Republicans' Distaste of Bunning Increases
Top Republicans in the Senate now more-or-less openly are telling Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY)
to retire at the end of his term next year. Bunning has repeatedly said he is running for
reelection. This feud is now completely out in the open and is even being covered by the
mainstream press. The NY Times has an
on it today. The problem is not that Bunning is too liberal. In contrast, he is one of the
most conservative senators. The problem is that he is extremely vulnerable to being defeated
in 2010, so minority leader Mitch McConnell, who is also from Kentucky, and NRSC chairman
John Cornyn, want him out of there so they can run a stronger candidate. Lt. Gov Daniel Mongiardo (D-KY)
ran against Bunning in 2004 and despite almost no name recognition at the start of the race and
despite Bunning outspending him by a huge margin, Mongiardo came within 2 points of winning.
The Republicans are scared to death that Mongiardo--now much better known and able to raise
far more money--will run again and defeat Bunning. Their solution is to get Bunning to retire.
But Bunning is not cooperating. He supposedly said that if the Republicans hamper his fundraising
or back a primary challenger, he will resign from the Senate and let the Democratic
governor of his state, Steve Beshear, appoint his successor. Given his erratic behavior
in the past, McConnell has to take this threat seriously, but he still wants Bunning out of
there. This could be one of the most interesting races in 2010.
Toomey to Challenge Specter
Speaking of exciting Senate races, The Hill is
that former representative
Pat Toomey (R) will again challenge Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) in a primary in 2010.
If true, this news has all kinds of complications. Since Toomey almost beat Specter in the
2004 primary, Specter has to take this challenge very seriously. That means raising
lots of money, something he is good at. That is the easy part. But he now has to think
very carefully about how he votes on legislation in the Senate. If he supports Obama most of
the time--which so far he has done--he will be attacked visciously for it in the primary.
But if he opposes Obama and uses these votes to prove how conservative he is in order to
get through the primary, the eventually Democratic nominee will hammer him with this in
the general election. Specter's problem is that to win the primary he has to campaign in
what is effectively a red state (the Pennsylvania Republican Party) but to win the
general election, he has to campaign in a blue state (all of Pennsylvania).
If the far-right Toomey manages to win the primary, whichever Democrat wins the Democratic primary
will coast to an easy election victory in Nov. 2010. With Specter in the race, the
Republicans might be able to hold the seat, although initial
shows that 53% of Pennsylvanians want a new senator.
This challenge also has consequences for Maine senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins,
neither of whom is up for reelection in 2010. With only 58 Democratic senators at the
moment (although some day the Minnesota election contest may end), Senate Democrats need two
Republican votes to invoke cloture. If Specter ceases to be one of them to avoid handing
ammo to Toomey, it all comes down to copresidents Snowe and Collins, who can probably ask
for the moon and get it on most bills. However, if Al Franken is ever seated in Minnesota,
then only one of them will be needed. Of the two, Snowe is the more liberal and especially
on social issues, it won't take a lot of begging to get her vote, although she will surely
insist on plenty of jobs for Maine as the price.
No Progress in Minnesota
Former senator Norm Coleman's team rested his case on Monday, so now Al Franken's lawyers
are doing the talking. They asked the judges to throw out the whole case, but lawyers always
do that and there is no chance it will happen. In reality, they are
that while a handful
of absentee ballots might have been incorrectly rejected when a county official made a
mistake, but by and large there was no large-scale fraud and the rejected ballots that
Coleman wants counted were indeed duly rejected under Minnesota law (for example, because
the date the voter put on the envelope disagrees with the date the witness put on the envelope).
Franken's team will probably continue for another two weeks or so.
Meanwhile, Coleman has started a public relations campaign asking for a new election.
This seems an unlikely option as even some of Coleman' supporters
the idea and there is nothing in Minnesota law calling for do-overs. Unless massive fraud
can be proven, the only way for a new election to happen is if the state legislature
passes a law calling for it. Since the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, as the Democrats are
called in Minnesota, controls both houses of the state legislature, that is not going to
happen as long as Franken remains in the lead. If Coleman should pick up enough absentee
ballots to take the lead, the DFLers in the state legislature might ram through a bill
calling for a new election, but then Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) would veto it.
So a new election is exceedingly unlikely.
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