Thursday Afternoon Quick Hits

  • Nate Silver makes some adjustments to his Senate rankings based on a few items: Governor Kathleen Sebelius’ likely move to HHS drops Kansas way down the list; Roland Burris’ revelations put Illinois in flux; Senator Christopher Dodd’s tough polling puts Connecticut in the realm of competitivity; and, Iowa drips down the list with Republican Chuck Grassley still not retiring.
  • Missouri: Former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman claims to still be undecided about a 2010 Senate bid, but her rhetoric seems geared toward criticizing the record of recently announced Republican candidate Roy Blunt:

    Missourians know we have to hold people accountable for their bad decisions; the bail outs, the earmarks, the self-dealing and the cozy relationships between congressmen and lobbyists. These actions have undermined the trust in our institutions, devastated the American economy, and have shown disrespect for the hard-working people of this state and country.

    Cozy relationships between congressmen and lobbyists.  That song sounds familiar. I so hope that Steelman gets in.  The great irony is that, the more that Steelman criticizes Blunt for being the consummate D.C. insider, the more Blunt will have to rely on his insider muscle for fundraising and high-profile endorsers to persevere.

  • Illinois: Did Roland Burris withhold information about lobbying clients?  Oh, and it’s not helping Burris any that his spokesman has resigned.
  • New York: Republicans are reportedly urging GOP former Gov. George Pataki to run against Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in 2010.  I guess Republicans have already decided that Rep. Peter King (and his history of crazy rhetoric) can’t get the job done.
  • Pennsylvania: Republican Arlen Specter’s fundraiser last week was co-hosted by a convicted felon.  So there’s that.
  • North Carolina: While a new Public Policy Polling poll finds Republican freshman Richard Burr soundly defeating two minor candidates, former state senator Cal Cunningham and businessman & former Senate candidate Jim Neal, both Democrats hold Burr to under 50%, illustrating Burr’s vulnerability against a strong challenger.  As a reminder, a December PPP poll found state Attorney General Roy Cooper beating Burr by 5 points, 39-34.
  • Louisiana: A conservative blogger offers an intriguing idea.  With New Orleans Republican Rep. Joseph Cao, who won his seat against corrupt Bill Jefferson, expected to promptly lose his seat in 2010 (if a recall effort doesn’t take him down first), Rep. Cao should, instead of running for re-election, challenge prostitute-lovin’ David Vitter in a Republican Senate primary.  I like it.
  • Congratulations, Sir John Warner.
  • Real Time with Bill Maher is back on HBO tomorrow night!  Yippee!  Yippee!  Yippee!

Early Thursday Morning Items

by: Senate Guru

Thu Feb 19, 2009 at 02:34 AM EST

  • Missouri: Republican Rep. Roy Blunt will announce his candidacy today for Senate in 2010.  He has been widely expected to enter the race.  The big question now (other than whether or not Blunt’s best buddy Tom DeLay will serve as a high-profile surrogate for Blunt on the campaign trail) is whether or not former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman will enter the Republican primary against Blunt.  We should know this weekend:

    Both Blunt and Steelman are expected to make an announcement at the annual Missouri Lincoln Day event in Kansas City this weekend.

    A costly and divisive primary won’t do the eventual Republican nominee any favors.  Steelman would have a ready-made outsider vs. insider dynamic to challenge Blunt with:

    Blunt,, though, is D.C. personified.Not only does he have more K Street ties than Mark Shale and Jack Henry combined, he’s married to a lobbyist. His son is one. His links to that world, and by extension former Majority Leader Tom “The Hammer” DeLay, and by extension (again) disgraced superlobbyist Jack Abramoff, are ingredients for a Democratic campaign feast.

    Further, there should be multiple right-of-center third Party candidates on the Senate ballot in 2010, further eroding Republican support.  Early polling shows a tight race between the Republicans and Democratic Secretary of State Robin Carnahan.  Also, retired Colonel Jack Jackson has decided against a 2010 Senate bid, choosing instead a state Senate run.

  • Illinois: Roland Burris has cleared his Thursday schedule.  Stay tuned.  Meanwhile, Democratic Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky is renewing a call for a special election to fill the seat and Democratic Congressman Phil Hare is calling for Burris to resign.
  • Ohio: Despite both Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner and Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher entering the 2010 Democratic Senate primary this week, Cuyahoga County Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones is reportedly moving forward with a Senate campaign exploratory committee.  It will be interesting to hear how he expects to get traction against two statewide officials in the primary.
  • Kansas: Governor Kathleen Sebelius is emerging as the likely pick to head Health & Human Services, which means no Sebelius for Senate race.  Bummer.
  • Minnesota: The three-judge panel denied a request by Republican Norm Coleman’s lawyers to reconsider its decision to rule a number of rejected absentee ballots as illegal, so the Coleman lawyers, displaying as much class as Coleman himself routinely displays, criticized the judges.  Smooth.  Also, headline of the day, courtesy of Politico: “Coleman needs a miracle.”
  • Georgia: Republican Rep. Paul Broun went on the record regarding a possible 2010 Republican Senate primary challenge to Johnny Isakson:

    In an interview with The Hill last week, Broun insisted that the rumor is unfounded, but he also appears to be giving himself some wiggle room.Asked whether he would, under any circumstances, challenge Isakson, Broun initially said, “I don’t see any way that I would.”

    But then he asked to rephrase himself, and instead said he has “not had any discussions” about such a thing.

    What I don’t hear from Broun is “Absolutely not.  I fully endorse Isakson for re-election.”  We’ll see how much “wiggle room” Broun has left himself in time.

  • South Carolina: Republican Jim DeMint is applying to be the Poster Boy for the Do-Nothing Republicans.
  • Connecticut: Republican Rob Simmons loves attention way too much to pass up a 2010 Senate bid against Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd.
  • Let’s see the furthest right-wing Republican Governors put the people’s money where their mouths are and turn down economic stimulus funds.

Wednesday Afternoon Briefs

by: Senate Guru

Wed Feb 18, 2009 at 16:30 PM EST

  • Florida: New Quinnipiac poll:
    Democratic Primary
    Iorio 16%
    Meek 16%
    Klein 14%
    Gelber 5%
    Don’t Know 43%
    GOP Primary with Crist
    Crist 53%
    Mack 13%
    Buchanan 5%
    Rubio 3%
    Bense 2%
    Don’t Know 21%
    GOP Primary without Crist
    Mack 34%
    Buchanan 11%
    Rubio 6%
    Bense 4%
    Don’t Know 38%

    Clearly, on the Republican side, Gov. Charlie Crist is in the driver’s seat, with Rep. Connie Mack IV the biggest beneficiary of Crist’s potential staying out of FL-Sen.  On the Democratic side, Politico asks in response to this poll “Is Iorio a Senate sleeper in Florida?”  Granted, it is very early – and the premature status of polling is reinforced by the high rate of “Haven’t heard enough” responses about Democratic candidates: Kendrick Meek 80%; Ron Klein 82%; Dan Gelber 91%; and, Pam Iorio 76%.  With Crist’s favorable-unfavorable at 68-21 and Mack’s at 34-13, Democratic candidates will need to do a great deal of work to expand their name recognition.  Congressman Kendrick Meek, the highest-profile announced candidate for Senate, is working to do just that as he headed to northern Florida to introduce himself to voters in Gainesville.

    However, I’d counter that the reason Governor Sebelius will be in DC is for the National Governor’s Association winter meeting, an indication perhaps that she is fully focused on her gubernatorial duties and doesn’t plan on departing prematurely (and will, therefore, be available for a 2010 Senate run).

  • Utah: Back in early December, I suggested that Republican Bob Bennett might be more concerned about a primary challenger than a Democratic opponent.  It looks like a high-profile primary challenge may be in the works:

    David Leavitt, the former Juab County attorney best known for his successful prosecution of polygamist Tom Green, has been telling folks at the various Republican Party’s Lincoln Day dinners this month that he plans to run for the Senate next year. That is a direct challenge to the incumbent Bennett, who will be seeking his fourth term.David Leavitt, the brother of former Utah Gov. and Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, ran for Congress last year, but was defeated at the State Republican Convention by then-incumbent Chris Cannon and eventual winner Jason Chaffetz. Earlier, David Leavitt was defeated in his bid for re-election as Juab County attorney.

    Other Republicans mentioned as possible challengers to Bennett include Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and Mike Lee, former counsel to Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.

    While Leavitt has had a couple electoral losses speckle his resume of late, a primary challenge from him would be very high-profile if only because he is a former gubernatorial sibling. (HT: Scorecard)  Is there a chance that Democrats could take advantage of a divisive Republican primary?  It would be tough in ruby red Utah, but if Congressman Jim Matheson, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, or former SLC Mayor Rocky Anderson were willing to give it a go, things could get at least a little interesting.

  • This is as funny for the text as for the ironic subtext: Have Republicans Evolved?

Tuesday Night Tidbits

by: Senate Guru

Tue Feb 17, 2009 at 22:59 PM EST

  • The Boston Globe’s Derrick Jackson offers a terrific column with “Republican obstinacy: How’s it working?”  Read it now.  I’ll wait.
  • New York: A new Quinnipiac poll finds that two-thirds of New Yorkers have no opinion about any of the likely combatants in NY-Sen-B:

    Sen. Gillibrand gets a 28 – 10 percent job approval rating, with 62 percent undecided. Similarly, she gets a 24 – 9 percent favorability with 65 percent who haven’t heard enough.A possible challenger in the 2010 Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate, U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, has a 24 – 9 percent favorability with 66 percent who haven’t heard enough.

    And U.S. Rep. Peter King, a possible 2010 Republican challenger for the Senate seat, has a 21 – 10 percent favorability, with 68 percent who don’t know enough to decide.

    In a possible primary, Congresswoman McCarthy leads Senator Gillibrand 34-24, numbers that will encourage those serious about backing a primary challenger to Senator Gillibrand, but numbers that could likely change considerably over time as Senator Gillibrand adjusts to her broader, statewide constituency and increases her name recognition.  Senator Gillibrand soundly leads Republican Rep. King 42-26 in the poll.  Also, when looking at how Governor David Paterson and state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo match up against Republican former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, it may electorally benefit Senator Gillibrand to have Cuomo challenge and defeat Paterson in a primary.

  • Illinois: Roland Burris alters his story again as he now admits that he did try to raise money for Rod Blagojevich early on before he decided that he couldn’t accumulate the money that Blagojevich wanted.  If Burris’ admissions continue on this trajectory, then he won’t be able to run for Senate in 2010 simply because no potential staffers would risk their credibility by working for him!  I think the question at bar is changing from “Will Burris run for a full term in 2010?” to “Will Burris even finish out this term?”  The calls for Burris’ resignation have started and will likely grow louder; meanwhile, the Senate Ethics Committee has opened up a preliminary inquiry into the matter.  Stay tuned.
  • Pennsylvania: Republican Arlen Specter has crossed the $100,000 mark in legal fees paid in association with the FEC audit of his 2004 campaign.
  • New Hampshire: Republican Judd Gregg makes it plain that he will not be a candidate for Senate in 2010.  He also highly recommends ousted Republican John Sununu – we’ll take the recommendation under advisement.
  • Florida: Many unnamed Florida GOP politicos think that Republican Gov. Charlie Crist will definitely run for Senate in 2010:

    A veteran Republican political consultant who requested anonymity called it a “done deal.”Of a dozen Republican consultants, political scientists, fundraisers and GOP leaders contacted, only one said Crist would not run. They all say Crist is acting more like a national figure than a governor.

