IL-14 special election heats up, SD and NC Senate races do not

3 months after the special election in OH-05 unexpectedly saw a last-minute deluge of ads by the national committees, the special election in IL-14, former Speaker Hastert's district, is heating up. The election is set for March 8th, and while this is a red-leaning district Democrats believe they can take it from the GOP. An internal poll for the Foster campaign released earlier this week has the Democrat leading 45% to 41% for the GOP candidate, Oberweis -- and while an internal poll always has to be taken with a grain of salt it is the second internal that Foster is releasing without a response by Oberweis.

Now, in a sure sign that this race is indeed very competitive, the DCCC and NRCC have jumped in with advertisements of their own. The NRCC is spending $900,000 as of now, with the DCCC in with a bit more than $600,000. This is very significant, because the Republican committee is far behind Democrats in money. In fact, this sum represents a bit less than 1/6th of their total cash on hand at the end of January!

In December, Republicans ended up winning OH-05 on a comfortable score, but they had to spend millions to do so. And this illustrates the problem the GOP is facing in the coming months: There are many seats like OH-05 and IL-14 that could be competitive next year, especially since so many GOP congressmen are retiring. The DCCC has a lot of money to spend and will do so liberally, testing GOP strength left and right -- just as they did in OH-05 and now in IL-14. They want to expand the map and stretch the GOP resources. The NRCC is responding right now -- and it saved Latta in Ohio -- but it will not be able to do so everywhere in the fall. Democrats are hoping that this forces Republicans to defend the reddest seats in priority, leaving some of their most vulnerable districts undefended -- not to mention that the NRCC can hardly hope to spend any money trying to pick up Democratic-held seats if it has to defend places like IL-14.

Make sure to check my House ratings that I updated last Saturday. Since Saturday is often a low-criculation day, you might have missed it. IL-14 is rated as a toss-up.

  • Recruitment in SD-Sen and NC-Sen
The news for Democrats is not so good, however, in North Carolina. The filing deadline passed yesterday and they have to settle for the two candidates they have had for a few months now, state Senator Kay Hagan and investment banker Jim Neal. Most polls have shown that sen. Elizabeth Dole is a weak incumbent who could be beatable with the right candidate, but it is unlikely that either Hagan or Neal will be able to give her that strong of a challenge. The DSCC is hopeful that they will prove to be strong candidates, and it is certainly possible -- after all, the DSCC has enough funds to weaken Dole and give an opening to their challenger -- but recruitment here has to be disappointing for Democrats.

In South Dakota, it's Republicans that are having recruitment problems. Senator Tim Johnson was for long considered to be a potential retirement, but there now is little doubt that he is running again and Republicans have not been able to find a strong challenger against him. Governor Rounds was rumored for a while but he is showing no indication of wanting to jump in. With the filing deadline fast approaching, former Lieutenant Governor Steve Kirby is rumored as a potential candidate, but it does not look like he would be a very strong one. For one, Kirby was in office only for 2 years until 1995 and he lost a variety of primaries since then. Not to mention that he is a more than controversial figure because of his involvement in transforming cadaver skin into cosmetic surgery products (as Kos's Markos is writing a lot about).

Now, the DSCC is releasing a poll that shows Johnson defeating Kirby... 70% to 19%. The poll also shows Johnson with a 72% approval rating. Sure, this is an internal poll but this kind of number does point to how difficult it would be for Republicans to unseat Johnson even with the right candidate, and how unlikely it is for them to get it competitive unless they get a first-tier candidate in (i.e. Gov. Rounds).

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  • I think it'll be pretty "safe" to move SD-Sen into the Safe column as soon as the deadline passes, and pretty much can go there now. Senator Johnson could win this race with as much vote % wise as Senator Reed in Rhode Island! This was the #2 DEM seat that could flip, which pretty much indicates how good of shape the DEMs are in the Senate to increase their majority.

    As for North Carolina, it ranks up there with Oregon as the disappointing recruiting areas for the Democrats. Given that there is a good chance for a DEM+5 pick-up, can you imagine if there were a stronger candidate in Oregon and North Carolina against Dole (low approval) and Smith (GOP in Blueish state). We couldn't have asked for a better candidate in Maine, it'll just be a real tough go at it. With the right candidates, the DEMs could have made an interesting run at a 60 seat majority in 2008 (instead of 2010):

    1 - Virginia (Gov. Warner)
    2 - New Mexico (Rep Tom Udall)
    3 - New Hampshire (Gov. Shaheen)
    4 - Colorado (Rep Mark Udall)
    5 - Minnesota (Franken/Ciresi)
    6 - Alaska (Mayor Begich)
    7 - Maine (Rep. Allen)
    8 - North Carolia (*Gov. Easley)
    9 - Oregon (*Rep. DeFazio)
    10- Mississppi B (Fmr Gov. Musgrove)
    *Obviously Not Running

    Amazing what could have been if everyone was running, and this is conditioned on the fact that both Sen. Johnson (SD) and Sen. Landrieu (Louisiana) both hold, which appears that Landrieu is the only one who is at risk there.

    I'm still stuck between predicting a DEM pick-up of 5-6 seats, therefore making it 56-44 or 57-43. It'd be great to just have to pick-up 3 seats in 2010 to make it a super 3/5th majority.

    By Blogger KELL, At 01 March, 2008 19:50  

  • Even if the Republicans win Il-14, they have lost. They can't afford to spend that much money on one race. If they keep this up, they will have to abandon many, many competitive races in November.

    By Anonymous C.S.Strowbridge, At 01 March, 2008 21:00  

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