PJ Media

The Battle for America 2010: Campaigns State-by-State, Six Weeks To Go

CALIFORNIA

Key Race: Governor, U.S. Senate

Tim Daniel reporting:

In comparison to several races across the nation, the week past saw the Golden State enjoying a near golden silence. Don’t blink though — you might have missed that Meg Whitman became the $119 Million Dollar Woman and smashed previous self-financed political race records. Whitman’s foe accepted the endorsement of, then apologized to, Bill Clinton, while slamming “Pinocchio.”

Closer to the southern border, California’s 36th Congressional District candidate Mattie Fein claimed that the Good Ol’ Boys in the GOP are repeating the Christine O’Donnell phenomenon. On this point, if her recent op-ed doesn’t make your blood boil, nothing will. Don’t forget to watch the PJTV clip that shows part of Mattie Fein’s television spot , second only to John Dennis’ “Wicked Witch…” Pelosi ad up in San Francisco.

Yet another ad comes out of Fiorina-land. “Failure” seems to turn Boxer’s main meme of attack on its head — the Fiorina camp goes after Boxer for becoming wealthy due to corrupt political insider connections and attempts to connect the dots to the stratospheric level of unemployment in many California counties.

In Proposition 19 news: Bees in Sacramento say no and Golden Gaters say yes; it’s also round two in booze v. cannabis. Have you placed your bets?

Speaking of inebriating agents of change, Southern California tea party activists have created a new scoring system for the candidates this November in the Golden State. Called the Mad Men Passion Index, candidates are “scored” on inebriation and excitement levels — a sliding scale of five cocktails and cigarettes. A flat dud or a runaway success gets a Proposition 19-inspired marijuana joint rating or a brandy-and-cigar award, respectively. Where would you put the candidates?

CONNECTICUT

Key Race: U.S. Senate

Jane Genova reporting:

“Toss-up” is how the Cook Political Report assesses the Connecticut U.S. Senate race between state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (D) and former WWE head Linda McMahon (R). That’s based partly on a Quinnipiac poll which found Blumenthal only six points ahead of McMahon. But polls differ. The Hamilton Campaigns Democratic poll has Blumenthal ahead by 15 points.  Also, as his television commercials hammer, he’s a man of the people and well-liked. Therefore, this race will continue to be exciting.

McMahon’s strengthened position, though, is palpable. For instance, last week she had the confidence to keep a distance between her campaign and the Tea Party as well as Sarah Palin. When CT’s Channel 8 News brought up those subjects, McMahon restricted the remarks to what they all had in common: focus on fiscal discipline and smaller government. End of that story. She was equally restrained about President Barack Obama’s policies, characterizing them as “different” from hers.

Simultaneously, Blumenthal was put on the defense by the president’s fundraisers last week in the state. Given that the president’s Connecticut approval rating ranges from 45 to 52 percent, his presence was seen as a risk Blumenthal shouldn’t be taking.

On the other hand, the AG needs the money to neutralize the power of McMahon’s war chest from the WWE. She can afford plenty of television commercials, which are becoming more frequent and directly attack Blumenthal. One contends his policies have raised energy costs about $1000 a year for residents.

Anything with a dollar sign attached resonates. Those 99 weeks of unemployment benefits are running out for 21,000 still jobless. Since 2008, the state has lost 103,000 jobs and the recovery is just starting now – and slowly.  Given the grim economic times, it’s not surprising that the negative publicity surrounding the WWE, including the recent death of two former wrestlers, hasn’t hurt her.

Jane Genova is a political blogger and communications consultant, New Haven, CT

FLORIDA

Key Races: Governor, U.S. Senate

Stephanie Maier reporting:

The latest Rasmussen poll from September 16 shows Marco Rubio (R) leading in the Florida U.S. Senate race with 41%, outgoing Governor Charlie Crist with 30%, and Democrat candidate Kendrick Meek trailing with 23%. Meanwhile, a Fox News poll shows an even larger margin between Rubio and Crist, at 43% and 27%, respectively.

