Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lessons from the Primaries and PA-12, 1 Easy Step to Squandering a Lead in Connecticut, Squeaking Through a Cloture Motion

What Happened Tuesday
Tuesday's primaries were interesting, although in my mind, none of the results unexpected.

First, and probably most significantly, Rep. Joe Sestak defeated incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter for the Democratic nomination for Specter's Pennsyvlania Senate seat. Poor old Snarlin' Arlen. A lifelong moderate, he realized earlier this year that a Republican Party that never really liked him all that much had shifted to the right and was finally ready to dump him. So, he switched parties and joined the Dems, amidst promises of support from the President and the Democratic Establishment. The only problem is, the President doesn't get to vote in Democratic Primaries in Pennsylvania. And the Democratic voters in PA couldn't find a compelling reason to vote for a guy that they had spent the last 24 years voting against in general elections. So, in place of a moderate, they nominated a liberal. It's a shame that the US Senate is going to lose a moderate at just the time when more moderate voices are needed (it will either have a liberal in Sestak or a conservative in Republican Pat Toomey), but it's not that unexpected.

In terms of the general election race, Sestak has surged in the polls since the primary and now holds a modest lead over Toomey. This certainly is shaping up to be one of the more competitive and interesting races of the 2008 cycle.

Secondly, the special election in Pennsylvania's 12th district provided a clear-cut victory for a moderate (some would even say conservative) Democrat over a conservative Republican. PA-12 is a difficult district to charecterize, having voted 8 points more Republican than the nation in 2008 but 5 points more Democratic than the nation in 2004. It is one of those districts in Appalchia where President Obama significantly underperformed, but has a large advantage for Democrats in party registration. It is a socially conservative district but economically more liberal. And there was a Democratic Senate primary going on in Pennsylvania that may have aided Democratic turnout. Combine all that and Democrat Mark Critz' victory on Tuesday was a modestly positive bellweather for the Dems, but not something that should automatically make them feel good about November. And it is a district that will have a rematch in less than 6 months. It is worth noting as well, that this is yet another loss for the tea party movement. The tea party has yet to have one of their own actually win a general election.

In Kentucky, the tea party did win a primary as libertarian Rand Paul won the Republican nomination for the Senate. This is a race that the GOP should win, but Paul presents some unique challenges. First, he has some pretty radical views, such as the view that the government should not require businesses not to racially discriminate. It is an honestly held belief, he doesn't believe in much government intervention of any sort, but still problematic. Secondly, he is not particularly in line with the social conservatism of Kentucky, favoring libertarian principles like marijuana legalization. But, this is Kentucky, one of the reddest states in the country. So, Paul will certainly be favored to be the tea party's first real general election victory, but this is not a lead pipe cinch.

In Arkansas, Senator Blanche Lincoln, already in big trouble in the general election, is evidentally also in trouble from the left in the primary. She failed to get 50% of the vote and will face a very tight run-off.

3 senate primaries and not one establishment candidate with a clear cut victory. If there was any doubt that the voters are out for blood this year, this should seal the deal.

How to Blow a 40 Point Lead
If you have a 40 point lead in a Senate race in Connecticut, you just keep your mouth shut, stay on script and don't create any waves, right?

But what if you wanted to plot a way to blow that lead? Can you think of a better way then making false statements about being a Vietnam War veteran, when, in fact, you actively sought deferrments from being drafted?

Richard Blumenthal has managed to create a potentially competitive race out of one he was going to win in a walk. What an idiot. He may still win, he has a history of goodwill and popularity in a deep blue state. But telling offensive lies in a year when the voters are looking to throw out anyone that even resembles an incumbent is a good place to start if you want to lose.

Note: I will be publishing a complete updated 2010 rundown within the next week or so.

Really? A 60-40 Vote?
It took two tries and some arm twisting, but the Democrats were finally able to invoke cloture on the manager's amendment to move forward with the financial reform bill. Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) opposed cloture as he felt the measure did not go far enough. The Maine Moderates, Sen's Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins (both R) crossed the line to vote for the measure. Other than that, it was a strictly party line vote.

Is the GOP just following my strategy of running clock to get to the mid-terms or are they really going to oppose financial reform on final passage? I can't imagine anyone facing a re-election fight that is even remotely competitive would want to have a no vote on record. But I'm starting to wonder.

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