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Map of the 2010 Senate Races
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PW logo Panetta Confirmed Congresswoman Loaned Money to Herself at 18%
On the Republican Strategy Gregg Backs Out
Dodd Will Write Book on Financial Crisis Hopes for Second-Half Recovery Fade

News from the Votemaster

Gregg Withdraws and Won't Run in 2010

In a somewhat bizarre turn of events, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH), who was nominated to be the Secretary of Commerce, announced that (1) he is withdrawing from consideration as Secretary of Commerce and (2) will continue to serve in the Senate until 2010, at which time he will retire from politics. What a bummer for almost-senator Bonnie Newman. Gregg said that he and Obama had irreconcilable differences. Hello? Has Gregg been sleeping for the past 18 months? Gregg is a conservative. Obama is a liberal. Yes, they have very serious differences, but anybody who looked at a newspaper sometime in the past year (let alone a sitting United States senator) would have known that. Assuming that Gregg knew that he and Obama were ideologically miles apart, why did he accept the offer in the first place? Maybe he sincerely wanted to bridge the gap but his Senate colleagues put so much pressure on him to withdraw, that he couldn't stand it any more and did. It is also possible that Obama's snatching the census out from under his control was the straw that broke the camel's back.

All this talk about bipartisanship is overrated. Yes, the tone of politics could be better. It used to be that senators could disagree strongly on the floor of the Senate and then go off and enjoy a mint julep together. But there are serious, deep, irreconcilable differences between Democrats and Republicans on a host of issues. On the whole, Democrats believe that government is the solution; Republicans believe it is the problem. You can't paper over this with nice talk about "bipartisanship." That's why we have two parties and elections. Somebody wins and somebody loses and the winner is expected to carry out his program. When Al Gore got more votes than George Bush in 2000, nobody was demanding (or expecting) Bush to cede half (or any other fraction) of his power to Gore. The Democrats got one cabinet slot, and a fairly minor one at that (Transportation). People who moan that the politicians should work together to solve the country's problems don't seem to realize that both the Democrats and Republicans want to solve the country's problems--but their solutions are totally incompatible.

The consequence of this development is that President Obama will have to try a third time to find a Commerce Secretary (Bill Richardson withdrew earlier) and that there will be an open seat in New Hampshire in 2010. Rather than pick another (Republican) politician, Obama should look for a high-profile business executive to run commerce, preferably from the high-tech sector, such as the CEO of a company like Intel, Google, Oracle, or IBM. After all, Commerce is supposed to represent the interests of business, so why not put a high-profile business executive in charge?

Meanwhile, back in New Hampshire, Rep. Paul Hodes (D-NH) is already running for Gregg's seat but Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) might challenge him in a primary. The Republican bench in New Hampshire is very thin and the state is turning blue very quickly, so any Democrat is likely to have a good shot at this open seat. Former senator John Sununu might run, but he was just defeated in November and if he couldn't hold his seat as an incumbent, it will be a lot harder to win one as a challenger.

Menendez Targets Nine Seats

Incoming DSCC chairman Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) has wasted no time saying what his goals are for 2010. He is targeting nine seats. These include the five open Republican seats: Florida (Mel Martinez), Kansas (Sam Brownback), Missouri (Kit Bond), New Hampshire (Judd Gregg), and Ohio (George Voinovich). But they also include four seats in which the Republican incumbent is expected to run for reelection: Louisiana (David Vitter), Kentucky (Jim Bunning), North Carolina (Richard Burr), and Pennsylvania (Arlen Specter). Indeed, none of these nine look safe for the Republicans and major battles are likely in all of them. The Democrats need only pick up a net of two seats (one if Franken wins in Minnesota) to have a filibuster-proof Senate. Normally the party occupying the White House loses seats in the midterms, but the Republicans are starting out in a much weaker position, with five vacancies. But a lot is riding on the economy. If people believe the recession is starting to end, the Democrats could pick up another half dozen seats.

What Menendez didn't talk about is where he has to play defense. In a couple of states, Democrats might have tough races. Chief among these are Nevada and Connecticut. Harry Reid (D-NV) is not personally all that popular in his home state, but Obama carried Nevada by a decent margin and if Obama remains popular there, Reid, as Majority Leader, may get some of the credit for shepherding legislation through a balky Senate. Another Democrat who might be in trouble is Chris Dodd (D-CT). He is chairman of the Senate banking committee and as such is responsible for the (highly unpopular) bailout legislation. Republicans could try to beat him over the head with this. But you can't beat somebody with nobody. The Republicans need a top-tier candidate to beat a deeply entrenched Democratic senator in a very blue state. The only name that comes to mind is Gov. Jodi Rell (R-CT), whose term is up in 2010. If she foregoes an easy run for reelection for a difficult shot at the Senate, she might well lose the Senate seat and the Democrats will probably pick up the governorship just in time for redistricting. Chances are she won't run.

Also a factor, but a smaller one, are the seats currently held by appointed Democratic senators in New York (Kirsten Gillibrand), Colorado (Michael Bennet), Illinois (Roland Burris), and Delaware (Ted Kaufman). Gillibrand and Bennet are already running for reelection. New York is a very blue state and Gillibrand is popular upstate, so she will be tough to beat. Bennet is a total unknown and might be vulnerable if the Republicans can find a top-tier candidate. Burris hasn't signaled his intentions, but Illinois is a very blue state so any Democrat has the edge here. Kaufman is not running, but Delaware is a blue state with no shortage of qualified Democrats and almost no eligible Republicans (Rep. Mike Castle will be 72 in 2010 and is unlikely to run).

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