Week of November 1, 2006

November 1, 2006
Washington, DC
Vol. 41, No. 22b

To: Our Readers


  1. Going into the last week of the campaign, there is no sign of a Democratic wave or a Republican wave. It still looks like a good day for Democrats looming on November 7, but not necessarily a catastrophe for Republicans.
  2. Republicans worry about a bad message being given by the attention on Michael J. Fox‘s peripatetic campaigning for Democrats spotlighted by Rush Limbaugh‘s attack on him. Ridiculing the frailty of a sympathetic figure, no matter how uninformed his political ventures, is almost certain to backfire.
  3. Similarly, President George W. Bush‘s increasingly vigorous campaigning with attacks on Democrats may be playing into Democratic hands by tending to "nationalize" the mid-term elections. Republican strategists have stressed localizing contests and opposing Democratic efforts to localize them.
  4. Can the antics of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) reverse these favorable Democratic trends? See a detailed analysis below.
  5. Look for tight Senate races in Missouri, Montana and possibly Virginia to determine control of the Senate. Republicans have an outside chance to take a Democratic seat in two states: New Jersey and Maryland.

The Kerry Effect: It’s not the biggest October Surprise, but Sen. Kerry’s political self-destruct yesterday is the latest unexpected event. The entire incident reflects a man who missed the presidency by an inch, and who feels at the core of his being that he miscalculated in his 2004 campaign and doesn’t want to make the same mistake again.

  1. Kerry, addressing a crowd of Democrats in California on the topic of education, tied in the Iraq War by bringing up the long-standing complaint by some on the left that the military preys upon poor and uneducated youths in their recruitment. "You know, education, if you make the most of it, if you study hard and do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, uh, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq." That is a slightly meaner version of what several Democratic members of Congress have been saying for years.

  2. Republicans were delighted when the remarks came to light and drew somber rebukes from the White House and from several Republican politicians, especially Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). It was shaping up as a motivator for a disillusioned Republican base, when Kerry issued an angrily written statement, apparently hastily written, aimed at "right-wing nut jobs" who were criticizing him.

  3. In sum, Kerry said something he shouldn’t have (nothing an apology could not have mended), but then gave his strident response to the criticism, which may have dealt a blow to Democrats and a death-blow to Kerry’s political future. Kerry’s extremely angry, aggressive follow-up presentation was so lacking in contrition that he made matters worse. As House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) put it in a television interview, "He’d better apologize, or we’re gonna beat him to death over this one."

  4. Kerry still believes that his failure to respond quickly and aggressively to the attacks on his military record in 2004 cost him the presidency. He has taken so much grief from Democrats over his failure to stand up for himself and for liberal ideas that he felt the need to act decisively yesterday. That is what brought on his extremely ill-considered behavior.

  5. Kerry’s explanation — that his original comment was meant as a jab at President Bush — was lost in a sea of angry anti-Bush rhetoric. The explanation also falls flat because his remarks are so clearly in line with accepted left-wing positions. If Kerry’s fear was that Republicans would divert attention away from a failed Iraq policy, he managed only to give extra life to the news story that will indeed divert it. Whatever the truth at the heart of it all, the story going into the final week of the election is about John Kerry, who insulted the troops, refused to apologize, and erupted in a defiant televised speech.

  6. How much damage will this cause Democrats? It unquestionably knocks them off their message, and it may even poison the well with respect to remarks critical of the Iraq War. Kerry’s angry denial that he would ever speak ill of the troops brings back memories from 2004 — specifically his 35-year-old testimony that his comrades in Vietnam were murderers and rapists. More immediately, Democratic candidates all over the country will now be asked whether Kerry owes an apology, which is a no-win proposition no matter how it is answered.

  7. But the real damage will come in the form of increased Republican base turnout. Their old boogeyman has returned from the dead. What could be more effective in motivating disillusioned conservatives to vote next week than the sight of a defiant John Kerry insulting the troops and angrily refusing to apologize? We are told that the ads are already being cut and the mailers printed as we write. The effect will remain unknown until next week.

Senate 2006

Republicans’ outlook for the Senate continues to deteriorate, but still, none of their close races are hopelessly lost. If the election were held today, we see Democrats splitting a 50-50 Senate with the GOP. Democrats +5, Republicans -5.

