Evans-Novak Political Report

Week of October 18, 2006

October 18, 2006
Washington, DC
Vol. 41, No. 21b

To: Our Readers

Outlook

  1. The fear of Republicans and desire of Democrats is that what now shapes up as a close contest for both the House and Senate will turn into a Democratic runaway. In the 38 years that this publication has been analyzing political contests, we have seen that phenomenon in presidential contests but not in congressional races. It could happen here, however, if disgruntled conservatives stay home.

  2. The biggest impact of the Foley scandal appears to have passed without creating a Democratic tidal wave. The biggest victim is Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). The party has put in a major new TV buy for Reynolds in both Buffalo and Rochester. Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) has suffered a little as a result of the scandal but does not appear to be in trouble in his safe district.
  3. Dirt-throwing will be the order of the day in the closing weeks of the campaign. Democrats are trying hard to connect the Abramoff scandal to Republican National Chairman Ken Mehlman. Republicans are targeting Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on his personal finances.
  4. Democrats are stunned by the removal from ’08 presidential consideration of former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner. He has told friends he thinks he could win the nomination, but clearly did not want to undertake the ordeal. Unconfirmed, but continual, reports come out that former Vice President Al Gore is thinking of making the run.

House 2006

Overview: The recent approval of military tribunal legislation, port security, and border security are now empty events that lack the punch so badly needed for a GOP fourth quarter comeback. Everything has been sucked down by the Foley affair.

With hopes of the late comeback faded, the Republican strategy has changed from that of a quarterback on a fourth-quarter come-from-behind mission to that of an overwhelmed emergency medical technician performing triage on several dying patients. The only thought now is to minimize losses by plugging whatever holes can be plugged. Late decisions have to be made about who lives and who dies. The GOP has to decide where it can win, and it cannot afford to waste time or resources on those who cannot be saved. At this point, the best indication of how races are going is where the money is being spent.

If the election were held today, Democrats would gain control of the House of Representatives. Republicans -20, Democrats +20


Republican-Held House Seats In Play

Likely Republican Retention

Tossup

Likely Democratic Takeover

Leans GOP

Leans Dem

AZ-1 (Renzi)

CO-4 (Musgrave)

CT-2 (Simmons)

AZ-8 (Open [Kolbe])

AZ-5 (Hayworth)

CT-5 (Johnson)

CT-4 (Shays)

CO-7 (Open [Beauprez])

CA-11 (Pombo)

FL-13 (Open [Harris])

FL-16 (Open [Foley])

IA-1 (Open [Nussle])

CO-5 (Open [Hefley])

IL-6 (Open [Hyde])

FL-22 (Shaw)

IN-2 (Chocola)

FL-8 (Keller)

KY-3 (Northup)

IN-9 (Sodrel)

IN-8 (Hostettler)

NV-3 (Porter)

MN-6 (Open [Kennedy])

KY-4 (Davis)

NC-11 (Taylor)

NY-20 (Sweeney)

NV-2 (Open [Gibbons])

NM-1 (Wilson)

NY-26 (Reynolds)

TX-23 (Bonilla)

NY-24 (Open [Boehlert])

OH-15 (Pryce)

PA-7 (Weldon)

WY-AL (Cubin)

OH-1 (Chabot)

OH-18 (Open [Ney])

PA-10 (Sherwood)

OH-2 (Schmidt)

PA-6 (Gerlach)

TX-22 (Open [DeLay])

PA-8 (Fitzpatrick)

VA-2 (Drake)

WA-8 (Reichert)

WI-8 (Open [Green])


Democrat-Held House Seats In Play

Likely Democratic Retention

Tossup

Likely Republican Takeover

Leans Dem

Leans GOP

IL-17 (Open [Evans])

GA-8 (Marshall)

LA-3 (Melancon)

GA-12 (Barrow)

OH-6 (Open [Strickland])

IA-3 (Boswell)

OH-13 (Open [Brown])

IL-8 (Bean)

PA-12 (Murtha)

TX-17 (Edwards)

SC-5 (Spratt)

VT-AL (Open [Sanders])

WV-1 (Mollohan)

Arizona-5: Democrats have pulled the plug on state Sen. Harry Mitchell (D), no longer believing they have a realistic chance to defeat Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R). This is as we expected all along. Likely Republican Retention.

Arizona-8: Ironically, there is one Republican beneficiary — well, sort of a beneficiary — of the Foley scandal. Until now, Rep. Jim Kolbe (R) has refused to endorse state Sen. Randy Graf (R), whom Kolbe despises, to replace him. That has been considered a vulnerability for Graf. But suddenly, the retiring Kolbe has been accused of taking a 1996 camping trip alone with congressional pages.

Kolbe’s lack of endorsement could probably now be considered a badge of honor for Graf, whose total lack of fundraising aptitude has forced him to be stingy with his money. Despite being outspent by state Sen. Gabrielle Giffords (D) by a two-to-one margin, he is polling only six to eight points behind — much better than anyone had expected, particularly against a candidate of Giffords’s caliber.

