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Chatting With The Fix: S.D. House, Md. Gov., Kerry on the War and More

This morning I took part in a great online chat on washingtonpost.com. More questions came in than I've ever had before, so I thought we could use The Fix to answer a few more:

Washington, D.C.: Is the fact that Rep. Stephanie Herseth isn't facing a challenge a huge win for the Dems and their Frontline program?

The Fix: Someone is watching the filing deadlines very closely...I like that! The fact that Herseth, a Democrat who holds the South Dakota at-large House seat, has no Republican challenger speaks to how quickly she has been able to spread roots in the state. When Herseth was running in the 2004 special election to replace ex-Rep. Bill Janklow (R), Republicans predicted that if they were unable to beat her in that contest, she would likely have the seat for as long as she wanted it.

After winning the June special with 51 percent, Herseth won a full term in November 2004 with 53 percent over the same opponent. Now the only question is whether Herseth will decide to run for a statewide office. Sen. Tim Johnson (D) is up for reelection in 2008 and seems likely to run again. If he decides not to, expect Herseth to be the Democratic nominee. Sen. John Thune (R) is up for reelection in 2010 and Herseth will surely be encouraged to make that race, although Thune would start as a frontrunner due to the Republican nature of the state. In 2010 the governor's mansion will likely be open (assuming GOP Gov. Mike Rounds wins a second term in November); that race might also appeal to Herseth whose father was the party's gubernatorial nominee in 1986.

Washington, D.C.: How do you see the Maryland governor's race shaping up? It would seem to me that whatever Democrat wins the primary will have a better than good chance at winning. Ehrlich is not popular, Republicans in general are not popular, and Maryland is a democratic leaning state anyway. Any chance Ehrlich will just decide to not run?

The Fix: I don't think there is ANY chance that Ehrlich decides not to run. If Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley wins the Democratic nomination, Ehrlich starts, at best, even with the popular Democrat given the state's Democratic tilt and the pro-Democratic national environment. Ehrlich does have some advantages, however, most notably his massive fundraising ability -- the governor had $10 million in the bank at the end of 2005.

O'Malley is still the favorite for the Democratic nomination, although Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan is seeking to make political hay out of some problems within the Baltimore city government. O'Malley will need to find a convincing response to the charge that Baltimore has done something short of prospered during his tenure; Ehrlich is sure to use that line of argument in a general election.

New York City: John Kerry's NYT piece calling for withdrawal deadlines in Iraq: Will Dems rally around it, or scurry away from it?

The Fix: I was intrigued by Kerry's plan and his continued willingness to speak out loudly and forcefully in opposition to the current administration and its handling of the war in Iraq. While most insiders continue to write off Kerry's chances at the 2008 presidential nomination, I think his aggressive stance on the war, which he debuted at a speech at Georgetown University in the fall, keeps him as a national spokesman for the party in the eyes of many activists. That's not to say I think Kerry will be the party's nominee, but I think his actions in the last six months show he remains a force to be reckoned with.

As for whether other Democrats will flock to the Kerry plan or run from it, I'm honestly not sure. Early returns are promising for Kerry. Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold, who has been the outspoken critic of the war and its aftermath among the Democrats considering the 2008 race, issued a statement this afternoon that said, in part: "I applaud Senator Kerry's call today for our combat forces to be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of this year."

Arlington, Va.: Do you agree with University of Virginia political analyst Larry Sabato that James Webb would be a "nightmare" for Sen. George Allen (R)? In general, what's your read on the Virginia Senate race at this point in time?

The Fix: I think Sen. Allen is a favorite against either Jim Webb or Harris Miller, who will face off in a June 13 Democratic primary. I agree that Webb would present a unique challenge to Allen given his service in a Republican administration and his military background, but I don't think we've seen enough of "Jim Webb: Candidate" to know whether he would be a "nightmare" for Allen or not.

From everything I hear, Webb is still a newbie as a politician and simply isn't consistent on the campaign trail. If he can get by Miller in the primary, which, by the way, is far from a sure thing, Webb will have a chance to grow into the race. Allen, however, is no novice. This is a man who knows how to win races and has surrounded himself with some of the best campaign operatives in the business.

Again, the full transcript of my morning Web chat is online here.

By Chris Cillizza  |  April 5, 2006; 5:01 PM ET
Categories:  Fix Notes  
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