Commentary Magazine


Topic: incumbent senator

It’s Still Pouring Bad News for Democrats

The Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts will most likely unleash a new torrent of bad news. Nervous Democrats are getting out (Arkansas Rep. Marion Berry is retiring) or not getting into races. And Republicans are licking their chops.

In Delaware, Joe Biden’s son has bugged out of the Senate race. Hotline observes:

The decision is a blow to Dems who hoped to mount a competitive race for the First State seat. [State Attorney General Beau] Biden’s decision makes Rep. Mike Castle (R) the overwhelming favorite to win the final 4 years of the senior Biden’s term, replacing Sen. Ted Kaufman (D) after the Nov. elections. Without the younger Biden in the race, Dems will likely turn to New Castle Co. exec. Chris Coons (D). Polls show Castle beating Coons by a wide margin.

And in Indiana, a new Rasmussen poll shows that it would be worth Mike Pence’s while to jump into the race against Evan Bayh:

Indiana Senator Evan Bayh is another Democratic incumbent who could find himself in a tough reelection battle this fall. A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state finds that Bayh attracts support from just 44% or 45% of voters when matched against his top potential Republican challengers. . . At this time, [Pence]e attracts 47% of the vote while Bayh picks up 44%.

Even a much lesser known former Republican congressman, John Hostettler, is trailing the incumbent senator by only 3 points (44 percent to 41 percent). As Rasmussen notes: “Any incumbent who attracts less than 50% support at this point in a campaign is considered potentially vulnerable.”

This is the snowball effect of Brown’s victory, Obama’s decline in the polls, and the recognition that this will likely be a very bad year indeed for the Democrats. As the playing field of gettable seats expands for the Republicans, the problem will only worsen. The New York Times reports:

Just since Tuesday, half a dozen Republicans have expressed interest in challenging Democrats in House races in New York, Pennsylvania and potentially Massachusetts, party officials said. …

Tommy G. Thompson, the former Wisconsin governor, is considering challenging Senator Russ Feingold, a Democrat, aides said. Even in longer-shot states like New York, Republicans said they think the political climate gives them a chance to find a strong Senate candidate. … Stuart Rothenberg, a political analyst who follows Congressional races, said a report he will release Monday will count 58 Democratic House seats in play, up from 47 in December. The number of Republican seats in play has held at 14 in that period, he said. And Democrats expect more of their incumbents to retire, which could put additional seats at risk.

Political fortunes can change, the economy could pick up, and Obama might yet piece together some face-saving, modest set of health-care reforms. But without viable candidates to run in competitive races, Democrats will have put themselves at a disadvantage that is not easily repaired before the November elections. And one suspects that the retirements on the Democratic side are not at an end, nor have the recruiting efforts on the GOP side slowed. The end of the bad news for the Obama Democrats is not yet in sight.

The Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts will most likely unleash a new torrent of bad news. Nervous Democrats are getting out (Arkansas Rep. Marion Berry is retiring) or not getting into races. And Republicans are licking their chops.

In Delaware, Joe Biden’s son has bugged out of the Senate race. Hotline observes:

The decision is a blow to Dems who hoped to mount a competitive race for the First State seat. [State Attorney General Beau] Biden’s decision makes Rep. Mike Castle (R) the overwhelming favorite to win the final 4 years of the senior Biden’s term, replacing Sen. Ted Kaufman (D) after the Nov. elections. Without the younger Biden in the race, Dems will likely turn to New Castle Co. exec. Chris Coons (D). Polls show Castle beating Coons by a wide margin.

And in Indiana, a new Rasmussen poll shows that it would be worth Mike Pence’s while to jump into the race against Evan Bayh:

Indiana Senator Evan Bayh is another Democratic incumbent who could find himself in a tough reelection battle this fall. A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state finds that Bayh attracts support from just 44% or 45% of voters when matched against his top potential Republican challengers. . . At this time, [Pence]e attracts 47% of the vote while Bayh picks up 44%.

Even a much lesser known former Republican congressman, John Hostettler, is trailing the incumbent senator by only 3 points (44 percent to 41 percent). As Rasmussen notes: “Any incumbent who attracts less than 50% support at this point in a campaign is considered potentially vulnerable.”