    It could be a lot of posturing to spook Democrats, given Crist’s strength in the polls.  Or Crist’s plan to expand his national profile could include a Senate seat.  We’ll know later in the year.  Many expect Crist to run for President in 2012, which would only give Crist two years of service in a hypothetical Senate term, all of which he would spend on the Presidential campaign trail.  But maybe Crist expects President Obama to win a second term (which could be why Crist was happy to stand by President Obama’s side on the President’s recent Florida visit) and is instead preparing for a 2016 run.  Crist will be 60-years-old on Election Day 2016, certainly not too old for a Presidential run.  In other news, the St. Petersburg Times offers reasons why Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio should and should not run for Senate in 2010.  The reasons why she should run (including geography, timing, Mayoral term limits, and a solid profile) very much outweigh the reasons why she shouldn’t (the difficulty of a campaign and her being better suited as an executive over a legislator).

  • Minnesota: Republicans offer no illusions that Norm Coleman’s frivolous lawsuit is about anything other than obstructing democracy (emphasis added by me):

    It is now clear that Senate Republicans have a strategy for maintaining their ability to stall — or, at the least, dramatically alter — Obama administration initiatives.Individual GOP senators are paying big bucks to keep the Senate’s 100th seat — representing Minnesota — vacant for as long as possible.

    In effect, key Republicans such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are paying $10,000 a piece to maintain their power to obstruct Congress. …

    So Republican senators are pouring money into the dead-end recount fight of former Senator Norm Coleman.

    Coleman — now the better part of two months out of office — continues to mount an exceptionally expensive legal battle to “win” the Minnesota seat that all evidence suggests he has lost. …

    Bottom line: It looks like we will have a 99-seat Senate for a good bit longer.

    That’s fine by Senate Republicans, who are dead set against seating a 59th Democrat — especially if its Franken, who has emerged as a savvy and politically-potent spokesman on economic issues — in a chamber where they are barely clinging to their ability to filibuster Obama administration initiatives.

    Texas Senator John Cornyn, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, says he is glad that Coleman understands he “owes it to… his colleagues here” to keep the seat vacant.

    “He realizes how important retaining that seat is to us,” says Cornyn, who has been busy organizing NRSC fund-raising events at which his colleagues and special-interest donors who want to influence them — or the congressional process — can write checks to maintain the Coleman recount fight.

    These “Country First” Republican hypocrites’ goal is to make sure Minnesotans remain underrepresented in the U.S. Senate for as long as possible.  Simple as that.  Along those lines, Coleman’s lawyers, apparently agreeing that Coleman has lost, are already preparing the appeal in order to prolong the contest further still.

    • Georgia: Kudos to the Georgia Democratic Party for not wasting any time.  As soon as Republican Johnny Isakson announced for re-election, the GA-Dems have a YouTube video ready to go explaining why Georgians would be wise to hire someone else for a six-year term.  Video at right. (HT: Tondee’s)
    • Colorado: Dear Colorado Republicans considering a 2010 Senate run, I have some good news.  Even when you lose, you can still have a career ahead of you selling booze.  Maybe Backwards Bob Schaffer lost last year to “Boulder liberal” Mark Udall because Schaffer drank too many margaritas.
    • Republicans in Congress are, yet again, guilty of copyright infringement.  No respect for the rule of law, those Congressional Republicans.

OH-Sen: Big-Time 2010 Dem Senate Primary as Brunner & Fisher Both Announce

by: Senate Guru

Tue Feb 17, 2009 at 14:52 PM EST

Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunnerisn’t wasting time with an exploratory committee or other incremental steps toward a 2010 Senate race.  She is in:Brunner’s introductory video begins with a focus on the economic crisis and shifts into the tried-and-true discussion of the need for less bickering in Washington and more problem solving.  Brunner highlights accomplishments from her time as a judge and as Secretary of State, and mentions that she used to run a small business.  The video closes with numerous Ohioans of noticeably different ages and ethnicities repeating her name – an admission that she needs to raise her name ID.Now that Brunner is definitely in, Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher had to decide what his next step was, as he currently sits at the exploratory committee stage.  Fisher made a very quick decision, it appears, and will announce that he is definitely inlater this evening, refusing to cede even one news cycle to Brunner.  The announcement should come at 6pm local time.Recall that in both recent Public Policy Polling and Quinnipiacpolls, Fisher fared slightly better than Brunner against likely Republican nominee and two-time George W. Bush appointee Rob Portman.  However, the differing margins weren’t large enough to suggest that there won’t be fluctuation in this area.With two statewide officials now in the race, I’d be surprised if any Democratic members of Ohio’s Congressional delegation (including Marcy Kaptur, Betty Sutton, TIm Ryan, and Zack Space) ultimately entered the race.  Other Democrats who have publicly acknowledged that they were considering a 2010 Senate bid are Cuyahoga County Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones, State Representative Tyrone Yates, and businessman & gubernatorial son Chris Celeste.  Unless a Brunner-Fisher primary got nasty, I wouldn’t imagine that there would be enough political oxygen to sustain another candidate.  We’ll see.

Additionally, as long as the Brunner-Fisher primary stays positive, the high-profile primary has the additional benefit of boxing Republican Rob Portman out of the media spotlight – that is, as long as the Democratic primary stays positive.  In preparation for the general election, I would hope that both Brunner and Fisher focus their attacks on the destructive budget and trade policies of George W. Bush, which have hurt Ohio’s economy and families and for which Rob Portman was, in part, responsible.

UPDATE: Word is, Congressman Tim Ryan will endorse Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher.

President’s Day Weekend Round-Up

by: Senate Guru

Tue Feb 17, 2009 at 03:12 AM EST

  • Florida: Congressman Kendrick Meek has already locked up SEIU-Florida’s endorsement.  A major union endorsement like this this early in the primary is quite a coup for Congressman Meek’s campaign.  In other FL-Sen news, North Miami Mayor Kevin Burns is reportedly about to enter the Democratic primary.  With three Miami area candidates in the Democratic primary (Congressman Meek, Mayor Burns, and State Senator Dan Gelber), geography would seem to benefit Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio if she entered the race.
  • Ohio: State Representative Tyrone Yates (D-Cincinnati) is considering joining the 2010 Democratic Senate primary.
  • Georgia: Democratic former Governor Roy Barnes, 2008 Democratic Senate candidate Rand Knight, and State Representative Rob Teilhet all ruled out a 2010 Senate race against Republican Johnny Isakson as Isakson prepares to formally announce his re-election bid.
  • Colorado: Another prominent Republican won’t challenge Democratic Senator Michael Bennet.  This time, it’s former acting state Treasurer and Senate Majority Leader Mark Hillman.  Meanwhile, a less prominent Republican, 31-year-old Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier, is considering a bid.  It looks like the Republican bench has been reduced to Frazier and former Rep. & 2006 gubernatorial landslide loser Bob Beauprez.
  • Pennsylvania: I love stuff like this. Oh, in other news, I love stuff like this, too.
  • Arizona: Republican former Congressman J.D. Hayworth says that another eight years of the Bush economic policies that dominated the last eight years would be preferable to President Obama’s economic stimulus plan.  I would love it if he challenged John McCain in an AZ-Sen GOP primary.  Love it.
  • Republican Lindsey Graham on President Obama’s extensive efforts at reaching out to Republicans:

    “If this is going to be bipartisanship, the country’s screwed,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, told ABC’s “This Week.”

    Screwed?  Very classy, Lindsey.  Since Washington D.C. Republicans aren’t enamored of President Obama’s bipartisanship, I wonder if they will enjoy President Obama’s vigorous partisanship?  I hope we get to find out in the coming months.

  • Public Policy Polling, a friend of Senate Guru, gets some love in Roll Call.  Kudos to them.  Also, at PPP’s blog, there’s an online poll asking what race they should poll next, between: CT Sen; DE Sen & House; and, TX Sen & Gov.  The Texas races are winning by a large margin, but I voted for CT Sen.  I’m dying to see Dodd v. Simmons numbers, particularly at this time that (I hope) is Dodd’s favorability nadir.

Retirement/Resignation Watch Revisited

by: Senate Guru

Mon Feb 16, 2009 at 12:14 PM EST

In early December, I unveiled the Retirement/Resignation Watchwith sixteen entries.  Much has happened in the last 2+ months, so let’s revisit those on the Watch (and see if anyone else needs to be added).  Again, the number next to each Senator’s name is their age on Election Day 2010.

Senator Status
1 Mel Martinez (R-FL), 64 Retiring.
2 Ted Kaufman (D-DE), 71 Retiring.
3 Sam Brownback (R-KS), 54 Retiring.
4 Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), 67 Still running for Governor.  Still unclear if/when an early resignation might come.  KBH’s most recent comment: “If I step down, it would be in late 2009, if at all.”
5 Jim Bunning (R-KY), 79 He’s running!  And if you can’t hear that, you must either be deaf or not listen very well.
6 Christopher “Kit” Bond (R-MO), 71 Retiring.
7 Arlen Specter (R-PA), 80 Nothing new to report here, although talk of tough primary challenges is only intensifying as Specter was one of only three Republican Senators to support President Obama’s economic stimulus plan – and the only GOP Senator up for re-election in 2010 to do so.
8 Tom Coburn (R-OK), 62 Nothing new since he made his indecisiveness over a possible re-election bid known.  However, his nearly non-existent fundraising in Q4 of 2008 would suggest that retirement is far from out of the question.
9 George Voinovich (R-OH), 74 Retiring.
10 Daniel Inouye (D-HI), 86 Senator Inouye says he’s running again.  Further, a Research 2000 poll from December shows Senator Inouye beating Hawaii’s top Republican, Gov. Linda Lingle, by double digits.
11 Chuck Grassley (R-IA), 77 The day after I wrote a column asking “Will Chuck Grassley Be the Next Senate GOP Retirement?,” Grassley’s Communications Director e-mailed me insisting that Grassley is doing significant fundraising and is running for re-election in 2010.
12 Ted Kennedy (D-MA), 78 His health problems have slowed him some, but he’s still chugging.  Here’s hoping the Liberal Lion roars for years to come.
13 Roland Burris (D-IL), 73 Burris has not made it clear whether or not he intends to run in 2010 – though Democratic leadership would clearly prefer that he retire gracefully.  This weekend’s revelation of Burris’, um, additional interactions with Rod Blagojevich certainly don’t portend a winning 2010 campaign for Burris.
14 Judd Gregg (R-NH), 63 Retiring.  We think.
15 Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), 74 Nothing has changed from the first Watch; and, frankly, she is only even on the list because of her age.  No other indication yet that she will retire.
16 Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), 43 “Hillary Clinton’s appointed successor” was added to the list before we knew who it would be, in the unlikely chance that Governor David Paterson wound up appointing a placeholder.  Clearly, Senator Gillibrand is running in 2010.

Should any Senators be added to the Retirement/Resignation Watch?  There has been speculation that Connecticut’s Christopher Dodd might retire.  Though such speculation is only encouraged by Senator Dodd’s lagging poll numbers of late, I just don’t see him hanging it up when he has the chance to use the Senate’s sizable Democratic majority to push forward agenda items for which he has spent years advocating.

