Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sunday with the Senators: Senator Chris Matthews?

WE'VE MOVED! Democratic Convention Watch is now at

We reported back in August on the Quinnipiac poll matching up Arlen Spector and Chris Matthews in the 2010 Pennsylvania Senate race. Also, on Friday, that Chris was really looking at it seriously. The LA Times is saying Chris has sat down with the appropriate parties, and HuffPost is saying it's a done deal, based on a 538 post.

According to Chris Matthews, it's not true.

Through a spokesperson, Matthews gave the following statement to Politico about the FiveThirtyEight report: "It is absolutely not true."

The first inkling of a possible run was buried in the NY Times Magazine piece back in April. A lot has happened since then.

There are some reasons why Chris would want to run: he has a political pedigree. That is, he didn't get his start in journalism, he got it on the Hill. He really does love politics, and he is a proud Pennsylvanian, so running here would not make him a carpetbagger. He has family here, and his brother is an elected official in Montgomery County.

There are some reasons Chris would NOT want to run: likely, he'd be going up in the primary against Ed "Fast Eddie" Rendell, the popular term-limited governor, potentially against Joe Hoeffel, who drew 42% of the vote against Arlen Spector in 2004, and possibly Allyson Schwartz, a popular Philadelphia-area Congresswoman. And those are just the people we know about, all of whom would be better known to the Pennsylvania electorate, and would likely poll higher in popularity.

One of the questions is who the Republican candidate will be. Arlen says he's running. While this should be taken as a "yes" on its face, there are two things. First, Arlen will be 80 in 2010, and his health is not good. If he's undergoing yet another round of chemo that year, it would make campaigning difficult. Second, over the years, Arlen has become more moderate. Wait, that's not fair, he hasn't personally become more moderate, the Republican Party has become more right wingnut.

In 2004, in the Republican primary, Arlen took on Pat Toomey, and Pat received 49% of the vote to Arlen's 51% -- the only close primary race in which Arlen was involved since his first run in 1980. If you don't know "Pat Toomey" but you do know "Rick Santorum", yes, you do know Pat.

So one of the questions for Chris, in his internal deliberations, will need to be whether he feels he is positioned for his first race against a known quantity (Arlen) or a potential opponent who is very far right. Chris, based on what I know about him, is more moderate than progressive (as Democrats go). To run as a Democrat, he has to be concerned not just with winning or losing, but recapturing a Republican seat, in a year when "60" will once again be the magic number.

Further, I can't think of someone who has run for office while doing two hours of TV hosting Monday through Friday. (I'm sure if I'm wrong, one of y'all will come up with the name.) In this environment, would MSNBC allow for that dual role? Probably not, first because it would seem unfair to have a nominee as a broadcaster, and secondly because there are probably not enough hours in the day to hold both jobs simultaneously. So the question becomes, does Chris want to give up his TV gig? Then again, if you read the Times article, that decision may be independent of whatever Chris may want.

So, we'll keep you posted. But in the interim: