Congressional diary: Good news for the GOP in California, Mississippi and North Carolina

Now that Iowa and New Hampshire have voted, there is a bit more time to look into down-the-ballot races. And Republicans just got some great congressional news over the past week.

  • CA-04: Doolittle is out
Rep. Doolittle from CA-04 has finally decided to retire, which is truly amazing news for House Republicans. Doolittle is under investigation for his connections to Jack Abramoff and the judicial pressure was intensifying in recent months with a raid to his house and grand jury subpoenas. As a result, Doolittle was insured to go down to defeat next November against Democratic candidate Brown who barely lost in 2006. I have been rating the district Lean Democratic for a few months now in my House ratings.

CA-04 is heavily Republican territory and the GOP knew that it would have infinitely less trouble keeping the seat if Doolittle retired or was forced out by the pressure of the investigation. But Doolittle was showing no indication of backing down and was vowing to press forward past the primary and the general election. Now, Republicans got what they want and have to be considered the overwhelming favorites to retain the district. My House ratings will be updated soon accordingly.

Democrats still have some chance of keeping this competitive; after all, Brown already ran once before so he is starting to build some name recognition. And 2006 showed that Democrats could win in districts with ethically challenged representatives even when the incumbent ended up withdrawing, the obvious example being OH-18 where Rep. Ney withdrew in September and was quickly replaced, with the GOP celebrating that they could finally hope to keep the seat. Democrat Zach Space ended up crushing his opponent. CA-04 is not OH-18, however. Not only is Doolittle not indicted yet, but he is retiring in January rather than withdrawing from the ballot at the last minute.

  • MS-Sen: More than one Democrat
Democrats breathed a sigh of relief last week when former Governor Musgrove jumped in the Mississippi Senate special election against newly-appointed Senator Wicker. But they now have another candidate who has jumped in the race, former Rep. Ronnie Snows who lost his House seat in 2002 when MS lost a congressional seat and Snows could not hold his redrawn district.

This would not be a problem under normal conditions, as Snows and Musgrove would just face off in a primary-- and there is little evidence that competitive primaries hurt the party come the general election as long as competitors don't get too nasty. But this contest is a special election, which means that it does not have a primary but a runoff-system. All candidates from any party will be on the same ballot and the top two will go to a runoff if no one gets 50%. In other words, the division of the Democratic vote makes it impossible for either Snows or Musgrove to win this in the first round and the party will have to find a way to keep Wicker under 50% in that first voting. The problem of course is that Democrats will aim much of their fire at each other, allowing Wicker to get more of a free pass than he would otherwise and thus try and aim for a majority outright (one recent example of this dynamic is the 2006 special election in CA-50, a very Republican district, where Democrat Busby almost got 50% in the first round in a field with many Republican candidates who were pounding each other, but then was much further from victory in the runoff).

  • NC-Gov: Republicans now have a serious shot
Despite its being an open-seat, the North Carolina gubernatorial contest was looking to be an easy hold for Democrats. The incumbent party is running two strong candidates -- Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue and state Treasurer Richard Moore -- and Republicans were counting on weaker candidates that have little chance of prevailing given NC's blue coloring in local elections.

But that could all soon change as Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory is taking the first steps towards jumping in the race for the GOP nomination. McCrory could be a much stronger candidate than the other GOPers in the race, and a recent Rasmussen poll showed him leading both Moore and Perdue. The governorship has been in Democratic hands for 16 years now, but this could become one of the hottest gubernatorial races of 2008 (which, to be fair, is not saying much).

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  • I think it's Ronnie Shows in Mississippi, not Ronnie Snows.

    Musgrove and Shows should strike a deal to only aim their fire at Wicker, since in a 3-way race in a GOP bastion, Wicker is the obvious frontrunner with a very real chance of getting 50%.

    By Anonymous pussycat, At 10 January, 2008 22:32  

  • It is Shows. And I think you're right, pussycat...the obvious move for both Musgrove and Shows would be to try and keep Wicker out of the runoff by going after him as early as possible. But I bet that even so, he still makes the runoff...MS might not have enough GOP voters to boost him to victory in the first round, but he's pretty much assured of 40% of the vote, at least.

    By Anonymous Mr. Rational, At 11 January, 2008 04:15  

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