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The Friday Line: Senate Gains Still Looking Certain For Dems

Sitting down to write this week's Friday Line on the top Senate races, one thing immediately became clear: There are two tiers of Senate races right now -- the top four contests and everything else.

The top four (Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Montana) are locked in as the top takeover opportunities this cycle, and each of those seats is currently held by a Republican. While the top four may flip-flop with each other from time to time, there is little chance these races will drop lower down on the list.

The remaining six races are much harder to read, and we have repeatedly struggled to do so over the past few months. Has Missouri's Jim Talent (R) really committed a fireable offense? Is Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (R) a star on the rise or a flop in the making? How valuable is the Kean last name in New Jersey? Which Republican millionaire -- Mike McGavick in Washington or Pete Ricketts in Nebraska -- has the better chance of ousting a Democratic incumbent?

These are the questions that keep The Fix up at night (and no, I am not kidding). So as you read this week's Line, remember that beyond those top four races the list reflects a snapshot in time. Feel free to offer your own thoughts the comments section below.

10. New Jersey: Sen. Bob Menendez (D) is nothing if not a prolific fundraiser. Witness his $2.5 million haul over the first three months of the year and the $6.3 million he has on hand. State Sen. Tom Kean Jr. (R) bounced back from a poor fundraising year in 2005 to raise $1.6 million between January 1 and March 31, with $2 million in the bank. Money is all important in New Jersey; to make a statewide television buy a candidate must purchase time in the New York City and Philadelphia media markets -- two of the most expensive in the country. With the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee trailing its Democratic counterpart in cash on hand, Kean may find himself outgunned financially, which does not bode well for his chances. (Previous ranking: 10)

9. Nebraska: We continue to believe that if former Ameritrade executive Pete Ricketts wins the May 9 Republican primary, his personal wealth and lack of a record could spell trouble for Sen. Ben Nelson (D) in November. (Ricketts has already donated $3 million to his own campaign in the primary). But a Ricketts' primary victory is far from a sure thing, as he must defeat former state Attorney General Don Stenberg and former state party chairman David Kramer for the nomination. Stenberg appears to be the more serious threat given that he still carries considerable name identification from his time in office, looks to be the preferred candidate of social conservatives and has a base in the Republican-heavy western part of the state. (Previous ranking: 8)

8. Maryland: A Democratic primary poll -- not conducted for any of the candidates in the Senate race -- showed Rep. Ben Cardin and former Rep. Kweisi Mfume in a virtual tie -- 32 percent for Cardin to 31 percent for Mfume. That result gave us pause as we -- like most neutral observers -- have long expected Cardin to emerge as the winner in the September primary. Cardin still should be seen as the favorite because he has more room to grow with Democratic voters than Mfume (75 percent know the latter's name compared to 57 percent who know the former's), and he enjoys a financial lead of more than $2 million. Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (R) seems to have bounced back from his staff problems earlier this year, raising a solid $1.3 million in the period. He also got a bit of momentum when a leaked internal Democratic National Committee polling memo showed Steele, who is black, with considerable potential to win African American voters in the fall. We're still skeptical, but the race moves up a spot as Cardin looks like he'll be battling a tough primary challenger for months to come. (Previous ranking: 9)

7. Tennessee: Republicans continue to pooh-pooh ranking the Volunteer State Senate race this high, but it's tough to move it down based on what we've seen of late in the campaign. And that is? State Sen. Rosalind Kurita dropped her Democratic primary candidacy on Thursday, clearing the field for Rep. Harold Ford Jr. While Ford was the heavy favorite in the August 3 primary, he would have had to spend at least some time and money to defeat Kurita. He can now focus entirely on the general election. Meanwhile, the three Republicans in the race -- former Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker and former Reps. Ed Bryant and Van Hilleary -- show every indication that they are headed for a nasty (and expensive) primary battle. Corker continues to hold a huge fundraising lead (at the end of March he had raised $5.5 million for the race) but is likely to need every penny to stave off attacks from Hilleary and Bryant that he is too liberal to win the nomination (the latest salvo is that Corker has voted in Democratic primaries). Corker is sure to paint himself as a conservative in the primary race, meaning that if he does wind up victorious he will have afforded Ford (ahem) an opportunity to co-opt moderate voters in the general election. Sure, Tennessee is a southern state and Democrats have not shown much of an ability to win Senate seats in the South in recent cycles. But if ever there was a cycle where national atmospherics could nullify the generic Republican edge in the state, this is the one. (Previous ranking: 7)

6. Missouri: This race drops a single spot on the Line simply because we haven't heard a truly convincing reason yet why voters in the Show Me State would fire incumbent Jim Talent (R). Missouri has moved more and more into the Republican column in the past few elections, and Talent has proven himself a capable campaigner, fantastic fundraiser and a difficult target for negative attacks since his "aw shucks" demeanor makes it hard to cast him as a loyal footsoldier of the extreme right. State Auditor Claire McCaskill is a sterling Democratic recruit, and this race is not likely to be decided by more than a few points. Few recent races in Missouri have been blowouts: McCaskill lost to Gov. Matt Blunt (R) in 2004 by a 51 percent to 48 percent margin; Talent beat Sen. Jean Carnahan 50 percent to 49 percent in 2002. The only exception was Sen. Kit Bond's 56 percent to 43 percent drubbing of Treasurer Nancy Farmer (D) in 2004. In short, this race will be very close; we just haven't seen why Talent will end up on the short end. (Previous ranking: 5)

5. Minnesota: The Fix sat down with Rep. Mark Kennedy, the Republican nominee for this open seat, and came away impressed. Kennedy is not a typical politician -- he is neither slick nor particularly polished. But he is smart and practical, two essential traits for winning candidates. Kennedy acknowledges that the national political climate is a hurdle, especially given the Democratic tilt of Minnesota. But he also makes a strong case that his image as a unorthodox politician with a business background (he says he would be the only CPA in the Senate if elected) could appeal to voters looking for an agent of change in November. Democrats counter that Kennedy is nothing more than a rubberstamp for President Bush and say they have the votes to make the case. Both Kennedy and Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar, who has effectively cleared the Democratic field, will be well-financed. Kennedy narrowly outraised Klobuchar in the first quarter of 2006 ($1.5 million to $1.3 million) and has a $900,000 cash-on-hand edge. This seat is -- by far -- Republicans' best chance at a takeover (Previous ranking: 6)

4. Montana: For once, the focus of this race isn't on Sen. Conrad Burns, which is a good thing for the Republican's chances of winning a fourth term this fall. Instead, state Auditor John Morrison, the leading Democratic candidate, has stepped into the limelight after acknowledging that three years after engaging in an extramarital affair, his treasurer's office investigated the woman's fiancé. While no specific wrongdoing has been alleged, these sorts of sordid stories make it easier for Burns, who has struggled for months with his connections to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, to muddy the waters. It remains to be seen how much damage Morrison has done to himself, but the June 6 primary against state Sen. Jon Tester should be telling. (Previous ranking: 3)

3. Ohio: The race between Sen. Mike DeWine (R) and Rep. Sherrod Brown (D) has been decidedly quiet of late. The biggest development is DeWine's announcement late last month that he would be a cosponsor of a Senate resolution advocating a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriages. That position should help mollify conservatives, who are still angry for DeWine's participation in the "Gang of 14" compromise on federal judicial nominees. While most Republicans running for federal office across the country this year will need to find a way to overcome the political environment, DeWine faces an even more difficult task since atmospherics in the state are even more toxic toward Republicans, thanks in large part to scandals involving outgoing Gov. Bob Taft (R). Republicans argue that Brown's voting record over his 14 years in Congress is decidedly more liberal than the average state voter. (Previous ranking: 4)

2. Rhode Island: Strategists on both sides believe the death spiral of Secretary of State Matt Brown's (D) campaign increases their chances in the state. Republicans believe that Brown's collapse means that the Democratic primary will be much less competitive than expected, a development that means independents are more likely to vote in the Republican primary between Sen. Lincoln Chafee and Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey. Given Chafee's moderate politics, independents who decide to vote in the GOP primary are much more likely to support the incumbent over the challenger. Democrats, on the other hand, believe Brown's weakening candidacy allows former state Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse to conserve resources for the general election. What is beyond dispute is that Chafee faces a very serious September primary against Laffey, who outraised Chafee in the first three months of the year and narrowed the incumbent's cash-on-hand lead to $600,000. (Previous ranking: 2)

1. Pennsylvania: Another month closer to the election and Sen. Rick Santorum (R) still trails state Auditor Bob Casey Jr. (D) by double digits in every one of the myriad polls released weekly in the race. While Americans for Job Security has been running ads supportive of Santorum, we're somewhat surprised that the senator's campaign has not begun advertising in certain markets in the state. He needs to begin to change voter perceptions soon or he may find it impossible to do so as the election draws closer and closer. This race will close before Election Day, but we see nothing that changes our opinion that Santorum remains an underdog for a third term. (Previous ranking: 1)

Here's the last Friday Line ranking of Senate races. See also my April 13 post on the Arizona Senate race.

By Chris Cillizza  |  April 14, 2006; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Senate , The Line  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Arizona Senate: Can Democrats Unseat Kyl?
Next: Bill Frist: The Howard Dean of the GOP?


