Tuesday, August 30, 2005

McCaskill Jumps Off...er...In

Today, Missouri State Auditor Claire McCaskill (D) announced that she will challenge incumbent Republican Sen. Jim Talent next year. McCaskill enters the race having lost last year's Gubernatorial race 51-48 to Matt Blunt. McCaskill shouldn't be underestimated as a candidate, as she successfully unseated incumbent Gov. Bob Holden in the primary. Even so, Talent is in a good position as McCaskill enters, having already raised over $3 million and about where an incumbent should be at this point.

Talent entered the Senate when he took out the ingracious Jean Carnahan, who was appointed to the seat after an election tainted by shady deals and illegal late poll closings. Even after then-Sen. Ashcroft conceded rather than fight tooth and nail as he should have, Carnahan voted against his confirmation as Attorney General. Talent defeated her two years later in a special election.

Sen. Jim Talent's greatest claim to fame is that he came up with the majority approval plan for judicial confirmation. While the Republican Caucus let us down on actually implementing that option, we can thank Sen. Talent for the confirmation of Judges Priscilla Owen, Bill Pryor, and Janice Rogers Brown. He is similarly conservative across the board, compiling a 94 ACU rating during his eight years in the House and two in the Senate. During his time in the House, Talent led the way on Welfare Reform, playing a leadership role in the passage of the greatest accomplishment of the Republican Congress under President Clinton. During a time in which the Republican Party has deviated from its one-time role of being the party of small government, Talent has continued to fight overtaxation and overregulation. The Republican Caucus and the conservative cause must return Jim Talent to the US Senate next November.

As for where the race stands, Missouri has been trending right in recent years. Though McCaskill fared relatively well in the Gubernatorial race, she still lost and both Kerry and Nancy Farmer faired poorly in federal races focused on federal issues. McCaskill will hope to divide Sen. Talent from Missouri voters on stem-cell research. Such a strategy would backfire as Sen. Talent would not only aquit himself perfectly, but he would also turn the issue of abortion on the Auditor and force her to respond to questions about why she has taken money from extremist pro-abortion groups. Last year, Democrat extremists were excited about Nancy Farmer, the challenger to Sen. Kit Bond. As the election neared, Bond put daylight between himself and Farmer and beat her by 13 points on Election Day. Look for Talent to do the same thing. While McCaskill should not be underestimated and could potentially make this race closer, for now Talent is the odds on favorite. For now, consider this "Likely Republican".

Monday, August 29, 2005

Another Safe Seat

As expected, Gov. Mark Warner (D-VA) has decided not to challenge Sen. George Allen. Warner is widely rumored to be considering a 2008 Presidential bid, and though he had the lead in recent polls, Allen remains a fairly popular incumbent in a Republican state, making an unnecessary Senate bid extremely risky. Warner's decision clears the way for an Allen cake walk. The Democrats' bench is thin, and Warner was the only Democrat with a serious chance to challenge Allen. Sen. Chuck Schumer really Doled this seat. For those of you keeping score at home, this decision brings the total number of safe Republican seats to eight (including RINO Olympia Snowe) and the total number of overall safe seats to seventeen. The already small 2006 Senate map continues to shrink.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Ellsworth: The Real Story

If you're one of the few regular visitors to this site, then you have probably heard by now that the BRAC voted 8-1 against closing Ellsworth Air Force base in western South Dakota. While other blogs have discussed the major implications for Sen. John Thune, who defeated then-Sen. Minority Leader Tom Daschle by making the case that he would be better positioned to save Ellsworth, they have missed the even larger implications for next year's Senate races.

It is a dirty not so little secret that politicians are like pigs at the trough when it comes to reelection/career oriented appropriations. Rather than aiming for sound policy, politicians of both parties are more interested in bringing money home to their districts from Washington than allowing people to keep more of the money we earn. They then use the fact that they brought these goodies home as a campaign issue. While some such programs - very, very few - are legitimate, the vast majority are just excuses to keep taxes rediculously high.