What’s $10 million between friends? A lawsuit, that’s what. Crist’s problems in the polls may stem from his controversial decision to defect from the Republican Party in favor of independent status, a move that haunts him further since a Florida judge’s ruling on September 15 denied the Crist campaign’s request to dismiss a lawsuit alleging that the governor-turned-senatorial candidate refuses to refund up to $10 million dollars in GOP donations since his change of party status. The case will be heard at a yet undecided date to determine whether Crist should return the funds.

In the governor’s race, Rick Scott (R) has a statistically insignificant lead over state CFO Alex Sink (D), 47% to 45%, respectively.

The strategic tit-for-tat grows as Sink continues the tactic of running negative television campaign ads, reminding voters of Scott’s negative ads that accuse Sink of being an extension of Obama politics.

Florida’s Chamber of Commerce endorsed Rick Scott as their favored candidate, while the latest look at Alex Sink’s campaign page shows a preponderance of anti-Scott headlines, comprising the first three out of four stories on their front page. Time will tell if the negative campaign strategy creates a gap in the currently tight race.

ILLINOIS

Key Race: U.S. Senate

Bill Baar reporting:

Last week Illinoisans found Alexi Giannoulias twice endorsing Libertarian Mark Labno as the only pro-life, pro-gun alternative to the moderate Mark Kirk.

Then on Monday Giannoulias foretold, with a Christine O’Donnell-like sorcerer’s prediction (or was it a Chicago bookmaker’s?), that Rove’s dirty dollars were about to … flood the Chicago media market with more than $300,000 in negative, false television ads.

Kirk said Giannoulias’s Rovian forecast was a revelation to him, and seemed to be  consulting the oracles himself for advice on that DREAM Act : while Giannoulias says he supports the DREAM Act, Congressman Kirk is undecided.

Last week also saw Kirk’s first Spanish language ad wherein he spoke Spanish while magically never uttering the words mafia banquero.

Illinois Green Party candidate LeAlan Jones added to our theater-in-the-prairie, complaining that NBC was blacking him out from the first Giannoulias-Kirk debate despite Jones’ polls:

As the only African-American running this historically African-American U.S. Senate seat, I have been polling as high as 14% with 30% in Illinois’ sizable African-American community. These are unprecedented levels for a Green Party candidate in a federal campaign.

And yet, your network is deliberately excluding me from this debate while it has been eager to cover the Tea Party and their “all-American” candidates.

As for the all-Americans, over the weekend five thousand plus conservatives, Republicans, Libertarians, and Tea Party activists united in mission at Right Nation 2010.

Historian Gordon Wood’s Americans of the middling sorts (with one dressed the part despite Glenn Beck’s plea to stop the costumes because mainstream media always lasers in on him) cheered Beck and a host of other speakers.  Americans for Prosperity’s Phil Kerpen played Kirk’s lame-duck killer strategy to the crowd. Channeling Illinois Review’s Chris Robling’s excellent analysis of the evening:

Phil Kerpen of Americans for Prosperity praised Mark Kirk.  Phil noted that due to unelected senators, Mark is one of three Goppers poised to take office in time to thwart lame Democrat quacking after the election.

Mark’s name brought a fair number of claps and only a few boo’s, which I took as a victory for the capital-M Moderate. If Mark holds the conservatives, he will partake in what appears now to be an extraordinary tally and the Senate will be a better place.

My card reader’s advising Kirk holds these limited-government, middling-sorts of Americans, and gains more. There’s no GOP establishment left to fight in the Illinois GOP anyways. Kirk wins by five points or better is my bet. Now off to that bookmaker.

MARYLAND

Key Race: Governor

Michael Swartz reporting:

Despite the fact he came in just four points removed from the “Fustero Line” in last week’s primary, Martin O’Malley has come out swinging in the last week with a new attack ad and been rewarded with both a new Rasmussen poll showing him up by 3 points over Bob Ehrlich as well as an endorsement from “moderate” New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a former Republican. The Bloomberg endorsement puts O’Malley in the company of, among others, California governor hopeful Meg Whitman (a Republican), Democratic Senator Harry Reid, and onetime GOP Senator and now independent candidate for governor of Rhode Island Lincoln Chafee.