This is the snowball effect of Brown’s victory, Obama’s decline in the polls, and the recognition that this will likely be a very bad year indeed for the Democrats. As the playing field of gettable seats expands for the Republicans, the problem will only worsen. The New York Times reports:

Just since Tuesday, half a dozen Republicans have expressed interest in challenging Democrats in House races in New York, Pennsylvania and potentially Massachusetts, party officials said. …

Tommy G. Thompson, the former Wisconsin governor, is considering challenging Senator Russ Feingold, a Democrat, aides said. Even in longer-shot states like New York, Republicans said they think the political climate gives them a chance to find a strong Senate candidate. … Stuart Rothenberg, a political analyst who follows Congressional races, said a report he will release Monday will count 58 Democratic House seats in play, up from 47 in December. The number of Republican seats in play has held at 14 in that period, he said. And Democrats expect more of their incumbents to retire, which could put additional seats at risk.

Political fortunes can change, the economy could pick up, and Obama might yet piece together some face-saving, modest set of health-care reforms. But without viable candidates to run in competitive races, Democrats will have put themselves at a disadvantage that is not easily repaired before the November elections. And one suspects that the retirements on the Democratic side are not at an end, nor have the recruiting efforts on the GOP side slowed. The end of the bad news for the Obama Democrats is not yet in sight.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Stuart Rothenberg moves the Nevada Senate race to “lean takeover.” (No wonder Republicans have stopped calling for Harry Reid to step down. Mitch McConnell doesn’t want Reid to go anywhere.) As for Massachusetts, he says: “We continue to believe that [Martha] Coakley will win, though her margin could be so narrow as to cause more jitters on the Democratic side.”

John Fund sure thinks Harry Reid is toast: “In the end, I don’t believe Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will run for re-election. Whether or not the health care bill he muscled through the Senate becomes law, the 70-year-old will bow out of his race for a fifth term. The major reason has nothing to do with his many verbal gaffes, the latest of which exploded over the weekend. The simple fact is that he probably can’t win re-election — almost no incumbent senator as far down in the polls has come back to win. Asked if Mr. Reid is finished, NBC Political Director Chuck Todd said yesterday, ‘I think so. I do — absolutely.’”

Scott Rasmussen has the race in Massachusetts down to a 2-point margin. Here’s the kicker (and another sign of momentum for Scott Brown): “All polling indicates that a lower turnout is better for the Republican. The new Rasmussen Reports poll shows that Brown is ahead by two percentage points among those who are absolutely certain they will vote. A week ago, he trailed by two among those certain to vote.”

David Gergen, who moderated the Massachusetts Senate debate, tips his hat to Scott Brown for his sharp retort: “Well, with all due respect, it’s not the Kennedys’ seat, and it’s not the Democrats’ seat, it’s the people’s seat.”

You can understand why they’re jittery: “It’s hard for some Democrats to believe that the candidate running to replace Ted Kennedy is being attacked over health care reform — in one of the bluest states in the union, no less. But Republican Scott Brown has got Democrats nervous — not just for his opponent Martha Coakley but about the fact that a loss in Massachusetts would be a body blow to Democratic reform efforts in Washington.”

They should be, considering the Democrat’s campaign, says James Taranto: “Coakley and her Washington insiders are running a campaign that can only be described as incredibly stupid.” Between the negativity, the insistence on carting around the independent candidate to debates, and misspelling the state’s name in an ad, it’s hard to quibble with that conclusion. Plus: “All the talk about enacting ObamaCare as some sort of twisted tribute to Ted Kennedy is beginning to seem a bit reminiscent of the freakish Paul Wellstone funeral service in 2002–a spectacle that cost the Democrats a Senate seat they weren’t supposed to lose.”

John McCormack is apparently the designated punching bag for failing candidates. First, Dede Scozzafava’s husband calls the cops on him, and now Coakley’s flunky shoves him into a railing. Charlie Crist’s people better be on the lookout!

Michael Gerson: “Obama’s rhetorical challenge runs deeper than the recession. In the most unexpected development of his presidency, what was once universally recognized as Obama’s greatest political strength — his oratory — now seems a serious weakness. … People want their president to be both the father and the mother of his country — a talent shared by politicians as diverse as Bill Clinton and George W. Bush (whose speeches I once helped write). Obama’s model, instead, is the coolness of Coolidge. It is old-fashioned. It may even be admirable. It is hard to call it effective. With every speech, a realization grows: A president lacking in drama may also be lacking in inspiration.”