Aside from Senator Dodd’s situation, there has been a bit of speculation regarding both Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and Senator Mikulski that both are under consideration to head the Department of Health & Human Services, though all the chatter of late has focused squarely on Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius (as much as we may all want her to run for Senate in 2010).

Finally, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California is considering a run for Governor of California in 2010, though it’s hard to tell how seriously her consideration is.  Beyond that, there are no other Senators on the radar for a possible retirement/resignation.  I’d estimate that the most likely retirement announcements (separate from an eventual resignation from Kay Bailey Hutchison) would be from Senators Burris and Coburn.  We’ll see.

Senate Guru’s 1 Year Anniversary in Two Weeks – So Give the Guru a Birthday Present

by: Senate Guru

Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 12:56 PM EST

(You guys are awesome.  Four days in, about $180 have been raised.  That pays for one year of Soapblox hosting.  Just another $350 before I can hatch my diabolical plan.  A $20 contribution seriously makes a huge difference.  Thanks so much!)Two weeks from today will be the one year anniversary since I made the move from Blogger and officially launched  In that year, Senate Guru has grown to over 350 members with over 350 people subscribed to the Senate Guru’s RSS feed and over 150 members of the Senate Guru Facebook Group.  We’ve interviewed Senate candidates, held liveblogs, and, thanks to your generosity, raised over $40,000 for Democratic Senate candidates on the Expand the Map! ActBlue page.Thank you for an awesome year.If you’re thinking about what to give the Guru for his first birthday, please read on.  Working on this blog just about every day is a labor of love, but I hope not an expensive one.  In short, the Guru is looking to raise $530.  Why $530?  For two things.  First, my monthly rent with Soapblox is $15 per month, or $180 for the year.  So that’s $180; what about the other $350?  I’m looking to buy Photoshop and other assorted hoohah primarily for a project related to the blog.If you enjoy reading the blog and would like to see it get bigger and better, it would be greatly appreciated if you could chip in and help toward the investment.  In the left-hand column is a Support Senate Guru blox with a PayPal Donate button.  If you were able to help the Guru out to the tune of $50, $25, $10, even $5 would make a difference.

Despite Senate Democrats’ strong majority, Senate Republicans have made it clear, from the economic stimulus to Cabinet appointments and beyond, that they will do everything they can to obstruct the American agenda of progress and change.  As such, we need to do all we can to help get more Democrats elected to the Senate.  The 2010 cycle provides us with some terrific opportunities to do so.

I hope the next two years will be as productive as the last year was.  Thanks for everything!

Saturday Quick Hits

by: Senate Guru

Sat Feb 14, 2009 at 16:18 PM EST

  • How craven and unpatriotic are Senate Republicans?

    Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), who broke with his party to support President Obama’s stimulus package last week, said before the final vote Friday that more of his colleagues would have joined were they not afraid of the political consequences.”When I came back to the cloak room after coming to the agreement a week ago today,” said Specter, “one of my colleagues said, ‘Arlen, I’m proud of you.’ My Republican colleague said, ‘Arlen, I’m proud of you.’ I said, ‘Are you going to vote with me?’ And he said, ‘No, I might have a primary.’ And I said, ‘Well, you know very well I’m going to have a primary.’”

    Senate Republicans voted against legislation that would help America’s families because they feared the political consequences.  It turns out that “Country first” is perhaps the emptiest Republican slogan in history.  At least Democrats get to spend the next two years pointing out that Republicans opposed the biggest middle class tax cut in history.

  • Illinois: Does this end the possibility of Roland Burris running in 2010? (emphasis added by me)

    Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s brother solicited U.S. Sen. Roland Burris for up to $10,000 in campaign cash before Blagojevich named Burris to the coveted post — something Burris initially failed to disclose under oath before an Illinois House impeachment panel, records and interviews show.Burris (D-Ill.) acknowledges being hit up for the money in a new affidavit he has sent to the head of the House committee that recommended Blagojevich be removed from office. …

    Burris acknowledged having three conversations with Robert Blagojevich, who headed the Friends of Blagojevich campaign fund — and one of those was likely recorded by the FBI.

    Burris’ statement offers the third version of events he has given about his discussions concerning the Senate seat, to which Blagojevich appointed him in late December, after Blagojevich was hit with federal corruption charges that included an allegation he tried to sell the Senate appointment.

    Whoa.  Yes, Burris points out that he did not give any money to Blagojevich’s campaign fund in response to the solicitations; but, damn.  Failing to disclose key details under oath.  Offering multiple versions of the events surrounding discussions about his appointment.  Whether Burris is having memory issues or whether he was trying to cover for the person who appointed him, the optics look pretty bad, regardless of the fact that Burris never actually coughed up any payola, as far as we know.  Surely, at this point, Burris (who will be 73 on Election Day 2010) can’t seriously be considering a run for a full Senate term in 2010, can he?

  • Minnesota: Yes, it looks like the three-judge panel has rejected 12 (or 13) of 19 categories of ballots from consideration for further review in Republican Norm Coleman’s frivolous election lawsuit.  However, because different categories included different numbers of ballots, the remaining categories still total an estimated 3,500 ballots or so out of the 4,800 properly rejected absentee ballots Coleman wanted re-reviewed.  Granted, the standard of evidence that Coleman will have to meet to get ballots counted is a very strict one (he will have to show that every individual ballot was “cast legally,” not just “improperly rejected” – and I’m not election law-savvy enough to explain the difference), but the relatively high number of ballots that seem to be remaining could keep the trial going for a long while yet, especially if the Coleman camp begins arguing ballots’ merits individually.  We should know more after Monday’s legal proceedings.  Stay tuned.
  • New Hampshire: Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter reiterated that she has not ruled out a 2010 Senate bid.  A Shea-Porter candidacy would set up a big-time Democratic primary between her and New Hampshire’s other member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman Paul Hodes, who is already in the race.
  • Missouri: The Kansas City Star’s Prime Buzz political blog highlights that the MO-GOP likely will not be fielding their strong possible candidate in the 2010 Senate race, as the Republican Party establishment is getting behind Washington D.C. mega-insider Roy Blunt over the more intelligent and more broadly respected Jim Talent.
  • New Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele offers his take on the status of the GOP today:

    You have absolutely no reason, none, to trust our word or our actions at this point.

    And now the words I never thought I would type: I agree 100% with Michael Steele.

The Senate’s Democratic Caucus Could Eliminate the DSCC’s 2008 Debt

by: Senate Guru

Sat Feb 14, 2009 at 12:15 PM EST

In 2007-2008, the DSCC demolished the NRSC in fundraising, $163 million to $94 million.  There’s no reason to believe that the 2010 cycle won’t continue the DSCC’s fundraising superiority over the NRSC.  The one, albeit minor and temporary, advantage that the NRSC holds over the DSCC is that the DSCC is deeper in debt closing out 2008 than the NRSC is.  Of course, the DSCC has a lot more to show for its debt than the NRSC, given the 7, possibly 8, seats that Democrats picked up in 2008.  Nevertheless, the DSCC is further in the red.As of the end of 2008, the DSCC has just under $300,000 on hand and nearly $11 million in debt, meaning that the DSCC is about $10.7 million in the red overall.  The NRSC has just under $750,000 on hand and about $4.9 million in debt, putting them about $4.15 million in the red overall.  As Republicans, and the NRSC in particular, don’t have much to be excited about, this is one area they can nominally point to when arguing that they are better positioned for the 2010 cycle.So wouldn’t the NRSC collectively lose it if the DSCC’s debt evaporated overnight?  Further, wouldn’t it send a strong message to potential donors, to Democratic grassroots activists, and to the Republican Party if it was Democratic Senators’ unity and shared sense of purpose that led to the elimination of the DSCC’s debt?  The Senate’s Democratic caucus could easily eliminate the DSCC’s 2008 debt, further strengthening Senate Democrats’ position as they look to get over the 60-Senate mark on Election Day 2010.How would I squeeze about $10.7 million out of Senate Democrats’ bankroll without harming individual Democrats politically?  Here’s how I break it down:First, I assume that the four newly appointed Democratic Senators (Bennet, Burris, Gillibrand, and Kaufman) aren’t in position to contribute.

Second, I expect that non-Democratic Senators who caucus with the Democrats (Lieberman and Sanders) to only chip in the traditional minimum of $15,000.

Third, Class 1 Senators (those not up for re-election until 2012) are expected to chip in 15% of their bankroll, with a minimum of $15,000.  Class 1 Senators are arguably in the best position to contribute, since Class 2 Senators just had their election last November (and, therefore, would have run through their bankrolls) and Class 3 Senators are up this cycle.

Fourth, I break down Class 2 Senators into three groups: newly-elected Senators (Begich, Hagan, Merkley, Shaheen, the Udalls, and Warner) are expected to chip in the traditional minimum $15,000; vulnerable Senators (Johnson, Landrieu, and Lautenberg) are also expected to chip in $15,000; and, safe Senators (Baucus, Durbin, Harkin, Kerry, Levin, Pryor, Reed, and Rockefeller) are expected to chip in 25% of their bankroll, as they all just had cakewalks last November and don’t face another election for almost six years.

Fifth, Class 3 Senators are broken down into three easy groups: those with six-figure cash-on-hand levels (Dodd, Lincoln, and Mikulski) only need to chip in $15,000; those with seven-figure cash-on-hand levels (Boxer, Dorgan, Feingold, Inouye, Leahy, Murray, Reid, and Wyden) are expected to chip in $25,000; and the eight-figure “$10+ million club” members (Bayh and Schumer) are expected to chip in a big $1.5 million as both have over $10 million on hand and neither will likely face anything resembling tough Republican opposition in 2010 (if they face any GOP opposition at all).

How does all of this stack up?

