Republicans lose a Senate candidate and a lot of House money

Update: A new poll of IL-14 conducted by SUSA shows Democratic candidate Foster leading the Republican, Oberweis, 52% to 45%. The previous poll of the race also showed Foster leading, by 4%, but that was an internal Democratic poll. SUSA's numbers are therefore huge and explain why the NRCC is spending so much of its money trying to defend a seat that it really cannot afford to lose.

Original post: Republicans have had trouble finding Democratic-held Senate seats to contest this year. They are mounting a solid challenge in Louisiana, and they thought they had found a candidate strong enough to put New Jersey in play: wealthy self-funder and real estate developer Anne Estabrook. She had declared a run against Senator Frank Lautenberg, who many polls show is a vulnerable and not-so-popular Democrat, mostly due to his age (he is 84). New Jersey has long been a state where Republican hopes (and resources) go to die, but with Estabrook funding her own campaign the NRSC could have looked elsewhere.

But Estabrook has now retired from the race because of health problems: She announced today that she had suffered a minor stroke on Monday. Thankfully, she appears to be recovering and she is doing much better. But she is unwilling to continue a campaign in these conditions.

This leaves Republicans without a strong candidate, a month from the filing deadline (on March 7th). State assemblyman Joe Pennacchio is the favorite to win the nomination now, but he is unlikely to be competitive in the general election. While NJ's Senate race was always leaning Democratic, this does allow the DSCC to not worry about this at all and only have to defend Louisiana, allowing it to spend all its millions going after Republican seats.

Meanwhile, the race in the special election in IL-14 is heating up, a few days after the first reports that the DCCC and RNCC were getting involved and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars. Now, both committees have upped their spending considerably and bought more air time, with the DCCC putting in a considerable $300,000 investment on Monday, and the NRCC following wiht $180,000 on Tuesday. This means that national Democrats have now spent around $1 million and that Republicans are around $1.2 million. This is a very significant dynamic given how massively House Democrats are outraising the House GOP: They want to expand the map and test GOP incumbents everywhere, and the NRCC -- with stretched out resources -- will not have the money in the fall to respond to every attack the way it is doing now. MyDD calculates that the Democratic spending on IL-14 represents 3% of the DCCC's budget, whereas Republican spending represents nearly 30% of the NRCC's spending! That's a huge -- and very worrisome -- number for the GOP.

The election will take place this coming Saturday, and it promises to be a tight one between Democrat Foster and Republican Oberweis. Barack Obama has gotten involved in the race, filming an ad on behalf of Foster (you can watch it here) saying that people don't have to wait until November to vote for change. Obama's intervention means that the results will be interpreted as a test of how much coattails Obama would have in his home-state in November, as there are a number of tight Illinois races Democrats would like to pick up.

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