Yet you would think the situation were reversed as Ehrlich remains positive and forward-looking in his campaign, including this spot highlighting his “Maryland 2020” initiative. Ehrlich also enjoys significant support among independents according to the Rasmussen poll, so O’Malley may be trying to scare his unmotivated base into showing up by attacking Ehrlich’s record.

Another scurrilous attack was leveled by First District Congressman Frank Kratovil, who accused Republican challenger Andy Harris of supporting a 23% sales tax increase. Similar ads sponsored by the AFSCME union against other Republican challengers in Ohio and Pennsylvania mislead the viewers by failing to mention the sales tax (or FairTax) would take effect only after income taxes were eliminated, shifting the collections from an income-based model to taxation based on consumption.

Kratovil, a freshman Democrat, drew the ire of his rural district by voting for the “cap-and-trade” bill last year.

MISSOURI

Key Race: U.S . House, MO-3

Ex Notitia Vera reporting:

Ed Martin, candidate for Missouri’s Third Congressional District, has an uphill battle against Democrat incumbent Russ Carnahan. In the last five election cycles, Carnahan has pulled in an average of over 60% of the vote. The Third District is predominately union, but it does stretch down along the Mississippi River into heavily German/Dutch farm area. An equally ominous statistic for Martin was raw turnout in the primaries. Forty-six thousand Democrats slipped into the voting booths, while only 34,000 Republicans came out.

The most current poll (Aug. 16-20) has Carnahan up by 16. A question that hints at the solidity of Carnahan’s lead was “Do you prefer a Democrat or a Republican wins?” Forty-four percent wanted a Dem while only 32% preferred a Republican, which is strikingly close to the primary turnout ratio. In addition, more than 52% disapprove of the Tea Party.

What could prove helpful for Martin, however, is some recent news that Tim Carnahan’s (brother) business was funneled over $100 million of stimulus money.  Martin has been pounding Carnahan with this story. And Martin finally got Carnahan to debate, which is an intriguing decision by Carnahan with his leads in the polls.

NEVADA

Key Race: U.S. Senate

John Ransom reporting:

Sharron Angle may have weathered the best shot Reid could give her. But her campaign may be now ready to take the initiative in the Senate race by emphasizing pocketbook issues like jobs and the economy. Angle was back in D.C. last week, this time on the offensive, amidst several polls showing her staking a small lead against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Angle defended her conservative credentials as representing “mainstream America,” while Reid’s attempts to “marginalize” her as “crazy” she described as “right out of Saul Alinsky’s rulebook for radicals.” Angle said Reid was trying to isolate her, demonize her, and suggest her “ideas are way out of the realm of thinking folks,” she told the Post.

Alinsky was a self-described radical, admired much by Obama. He wrote what many consider to be the premier book about grassroots political organizing. He died in 1972.

Angle is countering Reid’s attacks by painting herself as an everywoman representing a “mainstream America that’s finally awakened” to the danger of government intervention.

And new polls show the argument may be working, with Angle gaining ground in the Nevada Senate race. Two recent polls show Angle up one percentage point, after two months of trailing Reid. Angle first relinquished a double-digit lead in mid-July. A poll conducted by CNN/Time completed September 14 and released last week validated an earlier survey by Fox News/POR completed September 11. Both polls showed Angle holding a slight edge amongst likely voters.

Angle’s campaign is beginning to swagger too. Sources close to the campaign have said that Angle will have the resources to be competitive on TV from here until election day. Indeed Angle, who has a thorny relationship at times with GOP leadership, was back in D.C. raising money last week. TV interviews with Bill O’Reilly and Bret Baier also contributed to a spike in online fundraising, said Jarrod Agen, communications director with the Angle campaign.

The Club for Growth also began airing anti-Reid commercials in Nevada as part of a five-state $1.5 million media blitz. The Nevada ads highlight Harry Reid’s part in passing “economic policies that hurt Nevada,” according to a transcript of the commercial.

On the economic front, the news could not be worse for Reid. New economic data released this week show Nevada unemployment at an all-time high of 14.4 percent, according to the state Department of Employment. When adding in those who have given up looking for work and those underemployed, the actual unemployment rate may be higher than 20 percent, said the department.

Exit question: how will Reid’s latest gaffe, a sexist remark delivered at a party fundraiser, impact his struggling race for re-election?

