- Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson‘s financial bailout plan is getting poor reviews on Capitol Hill, and not only from Democrats, who want more stimulus and more regulation. Republican leaders believe the administration is proposing too much injection of government and not letting the markets find a bottom.
- It is increasingly hard to find a path for Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) to the nomination. Although she has a double-digit lead over Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) in the polls for the Pennsylvania primary April 22, even a big win there will not be enough to put her in the lead. Clinton strategists still talk about a re-vote in Michigan and a seating of her Florida delegates, but even that falls short of the magic number.
- The super-delegates will decide the nomination before the convention in Denver. The current significant Obama lead in the Gallup poll — if it holds up — suggests that most of these non-elected delegates will be going Obama’s way. Clinton clearly has no intention of getting out of the race and is hoping for an upset in North Carolina May 6, but that seems extremely unlikely.
- We traveled with the two candidates last week in states where they are behind — Clinton in North Carolina, Obama in Pennsylvania. They were refraining from strong attacks on one another, not out of party unity but on the grounds that the attacker would suffer. The enthusiastic crowds gathered to hear them seemed disappointed in not getting any red meat thrown their way. It seems unlikely Clinton will simply run out the string without going on the attack.
Overview: The trickle of calls for Clinton to step aside has become a bit more regular, evoking a promise by her to fight until the convention.
- Clinton’s pledge to fight until the convention should not be taken too seriously. While she certainly is not one to give up easily, presidential candidates regularly declare themselves in it for the long haul before dropping out — see John Edwards‘ language just before his withdrawal.
- Recent polls show Obama recovering from the blows he suffered from the words of his mentor Rev. Jeremiah Wright. His national lead grew back to ten points, but it is certainly not stable.
- Despite his lead in national polls, Obama will lose ground in the remaining primaries where the political landscape favors Clinton. His delegate lead will shrink, and his popular vote lead could vanish.
Delegates: The fluid delegate race continues to shift, even in this lull between primaries.
- Texas’s counties held their Democratic conventions over the weekend, at which the state delegates selected by the caucuses elected delegates to the state convention. The net result was a small gain for Obama, suggesting he will win 98 pledged delegates to Clinton’s 95. Of course, this could change at the state convention in June. (High turnout at these county conventions reflects Democratic enthusiasm in this GOP state, and reveals an upside of the drawn-out nomination battle.)
- Puerto Rico Gov. An√?¬≠bal Acevedo-Vil√?¬° (D), a super-delegate backing Obama, has been indicted on fraud charges relating to campaign finance. He has pleaded not guilty and has broad popular support. If he steps down (which looks unlikely now), he loses his super-delegate status. If the case elevates his stature, his endorsement of Obama could carry more weight in the June 1 primary.
- Rep. Albert Wynn (D), an unpledged super-delegate defeated for reelection in the Democratic primary, announced last week his resignation effective in June, thus surrendering his place in Denver. Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) has the authority to call a special election if he wishes, but he is not obligated to. Donna Edwards (D), who beat Wynn in the primary, would likely win the special election, thus adding one super-delegate to Obama’s column. O’Malley is a Clinton supporter.
- Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) has endorsed Obama, giving Obama more support in the upper chamber than Clinton has. Clinton’s overall super-delegate lead continues to shrink. The North Carolina delegation, according to a Wall Street Journal report, plans a unified endorsement of Obama just before that state’s primary, in which Obama is favored.
Missouri Governor: Gov. Matt Blunt (R) is stepping down after only one term, leaving a competitive race and a real chance for a Democratic takeover.
Republicans are looking at a competitive primary battle between State Treasurer, Sarah Steelman (R) and Rep. Kenny Hulshof (R). Steelman has gained a high profile as treasurer by taking a lead on divesting from Iran. An opponent of tort reform, she has the backing of trial lawyers, which has helped her fundraising. She has strong name identification within the party, her father once serving as state party chairman.
Hulshof is a conservative Congressman from the rural 9th District in the northeast quadrant of the state. His name identification outside his district is low and his fundraising is suspect. Conservatives are more enthusiastic about him, but Steelman will try to hang Congress’s low approval rating on him.
Atty. Gen. Jay Nixon (D) will be the Democratic nominee, and he starts as the favorite in the general election. He leads Steelman by 7 points and Hulshof by 11 in the latest Rasmussen surveys. Missouri Republicans estimate that by the time the primary is over, Nixon will have $3 million to $5 million on hand for the general election.