Senator Class End of ’08
Michael Bennet (D-CO) 3 * $0
Roland Burris (D-IL) 3 * $0
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) 1 $203,437 $0
Ted Kaufman (D-DE) 2 * $0
Joe Lieberman (I-CT) 1 $1,813,023 $15,000
Bernie Sanders (I-VT) 1 $42,114 $15,000
Herb Kohl (D-WI) 1 $4,198 $15,000
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) 1 $23,826 $15,000
Robert Byrd (D-WV) 1 $30,674 $15,000
Maria Cantwell (D-WA) 1 $56,161 $15,000
Claire McCaskill (D-MO) 1 $72,683 $15,000
Daniel Akaka (D-HI) 1 $94,089 $15,000
Ben Cardin (D-MD) 1 $100,629 $15,094
Jon Tester (D-MT) 1 $101,626 $15,244
Jim Webb (D-VA) 1 $209,306 $31,396
Bob Casey (D-PA) 1 $263,395 $39,509
Ben Nelson (D-NE) 1 $337,403 $50,610
Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) 1 $341,530 $51,230
Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) 1 $471,840 $70,776
Bob Menendez (D-NJ) 1 $561,291 $84,194
Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) 1 $620,595 $93,089
Tom Carper (D-DE) 1 $699,915 $104,987
Sherrod Brown (D-OH) 1 $714,986 $107,248
Bill Nelson (D-FL) 1 $1,473,160 $220,974
Kent Conrad (D-ND) 1 $1,965,061 $294,759
Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) 1 $2,485,783 $372,867
Edward Kennedy (D-MA) 1 $4,820,005 $723,001
Jeff Merkley (D-OR) 2 $11,226 $15,000
Mary Landrieu (D-LA) 2 $16,476 $15,000
Kay Hagan (D-NC) 2 $29,464 $15,000
Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) 2 $38,771 $15,000
Mark Udall (D-CO) 2 $61,857 $15,000
Mark Begich (D-AK) 2 $123,678 $15,000
Tom Udall (D-NM) 2 $318,671 $15,000
Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) 2 $488,909 $15,000
Tim Johnson (D-SD) 2 $552,435 $15,000
Mark Warner (D-VA) 2 $1,147,569 $15,000
Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) 2 $1,201,894 $300,474
Carl Levin (D-MI) 2 $1,658,904 $414,726
Mark Pryor (D-AR) 2 $2,185,888 $546,472
Max Baucus (D-MT) 2 $2,316,990 $579,248
Tom Harkin (D-IA) 2 $2,456,314 $614,079
Jack Reed (D-RI) 2 $2,708,287 $677,072
Richard Durbin (D-IL) 2 $3,035,621 $758,905
John Kerry (D-MA) 2 $3,988,104 $997,026
Christopher Dodd (D-CT) 3 $670,654 $15,000
Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) 3 $810,116 $15,000
Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) 3 $874,487 $15,000
Ron Wyden (D-OR) 3 $1,118,012 $25,000
Daniel Inouye (D-HI) 3 $1,160,296 $25,000
Pat Leahy (D-VT) 3 $1,218,785 $25,000
Byron Dorgan (D-ND) 3 $1,497,273 $25,000
Russ Feingold (D-WI) 3 $2,516,119 $25,000
Patty Murray (D-WA) 3 $2,518,764 $25,000
Harry Reid (D-NV) 3 $3,316,354 $25,000
Barbara Boxer (D-CA) 3 $4,132,935 $25,000
Evan Bayh (D-IN) 3 $10,571,064 $1,500,000
Chuck Schumer (D-NY) 3 $10,708,167 $1,500,000
TOTAL $10,647,979

If the Senate Democratic Caucus gave to the DSCC at the suggested levels, it would eliminate the DSCC’s debt in short order, freak out the NRSC by erasing their financial advantage, and demonstrate to the grassroots and to Democratic donors that Democratic Senators will put their money with their mouths are and help their own cause – leading by example.

So, someone want to forward this post on to every member of the Senate Democratic Caucus?

Breaking: Minnesota Ruling Further Hurts Norm Coleman’s Comically Slim Chances

by: Senate Guru

Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 19:01 PM EST

Star Tribune:

The judges in Minnesota’s U.S. Senate trial said in a preliminary ruling Friday that Republican Norm Coleman has not yet shown a widespread problem with absentee voters being denied the right to vote.The three-judge panel ordered that rejected absentee ballots from 12 of 19 categories should not be counted in the Senate race. That’s a setback for Coleman, who wanted to count ballots in all but three of the categories. …

Coleman’s lawyers were arguing that as many as 4,800 rejected absentee ballots should be counted in the race. It’s not yet clear how many are now off-limits thanks to the judges’ order, but in the order the judges signaled it may not be a very large number. …

Even Coleman’s attorneys had said earlier that if the judges put certain groups off-limits, it would likely bring the trial to a quicker end.

It’s unclear how many ballots we’re talking about because we don’t know exactly how many of Norm Coleman’s pile of 4,800 properly rejected absentee ballots he wanted re-reviewed were attached to each category.  But it does look bad for Coleman.  The Minnesota Independent has a thorough breakdown of which criteria were tossed and which criteria were ruled acceptable for re-review.  We could find out as early as Monday afternoon how many ballots will be taken off the table completely and how many will be left for consideration.  Tough luck, Normie.

End of Week Round-Up

by: Senate Guru

Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 16:50 PM EST

  • WaPo’s Cillizza is out with his latest Senate Line; and, even before we get to the top ten, I have a bit of a quibble.  Cillizza says (of the Senate GOP now facing five retirements in FL, KS, OH, MO, and now NH):

    The good news for Republicans is that it’s hard to see any other retirements in their ranks beyond Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), which would be greeted with a massive sigh of relief within the strategist community given the incumbent’s poor fundraising and dismal poll numbers.

    Next week, Senate Guru will be revisiting our Retirement/Resignation Watch, and Cillizza seems to be forgetting that, in addition to the five retirements and Bunning, Tom Coburn isn’t sold on a re-election bid and Kay Bailey Hutchison may still resign early to focus on her gubernatorial bid.  (Further, both Arlen Specter and Chuck Grassley are in their late-70s – a retirement from either wouldn’t shock the system.)  Anyway, onto the top ten.

    The top five are all GOP: NH, MO, FL, KY and OH.  Cillizza sees more GOP opportunity in Illinois than most, ranking it 6th.  The list then closes out with LA, PA, NV, and CT.  If polling shows Rob Simmons competitive with a lagging Senator Christopher Dodd, Connecticut may stick around for a bit.  However, if Simmons passes on the race or Republicans still don’t poll competitive with Senator Dodd, Connecticut will fall off the list.  Also, the moment Governor Kathleen Sebelius moves forward with a 2010 Senate bid (knock on wood!), Kansas will take up permanent residence on the list.  Lastly, North Carolina is waiting in the wings to make its presence felt on the list.  Soon.

  • New Hampshire: NRSC Chair John Cornyn will try to talk Judd Gregg into running again in 2010, but I don’t think Cornyn has the Schumerosity to pull it off.  Regardless of what Gregg does, though, you know why I feel pretty confident about NH-Sen?  The NRSC’s strategy against Congressman Paul Hodes is “Taxes!  Boogidy boogidy boogidy!”  So, yeah, the NRSC hasn’t thought of anything new.  Even Politico offers this glowing profile of Congressman Hodes.  Meanwhile, in another indication that Judd Gregg won’t run for re-election in 2010 (even though he left himself wiggle room and deserves no benefit of the doubt), Daddy Sununu (who now chairs the NH-GOP) hints that his son, ousted Republican John Sununu, is considering a 2010 Senate bid.  Speaking of Junior Sununu, he was on The Daily Show last night and Jon Stewart absolutely schooled him.  Is it just me, or is Jon Stewart filling the vacuum that Tim Russert left?  Oh, and recalling the Public Policy Polling poll from earlier this week showing Congressman Hodes narrowly leading Sununu 46-44, there is apparently even more room for optimism that Hodes’ lead will grow:

    In the Hodes-Sununu match up 33% of the undecideds are Democrats compared to just 13% who are Republicans. In the Shea-Porter-Sununu contest 34% not taking a side are Dems with just 15% Republicans.It makes sense after a term in the Senate and an unsuccessful reelection that Republicans in New Hampshire would know whether they support Sununu or not. But since Hodes and Shea-Porter have each represented just half of the state, whichever one ends up as the nominee will still need to get better known by the other district’s Democrats. It seems a safe bet that once that’s happened, those undecideds will get behind them.

    Democrats are in the driver’s seat in the Granite State, and Republicans’ stale, re-tread attacks of “Taxes!  Scary!” likely won’t prove any more effective in 2010 than it did in 2008.

  • North Dakota: A new Research 2000 poll offers extremely reassuring numbers if you’re a Democrat (or extremely disappointing numbers if you’re a Republican).  Both Senator Byron Dorgan (D) and Governor John Hoeven (R) have near-universal name recognition across North Dakota, and both have very high favorability ratings.  Senator Dorgan is at 67-30 and Gov. Hoeven is at a nearly identical 68-27.  So what happens if these two Peace Garden State titans clash for Senator Dorgan’s Senate seat?  Senator Dorgan crushes Hoeven 57-35.  It appears that North Dakotans like Hoeven Senator Dorgan [oops!] representing them in the Senate and don’t want to change that or lose Senator Dorgan’s seniority.The “decider” in this poll was the independent voting bloc, going for Senator Dorgan over Hoeven by a massive 69-19, indicating an Obama-era blueing of North Dakota.  To be honest, I have been worried that the NRSC would be able to recruit Hoeven and turn ND-Sen into a top-tier race.  Now, I’d expect polling like this would discourage Hoeven from making a bid, despite the NRSC’s likely urging.  Further, if these numbers are accurate, even a Hoeven entry wouldn’t make the race a Toss-Up.
  • Pennsylvania: Arlen Specter’s support for President Obama’s economic stimulus bill could mean curtains for Specter in a 2010 Republican Senate primary according to a new Rasmussen Reports poll:

    An overwhelming 69% of Pennsylvania Republicans oppose the bill, and 58% of Republicans say they are less likely to support Specter because of his vote for it.

    That’s “Yikes!” with a capital “Yikes!”  Even if Club for Growth head honcho Pat Toomey (who came within 2% of beating Specter in the ’04 primary) doesn’t run, if businessman Glen Meakem ran a credible, competent primary and pushed the right buttons, he could oust Specter.  Pretty wild.

  • Ohio: EMILY’s List is reportedly sending staff to Ohio to assist Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner with a possible 2010 Senate bid.  If accurate, with Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher having formed a Senate exploratory committee, we could see a big-time Brunner-Fisher primary.  Governor Ted Strickland has indicated a preference for Fisher, urging that Brunner keep her current post in order to play a critical role with the all-important post-2010-Census redistricting.  That, however, is not the only news in the OH-Sen Democratic primary.  Businessman Chris Celeste, son of former Ohio Governor Richard Celeste, is also considering a run for Senate in 2010.  This Columbus Business First profile from 2004 gives a bit of insight into the tech companies in which Celeste has invested.  Sounds like he and former RealNetworks Vice President and now-Senator Maria Cantwell might have a lot to talk about.
  • Connecticut: Republican former Rep. Rob Simmons is reportedly “lining up support to challenge” Senator Christopher Dodd.  Senator Dodd’s most recent approval numbers leave room for a challenger, but Connecticut is blue enough that even a credible Republican opponent, like Simmons, would have to run a flawless campaign.  One parallel might be 2008′s Senate race in New Jersey, where Senator Frank Lautenberg had less-the-comfortable approval numbers and Republicans eventually recruited a former member of Congress to run.  I don’t doubt that, if Simmons continues to look like a potential candidate, someone will come out with Dodd v. Simmons polling in the next month.  Stay tuned.
  • Minnesota: Breaking news!  Republicans all of a sudden love activist judges!  Republican Norm Coleman’s frivolous lawsuit gives us the exchange of the week, between Coleman lawyer James Langdon, who was making the very weak case for including any rejected ballot that might give Coleman a vote, and three-judge panel member Judge Denise Reilly:

    Judge Denise Reilly looked skeptical. “I see that you are not buying this,” Langdon said, sparking laughter in the courtroom. “I thought I had a poker face,” Reilly replied.

    I don’t think anyone is buying the Coleman camp’s merit-free claims.  Now, if you want to really – I mean really – be creeped out, check out Republican Norm Coleman’s latest video message.

