Down-the-ballot: Yet another GOP recruitment failure, tight races in MS and OR (Update: and NC)

A significant number of down-the-ballot news this morning, but to start with don't forget to check my newly updated Senate rankings. House ratings should follow as quickly as possible. The day's first development concerns NY-13, where Republicans are hitting yet another recruitment wall. Rep. Vito Fossella's decision to retire in November created yet another open seat headache for the GOP in a Democratic-leaning seat in a Democratic-leaning state. It is hardly surprising, then, that potential Republican candidates would be reluctant to attempt a run here.

Yesterday, Staten Island DA Dan Donovan, who was recently re-elected with 68% of the vote in a borough-wide vote that covers a large portion of the NY-13 district, took himself out of the running. Donovan had been heavily courted by the national party and he was the clear favorite to take the Republican spot on the November ballot. Donovan did not cite any specific reasons but his desire to continue working as a DA to complete the tasks he has started.

The road thus just got that much tougher for Republicans to hold on to this seat. They will now turn to state Senator Andrew Lanza but recruiting state senators is not what New York's Republican Party wants to be doing considering that their majority in that chamber -- their last seat of power in the Empire State -- hangs by a thread.

Meanwhile, Republicans are continuing their offensive against Al Franken in Minnesota's Senate race. After Franken's self-induced debacle over taxes, which has already considerably weakened the challenger, the GOP is now doing what we knew they would do sooner or later: Use Franken's comedian past as opposition research material. I am doubtful this kind of attack can work, as shown by Sen. Allen's attempt to use Jim Webb's strangely graphic novels against him in the 2006 campaign. That effort probably backfired, and as long as Franken can portray himself as a credible candidate that ought to be taken seriously, the press will continue marveling at the comedian-to-politician transition. In further news from this race, former Governor Jesse Ventura is now considering jumping in as an independent, in what would obviously make the contest wild and unpredictable.

Furthermore, we got a series of polls from Senate and House races:

  • First, Research 2000 polled the Mississippi Senate race and found Senator Wicker leading Ronnie Musgrove 46% to 42%. A DSCC poll a few days ago found Musgrove up 8% and with a better favorability rating.

  • Second, the DSCC released yet another internal poll, this one from the Oregon Senate race. It shows Gordon Smith leading Jeff Merkley 45% to 42%, and the poll was taken before the May 20th primary, so any post-primary bounce for Merkley would not be recorded here.

  • Update: Third, a conservative institute, the Civitas Group, just released a poll showing Elizabeth Dole ahead by only 2% against Kay Hagan, 45% to 43%. One more proof that the NC-Sen race is much more competitive than was thought just 3 weeks ago.

  • Update #2: A Rasmussen poll of the New Hampshire race confirms that Sununu is the most endangered incumbent this cycle, as he continues to trail his challenger Jeanne Shaheen, 50% to 43%.
Both results are satisfactory for Democrats as they confirm that these two races are toss-ups heading into November. The OR numbers are an internal poll but they correspond to the latest Rasmussen poll of the race. Also, MS polls are likely to show very differing results over the next 6 months because the margin would vary widely if you adjust the proportion of white and black voters by just a point or two. If Obama heads the ticket pollsters will have to decide how much to weigh black turnout, and those decisions will impact the numbers that are released.

Finally, two -- rare and very exciting -- new House polls were released:

  • In CO-04, an internal poll for the Markey campaign shows Rep. Musgrove leading Democratic challenger Betsy Markey 46% to 42%.
  • In MO-06, another race that is on everyone's toss-up list shows reassuring news for GOP incumbent Sam Graves, who leads Kay Barnes, the former Mayor of Kansas City, 49% to 39%. Barnes' support among registered Democrat is (still?) weak.
The Graves campaign attracted a lot of attention last week by hitting Barnes for a fundraising trip she took to San Fransisco with Nancy Pelosi and aired a truly remarkably over-the-top ad that seems to come right out of SNL's ad-parody efforts. The ad is too recent to be said to have have influenced the SUSA poll and it will be interesting to see how it impacts the race. Barnes is already out with a brutal response ad, but here's the original spot:

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  • "After Franken's self-induced debacle over taxes, which has already considerably weakened the challenger, the GOP is now doing what we knew they would do sooner or later: Use Franken's comedian past as opposition research material."

    This is the opposite of Damning it with Faint Praise. This is Praising it with Faint Damnation.

    By Anonymous C.S.Strowbridge, At 25 May, 2008 14:03  

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