and the requirement of 60 votes to close debate, are completely short-circuited.Budget reconciliation was never intended to push through dramatic and expansive new programs. …

    The threat to use reconciliation to drive through dramatic policy changes such as a national health-care program also destroys any incentive for good-faith negotiations over the details between the Democrats and Republicans. …

    Why should anyone negotiate with him in good faith with such a threat hanging over the deliberations? Taking a bipartisan approach means committing to working with the other side, not just offering to talk until things don’t go your way. …

    Misusing reconciliation undermines him on two counts: It shows a lack of confidence in his own ability to pass an agenda using the regular legislative order.

    Sununu’s crocodile tears about “precedent,” “good-faith negotiations,” and “the regular legislative order” are nothing more than sanctimonious BS.  Sununu knows full well that, since Republicans became the minority in the U.S. Senate, they have abused the filibuster, effectively changing Senate policy unilaterally such that it now takes 60 votes to pass anything at all.  Senate Republicans’ record-setting abuse of the filibuster has obliterated “precedent,” “good-faith negotiations,” and “the regular legislative order” to which Sununu refers.  Democrats opting to employ reconciliation, if they so choose, simply prevents Senate Republicans from further abusing the system.  The brilliant Steve Benen offers additional thoughts on the idiocy of Sununu’s column.

Click here for the new senate guru blog…

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