Whatever happened to everything breaking for Democrats in congressional races?

Earlier in the fall, seemingly everything was breaking for Democrats in congressional races. An endless stream of retirements by Republicans in both the Senate and the House, recruitment coups, fundraising prowess. But in the past two months, the GOP has gotten some huge lucky breaks, starting with the mounting number of Democrats who passed on Senate races when their entrance alone would have made the contest huge pick-up opportunities (Kerrey and Fahey in Nebraska, Moore in Mississippi, Luallen in Kentucky...). Fine, things are still looking very rosy for Senate and House Democrats -- but we've got to admit that the seemingly endless streak of good news has been broken.

And Democrats get too more pieces of bad news tonight. In Minnesota, first of all, there are now stunning reports that Rep. Ramstad could un-retire! He retired a few months ago, opening up a very competitive House seat that Democrats have been salivating over. So it would obviously be a huge blow to Democrats -- and a huge (and unexpected) victory for the NRCC if Ramstad actually retires. Democrats might be frustrated enough to mount a race against him and make it competitive -- but it would obviously not be as big a target if Ramstad had ran.

And news item number two is that Kentucky Attorney General Stumbo actually looks set to run for his old state House seat back instead of running for the Senate against McConnell. The rumor had been floated a while ago but now the state Rep who holds his old seat resigned when he had said he would run for re-election. And Stumbo is set to release a statement tomorrow, which could possibly be announcing that he won't run for Senate. Stumbo had formed an explanatory committee so this would definitely be a recruitment failure for Democrats. Andrew Horne is in the race for them already, and we have yet to see how competitive he could be against McConnell.

  • Legal showdown in Mississippi coming up, as Trent Lott officially resigns... before New Year's
While Mike Moore's refusal to enter the race last week was a major blow to Democratic chances, remember that this race did not even exist a few weeks ago! So anything that happens for Democrats here is an awesome bonus. And things are once again picking up.

Trent Lott officially resigned today. The fact that he did not wait until after New Year's to do so when he creates enormous problems for his party by doing so just about proves that he is resigning because of the new lobbying law that takes effect on January 1st and that bans congressmen who leave office then from lobbying their former colleges for two years. And this now means that (1) we will know Lott's replacement by the end of next week, and (2) Governor Barbour will have a huge legal fight on his hands: He wants to set the special election to replace Lott for November, but the law's intention ispretty clearly that the election must be held within a 100 days of vacancy -- i.e. by the end of March.

The state Attorney General issued an opinion today that says that the law unambiguously means for a special election to be held by then -- and threatens to draw this to court if Barbour still tries to set the election for November -- which he surely will. We can only guess this should be resolved fast in the court given that the whole point would be the need to have an election within 100 days.

Meanwhile, we get our first poll of the race today, though the survey also tests Mike Moore who is no longer considering running:

  • Mike Moore trailed Gop Rep. Wicker 46% to 39% and Rep. Pickering 45% to 41%. Now that he is out, the other major viable candidate for Dems is former Musgrove, who trails Wicker 46%to 39%, and Pickering 45% to 39%.
Naturally, the more time the Republican replacement for Lott (who could be someone else than Wicker and Pickering) has before the special election, the more time for him to build up incumbency. The GOP clearly starts favored -- and it would be especially so if the election coincidences with the presidential one, with increased turnout helping Republicans here. But whatever happens, this is not a headache the GOP wanted to have -- and it does not want to have to spend resources in a special election either in March or in November. The race looks to be within single-digits, so it should be close to the end.

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  • I think right now the Dems take from Republicans New Mexico, Virginia, Colorado, New Hampshire and (don't laugh) Alaska. Ted Stevens is old, "porky", and in big trouble with some ugly matters. Ted is pretty much a dinosaur from the past. If he doesn't bow out, see his political tombstone next November.

    By Anonymous Southern Slav, At 19 December, 2007 20:01  

  • Also, do not lose North Carolina from a possible upset. A Republican has never gotten more than 55% of the vote for Senator in a general election. Liddy Dole will not be the first, either. While Ms. Dole is favored, she has been somewhat of an embarassment last year during the Senate Elections.

    By Anonymous Southern Slav, At 19 December, 2007 20:05  

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