Senator Allen. 96% Bush, only less.

Posted by: va voter | May 11, 2006 10:19 AM | Report abuse

I'm posting from Montreal, where I've pre-emptively avoided the draft. :) We have $5 a day child care, same-sex marriage, medical marijuana, and universal health care here; along with a federal government running 8 budget surpluses in a row--paying off the national debt, a very strong dollar, and record low unemployment. Not to mention lower taxes and crime & violence rates than the US. None of that silly terrorism paranoia either; why would al Qaeda bother Canada? Grad school here as an international student costs about $10,000 US a year. It would be 3 times that in the States.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | April 20, 2006 1:38 AM | Report abuse

Sandwich repairman -- Not according to Racicot's own staff. Where are you posting from, Montana?

Posted by: Alan in Missoula | April 18, 2006 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Frasnkly, I think the best way for Dems to deal with the "money gap" they always have with Repubs. would be to delcare that they, as a party, pledge to campaign according to the riles set forth in Russ Feigold's legislation for campaign finance reform. If every Dem pledged to not accept any big money", voters would instinctively support them, as they did russ Feingold when he ran for the Senate according to his rules. Otherwise we will never escape the more and more money treadmill.

Personally, I think all paid political announcments should be banned. It would eliminate mudslinging. Just a comprehensive series of real debates on all the important issues followed by tyown meetings in different regions of the country.

Speaking freely,

Posted by: Kathleen Grasso Andersen | April 18, 2006 5:33 PM | Report abuse

I think Bush was discussing a different position with Racicot, like RNC Chair.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | April 18, 2006 10:47 AM | Report abuse

And yet, he had Racicot personally flown to Texas on a private jet, shortly before making the AG decision. The story is Racicot turned the position down, in order to to take a position for big bucks in a D.C. law firm, helps his kids with their studdent loans etc.

Posted by: Alan In Missoula | April 18, 2006 1:25 AM | Report abuse

There's documentation from October 2000 showing that Bush's first choice for AG was John Ashcroft. Bush was going to nominate Ashcroft for the job whether he was reelected or not.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | April 17, 2006 9:29 PM | Report abuse

Morrison's first name is John, not James.

Posted by: Alan in Missoula | April 17, 2006 8:32 PM | Report abuse

Not sure if RMill is in Montana or not, but speculation about Racicot is very old and he's said publically he is not interested in returning to Montana to run. There never was a serious effort to recruit him to run for Senate. It was just press speculation.

Most recent press speculation about Racicot's future had to do with him being appointed to Bush's staff in the coming shakeup. Racicot has been gone from Montana since he stepped down from the governor's chair in January of 2001. He was apparently Bush's first choiice for AG in 2,000. The two have been friends since they met at a Western Governor's conference when both were governors of their respective states.

Again, all bets are off if there is an indictment, but I see Burns easily on the ballot in November. In a sidelight, the Montana press today had a story of GOP challenger Bob Keenan, a GOP legislative leader, beginning his campaign with his wife in an RV that will navigate this vast but thinly populated state. Keenan has very little money and decided his candidacy shortly before the filing deadline. He's not considered a serious threat for the nomination, but a strong "protest" vote going to Keenan by disgruntled Republicans may further undermine Burns in the general.

Burns meanwhile is spending some of his war chest on adds touting him as bringing home the bacon, from his role on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The two major Democrats, James Morrison and Jon Tester, are still holding back on media buys. Tester just released quarterly figures showing he raised $250,000 in the last quarter, a significant jump. But neither is spending much money yet, hoping to hold on to money for the big battle with Burns.

Tester is taking a hiatus from the campaign while he finishes seeding on his Big Sandy farm. But June 6 is looming and one wonders what the May run-up to the primary will bring.

Posted by: Alan in Missoula | April 17, 2006 8:20 PM | Report abuse

I only asked Araidne the question I did because her perceptions suggest to me that he/she lives in the reddest corner of Ohio where nary a dissenting squeak from the area's overwhelming right-wing dogma is heard. His/her comments don't square with public opinion in Ohio at all. And I note that the poster has not responded.

DeWine is much more moderate than Talent. Or maybe I should state that the other way around. They both have calm demeanors, but Talent is an extremist. DeWine can't even get County Republican organizations to endorse his reelection because he's losing his base. They're not quite a fair comparison. Ohio is a more toxic scandal-drenched environment for Republicans, and it's less reliably Republican than MO. Both incumbents trail their challengers in the polls, but Talent's deficit is clearly smaller.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | April 17, 2006 3:57 PM | Report abuse

The political axioms that "All politics is local" and "It's the economy, stupid" notwithstanding, I can't help but feel that this may be one of the most surprising political years since the days of Vietnam. And my hunch is based on a single word: Iraq. I understand Chris's rationale and the historical precedent for voters being adverse to turning out their locally elected officials, irrespective of their disdain for the administration. Still, I think the war is hanging very, very heavily on people's minds, not only for the obvious reasons, but as an economic issue as well. My prediction: what happens in Iraq over the next 6 months will have the greatest influence on the outcome of the November elections than any other issue. And, as there is virtually no way to spin one's way out of the deepening quagmire (save for the fear mongering and McCarthy-like appeals to patriotism) I tend to believe that a precedent-breaking surprise may be on the horizon. Although that opinion is admittedly colored by a bit of wishful thinking.

Posted by: Al in the other Washington | April 17, 2006 1:13 PM | Report abuse

As far as Talent-

This description of no "truly convincing reason yet why voters in the Show Me State would fire incumbent" was used months ago for Ohio Senator DeWine. My response then as now, in both counts, is what have they done to deserve re-election.

In many cases, the focus on scandal is skewing the issues of whether an incumbant is safe or deserving of re-election.

Talent and DeWine are similar, kind of quiet, understated moderates trying to cloak themselves in conservative dressing (or is it the other way around?) to escape primary wrath in Ohio and Missouri.

That they have not been caught up in the scandal is admirable (unfortunate that lack of scandal is seen as admirable rather than expected) but making the case for why they should keep their jobs will be more difficult than that and home state voters are showing their incumbant junior senators that very fact in the polls.

The fact that neither is maintaining healthy leads (or losing in some or most polls) or achieving 50% for incumbants must be worrisome for the GOP.

Posted by: RMill | April 17, 2006 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Sandwich: That the KKK may be strongest in So. Ohio, does not mean that they are truly stong there (they may be, I don't know). Plus, you can't reasonably infer that the Republicans have anything to do with that.

It does come off as a cheap shot.

But, it was interesting to see the nerve it hit with VivaBush. A true Bush follower - Down with the First Amendment!

I guess doing what the Swift Boat people did is acceptable only for one side of the political spectrum.

Posted by: Duh | April 17, 2006 10:56 AM | Report abuse

MT update

I was unaware that the deadline passed for new candidates last week and Racicot is not an option. MT Senate Pres Keenan is a candidate against Burns but is polling worse against Morrison and Teeter than Burns is at this point.

Posted by: RMill | April 17, 2006 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Sorry I should have been more precise. I should have said with respect to the Senate race, FL is showing no better indication of change of republican voting strength than NE. It also takes considerably more money to defend FL than NE and while both Sens. Nelson are sitting on considerable funds, Nelson NE is in far better shape to defend from Omaha/Lincoln media bases than Nelson FL is in Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Tallahassee.

As far as MT is concerned, regardless if the polls do not pick up or further Abramoff indictments implicate Burns directly, former Gov. Racicot is being heavily recruited to step in (whether Burns gets out or not).

Posted by: RMill | April 17, 2006 10:34 AM | Report abuse


Desert rats leave the sinking ship: Why Rumsfeld should not resign
By Greg Palast

Well, here they come: the wannabe Rommels, the gaggle of generals, safely retired, to lay siege to Donald Rumsfeld. This week, six of them have called for the Secretary of Defense's resignation.

Well, according to my watch, they're about four years too late -- and they still don't get it.

I know that most of my readers will be tickled pink that the bemedalled boys in crew cuts are finally ready to kick Rummy in the rump, in public. But to me, it just shows me that these boys still can't shoot straight.

It wasn't Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld who stood up in front of the UN and identified two mobile latrines as biological weapons labs, was it, General Powell?

It wasn't Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld who told us our next warning from Saddam could be a mushroom cloud, was it Condoleezza?

It wasn't Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld who declared that Al Qaeda and Saddam were going steady, was it, Mr. Cheney?

Yes, Rumsfeld is a swaggering bag of mendacious arrogance, a duplicitous chicken-hawk, yellow-bellied bully-boy and Tinker-Toy Napoleon -- but he didn't appoint himself Secretary of Defense.

Let me tell you a story about the Secretary of Defense you didn't read in the New York Times, related to me by General Jay Garner, the man our president placed in Baghdad as the US' first post-invasion viceroy.

Garner arrived in Kuwait City in March 2003 working under the mistaken notion that when George Bush called for democracy in Iraq, the president meant the Iraqis could choose their own government. Misunderstanding the president's true mission, General Garner called for Iraqis to hold elections within 90 days and for the U.S. to quickly pull troops out of the cities to a desert base. "It's their country," the General told me of the Iraqis. "And," he added, most ominously, "their oil."

