Posts Tagged ‘Nevada Senate’

Milazz 2010 Senate Primer

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

With nine days to go, it looks like the Republicans are poised to take the House. The math in the Senate looks like more of a long shot.

The current Senate makeup is 59-41, counting Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders, so Republicans would have to net 10 seats to get to 51, since a 50-50 tie would be broken by Joe Biden.  Below I look at the races where Republicans have to prevail in order to take control.

Probable Republican Pickups

Arkansas, North Dakota and Indiana have long been considered Republican pickups, with the Republican candidates leading in opinion polls for months. These races are basically over at this point and can safely be considered Republican pickups.

Lean Republican


In one of the more puzzling results of the year, Russ Feingold has trailed badly behind plastics manufacturer (I can’t help but think of The Graduate) and Tea Party candidate, Ron Johnson. A few months ago, I characterized this as a Democratic Firewall seat, based on Feingold’s history of bucking party and common wisdom as well as Wisconsin’s traditional voting patterns.  Wisconsin has been true blue for a while now and has a history of electing fiery populist Democrats (dating back to ”Fightin” Bob LaFolette during the Progressive Era). In recent polling Feingold has trailed by up to 8 points, with Johnson polling over 50% in some polls. This is very bad news for Feingold at this late hour, and the race would have qualified as a Probable Republican Pickup just a week ago. However, just last week week two polls came out showing Feingold closing the gap, so I err on the side of caution and include this as a Lean Republican seat.


In another race where biography would seem to indicate a different result, former Congressman and Admiral Joe Sestak has consistently trailed former Congressman and free market libertarian derivatives trader Pat Toomey for almost the entire year. But in what seems to be a national trend of poll tightening in Senate Races,  Sestak has pulled even with Toomey or is showing a small lead. Having pulled even, Sestak hopes the Pennsylvania Democratic machine can carry him over the finish line. 


Tea Party favorite Ken Buck has generally led appointed Senator Michael Bennett by 2-5 points since the primaries. This race has tightened in recent weeks as Bennett has surged slightly and Ken Buck has stepped on his message a few times. A new Denver Post poll out today has the race a dead heat, but Buck should still be considered a slight favorite here.



The nastiest, most high profile race in the country has to be in Nevada, where the Least Charismatic Man in America continues to be locked in a tight race against the Crazy Cat Lady from your Old Neighborhood. The fact that Harry Reid hasn’t been able to put the Tea Party Fringe Candidate Sharron Angle out of her misery is a testament to how much Nevadans hate their sitting senator. This is probably the most polled race in the country and it seems like they alternate leads in every other poll. Angle’s up by a couple of points now, but all indications are that this race will go down to the wire.

In Illinois, the voters face another Faustian bargain as Mark Kirk, a former Republican Congressman who is most famous for lying about his military record during the Gulf War takes on Alexi Giannoulias, who is most famous for his family’s shady savings and loan which went belly up early this year. On Meet the Press, Kirk defended his exaggerations about his military experience while Giannoulias put himself in the running for the most cringeworthy political statements in history when he basically admitted that he knew he was loaning money to mobsters when he worked at his father’s bank 4 years ago. This race is another that is too close to call, with Kirk mostly maintaining a one to two point lead over Giannoulias for the past few months, but Giannoulias showing some signs of life in the past few weeks. Another race where turnout will be key.

West Virginia

The addition of West Virginia as a possible Republican pickup has kept the Republicans in the game. Here, popular governor Mike Manchin is taking on another perennial Republican loser, John Raese, in a Special Election for the seat of held by the late Robert Byrd. In another example of how ignorance sells in this country, Raese has made a point of pointing out that he can’t pronounce non Anglo names, recently calling Energy Secretary  Dr. Steven Chu, Dr. Chow Mein (Stay classy John Raese!).

 This seat was initially assumed a safe Democratic seat because of the popularity of Manchin, but in recent weeks, Raese surged into a lead over Manchin with a clever campaign which acknowledges Manchin’s popularity as Governor, but agues that he would become a rubber stamp for Obama and Pelosi if he were to go to Washington.  The polling in this race has been all over the map, with polls within days of each other exibiting violent swings.

Democratic Firewall Seats

If the Republicans were to sweep all of the above races, they would still need to take one more seat to get to 51. The two most obvious seats are the generally reliable blue states of Washington and California, where two Democratic women from the 1992 “Year of the Woman” class are facing tough challenges.