Graf has enough money that he can still buy radio and television time in the last months. In the absence of outside party money, Giffords’ financial advantage is only marginal now. She should still win the race, but she is underperforming expectations at this point. Likely Democratic Takeover.

Colorado-4: The national Democrats have abandoned professor Angie Paccione (D) on the belief that her long-shot bid to unseat Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R) remains just too much of a longshot. Democrats will concentrate their money elsewhere — and they have plenty of targets. Leaning Republican Retention.

Florida-13: In a race between two political amateurs, businessman Vern Buchanan (R) showed himself a far better politician when he met with banker Christine Jennings (D) in a debate over the weekend. The low point for Jennings probably came when she objected to being called a "liberal" on the grounds that "I am a banker." Buchanan knocked out of the park a softball question about Jennings’s negative ads — her ad calls him "corrupt."

This race, for the district being vacated by Rep. Katherine Harris (R), is still much closer than Republicans would like. Leaning Republican Retention.

Florida-16: Despite what many of them say publicly, the evidence suggests that Republicans believe they can actually win here in the Foley district. They are spending money and sending personnel — notably Todd Harris, an experienced communications director with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-Calif.) — in a way that they would not do if they believed the seat hopelessly lost.

State Rep. Joe Negron (R), a popular conservative legislator who is well-known statewide, is the ballot replacement for disgraced former Rep. Foley. Foley’s name is the one that actually appears on the ballot, and that is the only reason businessman Tim Mahoney (D) stands to win in this Republican-heavy district.

The question is whether enough voters know to pull the lever for Foley on Election Day without fear of re-electing an alleged Internet sex predator. This is like a write-in campaign for Negron, but easier enough that perhaps GOP chances should not be completely discounted. Leaning Democratic Takeover.

Illinois-6: The race is now tied according to everyone’s polls — private and public — but that result comes after Iraq veteran Tammy Duckworth (D) burned nearly a million dollars striking at State Sen. Pete Roskam (R) before and during the Foley imbroglio. Duckworth’s money appears to have gone for naught, and she is out of cash.

Starting with a tie, Roskam enters the final three weeks with seven times as much cash, $1.5 million to $206,000. Duckworth’s money was spent on ads that have already run and have now have stopped running. She will raise some money before the end, but her disadvantage is now huge. Her campaign has far too many staffers, and her financial situation is probably more dire than the $206,000 number would suggest, given campaigns’ natural tendencies to defer bills into the next reporting period.

With Duckworth broke, the only money game now is between the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) on one side and the NRCC and the Roskam campaign on the other. Roskam is now in a position to put this one away. Republicans cannot afford to lose this race. Leaning Republican Retention.

Pennsylvania-7: Rep. Curt Weldon (R) has been dealt a death-blow late in this race by reports of a scandal involving alleged use of influence to secure lobbying contracts worth $1 million from foreign clients for his daughter’s consulting firm. The likely result will be the election of his opponent, retired Adm. Joseph Sestak (D).

The news that the FBI has raided his daughter’s Philadelphia home, and the home of her business partner, comes at just the wrong time for an already vulnerable member of Congress. It does not matter whether Weldon is innocent or guilty, he is now dead in the water. Notably, the Justice Department usually refrains from such activity around election time for just this reason. Likely Democratic Takeover.

Pennsylvania-8: Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R) is running a devastating ad that takes advantage of opponent Patrick Murphy‘s (D) miserable performance on MSNBC’s "Hardball" with Chris Matthews. The ad shows Murphy, an Iraq veteran, finding himself unable to answer a simple question on his signature issue, namely whether he would have voted to go to war. Matthews upbraids him, telling him he shouldn’t be running for Congress if he can’t answer the question.

Fitzpatrick is in the best shape of the endangered Republican congressmen in Pennsylvania. The only polls he has ever trailed in are Democratic polls. His demise on election night would signal that a 1994-style landslide is in the making. Leaning Republican Retention.

Pennsylvania-10: Once the election is over, everyone will remember the situation with Mark Foley as the greatest failure of NRCC Chairman Reynolds. But perhaps greater — simply because so much more was known so much earlier — was the failure of GOP leaders to force Rep. Don Sherwood (R) out of this race.

After an alleged assault on his mistress — and of course, the accompanying revelation that he had a mistress — Sherwood is on track to lose a strongly Republican district to a boilerplate Democratic candidate — and in just the wrong year for the GOP. A conservative nobody candidate nearly won the primary against Sherwood after spending less than $5,000 on the race. For purely political reasons, Sherwood should have been forced into retirement. Instead, Iraq war veteran Chris Carney (D) is likely next year to represent a district that is far to his right.

Sherwood’s last chance is a very risky, all-or-nothing strategy. His wife Carol has written a mailer defending her husband and attacking Carney for the negative ads against Sherwood based on his marital infidelity. It might work, but it could also appear exploitative and backfire. Likely Democratic Takeover.