Let's not forget: it's all about the oil. I showed Garner a 101-page plan for Iraq's economy drafted secretly by neocons at the State Department, Treasury and the Pentagon, calling for "privatization" (i.e. the sale) of "all state assets . . . especially in the oil and oil-supporting industries." The general knew of the plans and he intended to shove it where the Iraqi sun don't shine. Garner planned what he called a "Big Tent" meeting of Iraqi tribal leaders to plan elections. By helping Iraqis establish their own multi-ethnic government -- and this was back when Sunnis, Shias and Kurds were on talking terms -- knew he could get the nation on its feet peacefully before a welcomed "liberation" turned into a hated "occupation."

But, Garner knew, a freely chosen coalition government would mean the death-knell for the neocon oil-and-assets privatization grab.

On April 21, 2003, three years ago this month, the very night General Garner arrived in Baghdad, he got a call from Washington. It was Rumsfeld on the line. He told Garner, in so many words, "Don't unpack, Jack, you're fired."

Rummy replaced Garner, a man with years of on-the-ground experience in Iraq, with green-boots Paul Bremer, the Managing Director of Kissinger Associates. Bremer cancelled the Big Tent meeting of Iraqis and postponed elections for a year; then he issued 100 orders, like some tin-pot pasha, selling off Iraq's economy to U.S. and foreign operators, just as Rumsfeld's neo-con clique had desired.

Reading this, it sounds like I should applaud the six generals' call for Rumfeld's ouster. Forget it.

For a bunch of military hotshots, they sure can't shoot straight. They're wasting all their bullets on the decoy. They've gunned down the puppet instead of the puppeteers.

There's no way that Rumsfeld could have yanked General Garner from Baghdad without the word from The Bunker. Nothing moves or breathes or spits in the Bush administration without Darth Cheney's growl of approval. And ultimately, it's the commander-in-chief who's chiefly in command.

Even the generals' complaint -- that Rumsfeld didn't give them enough troops -- was ultimately a decision of the cowboy from Crawford. (And by the way, the problem was not that we lacked troops -- the problem was that we lacked moral authority to occupy this nation. A million troops would not be enough -- the insurgents would just have more targets.)

President Bush is one lucky fella. I can imagine him today on the intercom with Cheney: "Well, pardner, looks like the game's up." And Cheney replies, "Hey, just hang the Rumsfeld dummy out the window until he's taken all their ammo."

When Bush and Cheney read about the call for Rumsfeld's resignation today, I can just hear George saying to Dick, "Mission accomplished."

Generals, let me give you a bit of advice about choosing a target: It's the president, stupid.
Read more about the untold story of General Garner and the secret war plans in ARMED MADHOUSE, by Greg Palast, to be released June 6 (US) and July 6 (UK). View Palast's interview with Garner for BBC Television at

Posted by: CHE | April 17, 2006 4:43 AM | Report abuse

Do you deny that in Ohio the KKK is strongest in the Southwest part of the state?

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | April 16, 2006 11:34 PM | Report abuse

The post above is one of the worst slanders one can expect to see from the far left and in my opinion, should be removed from this site NOW. There is no reason to associate SWOH with the KKK nor anyone who supports a Republican as such. As the blog statement says: "personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site."

Stand by your statement and deliver Chris.

Posted by: vivabush04OH | April 16, 2006 10:15 AM | Report abuse

No, the party doesn't have the power to remove a candidate from the ballot anywhere. But they do have the pressure to convince a candidate to withdraw. See Robert Torricelli, 2002. Or the GOP's original nominee for Senate in 2004 in IL. Or even Tom DeLay just recently. I'm talking about the general, not the primary.

Carnahan beat Ashcroft in 2000, not 1998.

Ariadne: do you like in the KKK part of Ohio, down Southwest?

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | April 15, 2006 11:07 PM | Report abuse

If Ohio is one of the Democrats' best shots for a pick-up, there doesn't seem to be much hope then. As confusing and bumbling as DeWine look right now, there's also little to really take him down with except among the far right, whom he's mollifying with his support of the odious "Defense of Marriage" amendment. Meanwhile, Brown is running a circle-the-wagons, tin-ear campaign that isn't bringing anyone on board and in fact, seems determined to alienate anyone who isn't already utterly faithful to him. he unveiled one of the worst campaign ads — an online video ad featuring his wife as a talking head in front of a bookcase rambling generalities. No one here in Ohio, not even his hardcore base, seems that energized for him. I think we're looking at people going for the tried-and-true on election day and sending DeWine back to Washington by at least an 8-10 point margin, barring the discovery of a direct link between him and either the D.C./Abramoff scandals or the Ohio/Tom Noe scandals. Otherwise, Brown is toast.

Posted by: Ariadne | April 15, 2006 9:02 PM | Report abuse

I cannot believe you have dropped MO in place of MN. Given the political climate of 2006, you really expect a state like MN to vote for a republican candidate for senate? Kennedy is one of the biggest flop candidates this year. MO polls show a dead heat, and have ever since McCaskill jumped in. She has kept the matchup numbers to the low 40s and is doing great in fundraising. What issue does she have to run with? Corruption and stem cell research.

Posted by: Gavin Brown | April 15, 2006 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Well, you need to understand the law and the process. The party has NO power to TAKE Burns off the ballot. Burns is already on the ballot in our primary which is just six weeks away. The filing deadline is closed. Everyone who is going to be on the ballot is on it.

Burns has a wad of money. He has only one GOP challenger of any substance and that's Bob Keenan, a Republican legislative leader out of Bigfork. As a regionally known state polititian, Keenan has a short campaign and a lot of poor name recognition to make up for, outside Flathead county, which, in his favor, is the state's most populous GOP stronghold.

Barring an unforseen catastrophe, like indictment, Burns is not likely to lose the primary. As I'm sure you know, the party system in the US is weak. Our Constitution makes no provision for parties, gives them no power. Indeed one of the framers, James Madison, argued against parties in Federalist #10, even though he later was part of the nation's first opposition party, the Democratic-Republicans (the beginnings of today's Democrats).

Candidates are free to file for election in the primary whether the majority of the party powers likes them or not. It's not like European parliamentary elections where parties have the right to pick their own slate.

If Burns wins the primary, he's the nominee. He can't be forced off the ballot by the Republican party or anyone else. He's only off the ballot if he decides to quit in enough time to allow the party to find a replacement before ballots cannot be changed. In most of Montana, ballots are printed individually and counted by scanners.

As a former printer who printed ballots in my county, I know there is a deadline for printed ballots to be given to the local elections office. After that date, there's no change in the ballot, even if a candidate dies. Witness our former attorney-general's loss in Missouri to a dead man in 1998.

I've followed Montana politics for years. I've been voting since 1972. It's the basis of one of my undergraduate degrees. And I've been a newspaperman and lawyer in Montana for more than 35 years.

Burns is a proud man who will have difficulty stepping down for the good of the party. And it would probably take an indictment for him to even contemplate it. Look what a hard time he had in deciding to take the seemingly obvious step of returning the Abramoff money. Even though the amount, though substantial at $150,000, is still only a tiny fraction of his campaign war chest. The man is a ranking member of the Senate appropriations committe and belongs to the majority party. He gets tons of money from lobbyists who want to be remembered with a warm heart by Burns. After all, the committee that controls the purse strings is where the real action is at.

Not only that, but Burns has a long history of going dirty in his campaigns, though he likes to complain loudly that opponents are doing the same to him. he is now calling the whole Abramoff thing a Democratic smear campaign against him.

Like it or not, dirty campaigns can be effective. That's been Burn's main reelection tactic, countering his own high negatives by driving up his opponent's negatives. So far, it's worked.

He won a narrow victory over Schweitzer that way in 2000. He even personally accused Sweitzer, with not a scintila of evidence, of using illegally imported fertilizer on his farm. Burns stays on the ballot as long as he wants to stay. that's the law.

The smart move as far as the GOP is concerned is to not pressure Burns to quit if it all goes south. If he crashes, it's too late to do much about it. Congressman Rehberg is really the only Republican cabable of putting together a good statewide campaign at short notice and to attempt that would put his house seat, still most likely a safe one for the GOP, in jeopardy.

Burns will be the GOP nominee barring a catastrophe. The still unknown factor is which Democrat will be running against him after June 6, 2006. Tester is the best bet for the Democrats. Those farming swing counties are why.

Posted by: Alan in Missoula | April 15, 2006 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Sorry about the typos.

Posted by: Duh | April 15, 2006 4:36 PM | Report abuse

RMill: Last week I had a follow-up to a comment on Che postings. [The original suggested something like not letting Che post.] A subsequent entry felt that all we had to do was screen past Che's postings or start our own blog; that to do anything would other than that would be an infringement of Free Speech.

That probably only re-inforced Che's aberrent behavior.

Way to go, First Amendment dudes!

The First Amendment doesn't say that when somebody misbehaviors at a party that they cannot be asked to act normally, or be asked to leave.

The Post owns the site. They can do whatever they want with it.

[FYI - Today's irrelevant Che posting was nine screens for me.]