NEW YORK

Key Race: Governor

Sam Foster reporting:

Good news and bad news for NY’s gubernatorial race.  The good news is that the latest Rasmussen poll has Tea Party, Republican candidate Carl Paladino surging 15 points over the Q-poll just three weeks ago, while Democrat favorite Andrew Cuomo has dropped 6 points.  The bad news is that Andrew Cuomo is still leading Carl Paladino by 16 points. Sadly, no one expected the NY governor’s race to be this close.

The Daily Kos ran a PPP poll for NY’s 19th Congressional District between incumbent Democrat John Hall and Republican Nan Hayworth. Hayworth was up 2 points in the match-up, leading the race 44% to 42%. How difficult is the district? Politico lists NY-19 as an indicator of a potential Republican landslide.

The race is as entertaining as it is close. John Hall’s mostly naked former band Orleans threatened Nan Hayworth’s Young Voters for an Orleans Reunion Tour with a “cybersquatting” lawsuit.  Watch the Young Voter’s music video spoof of John Hall and Orleans’ “Dance with me” while it is still considered legal.

Last week’s NY primary failed to produce a decisive victory for Republican Matt Doheny over conservative Doug Hoffman in NY-23.  Both candidates are waiting a count of 1,900 absentee ballots this Thursday to determine who will carry the Republican ballot this November. AP has already called the race for Doheny as he emerged last Tuesday with a 583-vote lead. Hoffman will find it difficult to come up with roughly 65% of the absentee ballots to emerge victorious. However, since most of the absentee ballots are from overseas military, Hoffman’s experience as an Army sergeant ought to help, while Matt Doheny’s imbibed handcuff experience with the Coast Guard is not likely to help garner military support. Doug Hoffman has stated that he will run regardless of the Republican nomination.

Obama, Pelosi, and Reid are headed to NYC for a big DCCC fundraiser on Wednesday. It will be interesting to see which embattled congressional Democrat incumbents attend since many of them are running as Washington outsiders.

PENNSYLVANIA

Key Race: U.S. Senate

Joe Wilson reporting:

Joe Sestak, completely incapable of erasing Toomey’s lead in the polls, has opened up with bigger lies and brought in bigger guns. On Fox 29 Monday, Sestak claimed that Toomey was a Wall Street lobbyist, a racist, a gun nut, and, of course, “outside the mainstream.” To back up Monday’s salvo, he is bringing in Obama at 50 to 250 dollars a throw in a campaign appearance in Philadelphia. Given Obama’s documented inability to fill an auditorium, Sestak’s people may have paid more to rent the convention center in Philadelphia than his campaign is likely to make back. Moreover, given the rift between Obama and Sestak over Arlen Specter, the Clinton “bribe,” and the Democratic Senate primary, it is not clear that the president will try all that hard.

Sestak’s demeanor in his interview reeks of the same slightly delusional desperation that has characterized his failed attack ads.  He speaks with the rapid, high-pitch anxiety of a man who fully anticipates experiencing the same unemployment to which the current administration has condemned millions of Americans. As ever, his arguments fail even a cursory litmus test for accuracy or clarity. He has claimed repeatedly that “every, every economist” wanted the stimulus, disregarding people like Thomas Sowell and John Lott, inter alios (and demonstrating a profound ignorance of academia in general, where people NEVER agree fully on anything). Meanwhile, the wildly inflated claims of “jobs saved” (an imaginary statistic that makes the NFL passer efficiency rating seem transparent by comparison) offer cold comfort in Pennsylvania, where the unemployment rate continues to hover around or above the national average. He attempts to paint Toomey as a lobbyist, which is an inaccuracy that borders on an outright lie; Toomey’s presidency of the Club for Growth, which does target money to sympathetic politicians through its political action committee, does not constitute a lobbying job, and he has never registered as a lobbyist. Most irritatingly, and most damningly, Sestak continues to maintain that the pragmatism of a long military career, rather than ideological commitments, dictated his full embrace of the leftist program of the Obama administration.

