Non-Senate down-ballot: Who will beat Don Young first?

In my most recent House ratings, I described the disastrous state of the New York Republican Party and its inability to truly contest the three seats Democrats picked up in 2006 and that were supposed to be at the top of the Republican wish-list. I confess that I had not paid enough attention to NY-20, where the GOP believes it has found a strong candidate to take on Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand in a district Bush won by 8% in 2004. They are running former state Secretary of State Sandy Treadwell who has the advantage of being very wealthy and thus having the means to self-fund his candidacy.

Gillibrand is one of the House's best fund-raisers (perhaps even the freshman Democrat who has raised the most) and thus Treadwell's wealth will not allow him to swamp her with his spending, but it will come in handy to keep tabs on her own spending and keep the race competitive. In fact, Treadwell is already running ads, months before his party's primary. This is early for a House challenger to go up on air, and Treadwell is clearly intending to send the message that he ought to be taken seriously and that he will have the resources necessary to compete -- whether or not the NRCC has any funds left to come to his rescue.

Also today, we got three House polls about two districts:

  • In AK-AL, Democrat Ethan Berkowitz beats incumbent Don Young 58% to 38%! But Young also trails in his party's primary against Lieutenant Governor Steve Parnell, 37% to 34%. In a Berkowitz-Parnell match-up, the Republican leads 43% to 38%.
  • In KY-03, a SUSA poll shows that Rep. Yarmuth trounces former GOP Rep. Northup (whom he narrowly defeated in 2006) 57% to 40%!
  • In response, the Northup campaign released an internal poll also taken early June that shows the Democrat leading 51% to 43%.
It looks certain that Young will no longer represent Alaska come January 2009. The only question seems to be who will beat him first? If Republicans keep him as their candidate, Democrats will surely capture the seat. There have been other polls that have shown Young trailing Berkowitz by double-digits. But if Parnell, backed by the Club for Growth, manages to become his party's nominee, he will have transformed this lean takeover seat into a much better deal for Republicans. It is rare for the Club for Growth to be in a position to help the party by toppling an incumbent (remember PA-Sen in 2004 and RI-Sen in 2006), and it will be interesting to see how they deal with that.

Yet, it does look like Alaska voters have gone sour on the GOP generally, as the latest Senate poll shows Stevens struggling and we have seen a few surveys with Obama surprisingly close to John McCain. Don't forget that the corruption scandal that is sinking Young and Stevens has also endangered many other Anchorage GOP lawmakers and, while Parnell is not associated to the investigation, there were plenty of examples in 2006 of "cleaner" Republicans being tarnished by the mere association with the corrupt incumbent (see OH-18, for instance).

As for KY-03, there is a reason the Northup campaign did not release its internal poll until SUSA found even worse numbers. Republicans believe that Yarmuth's victory in 2006 was an accident, despite the fact that this is the only Kentucky district to have voted for John Kerry over George Bush. Northup's decision to run for her old seat was seen as a major victory for Republicans, as the moderate former representative has the name recognition and profile necessary to take back this district. Yet, the fact that she cannot hold Yarmuth under 50% despite the fact that her own name recognition is probably as good (if not better) than her rivals has to be worrisome for her campaign.

Finally, two gubernatorial polls bring good news for both parties:

  • In Missouri, Rasmussen finds that Democratic Attorney General is increasing his lead over his two Republican opponents, leading Rep. Kenny Hulshof and State Treasurer Sarah Steelman by 20% and 22% respectively.
Both seats are currently held by Republicans, and both are heavily contested. This is in fact the first poll released since Long Thompson won the Democratic primary (by the thinnest of margins) and it contradict the previous surveys that found a toss-up race with the incumbent greatly endangered. We will have to see other surveys to know whether this one can be classified as an outlier or whether the election is swinging towards Daniels.

As for Missouri, it is not surprising to see Nixon ahead. After all, the Democrat is well-known statewide and who has been campaigning for this position since 2004. But the huge margin by which he is now leading in numerous polls testifies to Missouri's swing towards the Democratic Party and is reminiscent of other unexpectedly easy wins that Democrats enjoyed in open seat races in 2006 (Minnesota's senatorial race between Klochubar and Kennedy and Colorado's gubernatorial race). Nixon's increasingly comfortable lead is a very good sign for Barack Obama's chances in the Show Me State.

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  • In NY-20, Kirsten Gillibrand is still favored to hold her seat because she probably has the most money of all of the freshmen Democrats in the House, but Treadwell will keep it close in that slightly GOP leaning district.

    On the Alaskan race, I strongly disagree that Parnell will be hurt by the ethincs troubles of some in the Alaskan GOP. He is strongly associated with the very popular reformist GOP governor Palin and her reformist image will rub off on him and give him a decisive edge in the race if he beats Young. I'm suprised that he isn't up by double digits against Berkowitz.

    On KY-03 I think the poll is very interesting. It may have been a mistake that Northup was defeated but as the only Democratic leaning district in Kentucky Northup will have her work cut out for her in a year where the GOP brand is still seen as poison. I believe that Obama narrowly won in KY-03 in the Democratic primary (although he lost he total counties in the district like he did in all of them statewide) so this is probably one district in which Obama will not be a drag. I think that Yarmuth will hold the district for a while if he defeats Northup again in 2008.

    On the governors race, it is clear that Jay Nixon has a massive advantage primary because he is so well known. Once the GOP unites around one candidate it will probably narrow but I think that Nixon will win regardless.

    In Indiana, I would say that the only reason why Daniels is ahead by so much is because the democratic primary must have been bloody and therefor democrats aren't willing to support Thompson. This is overall good news for Republicans, as they have a chance to take two governorships from the democrats (Washington and North Carolina) while they can only possibly lose one seat in Missouri. Of course, the real oppurtuiny will be in 2010 in which many popular Democratic governors in GOP leaning states have to retire because of term limits.

    By Anonymous jaxx raxor, At 10 June, 2008 13:55  

  • Schellinger would have performed better against Daniels, Democrats should have nominated him last month.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 10 June, 2008 23:48  

  • For anyone who sees this comment, Blogger has not been able to publish new posts since yesterday late afternoon which explains why my posts have not been up. I actually have a backlog of 3 fully written entries just waiting to go up.

    By Blogger Taniel, At 11 June, 2008 11:36  

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