Senate diary: Schumer sets the stage, polls confirm

Chuck Schumer, the chairman of the DSCC, briefed reporters yesterday about his party's chances in the various competitive seats. There were very little surprises, with most states falling where we expect them to and roughly where they are ranked in my Senate rankings, except for two seats: Schumer described Alaska as a "top target," the group of seat made up of VA, NH, NM and CO in which Schumer said the Democrats are ahead. While polls are showing Sen. Stevens to be in huge trouble, Alaska is still near unanimously described as at best a toss-up given how structurally Republican the state is.

The second surprise is that Schumer rated Mississippi's Senate race with "red-state seats in striking range" (with the company of for now not very competitive NC and KY) rather than with what he described as the "second tier" (made up of OR, ME and MN). A recent poll showed Democrat Musgrave leading the incumbent Republican in Mississippi, after all, while Democrats are having trouble putting Oregon and Maine truly in play. The chairman of the DSCC is expected to spin races as more competitive than they could believably be, but his downrating them is more surprising; does it suggest he has seen numbers we don't have access to?

Meanwhile, a few polls released over the past 2 days confirm our impression of various races:

  • In the most interesting of these three surveys, Rasmussen shows Senator Collins of Maine is crushing her Democratic challenger 54% to 38%.
  • Her favorability rating stands at a very impressive 72%, making Allen's 59% look weak in comparison.
  • In Tennessee, incumbent Lamar Alexander is not trembling against two potential opponents, coming in with 58% and 59% depending on the match-up.
  • In Alabama, Senator Sessions is showing no sign of vulnerability, leading Democrat Vivian Davis Figures 58% to 36% and posting a 72% favorability rating also.
Neither TN nor AL are attracting anyone's attention; Schumer didn't even list them on as sleepers, outsider races (a list that includes TX [fair enough], OK, and less convincing ID, NE, KS and... GA).

Maine, of course, is a much more interesting case. Democrats were very excited about recruiting Allen and were confident they would be able do to Collins what they did to Chafee in 2006; a fairly popular incumbent, Chafee could not hold on as a Republican in an overwhelmingly Democratic state in an overwhelmingly Democratic year. But Collins has proved much more resistant: Maine is not Rhode Island and the high favorability rating she enjoys will make it very difficult for Democrats to convince voters that she was a blind surrogate of the Bush Administration. A 54% to 38% margin is actually much smaller than what we are used to seeing in Maine... which is saying a lot about how difficult the race has been for Allen so far.

Finally, a quick note on the Oregon Senate race about which Democrats were initially as excited as about Maine's, but failed to recruit their top-tier potential candidates. They then touted the candidacy of Oregon House Speaker Jeff Merkley. But the DSCC's preferred candidate is facing a competitive primary and -- 6 weeks from the May 20th primary -- he is coming in third in a SUSA poll released Monday, behind attorney Steve Novick who has been running hard for months. It's worth noting that in both public polls of the race so far Novick runs stronger than Merkley does, so this is not to say that Democrats are shooting themselves in the foot. But the DSCC is known for sometimes giving up on a seat if the candidate they see as the most competitive fails to make it through the primary.

In non-senatorial news, finally, SUSA released a poll from Washington's governor races, confirming that the race is as consistent a toss-up as it possibly could be since it is picking up exactly where we left off four years ago. Christine Gregoire is edging out Dino Rossi by a statistically insignificant 48% to 47%.

Labels: , , ,


  • I agree with you that it is likely that Schumer has internal numbers showing Musgrove weakly compared to Wicker. I'm sure if the election was held earlier in the year Schumer would have been more confidnent but high GOP turnout with the concurrent Presidental Election and McCain's expected huge margin of victory in MS probably dissuades him from labeling it a middle tier. In addition while I agree that Norman Coleman has the advantage in MN, it is extremely small and is more of a top tier race (if the least likely to turn to Dem control) compared to OR and ME which clearly favor the GOP incumbents.

    By Anonymous jaxx raxor, At 09 April, 2008 12:51  

  • "and less convincing ID"

    I think Idaho will be surprisingly competitive. I want to see polling from the state, but I think the Democrats can force the Republicans to spend money to defend the Senate Seat, money they don't have.

    By Anonymous C.S.Strowbridge, At 09 April, 2008 12:57  

  • I agree with the first comment that turnout in November in MS could overwhlem any advantage the Democratic candidate has.

    But Schumer may also be downplaying the race so as to make it more surprising ltaer in the year if the Dems do win MS and it also makes the incumbent feel safer. Maybe too cynical!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 09 April, 2008 14:37  

  • ID is a safe seat. It is one of the most Republican states in the country and the GOP frontrunner, Lt. Gov Risch, beat the Sen. Candidate Larocco in the 2006 Lt Gov race, and he will do so again in the senate race. Only if Craig decided to run for reelection and he won the GOP primary would Idaho be in danger, so unless Risch has a similar controversy come out ID is GOP.

    Also, with Schumer saying that Special MS is a red state with dem chance isn't a major downplayer. There hasn't been alot of public polls on MS compared to other races but I'm sure that Schumer wants to make sure that Musgrove is doing consistently better than Wicker before he moves it up higher in priority.

    By Anonymous jaxx raxor, At 09 April, 2008 15:49  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home