Wednesday, September 12, 2007



According to today's NY Times "Democrats are feeling bullish these days about expanding [their Senate] majority in 2008-- and with good reason." And the good reason goes well beyond the conventional wisdom that the Republicans have 22 seats to defend and the Democrats have only a dozen to defend. The good reason, in fact, has more to do with another perfect storm gathering for Republicans. There is a steady drum beat of scandal after scandal-- from Ted Stevens' financial improprieties in Alaska and Pete "Sneaky Pete" Domenici (R-NM) getting caught up in the purge of the U.S. Attorneys to Bob Allen's (R-FL) and Larry Craig's (R-ID) poor toilet training in public restrooms all over the country. Furthermore it wouldn't surprise me one bit if the South Carolina GOP doesn't see something in the next week or two that will make the Tom Ravenel cocaine bust last month seem like a tea party. And then there's the big advantage Democrats have in fundraising over Republicans lately ($17.6 million for the DSCC in the last quarter and only a paltry $8.6 million for the NRSC). Smart money knows giving to the Republicans is like flushing your contributions down one of Larry Craig's favorite toilets.

All this goes back to the public being sick and tired of Bush, Cheney, the lies, the war, the occupation, the incompetence... all the hallmarks of the worst presidential administration in the lifetime of anyone in the country. Mitch McConnell's policy of obstructionism in the Senate-- preventing popularly-backed legislation from passing-- is not going over well. The needless prolonging of the war to salve the bruises to Bush's ego isn't something the public approves of. The politicization of the Justice Department is something American understand-- and are revolted by.

Add to that heady mixture an exceptional string of good luck for Democrats and bad luck for Republicans, and you could see a changeover of historic proportions next year. Wayne Allard is far too extreme for moderate-trending Colorado and he probably couldn't have held the seat there anyway, but by retiring he's making it a lot easier for the Democrats to claim that one. John Warner, on the other hand, would have probably held the Virginia senate seat. But he's decided to retire and Democrat Mark Warner, who will announce officially tomorrow that he's ready for his coronation, will slaughter whichever hapless chump the Republicans decide to sacrifice. The latest Rasmussen Poll shows the popular ex-Governor swamping either of the two GOP front-runners, mainstream conservative Tom Davis (57-30%) or far right Jim Gilmore (54-34%). Even the overly cautious Charlie Cook calls Warner the "prohibitive favorite." Similarly, it is expected that New Hampshire's ex-Governor Jeanne Shaheen will challenge and beat John Sununu in a rematch. New Hampshire voters are very aware that several Republican operatives are rotting in prison after confessing to having rigged Sununu's previous win over Shaheen. When ARG polled New Hampshire voters at the end of June they picked Shaheen over Sununu by a prohibitive 57-29%.

Chuck Hagel (R-NE) is also bailing and could well be replaced by conservative Democrat Bob Kerrey, a well-liked ex-governor and ex-senator. And, of course, regardless of what happens in court or in the Senate Ethics Committee, Senator Craig won't be running in Idaho again.
The national trends remain auspicious for the Democrats, many polls suggest. As they were in 2006, (and we know how that turned out,) voters remain deeply unhappy with the Bush presidency, the course of the war in Iraq and the direction of the country, polls show. They may not be thrilled with the Democratically controlled Congress, which has an approval rating that remains strikingly low, but Republicans “continue to have big image problems” and the trend in party affiliation continues to favor the Democrats, said Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center.

Certain regions of the country are especially restless, notably, the Northeast, where anti-war sentiment is strong. In the most recent New York Times/CBS News Poll, 77 percent in the Northeast said the United States “made a mistake” getting involved in the war in Iraq, compared to 52 percent who felt that way in the South. After the substantial Republican losses in the Northeast in 2006, some suggested New England was in the middle of a major realignment toward the Democrats-- not unlike what happened in the South, in a shift toward Republican dominance.

That will leave the Northeast with three Republican senators, Olympia Snowe (ME) and Arlen Specter (PA), who are not unwilling to work in a bipartisan manner with Democrats, and Judd Gregg (NH), who is likely to be defeated in 2010. And when the frontline for the GOP becomes a Kansas incumbent's seat, you know the Republicans are hurting... bad.

The only Democrat likely to be defeated is Louisiana's Mary Landrieu, who votes more frequently with the GOP than any other Senate Democrat other than arch-reactionaries Ben Nelson (NE) and Max Baucus (MT). Most progressives will be glad to see her take her pernicious brand-damaging self back to the Bayou State.

With Bush promising to appoint a hardcore partisan hack like Ted Olson to succeed Gonzales in the Justice Department-- and Harry Reid saying, figuratively at least, "Over my dead body"-- Democrats desperately need principled cohesion. Earlier today, Jane Hamsher pointed out even more reasons why it is essential to elect a strong Democratic Congress for the post-Bush era.

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