Friday, September 19, 2008

Congressional Goings On From Vermont To Missouri


Rep. Peter Welch, progressive Republican?

A few months ago my friend Pach and I went to a voter registration fundraiser for Head Count in DC that featured a concert by Bob Weir. We ran into Peter Welch (D-VT), who had just exposed and prevented a huge Bush Regime taxpayer rip off and we were eager to congratulate and thank him.

Since being elected in 2006 Welch has amassed a stunningly progressive voting record, right up there with Keith Ellison (D-MN), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Yvette Clark (D-NY), John Sarbanes (D-MD), and Betty Sutton (D-OH) all of whom live in much safer blue districts. In fact no sooner had we finished lavishing praise on Welch than he started babbling about how he was in a tough re-election battle and how endangered he is. "Dude," I said, "you don't have an opponent. The Republicans can't even find someone to run against you. That's not endangered."

But sure enough, last week's Vermont primary yielded a strong and admirable Republican candidate: Peter Welch. Enough Republicans in the at-large district wrote in Welch's name so that he will appear on the ballot as both a Democrat and a Republican. Now that's bipartisan!

And speaking of "bipartisan," yesterday we saw Republican Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) say that he could never endorse John McCain, followed today by Republican Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) telling Americans that Palin is not ready for the vice-presidency, let alone the presidency. On top of that, the only Republican moderate in the House of Representatives, Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD) endorsed Obama yesterday, calling the Democratic nominee "prudent, knowledgeable...(and that) we can't use four more years of the same kind of policy that's hazardous and leads to recklessness."

Mainstream conservatives like Gilchrest and Hagel think their party has gone way too far to the extreme right and they want nothing to do with wacko candidates like McCain, Palin and some of the lunatic fringe congressional offerings. One of the craziest and most clueless of all is Missouri kook Blaine Leutkemeyer running for Kenny Hulshof's open seat in the northeastern part of the state against mainstream progressive Judy Baker. Watch this video of Leutkemeyer insisting nothing needs to be changed and that "we're going in the right direction."

Still, today's Washington Post posits that Republican chances to hold onto most of their Senate and House seats has gotten better because of the enthusiasm generated by the nomination at the base level by fellow extremist Palin. "Both sides concede that the GOP stands almost no chance of taking back the House or Senate in November, but party leaders think the Palin factor and an increasingly competitive fight for the White House have generated enthusiasm and momentum that could limit GOP losses to only a few Senate seats and perhaps fewer than a dozen House seats."
Republicans are especially bullish about the changing Senate landscape. Democrats have never envisioned an easy path to a filibuster-proof 60-vote majority, but polls suggest that prospect has been reduced to a near impossibility in recent weeks.

Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign has pulled out of Georgia, probably a fatal blow to former state representative Jim Martin in his bid to unseat Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss. Another long shot, state Rep. Rick Noriega in Texas, has been outraised 9 to 1 by Republican Sen. John Cornyn. State Sen. Andrew Rice is not showing significant gains against GOP Sen. James M. Inhofe in Oklahoma, and Republican Sen. Susan Collins appears to be holding firm in Maine, where she faces Rep. Tom Allen.

Tomorrow, at 11am EST, Blue America will start a competition to address 5 of those tough Senate contests, targeting Republican rubber stamps Susan Collins (ME), John Cornyn (TX), Ted Stevens (AK), James Inhofe (OK), and Gordon Smith (OR). Please join us at Firedoglake.

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