Whether Ellsworth was actually protected for legitimate reasons, though - a question on which I am agnostic since I simply do not know enough about military policies to speak intelligently about it - there is a larger story in this story. Republicans currently hold 55 Senate seats, including RINOs. Barring full scale nuclear war, and even then only if we're losing, Republicans will not lose the Senate next year. What that means is that every Republican in every state can make the argument in the general election that they will be better positioned than their Democrat counterpart to bring money into their state. This will be especially important for Republican candidates in blue states, such as Steve Laffey in Rhode Island, but will also be important for Republicans more generally.

It speaks volumes that members of the Party of smaller government will run next year on a platform of porkbarrel spending. No, the Democrats are not any better. Ideally the Republicans elected because they will be able to "bring home the bacon" will instead not kill the pigs that don't belong to them in the first place, i.e. enact tax cuts, cut federal spending, and allow the economy to grow faster. Unfortunately, such lofty goals are pipe dreams.

Though it is always disappointing to see Republicans campaign on bad policy, the fact is that we can make a tremendous amount of progress in other areas by exploiting this issue. Residents of every state should know that the best way to bring their money back into their states - fair enough if we're the ones paying the taxes in the first place - is to elect Republicans. In the RedState.org post linked above, the case is made that the decision was not political. Saving Ellsworth may in fact be good policy, but the decision was overtly political. The BRAC rewarded South Dakota for sending Daschle packing. Had he been reelected, the overwhelming likelihood is that the vote would have gone the other way. Painful though it may be, Republicans, even (gulp) conservatives, must exploit this issue for the next fourteen months to expand our majority. Once we do that, hopefully moving the caucus to the right in the process (plus Ed Bryant, Steve Laffey, Steve Urquhart, Mark Kennedy, John Hritz, and John Hoeven, minus Bill Frist, Lincoln Chafee, Orrin Hatch, and Mike DeWine), we will be in a much better position to reform government on any number of issues, including federal spending.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Tent is Ripping

Many Republicans have unfortunately taken the position that we need to artificially expand the Party by compromising on principle and allowing anybody to say anything so long as they keep an "R" next to their name. In 2001, Republicans learned the hard way what happens when precious Republican ballot slots are given to people who are unconcerned with the Party and its platform. In 2002, the National Party punished Sen. Bob Smith, arguably the most Republican Senator if the platform has anything to do with it, for committing the only sin that leaders considered unforgivable - changing that "R" if only temporarily. After last year's elections, many Republicans feared that Sen. Lincoln Chafee (RINO-RI) would switch parties.

It should come as no surprise, then, that dissent is becoming the rule rather than the exception. Earlier this year, Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) nearly cried on the floor of the Senate objecting to the nomination of John Bolton. Just this week, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) reprehensibly compared the situation in Iraq to Vietnam. Much like the Democrats redefining losses as victories as they did in the recent special election in OH-2, Hagel has changed the definition of victory for the terrorists. Women have voted. Iraqis are completing work on a constitution. Iraqi sports teams can now compete without fearing torture for losses. Saddam Hussein faces trial for war crimes. Yes, Senator Hagel, we are winning! Being charitable, one could say that Hagel's position is misguided but well-intentioned. No matter how you slice it, someone who cannot see that Iraq is better off now than it was three years ago does not understand international politics sufficiently to be President.

Now Hagel is not only marching to the beat of a different drummer, but apparently considering leaving the parade altogether, if H-Bomb at Ankle Biting Pundits is to be believed. (While I have no reason to doubt the report, I cannot independently confirm his scoop.) If this report is proven true, the RNC will be more angry with this than Hagel's comments on Iraq. Don't get me wrong, I would not be pleased with an independent run by Hagel - unless, of course, the Republican nominee is someone whose social values are indistinguishable from Chuck Schumer's - but the bigger problem of these two is that Senator Hagel is advocating a dangerous, artificial withdrawl of troops before Iraq is ready to maintain order on its own. As bad as the random acts of violence, including those against US troops, are, the situation would deteriorate quickly and completely were we to begin withdrawing our troops too early.

There are two lessons to be learned here. First, Republicans should nominate people who agree with the basic principles of the Party. Doing otherwise risks giving up valuable seats even after the fact. Don't think for a moment that Senators Collins, Snowe, and Chafee would bolt if they had anything to gain by doing so. Apparently the same can be said even for others. Second, Republicans must publicly rebuke members who vocally depart from the Party line. Fighting the Democrats and the terrorists at the same time is difficult enough. The last thing we need is the people next to us in the trenches turning their fire on us.