Posted by: Duh! | April 15, 2006 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Why is there no serious question about Burns staying on the ballot if he continues to fall further and further behind both Democratic candidates? The party is not stupid; the worse his Abramoff situation gets, the more pressure there will be to force him into retirement.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | April 15, 2006 3:06 PM | Report abuse

FL is no less red that NE? Incorrect. Florida voted for Bush by a narrow margin (5 points?) in 2004 and was notoriously close in 2000 (most likely having voted for Gore). It voted for Clinton in 1996. Nebraska happens to be THE most Republican state in presidential elections. There is no comparison.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | April 15, 2006 3:03 PM | Report abuse

That last CHE post is just ridiculously long. Please Chris, please...

Posted by: RMill | April 15, 2006 10:51 AM | Report abuse


Bill Nelson is indeed ahead in the latest 4-10 Rasmussen poll, up from 49%-40% in Feb. Also, Quinnipiac had it 53%-31% in mid Feb Mason Dixon 51%-35% on March 22 and Zogby/WSJ March polls 49.75 - 37.6%. Survey USA has his approval at 49% in March.

There is also no indication FL is less red than NE, where Ben Nelson is polling in similar range against GOP candidates but with a 70% approval. Either we accept polling as is for all candidates or for none. Since it is our only gauge to use this far from an election, I would say that between the two Sens. Nelson, FL Bill Nelson is in more current jeopardy based upon polls, opponents $ on hand and approval of home state voters.

Posted by: RMill | April 15, 2006 10:40 AM | Report abuse

There is no serious question of Burns staying on the ballot, at least not without an indictment. I'm not so sure that's coming, but we'll have to see. The GOP would have the option of selecting another candidate and they have a fairly strong and tested candidate in Congressman Denny Rehberg.

It would still be real race for the Senate then, but this would really open up the state's single congressional seat. Rehberg's current challenger, Monica Lindeen, a respected state legislator from a rural area near Billings (as was Rehberg at initial election) is still fighting an uphill battle with the funding needed to get basic name recognition statewide.

With Rehberg out of the picture Republicans would be hard pressed to find another congressional candidate with state-wide name recognition, which would certainly even the playing field for Lindeen. Where Burns is often caustic, Rehberg is personable, although their political positions are very close. It's an interesting scenario to play with.

Wiser GOP minds might say it's smarter to leave Rehberg where he is rather than risk both seats. Lindeen has no meaningful primary opposition, but right now, is still barely known outside the Billings area. Montana is probably one of the least expensive media buys in the country, but Lindeen needs a lot more than she has to make a serious challenge to Rehberg.

That said, it does make a difference who the Democrats nominate for Senate. Morrison is a Western Montana liberal with no ag connections. That used to work when Butte was a large industrial center and there was little population in post-war eastern Montana. But it hasn't worked since Mike Mansfield left the Senate in 1976, and Lee Metcalf died in 1978. (Both Western Montana Liberals)

Every Senator since, Baucus, Melcher and Burns had the ability to take the rural swing counties and without them, every senate candidacy is all but doomed.
Tester is the Democrat's best shot. The demise of Burns has been predicted each re-election before. He has always had high negatives. But look: Here he is running for a fourth term.

Burns has the big money advantage now, but look for a lot of national money to pour in. The Democrats want this seat bad, and they'll sepnd money on it. The GOP may wind up not directing as much national money to Burns, if he continues to saq, saving their spending for contests where there's a better chance.

Posted by: Alan in Missoula | April 15, 2006 8:49 AM | Report abuse

Jay: You have a point. But Maryland has already elected Steele Lt. Governor. If Mfume gets the Dem nomination, there may be some abivalence in the rank and file there -- not because of race but just because a lot of people don't like him. Hard to say what will happen with the black vote if Cardin wins, though he should be able to follow in Sarbanes footsteps and the Jewish vote will be galvinized, which is not insignificant in Maryland.

In any event, take nothing for granted in 2006!

Posted by: Will | April 15, 2006 8:38 AM | Report abuse

With Nov 7th looming, i look forward to these rankings more and more. why are we americans so taken with top ten lists?
I agree with your analysis in general, but take Maryland off the list. No was Maryland elects a black republican. I have to say that it's a similar logic that suggests that it would be hard for a democratic woman to become president.
I hope i don't come off looking mysoginist or racist, but when reading the tea leaves so much is uncertain. But we can always count of race and gender mattering.

Posted by: jay lassiter | April 15, 2006 8:33 AM | Report abuse

Had Enough?

Democrats cannot be complacent about any race in 2006. Republicans have the money, resources and craftiness to make just about any race a tough race. The one thing they are good at is winning elections. Look at Rep. Molahan in W. Virginia. We will have state by state, district by district gurerilla warfare on our hands.

Democrats also need a positive national agenda.. on health care, energy, the environment, electoral reform and anti-terrorism. They need to out-tough Republicans on border and workplace immigration enforcement while supporting a guest worker program and a path to permanent residence. They also need to move to the right of the administration on anti-terrorism... and keep hitting home the issue that this inept crowd in the White House that screwed up Iraq, the balanced budget, Katrina, etc. probably also missed the boat on 9-11. I personally agree with James Carville and Paul Begala that under President Gore, 9-11 would never have happened and we'd have quite a different country now. Truth be told, George Bush has weakened this country... our economy, our defense, our credibility around the world.

In any event, we need both a positive national agenda, and a negative attack campaign, and need to leave no stone unturned re background and negatives of Republican candidates, also be prepared in every case to quickly fight off Swift boat type attacks.

Newt Gingrich is right, our slogan needs to be "Had Enough?"

Posted by: Will | April 15, 2006 7:54 AM | Report abuse

"Painwashing" the Moussaoui jury and us
By Jerry Mazza

Painwashing is brainwashing: repeating the same painful stories over and over again to individuals (in this case a jury) till their resistance to questioning gives in. The hurtful repetition induces a kind of trance. And in the flood of emotionally-charged 9/11 recollections, rational logical questioning of who was responsible for what is disappeared. Repeating the effects of the tragedy becomes a false proof of guilt for the patsy Zacarias Moussaoui. It also attempts to hypnotize the country into the 9/11 trance once again.

It’s not unlike stunning the defendant himself with a painful jolt of electric via the alleged stun belt under his clothing, till he does and says what is expected of him, reported in my Online Journal article, Was Moussaoui outfitted with a hidden ‘stun belt’ at trial?

Actually, the jury “painwashing” was duly noted by U.S. District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema, after complaints from defense lawyers “that a stream of victim-impact testimony last week would be overly prejudicial to the jury that must decide if Moussaoui is to be executed,” as reported in an article, Moussaoui jury to hear painful testimony – Judge warns against using emotion Sept. 11 accounts to influence jury.

The article reports, “The wrenching first-person account of the day’s horrors came on the same day that the judge in the death-penalty trial warned prosecutors against relying too heavily on such emotional testimony to influence Moussaoui’s jury. . . . Brinkema acknowledged that there is no way to avoid emotional testimony in this case, but reminded prosecutors that overly prejudicial testimony can be grounds for overturning a death sentence on appeal.

“You may pay a price for that down the road,” the Judge told prosecutors.”

The price would be condemning the wrong person to death and letting the real culprits go free.

Another challenge to the prosecution’s tactics came from Kristen Breitweiser, who lost her husband, a financial executive, on 9/11. She said, “I certainly wasn’t invited to give a witness impact statement. I certainly don’t know anyone who was invited. When it comes to 9/11 and the government, everything is nontransparent.” I quoted Mrs. Breitweiser in an earlier Online Journal article on the over-zealous testimony of New York’s former mayor, Rudy Giuliani slavering witness for Moussaoui prosecution.

Again she had a very different notion of events and said, “Can someone please explain to me why Rudy Giuliani gets to give a victim's impact statement at the Moussaoui penalty phase hearing? Which family member did Guiliani lose in the attacks?

“Forgive me, but Giuliani is the person responsible for deciding to locate NYC's emergency command center in the World Trade Center along with a diesel fuel tank (against the advice of certain FDNY officials) before 9/11.” For the full thrust of her reasoning, check the article.

It also Interesting that in a New York Daily News article, Snubbed kin air outrage at 9/11 trial, “Wayne Myers, a Manhattan psychiatrist, said he can understand why relatives would want to directly help convince the jury to condemn Moussaoui to death. ‘You have the ability to exact some revenge. It gives a belated chance to master some control over the situation.’"

That is psychologically true. Obviously it’s not a reliable path to legal truth. It offers an opportunity for victims’ families, as tragic as they are, to go for the only so called “perpetrator' offered to them.” Better him than no one," must go through their minds. Yet, keep a bit of the past in your mind about Moussaoui. It’s major. And it hasn’t been brought to the jury’s attention.

U.S. Gave Top Secrets to Moussaoui in 2002

As of September 27, 2002, in an explosive New York Times article, U.S. Gave Secrets to Terror Suspect by Philip Shenon, the reporter tells us, “Although Mr. Moussaoui, 34, a French national, has admitted that he is a member of Al Qaeda and is loyal to Osama bin Laden, he has insisted that he had nothing to do with the Sept. 11 attacks.” Remember that: insistence he had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. Then ask, what occurred in the interim to turn his testimony totally around? Could it possibly be brainwashing, painwashing?