Looking at the 2004 election — a decent Republican year when Blunt carried the governorship, and Bush carried the state, Nixon looks stronger than Steelman. Steelman won her race with 51 percent while Nixon garnered 60 percent. Leaning Democratic Retention.
Arkansas: Republican prospects in the U.S. Senate continue to dim in this state, as the filing deadline passed without a single GOP opponent to Sen. Mark Pryor (D), one of the Democrats Republicans had hoped to be able to challenge this year.
Pryor will coast to his first reelection facing attorney Rebekah Kennedy (Green), and independent merchant seaman and 2nd-Amenment activist Don Hamrick. Republicans never had a serious candidate to offer, although some in the Arkansas GOP held out hope that former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), upon exiting the presidential race, would jump into the Senate contest. Huckabee was never interested.
The result: The Republican column will be blank for the U.S. Senate race, as it is in the uncontested reelections of all three Arkansas Democrats in the U.S. House this year. Rep. Mike Boozman (R), the only Republican in Arkansas’ congressional delegation, is also unopposed.
The stultified political environment here reflects a trend in many rural states of weak parties and shallow benches. It’s not as if Republicans had strong candidates here who dropped out — they never had a candidate, although Pryor is a freshman Democrat in a state Bush won twice. Perhaps Huckabee, during his governorship, spent too much time worrying about his own personal ascent and not enough building a party, but the GOP is looking sad here. Arkansas Republicans say some potential candidates could be waiting for a possible challenge to Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D), up for reelection in 2010, arguing she is more vulnerable than Pryor. In truth, this is just a weak party. Certain Democratic Retention.
Missouri-6: Rep. Sam Graves (R) is another vulnerable Republican congressman, facing a tough challenge from former Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes (D).
Graves has won re-election in 2004 and 2006 with 64 and 62 percent, respectively, while Bush carried the district with 57 and 53 percent. Graves’s vulnerability results from failure to disclose his family’s stake in the Show Me Ethanol company, while pushing ethanol subsidies in Congress. Controversies involving the use of a corporate jet don’t help either.
Barnes will benefit from millions of dollars from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and EMILY’s List, and the backing of her uncle, Walter Cronkite.
This mostly rural district outside of Kansas City is historically conservative, and her image as a liberal will hurt. Leaning Republican Retention.
Missouri-9: Rep. Kenny Hulshof (R), running for governor, leaves this seat open.
The leading GOP contenders are State Representatives Bob Onder (R) and Danielle Moore (R), and former State Rep. Blaine Leutkemeyer (R). The Democrats are fielding Public Utility Commissioner Steve Gaw (D), State Rep. Judy Baker (D), former State Rep. Ken Jacob (D), and Marion County Commissioner Lyndon Bode (D).
Leutkemeyer and Onder are the two front-runners on the GOP side with Leutkemeyer having better name recognition thanks to a previous statewide race. Onder, a doctor and academic, was a pro-life leader in the heated cloning and stem-cell ballot measure in 2004, and he has a strong pro-life support. Leutkemeyer finished second to Steelman in a crowded 2004 race for treasurer and is the state tourism director, appointed by Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder. He is well organized and will benefit from his German Catholic roots.
The Democratic race seems to be leaning towards Gaw who is a moderate Democrat with a strong shot in the general election because the district has a history of electing conservative Democrats.
This district went 59 percent for Bush in 2004, and so it would take quite a Democratic tidal wave (or a strong campaign by Gaw) to wash Democrats to victory — an event not outside the realm of possibility. Leaning Republican Retention.
Last Night’s Results
Mississippi-1: Southaven Mayor Greg Davis (R) edged out Tupelo Mayor Glenn McCullough (R) in a runoff to earn the Republican nomination in the House race to replace former Rep. Roger Wicker (R), now an appointive Senator. In November, Davis will be the favorite against Democratic nominee Travis Childers (D), who beat State Rep. Steve Holland (D) in last night’s runoff.
These four candidates plus three others will all be on the same ballot in the April 22 special election to fill out the remainder of Wicker’s term. Assuming no candidate receives a majority on April 22, the top two will advance to a runoff May 13.
Mississippi-3: Rankin Co. Republican Chairman Gregg Harper (R) defeated State Sen. Charlie Ross (R) in the runoff to earn the GOP nod in the district of retiring Rep. Chip Pickering (R). Pickens Town Alderman Joel Gill (D) had secured the Democratic nomination without a runoff in March. Harper is a strong favorite here.