  • Louisiana: Prostitute-lovin’ David Vitter is becoming quite unhinged.
  • Oregon: The OR-GOP chief has apparently been talking up a Gordon Smith comeback against Democratic Senator Ron Wyden.  However, Oregon’s top political writer (as well as Senate Guru!) out-and-out dismisses the idea.  No way Smith runs against Senator Wyden.  I’d love to see Smith walk into another embarrassing defeat, but Smith won’t run.  In November 2008, the last month that Survey USA clocked the approval ratings of both Senator Wyden and Gordon Smith, Senator Wyden clocked in up at 58-28, and Smith clocked in way down at 42-52.  Gordon Smith 2010!  Feel the excitement!
  • Do Senate Republicans [heart] Rahm Emanuel?

    “I call him, leave a message, and he gets back to me in three minutes – and that makes him good in my book,” said conservative Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.). “He’s been really accessible, and that counts for something.” (We also got similar quotes, that didn’t make the cut from Thune, Ensign and people close to McConnell)

    Sounds like a love connection.

  • CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney seems unable to comprehend that House trends and Senate trends operate on slightly different wavelengths, in large part because of the staggered election of Senators and their six-year-long terms, versus two-year-long terms in the House.
  • Bipartisanship is on its deathbed, and Republicans are holding a pillow over its face.
  • Just one more week until Real Time with Bill Maher returns! Wheeeeee!!!!

What are Republican Senators Hiding in Their Tax Returns?

by: Senate Guru

Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 10:45 AM EST

In response to a couple of Cabinet appointments getting hung up over problems with paying taxes, Politico surveyed the 99 sitting U.S. Senatorswith a simple, five-question survey to see if any of them ever had problems with their taxes:

1. Do you prepare your own taxes?
2. If not, who does?
3. Have you or the IRS ever discovered an error on a tax return you’ve filed?
4. Have you ever paid back taxes?
5. If the answer to either 3 or 4 is yes, please explain.

While a handful of Senators noted that they have found errors in past tax returns, resulting in payment of back taxes, what I found far more interesting was who actually returned their surveys and who answered (and who didn’t answer).

31 Democratic Senators returned complete surveys, compared with only 12 Republican Senators.  Further, 9 Republican Senators returned surveys declining to answer the questions, compared with only 3 Democrats who returned surveys and declined to answer.  2 Republicans returned incomplete surveys.  22 Dems and 18 GOP Senators have not responded.  (Additionally, Joe Lieberman has not responded and Bernie Sanders declined to answer.)

Nearly three times as many Democrats returned completed surveys – and nearly three times as many Republicans declined to answer the questions about their taxes.

These results suggest that Democratic Senators are more willing to be transparent, and Republican Senators seemingly have something to hide in their taxes – or, at least, are less willing to be transparent.  It’s certainly not inappropriate to ask “What are Republican Senators hiding in their tax returns?”

For instance, in Alaska, Democratic Senator Mark Begich returned a completed survey, but Republican Lisa Murkowski declined to answer.  The Alaska Democratic Party wasted little time in highlighting Murkowski’s lack of transparency:

Alaska Democratic Party Chair Patti Higgins said Alaska’s leaders must be completely open and transparent about whether and how they have fulfilled their personal obligations as taxpayers.”Openness and transparency are especially important now because we need to rebuild trust in our financial institutions and in Congress. Sen. Murkowski’s refusal to answer questions from Politico raises further questions,” Higgins said.

Murkowski has had a history of financial scandal featuring a sweetheart land deal.  In 2007, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) named Lisa Murkowski one of the four most corrupt members of the U.S. Senate.  Of course, any political junkie need not be reminded of the general taint that Alaska Republicans have earned due to their widespread corruption, headlined by former Senator Ted Stevens’ felony conviction.

A lack of transparency and the specter of corruption will continue to play a role, however subtle, in the 2010 cycle.  If one scored Senators based on this Politico survey, one would see a big gap in transparency between the more open Democrats and the more secretive Republicans.  Additionally, a situation like this could exacerbate existing ethical questions, as in the case of Republican Lisa Murkowski.

The DSCC’s Targets and the Senate 2010 Lay of the Land

by: Senate Guru

Thu Feb 12, 2009 at 23:30 PM EST

DSCC Chair Bob Menendez has been laying out to the media the Democrats’ take on the Senate 2010 lay of the land, and Hotline On Call, CNN, and Salon’s War Room blogall have write-ups of the DSCC’s initial look at the 2010 picture.  Senator Menendez offered a few key items:1) The DSCC expects to fully back appointed Senators running for re-election, with some hedging on Illinois’ Roland Burris.  Good news, though, for New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand and Colorado’s Michael Bennet, both of whom may face primary challengers.  Clearly, Democratic leaders would prefer Burris to retire as gracefully as he can.2) The DSCC is initially focusing its offense on nine target states: the Republican retirement states of Florida, Kansas, Missouri, New Hampshire, and Ohio; and the vulnerable Republican states of Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.  Senator Menendez is clearly pleased with Robin Carnahan and Paul Hodes carrying the Democratic banner in Missouri and New Hampshire, respectively; and, he has high expectations if Kansas’ Governor Kathleen Sebelius runs (as many of us hope).  Says Menendez, “Clearly, if Gov. Sebelius were to run, she wins.”  Senator Menendez also pointed to political trends in Pennsylvania working against Arlen Specter, and suggested that Democrats will field a strong challenger in North Carolina following now-Senator Kay Hagan’s impressive 2008 victory.Also note that the prospect of an opening in Texas (due to the possible resignation of Kay Bailey Hutchison to focus on her gubernatorial bid) is not missing from the DSCC’s radar screen.  Says Hotline:

And finally, a sign of the chairman’s confidence, perhaps, is his willingness to pitch Texas as a possible get for Democrats, should Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison run for governor, as is likely.

3) It is noted that, besides the Democrats who have departed the Senate for the Executive Branch, there are no expected Democratic retirements from the Senate.

4) Although the focus begins on those nine states, no state will be ruled out if the right candidate comes along and the right political dynamics present themselves.  Salon quotes Senator Menendez:

“No place is a bridge too far,” New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the new chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, boasted to reporters at a briefing today. “One of the things that the last cycle taught us is that expanding the map is extremely important.”

Senate Guru is all for “expanding the map” – heck, it’s what our ActBlue page is named.

5) Senator Menendez posits that the Republican Party not changing its politics or policies will have the dual impact of depressing both voter interest and candidate recruiting (as well as, I would add, donor outreach, hopefully).  Hotline quotes Senator Menendez:

During a noon briefing with reporters at the Democratic National Committee, Menendez added: “The early evidence seems to show that Republicans haven’t changed their brand.”And because of that, Menendez said, solid Republican candidates aren’t opting to run for Senate next cycle. Menendez mentioned former Gov. Jeb Bush, who decided not to run for the seat vacated by retiring Sen. Mel Martinez.

“It’s difficult to energize voters when your candidates are reluctant to run,” Menendez said.

Politics indeed has a snowball effect – but it also has a pendulum effect.  One of the questions that will determine the results of Election Day 2010 is whether the Democrats’ snowball of momentum still has enough energy to stave off a pro-Republican swingback of the pendulum.  The degree to which voters feel the impact of President Obama’s economic stimulus bill may largely make clear whether 2010 will be more snowball or more pendulum.  The more snowball we get, the more of those 9+ Democratic targets will come up blue on Election Day 2010.

UPDATE: MyDD runs through Politico’s story on Menendez’s comments and focuses on the message framing that Menendez is laying down:

During the news conference, Menendez took some anti-Republican messaging out for a spin:

…Menendez called Senate Republicans “do-nothings.””They’re basically sticking to their old brand, the Bush brand,” said Menendez. “They are betting against President Obama and the economic recovery he is trying to create.”

I love it, framing opposition to Obama as a. opposition to economic recovery and b. fidelity to Bush. This is gonna be a fun two years.

Happy 79th Birthday, Arlen Specter

by: Senate Guru

Thu Feb 12, 2009 at 19:10 PM EST

Snarlin’ Arlen today enters his final year as a septuagenarian.  As we also celebrate President Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday today, it gives me pause to think that Arlen Specter is almost half as old as Abraham Lincoln.  Happy 79th, Arlen!

Breaking: Judd Gregg Withdraws Nomination as Commerce Secretary w/ BIG UPDATE

by: Senate Guru

Thu Feb 12, 2009 at 16:44 PM EST

Associated Press:

Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire has withdrawn his nomination to become President Barack Obama’s commerce secretary.In a statement released by his office, the New Hampshire senator cites “irresolvable conflicts” on issues including the economic stimulus package.

So much for “Senator Bonnie Newman.”  This raises two big questions, aside from “Who will President Obama next appoint for Commerce?”

1) Will Judd Gregg run for re-election to the Senate in 2010, or simply retire?

2) How will this impact Congressman Paul Hodes announced candidacy for Senate?  Will he lay low for now and hope Gregg announces his plans soon?  Will Hodes still run even if Gregg also runs for re-election?

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: From Gregg’s statement:

However, it has become apparent during this process that this will not work for me as I have found that on issues such as the stimulus package and the Census there are irresolvable conflicts for me.

Another substantial overture at bipartisanship tendered by President Obama, only to be flatly rejected by Republicans for whom “this will not work” when they don’t fully have it their way.


Gregg also confirmed that he has no plans to run for Senate again when his term is up in 2010.

WHOA!  That’s the bombshell of the day.  I’ll look for confirmation elsewhere.

UPDATE 3: I’m watching Gregg’s press conference live on MSNBC right now (5:28pm ET).  A reporter asked him if he’ll run for re-election.  His verbatim answer was:

Will I run?  Probably not.

Simple as that.

UPDATE 4: Insight courtesy of Roll Call:

Earlier this week, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) indicated that even before Gregg was tapped as Commerce secretary, the New Hampshire lawmaker had decided against seeking re-election in 2010.

The Union Leader is operating under the impression that Gregg ain’t running in 2010, and reporting that Congressman Paul Hodes is, indeed, still a candidate for Senate in 2010.

Thursday Afternoon Items

by: Senate Guru

Thu Feb 12, 2009 at 15:47 PM EST

  • DSCC Chair Bob Menendez will make Senate Republicans’ opposition to President Obama’s economic stimulus bill a significant issue as Democrats go on offense against vulnerable Republicans in 2010.  The success of the stimulus package in mitigating further job losses and reinvigorating economic vitality could largely determine President Obama’s favorability come the mid-term elections as well as the degree to which Senate and House Democrats are successful in expanding their numbers further.
  • Larry Sabato highlights the streaky nature of Senate election trends over the last few decades.
  • Minnesota: A Star Tribune article on the campaigns’ responses to the three-judge panels breakdown of nineteen criteria by which still-debated ballots may be reviewed does two things: 1) illustrates the ridiculous lengths Republican Norm Coleman will go to have a properly rejected ballot from a Republican area counted; and, 2) displays how the Star Tribune is blatantly misrepresenting the position of Senator-elect Al Franken.  First, Coleman’s ridiculous reach:

    Coleman, on the other hand, wants to reconsider ballots from 16 of the 19 categories. …On Wednesday, in the St. Paul courtroom where the recount trial is taking place, Franken attorney David Lillehaug ran through a series of Dakota County absentee ballots and argued that Coleman now wants several votes counted that he had prevented from being included in the recount. …

    As evidenced by his position on the 19 ballot categories identified by the judicial panel, Coleman wants to reconsider nearly every type of absentee ballot rejected by county officials.