Also, the occasion for Shenon’s article is that “Federal prosecutors mistakenly turned over 48 classified F.B. I. reports to Zacharias Moussaoui in what a federal judge described as a grave security breach, the government acknowledged in court documents released today.

“The reports, which were summaries of interviews related to Mr. Moussaoui’s case and the bureau’s larger investigation of the terror network of Al Qaeda, were retrieved in search of his jail cell this summer on the order of the judge, Leonie M. Brinkema.” Once more, Judge Brinkema to the rescue, this time to save the FBI’s strange gaff.

“Judge Brinkema ordered the searches, which took place over several days, after determining that ‘significant national security interests of the United States could be compromised if the defendant were to retain copies of this classified information.’” Could it be the FBI wanted Moussaoui to see these papers, to further incriminate him with possessing information he originally did not have?

In fact, the FBI acknowledged that it was “dangerous” for this material to be in Moussaoui’s possession, especially since he was the only person charged in an American court in the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Could the FBI be that dumb? Or was their plan, as I said, to bury Moussaoui deeper in that misplaced information?

Judge Brinkema revealed the story at the request of Moussaoui’s court appointed lawyers, “Over the protests of the prosecutors, who have not revealed how the mistakes were made.” What’s more, “Justice Department officials said . . . that the errors involving the documents were now the subject of an internal investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.” Well good luck with that one. Any results yet, several years later?

Moussaoui obviously had no clearance to see the highly classified materials. The documents were given to him “in the pretrial discovery process, in which prosecutors are required to provide defendants with evidence that they may use against them at trial.” Didn’t anybody look at what was in the boxes? This was Mr. 9/11 about to go on trial.

Yet the Justice Department said that the prosecutors in Alexandria “were convinced that Mr. Moussaoui had not read the documents at issue, since they were among huge stacks of paper and computer disks that had been provided to him after he announced in April that he wanted to act as his own lawyer and fire his court-appointed defense team.” Not to worry, I guess. He’s a slow reader.

But, in fact, he’d been given millions of documents and pieces of evidence, some which could have been passed on some way if that were his purpose. Yet a department official said, “But that doesn’t mean we’re trying to excuse this. It’s a grand mess-up.” Yet the government didn’t want to release this embarrassing information, even though that could have compromised national security.

Originally, it was only two documents in question. A week later it was another five. Several days later, it was five to seven documents. But one of the pair of missing documents “is the most critical (for reasons I [US Attorney Paul J. McNulty] can explain in a more secure form).” Ah, the old more secure form.

Yet on Sept. 5, McNulty wrote to the Judge again, asking for 43 classified documents to be gotten back from Moussaoui. Probably totally fed up with the feds’ bungling, Brinkema ordered “that United States Marshals Service seize any box of evidence that contained F.B.I. interview summaries.” Sure, take the guy’s mattress. How about his shorts?

Nevertheless the judge commented that “Mr. Moussaoui had been ‘cooperative’ [imagine] during the early searches ‘and the deputies were able to cover all of the CD ROM’s’ on which some of the documents were stored.” And this is the guy to whom we want to give a fatal hot shot. A person we have been—what should I call it— brain/painwashing (?) into redacting his original plea of non-involvement with 9/11 for almost three years.

Judge Brinkema May Call Richard Reid as Witness

A very reliable source, in fact the person that suggested my article headline, The Moussaouian Candidate, wrote to me that, “Defense lawyers have already said they think the jury should spare Moussaoui's life because of his limited role in the attacks, evidence that he is mentally ill and because his execution would only play into his dream of martyrdom.”

And guess what? “On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema issued an order requiring an unidentified individual to be produced for testimony. The order apparently applied to would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid. Defense lawyers issued a subpoena last week seeking his testimony. Prosecutors had opposed the subpoena.

”Moussaoui testified previously that he and Reid were going to hijack a fifth plane on Sept. 11 and fly it into the White House. The defense lawyers, who have tried to discredit their client's credibility, have said Moussaoui is exaggerating his role in Sept. 11 to inflate his role in history.

”Alas, I think Madame Leonie is on to something . . . Richard Reid's ‘antics’ not only parallel those of Mr. Moussaoui, but tend to support another gem: that Reid, too, was hypno-programmed to advance the trumped-up Osamadunnit myth, which in turn matches up with the fact that most of those beneath Mohammed Atta were actually ‘hypno-robots,’ programmed to perform sans conscious knowledge of same.”

Back at the Courthouse Came More Pain

In a full court emotional press, children testified, grandfathers, mothers, wives, voices from the Towers crying for help. And, for the first time ever, the battered black box from Flight 93 appeared like the Holy Grail for the jury to hear. Neil A. Lewis wrote about it in the yesterday's New York Times, in his article Final Struggles on 9/11 Plane Fill Courtroom.

This would be the first and last time the purported black box tape would be heard in public said Judge Brinkema, though a nine-page transcript would be released. Remember that voice-cloning technology that the folks from Los Alamos designed? A sampling of any voice can be used to clone that voice, with which any person can then speak any words desired.

That aside Neil Lewis reports, “The release of the transcript comes as Universal Studios is about to release a film about the event called ‘United 93,’ the trailer of which some moviegoers found too disturbing. The transcript may provide another template against which to measure the film’s accuracy.” What an incredible coincidence, a multi-media campaign to brain/pain/wash the public concerning the events of Flight 93. Another template to generate emotional response.

But what about subjecting the black box itself to an independent investigation, conducted by critics as well as bobbing heads, given the fact that the original Zapruder film of the Kennedy Assassination was totally manipulated by the CIA by the day after the murder. See Professor James Fetzer’s amazing book The Great Zapruder Film Hoax from Cat Feet Press.

How About Some Alternative Information?

In fact, speaking of media materials, I wonder why they don’t show the jury the DVD of “Loose Change’s Part 2,” and look at some alternative evidence and thinking. LC’s clear, logical and concise 90 minutes proves to even the nearly deaf, numbed and almost blind, that Towers 1 and 2 fell because of a series of heavy internal detonations. Fire alone, especially not a half to an hour and a half’s worth, has never in history taken down steel-framed buildings, in this case redundant steel buildings.

The 9/11 liners, most likely remote controlled A-3 Sky Warriors, 60 percent the size of 757s, weren’t carrying passengers or terrorists. They acted as a dramatic, shock and awe-inspiring diversion from the internal explosions and planned demolition, including Silverstein’s Tower 7, which wasn’t even hit, but “pulled.” The names and pictures of terrorists, pulled out of a hat, had, according to FBI Chief Robert Mueller, no real basis in fact.

And don’t forget old Marvin Bush, the president’s brother, who was on the board of Securacom, the company that did security for the WTC from the early 1990s through 9/11, and for the armed forces as well and Dulles Airport. After 9/11, Securacom was let go. They served their purpose. And they changed their name to Stratesec. Catchy isn’t it. And they were delisted from the stock exchange in 2002.

What’s more, it was an A3 that hit the Pentagon as well, flown by remote control, and firing a bunker-buster into the West Wing wall before the craft hit and collapsed into three rings and through some 12 feet of solid concrete and steel. The debris of the A3, including its two JT8D engines, was removed by 500 FBI men within 15 minutes and transported to the North parking lot and removed to an undisclosed location. Part of a JT8D engine was also found in a wire garbage holder on Murray Street near the Twin Towers conflagration. See them side by side in the link.

Flight 93 was en route to San Francisco and diverted to Cleveland where it landed at Hopkins Airport at 10:45 AM, evacuated by 11:15 AM. I believe the voice tape is a sham, a CIA audio fiction, not unlike the Hollywood analog to come. F93’s 200 passengers were unloaded within a half hour, and brought to an old NASA facility nearby. Where those people and Flight 77s passengers were really taken has yet to be revealed. All that was found in Pennsylvania, where 93 supposedly went down, was a smoking hole in the ground filled with scrap metal.

More Food for Thought

And then there were those millions and million of dollars made on the Stock Exchange in puts days before 9/11. Puts are bets and the betting was that prices would go down on the stock of American Airlines, United Airlines, even Morgan Stanley, one of the investment companies located in the Towers. To this day, $2.5 million dollars in put’ profits remain unclaimed. Was that suspicious foreknowledge of events for private profit mentioned at the trial?

And then there was the gold, baby, the gold. Follow the shiny stuff. Was this mentioned?

Rudy Giuliani claimed they reclaimed some $230 million in gold from the rubble of the Towers. Later, an abandoned 10-wheel delivery truck and a fleet of cars were discovered in a tunnel between Buildings 4 and 5, running it seemed from the soon to tumble South Tower, the second hit. Bottom line, it was really more like $160 billion in gold that had been stored under the Towers by various banks and corporations. So, where did the gold go after it left the 10-wheel truck? Perhaps it was the ultimate pay-off for the high-level government participants and patsies?

This is evidence the jury should be looking at and evaluating as well, not just the beleaguered Moussaoui, the guy that gave the FBI back more than a million pieces of 9/11 terror evidence, the same they “mistakenly sent him,” the guy who has redacted his statement of having nothing to do with 9/11 as of Sept 2002. Brain/pain/washing anybody?

