6.14.2008

Senate: NRSC's move towards giving up VA and NM, plus a variety of polls

Senator Ensign, the chairman of the NRSC, has been setting a lot of expectations lately. After declaring that his goal for the year was to prevent the Democrats from gaining a filibuster-proof majority (and thus limit the loss to eight seats), Ensign has now shifted to a wiser refrain: It will be good news, he explained, if the GOP only loses three seats in November. But at this same lunch with reporters, Ensign made some news by taking the first step towards giving up on Virginia and New Mexico. "You don’t waste money on races that don’t need it or you can’t win," he said.

An NRSC decision that a race should no longer merits investments would go a long way towards sealing a seat's fate, for both Steve Pearce and Jim Gilmore will need the help of the national party to keep up with the momentum that is carrying their Democratic opponents. In 2006, the NRSC's decision to pull out of Ohio effectively handed the election to Sharrod Brown who coasted to an unexpectedly easy victory over the incumbent Republican.

Another interesting tidbit in Ensign's comments is his list of the 10 most competitive races. Ensign includes North Carolina and Maine and does not even make a stab at spin by putting in New Jersey (though Collins is polling better than Lautenberg at this point). Yet, there is no sign of Mississippi! Despite the fact that (1) Ronnie Musgrove has been leading Senator Wicker in a number of polls, (2) despite predictions of increased black turnout, (3) despite the fact that party affiliations will not be printed on the ballot and (4) despite Travis Childers's victory in MS-01 last month, Mississippi continues to be treated as a long shot by most analysts. This attitude is indeed not exclusive to Ensign. Even Chuck Schumer rated MS a third-tier race in a recent interview. What more does Musgrove need to do to prove that this Southern special election is among the hottest races of the country?

Meanwhile, 5 new Senate polls were released in the past two days, only two of which concern competitive races. Here are these polls, in the order in which the contests are ordered in my latest Senate rankings:

  • In Minnesota, Norm Coleman edges out Al Franken 48% to 45%, a similar margin than his 2% lead last month.
  • Rasmussen also polled a three way match-up including former Governor Jesse Ventura. Coleman leads 39% to 32% to Franken and 24% to Ventura, who (as is expected) takes votes from the challenger.
  • In Oregon, Jeff Merkley got no bounce from his primary victory as he now trails incumbent Sen. Gordon Smith 47% to 38% in the latest Rasmussen poll. Last month, Smith was ahead by 3% -- though Democrats ought to be satisfied that they are keeping Smith under 50%.
  • In Kansas, Cooper & Secrest Associates released a poll of the Senate race that is the third consecutive survey showing Pat Roberts leading his Democratic challenger, former Rep. Slattery, by 12% and the first one in which he dips under the 50% mark, leading 48% to 36%.
  • In Iowa, Senator Harkin is leading challenger Christopher Reed 53% to 37% and posting a favorability rating of 59% in a new Rasmussen survey.
  • In Michigan, finally, no surprises in the latest Rasmussen poll that has Senator Carl Levin leading challenger Jack Hoogendyk 55% to 30%. Hoogendyk is largely unknown but Levin has a strong favorability rating, making him an unlikely target.
Of these 5 races, Minnesota and Oregon are the two interesting ones. Despite the repeated polls showing some potential for Slattery and despite the GOP's (thwarted) determination early this cycle to field a credible challenger to Harkin, these two races have a long way to go before joining the list of competitive races, though the DSCC might hope that Kansas Democrats will be more enthused than usual if Governor Sebelius is tapped on Obama's ticket.

In Minnesota, despite the media firestorm that has recently been surrounding Al Franken years as a comedian and the unexpected difficulties that popped up on his way to the DFL's endorsement, the Democratic challenger is holding strong, suggesting that the race remains a referendum on the incumbent and on the Republican Party. With Minnesota showing signs of moving back to its solidly Democratic roots, Coleman will remain endangered and he should worry if he could not open up a bigger margin after such a favorable month of press coverage. As for the Jesse Ventura question, the former Governor has declared that he will make up his mind at the last minute. The filing deadline is mid-July so we will have to wait a few more weeks to see whether Ventura will wreak havoc in this senatorial race.

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5 Comments:

  • Smart move giving up on Virginia and New Mexico. Colorado and New Hampshire might be the next ones to fall while Alaska, Oregon, Maine, Minnesota, and Mississippi become the states they fight the hardest in.

    At this point, they might never even play offense in Louisiana.

    By Anonymous C.S.Strowbridge, At 15 June, 2008 09:10  

  • I'm a bit surprised that they're giving up on NM so soon, as it's a state very much in play this fall in the Presidential race and a noncompetitive Senate race would surely depress Republican turnout in the state come November.

    Mississippi has turned into the giant elephant in the room that everybody's trying to ignore. Musgrove would likely be a very conservative addition to the Democratic caucus and no Republican wants to admit that they've slipped so far as to potentially lose statewide seats in a place like Mississippi. There'd be widespread panic and fund raising would plummet.

    10 seats are legitimately within the Democrats' grasp this November. How crazy is that?

    By Anonymous dannity, At 15 June, 2008 12:23  

  • I think Senator Ensign is wrong about his firewall strategy, Because if democrats win 6 to 8 seats they wont need the Hardcore conservatives to govern, there will still be a handful of moderate GOPers (like Sen.Snowes, Collins,Specter,Mccain,Smith) who are going to be willing to work with the Dems and hopefully with President Obama

    By Anonymous Carlos, At 15 June, 2008 16:56  

  • I think you are both right. A 60+ majority is within reach and I don't think they will need it to govern.

    Hopefully Dannity will be correct so we don't have to find out is Carlos is right or not.

    By Anonymous C.S.Strowbridge, At 16 June, 2008 03:41  

  • Yes, they need the 60, otherwise the other side will filibuster until the messiah comes...

    By Blogger Mark, At 16 June, 2008 13:08  

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