3.10.2008

GOP loses potential Senate candidates, prevents open House seats

With filing deadlines fast approaching, all congressional committees are working furiously to recruit top candidates in races that were supposed to be competitive but where no one has stepped forward. The Democrats have had their own share of disastrous recruitment efforts (in North Carolina and Kentucky, most noticeably), but the Republicans have had a much tougher time fielding candidates in a year most indicators are suggesting might be as blue as 2006.

One of the most disappointing races for the NRSC has to be South Dakota, which was one of only two obvious targets for them (along with Louisiana). But Tim Johnson's stroke at the end of 2006 made the race that much more difficult for the GOP; despite his health problems, Johnson did not retire (confirming how immovable Senators tend to be) and the wave of sympathy that surrounded him probably convinced a few Republicans -- starting with Gov. Rounds -- to not jump in.

Now, Republican hopes were pinned on former Lt. Gov. Steve Kirby, who would already have been a very low-tier candidate (Johnson crushes him in a recent poll). But now Kirby has announced that he will not run, making it that more difficult for Republicans to make this race competitive. Their hopes are now in the hands of Joel Dykstra, the assistant Majority Leader in the state House. Dykstra was also trounced by Johnson in that same poll and it very improbable that the NRSC will do much to help him considering how many other seats it has to worry about.

Another GOP disappointment has been Iowa, where Democratic Senator Tom Harkin has faced very close re-election races in the past. The NRSC was hoping to field a strong challenger again and test Harkin's vulnerabilities. It quickly became clear, however, that none of the potentially strong Republicans were wiling to jump in the race. There was some speculation that Rep. Steve King, one of the Republican congressmen who is furthest to the Right but who is popular in his district, might jump in, but he squashed that today by announcing that he would not run for Senate and run for re-election in the House. There's at least a consolation for the GOP here -- they will not have to defend one more House open seat!

King made more news today when he went after Obama and suggested that his election would lead terrorists to go "dancing in the streets."

It does matter. His middle name does matter. It matters because they read meaning into that and the rest of the world, it has special meaning to them. They'll be dancing in the streets because of his middle name. They'll be dancing in the streets because of who his father was and because of his posture that says pull out of the Middle East and pull out of this conflict.

Republicans appear to be developing a strategy of getting people who are already known for their extremist statements (and are thus less susceptible of being influenced by pressure and scrutiny) to go after Obama for his middle-name and perpetuating the Muslim smear.

Passing on Arkansas, in which Republicans are apparently leaving freshman Sen. Pryor uncontested, the next item of news is NY-29, where the GOP also avoided an open seat. This one would have been very difficult, too, as Rep. Kuhl barely won against challenger Eric Massa in 2006, 51% to 49%. Kuhl had been hinting that he might call it quits this time, which had Republicans worried about defending his seat. His announcement that he will run for re-election sets a rematch of the 2006 election, as Massa is again running against him.

Update: The New York Times giant headline at this minute: "Spitzer linked to prostitution ring"! There are very few details right now, but this obviously looks like a major story that could have huge consequences in New York politics.

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