Republican-Held Senate Seats In Play

Likely Republican Retention

Likely Democratic Takeover

Leans GOP

Leans Dem

Arizona (Kyl)

Missouri (Talent)

Montana (Burns)

Ohio (DeWine)

Tennessee (Open [Frist])

Rhode Island (Chafee)

Pennsylvania (Santorum)

Virginia (Allen)

Democrat-Held Senate Seats In Play

Likely Democratic Retention

Likely Republican Takeover

Leans Dem

Leans GOP

Minnesota (Open [Dayton])

Maryland (Open [Sarbanes])

Nebraska (Nelson)

Michigan (Stabenow)

Vermont (Open [Jeffords])

New Jersey (Menendez)

Washington (Cantwell)

West Virginia (Byrd)

Turnout: Questions about Republican turnout — a heavily discussed topic ever since the unexpectedly strong showing in 2004 — have a flipside that few have discussed: what about the Democrats? For all the evidence that Republicans have been demoralized, there is also little evidence that the largest Democratic constituencies — particularly African-Americans — will be motivated to vote in several key places. If Democrats at universities are the only ones motivated, in a highly negative environment that could produce a low voter turnout anyway, this could affect some of the close Senate races.

Maryland: In Maryland, many blacks are expected to vote for Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (R). This is particularly true after his opponent, Rep. Ben Cardin (D), snubbed the Charles County NAACP by skipping out of their debate last week, which he had been expected to attend. Steele was cheered at the event — very unusual for a Republican — and Cardin was booed when his name was mentioned.

Many black Democrats, feeling shut out of the state Democratic Party’s leadership after a fractious primary, may decide not to vote. Others have been turned off by injudicious remarks by white Democrats in the state.

Cardin, meanwhile, has had a terrible week. He was clobbered in one debate and performed just adequately in another. On Monday, a group of prominent black Democratic leaders in Prince George’s County announced their support for Steele. Cardin can take nothing for granted at this point. All of the momentum is with Steele, even though he still has an uphill climb in a blue state and in a Democratic year. Leaning Democratic Retention.

Michigan: In Michigan, Gov. Jenifer Granholm‘s (D) betrayal of Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (D) in the primary — in other words, her support for his opponent — means that the latter may sit on his hands next week when it comes to voter turnout for her re-election. This is precisely the formula that caused Gov. James Blanchard (D) to go down unexpectedly to defeat against John Engler (R) in 1990. It could potentially skew all of the voter turnout models being used in the polls for the contested Senate race between Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) and Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard (R).

Bouchard trails by at least seven points, but this one will end up closer than anyone thinks right now. Leaning Democratic Retention.

Missouri: The race between Sen. Jim Talent (R) and state Auditor Claire McCaskill (D) remains neck and neck, but one key factor is the curious failure by the Democrat to consolidate the black vote. She is reportedly pulling just 70 percent of it at this point, when she should be at about 85 percent. Talent is known for working with the African-American community and for working for their votes when most Republican candidates do not. This race may decide control of the U.S. Senate. Leaning Republican Retention.

Montana: Two weeks ago, Sen. Conrad Burns (R) appeared dead in his bid for a fourth-term. Polls showing his Democratic opponent, State Sen. Jon Tester (D), with a double-digit lead caused GOP leaders in Washington to write off Burns. But less than a week before the election, Burns has closed to within a few percentage points of Tester.

The reason can be found in an 11th-hour Burns television ad on the issue of taxes. Thanks to a late infusion of additional cash from Washington, Burns is pounding away at Tester’s tax policies as too liberal for Montana. This huge, sparsely populated state is a microcosm of this mid-term election’s national political chess game. Democrats want the election to be a referendum on Burns, while Republicans want a choice between Burns and Tester.

All internal polling has ceased in this race, and public polls have Tester slightly ahead but within the margin of error. Leaning Democratic Takeover.

Virginia: Sen. George Allen (R) was always the favorite in this race, but now he’s gotten his own hands too dirty in what is by far the dirtiest Senate race of 2006. He has let this race devolve from a serious campaign into a circus campaign, which runs on personal attacks and lacks any debate or discussion of issues. Nearly every ad on the air in Virginia is either a negative attack or an attack on the other candidate for being too negative.

One can certainly blame Allen’s opponent, former Navy Secretary Jim Webb (D), who has launched his own personal attacks through surrogates. But the final blow to any seriousness in this race was Allen’s criticism last week of the disturbing and racy scenes in Webb’s novels.

We believe that this attack may be backfiring against Allen and that the effects are being seen in the latest polls, both of which have Webb leading. It is much easier to dump an incumbent in a circus campaign than it is in a serious campaign. We see here shades of the same miscalculations made by Jerry Kilgore (R) as he lost to Gov. Tim Kaine (D) last year after running highly negative ads that backfired.