Meanwhile, Toomey sails along, largely untroubled and completely untrammeled by Sestak’s flailing. His lead in Rasmussen has been confirmed by a recent PoliticsPA/Municipoll survey that shows him ahead by 9 percent, the same margin he holds in Reuters/Ipsos. Little that Sestak hurls at Toomey has stuck. Thomas Shakely’s recent article in NRO puts the matter in perspective. Toomey has a substantial lead that will likely endure. The candidate’s best move, at this point, is to work hard and to stay on message. As the Democrats contemplate “firewalls” to sacrifice candidates with the worst poll numbers, they may weary of throwing good money after bad to back a sure loser. Sestak’s own side may finish his campaign before Toomey brutalizes the Democrat in the election.

TEXAS

Key Races: Governor, U.S. House

Kristin Esparza reporting:

Texas, which seemed to have avoided the worst effects of the recession, may be looking at a state budget shortfall of as much as $20 billion. The Democratic candidate for governor, Bill White, has placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of GOP incumbent Rick Perry. White accuses Perry of failing in his role as chief executive by neglecting to provide budget updates.

Mark Miner, Perry’s spokesman, insisted that voters should consider the source. “While he was mayor of Houston, he swept all budget problems under the rug for the current mayor to clean up,” Miner said.  Back in March, current Houston Mayor Annise Parker said, “For years now, we have spent more money than we have taken in,” when talking about the previous administration and the likely lay-offs or furloughs which city employees are now facing. She was comptroller under Bill White; this was a direct shot at White’s spending policies — policies which some economists believe have put Houston on the edge of bankruptcy.

Perry defends his handling of the state’s budget, insisting that the answer to any possible shortfall does not lie in raising taxes. “We don’t have debt in Texas. That’s what they do in Washington, D.C.,” he said.  Perry cited the Texas Constitutional amendment which requires Texas to operate on a balanced budget. “If Bill White, all he wants to talk about is ‘the budget is this’ … well, he should have run for comptroller. The governor is about making executive decisions; about working with members of the legislature.” Perry is also taking to the air with a TV ad that hammers Bill White for profiteering during relief efforts following major hurricanes.

The latest Rasmussen Reports Media Meter indicates that about 46% of media mentions in regards to White are negative vs. 48% for Perry. With Perry garnering a lot more media coverage in the same time period (68% to White’s 42%), the negative media is not deterring the governor’s likely win at all. Perry is holding on to the 49%-41% lead reported last week; evidence that his social networking and internet audience are hearing his message over mainstream media.

Chet Edwards, the long-serving Democratic congressman in the state, is feeling the heat as elections draw near.  Despite being called “one of the most conservative members of his party,” Edwards is in danger of losing his seat this November. In an effort to keep his seat, Edwards has  challenged Republican contender Bill Flores to a series of debates and is working to distance himself from his own party. Problem: He votes with party leadership about 97% of the time, and was among the first Texas Democrats to endorse Barack Obama. Hey, it probably seemed like a good idea at the time.

As election time in Texas draws nearer, each week, it would appear that the few remaining Democrats in the state are losing ground. White, once thought to be a strong contender in the governor’s race, has lost his footing amidst budget failures in Houston, the state’s largest city. And the few remaining blue districts seem to be disappearing as voters rebel against anything they identify with “Washington.” The Republicans are looking to pick up between one and three Democrat-held Congressional seats, and as many as six to eight in the state House, while holding all statewide offices.

VIRGINIA

Key Race: U.S. House VA-5

Mary Beth Niemeyer reporting:

In general, the GOP excels at performing like the 2010 Cincinnati Reds, who are trying their level hardest to throw away with both hands their first playoff appearance in twenty years. But this is the Year of the Republican Reds, and in just about any other election season, a terrifyingly competent campaigner like incumbent Tom Perriello (D) would probably hold his own against challenger Robert Hurt. Now we’ve got brilliant stunts like the NRCC Tweeting the addresses of Perriello staff members who don’t live in VA-5, while Perriello sends out campaign emails which praise not himself, his record, or his president, but his interns. It’s an old positive campaigning trick — see these nice people? See how nice? Shouldn’t you want to be like them and put my bumper sticker on your car? But it speaks volumes about the cap-and-trade supporting Perriello’s need to distance himself from … well, himself.