    A witness didn’t check proof of residence? Count it. A voter failed to sign for an application for a ballot? Count it. A ballot was cast by a voter from the wrong precinct? Count it.

    He wants to count ballots lacking a required voter signature when a preprinted address sticker from the government covered instructions for signing.

    So Coleman, desperate for the possibility of picking up votes whereever he can, now wants votes counted that he earlier wanted disqualified, and is even willing to count ballots lacking a voter signature!  And now let’s look at how the Star Tribune misrepresents Senator-elect Franken’s position (emphasis added by me):

    In a reverse from the recount, DFLer Al Franken wants to restrict the number, while Republican Norm Coleman wants more counted. …Franken — who has taken a relatively restrictive view of possible ballots since he took the lead over Coleman in recount results certified last month — believes that absentee ballots should not be counted in 17 of 19 major categories of rejected ballots identified by the judges.

    Unlike Coleman, Franken has not reversed anything.  Senator-elect Franken’s position has been consistent from Election Day to right now.  His unequivocal position is that every single legitimate ballot should be counted, period.  It is flat-out misleading for the Star Tribune to suggest that Senator-elect Franken is somehow being unduly restrictive by wanting properly rejected ballots to stay rejected.  During the Canvassing Board’s review, when local elected officials made their rulings on properly vs. improperly rejected absentee ballots, Senator-elect Franken agreed with their rulings 100% as they are the experts.  Senator-elect Franken’s decision on the nineteen criteria is completely in accordance with state law:

    Attorney Marc Elias said the Franken argument follows state law, which he said readily allows people to register to vote but then holds them to a strict standard and several conditions should they elect to do it by absentee ballot.

    A properly rejected ballot is properly rejected for a reason, and a defeated Norm Coleman shouldn’t be allowed to adjust the rules well after the game ended so that he can potentially pick up some extra, undeserved points.  After the many stunts that the Coleman camp has pulled over the course of the trial, I can’t believe that Coleman’s lawyers hold much credibility in the eyes of the three-judge panel.  The Franken camp wanted ballots falling in 2 of the 19 criteria reviewed, while Coleman wanted ballots falling in 16 of the 19 criteria reviewed.  The three-judge panel’s ruling on these nineteen criteria may well be determinative and actually bring a conclusion to the race.  For those wanting to peruse the full rundown of the nineteen criteria, check out Campaign Diaries’ post on the topic.

  • Delaware: Christine O’Donnell, the Republican nominee for Senate last year who lost to now-Vice President Joe Biden (as he concurrently ran for re-election to the Senate while he was on the Presidential ticket) by a 65-35 margin, has announced that she will run again for the Senate in 2010 in the special election for Joe Biden’s seat, now held temporarily by seatwarming Senator Ted Kaufman.  Having to tussle in a primary with wingnut O’Donnell probably decreases the likelihood that Republican Rep. Mike Castle will run for Senate, increasing the ease with which Democrats should hold this seat.
  • Georgia: Conservative columnist Jim Wooten of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution simplisticly argues that Johnny Isakson secured re-election to the Senate in 2010 by virtue of his vote against the economic stimulus bill.  On the flip-side, Public Policy Polling’s Tom Jensen sees GA-Sen as a possible sleeper race for the 2010 cycle.  Jensen compares Isakson’s race in ’10 to Elizabeth Dole’s North Carolina re-election bid in ’08.  Jensen notes that Isakson’s approval numbers now are weaker than Dole’s were at this time in the 2008 cycle, and that Dole’s victorious opponent, now-Senator Kay Hagan, demonstrated that a challenger doesn’t need to start off with high name recognition in order to win on Election Day.
  • Kansas: Seriously, I’m not kidding!  Stop with the Sebelius for HHS chatter!  We really, really need her to run for Senate in 2010.
  • Illinois: Democrats are worried about the prospect of Roland Burris running for a full Senate term in 2010.  I wonder what the more worrisome scenario is, though: Burris winning a divisive primary but serving as a weak general election candidate, handing the seat to Republicans; or, Burris losing a divisive primary, possibly deflating black turnout in Illinois for the general election, wounding the eventual Democratic nominee.  Either way, Democrats would be best served politically by Burris opting for retirement and staying out of the Democratic primary.

Early Thursday Morning Rundown

by: Senate Guru

Thu Feb 12, 2009 at 03:17 AM EST

  • New Hampshire: New Public Policy Polling numbers:
    Favorability Ratings
    Paul Hodes 42-34 (net +8)
    Carol Shea-Porter 43-40 (net +3)
    John Sununu 46-43 (net +3)
    Charlie Bass 33-37 (net -4)
    Paul Hodes 46, John Sununu 44
    Paul Hodes 40, Charlie Bass 37
    Carol Shea Porter 45, John Sununu 46
    Carol Shea Porter 42, Charlie Bass 43

    Although we see a series of tight match-ups, suggesting that NH-Sen is best qualified as a Toss-Up at this stage, it looks like Paul Hodes is well-positioned as he continues his outreach in Carol Shea-Porter’s half of the Granite State.  It’s not like John Sununu can do much to expand his name ID.  Speaking of Congressman Hodes, he will be live-blogging today (Thursday) from 6pm to 7pm ET at Blue Hampshire.  In other NH-Sen news, former state Supreme Court Justice Joseph Nadeau says that he won’t decide on a possible 2010 Senate bid “at least until the fall.”  This suggests to me that a Nadeau campaign is extremely unlikely.

  • Florida: A new Strategic Vision poll suggests that GOP Gov. Charlie Crist, if he wants it, could have the Senate seat being vacated by unpopular Republican Mel Martinez; but, a race without Crist is very much a toss-up:
    Democratic Primary
    Ron Klein 12
    Kendrick Meek 10
    Pam Iorio 8
    Dan Gelber 4
    Undecided 66
    Republican Primary w/ Crist
    Charlie Crist 54
    Connie Mack 16
    Vern Buchanan 10
    Allan Bense 7
    Marco Rubio 4
    Undecided 9
    Republican Primary w/o Crist
    Connie Mack 21
    Vern Buchanan 11
    Allan Bense 8
    Marco Rubio 5
    Undecided 55
    Dems vs. Crist
    Crist 58, Klein 24
    Crist 60, Meek 26
    Crist 57, Iorio 29
    Crist 58, Gelber 27
    Dems vs. Mack
    Mack 32, Klein 27
    Mack 35, Meek 25
    Mack 32, Iorio 30
    Mack 33, Gelber 27
    Dems vs. Buchanan
    Buchanan 24, Klein 28
    Buchanan 29, Meek 23
    Buchanan 26, Iorio 30
    Buchanan 23, Gelber 20
    Dems vs. Bense
    Bense 22, Klein 27
    Bense 28, Meek 21
    Bense 24, Iorio 30
    Bense 27, Gelber 25
    Dems vs. Rubio
    Rubio 18, Klein 29
    Rubio 26, Meek 24
    Rubio 19, Iorio 32
    Rubio 17, Gelber 22

    So, the seat is Crist’s if he wants it, but wide open if he doesn’t.  Connie Mack is clearly the strongest non-Crist Republican.  Based on these numbers, I’d be surprised if Buchanan gave up his House seat for a primary bid against either Crist or Mack, though I’d be happy to see him sacrifice his House seat in a futile effort.  On the Democratic side, Klein starts off significantly stronger against all non-Crist Republicans than Meek does (though Klein has yet to decide if he’ll run) – but the real story is Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio polling the strongest of any Democrat against the possible Republican candidates.  Given how strong Crist polls, I’d imagine that all unannounced potential contenders will wait for Crist to make up his mind in May, once the state legislative session concludes.  If Crist runs, expect a lot of deferrals to Crist; if Crist defers, expect a flurry of activity.

  • Pennsylvania: A new Quinnipiac poll finds some wacky numbers on Arlen Specter:

    Pennsylvania voters approve 56 – 30 percent of the job Sen. Arlen Specter is doing, with Democratic approval at 62 – 26 percent, higher than the Republican support of 55 – 33 percent and 49 – 35 percent backing from independent voters.But by a narrow 43 – 40 percent margin, voters say Sen. Specter does not deserve to be reelected. Republicans split 42 – 42 percent, as do Democrats 41 – 42 percent, while independent voters say no 45 – 36 percent.

    Specter garners less approval among Republicans than he does among Democrats, with Republicans split on whether he even deserves re-election and a solid plurality of independents saying he doesn’t deserve re-election.  That doesn’t bode well for Specter in a primary or a general, if he even makes it to the general.  Speaking of a primary, Republican businessman Glen Meakem reiterated his desire for a primary to Specter while anti-abortion rights activist Peg Luksik, who garnered about 13% of the vote as a third Party gubernatorial candidate in 1994, confirmed that she is thinking about a 2010 Senate run.  The big question of whether or not Pat Toomey would challenge Specter in a primary, though, remains a question.

  • North Carolina: State Attorney General Roy Cooper confirms that he is taking a look at a possible 2010 Senate bid and says that he will make a decision “very soon.”  Attorney General Cooper earned more votes in his 2008 re-election bid than any other candidate for office in North Carolina in 2008.
  • Missouri: Congressman Lacy Clay gives conflicting sentiments on a possible 2010 Senate bid:

    But Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) said Tuesday that he’s still weighing his options and will conduct a poll on the race. He said the potential primary with Carnahan doesn’t faze him.”That won’t be a factor,” Clay said. “She won’t be factor on whether I do it.”

    Umm, if other candidates aren’t a factor, why conduct the poll?  My guess is that Clay is enjoying the attention, but definitely won’t sacrifice his House seat for an uphill primary challenge against the popular Robin Carnahan, who already enjoys statewide recognition.

  • Arizona: In case there was any doubt, John McCain is definitely running for re-election to the Senate in 2010.
  • Minnesota: More follies by the Norm Coleman legal team: first, the double-counting myth is undermined by the testimony of an election official; second, a Coleman lawyer baselessly concocts a ridiculous ballot-stuffing theory, obviously just to create doubt about the legitimacy of the election.  I wonder, in their heart of hearts, if the three-judge panel thinks that the Coleman crew has any credibility left.  Elsewhere, Campaign Diaries’ Taniel breaks down the nineteen criteria by which the three-judge panel will have reviewed those rejected ballots that the campaigns want re-reviewed.  By the way, it turns out that nineteen is a lot of criteria.  Enjoy.  Meanwhile, Norm Coleman again proves himself a fool as he misquotes Skip Humphrey and misattributes the quotation in question to Hubert Humphrey.  Well done, Normie.
  • Classy Republicans:

    GOP strategists acknowledge just keeping Democrat Al Franken out of Republican Norm Coleman’s Senate seat could have legislative benefits. …”It’s better for us to have one less member,” said a top GOP leadership aide, though the aide acknowledged of Franken: “He’s got a very good shot at winning.”

    An unnamed “top GOP leadership aide” thinks that “it’s better” for Minnesotans to be underrepresented and underserved.  Stay classy, anonymous Republicans.

  • Susan Collins, ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs commitee – a key oversight committee – successfully fought to strip the economic stimulus bill of a key oversight provision that would have protected taxpayer dollars.  This one is your fault, Maine voters.