It is time to clean house. We can start doing so in 2006 in Rhode Island, Utah, and Ohio. (Endorsements to follow in the coming days for UT and OH, and when Laffey announces.)

Salazar Staying Put

Ken Salazar's 2004 Senate bid was as disingenous as his campaign promise to support an up-or-down vote on the President's judicial nominees. Salazar clearly wanted to be Governor, not Senator. Even so, it comes as little surprise that he has decided against running for Governor just two years into his first Senate term. Even the voters who put him in the Senate would have been aghast at the prospect of him changing offices two years into his first six-year term.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Scarborough Out; Foley Still Thinking About It

Former Rep. Joe Scarborough has passed on the chance to challenge Rep. Katherine Harris in the Republican Senate primary in Florida. Scarborough follows Florida House Speaker Allan Bense in being recruited only to decline the opportunity.

Rep. Mark Foley continues to consider a bid, but had for good reason initially been ignored by the establishment, especially the Bush brothers. Foley had just a rating of just 68 from the ACU in 2004, departing from the Party base on such issues as marriage, abortion, and gun control. A Foley candidacy would severely, perhaps permanently, damage an emerging Republican majority in Florida. Back-to-back Presidential wins and the election of Mel Martinez have been made possible by mammoth conservative turnout. A Foley candidacy could destroy the coalition that has made the GOP dominant in the state.

The effort first to dissuade Harris from the race and second to recruit a challenger were not without merit. Polls have consistently shown Harris trailing Nelson badly in trial runs, and she surely was not the best candidate at the beginning of the year, or even when she entered. Now, though, it is time to unify behind Harris.

There is a fine line between attempting to recruit the best candidate and fatally damaging the campaign of the likely nominee. Republicans have thus far taken two high-profile whiffs on possible challengers in Bense and Scarborough. The attempts were good faith efforts to find the best challengers (unlike in New York, where the NY GOP has made a good faith effort to find the most liberal challengers, even ones who can't speak without a script). Both would have been underdogs in the primary but would surely have been stronger general election candidates.

Having missed those opportunities, the Republican Party risks doing even more damage to Harris's candidacy with future attempts to recruit a different candidate. Any such candidate would clearly have been dragged into the race and could not be taken seriously by the voters. Instead, they would just demonstrate a lack of Party support for the only conservative who is currently viable. Rep. Harris has an uphill fight, but is viable. That viability, however, will erode, along with GOP hopes, if the Republican Party does not unify behind her candidacy now.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

DeWine's Dolors

It's been a bad month for Senator Mike DeWine. First, one of the most powerful interest groups in the country, the NRA, spoke openly about the possibility of backing potential Democrat challenger Rep. Tim Ryan over DeWine. Then, former AK Steel Corp. President John Hritz announced his intention to challenge DeWine from the right in a primary. Now, the Republican Governor in his state, who had an approval rating of 17% already, has been indicted and pled no contest to corruption charges. This, of course, comes just two months after the humiliating defeat of the Senator's son Pat in a primary for the special election in Ohio's second Congressional district.

DeWine's problems are not undeserved. He has long been disloyal on a number of fronts from hate crimes legislation to gun control. Most recently he participated in the unprincipled Gang of 14 agreement, a Republican capitulation that legitimized the unconstitutional Democrat filibusters of ten of President Bush's judicial nominees. Since the agreement, several conservative groups have attempted to recruit a primary challenger for the Senator, first former Rep. John Kasich then former Rep. Bob McEwen. Now, conservatives have their man.

Ohio presents conservatives an excellent opportunity to flex some muscle in a Republican primary. Though little is known of Hritz's policy positions, it appears that he will challenge DeWine on issues of concern to conservative activists. Hritz may be the Republicans' best hope of keeping the seat. DeWine's numbers are lagging in the 30's, and it will be easy for Democrats to tie him to the corrupt Gov. Taft. Republican corruption and displeasure with DeWine's participation in the Gang of 14 agreement could easily depress Republican turnout enough to make 2006 a banner year for Ohio Democrats. A vigorous primary upset by an conservative outsider calling DeWine to task for his betrayals of conservatives could be the only way to keep the Senate seat and give the eventual Republican Gubernatorial nominee a chance to retain the office.

