2006 Midterms: Early Spin From Both Sides
Five top-level House and Senate operatives gathered at the Hotel Washington in downtown D.C. this morning to offer up their views on where things stand in the 2006 midterm elections.
The panel was hosted by The Hotline and the Center For Politics at the University of Virginia. For the most part, both sides spun their respective viewpoints and made little news. But moderator John Mercurio did manage to break the surface a few times.
Asked to name their two most vulnerable incumbents in 2006, both Guy Cecil, political director at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and Brian Nick, communications director at the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, provided frank responses.
Nick ticked off Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Ohio Sen. Mike DeWine. Santorum comes as no surprise -- polling shows him trailing state Auditor Bob Casey (D) by double digits. But DeWine being mentioned over Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R) signals a slight shift. Nick explained that given Ohio's current political environment, DeWine is vulnerable to a challenge from Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett or Rep. Sherrod Brown. A recent Columbus Dispatch poll showed both Democrats with small leads over the incumbent.
On the Democratic side, Cecil mentioned Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson and Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell as the party's most vulnerable senators. Nick touted former Ameritrade President Pete Ricketts as a top-tier recruit against Nelson, but Cecil said his mention of the Nebraska race had much more to do with the fact that President Bush carried the state by 33 points in 2004. As for Cantwell, Cecil pointed out she is seeking reelection for the first time. In 2000 she defeated Sen. Slade Gorton (R) in 2000 by just 2,000 votes and Republicans came within a handful of votes of winning the governor's race last year. Republicans have united behind former Safeco Insurance Co. executive Mike McGavick as their nominee against Cantwell.
On the House side, the main topic was ethics and its potential impact on the midterms.
"Ethics is a losing issue for Democrats," said National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Ed Patru. He said voters don't identify the issue solely with Republicans -- mentioning the ongoing investigation of Rep. Bill Jefferson (D-La.) as evidence that neither side has a clean record.
Not so, countered John Lapp, top staffer at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He said the scandal surrounding disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff "is a Beltway scandal but it won't be for long. This is going to be a big election about big national issues."
For a complete blow-by-blow of the Hotline conference, make sure to check out Hotline's On Call blog.
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