Senate: Mississippi battleground and Franken troubles

If Democrats end up losing the Senate race in Mississippi, they can blame the Mississippi Supreme Court's unfair decision to allow Governor Barbour to not call a March special election to replace Trent Lott. Indeed, while the state remains staunchly Republican, last month's special election in MS-01 confirmed that the GOP will need the increased turnout of a presidential election to resolve the enthusiasm gap. Furthermore, former Governor Ronnie Musgrove is almost polling like an incumbent right now. He is better-known than newly-appointed Senator Wicker, a rare situation for a challenger to be in.

Rasmussen's new Senate polls from the two Mississippi races confirms that the Musgrove-Wicker showdown will be one of the top contests this cycle, and one that could actually get Democrats close to a 60 seat majority:

  • Musgrove edges out Wicker 47% to 46%. Both men have a 49% favorability rating, while 18% are not sure of their impression of Wicker (versus only 9% for Musgrove).
  • In the state's other Senate race, Senator Cochran is crushing challenger Erik Fleming 58% to 35%, as expected.
  • Note that in Rasmussen's poll of the Alabama Senate race, there are also no surprises as GOP Senator Sessions crushes Vivian Figures 62% to 29%.
Cochran seat was long watched as there were mounting rumors that the longtime Senator might retire, but it is Trent Lott that unexpectedly jumped out, making the special election for his seat the more interesting ones and essentially giving Cochran a free pass.

Meanwhile, Al Franken continues to be in trouble in the Minnesota Senate race continues. After the controversy over Franken's tax return that the GOP is already looking to exploit mercilessly in the months ahead, it is now Franken's past writings that are coming back to haunt him as an essay Franken wrote in Playboy in 2000 has now been unearthed. Democratic congressmen are now openly worrying that Franken could drag them down because of past writings from his satirical/comical days. Rep. Betty McCollum is now criticizing the essay as "indefensible" and "pornographic," worried that it will hurt the state's entire Democratic slate. Explaining that her phone is ringing "off the hook," McCollum revealed that she was not sure whether she would support Franken in the general election!

The Politico quotes a Democratic operative as saying that, "We’re looking at having these pornographic writings tagged onto Democrats. That doesn’t seem to be a good strategy to expand our majorities in the House." Ouch. This is certainly not enough to sink Franken's candidacy -- after all, Minnesota did elect Jesse Ventura in the 1990s and Jim Webb survived revelations about graphic writings in Virginia in 2006 -- but given that his main challenge is to demonstrate that he is a "serious" candidate, Porn-O-Rama is strengthening doubts that were already lingering about the Democrat.

After a year of admiring articles praising him for a successful transition from comic to politician, the tide appears to have turned. Yet, the DFL's convention is in a month, and it is difficult to see how Franken could not be chosen ever since rival Mike Ciresi abruptly dropped out of the race. Also, it is important to keep things in perspective: Despite the increasing criticism Franken is facing, he is holding his own in polls. The latest survey found him trailing by only 2%.

Update: Late-night Senate news from Texas in the form of a poll.

  • GOP firm Baselice & Associates finds Senator Cornyn leading Rick Noriega 49% to 34%.
While the incumbent is under 50%, that is a much more reassuring margin than the back-to-back 47% to 43% leads he posted in Rasmussen and Research 2000 earlier in May. Despite those numbers, I had left the race in 12th position in my latest Senate rankings to reflect the enormity of the task that lies ahead of Noriega. He must not only rely on an environment that is toxic to Republicans but soften up Cornyn much more than he is now to score what would be a big upset.

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