On the way out, finally some honesty from Jon Corzine, who “acknowledged his inability to solve the state’s mounting fiscal problems.”

Stuart Rothenberg moves the Nevada Senate race to “lean takeover.” (No wonder Republicans have stopped calling for Harry Reid to step down. Mitch McConnell doesn’t want Reid to go anywhere.) As for Massachusetts, he says: “We continue to believe that [Martha] Coakley will win, though her margin could be so narrow as to cause more jitters on the Democratic side.”

John Fund sure thinks Harry Reid is toast: “In the end, I don’t believe Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will run for re-election. Whether or not the health care bill he muscled through the Senate becomes law, the 70-year-old will bow out of his race for a fifth term. The major reason has nothing to do with his many verbal gaffes, the latest of which exploded over the weekend. The simple fact is that he probably can’t win re-election — almost no incumbent senator as far down in the polls has come back to win. Asked if Mr. Reid is finished, NBC Political Director Chuck Todd said yesterday, ‘I think so. I do — absolutely.’”

Scott Rasmussen has the race in Massachusetts down to a 2-point margin. Here’s the kicker (and another sign of momentum for Scott Brown): “All polling indicates that a lower turnout is better for the Republican. The new Rasmussen Reports poll shows that Brown is ahead by two percentage points among those who are absolutely certain they will vote. A week ago, he trailed by two among those certain to vote.”

David Gergen, who moderated the Massachusetts Senate debate, tips his hat to Scott Brown for his sharp retort: “Well, with all due respect, it’s not the Kennedys’ seat, and it’s not the Democrats’ seat, it’s the people’s seat.”

You can understand why they’re jittery: “It’s hard for some Democrats to believe that the candidate running to replace Ted Kennedy is being attacked over health care reform — in one of the bluest states in the union, no less. But Republican Scott Brown has got Democrats nervous — not just for his opponent Martha Coakley but about the fact that a loss in Massachusetts would be a body blow to Democratic reform efforts in Washington.”

They should be, considering the Democrat’s campaign, says James Taranto: “Coakley and her Washington insiders are running a campaign that can only be described as incredibly stupid.” Between the negativity, the insistence on carting around the independent candidate to debates, and misspelling the state’s name in an ad, it’s hard to quibble with that conclusion. Plus: “All the talk about enacting ObamaCare as some sort of twisted tribute to Ted Kennedy is beginning to seem a bit reminiscent of the freakish Paul Wellstone funeral service in 2002–a spectacle that cost the Democrats a Senate seat they weren’t supposed to lose.”

John McCormack is apparently the designated punching bag for failing candidates. First, Dede Scozzafava’s husband calls the cops on him, and now Coakley’s flunky shoves him into a railing. Charlie Crist’s people better be on the lookout!

Michael Gerson: “Obama’s rhetorical challenge runs deeper than the recession. In the most unexpected development of his presidency, what was once universally recognized as Obama’s greatest political strength — his oratory — now seems a serious weakness. … People want their president to be both the father and the mother of his country — a talent shared by politicians as diverse as Bill Clinton and George W. Bush (whose speeches I once helped write). Obama’s model, instead, is the coolness of Coolidge. It is old-fashioned. It may even be admirable. It is hard to call it effective. With every speech, a realization grows: A president lacking in drama may also be lacking in inspiration.”

On the way out, finally some honesty from Jon Corzine, who “acknowledged his inability to solve the state’s mounting fiscal problems.”

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Cynical Specter Runs to the Left on Afghanistan

How cynical is Arlen Specter? I know. That is sort of like asking how deep the ocean is or how high the moon. But sometimes, following the twists and turns of the five-term turncoat senator’s position on the issues can take the breath away from even those most used to his shenanigans. Take Afghanistan. Once a supporter of both the war in Iraq and the one in Afghanistan, the newly minted Democrat from Pennsylvania no longer sees the fight against the Taliban “as central to our national security” as Tim Fernholz reports in his blog at the American Prospect.