Early Wednesday Morning Briefs

by: Senate Guru

Wed Feb 11, 2009 at 02:45 AM EST

  • NRSC Chair John Cornyn is restructuring how Republican Senators will be used for Committee fundraising:

    Instead of requiring that every senator fork over hundreds of thousands from their personal campaign accounts to the national Senate campaign coffers, Cornyn now wants each senator to attend three fund raisers – yes, they have to show up – and then the NRSC will chase after the attendees for that cash.

    On several occasions (be it winter ’08, spring ’08, summer ’08, or autumn ’08), the previous NRSC Chair, John Ensign of Nevada, publicly griped about GOP Senators’ unwillingness to part with their campaign cash in order to support Committee fundraising.  As such, Cornyn probably figures that their presence at fundraisers is better than nothing.  I wonder – is “Party with Orrin Hatch” really an effective fundraising gimmick?  Who knows.

  • Speaking of Senators transferring funds from their campaign accounts to their Party Committees, here are some interesting numbers:

    By the end of the 2008 cycle, the DSCC benefited from almost $16 million in transfers from Senators’ re-election accounts and another $1.3 million from leadership political action committees. The NRSC was able to garner only about $3 million in transfers from campaign accounts and about $1 million from leadership PACs.

    Seriously, why on earth would a Republican donor contribute to the NRSC when Republican Senators themselves are unwilling to help their own cause?

  • Missouri: Republican former Sen. Jim Talent has declared that he won’t run for Senate in 2010.  We may still see a divisive Republican primary between former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman and Rep. Roy Blunt.
  • Illinois: Illinois voters appear very open to someone other than Roland Burris running for Senate in 2010:

    Overall, only 34 percent of Illinois voters had a favorable impression of Burris, compared with 18 percent who viewed him unfavorably. A total of 43 percent of voters said they had no opinion of the new senator.When asked if Burris should run for election in 2010, only 37 percent said they wanted him to seek the office while 33 percent said he should not.

    Even more problematic for Burris is that only 43% of Democrats think he should run in 2010, suggesting that Burris would have significant trouble in a primary.  Speaking of the 2010 Democratic Senate primary, we should know relatively soon whether or not state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias will run for Senate in 2010:

    Giannoulias, the son of Greek immigrants, will also accompany [Illinois senior Senator Richard] Durbin on an economic development trip to Greece later this week.Shortly thereafter, Giannoulias is likely to make his intentions known, according to [Giannoulias adviser Eric] Adelstein.

    The Hill reminds us that, for his 2006 Treasurer race, “Giannoulias put nearly $3 million of his own money into the race, and he could do the same for a Senate campaign.”  Treasurer Giannoulias says that he is “probably” leaning toward a Senate run.

  • Minnesota: Despite Senator-elect Al Franken spending time in Washington D.C. receiving tutorials on policy and economic procedures, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid reiterated that he does not plan on attempting to seat Senator-elect Franken before the conclusion of Republican Norm Coleman’s frivolous lawsuit.  Senator Reid noted that he expects the trial to conclude within the next two weeks, which strikes me as extremely optimistic.  I don’t know if this will expedite or lengthen the proceedings, but the three-judge panel has devised a nineteen-criteria system for reviewing still-rejected ballots that the campaigns want reviewed again.  We’ll see how this goes.
  • Pennsylvania: More chatter about possible primary opponents for Arlen Specter.  In addition to Club for Growth chief Pat Toomey and businessman Glen Meakem, other names that are raised are anti-abortion activist Margaret “Peg” Luksik, who took about 13% in her run for Governor in 1994 under the Constitutional Party banner, State Senator Jane Orie, and State Representative Mike Turzai.
  • Texas: Former state Comptroller John Sharp snags a significant endorsement from Texas’ Hispanic community, the Association of Hispanic County Judges and Commissioners.

Tuesday Tidbits

by: Senate Guru

Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 18:45 PM EST

  • Connecticut: A new Quinnipiac poll shows far-less-than-stellar numbers for Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd:

    Connecticut voters split 41 – 42 percent on whether they think Sen. Christopher Dodd is honest and trustworthy and disapprove 48 – 41 percent of the job he is doing, his first negative approval rating in a poll by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University. …A total of 42 percent of voters say they “definitely” or “probably” will vote to reelect Sen. Dodd in 2010, while 51 percent say the “probably won’t” or “definitely won’t” vote for him.

    By a 54 – 24 percent margin, Connecticut voters say they are not satisfied with Sen. Dodd’s explanation of allegations that he received preferential mortgage treatment and 56 percent of voters say they are less likely to vote for him because of this controversy.

    This poll will turn a lot of heads, offering Republicans a pick-up opportunity in a cycle scarce with such opportunities for the GOP.  One head that the poll is turning is that of Republican former Rep. Rob Simmons, who is considering a 2010 Senate challenge to Senator Dodd.  Simmons, who turns 66-years-old tomorrow, was defeated by now-Congressman Joe Courtney in an extremely close 2006 race decided by less than 100 votes out of more than 240,000 cast.  I’d imagine that Simmons would have to run a flawless campaign to have even a chance at success against Senator Dodd.  However, given that Republican Gov. Jodi Rell enjoys 70% favorability and 75% approval, her appearing across the state with Simmons would give him the best possible wingman in Connecticut.

    Jumping back to the Q-poll, there is some good news, as it indicates that non-Democrat Joe Lieberman is incredibly vulnerable, particularly to a challenge by state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal:

    By a narrow 48 – 45 percent margin, voters disapprove of the job Sen. Joseph Lieberman is doing and give him a negative 43 – 49 percent favorability. …By contrast, State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal gets a 79 – 12 percent approval rating and 71 – 13 percent favorability rating. …

    If Sen. Lieberman faces Blumenthal in 2012, the Democratic challenger has an early 58 – 30 percent lead. Republicans go with Lieberman 67 – 23 percent while Blumenthal leads 83 – 9 percent among Democrats and 55 – 29 percent among independent voters.

    While Lieberman has several years (a political eternity) to rehabilitate his image (or decide to retire), if the status quo holds, Lieberman is likely serving his last term as a U.S. Senator.

  • Pennsylvania: A Republican organization, the National Republican Trust PAC, is threatening to give financial support to primary challengers of Republican Senators who voted for President Obama’s economic stimulus bill.  Of course, three GOP Senators voted for the bill: Susan Collins, who was just re-elected last year and isn’t up for re-election again until 2014; Olympia Snowe, who isn’t up for re-election until 2012; and Arlen Specter, who is up for re-election next year.  I wonder if the National Republican Trust PAC’s leaders are in touch with Club for Growth head and former Congressman Pat Toomey.  Further, the conservative Club for Growth’s communications director called Specter’s vote in favor of the economic stimulus bill “the ultimate act of treason” and Pat Toomey himself labeled it “capitulation.”  Yikes.  But Specter isn’t only aggrivating the conservative higher-ups; the PA-GOP grassroots are angry too:

    Joe Hilliard, an Allentown Republican committeeman, is among those Specter angered by agreeing to vote for the pared-down stimulus. Hilliard, who was part of a small protest outside Specter’s Allentown office over the weekend, said he thinks Specter’s decision will push the party toward its fiscally conservative roots.”Guaranteed [Specter] will have a primary challenger,” Hilliard said.

    I wonder if Mr. Hilliard and the countless Pennsylvania Republicans like him would prefer to back Pat Toomey for Senate over Specter. (HT: Keystone Politics)  Even if Toomey does ultimately decline, Specter could still face a primary challenge in the person of businessman, Gulf War veteran, and radio personality Glen Meakem.  You can read more about Meakem in profiles by Business Week and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, or you can check out his radio program website.

  • Minnesota: Republican Norm Coleman is happy about Senator-elect Al Franken gaining votes in Coleman’s frivolous lawsuit against Senator-elect Franken’s victory.  Why?

    Additional absentee ballots will be counted in Minnesota’s Senate contest – a development that should add to Democrat Al Franken’s margin of victory for now but is giving Republican Norm Coleman hope.A three-judge panel ruled Tuesday that 24 wrongly rejected absentee ballots cast by Franken supporters should be added to the total. Franken’s lawyers filed suit to include the absentees, and the case was folded into Coleman’s challenge to the result of the state’s recount.

    Though Franken’s 225-vote lead will grow, Coleman’s campaign says the decision lays the groundwork for counting many of the 4,800 absentee ballots that remain up in the air.

    Of course, the roughly 4,800 properly rejected ballots that Coleman wants reviewed are cherry picked, largely coming from Coleman areas.  The 24 ballots accepted were part of a group of 61 ballots reviewed – the other 37 were deemed to lack sufficient evidence to overturn their rejection.  In other MN-Sen news, former Senator Mark Dayton agreed that, in order to provide Minnesotans with two U.S. Senators, Senator-elect Al Franken should be provisionally seated while the election contest drags on.  Meanwhile, Senator-elect Franken is in Washington D.C. this week for further tutoring on Senate procedure and policy analysis.  Finally, Senator-elect Franken has a column in today’s Star Tribune discussing how the economic stimulus bill provides great opportunity for Minnesota.

  • Texas: Could GOP Lt. Gov. Rick Perry’s shots at Kay Bailey Hutchison for not doing her job expedite a possible resignation from the Senate so that KBH can focus on her gubernatorial bid without criticism of ignoring Senate duties?  Time will tell.
  • Florida: Despite recently saying that he “hasn’t closed” off the possibility of a 2010 Senate bid, MSNBC morning host and GOP former Rep. Joe Scarborough had a pretty conclusive answer when guest Robert Gibbs, the White House Press Secretary, asked Scarborough about the probability of a campaign:

    “Yeah right, Robert. Absolutely not.”Scarborough then dismissed a run by poking fun at Congressman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) who said the House GOP may need to employ a Taliban-like insurgency to regain power.

    “Here’s my problem, Robert,” Scarborough said. “I don’t really think it would be good to run in 2010 with a party that is actively associating itself with the Taliban.”

    That last line gives every Democrat a ready-made ad against any 2010 Republican opponent.

  • Colorado: Chatter abounds of a potential primary challenge to Senator Michael Bennet.  Discussion focuses on former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff.
  • Kansas:  Here’s another reason to love Governor Kathleen Sebelius and to hope she runs for Senate in 2010.
  • I wonder if Keanu Reeves will play Congressman Paul Kanjorski in the movie.
  • President Obama is only three grade levels above George W. Bush in the articulation of his answers?  I would have thought more. (HT: Political Carnival)
  • This was a notable moment in political media history.

Senate Guru’s Pet Peeve of the Day

by: Senate Guru

Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 17:40 PM EST

Dear Media (especially the wonderful folks on cable news),When you blithely mention that “it takes 60 votes in the Senate to get anything done,” please take an additional moment to mention whyit takes 60 votes in the Senate to get anything done.  It’s relevant – just go with me on that.Thanks very much!

Truant John Cornyn

by: Senate Guru

Mon Feb 09, 2009 at 22:48 PM EST

The Senate had a major procedural vote on President Obama’s economic stimulus bill late this afternoon.  A bipartisan supermajority overcame a Republican filibuster by a vote of 61-36.  What may have been most interesting in the vote, however, was this:

Not Voting – 2
Cornyn (R-TX)        Gregg (R-NH)

We know that Judd Gregg abstained from voting as he awaits confirmation as Commerce Secretary.  But where was John Cornyn?  Why would Cornyn skip out on arguably the most critical vote of the year thus far?  For the prospect of cold, hard cash:

Glenn Thrush says the question from the Senate floor this evening was “where was Cornyn,” as the Texas Republican was the only senator to miss the crucial cloture vote on the stimulus package.The answer: He was at a New York gathering of prominent media conservatives and Wall Street Republican donors called the Monday Meeting, held at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Midtown Manhattan.