So shower the lies off your brains, members of the jury, people of America. Remember the five fake terror hijacking drills that drained all the fighter planes from the Northeast seaboard, including New York City. The few planes left arrived too late there to shoot the liners down. Wash off that pain which ignorance perpetuates, jurors and fellow citizens. Deprogram your brains one and all from the 9/11 myth. You can do it. I believe in you, god knows. You can save yourself and send Bush, Cheney and their vicious Company to the rock pile or lethal needle once and for all.

In short, don’t let the wrong man die. If you do, as Judge Brinkema would say, “You may pay a price for that down the road.” A very big price -- I might add: your country.

Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer residing in New York. Reach him at
Thanks to JC for the heads-up on Brinkema. Thanks to David Ray Griffin for his encouraging email, discussing Moussaoui and 9/11. Thanks to Liz Burbank for reminding me about 2002 and Moussaoui.

Posted by: che | April 15, 2006 3:32 AM | Report abuse

I know Allen has been traipsing across our land as the would-be presidential candidate and media just assumed he's really popular in Virginia.

Well, he aint; and neither is George Bush; and if Webb wins the primary, it's bye-bye George.

Posted by: Mimi Schaeffer | April 15, 2006 2:02 AM | Report abuse

I think Burns beats himself in MT. The question is not who the Democrats nominate but whether Burns stays on the ballot.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | April 15, 2006 1:56 AM | Report abuse

I think if you are casting Montana as a Burns vs Morrison race, you are missing the boat. Jon Tester and Jim Morrison are running close and some polls have shown Tester leading. Tester had the longest distance to come, because he didn't begin with quite the state-wide exposure as State Senate President as Morrison, who has won state-wide election as State Auditor.

Tester is a well known farmer from Eastern Montana and he has the rural eastern Montana vote tied up. Morrison has some of the baggage of being cast as just another city liberal lawyer from Western Montana when it comes to the general election.

Anyone who knows the political history of Montana, knows that the agricultural connection is paramount in winning state-wide races. That is because the traditional "swing" counties in this state are the rural farming counties of North Central Montana and the "HiLine" those counties that border Canada.

Burns had those connections when he first ran as an agricultural broadcaster on his own radio network. Baucus has that due to his family connections with the Seiben Ranch. (Max campaigns by riding a bareback bronc in the annual Miles City Bucking Horse Show) Gov. Schweitzer has that as a man with ag interests in both Eastern and Western Montana, and Tester has that as a farmer. Tester is an innovative farmer as well who raises small grains for the organic food niche market, and organized neighbors farmers to do the same, thus beating the buyer-controlled low prices offered by the ag conglomerates.

The recent flap over Morrison's old extra-marital affair is a flash-in-the-pan with little mileage. Whether it may hurt Morrison in a close race with Tester is only speculation. And it could be that the Abramoff affair has hurt Burns so badly that he's set up for a loss no matter who wins the Democratic nomination. We're still waiting for the other shoe to drop in the Abramoff affair is it pertains to Burns, who has the dubious distinction of getting the most Abramoff money of anyone in Congress.

But a wise observer may be looking more at a Tester vs Burns race in November. It's Tester with the momentum now and it's Tester with the appeal in rural Eastern Montana swing counties that can beat Burns in November.

Posted by: Alan in Missoula | April 14, 2006 6:15 PM | Report abuse

I'm surprised to see MD on that list. Steele has really slipped enough that the MD race is really about on par with AZ at the moment.

VA sure is looking like a fun one (George Allen is polling at 49% for reelection which is pretty clearly in the danger zone) but given that Harris Miller is still very much in the primary and we haven't seen what Webb is really like as a candidate, I'm not prepared to call that a top 10 race yet.

Posted by: Jackson Landers | April 14, 2006 5:37 PM | Report abuse

The TN senate race is a good deal more complicated than the "African-American democrat in a Southern red state" capsule.

1. TN is not as reflexively Republican as some Deep South states such as MS and AL. 5 out of 9 of the US House seats are held by Democrats, the very popular governor is a Democrat, and the state legislature is split between a Republican senate and a Democratic House. The Democrats can win statewide if they run strong candidates, but all of the Dems' Senate candidates since 1994 have been weak compared to respected ex-governor Lamar Alexander and Bill "my family owns the biggest hospital chain in the US" Frist.

2. Ford's big problem is not his race but his family. First, his uncle John Ford has been indicted on very serious corruption charges and has had his extremely unusual personal life exposed. John Ford's family life made him the butt of jokes on the Jay Leno show - a lot of Tennesseans are aware of his problems juggling an ex-wife, mistress, and multiple child support payments if people in LA are. Second, his aunt Ophelia Ford was elected to John Ford's seat, but that election is about to be voided due to voter fraud. Third, his father Harold Ford Sr. was himself indicted on corruption charges in the late 80s. He was acquited, but widespread belief among whites that this was a miscarriage of justice led to the election of case prosecutor Bryan to the US House. Given Ford's family, his biggest problem is going to be convincing voters that he is not going to continue the family's tradition of public service.

3. The fact that Ford is from Memphis will hurt him in the rest of the state more than the belief that being in DC has made him out of touch. Rest assured that many East Tennesseans do not feel like they have a great deal in common with Memphians. Statewide office holders have recently usually haled from Nashville (Frist, Bredesen, Thompson) or the rural river valleys/middle TN plateau (McWhorter, Gore, Sundquist, Alexander). People from the mountains or the city of Memphis have not had much success.

4. Bryan and Van Hillary have both run for statewide office and both lost because they were seen as far too conservative. If Corker (former mayor of Chattanooga) is nominated, he will almost certainly win for the above reasons unless he has a big skeleton in the closet, but it will be a tossup if Bryan or Van Hillary get the nod as voters try to pick among unpalatable choices.

Posted by: Lee | April 14, 2006 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Mark Kennedy's claim that, if elected, he would be the only CPA in the Senate is untrue. Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming) is also a CPA.

Posted by: Heywood | April 14, 2006 5:20 PM | Report abuse

I think you are overestimating Mark Kennedy's chances in MN, Chris. He's in a right-leaning district, and even there a political neophyte gave him a run for his money 2 years ago. Statewide, his strong adherence to the Bush agenda won't play well in the Twin Cities and northern MN, traditional Dem. strongholds.

He'd probably win against Dayton, but those swing votes would be I'm-fed-up-with-Dayton votes, not I-love-Kennedy votes.

It will be interesting to see how his "I'm a business man, not a lawyer" argument will play out. I've only heard that in the last month or two. It might work better if he was facing off against Mike Ciresi, a wealthy private lawyer, than Amy Klobuchar, the Hennepin County Attorney.

Posted by: Phil in MN | April 14, 2006 5:01 PM | Report abuse

This is not commentary on any of these races in particular, tho I enjoyed the comments, but I think discussion of each of these races would be incomplete without at least SOME discussion of the major developments in the various Republican scandals on The Hill. For example, when the Vice President of the United States orders a leak to the press of classified info to undermine a critic! At a time of War!

Things like an indictment to Cheney wont make things any easier for the Republican party. The cacaphony of calls for Rumsfeld's resignation, for example. I know that some republicons still repeat the same nonsense, but I think a LOT of people are upset abt all of this. And theres 7 more months to November. Let's see where we are, oh, say Sept, Oct, oh ok, Nov. but im sorry, you can't ignore it, people everywhere in the U.S. know that this war and these crooks have got to go.

Posted by: FairAndBalanced? | April 14, 2006 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Scene: An outdoor locally important neighborhood dedication event in Newport on a pleasantly sunny Saturday in early March.

Observation: The only statewide politician to address the hundreds gathered is Sen. Chaffee [The Congressman (P. Kennedy, D-RI) representing the district, who lives just a few miles away, was noticeably absent].

All speakers are brief. Sen. Chaffee is the briefest, saying only what needed to be said in probably less than two minutes; not drawing any attention away from the event to himself.

At the end of the event, the hundreds are invited to socialize; which they do. Sen. Chaffee stays.

It's only been four weeks since the Alito vote, so it's not like he has been out of the headlines for very long. Everybody is in a great mood and there's no need "to maneuver" because there's plenty of room. Access is ideal. But, only a couple of people go up to him to say hello; and when this becomes noticeable, he doesn't start to "work the crowd."

It was a free event, but that "was worth the price of admission." A politician (son of a politician) not glad-handing.

How many people disgusted with the current state of politics in this country would just love to have this guy represent them? Yet, there's a good chance he won't be re-elected, because some extremists can "game the system" through the primary process and nominate somebody who doesn't stand a chance of being elected.

Linc, either go Independent or become a Democrat! The country needs politicians like you.

Posted by: RI in DC | April 14, 2006 4:42 PM | Report abuse

ok, I've tried to avoid being snarky today, but I'd like Jeff to tell us how Dayton is going to perform well in MN given that he's not running.

Rule 1: Check your facts.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | April 14, 2006 4:28 PM | Report abuse

What's difficult about beating Talent as opposed to Ashcroft is two factors:

1) His demeanor is much calmer and "moderate" as Chris said. Talent is just as wacko as Ashcroft on the issues, but he carries it much better. Ashcroft was much easier to paint as an extremist.

2) Talent comes from St. Louis County. He still doesn't win it, but races in MO are largely decided here. I think it holds 20% of the state's voters. Talent manages to neutralize the standard Democratic advantage by having St. Louis County as his geographic base. See 2002 against Carnahan. Had she gotten the margin in the County that her late husband did in 2000, she'd have won.

