June 13, 2005

Oh-Six and Oh-eight Updates

Some very interesting developments are occuring in the 06/08 electoral cycles.

First prediction: 06 is going to be a bad year for incumbents in Congress. Public opinion numbers on both parties stink, and the ongoing partisan food-fightery---while a necessary and proper part of the political cycle---I think is going to splat back on both parties ("splat" being a technical political science term for what you laypersons would call "kablooie"). Here's why: whatever discontents the public is going to have about the state of the union, both international and domestic, are going to sit square and fat on the desk of the Republicans. By this point, it's six years since Bubba left town, and twelve years of control of the House. Whatever are the problems we are facing, they are for better or worse ones that the Republicans now own. Year six is also when the wheels generally come off the bus for two term presidents over the past sixty years (Impeachment, Iran/Contra, Watergate, heart attack malaise, and the fallout of the court-packing debacle to name the highlights for Bubba, Reagan, Nixon, Ike, and FDR, and you can throw in Vietnam for LBJ if you want to think of it as the second term of the JFK administration). Discipline begins to break down as the A-Team has gone off to quieter and more lucrative pastures, the JV has been promoted to varsity, and the bench is running pretty thin. Don Regan, anyone? Will Dubya fall into this trap? I'm not sure, as he's defied most of these conventional patterns in the past (think of the 02 midterm victories). The greatest uncertainty will be whether the public grows weary of the long slog of the War. This is the great question mark that we'll try to follow closely in the months to come.

So does this spell great opportunities for the Democrats? Yes, if they were actually serious about winning. But they aren't, or why else would they have selected Howard Dean to be party chairman? The key thing is no matter how unpopular the president may or may not be in seventeen months, it won't really translate into victories in the midterm elections if the Democrats aren't able to recruit, train, and fund good candidates right now. In fact, right now is bordering really on the too late. To win back the Senate, they Democrats have to take six seats from the Republicans while holding all their seats.

Here's a list of the "Class I Senators" (ie the senatorial seats up for election in 06). Eighteen Democrats seats are up, while only fifteen Republican seats have to be defended.

At this point, I would say that there isn't a single senator who is up for reelection in this cycle who has not gone beyond the usual political paranoia and looked to what happened to Tom Daschele and said, "that could be me." Republicans, Democrats both. Why? This is the class of senators elected in 2000----they are the only federal elected officials who haven't had to account to the voters of everything that has happened over the past five years. The House has already faced the voters twice since 9/11, and the president and the rest of the Senate as well. These thirty-three haven't, and that's going to be an important retrospective issue in each of these races.

Let's break them down by party:


SAFE SEATS: Allen, Burns, Ensign, Frist, Hatch, Hutchinson, Kyl, Lott, Lugar, Snowe, Talent, Thomas

FEELING THE HEAT: Santorum, Chafee, DeWine


The Republican seat in Rhode Island is really nothing but a creative anachronism anyway. Santorum is a good campaigner who has produced for Pennsylvania, and he's sitting on $1.9M, although he spent over $9M in 2000. (He's holding 14% of the total he needed in 2000, which is pretty good seventeen months out). Still, the Republicans are going to have to put a lot of money into this race to hold Pennsylvania. Chafee is sitting on only $600K, which, on a percentage basis of the total spending in the last race, isn't bad at all (27% of what the 2000 race cost): Rhode Island races have to buy time on the Providence as well as Boston television stations. Yet, I'd be willing to bet this is the seat the Republicans can afford to lose, and the Democrats---if they are acting rationally---will put all their efforts into picking up.

Even if the Democrats were able to pick up all three of the marginal Republican seats---two (Pennsylvania and Rhode Island) that trend blue at the presidential level, and Ohio, were state Democrats are still sore as hell over last fall's loss---that means picking up at least three (to cover the seat they will lose) from the group of veteran Republican senators listed above.

Not. Gonna. Happen.

SAFE: This is where you would start the traditional listing of the safest of all Democratic seats, West Virginia. But as the polls last week out of Morgantown showed, Big Byrd is in trouble. So who are the safe Democrats? I'd say:
Akaka, Bingaman, Carper, Clinton, Conrad, Feinstein, Kohl, Lieberman, Stabenow.

