At the Truman event today, top Obama adviser and former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry said that Barack Obama considers four foreign policy challenges to be his top priorities. At the Truman event today, top Obama adviser and former Secretary o…
The Obama Doctrine in Progress
During the Q&A at the Truman event today, Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, asked Richard Danzig and Bill Perry what Obama’s national security strategy might look like. During the Q&A at the Truman e…
Senate Election News
Get the latest news, state by state.
On August 26, scandal-plagued Sen. Ted Stevens (R) did the expected and won the Republican primary with 63% of the vote against a host of challengers. Stevens was happy; Democrats were thrilled.
It is tough to defeat an institution like Stevens under the best of circumstances. The incumbent has long been revered in Alaska for his ability to win federal support for his state and for his effectiveness. The two factors most likely to defeat an incumbent are scandal and age. Both factors should help Anchorage Mayor Nick Begich (D), who won the Democratic primary on Tuesday with 84% of the vote. Stevens turns 85 years old in November.
Having won his primary, Stevens faces a trial scheduled for September and a Democratic opponent who led Stevens 56% – 39% in a mid-August poll conducted August 9 – 12 by Anchorage Press and other media outlets.
But don’t count Stevens yet: Stevens won 59,000 votes in the primary compared to 56,000 for Begich. (August 28).
After surviving a difficult Oregon Democratic primary in May against activist Steve Novick, Jeff Merkley (D) has charged into contention against incumbent Senator Gordon Smith (R) . Sen. Smith remains ahead on most polls, but consistently shows support at or below the dangerous 50% level for incumbents.
It is clear that President Bush remains a major drag on the Republican primary in Oregon; both his support and that of Smith remain very low and declining. Moreover, Democratic Party registration has surged in the state, both because of Republicans problems and the hot Democratic presidential contest.
Despite Smith’s best attempts to unload against Merkley this summer and gain a substantial lead – an effort that has proven successful in the incumbent’s previous campaigns – Merkley remains a fierce competitor. Smith also tried cozying up to Democrats, running ads citing Barack Obama, John Kerry and the backing of former Democratic Representative Elizabeth Furse. He even charged Merkley with buying highly expensive furniture for the state legislature, only to have media editorials turn on for ignoring the more important issues in the campaign.
While fundraising remained a challenge for Merkley throughout his primary, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has stepped in with huge advertising buys and will spend an awesome $8 million on television advertising by the end of the campaign. Merkley went on the air last week in response to a Smith ad and will continuing running television ads throughout most of the campaign. Noted political analyst Charlie Cook rates the race a toss up. (August 25)
Challenger Al Franken (D) has suffered more blows than most in a tough campaign against incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman (R) , but his resilience has brought him back time and again. Franken has been under fire – and not only from Republicans – for not having paid taxes, for failing to pay workman’s compensation and for writing satiric pieces that were, as he conceded, “downright offensive.”
After Franken overcome several challengers to win the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor endorsement at the party’s June convention, ex-appointed Sen. Dean Barkley decided to run as an independent and attorney Priscilla Lord Faris is challenging Franken in the September primary. Polls showed that Franken, who had closed in on Coleman, dropping back. But like the energizer bunny, Franken keeps going and, according to a Minnesota Public Radio and Humphrey Institute poll conducted from August 7 – 17, has moved into a virtual tie. Clearly Franken has benefited from public anger over Republican governance, the poor economy, housing foreclosures and high energy prices.
Despite his difficulties, Franken has raised $11.7 million, a tremendous achievement for a challenger, although Coleman had raised more. Charlie Cook also ratesthis contest a toss-up. (August 25)
Rep. Tom Allen (D) launched his first television advertisement of the campaign on August 10. His plan from the start was to spend the first part of the campaign raising money for ads, organizing and engaging in the normal day-to-day political combat. Then, he planned to go on the air from August through Election Day. The campaign expected that Allen would trail incumbent Sen. Susan Collins (R) for most of the campaign, but would catch up through heavy use of the media the last three months of the campaign.
The first ad focused on the theme of change: how Allen opposed the war in Iraq and supports a “responsible deadline” for getting troops out; and the need to redirect the resources spent in Iraq back home toward economic issues such as health care, tax cuts for college and creating jobs. There is no attack against Collins in Allen’s first ad.
To its credit, the Allen campaign has stuck to its game plan of husbanding resources despite nervousness from Democratic pros. While the polls still show Allen trailing, he is within striking distance. The most recent Critical Insights poll conducted June 1-27 showed Collins ahead 50% to 40%, with 9% undecided. At the end of the last reporting period, Allen had $2.6 million cash-on-hand, not as much as Collins but sufficient to compete head-to-head on TV for the remainder of the campaign. (August 12)
In something of a surprise, Sen. Tim Johnson (D) announced that he will not engage in any political debates during his reelection campaign against state representative Joel Dykstra (R). While well-known incumbents frequently try to minimize sharing the stage with lesser-known opponents by refusing more than one or two debates, the two-term incumbent said thanks, but no thanks to the debates altogether.
