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Saturday, October 6, 2007

Political Update from the VoteMaster

News from the Votemaster

More bad news for the GOP. Six-term senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) has announced that he will not run for a seventh term in 2008. This brings to five the number of open Senate seats--all currently occupied by Republicans. Domenici was deeply involved in the U.S. attorney scandal and has a progressive brain disease that can affect judgment and behavior and he apparently decided that enough is enough.

Domenici's decision completely shuffles the deck in New Mexico, a swing state in presidential elections. Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM), who was reelected in 2006 by fewer than 1000 votes has already announced she is running for Domenici's seat. The person she defeated, former state attorney general, Patricia Madrid, has also indicated interest, as has the Democratic Lt. Governor, Diane Denish and Rep. Tom Udall, cousin of the Democratic Senate candidate in Colorado, Mark Udall.

The 800-pound gorilla in this picture is the immensely popular, but term-limited governor, Bill Richardson. Richardson dominates state politics and was just reelected governor by the largest margin in state history. Richardson is currrently running for President, but is stuck in the second tier with little movement. It is hard to imagine a scenario in which Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards simultaneously collapse, so the speculation is that Richardson is running for Vice President. He might be an asset on the ticket with Clinton, since he is a middle-aged white male with Latino heritage (his mother was born in Mexico) and is hugely popular in a swing state. On the other hand, Clinton has a raft of potential choices for Veep, such as retired four-star general Wesley Clark (who is from Arkansas, a state in which the Democrats control the governor's mansion, both Senate seats, three of the four House seats, and both houses of the state legislature--hardly unfriendly territory).

No doubt the senior senator from NY, Chuck Schumer (who is also chairman of the DSCC) and the junior senator from NY (Hillary Clinton) are going to be powwowing all day. Schumer's message will surely be: Tell Richardson he is not going to be your Veep choice and encourage him to run for the Senate seat. In other words, give up your futile quest for the presidency and take the Senate seat that is yours for the asking, especially since you can't run for governor again. Schumer's main argument to Clinton will be: Do you want a fillibuster-proof Senate or not?

In other key Senate news, Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) lost his appeal to withdraw his guilty plea on a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge but has announced that he will nevertheless serve out his term but not run for reelection. Virtually every Republican has condemned him and threatened to have the Senate ethics committee investigate him. The trouble with this strategy is that the chair of the ethics committee is Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), probably the most liberal and partisan member of the Senate. She could decide to investigate Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) for his visits to prostitutes over the years (a crime in two jurisdictions) as well. The Republicans do not need two senators in the news all the time for sex scandals.

In addition to the open seats in New Mexico and Idaho, three other Republican senators are retiring, which will lead to fierce battles in all three states. Sen. John Warner (R-VA) is leaving, and there will be a bloody primary between moderate Rep. Tom Davis and conservative former governor Jim Gilmore. The winner is likely to be defeated in a landslide by the Democrat, former governor Mark Warner.

The open Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) will also feature a nasty Republican primary, between attorney general Jon Bruning and former goveror Mike Johanns. If former governor and former two-term senator Bob Kerrey enters the race as the Democratic candidate, as expected, this will be the hottest Senate race in the country.

The other open Senate seat is in Colorado, where Sen. Wayne Allard is retiring. He promised he would serve only two terms and kept his promise. The players there are former representative Bob Schaffer and current representative Mark Udall.

There are at least three other states where Republican incumbents are in trouble. In New Hampshire, three-term Democratic former governor Jeanne Shaheen is leading Sen. John Sununu (R-NH) by 15 to 20% in all the polls. In Oregon, Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR) is facing a stiff challenge from speaker of the state house, Jeff Merkley. Finally, in Minnesota, Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) will face off against the winner of the Democratic primary. In 2006, the Democratic candidate for the Senate won by 20%.

All in all, the only one of these seats in which a Republican is favored is Idaho. The rest lean Democratic or are tossups. However, the Louisiana Senate seat occupied by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) will be hotly contested. It is probably the only Democratic seat the GOP might be able to capture. More HERE

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