Though not a fundraiser, the meeting is a hub of conservative money and buzz, a good place for Cornyn to tap into resources in his role as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

John Cornyn blew off the most important vote of the year to rub elbows with rich New Yorkers who might cut him a check.  Those are the priorities of NRSC Chair John Cornyn.  So when the NRSC baselessly attacks Democrats for anything they do, any positions they take, any public comments they make, note that NRSC Chair Cornyn doesn’t even have the professional courtesy to show up to vote for something as hugely critical as the economic stimulus.

Monday Items

by: Senate Guru

Mon Feb 09, 2009 at 19:41 PM EST

  • Ohio: After recently saying that he would make a decision on a 2010 Senate bid in the next 45 days, Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher has filed the paperwork to create a Senate campaign exploratory committee.  A formal decision is still forthcoming, but this is a very big step.
  • New York: In her adjustment to representing a broader, statewide constituency, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand declares that she will be a leader on cracking down on illegal gun trafficking.  Meanwhile, Republican Congresscritter Peter King may be getting cold feet about a 2010 Senate bid of his own.  At the very least, King now has less gusto about a 2010 Senate campaign than actress/activist Fran Drescher does.
  • Florida: After saying last month that he was not interested in a 2010 Senate campaign, MSNBC morning host and Republican former Rep. Joe Scarborough now says that he hasn’t closed off the possibility of a bid.  Now that Scarborough has indicated possible interest, I wonder if we’ll hear the same outcry to pull him from the airwaves until he makes a final deicison that we heard when Chris Matthews was considering a run in Pennsylvania.  Perhaps to pre-empt such an outcry, an MSNBC spokesman says that Scarborough really isn’t considering it, despite Scarborough’s own comments.
  • Pennsylvania: Joe Torsella, current chairman of the State Board of Education and former president of the National Constitution Center, will run for the Democratic nomination for Senate in 2010.  SSP’s Crisitunity offers some thoughts:

    Torsella’s interest in the Senate seat has always struck me as being a little above his pay grade (his only run for office was the primary for the open seat in PA-13 in 2004, which he lost to [Congresswoman Allyson] Schwartz; he was also reportedly wooed for the PA-06 candidacy in 2008).

    While Congressman Patrick Murphy has publicly indicated that he is considering a run, Congresswoman Schwartz has not made any such public comments to date.  No doubt is likely considering it, but, until she publicly declares interest, we’re all dealing with supposition.  As such, I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if Torsella’s plan is to run for Senate in case Schwartz doesn’t run and to downgrade to a House run for Schwartz’s seat if Schwartz announces for Senate.  In other news, Republican Arlen Specter got into an on-air scuffle with conservative talk radio yakker Laura Ingraham over the stimulus bill.  Conservatives are unhappy with Specter, and the National Review is pushing hard for a Pat Toomey primary challenge.

  • Minnesota: Says Republican Norm Coleman:

    God wants me to serve.

    Says Daily Kos’ DHinMI:

    If God wants him to serve, why didn’t God give him more votes?

    Someone want to ask Normie why God shortchanged him?  Meanwhile, it seems clear to me that Coleman wants to prolong the process as long as possible, depriving Minnesotans of equal representation in the U.S. Senate for as long as possible.

  • New Hampshire: 70-year-old retired State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Nadeau is reportedly considering a run for Senate in 2010.  One hint that it may be serious consideration:

    He’s also taken a preliminary move toward running: The website was registered over the weekend to “Nadeau for Senate.”

    Nevertheless, I don’t see a septuagenarian first-time legislative candidate, even one as professionally accomplished as Nadeau, beating Congressman Paul Hodes in a Democratic primary.

  • Illinois: Could a 2010 Senate run by state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias be gaining in probability?  Illinois’ senior Senator, Dick Durbin, did say that Giannoulias would be a “formidable candidate” if he ran after meeting with Giannoulias in Washington D.C. last week.  Further, Giannoulias “met with potential campaign staff and fundraisers.”  Sounds serious.
  • Texas: Dr. Alma Aguado, a San Antonio physician making her first bid for public office, is joining the Democratic primary in the 2010 Senate race.  Some of the issues she wants to focus on are “rising teenage pregnancy, health care for the elderly and the high rate of high school dropouts.”
  • Louisiana: The Draft Stormy effort to enlist adult film star Stormy Daniels to challenge prostitute-lovin’ David Vitter in the 2010 Senate race continues to gain steam, and she is seriously considering a bid, and may reportedly engage in a listening tour around Lousiana.  Check the videos out for yourself, including a CNN interview with Daniels, at right:

Weekend Round-Up

by: Senate Guru

Mon Feb 09, 2009 at 04:20 AM EST

  • Republican Senators think $1.3 trillion is just right, but $900 billion is too much.  No wonder these mathematically-impaired dolts couldn’t manage our federal budget.
  • WaPo’s Cillizza comes up with an interesting top ten list, “the 10 best primary matchups.”  Included are: 2) IL-Sen (D); 5) KS-Sen (R); 7) FL-Sen (D); 8) KY-Sen (D); 9) FL-Sen (R); and 10) NH-Sen (D).  So-so inclusions.  How could he leave off the brimming Republican primary in MO-Sen?  And, if he’s talking potential primaries like NH-Sen (D) (considering that it’s less than likely that Carol Shea-Porter would run in a primary against Paul Hodes), how could he put NH-Sen (D) on the list but not PA-Sen (R) or LA-Sen (R)?
  • Nate Silver posted 538′s February 2009 Senate rankings.  Not surprisingly, New Hampshire jumped to the top of the likely-to-switch-Parties list, with Missouri, Ohio, and Kentucky right behind, in that order.  Nevada and Colorado remain the only Democratic seats in the top 10.
  • Missouri: Former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman is reportedly “very, very likely” to run for Senate in 2010, all but ensuring a top-notch Republican primary with, at least, GOP Rep. Roy Blunt, if not others.  Don’t count any chickens before they hatch, but this would be a positive development, particularly given how ardently the NRSC wants all Republicans to line up behind Blunt.
  • Ohio: Democratic Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher says his decision on a 2010 Senate bid will come in the next 45 days.  From what I’ve been reading, the OH-Sen Magic 8-Ball says “all signs point to yes.”
  • Kansas: Can we please stop the Kathleen Sebelius to HHS chatter?!  We need her to run for Senate!  President Obama’s Cabinet can’t have both Sebelius and Janet Napolitano!  It’s just too much!
  • Minnesota: Republican Norm Coleman’s newest legal strategy is trying to get ballots counted that he himself originally moved to have rejected only weeks earlier.  Separately, TPM’s Kleefeld gives us the most succinct nutshelling of MN-Sen since New Year’s Day:

    This election gives you an idea of what it would be like if lawyers conducted autopsies, instead of doctors.


  • Connecticut: Recently-ousted Republican Chris Shays says that he is not running for Senate in 2010 against Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd.
  • Texas: More impressive fundraising news from Houston Mayor Bill White: he has reportedly now raised $1.4 million for his Senate campaign.  It was already released in end-of-2008 reporting that he had raised $640,000 and contributed $121,000 to his campaign coffers, which means that he has brought in more than another $640,000 since January 1.  More than $100,000 per week in 2009 is quite the pace.  To put it in perspective:

    Houston lawyer Barbara Radnofsky, the Democrats’ 2006 Senate nominee, raised close to $1.5 million her entire campaign, while Rick Noriega, the Democratic candidate who challenged Sen. John Cornyn last year, raised $4.2 million.

    We’re not even sure when this election will take place, but Mayor White has raised in less than two months roughly one-third of what Noriega raised for his entire campaign.  As for when this election might take place, here’s the latest commentary from Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison on the timing and likelihood of a possible Senate resignation to focus on her gubernatorial campaign:

    Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, is unlikely to leave the Senate this spring after coming under tremendous pressure from Senate Republican leaders not to resign to pursue a bid for governor – and give Democrats an opening for a powerful 60-vote majority.”If I step down, it would be in late 2009, if at all,” Hutchison said, as relayed by Todd Olsen, spokesman for her gubernatorial exploratory committee.

    While Republicans await KBH’s move with bated breath, Democrats like Mayor White keep on building the bankroll.

  • Pennsylvania: Can Arlen Specter’s support for President Obama’s economic stimulus bill rejuvenate the prospect of a 2010 Republican Senate primary challenge from Club for Growth chief and former Congressman Pat Toomey?  I hope so.
  • New York: The Albany Project compiles some of Republican Peter King’s greatest hits.  For instance, King actually said things like “We have too many mosques in this country,” and “the President [George W. Bush] never linked Saddam Hussein to 9/11.”  Peter King for Senate?  Yeah, right.
  • Illinois: Any fundraising that Senator Roland Burris does might simply be to recoup Burris’ out-of-pocket spending and is not necessarily for a 2010 Senate bid.  We’ll see.
  • The new guy in charge of the whole Republican Party, Michael Steele, may have a bit of a corruption problem, allegedly funneling campaign funds to his sister.  Remember, this isn’t crazy cousin Blagojevich; this is the guy running the whole GOP.

Friday Afternoon Quick Hits

by: Senate Guru

Fri Feb 06, 2009 at 15:26 PM EST

  • Kansas: New Research 2000 polling numbers illustrate why we need popular Governor Kathleen Sebelius to run for Senate in 2010.  She beats both Republican Congresscritters in the race by double digits: ahead of Todd Tiahrt by a 47-37 margin, and ahead of Jerry Moran by a 48-36 margin.  GOP primary polling shows Tiahrt with a small lead, but with a majority of Republican respondents undecided.  I hope the DSCC has Governor Sebelius on speed-dial because she would be the single most prized Senate recruit in the nation.
  • Pennsylvania: The wingnuts at National Review have a juicy tidbit for us that, if Arlen Specter votes in favor of President Obama’s economic stimulus bill, it may renew Club for Growth head and former Congressman Pat Toomey’s focus on a 2010 Senate primary challenge to Specter.  Of course, Specter only narrowly edged Toomey in their 2004 primary match-up, and Toomey would be in much better shape to defeat Specter this time around.
  • Oregon: Senator Ron Wyden is “open to being considered” for Secretary of Health & Human Services.  Oregon fills Senate vacancies with special elections, and Blue Oregon has come up with a tier system of possible candidates should Senator Wyden get the call.  Tier One consists of Governor Ted Kulongoski, Congressmen Earl Blumenauer and Peter DeFazio, and former Congresswoman Darlene Hooley.
  • Ohio: Republican former Sen. Mike DeWine says that he’s going to run for something statewide in 2010, but he hasn’t decided on what.  I think he’s much more likely to run for state Attorney General or maybe Governor than he is to run for Senate.  We’ll see.
  • Florida: Republican St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker is the latest Florida pol to make noise about a 2010 Senate bid.
  • Minnesota: We’re gonna need a bigger boat.
  • Former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich calls out Senate Republicans for putting politics (waaaay) above getting our economy working again.

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