2006 Senate

Sunday, 29 October 2006, 19:50 | Category : Politics
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I’ve been trying to absorb all the election punditry I’ve heard over the past week, wondering whether the trends showing substantial gains by Democrats will translate into actual election victories. Certainly in some races that will happen, but they need it to happen in lots of races. Looking at the Senate, Pennsylvania looks very good, with Bob Casey consistently holding a significant lead of Rick Santorum. Ohio seems to be holding up for Sherrod Brown over Mike Dewine. In Rhode Island, Sheldon Whitehouse continues to lead Lincoln Chafee. That would be three of the six seats Democrats need. But for that formula to work, they have to hold on to New Jersey, and while Menendez holds a lead in the polls, it isn’t large in some, and from a distance it looks like a soft lead. But assuming the Democrats do hold on to New Jersey, where will they find the other three seats to take control? Just a few weeks ago, things looked good in Missouri, Montana, and Virginia. Claire McCaskill had nudged into a lead in Missouri, Jon Tester was having a fairly comfortable race against Conrad Burns, saddled with the Jack Abramoff scandal, in Montana, and James Webb was enjoying the spectacle of watching George Allen seemingly self-destruct in Virginia. But over the past couple of weeks, and the last week especially, Jim Talent has retaken the lead in Missouri, although it’s a very narrow lead; Conrad Burns has closed the gap in Montana; and George Allen has steadied somewhat while James Webb has been battered by first revelations of anti-feminist writings in the 1980s, and then excerpts from novels he wrote containing sexual content that many Virginians find objectionable. I talked to someone from Alexandria today who related a conversation with a lady she knew, who said she had been looking for a reason to vote for James Webb, but was now solidly backing Allen. And Tennessee, which once looked ripe for an upset by Harold Ford, now seems to have stabilized in Bob Corker’s favor, at least for the moment. I’m beginning to think that the Democrats, in the Senate at least, may have peaked about two weeks too early. So much has to go exactly right for them to pick up the six seats they need to take over, and things aren’t going right in at least two of the three states of Missouri, Montana, and Virginia. And then there’s the Lieberman problem – it looks like Joe Lieberman will win re-election as an independent, but then which side does he caucus with? Relations between the Lieberman camp and the Democratic leadership are strained at best, and even if the Democrats win six new Senate seats, Lieberman could throw control back to the Republicans if he caucused with that side of the divide. As of today, with eight days left in a highly volatile election, it looks like the Republicans will hold a very narrow margin, maybe two seats, on November 8. I hope I’m wrong.

Happy Birthday, Great Pumpkin!

Friday, 27 October 2006, 8:51 | Category : Other Stuff
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40 years ago today, “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” first aired on CBS. That network isn’t showing it this year.

Good Grief!!

But wait! ABC apparently owns it now, and they will appropriately show it tonight at 8 Eastern, 7 Central. All is right with the world, Halloween Harry is happy.

What? You’ve never heard of the Great Pumpkin? Which rises each Halloween from the best pumpkin patch and brings treats to the children who have been nice that year? Sounds vaguely familiar, somehow. But Charles Schultz made it work.

Will The Fortress Hold?

Thursday, 19 October 2006, 17:41 | Category : Politics
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With less than three weeks to go before the November mid-term elections, people allover the blogosphere and across the country are peering intently at the political landscape and trying to make sense of it. Throughout, polls are showing Democrats either enjoying unexpectedly large leads, or running neck-and-neck in races that six months ago were thought to be safely Republican. President Bush’s approval ratings have been in the 30s for weeks, with only a slight bump immediately following the 9/11 remembrances to temporarily break the grim numbers. Congress, controlled by the Republicans, has hit an all-time low in approval. The war, having gone from bad to worse, seems to be going to Stygian depths. Corruption and immorality seems to be rampant among Republican elected officials. And Democrats have recruited a bumper crop of fresh new candidates, with funding to go along with them. The stage would seem to be set for a political upheaving of colossal proportions. And it may happen, notes Michael Stickings at The Moderate Voice. Or it may be nothing more than a mighty wind. Because in the midst of their gloom, Republicans still have some things going for them. In the House of Representatives, a decade of redictricting has provided them with a large number of seats like Mississippi’s Third Congressional District, where Chip Pickering would just about have to be caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy to be defeated. I would say “live man”, but there’s precedent here for a Republican surviving that occurrence, at least the first time. You’ve heard the expression “cleanliness is next to Godliness”? In Mississippi, Godliness is next to incumbency, at least for Republicans and Benny Thompson. There are maybe 150 Republican-held seats that are pretty much locked in. Many of these are like Pickering, with no serious opposition. There’s another 20-25 that are almost as safe. With another 25 or so that the Republicans would only lose in a landslide of epic proportions, that’s bedrock of around 200 seats. Democrats probably also have a similar foundation of around 200 seats. So all the noise and smoke is about 35 or so House seats. Poll numbers for Democrats look very good on many of these. But the Republicans didn’t just get to where they are, and they haven’t stayed where they are, by luck. They can counter the emotion of the electorate with a well-oiled fundraising machine, a proven and massive get-out-the-vote effort, and strategists like Karl Rove who, however you feel about them, have proven time and again that they can effectively craft and distribute a message that resonates with a large segment of the population. The size of that segment is certainly smaller than in 2000, 2002, or 2004, but is it small enough to lose the elections? If you’re a Democrat, this isn’t the time to begin planning for a post-election victory party. Overconfidence could easily result in a Republican majority come November 8. Even if Democrats don’t suffer from overconfidence, even if the polls stay in their favor, they still could wind up winning fewer than 218 seats. And in the Senate, the opportunity for a Democratic takeover is even less. They have to win all of the toss-up races, and hold on to New Jersey. With George Allen in Virginia doing his best to lose, the chances are better than they were, but it’s still a reach. The Republicans have built a fortress, buttressed by organization and political skill and public relations. It’s been incredibly effective. This is, by far, it’s biggest challenge.

So what if the Democrats don’t make it? What if, after all the poll numbers, and the voter anger and disillusionment, and the Republican scandals, come November 8 the Republicans still hold 220 or so seatsa, and 51 or 52 Senate seats? You have to wonder how the Democratic Party goes forward if they don’t win control of at least the House. I can imagine massive bloodletting within the party if, after all the expectations, we’re left with a slightly weakened status quo. Republican moods will soar, Democrats will crash. It could get really, really ugly, and I’m not sure the Democratic Party could survive as more than a regional political organization. And with 2 1/2 weeks to go, I’m not ready to make any predictions.

Current Reading

Saturday, 14 October 2006, 9:11 | Category : Books
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“The Great Influenza”, by John Barry

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