Also, we have to be honest about the 2000 Senate race: Mel got a lot of the votes he did because he died. These are Midwesterners; there was a sympathy vote. Republicans learned this lesson quickly and made sure it wasn't duplicated in MN when Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash two years later. The result is that we lost that seat to Norm Coleman. It's the question of a good debate whether Mel would or could have won had he lived. That circumstance isn't repeating itself (god willing).

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | April 14, 2006 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Good analysis, but here are some thoughts...
OH will move more and more back to DeWine when he is able to get out there. He needs Blackwell on the ticket a bunch more than Blackwell needs him on the ticket.

I think Chris is right about MO, I don't know if Talent's done anything wrong to lose his job.

Dayton will be strong in MN, Steele hopefully will be strong as well.

And finally, stating the obvious...Santorum is toast.

Posted by: Jeff | April 14, 2006 4:20 PM | Report abuse

I think the republicans have a dark horse that has been shadowing the party somewhat.The dark horse is party politics on all issues to do with the war going on may be overshadowing the vote of conscience.If the mood of the nation is of such that dssatification of the Bush adminstration handling of the war which at current seems have it,s center of focus shifting to Iran,than it may be the mood of the nation will speak.If there is a shift in power on that note ,than the Bush adminstration may spend the next two years restoring credibility ,or trying to do just that.The republican new commers may most be affected by party politics ,or Bush adminstration policys that have negative effects on the voting populas.I,am seeing indications that do not compare ,at the same time the media shows certain comparisons ,watergate, vietnam war, the polls ,and in relation to simple questions not being answered by the Bush adminstration, all of this adding up to distrust of a seeming growing number of people.This does not bring smiles.

Posted by: Both Houses | April 14, 2006 4:13 PM | Report abuse

One note: Democrats don't have to beat Jon Kyl to win the Senate. They can win the top four (OH, PA, RI, MT) plus MO and TN as long as they hold their seats in the Democratic-leaning states of MD, MN, and NJ.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | April 14, 2006 4:10 PM | Report abuse

"Nelson is very smart and has run commercials showing him with the president where Bush praises Nelson for getting things done and working with both sides of the aisle. Republicans will not be able to paint him as anything other than a very popular, conservative democrat."

I agree w/ this. Also, in the sane center of the country, people seem to be able to live with some dissonance. In North Dakota, for instance, there's been a popular Republican governor (who Karl Rove could not induce to run for the Senate) and Republican presidential candidates pretty much always win. Nonetheless, all its congressional representatives (count 'em, all three!) are Dems. And they're like Nelson---popular, conservative Democrats.

And Daschle would still be representing South Dakota if KR hadn't sent in the troops to take him down.

It takes a lot to get the stoic Midwesterners who endure those long winters (my people!) to want to throw the bums out. They're too nice for that.

Posted by: THS | April 14, 2006 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Above post was meant to address Rita rather than be from her. Apologies for the error.

Posted by: Colin | April 14, 2006 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Have you ever lived in Minnesota or looked at Kennedy's record? He's voted in favor of Bush's positions 98% of the time. Now, we can disagree about whether W's positions are radical if you want to (hint - they are), but there is NO doubt that Kennedy is a Bush Republican.

Oh, and about Judges. You may have noticed that Bush got two Supreme Court Justices confirmed and that no one except folks on the far right are talking about that issue any more. Seems that some "minor" issues have instead gained prominence, like an unpopular war that's been incompetently executed, the 45+ Million people in the Country without health insurance, and the exposure of how corrupt the Republican controlled legislature is.

Don't worry though - since it's almost election season I'm sure we'll get back to talking about the important stuff like how scary gay people are and how god wants everyone to vote republican.

Posted by: Rita | April 14, 2006 3:33 PM | Report abuse

The latest Rasmussen poll has Bill Nelson of Florida beating Katherine Harris by 30 points, 57% - 27%. The fact that he is polling well above 50% this early speaks volumes. Unless she follows through on her promise to allocate the whole $10 million, this race will not tighten.

I don't think Ben Nelson is a lock to win re-election, but there are some notable differences between this election and past elections. In 1996 there was not a strong national wind at the democrats' backs, and Chuck Hagel is the model of a moderate republican - he would be tough to beat in any state. In the 2000 race, Stenberg undoubtedly benefitted from George Bush being at the top of the ticket and still lost - and the repub nominee will not have that advantage this time. At that time Nelson did not have a 70% approval rating. Nelson is very smart and has run commercials showing him with the president where Bush praises Nelson for getting things done and working with both sides of the aisle. Republicans will not be able to paint him as anything other than a very popular, conservative democrat.

Posted by: Ohio guy | April 14, 2006 3:05 PM | Report abuse

Right now the Republians are not in great shape this election cycle but remember the election is in November not now and I believe the Repulicans will not lose the Senate and races such as Rhode Island.Ohio Tennessee will remain Republican with pick ups in Minnesota and Maryland so their losses will not be as bad as perdicted

Posted by: Garry Allyn DeManty | April 14, 2006 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Cautious yes but GOP needs to be cautious in AZ (yesterdays blog)as well as NV and VA and Dems in WA and MI- NJ and FL especially, are much more competitive now.


Left Bob Corker out of TN numbers
Ford 35%
Corker 39%

Corker was not included in Zogby/WSJ poll

Posted by: RMill | April 14, 2006 2:28 PM | Report abuse


There are good reasons to be cautious about Nebraska.

In 1996, Ben Nelson was the frontrunner in the Senate race and was upset by Chuck Hagel.

In 2000, he was always the frontrunner and always expected to win. Stenberg was given no chance. But on Election Day, the race was MUCH closer than expected, on a night when all other competitive Senate races (aside from Corzine NJ) shifted toward the Democratic candidate.

Nelson looks good, but Nebraska is so hardcore Republican that it's not impossible for even a perfect Democrat to get shocked.

Posted by: Brittain33 | April 14, 2006 2:16 PM | Report abuse

My differing list (continued from yesterday's Kyl posting):

1. PA agreed Incumbant low in approval, losing by double digits in polls.

2. MT (Fix-RI) Burns in 30's in approval, Chaffee above 50%. Burns trails all challengers; Chaffee still leading in latest poll.

3. MN (Fix- OH)DeWine below 50% in approval but gained 3% points in last month. Split polls. MN is open D seat with Dem leading current polling.

4. RI (Fix-MT) see above

5. MO (MN) Incumbant R Senator hovers just above 50% approval; split polls. See MN comments above.

6. OH (Fix-MO) See comments above

7. NJ (Fix-TN) Dem incumbant below 50%, was in 30's but had 10 point jump last month in approval. Split polls. TN an OPen seat with Dem trailing all possible R's opponents in all polls.

8. FL (Fix MD)Dem incumbant has approval below 50% but leads in polls. GOP challenger putting large sums in to self-finance. MD open seat with leading Dem candidate holding wide leads against liekly GOP challenger.

9. MD (Fix-NE) See MD above. Sen Nelson (NE) is one of the highest approval ratings in the country, despiute being in a red state. His numbers in last poll were double double digit.

10. TN (Fix-NJ) see comments above.

One change from yesterday was switching FL and WA.

As I said, I am inclined, once primaries are settled, to replace MD and TN with VA and AZ/WA/NV.

Posted by: RMill | April 14, 2006 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Minnesota can pick up the Senate seat since Dayton slithers away without much good to show for the Democrats. Kennedy has the experience in Congress as a realistic Republican, not a radical. But that fact won't stop the Dems from trying to paint him as a zealot and try to link Kennedy to any and all perceived misbehavior by any Republican.
If the Dems keep blocking federal judges to fill vacant seats in the courts, they will be seen as the same old Tom Dashel Democrats who paid for their own bad behavior in 2004 when 5 Democrats lost their seats in the Senate. Names like Vitter of Louisana, Martinez of Florida, and Daschel of S Dakota. This is one example of why there will be tight races on election night to see which side the voters support for the next 2 years.

Posted by: Rita | April 14, 2006 2:03 PM | Report abuse

Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) could potentially face trouble as Maine's Democrats are just starting to get involved in the race. Also the conventional wisdom here about Snowe is seriously off the mark, which means state polls don't mean a lot yet.

Posted by: Chris Baker | April 14, 2006 2:02 PM | Report abuse

#1 PA

Survey USA March Approval
Santorum 43%

March 29
Casey 50%
Santorum 41%

Apr 3
Casey 48%
Santorum 37%

Casey 47.4%
Santorum 39.4%

#2 RI
Survey USA March Approval
Chaffee 52%

No recent poll found
Chaffee led both possible Dem challengers by 7-12%.

#3 OH
Survey USA March Approval
DeWine 46%

March 28
Brown 42%
DeWine 45%

Brown 45.9%
DeWine 37%

#4 MT

Survey USA March Approval
Burns 38%

March 14
Tester 46%
Burns 43%

Morrison 48%
Burns 43%

#5 MN

Feb 20
Klobuchar 45%
Kennedy 42%

Klobuchar 49.2%
Kennedy 41.4%

#6 MO
Survey USA March Approval
Talent 51%

April 4
McKaskill 42%
Talent 41%

McKaskill 45.4%
Talent 48.3%

#7 TN

Feb 27
Ford 36%
Bryant 45%

Ford 35%
Hilleary 43%

Ford 42.4%
Bryant 49.9%

Ford 44.2%
Hilleary 47.2%

#8 NE
Survey USA March Approval
Nelson 70%

No recent poll available; Nov 2005 had Nelson leading all possible challengers by 23-32% points.

