Sunday, December 07, 2008

Sunday with the Senators: Early December Wrap-Up

WE'VE MOVED! Democratic Convention Watch is now at


Minnesota: As Matt reported this week, the first part of the Franken-Coleman recount is over. Next up, absentee ballots.

Illinois: We still do not have a replacement for the seat vacated by President-elect Obama. Blagojevich granted an interview this week about his thoughts on the President-elect's Senate seat. Currently at the top of what he said was a long list are Dem Representatives Jan Schakowsky; Danny Davis, and Luis Gutierrez, also former state Senate President Emil Jones, Veterans Affairs chief Tammy Duckworth, and Attorney General Lisa Madigan. He has already interviewed Schakowsky, Davis and Gutierrez.

What of Jesse Jackson, Jr's very public lobbying for the position?

"He's got a right to do it," Blagojevich said, "and he obviously believes in himself as a candidate for the United States Senate and his public campaign is, you know, something he obviously believes appropriate and helpful, and all power to him."
Blagojevich has not ruled Jackson in or out, although he did say in the interview that he does not consider the seat an "African American seat." If he does not appoint an Africa-American to fill the seat, there will be none in the Senate.


New York: The latest person to express interest in Hillary Clinton's seat is Caroline Kennedy, who had a conversation with David Paterson about it this week. Why would she want the seat? She's always been a private person, leaning more to foundation work and writing (yes, she's a lawyer, too) than public service. She has never held elective office. She is a long-time resident of New York City.

A thought comes to mind: look at how long there has been a Kennedy in a prominent elected or appointed position: Joe Kennedy, Sr. was the first Chair of the SEC, appointed by FDR in 1934, he later served as Ambassador to the UK. JFK was elected to the House of Representatives in 1947, went on to be Senator and then President. RFK was Senator from NY from 1965 until his death. Uncle Teddy has been Senator from Massachusetts since 1962. Other Kennedys from Caroline's generation have also held elective office, her cousin Pat is now a Representative from Rhode Island, and I haven't heard that he is mulling a Senate run.

It may be that Caroline wants to be in the Senate and work with her uncle. He has stepped down fom his Judiciary post to work on health care. It may be that working on this year's election made her realize she wants to be in the spotlight she has always eschewed.


Florida: Well, Mel Martinez is gone. Jeb Bush has floated that he'd like to run for the seat, and everyone says that he's a shoe-in, but I'm not so sure. When Martinez leaves the Senate, barring changes in other 2010 races (or a replacement for an open seat prior to then) it would leave Bob Menendez (D - NJ) and Ken Salazar (D-CO) as the only Hispanics in the Senate. (And note, they are both Democrats, there would be no Republican Hispanic.)

A generation ago, maybe 10 years ago, people "worked one's way up" through the ranks of row offices to State and Federal elected positions. But we're seeing more and more actors, bankers/financiers, comedians and people with other career paths. So, it may well be that a prominent Hispanic from the business community, or the acting community, or whatever, may begin a grassroots run via the Hispanic community. As for Jeb himself, how many people are really willing to send ANY Bush back to DC in any capacity?

Pennsylvania: The big news is that Chris Matthews might run. There are numbers indicating he'd be competitive, since the Rasmussen topline showed Spector at 46% and Matthews at 43%. But there's more:
For example, the poll shows Matthews actually leading 68 percent-28 percent among voters age 18-29 and 46 percent to 40 percent among those age 30-39, numbers that look a lot like those from the Obama/McCain race.

As a preview, however, of how odd this race could be given Specter’s uneasy relationship with conservatives, Matthews actually leads within this group 51 percent to 43 percent. But Specter is ahead among self-identified liberals, 53 percent to 25 percent.
The poll was small (500 people) and the election is 2 years away. So maybe the numbers are viable, and maybe they're not.

There's no question that Chris has always loved politics, and likely always aspired to holding elective office, but segued over to media. Careers happen...

But to run against Arlen (if indeed Arlen is the Republican nominee) Chris has to convince a lot of people that he is going to run as a viable candidate.

"All politics is local", spoke Tip O'Neill. All "locals" have their own eccentricities and intricacies. Pennsylvania is no different. To win against Arlen, or any Republican, Chris would have to make all sorts of inroads in the areas that Barack Obama carried in the general election, and especially areas Hillary Clinton won in the primary.

Chris would have to win over the women who were fans of Hillary in the primary, and who were incredibly offended of Chris' sexism (perceived or real). I don't have a source on this, but I know a lot of women who feel this way. Chris would need Ed Rendell to not actively work against him. There is no indication either way of whether or not Fast Eddie will run, and I assume that if he does, Chris would reconsider his options.

Further, while a pale image of what machine politics used to be, the Democratic "machine" is strong in parts of Pennsylvania that Chris would need to win. I'm not convinced he understands that playground, nor the rules.

There is the question of whether he leaves MSNBC's Hardball. If he's serious about a run, he really should leave. (Yes, I know some people would like to see him leave no matter what.) To my knowledge, the last media type who ran for high office was Pat Buchanan, who did take a leave of absence from CNN to run for President. It may be that media ties help Chris in that we now have candidates with Facebook pages, who make the rounds of the late night talk shows and comedy shows, as well as the news shows. That ability to be on so many venues may help getting his name out to the vast number of Pennsylvanians who have no idea who he is. Back in August, Quinnipiac found that number to be greater than 50%.