George Allen, once a leading candidate for President, is on the verge of losing his Senate seat, and possibly Republican control of the Senate. Leaning Democratic Takeover.

House 2006

Even as House Republicans pull some of their most endangered members out of the fire, new casualties keep cropping up. The effect of Sen. John Kerry’s remarks remains unknown.

If the election were held today, Democrats would seize control of the House of Representatives, perhaps by a substantial margin. In addition to the ones where they trail, Republicans now have several races teetering on the brink of disaster. Democrats +20, Republicans -20.

Republican-Held House Seats In Play

Likely Republican Retention

Likely Democratic Takeover

Leans GOP

Leans Dem

AZ-1 (Renzi)

CA-11 (Pombo)

CT-2 (Simmons)

AZ-8 (Open [Kolbe])

AZ-5 (Hayworth)

CO-4 (Musgrave)

CT-4 (Shays)

CO-7 (Open [Beauprez])

CA-50 (Bilbray)

CO-5 (Open [Hefley])

CT-5 (Johnson)

IA-1 (Open [Nussle])

FL-8 (Keller)

FL-16 (Open [Foley])

FL-13 (Open [Harris])

IN-8 (Hostettler)

KY-2 (Lewis)

FL-22 (Shaw)

IN-2 (Chocola)

NC-11 (Taylor)

KY-3 (Northup)

ID-1 (Open [Otter])

IN-9 (Sodrel)

OH-18 (Open [Ney])

NY-19 (Kelly)

IL-6 (Open [Hyde])

NH-2 (Bass)

PA-7 (Weldon)

PA-4 (Hart)

KY-4 (Davis)

NM-1 (Wilson)

PA-10 (Sherwood)

TX-23 (Bonilla)

MI-7 (Open [Schwarz])

NY-24 (Open [Boehlert])

TX-22 (Open [DeLay])

MN-6 (Open [Kennedy])

NY-29 (Kuhl)

NE-3 (Open [Osborne])

OH-15 (Pryce)

NV-2 (Open [Gibbons])

PA-6 (Gerlach)

NV-3 (Porter)

NY-20 (Sweeney)

NY-25 (Walsh)

NY-26 (Reynolds)

OH-1 (Chabot)

OH-2 (Schmidt)

PA-8 (Fitzpatrick)

VA-2 (Drake)

WA-8 (Reichert)

WI-8 (Open [Green])

WY-AL (Cubin)

Democratic-Held House Seats In Play

Likely Democratic Retention

Likely Republican Takeover

Leans Dem

Leans GOP

IA-3 (Boswell)

GA-8 (Marshall)

GA-12 (Barrow)

IL-17 (Open [Evans])

IL-8 (Bean)

IN-7 (Carson)

LA-3 (Melancon)

OH-6 (Open [Strickland])

OH-13 (Open [Brown])

OR-5 (Hooley)

PA-12 (Murtha)

SC-5 (Spratt)

TX-17 (Edwards)

VT-AL (Open [Sanders])

WV-1 (Mollohan)

California-11: Rep. Richard Pombo (R) was supposed to be safe against his 2004 opponent, engineer and businessman Jerry McNerney (D), but Pombo’s campaign is now calling in volunteers from across the country. This comes as a late sign that Pombo is in much more serious trouble than he had anticipated. His saving grace is the uncompetitive governor’s race, which is expected to depress Democratic turnout. Leaning Republican Retention.

Connecticut-5: After four polls, it is evident Rep. Nancy Johnson (R) has fallen behind State Sen. Chris Murphy (D), who has run a top-notch campaign against one of the House’s most entrenched incumbents. But Johnson also appears to have narrowed the gap since she first fell behind 10 days ago. She has been hurt by large independent expenditures against her, and she is only marginally ahead now in cash on hand.

Her get-out the vote operation is reportedly the most active of the three endangered Republicans in Connecticut, and her new ad attacking Murphy is humorous and effective, but it may represent her last Hail Mary push. Johnson has always been on difficult turf, and her time to make a comeback is running out fast. Leaning Democratic Takeover.

Florida-13: Republicans have all but given up on businessman Vern Buchanan (R), whose failure to cultivate and attract a force of volunteers has resulted in the need to hire door-knockers. Buchanan is trailing banker Christine Jennings (D), and his own significant financial investment in the race has not been enough to keep it in Republican hands, even though the district is strongly Republican. Leaning Democratic Takeover.