Make no mistake that Senator DeWine is better on some issues than his potential challengers Rep. Tim Ryan and OH-2 Congressional nominee Paul Hackett. His transgressions are not acceptable, but he certainly doesn't go as far as some of the rest of the Republican left, such as Senators Chafee and Snowe. Conservatives should attempt to upgrade in the primary - assuming that Hritz is as conservative as he seems - but unless he fails to hold the Democrats to the "extraordinary circumstances" part of the Gang of 14 agreement, it would be prudent to get behind DeWine if he survives the primary.

Friday, August 05, 2005


I'll be away for the next week. Blogging will resume on or about Aug. 16.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

New Job for Dole?

How about Ambassador to Mongolia? Today Allan Bense and David Brandon announced that they will not challenge Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), respectively. These are just the latest in a long series of recruiting failures for NRSC Chair Elizabeth Dole. So far, Dole has blown the recruitment of Rep. Candice Miller and Jane Abraham (MI), Dino Rossi (WA) and former-Rep. Jennifer Dunn, and Rep. Heather Wilson and Rep. Steve Pearce (NM). Gov. Tommy Thompson (WI), Rudy Giuliani (NY), and Rep. Shelley Moore-Capito (WV) seem to be busts as well. To be sure, not all of these are good conservatives and not all are the best candidates, but if she wanted the job, she should have been able to deliver at least a few of them.

At present, Senators Bingaman (NM), Byrd (WI), Cantwell (WA), Kohl (WI), Nelson (FL), Nelson (NE), and Stabenow (MI) are without strong opposition. Gov. John Hoeven (ND) has not yet said whether he will challenge Sen. Conrad. While Allen's record wasn't perfect last year - he missed opportunities in Arkansas, Nevada, and North Dakota - he successfully recruited strong candidates in seven other states. Thus far, only two strong challengers have emerged, Rep. Mark Kennedy (MN) and Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (MD). Of those, at least one - Kennedy - was going to run with or without recruitment.

The heads of the two campaign committees have two jobs. One is raising money, something that isn't easy when your base has said in one voice that it will not contribute a dime until every judicial nominee receives a vote. The other is to make sure that the Party has strong candidates is as many races as possible. Sen. Dole has been a miserable failure both in terms of ensuring that the base is satisfyied and will continue to contribute, and even moreso as a recruitor. Here's hoping the Administration can find a job for her a few thousand miles away so that we can revert to the better choice, Sen. Norm Coleman (MN) to pick up the pieces.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Liberal "Victory"

While not a Senate race, the special election in Ohio's second congressional district is worthy of some attention because of the dramatic shift that it shows in American politics. Liberals have actually redefined victory by claiming that every near-miss is a win. First it was the Scream, er, Dean campaign when People Powered Howard claimed victory by mobilizing a tremendous youth movement that just had one minor detail go wrong: they didn't show up at the polls. Then MoveOn.org called the last win a victory because of their grassroots mobilization. Now, over at Swing State, liberals are giddy over yet another near miss. Ohio 2 is a Republican stronghold. Last year's reelection of Rob Portman was a cake walk. Today's race was closer, but again, Democrats lost.

This is a dramatic shift in American politics. Just over a decade ago, Democrats controlled both the White House and Congress. Republicans were a permanent minority. Then came 1994 when the nation writ large rejected the leftwing extremism promoted by the establishment, including the first First Lady who actually thought that she was an elected official. While we have not yet completed our revolution, as Sen. Frist's betrayal illustrates, it is clear from the 2004 election that Americans want to continue to elect officials who believe in personal responsibility, family values, economic liberty, and a strong national defense. So dramatic is this shift that liberals no longer define "victory" as actually winning seats, but rather define it as not getting blown out. While Senator Frist's comments were discouraging, conservatives can take heart in just how dire the straights of modern day liberals are. With liberals willing to accept the election of conservatives as "victory", we can rest assured that we will be able to continue the restoration of values that brought about the revolution of 1994 in the first place.