After suffering a life-threatening brain hemorrhage in December 2006, Johnson underwent emergency surgery and returned to the Senate after nine months of convalescence. Since returning, he has maintained an excellent record of attendance for Senate votes and hearings. He uses a motorized wheel chair to get around.
In his announcement about the debates, Johnson said: “While my speech continues to improve, it is not yet 100 percent and I have not yet reached a point in my rehab where my participation in a debate would accurate reflect my capabilities.”
Johnson first ran for the Senate in 1996, defeating incumbent Senator Larry Pressler by fewer than 9,000 votes out of 325,000 cast. Johnson’s re-election campaign was successful against John Thune, but only by only 524 votes. This year, Johnson faces a second tier candidate. Johnson should win, but his opponents will use his reversal on the debates – earlier Johnson had said he would participate – to suggest that Johnson is not up to representing South Dakota. (August 12)
Two recent Senate polls in Colorado and New Hampshire suggest either than the Republican nominee is closing in on front-running Democrat or the polling is wrong. In New Hampshire, former Governor Jeanne Shaheen (D) has run consistently ahead of incumbent Sen. John Sununu (R) by a low double digit margin. Even a poll conducted by Republican research firm American Research Group showed Shaheen ahead by 14 points, 54% to 40%. “The Hotline” compared Sununu’s poor prospects to the situation of ex-Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, who went down to overwhelming defeat in 2006.
Thus it was a great surprise to see the latest University of New Hampshire Granite State poll conducted from July 11 – 20 showing Shaheen’s margin had narrowed to 46% – 42%. While there have been independent group expenditures against Shaheen on labor and tax issues, there is nothing to explain this kind of shift. Sununu has not yet gone on the air with any TV advertisements of his own.
There is little doubt that this could wind up being a very close race and that incumbent Sununu can win, but some doubt is in order about the accuracy of the poll. (August 1)
Similarly, in Colorado, a recent Quinnipiac/Wall Street Journal/Washington Post.com poll showed the Republican candidate ex-Rep. Bob Schaffer has pulled into a tie against U.S. Rep. Mark Udall (D). The poll, conducted July 14 – 22, had the two candidates in a 44% – 44% tie. Previous polls had indicated that Udall had moved out into a lead, particularly after a heavy dose of Udall TV ads (Schaffer is hoarding his money for a later ad blitz).
What accounts for the shift in Colorado opinions? Nothing obvious. It is perhaps another reminder that all polling, at the congressional or the presidential election, should be recognized as a snap shot at a particular time that may or may not be accurate. (August 1)
CLW and Joe Biden: The Early Years
I’d like to share with you the role that the Council for a Livable World played in the election of Joe Biden to the United States Senate in 1972. I had Co-Chaired the Eugene McCarthy campaign in Delaware in 1968. In 1970, a young man named Joe Biden decided to run for a seat on the New Castle County Council. I worked on that campaign and Joe Biden won – in a year that the Democrats did not do well at all. In fact, Joe’s Council seat was the highest office we won throughout the State that year.
August 27, 2008
By Sonia Sloan
I’d like to share with you the role that the Council for a Livable World played in the election of Joe Biden to the United States Senate in 1972.
I had Co-Chaired the Eugene McCarthy campaign in Delaware in 1968. In 1970, a young man named Joe Biden decided to run for a seat on the New Castle County Council. I worked on that campaign and Joe Biden won – in a year that the Democrats did not do well at all. In fact, Joe’s Council seat was the highest office we won throughout the State that year.
Our Democratic State Chairman appointed the Democratic Renewal Commission to try and find out what happened and why the Party had done so poorly in that election. Former Governor Elbert Carvel was the Chairman of the Commission and I was the Secretary and members of the Commission included the newly elected Council member, Joe Biden, and other prominent Democrats. We spent nine months traveling up and down the State, talking to Democrats in all the cities and little towns, finding out about their concerns and what they wanted and expected from the candidates and their leaders.
I learned during those many months how bright, intelligent, and committed Joe Biden was – and how he cared so deeply about the people of this State.
One evening, when the Commission’s work was done, Joe asked me to meet with him. He told me he wanted to run for the United States Senate against the incumbent Cale Boggs. Boggs had been Governor, Congressman and then Senator. I remember telling Joe “ you’re crazy – nobody wants to run against him – it is an uphill battle”. Joe’s reply was “I am going to do it- will you help me?” And of course I said yes.
Shortly after Joe started his campaign, I got a call from a gentleman at the Council for a Livable World. I assumed that he called me because of the McCarthy campaign and my involvement as a Vice President of the National New Democratic Coalition. He told me this young candidate for the U.S. Senate had come to the Council for a contribution for his campaign . I was asked if I knew Joe Biden and what I thought of him. I was, of course, delighted to be able to say that I knew him well and to give Joe a ringing endorsement. As a result, the Council gave Joe Biden his first major endorsement and campaign contribution.