Florida-16: Republicans are excited at the prospects of keeping former Rep. Mark Foley‘s (R) seat, and Gov. Jeb Bush (R) is doing everything he can in order to make it happen, including cutting a late ad that is supposed to be very good. Also, state courts have ruled that signs can be posted in the polling places explaining that a vote for Foley is actually a vote for state Rep. Joe Negron (R). Democrat Tim Mahoney (D) had pinned his hopes on people in this Republican district voting for him when they saw that the disgraced Foley was on the ballot. Polls show the race neck-and-neck, and Negron, with his name and face becoming better known with each passing day, has the momentum. Leaning Republican Retention.

Georgia-12: This is now the Republicans’ best chance for a House takeover, and they are extremely confident in their ability to win this reconstituted district. The campaign of former Rep. Max Burns (R) in Savannah is on a tear, with Rep. John Barrow (D) on the defensive. President Bush’s recent visit, and his response from Georgia on the comments of John Kerry, will help the GOP here, in one of the few places where the President can show his face without hurting Republicans.

The NRCC is spending money here to make up for the many seats they expect to lose elsewhere. Leaning Republican Takeover.

Idaho-1: State Rep. Bill Sali (R) is one of several conservative underperformers in open seats that are heavily Republican. He is barely ahead, with a large undecided vote, in a district where no Republican should ever have trouble winning. He performed well in a recent debate against businessman Larry Grant (D). Leaning Republican Retention.

Illinois-8: Polls showing this race to be uncompetitive all along have had a fatal error in them — they completely omit anti-war, anti-trade Moderate Party candidate Bill Scheurer (M), who may get as much as 8 percent of the vote on Election Day. Surveys that include Scheurer have Rep. Melissa Bean (D) in a dead heat with Republican businessman David McSweeney (R). She is dangerously low for an incumbent, but still narrowly ahead of her opponent. Leaning Democratic Retention.

Indiana-2: Many have given up Rep. Chris Chocola (R) for dead in his race against businessman Joe Donnelly (D), but in the last week, his get-out-the vote operation is among the most active in the United States. He trails by three to five points — a five-day Zogby poll showing him down 13 points is clearly an outlier — and he entered the final two weeks with a large cash advantage. He is not suffering any lack of volunteers, so the question is whether voters in Northern St. Joseph County have hopelessly abandoned him. Leaning Democratic Takeover.

Indiana-8: Vandenburgh County Sheriff Brad Ellsworth (D) was nearly broke two weeks ago, trailing (surprisingly) in the money race against Rep. John Hostettler (R). The most reliable polls in the race had Hostettler trailing by seven before he went up on the air. His late ads probably won’t be enough to save him.

Then again, Hostettler has never campaigned like anyone else, and if he somehow won, this would not be the first time he’s been wrongly counted out early. Likely Democratic Takeover.

Indiana-9: Rep. Mike Sodrel (R) reportedly now leads in his internals, after trailing by two to four points against former Rep. Baron Hill (D) in the most recent public polls. This will be one of the closest races in this election, and its outcome could well determine whether Democrats take the House of Representatives. Leaning Democratic Takeover.

Michigan-7: Former State Rep. Tim Walberg (R) may have taken a victory lap too soon after defeating Rep. Joe Schwarz (R) in the primary. He is now embroiled in a scandal involving a staffer who pleaded guilty to hitting his foster child. Republicans admit that Walberg, in standing by the staffer (who has now resigned), has not handled the issue well.

The Democratic candidate in this race, organic farmer Sharon Renier, has no money and the district is heavily Republican. If this seat goes to the Democrats, it is a sign of a tsunami. Leaning Republican Retention.

Nebraska-3: Yet another district Republicans cannot afford to have on this list. President Bush scored 75 percent here, and there is no excuse for conservative GOP State Sen. Adrian Smith‘s allowing rancher Scott Kleeb (D) to creep up right behind him. Democrats are now putting money into this race, in hopes that a big victory by Sen. Ben Nelson (D) will carry Kleeb over the top. It is not likely, but even the fact that this is a race should scare Republicans everywhere. At the very least, it gives Democrats an extra feint as they try to keep the GOP off-balance in their nationwide electoral defense campaign. Leaning Republican Retention.

Nevada-3: Rep. Jon Porter (R) was reportedly under water in his suburban Las Vegas district, caught in a tough race against Sen. Harry Reid‘s (D) press secretary Tessa Hafen (D). There is still much fear that Mormon Republicans will pull the lever for Hafen, their co-religionist.

