Senate: Gilmore nearly loses GOP nod, Landrieu in tight race

It is never a good sign when a presumptive nominee wins his party's nod with 50.3% of the vote, but that is what happened to Virginia's Jim Gilmore. The state's former Governor, who is already a heavy underdog in his quest to retain the seat against Democrat Mark Warner, had declared his candidacy in the fall and his backers had pushed the state GOP to announce that it would pick its Senate nominee in a convention rather than a primary. This was a way to insure that Gilmore, a conservative Republican, would be favored against Rep. Tom Davis, a more moderate politician representing Northern Virginia. Davis, who until then was considered the favorite to represent the GOP in the general election, would have had an easier time in a primary than at a convention packed with conservatives, and he indeed withdrew from the race soon after the state GOP dealt him this powerful blow.

But at the state convention this week-end, Gilmore's strategy stunningly turned against him, as delegates, who were mostly conservative activists, turned to a Republican even more conservative than Gilmore, Bob Marshall from the Virginia General Assembly. Marshall, who prided himself with having spent less than a tenth of what Gilmore had spent, came within 80 votes of 3,500 convention votes cast. In other words, Gilmore becomes the party's nominee with 50.3% of the vote.

With an unenergized conservative base and a moderate wing that will likely migrate to Mark Warner, especially since Tom Davis will not be on the ballot, the Virginia GOP is heading towards a rough Senate election. They better hope that the cross-over Senate votes do not translate into the presidential race, for Warner could have some coattails in one of the Obama campaign's top target states. Note, however, that increasing talk of Obama picking Warner as his running mate could be a nightmare for Virginia Democrats, who would be deprived of their candidate, and a huge gift to Jim Gilmore.

Meanwhile, Rasmussen released two new Senate polls:

  • In Louisiana, Mary Landrieu is barely ahead of John Kennedy, 47% to 44%. This is Rasmussen's first poll from the state and he finds both candidates with strong favorability ratings.
  • In Massachusetts, John Kerry has no trouble dispatching his challengers, posting 63% against both Jeff Beaty and Jim Ogonowski. Note that Ogonowski, who national Republicans were very excited about, failed to qualify for the ballot last week.
The Louisiana numbers are particularly interesting for they follow a series of surveys that had found Landrieu ahead by double-digits. Any incumbent polling under 50% is naturally in trouble, and the fact that Landrieu is barely ahead with a favorability rating of 59% testifies to the state's increasingly Republican lean. This is the GOP's only Senate pick-up opportunity this cycle, so the NRSC will make sure to play big, which is why I had left the race at the sixth spot of my recent Senate rankings. This poll confirms that the race will not be easy for Democrats.

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  • Actually the Louisiana race is ranked #6 in your latest rankings, as you (and most others) now have Alaska at the #5 spot. You had Louisiana previously at #5 in your previous rankings.

    Most Democrats have taken a too optimistic view on this race, and even though I don't think it's as dire as we originally thought, it will be a tough race given the LA landscape.

    By Blogger KELL, At 01 June, 2008 14:42  

  • I must admit that recent polling before today led me to believe that Landrieu is in a good position, but Rasmussen's poll snapped me back into relaity. I would say that Landrieu is as strong in Lousiana as Coleman is in MN. A definite advantage but only a narrow one. The GOP will pour lots of money in this race just to give them a chance of an symbolic victory of the democrats not having a second clean sweep in a row in the senate.

    On VA, I think that Warner is not a likely takeover, but an guarenteed takeover thanks to Gilmore having so little money and so little support within his own party. I would argue that if Warner suddenly dropped out of the race to be Obama's VP nominee then Gilmore at best would have a 50-50 chance because he is so weak. There are several other democrats in VA who could be Gilmore as well, just not as good as Warner. I would say that there is little chance that Obama would pick Warner because Warner is in the Senate Race now and the VA Democratic party would be extremely reluctant to allow thier favored candidate to leave. In addition, the first VP candidate of consideration would be Clinton and if not her it will be others. Personally I think a good VP pick for Obama will be based on getting either white women to come back to him or to shore up national security creditionals, and less on trying to secure a particular state. VP nominees have had no impact on states in the GE election since LBJ helped Kennedy out in 1960.

    Oh and in MA, Kerry is completely safe now. He was a Democratic version of OK Infoe: being in a state that overwhelming prefers thier own party but having weak approval rating. Unfortantely for the MA GOP, the collaspe they expereinced in 2006 is not going to abate in 2008.

    By Anonymous jaxx raxor, At 01 June, 2008 15:14  

  • Ogonowski has not failed to qualify for the ballot. He has until June 3, 2008 to drop off all certified signatures at the secretary of state's office. Not all town clerks used the on-line system for verification and recording of signatures. His team has more than 10,000 signatures in hand.

    Also Survey USA has put John Kerry's re-elect not re-elect numbers at 48-42. The Rasmussen poll seems to be off. It has OGonowski negatives at higher than what is ID probably is.

    By Anonymous EaBo Clipper, At 01 June, 2008 19:16  

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