Virginia-2: Rep. Thelma Drake (R) has survived a very long and nasty third-party campaign against her and appears to be up slightly against Virginia Beach Tax Assessor Phil Kellam (D). Her strategy of running as an underdog has paid off to date, and she will get some help from an aggressive get-out-the-vote operation being set up in the Tidewater region by the campaign of Sen. George Allen (R). Leaning Republican Retention.

Wisconsin-8: Democrats were happy to have an extremely wealthy candidate, allergist Steve Kagen, take on state House Speaker John Gard (R) for this seat vacated by Rep. Mark Green (R) who is running for governor. Unfortunately for them, the oft-cited rule never to bet on amateurs in a race against a real politician appears to be making itself felt. In their first debate, Kagen made the mistake of stating his agreement with Gard at least five times — something that self-styled (or genuine in his case) political outsiders are not supposed to do in their campaigns. Why vote for him if there is no contrast?

Kagen also blurted out at one point, on the crime issue, that non-violent criminals should not be incarcerated. It was probably just a mistake, but an embarrassing one that leads the viewer to question a candidate’s competence. There are three more debates, and Gard, the experienced politician, should best Kagen in all three.

Kagen’s early lead in the polls, the result of heavy advertising since March, has narrowed to two points. There is no reason to believe that his lead has survived the first debate, which was well publicized in his hometown, much less the next three, which come next week.

Either way, this race is already a victory for Democrats. It is very close in a Republican district, and it’s costing the DCCC nothing. Leaning Republican Retention.

Senate 2006

Overview: Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) continues to trail in the polls. Despite a New York Times report to the contrary, senior Republican sources say that the GOP committed millions last week to his re-election. Some Republicans are very upset to hear of this, believing him to be a goner already.

Republican strategists do not expect to save Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), whose numbers hover around 40 percent, or Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), who is in roughly the same position. Democrats are far enough ahead in Montana, and have a strong enough statewide organization, that they have pulled out their money.

Santorum trails not only in the polls but also in cash as the final days approach. Only a complete meltdown by his opponent, state Treasurer Bob Casey (D), could save him. People really dislike Santorum. Even though he always comes off as vastly more knowledgeable and intelligent than Casey in every debate, his responses are abrasive, sparing no nasty comment for his opponent. Santorum appears frustrated that a man like Casey is beating him.

The quest of former Safeco CEO Mike McGavick (R) to unseat Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) also appears to have floundered, even though his polls look more promising than Santorum’s. We believe that if the election were held today, Democrats would gain four seats. Republicans -4, Democrats +4.


Democrat-Held Senate Seats In Play

Likely Democratic Retention

Tossup

Likely Republican Takeover

Leans Dem

Leans GOP

Michigan (Stabenow)

Maryland (Open [Sarbanes])

Minnesota (Open [Dayton])

New Jersey (Menendez)

Nebraska (Nelson)

Vermont (Open [Jeffords])

Washington (Cantwell)

West Virginia (Byrd)


Republican-Held Senate Seats In Play

Likely Republican Retention

Tossup

Likely Democratic Takeover

Leans GOP

Leans Dem

Arizona (Kyl)

Tennessee (Open [Frist])

Ohio (DeWine)

Montana (Burns)

Missouri (Talent)

Rhode Island (Chafee)

Pennsylvania (Santorum)

Virginia (Allen)

Missouri: Polls show this race on the razor’s edge between Sen. Jim Talent (R) and state Auditor Claire McCaskill (D). Talent, however, has more than 15 times as much cash in his own campaign account for the home stretch — $4.2 million to $250,000. Despite a poor performance in a debate on NBC’s "Meet the Press" with Tim Russert, Talent performed well in two subsequent debates. McCaskill was clearly on the defensive throughout.

Talent is hitting McCaskill’s personal tax efficiency strategies, which supposedly involve no-income limited partnerships and offshore tax havens. Talent has shown he’s no pushover, but he also risks appearing too nasty as he goes after her. His huge cash advantage at this late stage could decide the race. Leaning Republican Retention.

Governor 2006

If the election were held today, we believe that Democrats would gain five governorships. Democrats +5, Republicans -5.


Republican-Held Governorships In Play

Likely Republican Retention

Tossup

Likely Democratic Takeover

Leans GOP

Leans Dem

CA (Schwarzenegger)

AK (Open [Murkowski])

AR (Open [Huckabee])

MA (Open [Romney])

CT (Rell)

MN (Pawlenty)

CO (Open [Owens])

NY (Open [Pataki])

FL (Open [Bush])

NV (Open [Guinn])

MD (Ehrlich)

OH (Open [Taft])

GA (Perdue)

RI (Carcieri)

HI (Lingle)

TX (Perry)

SC (Sanford)


Democrat-Held Governorships In Play

Likely Democratic Retention

Tossup

Likely Republican Takeover

Leans Dem

Leans GOP

AZ (Napolitano)

ME (Baldacci)

IA (Open [Vilsack])

KS (Sebelius)

MI (Granholm)

PA (Rendell)

OK (Henry)

OR (Kulongoski)

WI (Doyle)


Sincerely,
Robert D. Novak

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