Specter switched parties because he knew he didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of beating Pat Toomey, former congressman, in a Republican primary next year. But because he is now facing a significant challenge for his new party’s nomination from longtime Iraq war opponent Congressman Joe Sestak, Specter has decided to go the former Navy admiral one better and come out against the war in Afghanistan. Cynical liberals spent the 2006 and 2008 campaigns saying that they opposed the war in Iraq because it took troops and effort away from the “good” war in Afghanistan, but those same people want to bug out of the latter conflict now that Obama is safely elected and they don’t have to pretend to take the war against Islamist terror seriously. Specter’s willingness to change positions on a dime outstrips even that record. He not only backed Bush (who saved Specter’s hide by backing him in a tight primary race against Toomey in 2004) but also enthusiastically backed both wars. But that didn’t stop him in a conference call with reporters this week from blasting Sestak for the congressman’s support of the request for more troops to bolster the allied effort in Afghanistan.

So give Sestak points for sincerity because, apparently unlike our president, he was actually telling the truth when he said in previous election years that he wanted to divert resources from Iraq to Afghanistan. The only question here is whether Democratic primary voters in Pennsylvania will fall for Specter’s incredible anti-war makeover. The latest (Oct. 28) Franklin & Marshall poll of the Democratic primary shows the incumbent senator with a 30-18 percent lead over Sestak. Specter has a big lead in money raised (according to Philadelphia’s Jewish Exponent, Specter has $8.7 million in the bank while Sestak has $4.7 million and Toomey, just $1.8 million). But given the enormous imbalance in name recognition between the two, such numbers can hardly comfort Specter. Interestingly, the same survey shows a Toomey-Sestak matchup next November as a 28-20 Toomey advantage, while Specter leads Toomey in a general election rematch of the 2004 GOP primary by only 33-31.

No matter how you slice it, the mendacious Specter’s prospects look a bit shaky; as do the Democrats’ chances of holding onto this seat in an otherwise increasingly blue Pennsylvania.

How cynical is Arlen Specter? I know. That is sort of like asking how deep the ocean is or how high the moon. But sometimes, following the twists and turns of the five-term turncoat senator’s position on the issues can take the breath away from even those most used to his shenanigans. Take Afghanistan. Once a supporter of both the war in Iraq and the one in Afghanistan, the newly minted Democrat from Pennsylvania no longer sees the fight against the Taliban “as central to our national security” as Tim Fernholz reports in his blog at the American Prospect.

Specter switched parties because he knew he didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of beating Pat Toomey, former congressman, in a Republican primary next year. But because he is now facing a significant challenge for his new party’s nomination from longtime Iraq war opponent Congressman Joe Sestak, Specter has decided to go the former Navy admiral one better and come out against the war in Afghanistan. Cynical liberals spent the 2006 and 2008 campaigns saying that they opposed the war in Iraq because it took troops and effort away from the “good” war in Afghanistan, but those same people want to bug out of the latter conflict now that Obama is safely elected and they don’t have to pretend to take the war against Islamist terror seriously. Specter’s willingness to change positions on a dime outstrips even that record. He not only backed Bush (who saved Specter’s hide by backing him in a tight primary race against Toomey in 2004) but also enthusiastically backed both wars. But that didn’t stop him in a conference call with reporters this week from blasting Sestak for the congressman’s support of the request for more troops to bolster the allied effort in Afghanistan.

So give Sestak points for sincerity because, apparently unlike our president, he was actually telling the truth when he said in previous election years that he wanted to divert resources from Iraq to Afghanistan. The only question here is whether Democratic primary voters in Pennsylvania will fall for Specter’s incredible anti-war makeover. The latest (Oct. 28) Franklin & Marshall poll of the Democratic primary shows the incumbent senator with a 30-18 percent lead over Sestak. Specter has a big lead in money raised (according to Philadelphia’s Jewish Exponent, Specter has $8.7 million in the bank while Sestak has $4.7 million and Toomey, just $1.8 million). But given the enormous imbalance in name recognition between the two, such numbers can hardly comfort Specter. Interestingly, the same survey shows a Toomey-Sestak matchup next November as a 28-20 Toomey advantage, while Specter leads Toomey in a general election rematch of the 2004 GOP primary by only 33-31.

No matter how you slice it, the mendacious Specter’s prospects look a bit shaky; as do the Democrats’ chances of holding onto this seat in an otherwise increasingly blue Pennsylvania.

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