#9 MD

Cardin 49%
Steele 35%

Mfume 41%
Steele 42%

Cardin 48.8%
Steele 39.4%

Mfume 45.3%
Steele 43.5%

#10 NJ
Survey USA March Approval
Menendez 46% (up from 36% in Feb)

Mar 31
Menendez 39%
Kean Jr. 41%

March 14
Menendez 40%
Kean Jr. 36%

Menendez 40.1%
Kean Jr. 39.7%

Posted by: RMill | April 14, 2006 1:51 PM | Report abuse

For those of you that aren't from Nebraska, Nelson's poll numbers don't mean a whole lot right now. He hasn't been touched yet, and the last two Senate races he was in, he lost one and won the other by about 4 points over an arch-conservative with a personality that was abrasive to many, a/k/a Don Stenberg. (He lost to Chuck Hagel, btw.) Ricketts has a lot more personality than Stenberg, and has the capability to make this a tight race. That's why it's up there. But they're right, the primary on the R side is going to be tight. I'm supporting Ricketts because I think he's the best bet to beat Stenberg. For those that don't live here, to assume that Nelson is untouchable is a mistake. Regardless of his approval rating, he still has the D attached to his name in a very red state. If ya want to be lulled into complacency on this one, go ahead. But guaranteed that the Ds in Nebraska won't be.

Posted by: LawyerinNebraska | April 14, 2006 1:41 PM | Report abuse

I see a lot of analysts making the mistake of using presidential numbers to handicap state and congressional elections in "hard red" or "hard blue" states. This can be extremely misleading. In half or more of the states, no presidential campaign existed in that those states were conceded by one or the other party long prior to the election. The result is to inflate the winner's ultimate percentage and reduce the loser's percentage of the vote.

An example would be the Texas Delay district. Simply because Bush got 60, 65, or whatever percentage of the votes is only indicative that there was no effort to identify and turnout Democratic votes. When a local election is genuinely contested, the split between the "dominant" versus the "minority" party is greatly diminished. Otherwise, candidates like Ben Nelson in NB, the Republican House candidate in VT, and the Democratic candidate for Governor in AK would'nt be in the race at all.

On the other hand, in genuinely contested states (FL, PA, OH) the presidential vote in a district is a reasonable reflection of party alignment AT THAT TIME. Two or four years later may be different.

Posted by: Royston | April 14, 2006 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Chris if you hadn't noticed Blunt and the Republican controled state congress have terrible approval ratings in Missouri. This can give voters in Missouri all the incentive they need to get rid of Talent.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2006 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Missouri will be a close race. Talent has already flip flopped on the stem cell issue because it doesn't play well with the business community. He already has the people who will vote for Pat Robertson for President so he needs to worry about St Louis/Kansas City areas.

Look, Missouri voted for a dead guy for Senator rather than John Ashcroft so we do know a few things about people. And we have Kit Bond carrying Karl Rove's jock strap around so he can get those pork projects in the state.

Talent can lose--he will be bringing out the negative ads soon to help his campaign.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2006 12:43 PM | Report abuse

He is on Hard Ball.

I saw him interviewed in Memphis during the first Republican gathering a few weeks ago as well as later during a regular show.

Great stuff Cillizza, thanks for taking the night shift. :- )


Posted by: Ornulf Kittelsen | April 14, 2006 12:02 PM | Report abuse

I agree the Ford got a break this week, but I still don't think he's going to be able to come close to winning. As a member of a politically elite family from Memphis the rest of the state already views him as somebody not like them. When you add to that the amount of time he's been in DC and you get the Al Gore problem, then you compound that with the race card and it would take an act of God to get him elected. Only 16% of TN is african american, clearly not a strong base for Ford. I hate to say it, but race does matter to enough people in TN that Ford is going to have a hard time.

Posted by: Brent Parrish | April 14, 2006 11:59 AM | Report abuse

I'm confused as to why Chris and several other people on this blog continue to believe that the Nebraska Senate seat is at all likely to change hands. I haven't seen anything besides Bush's margin of victory in the state 2 years ago (when his polls numbers were considerably higher) to indicate that this race is competitive? Am I missing something? Is this guy Ricketts more than just a wealthy executive?
Nelson is the #4 senator in the country in terms of popularity with a 70% approval rating. Has he committed some fireable offense that I don't know about?

In this political environment and against someone like Nelson, I don't care if Bush won NE with 100% of the vote in '04, it's going to take a lot more for this to become competitive. For now, it looks like this guy Ricketts is determined to pull a Katherine Harris( pulling a "Harris" is when a personally wealthy republican blows a small fortune in order to win the priviledge of getting his or her butt kicked by a guy named Nelson).

Posted by: Ohio guy | April 14, 2006 11:53 AM | Report abuse

steele has no shot he is all hot air. Maryland republicans are going to get it in November Erlich's a gonner 2.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2006 10:54 AM | Report abuse

"He [Santorum] needs to begin to change voter perceptions soon or he may find it impossible to do so as the election draws closer and closer."

For Santorum to try to change all those voters' feelings about him, he'd have to deviate from his nutty far-right ideology.

Come on, seriously, there is no way that Santorum can change enough voters perceptions of him before the election to turn this around.

Do you know why? Because voters current perceptions of Santorum are already on the mark.

Posted by: corbett | April 14, 2006 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Chris, nice post. Your split of the races into the top four and then the lower tiers seems quite apt.

Honestly, I just don't think the other races (4-10) will be clear until mid to late summer.

Posted by: B in DC | April 14, 2006 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Chris - re: Santorum vs. Casey: I see very little notice that in Santorum's last re-election bid, he barely beat Ron Klink, former US representative from western PA. Klink did not run a good campaign and was essentially absent in the eastern part of the state - Philadelphia area. Even so, he lost by only 5 points. Everyone assumes that Santorum will close the gap with Casey, but this has the potential to be a substantial win for the Democrats. Santorum is extremely conservative - he's the one out of pace with the state.

Posted by: Steve | April 14, 2006 9:56 AM | Report abuse

I have to say that if Minnesota is the Republicans best hope of picking up a seat then they are in trouble.
Also if Chafee loses the primary then that seat is definitly going demacrat. Chafee is the ONLY GOPer that can win RI.
Now I know that the South is deep red country but I think Ford has a very good chance of picking up Tennessee. First he will get a very strong black vote and the growth of Nashville and Memphis can only help him. Take that with the current scandal around Bill Frist and I think Ford takes it.

Posted by: Andy R | April 14, 2006 9:16 AM | Report abuse

Great analysis Chris. Why don't they ask you to be on Hardball, or the Situation Room? (Please, if Fox calls don't go--your soul's at stake).

My observation for the week: Ford is getting big breaks in Tennessee he’ll need it. But gosh wouldn’t it be great for a Red state to elect an African American senator. Party politics aside, it would be good for the country. There’s too much tearing apart and not enough coming together in this country right now.

I’m reminded of the Quixotic campaign of Doug Wilder in Virginia lo those many years ago…

Today’s link…what if somebody asked Bush, Mr. President, poll after poll shows that fewer and fewer of the American people care for the way you’re running the country. It seems the nation has spoken, do you think the majority of the American people are wrong?

Well nobody did, so EWM took a shot…

EWM- (April 13, 2006) White House handlers are rethinking their strategy of putting the President in front of his critics at town hall meetings after he offered a stupefying rationale for his plummeting poll standings at today’s event. In response to an elderly Minnesota woman’s question regarding the paltry performance numbers Bush stunned the audience by declaring “37 percent is a remarkable achievement for an underachiever.”

The exchange took place at a Minnetonka event aimed at building support for his Medicare prescription drug plan. Things went bad when 82 year-old Claudette Kerfuffle approached the open mike…

Posted by: The Eyewitness Muse | April 14, 2006 8:47 AM | Report abuse

I don't care as long as that meddling sleaze Santorum loses. For a guy so opposed to sex he sure wants to get into every American's bedroom pretty badly.

Posted by: Will | April 14, 2006 8:04 AM | Report abuse

Tennessee is a bellweather both practically and symbolically. If the state that didn't support one of their own, Al Gore for the Presidency because he was a national Democrat goes for Harold Ford - that will indicate a shift in the center of political gravity.

Posted by: Intrepid Liberal Journal | April 14, 2006 7:55 AM | Report abuse

Interesting analysis and I suspect Chris is pretty much spot on, if not on the order of precedence, at least on which races make the top ten. It is possible (see Chris's next item) that if the GOP enters meltdown Arizona will sneak into the top ten. If the GOP bounces back from the current low then Washington and even Michigan may join the list. The problem for the Democrat is this: with the current ten they need to win every single one of these races to gain the Senate. Quentin Langley, Editor of

Posted by: Quentin Langley | April 14, 2006 6:39 AM | Report abuse

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