Chatting With The Fix: Damage Control Time for Sen. Allen?
I spent an hour chatting online this morning but couldn't get to all of the questions I wanted to answer. A few of the best leftovers are below.
Baltimore: Have you read the profile of George Allen in the New Republic? It paints a very ugly picture -- especially of his relationships with his siblings. His sister, who wrote a book about life in the Allen family, says George was violently abusive to younger sibs--throwing one brother through a sliding glass door, breaking another brother's collarbone and, my favorite, hitting the sister's boyfriend in the head with a pool cue. When the reporter asked him about his sister's memories, Allen's weird reply was, "Well...she was the youngest. And a girl." I must admit, the whole piece gave me the willies.
The Fix: The piece, which was written by Ryan Lizza, has caused considerable controversy since it hit newsstands last week. (Here's a link to the story, though you'll need a New Republic password to read it in its entirety.) Sen. Allen and his closest advisers immediately dismissed the story as a "hit" piece by a liberal magazine.
To me, the most potentially damaging revelations in the story deal with Allen's fondness for the Confederate flag when he was a teenager. The Hotline's "On Call" blog caught up with Allen over the weekend, and he said that as he aged he realized the flag "means different things to different people."
I don't think the New Republic story does any real damage to Allen as he seeks a second term this November. It may, however, raise doubts among some within the Republican chattering class as they debate whom their party's next presidential nominee should be. Allen -- along with Arizona Sen. John McCain and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney -- remains in the top tier of 2008 Republicans regardless.
Washington, D.C.: Do you think that Rep. Sweeney's frat party scandal will have an impact on his race? I read on a blog that a local paper called on him to apologize to his constituents.
The Fix: Sweeney's escapades at a fraternity party at Union College (not in his district, by the way) won't to help him in his race against Kirsten Gillibrand (D), but it remains to be seen how much the incident will hurt him politically. Democrats had an eye on this Upstate New York district (the 20th) prior to Sweeney's gaffe because of the likely drubbing statewide Republicans will receive in the region come November. The district does have a Republican lean to it, however, as President Bush won it 54 percent to 46 percent over John Kerry in 2004.
Gillibrand, whose father is a powerful lobbyist in Albany, has raised more than $700,000 for the race and has over $500,000 on hand. Sweeney had $962,000 in the bank at the end of March.
Republicans insist that voters in the district know Sweeney and won't be shocked by this latest slip-up. Democrats see the boozy party pictures as encapsulating why a change needs to be made.
Boca Raton, Fla.: Chris, Can you give us the latest fix on Tammy Duckworth's campaign in Illinois? She is the courageous veteran who was severely wounded in Iraq.
The Fix: After winning the March 21 6th District primary, Duckworth has largely avoided the limelight as she seeks to refill her campaign coffers for the open-seat race against state Sen. Peter Roskam (R). At the end of March, Duckworth had $330,000 on hand as compared to $1.1 million for Roskam. By the numbers Roskam should start with an edge in this district, which gave Bush a 53 percent to 47 percent margin in 2004. But the national political climate should help neutralize the district's Republican tilt and Duckworth's story -- she lost both legs in Iraq when a rocket-propelled grenade landed at her feet -- is sure to draw national coverage. In the most recent Friday House Line, the race is ranked #16. (For more on Duckworth, make sure to read Post reporter Peter Slevin's terrific profile.)
Silver Spring, Md.: Do you think Matt Brown's withdrawal from the R.I. Senate race helps or hurts Lincoln Chafee? On the one hand, Sheldon Whitehouse can save his money for the general election. On the other, liberal independents might be more likely to vote in the Republican primary for Chafee. And Chafee is arguably in more danger in the primary than in the general. But how many people really would be choosing between voting in the Democratic and Republican primaries?
The Fix: As I have written in this space before, I think Brown's departure could help Chafee at the margins as non-affiliated voters might now be more inclined to pick a Republican ballot in the September primary. If only Republicans vote in the primary fight between Chafee and Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey, Laffey will win. The hope for Chafee is to convince a large number of independents, who under state law can vote in either primary, to pull a GOP ballot and vote for him.
Predicting a victor in a race where 30,000 people or less will vote is nearly impossible. But make no mistake, this is the most serious challenge a Senate incumbent has faced since Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter (R) narrowly beat back Rep. Pat Toomey (R) in 2004 or Rep. John Sununu (R) ousted Sen. Bob Smith (R) in New Hampshire's 2002 primary.
That said, if Chafee can survive the primary he has a real shot at holding the seat against former state Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse (D) in November.
May 3, 2006; 4:02 PM ET
Categories: Fix Notes
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