6.20.2008

Down-ballot: House reaches record number of female members, as Carson gets safer and Sununu weaker

Unwilling to finish serving his term after failing to win his party's nomination in MD-04, Rep. Albert Wynn resigned last month, setting up a special election that was held last Tuesday. In a heavily Democratic district, Wynn's victor Donna Edwards trounced Republican candidate Peter James with 81% of the vote, making her the 75th female member of the House. This breaks the record -- but the proportion remains at a shockingly low 17% (it's 16% in the Senate). Edwards is much more progressive than Wynn, who had been angering the Left with a number of votes that might be necessary for a congressman representing a very conservative area but certainly not for this district's representative.

In IN-07, meanwhile, Rep. Andre Carson feels safer today as state Rep. Jon Elrod announced he would give up on his congressional candidacy and run for re-election instead. The two just faced off in March in a special election to replace Carson's deceased grand-mother. While Elrod was highly-touted by the NRCC and while the GOP believed he could contest this Dem-leaning state that was unexpectedly close these past few cycles, national Republicans were unable to come to his rescue and Elrod went down to defeat by 11%. Still a young politician, Elrod faced even lower-odds of winning in November and understandably did not want to see his political career interrupted.

In another Indiana seat, IN-09, SUSA released the first poll of the fourth match-up in a row between Rep. Baron Hill and Republican Mike Sodrel. Hill won in 2002 and 2006 while Sodrel won in 2006. This time, SUSA finds Hill starting with an edge, ahead 51% to 40%. Sodrel cannot hope to benefit from that too much of this comes from an incumbent's advantage that will fade since his own name recognition is higher than your average challenger's. One of the Republicans' main hope here has been that Hill is more vulnerable in a presidential year, but will Obama's organizing efforts in this state that Kerry made no effort in boost Hill's chances?

A poll in PA-11, however, points to potential trouble for Democratic Rep. Kanjorski, who is running against hardcore immigration opponent Lou Barletta, the Mayor of Hazleton. The poll is an internal survey conducted and released for Barletta, so take it with a grain of salt, but it shows the challenger leading 47% to 42% -- at the very least a sure sign that Kanjorski is endangered. PA-11 is a rare seat not held by a freshman Democrat the GOP is even talking about.

Going on to Senate news, the possibility of Jesse Ventura entering the Minnesota race and making the match-up between Senator Coleman and Al Franken that much more unpredictable is getting more real as former Sen. Dean Barkley (who Ventura appointed to fill Wellstone's seat for 4 months in 2002) is now saying that Ventura really wants to run and is personally leaning towards it. Recent polls have shown that Ventura would clear 20% if he jumped in and would make life more complicated for Franken. Ventura's 1998 gubernatorial primary came in an open seat nad it would be more likely for him to succeed in a race with an incumbent.

Meanwhile, the Kentucky race might be more competive but I sure am still not convinced that Bruce Lunsford is much of a Democrat. One of the chief complaints progressives (and, for that matter, all Democrats) have against him is that he donated money to Mitch McConnell previously. Asked in an interview on Political Base to justify that, Lunsford gives the only answer that could have been worse than arguing he is in fact a die-heart conservative by openly arguing that his opportunism was necessary for him to make profits and maintain good lobbying connections. He even makes an open reference to the K Street project (!):

The bulk of those Republican and McConnell contributions occurred after their 1994 takeover of Congress while I was running a large public company with significant regulatory oversight by the federal government. Everyone knows about the K Street Project in Washington. McConnell operates his own version of that shakedown with folks in business here in Kentucky and he was not shy about his requests for contributions, especially when our industry had critical legislation before the Senate. And I recall him not being pleased that I had contributed more to some of his opponents than him.

Lunsford is clearly aware that he has to defend some of his Democratic credentials a bit (after all, this is a second-tier race for which the support of the netroots could be very helpful to get attention and money) by attacking the Bush Administration, the Iraq War and even Joe Lieberman, though he doesn't deflect the questioner's skepticism that he wouldn't be a Lieberman on domestic issues very effectively. None of this is likely to hurt his chances in the general (it is Kentucky, after all), except insofar as a candidate trying to get noticed needs grassroots enthusiasm.

Finally, Rasmussen released its latest poll from New Hampshire's Senate race, finding Jeanne Shaheen crushing John Sununu 53% to 39%. Last month, Rasmussen found a 50% to 43% margin. This is the same size lead as ARG found a few days ago, and Sununu increasingly looks like a sure bet to be the Santorum of 2008. He has trailed from the very beginning and the race shows no indication that it's on his way to closing. Add this race to NM and CO and the Democrats look to have 3 sure pick-ups.

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