FEELING THE HEAT: Byrd, Cantwell, Nelson (FLA), Nelson (NEB)
OPEN SEATS: Corzine, Dayton, Jeffords, Sarbanes

SEATS THEY WILL LOSE: Byrd, Cantwell, Dayton

Maria Cantwell is toast. She's sitting on only 3.75% of the cash she spent in 2000, when she spent over eleven million---a large part being of her own now non-existent personal future. She barely won the race over Slade Gorton by a few thousand contested votes, and the shennanigans in Washington's governor's race guarantees a how do you say, ah yes "highly motivated" state Republican party. Dayton's seat in Minnesota is going to go Republican given the political trends in that state. What we can hope for is the prospect of Al Franken running for the seat as a Democrat: as they say on Fark, hillarity ensues. (Almost as much fun as if Ah-nuld we're to run for Feinstein's seat). Corzine's seat will become open if he becomes governor, but the Democrats will hold it. Byrd is going to lose, for reasons we'll develop.

So the Senate is going to be pretty tough, if not impossible, for the Democrats to take. Their best case scenario (that doesn't involve tin foil accoutrements) calls for a wash---they win three and lose three. The House? The problem with the House is the sheer number of seats that are redistricted to be absolutely safe. This in my opinion is the greatest problem in American politics and the source of almost all of our internal political tensions. Still, this is where the recruitment factor can help Democrats---it takes less time to recruit and run good candidates in House elections than Senate ones. So the clock hasn't run out for the 06 bench.

SECOND PREDICTION: To measure how serious the Democrats are about 08, follow the fortunes of Virginia Governor Mark Warner. Warner is their most serious threat to win the White House. This article from the LA Times is priceless for the quote: "That's why America hates Democrats." If the Democrats (continue to) puruse the mantra "why the rest of the world hates America, and why they are right" they are going to continue to be pummelled in federal elections. Not in landslides, but enough of the beatings like last fall that will place them firmly in minority party status. But if they get serious about discovering why they are unpopular in large parts of the country, think and reflect, and act accordingly, 06 and 08 are going to become much closer elections. If the answer is "well because the rest of the country is stupid" they are going to lose. Again. And again.....But, if they think hard about how they lost the center, it's going to be close. And to be perfectly honest, I think that's in the long-term interests of both the country and the Republican party. Close elections keep the parties honest.

THIRD PREDICTION: The "Mother of Presidents" will be busy for the next three years, as Virginia Senator George Allen is beginning to gear up for a serious run at the White House. Big George won a large stack of chips at the big table running the Republican National Senatorial Committee in the 04 cycle. Why else would he be sponsoring along with Mary Landrieu a resolution apologizing for the Senate's consistent record in blocking anti-lynching laws? Why else would GeorgeAllen08.org already be under construction? I mean, other than from ambitious cyber-squatters, of course.

Still, Tradesports' political futures markets has Warner running second to Hillary, and Allen in the lead in the markets for their parties' nominations.

UPDATE: Let me clarify a bit---Allen aint my favorite, by a long stretch. It's just an interesting phenomena.

Posted by Steve at June 13, 2005 01:09 PM

You forget Nanny. McCain will run very, very tough in Iowa and NH, and he will not face an opponent with Bush's financial rolodex unless that candidate is named Dick Cheney or Jeb Bush. McCain also won Michigan last time vs. GWB, so he can survive losing S. Carolina to Allen. The difference this time, is will Allen have any money left after Michigan?

McCain will peel off a very big segment of the 9/11 Republicans crowd, because he has some defense credibility as well.

I also think he can beat Hillary. George Allen? I don't think so. I like the guy, but I think Hillary can look and sound tougher than him.

I'm no fan of McCain, as my photoshops will prove. But if my choices are "unify behind McCain or put up a loser against Hillary" I think that I'll put up with Nanny's hectoring over Hillary's, no questions asked.

Fred Thompson's also a possibility.

Posted by: The Colossus at June 13, 2005 02:03 PM

I also think Byrd will hold on. Him losing in WV would be like Kennedy losing MA. Meaning while it would be a happy, happy day, I don't think that it's going to happen.