In Washington, Senator Patti Murray faces Dino Rossi, another perennial Republican challenger who narrowly lost a race for Governor in 2004 and then lost by a more substantial margin in 2008. This race has bounced around a bit, but Murray has held a small lead for the past few weeks. At this point, Nate Silver ranks this race as an 85% chance of a Murray win.


Liberal stalwart Barbara Boxer, another Year of the Woman Alumnus, has yet to put away former Hewlet Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, but she has led her in the polls by margins from 1% to 8% since early September. Although Boxer’s inability to poll about 50% has been cited as a bad sign for her, a Republican pickup here, while possible, seems unlikely.

Lean Republican Hold

While Democrats are on defense in almost all of the swing seats, there is still faint hope that they could take one Republican seat. Democratic hopes are pinned on Kentucky, where son of the Tea Party icon Ron Paul, Rand Paul, is taking on Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway. Even in reliably red Kentucky, Paul has struggled due to the original intent constitutionalism and the radical free market ideology that he stands for. While this race has been closer than expected, Paul now leads by close to 5% and Conway’s attacks on Paul’s college associations and pranks look increasingly desperate. It looks like the Democrats will have to rely on defense to get them through this one.

Bottom line for the Republicans? They need to lock up the three seats they are favored in (Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Colorado), run the table in the tossup elections of Nevada, Illinois and West Virginia, and take either California or Washington while holding on to their lead in Kentucky.

Stay frosty folks. The next week and a half will be interesting.

Harry Reid: Obama is Like the Chilean Miners

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

I know I’m only supposed to say good things about the guy I want to win, but this is too good to pass up.

Hell of a choice for those Nevadans.

More on Reid-Angle Debate

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

Debate Analysis from Chris Matthews, Jon Ralston and Chuck Todd on Hardball.

Same opinion from both Todd and Ralston: not so much that Sharron Angle did a good job, just that Harry Reid was his usual boring self, refusing to defend himself aggressively or to make the (easy) case that Angle is way out of the mainstream.


Nevada Senate Race Heats Up

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Here’s Jon Ralston, Nevada’s best political reporter, on the latest developments in the hotly contested race between Reid and Angle.

Hard to believe that Sharron Angle may be the new Senator from the Silver State.

Charlie Cook on the 2010 Elections

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

WSJ’s Gerald Seib interviews Congressional Election expert Charlie Cook on the 2010 elections.

I usually see Cook on Hardball. It’s refreshing to be able to hear him talk for a change.

Cook says he thinks a wave election is coming. Barring any major changes, he predicts a Republican takeover of the House. The Senate is more of a longshot.

72 days to go.

Reid Takes A Lead

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

A pair of polls now has Harry Reid leading in his matchup against Sharron Angle.

Last week Harry Reid jumped out to a lead against Sharron Angle in the Las Vegas Review Journal poll and yesterday’s Public Policy Polling survey (a well respected–but Democratic party affiliated–polling group) confirmed that lead.

I have been watching this race like a slow motion train wreck. I want to look away, but I just can’t.

Harry Reid’s numbers seem to pretty static and (with the exception of the PPP poll) he hasn’t been able to cross the 44% threshold, but many pundits have said that that he doesn’t necessarily need to since there are a number of third party candidates, one Tea Party of Nevada candidate and an option to vote “none of the above” in Nevada.

There are many indications that this is exactly what many Nevadans would like to do this election, with Harry Reid’s numbers in the toilet for more than a year and Sharrron Angle’s support cratering in the weeks since she has won the campaign and Nevadans have increasingly found out just how out of the mainstream her positions are.

There are so many interesting dynamics at play here. Reid was doing so badly that the Tea Party activists thought this would be a place to make a stand, dumping money into the race and boosting Angle’s candidacy in the hope that Nevadan’s were so sick of Harry Reid that they would be able to overlook Sharron Angle’s wacky past.

It’s a tactic that reminds me of the 2008 election when I was initially more than a little skittish about nominating a black man with the middle name of Hussein as the nominee, even though many believed that winning the Democratic nomination was tantamount to winning the presidency. Eventually Obama proved himself through the primaries, we all started to believe he could pull it off and the rest is history.

But Sharron Angle is no Barack Obama.

It’s not just the fringe libertarian views, but the fact that she doesn’t seem confident in espousing them to people who aren’t Harley riding Tea Party activists.