But Republicans have ramped up the number of 72-hour campaigners in the district to 100. They have knocked on enough doors and made enough calls already that by Election Day they will have contacted voters to win the race, even if no one else votes for Porter. Leaning Republican Retention.

New Mexico-1: Rep. Heather Wilson (R) has suddenly rebounded by six to eight points in the wake of a disastrous debate performance by state Atty. Gen. Patricia Madrid (D). The race is just about even now.

Madrid, who had been in a position to put the race away, looked so awful in a recent debate that Wilson has cut an ad from it that is now running. Its effect has been simply devastating. Madrid, standing at her podium, appears to be at a total loss after being asked a question about taxes.

This race is definitely back in play. Republicans claim an unprecedented midterm rate of early voting here, with 22,000 core Republicans casting early ballots, almost as many as in the 2004 presidential year. Wilson probably wins this one narrowly if she can get 92,000 votes in all — and she wins handily if she racks up 95,000 or more. Leaning Democratic Takeover.

New York-26: Rep. Tom Reynolds (R), after falling far behind immediately after the revelations about disgraced former Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.), recovered, perhaps thanks to a snowstorm and his ability to get disaster aid for his district. Suddenly he leads again in the polls, if narrowly. He may ride out the storm thanks to an act of God. Leaning Republican Retention.

Ohio-18: It is difficult to tell what information is good here. Some tell us that things have suddenly brightened for state Sen. Joy Padgett (R) in her race against lawyer Zack Space (D). Her internal polls are bringing sighs of relief, and most of Majority Leader Boehner’s staff is there. They apparently feel much more confident than does Padgett herself. On the other hand, the NRCC is pulling funds from the race. The latest polls suggest that the bad news is correct and the lack of ground game here confirms that thinking, at least as of Monday. Likely Democratic Takeover.

Pennsylvania-4: Rep. Melissa Hart (R) will likely survive, but her weakness late in the game has forced the NRCC to spend money defending her. Her opponent, health care lobbyist Jason Altmire (D), is out of cash. Likely Republican Retention.

Wyoming-AL: The NRCC is now desperately pouring money into this seldom-discussed state, trying to save Rep. Barbara Cubin (R) after she threatened to slap her crippled Libertarian opponent. Businessman Gary Trauner (D) is within three points. Despite what one may think, Democrats can win in Wyoming, and Trauner is probably as close to doing so as one can be. Leaning Republican Retention.

Governor 2006

Democrats +6, Republicans -6.

Republican-Held Governorships In Play

Likely Republican Retention

Likely Democratic Takeover

Leans GOP

Leans Dem

CA (Schwarzenegger)

AK (Open [Murkowski])

MD (Ehrlich)

AR (Open [Huckabee])

CT (Rell)

MN (Pawlenty)

CO (Open [Owens])

FL (Open [Bush])

NV (Open [Guinn])

MA (Open [Romney])

GA (Perdue)

RI (Carcieri)

NY (Open [Pataki])

HI (Lingle)

TX (Perry)

OH (Open [Taft])

SC (Sanford)

Democrat-Held Governorships In Play

Likely Democratic Retention

Likely Republican Takeover

Leans Dem

Leans GOP

AZ (Napolitano)

IA (Open [Vilsack])

KS (Sebelius)

ME (Baldacci)

PA (Rendell)

MI (Granholm)

OK (Henry)

OR (Kulongoski)

WI (Doyle)

Alaska: Former Gov. Tony Knowles (D) has used his financial advantage to reduce Wasilla Mayor Sara Palin‘s (R) lead to near zero. This one is going to be very close. Leaning Republican Retention.

Colorado: Rep. Bob Beauprez (R-Colo.) created a bad situation for House Republicans when he vacated a safe seat in order to run for governor against Bill Ritter (D). Republicans complain that Beauprez’s campaign staff just didn’t have it in them, and the polls certainly add credence to their unhappiness with the race. Ritter’s victory may be key — the governor has a powerful role in the redistricting process in Colorado, and this state could be gerrymandered much more favorably for Democrats in the future. Likely Democratic Takeover.

Iowa: Republicans are extremely disheartened about Rep. Jim Nussle (R-Iowa), whose chances at becoming governor had appeared very bright months ago. He now trails Secretary of State Chet Culver (D) in every available poll, and the poor shape of the U.S. House candidates in the state gives little reason for hope. Even worse, he may have given over a safe House seat to the Democrats for nothing. Leaning Democratic Retention.

Robert D. Novak