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PW logo Crist Could Gain Seniority Edge Ethics Charges Dismissed Against Dodd, Conrad
Sanford's Wife Moves Out Maloney Drops Challenge of Gillibrand
Martinez to Step Down Quote of the Day

News from the Votemaster

Mel Martinez Resigns from the Senate     Permalink

In a maneuver similar to but different from Sarah Palin's, Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL) has resigned from the U.S. Senate a year before his term is up. Palin did it to make big-time money and possibly to prepare herself for a presidential run in 2012. Martinez can't command $50,000 speaking fees as Palin can and he is not running for anything anymore. Why he really resigned hasn't become clear yet.

His abrupt departure shakes up the Florida Senate race unexpectedly. It is very unlikely that Gov. Charlie Crist (R-FL) had anything to do with it. When you are the odds-on favorite, you don't rock the boat. Now Crist has to appoint a successor to Martinez. He could appoint himself, but that could easily backfire with the voters, who like him but probably would consider this a sneaky way to get an edge on his primary and general election competitors. Besides, then he would have to vote on bills like health care insurance reform, climate change, and immigration, all of which are hot potatoes in Florida.

More likely than not, he will appoint a placeholder, similar to Sen. Ted Kaufman (D-DE), an elderly person who will toe the party line, avoid making waves, and cheerfully retire in Jan. 2011. Nevertheless, Crist has to be careful. If he picks a moderate, like himself, this will give fuel to his primary opponent, Marco Rubio, who will paint him as insufficiently conservative. On the other hand, if he picks a fire-breathing conservative, while this will shut up Rubio, it could hurt him in the general election. Best bet is to pick an relative unknown who would be indebted to him. One name that has surfaced is Jim Smith, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Florida State University and former Florida Secretary of State and also Florida Attorney General.

Maloney Won't Run After All     Permalink

Rep. Carolyn Maloney has given in to the immense pressure on her not run for the Senate. In a statement Maloney said: "The right decision for me and the people I represent is to stay in the House of Representatives" (English translation: That #@$%$#@!! Schumer twisted the arms of all my potential financial backers and told them not to donate to me or else). President Obama didn't want her to run, but Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is the real state powerhouse and no doubt he pulled out all stops to protect his protege Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). Maloney's withdrawal--and the avoidance of a bloody primary--changes the calculus for New York completely. If, as many observers expect, the top of the ticket ends up as Andrew Cuomo and Gillibrand, it is unlikely that serious Republicans will want to tackle either one of them. This means former mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) will be content to rake in big money advising companies how to avoid 9/11 and former governor George Pataki will stay former. A Maloney-Gillibrand fight might have induced one of them to run for the Senate. Gillibrand is a prodigious fundraiser and now that she can spend every one of the many dollars she collects on the general election, the prospect of outraising her will probably discourage most serious challengers.

Dodd and Conrad Cleared of Ethics Charges     Permalink

The Senate Ethics Committee has cleared Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) of charges that used their positions to profit from cheap mortgages with Countrywide Financial Corp. This is good news to Dodd, who has already drawn a serious Republican challenger in next year's Senate race: former representative Rob Simmons. It will now be harder for Simmons to say Dodd is corrupt and make it stick. However, Dodd has another problem that the Ethics Committee can't make go away: prostate cancer. Depending how his treatment goes, he might decide to retire after this term, opening the way for a much cleaner Democrat to run in his place. An open-seat race between Simmons and one of Connecticut's representatives would favor the Democrat, just because Connecticut is so blue.

Cornyn Promises Well-Funded Challenger for Reid     Permalink

NRSC chairman Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) has promised a well-funded challenger for majority leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV). It is empty boasts like this that make people so cynical about politics. The Nevada governor, Jim Gibbons, had a illegal alien as a housekeeper, has been accused of sexual assault, and has been involved in a possibly fraudulent land deal, all of which has driven his popularity to a number lower than even George Bush managed. The lieutenant governor, Brian Krolicki, is actually under indictment for four felony counts of misusing his office for private gain. The state's other senator, John Ensign (R-NV), is embroiled in a sex scandal and the state's lone Republican representative, Dean Heller, doesn't want to run for the Senate. Despite Reid's lack of popularity in the state, Cornyn can't find any challenger at all, let alone a well-financed one. Yet he is acting like knocking off Reid is a done deal. Both sides do this, of course, but it is just hot air, something Nevada has in great supply.

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-- The Votemaster