DEMOCRATS COULD TAKE VIRGINIA AND TENNESSEE SENATE SEATS NEXT YEAR
WILL JOHN WARNER'S EFFORTS TO BEQUEATH HIS SENATE SEAT TO TOM DAVIS, LEAD TO A VICTORY FOR SENATOR MARK WARNER?
This morning's Moonie Times indicates what DC Insiders have long suspected: that 80 year old fossil, Senator John Warner, will not seek re-election next year. In recent years the Virginia GOP has been torn up-- like so many state Republican parties-- by battles between conservatives and neo-fascist extremists. When the extremists win the primaries, they often lose the general elections.
"There has been considerable discussion about the possibility that [Mr. Warner] might delay an announcement of candidacy, then announce he wasn't going to run, to allow Congressman Tom Davis to build up at the beginning of the campaigns, which would give Davis an advantage," said Morton C. Blackwell, chairman of the Virginia's Republican National Committee and leader of the conservative Leadership Institute.
...Speculation about Mr. Warner retiring increased this spring after filings with the Federal Elections Commission showed he had raised only $500 during the first quarter of the year.
Another indication was the resignation last year of Susan Magill, who was Mr. Warner's chief of staff for 18 years.
Mr. Warner's resignation would likely result in a tough political battle to replace him that would begin inside the Republican State Central Committee, which decides how the party will picks its nominee.
Members could choose a convention or a primary election, which would likely benefit a more moderate candidate.
Among the unelectable extremists eyeing Warner's seat are Rep. Eric Cantor (VA-07), Rep. Randy Forbes (VA-04), and the as yet unindicted bribe taker Rep. Robert Goodlatte (VA-06).
Republicans hope for a candidate who can succeed in Northern Virginia where the party has won too few votes in three straight losses for top statewide office.
"I hope the George Allen election caught the attention of the rest of the state," said Delegate David Albo, Fairfax County Republican. "Republicans used to say, 'We are going to win big in the rest of Virginia, and try not to lose bad in [Northern Virginia.]' But when you have 90,000 people a year moving into [Northern Virginia], eventually that strategy is not going to work."
House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith, Salem Republican, agreed.
"We have to do better in [Northern Virginia] if we are going to win," he said.
Much of this would be moot if former Governor Mark Warner decides to run for the seat since he is widely popular and much admired throughout the state and could easily beat any of those Republicans who are unknown statewide. Mark Warner's close friendship with John Warner has keep him out of the race to date-- as well as huge speculation that he is Hillary's #1 choice for vice president.
AND TENNESSEE COULD BE SOME NICE FROSTING ON THE CAKE
Conventional wisdom lists Lamar Alexander's Senate seat in Tennessee as a safe one. But with 2008 shaping up to be a year of discontent with incumbents and a year of disdain for Republicans-- one that could make 2006 look like a dress rehearsal-- Alexander might not be that safe. He has, after all, been a craven rubber stamp for a Bush-Cheney agenda that is no more popular in Tennessee than it is anywhere else in America (not counting Utah). Tennessee Democrats and the DSCC are convinced they can win this one and they both have the same moderate candidate with crossover potential in mind.
Short of a Fred Thompson candidacy at the top of the ticket or a suicidal Harold Ford nomination by the Democrats, which will leave progressives sitting on their hands, Alexander could be vulnerable to a well-run campaign from a big-name Democrat. And this morning one of the savviest political pundits in Tennessee, Jackson Baker, is suggesting that Mike McWherter is getting ready to jump into the race. McWherter's dad was popular 2-term Governor Ned McWherter.
Fresh from his service as treasurer in state Senator Lowe Finney's win last year (taking back a Democratic seat from Don McLeary, considered by McWhrerter a "turncoat" after changing party affiliations in 2005), the 52-year-old activist is now focusing on Alexander, whom McWherter sees as a slavish follower of President George W. Bush.
"With one or two exceptions, he's done everything the president has wanted him to do. He's toed the party line," said McWherter, who has recently paid courtesy calls on ranking Democrats, both in Tennessee and in Washington, D.C. , informing them of his interest in running next year and soliciting their support. He is getting active encouragement from Gray Sasser, state Democratic chairman and son of an influential former officeholder himself, former Senator and Ambassador Jim Sasser.
Last week, the Nashville Post ran a similar story about the prospects of McWherter offering Alexander a serious challenge. The Post reports Sasser's enthusiasm. "Should Mike decide to run, he would be a terrific candidate for the U.S. Senate. I firmly believe that Sen. Alexander is beatable in 2008. Tennesseans, like the rest of America, are ready for a change and are disappointed that Sen. Alexander continues to back the failed policies of George Bush and Karl Rove, voting with the Bush administration more than 90 percent of the time."