Kennedy was running 6 points behind Romney at one point in '94, when the memories of William Kennedy Smith were still pretty fresh. Then he started calling in favors. Ended up winning something like 59-41, which was a tremendous moral victory for Romney.

I think I'd trade on Tradesports on the Byrd race until about 120 days out. Then watch the market collapse as he coasts to reelection.

Hope I'm wrong, but I don't think so.

Posted by: The Colossus at June 13, 2005 02:16 PM

Conrad hasn’t had a big name challenger in as long as I can remember, and he is still unable to get over 60% in elections. On the other hand, there has been talk of ND Governor Hoeven running against Conrad. Hoeven is very well liked, so it might be possible for him to “Daschel” Conrad.

Conrad’s last win; 58%
Hoeven’s last win; 71%

Posted by: mknudson at June 13, 2005 03:02 PM

Why is DeWine feeling heat? You didn't explain it at all. The Dems have no statewide elected officers and barely 1/3 of the legislature. The only good Dem candidates, the black moderate Mayor of Columbus and pro-gun Congressman Strickland are running for governor. Other than Sherrod Brown who is running for reelection, none of the other congress people would be any threat. So, I don't see how the DeWine race will be anything other than a cake walk.

Posted by: Bob at June 13, 2005 05:09 PM

Bob---My sense of that was not as much a ground based threat but that he seemed (to me at least) to be acting skittish as of late, in a running scared mode. But, you are absolutely right about the disarray in the state democratic party. Still, I think this is going to be the equivalent of Florida in 02 and 04 for the national Democrats---and prudently or not they are going to put a lot of time and money into Ohio, even if it turns out to be Quioxtic at best.

My overall point--which got a bit lost in the larger point---is that 06 is going to be a bad year for incumbents more in that election margins are going to be a lot closer than comfortable, yet because of the vagaries of the candidate recruitment process, they're still going to do pretty well as a group.

Posted by: Steve the LLamabutcher at June 13, 2005 05:31 PM

Chafee is such a disappointment to those of us who gambled on nepotism. Although I didn't agree with some of the late John Chafee's positions, those were at least well-thought out and well-articulated. Lincoln Chafee worked as a farrier and I sometimes wonder if a horse or two managed to kick him in the head.

Posted by: chuckR at June 13, 2005 06:56 PM

Lincoln Chaffee, IMHO, appeals to the NPR crowd...

Posted by: KMR at June 13, 2005 09:21 PM

I think that the Pennsylvania is Bob Casey Jr's race to win as things stand right now. On a statewide stage, he is going to do very well against Santorum, and right now, I don't see Santorum surviving.

There is also a possibility that Santorum's endorsement of Specter over Toomey in the primary in 2000 may come back to haunt him - staunch conservatives may stay home, or even vote for Casey, who is a Democrat lite who is pro-life and (I believe) pro-gun. Being pro-gun AND pro-union will get you far in my home state. Casey is at a huge advantage there.

Posted by: B. Minich, PI at June 14, 2005 02:58 PM

Gosh, I wish you were wrong about Snowe's seat being safe... I would love to support a primary challenge from the right. Twon't happen, though. She'll stay in, and continue to be the disappointment she has always been.

Posted by: Fernando Gouvea at June 14, 2005 08:40 PM

Fernando - ditto on Snowe she's useless as teats on a bull.

Posted by: Flyfish at June 15, 2005 07:50 AM

You forgot to not that Frist's seat in TN is open in '06. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. is the frontrunner in the Dem primary. On the Republican side, former Rep. Ed Bryant is leading in the most recent polling. Also running is former Rep./'02 gubernatorial candidate Van Hilleary, former Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker and state Rep. Beth Harwell.

The seat should be safe for Republicans. Hilleary is the only Republican to lose statewide in TN since before '94. However, Ford Jr. is a strong candidate and he just made an early statewide ad buy. His biggest downside is his uncle, state Sen. John Ford who was recently arrested on public corruption charges and resigned from office. The Ford family of Memphis is somewhat notorious statewide for being crooked.

Posted by: JB at June 16, 2005 02:53 PM
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