Joe and I have talked about this over the years and I thought the Council for a Livable World might like to know that an important role it played in helping to start Joe on his political career – culminating today in his nomination for Vice President on the Democratic ticket.
Almost 50 years ago, Council for a Livable World pioneered a system for helping progressive congressional candidates get elected to office. Over the last 44 years, we have helped elect 113 U.S. arms control candidates to the Senate and 151 candidates to the House of Representatives. Council supporters, now over 40,000 strong, provide more funds to opponents of the arms race than any other arms control organization in America: over $1.5 million in 2006.
To find out more about the candidates we’ve endorsed in this election cycle, please click here.
Why Sarah Palin
For many months, John McCain, along with millions of other Americans, regarded Barack Obama as a phenomenon in the political world, and perhaps beyond. In McCain headquarters, Obama’s name is rarely uttered as he is referred to as “The One”, a mystical title with messianic overtones. He came from nowhere, unannounced and unexpected, clothed in inexperience and a sense of mission. How long would the Obama phenomenon last?
This was originally published August 31, 2008 on Relentless Liberal by Jerome Grossman.
For many months, John McCain, along with millions of other Americans, regarded Barack Obama as a phenomenon in the political world, and perhaps beyond. In McCain headquarters, Obama’s name is rarely uttered as he is referred to as “The One”, a mystical title with messianic overtones. He came from nowhere, unannounced and unexpected, clothed in inexperience and a sense of mission.
How long would the Obama phenomenon last? Would it survive the fickle temper of the times, the pressures of American politics? For McCain, the Democratic National Convention was an indication that the media’s love affair with Barack would continue, that the usual Republican strategies and tactics were doomed to failure on November 4.
McCain had seen similar phenomena at the dice tables of Las Vegas where occasionally unknown rookie shooters, inexperienced in the nuances and even the odds of the game, pick up the dice and roll out a long succession of sevens and elevens, making sixes and eights in between as the crowd goes wild. McCain had seen the sly techniques used to throw the lucky shooters off their game: loud noises, a drink spilled onto the table, a manufactured argument.
The nomination of Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska for vice-president is McCain’s attempt to throw Obama off his game by substituting a competing story line even more improbable than Barack’s. It is an act of political desperation, a “Hail Mary” forward pass thrown in an attempt to stave off inevitable defeat. Nominating Mitt Romney or Tom Ridge as part of a traditional political ticket would not work against “The One”, against the long accumulated guilt feelings of so many Americans, guilt feelings that can now be expressed by voting for this unthreatening assimilated African-American.
McCain’s gamble is another indication of the trivialization of American politics. Serious discussion of issues and problems fades behind the attractiveness of personality. Sarah Palin is a former beauty queen and star athlete, unflappable despite her inexperience, secure in her far right conservative Republican beliefs. She will not be diverted by Jay Leno jokes that describe her as a baked Alaska or The Perils of Palin. (Notice how few jokes are told at midnight about Barack? Are the comedians afraid of eternal wrath?) And if Joe Biden patronizes or interrupts her in their debate in his usual style, he will regret the encounter.
Palin’s nomination competes with Obama’s in exploiting American guilt by offering voters a choice between correcting the underrepresentation of blacks and women. Of course, the election of President Obama will be more significant than the election of vice-president Palin, but the contest does offer a choice of remedies to historic exclusions: do one now, the other later.
Will Palin attract many of the women who voted for Hillary in the primary elections? I doubt it. Most of them are feminist to some degree, feminists who will be repelled by Palin’s ultra conservative positions. Equality for women may be their most important issue, but most of them have a range of liberal beliefs that Palin cannot satisfy.
And this contradiction will be made even more apparent in the campaign as Palin tries to shore up conservative support for McCain, now shaky at best, by telling them of her positions on abortion, guns, death penalty, Iraq war, etc. She cannot satisfy the conservatives and liberals at the same time.
Palin’s inexperience, a heartbeat away from the presidency of a 72 year old man with a medical history, may take Obama’s similar inexperience off the political table. In fact, as Bill Clinton has said repeatedly, every new president enters office unprepared for the challenges of presiding over a nation of 300 million people. Clinton should know. His first two years as president were a disaster marked by failures in health care, gay-lesbian policies in the military, etc. culminating in loss of Democratic control of Congress for the first time in 40 years. John F. Kennedy’s term began similarly with the Bay of Pigs invasion failure, nuclear war crises with the Soviet Union, and ineffectiveness in dealing with Congress. Republicans Ronald Reagan, Bush the First and Bush the Second had similar problems in mastering the presidency.
McCain fears that Obama may be unstoppable in his advance to Pennsylvania Avenue. As differences on issues fade, as personality and celebrity reach new heights of importance, as race prejudice becomes entwined with historic American guilt, the political trend is unmistakably toward Barack. Sarah Palin will not change the result any more than previous vice-president nominees. John McCain’s Hail Mary pass will not prevent the election of “The One”.