This one should be the most entertaining of the bunch this year.

Sharron Angle: Meet the (Local) Press

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

After a week of travel to the East Coast to raise money and meet with Republican Party leaders who must have advised her to move as far away from her own record as possible, Sharron Angle Returned home to Nevada and was confronted by a reporter who pressed her on her previous positions.

I think she found that walking away from her previously stated positions is going to be a lot more difficult than she thought.

Still, Stu Rothenberg points out that Harry Reid has been consistently polling between 38-43% of the vote against all challengers and he still thinks that Reid probably loses this one. We all know that Harry Reid has the charisma of a white sheet of paper, but if he can’t beat a candidate like Sharron Angle, it’s gonna be a tough year for the Dems.

Nevada Tea Party Tumult Microcosm of National Debate

Saturday, June 5th, 2010

Just a few months ago Harry Reid was all but left for dead in his reelection campaign. In February, he trailed the then Republican frontrunner, former Nevada Republican Party Chair Sue Lowden, by double digits.  But the surge of Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle, Lowden’s much discussed gaffe on health care and consistent attacks on her by Harry Reid has shaken up the race and given the Majority Leader a glimmer of hope.

The shakeup began in early April, when Lowden  responded to a question on health care costs by saying that we needed to go back to a cash system for health care. She referred to bartering as a possible alternative to solve the health care crisis. A few days later, under questioning, she doubled down on the statement, saying on a public affairs program: 

“before we all started having health care, in the olden days our grandparents, they would bring a chicken to the doctor, they would say I’ll paint your house.

“I mean, that’s the old days of what people would do to get health care with your doctors,” she said. “Doctors are very sympathetic people. I’m not backing down from that system.”

As Lowden was being pilloried by the media and mocked online, Sharon Angle was racking up endorsements from the Club for Growth, Gun Owners of America and the Nevada Tea Party. Within a month, her support jumped twenty points in the fractured race for the nomination.

Sharron Angle is like Rand Paul on steroids: 

She supports the privatization of Social Security; advocates cutting federal spending by hundreds of billions of dollars; wants to abolish the federal income tax and replace it with a flat tax, supports pulling the United States out of the UN and (by extension) giving up our veto power, wants to repeal the new health care law and ban almost all abortions. She thinks the Energy and Education Departments are unconstitutional, would get rid of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and would remove all campaign finance restrictions. She is in favor of nuclear storage at Yucca mountain, which might be the right stand for the country, but has been a third rail in Nevada politics for years and no candidate has won statewide in recent history with this position.

To boot, Angle has expressed reservations about the legalization of alcohol(!), has been accused of having ties to Scientology (which she denies) and was named “one of Nevada’s worst legislators” multiple times by the Las Vegas Review Journal. According to Politico’s reporting a week and a half ago, her website was “full of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.”

Other than that, she seems totally mainstream and competent…   

Seizing the opportunity, Reid and his allies have gone on the attack against Lowden, but have refrained from attacking  Angle. The strategy seem to have worked, as the latest polling shows Angle now leading by 7 points, with Danny Tarkanian and Lowden in a dead heat for the number two position.

Clearly, Reid would rather run against Angle, but his strategy has had the double effect of weakening Lowden and increasing the chances that he will be able to run against a far right Tea Party candidate with positions way out of the mainstream.

While Reid’s support hasn’t increased, the contest between the three Republican challengers seems to be paying dividends for Reid. He now trails Lowden and Tarkanian by just a few points and leads in a matchup against Angle.

What happens on Tuesday is anyone’s guess. Primary polling is notoriously difficult to do, and 13 people are running in the race, but if Harry Reid gets his way, Nevada voters will have to choose from a Senator that they don’t like or a far right candidate that they don’t agree with.

Either way, Harry Reid is looking less and less like a dead man walkin these days.

More importantly, Nevada seems to be a microcosm of a process that is happening all over the country. As registered Republicans become a smaller and smaller  part of the electorate and an increasingly paranoid  group, Tea Party candidates are having more and more success in the primaries. In the cases where they can’t win they are pushing moderate Republicans to become more extreme (see McCain in Arizona).

Like Jake Scully in Avatar, The Republicans were hoping to tame the dragon of the Tea Party and ride it to power in 2010 and 2012. Increasingly it looks just as possible that the Tea Party dragon will eat them for dinner.