1. Delaware Primary. The stakes are high in Delaware as First State Republicans are set to choose between moderate Republican Mike Castle and conservative, Tea Party-backed Christine O’Donnell. PPP is now finding a statistical tie between the two, and the battle has turned conservative allies against one another.
I’ve made it clear where I stand. I share the concern of many that Castle is a moderate whose loyalty to GOP causes will be questionable. Even so, that concern has to be balanced against the question of O’Donnell’s electability. This, after all, is Delaware - not Utah, not even Pennsylvania. A whopping 48 percent of 2008 voters called themselves Democrats. That's an extraordinary party registration advantage that a conservative like O'Donnell will have a severe challenge in overcoming, but a moderate like Castle will not.
For instance, let’s suppose that the odds that a Senator Castle would repeal Obamacare are 50 percent. Let’s also assign him a 75 percent chance of election in November. Finally, let’s suppose that the Democrat Chris Coons would certainly not vote to repeal Obamacare should he win. The chances that the Republicans will get another vote to repeal Obamacare if they nominate Castle can thus be calculated as .5 X .75 = .375, or 37.5 percent.
Meanwhile, let’s suppose that O’Donnell would certainly repeal Obamacare, but her path to victory is much narrower, at just 25 percent. In that case, the chances that the Republicans will get another vote to repeal Obamacare if they nominate O'Donnell can thus be calculated as 1.0 X .25 = .25, or 25 percent.
Under these assumptions, the chances of repealing Obamacare would actually increase with a Castle nomination.
Generally speaking, all Republicans are best served by strategic thinking in pursuit of a shared goal: the most conservative Congress possible. In some instances, that actually means supporting moderates over conservatives. I think this is one such instance.
This issue becomes all the more salient given the need for the GOP to win a whopping 19 seats in just two cycles if a full repeal of Obamacare is to be assured.
2. Boren Cruising. Democrat Dan Boren of OK-2 released a poll last week showing him with a better than 2:1 edge over his Republican opponent, leading 65-31.
What’s going on here? Boren’s eastern Oklahoma district has historic ties to the Democratic party, but it gave George W. Bush 59 percent of the vote, then gave John McCain 64 percent. How can Boren be so safe in a year when the macro conditions for the Democrats are so miserable?
The answer probably has to do with his voting record. Boren voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, against cap-and-trade, and against health care. And Boren didn't just vote against Obamacare. He told Fox News:
They can break my arms. They can do whatever they want to. They'll never get my vote -- ever. They'll have to walk across my dead body if they want my vote on this issue.
It’s hard for Republicans to connect him to the unpopular items of the Obama agenda.
Boren’s ostensible safety suggests that this midterm election is not reducible to voters who are angry over the economy blindly raining down vengenance upon any unfortunate soul with a “D” at the end of his or her name. Instead, one’s proximity to the Democratic agenda looks like it will be a factor, as it was in 1994. I think that is a big reason why Boren appears safe, as does Gene Taylor of MS-4.
3. Tit for Tat. A common talking point among Democratic operatives is that the party will turn each race into an individual battle, and take advantage of weaker Republican candidates. Rasmussen reports that they are having some success with that strategy in South Dakota:
The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely South Dakota Voters shows Herseth-Sandlin with 47% support to Noem's 45%. Four percent (4%) like some other candidate in the race, and three percent (3%) are undecided.
A month ago, Noem held a 51% to 42% advantage over Herseth-Sandlin, who has been a member of Congress since 2004.
Herseth-Sandlin has been running ads noting that she was one of the few Democrats who voted against President Obama's health care bill, which is highly unpopular in South Dakota. Noem, meanwhile, has been battling the recent disclosure of a questionable driving record. Herseth-Sandlin was elected to Congress following the resignation of GOP Congressman Bill Janklow who was convicted of manslaughter after he killed a motorcyclist while running a stop sign at high speed.
The problem with this strategy is that it can cut both ways, and thus keep the Democrats from gaining any systematic advantage:
An education foundation connected to the influential Congressional Black Caucus is re-examining its scholarship programs after finding out Democratic U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop of Albany apparently awarded foundation scholarships to his family members.
"From here on out, we will re-evaluate our scholarship programs in terms of practices and guidelines to be sure ... this won't happen again," said Muriel Cooper, a spokeswoman for the foundation. "We want to make sure there is no self-dealing or nepotism in awarding these scholarships."
Bishop is one of just a handful of African American congressmen in competitive districts. His district is GA-2, the cotton country in the southwestern corner of the state. It’s split about evenly between blacks and whites, and gave Obama 54 percent of the vote. Charlie Cook already had it listed as “Lean Democrat,” and these revelations will not help.
One step forward for the Democrats in SD-AL, one step back in GA-2?
4. 2012 Watch. An early indicator that 2012 is going to be competitive on the presidential level comes from none other than ... Austan Goolsbee:
President Obama's new chairman of the Council of Economic Affairs (CEA) said Sunday that the national unemployment rate will not decrease significantly anytime soon.
Austan Goolsbee, who Obama announced on Friday will replace Christina Romer as head of the CEA, told "Fox News Sunday" that the president is doing all he can to help the economy, but the recession was so deep, it will take some time for employment numbers to recover.
"I don't think the unemployment rate will be coming down significantly at any time in the near future," Goolsbee said.
The most recent Wall Street Journal survey of economists projected unemployment at the end of 2011 standing at 8.6 percent. If that number holds, expect the Democrats to have a tough argument to make to the electorate. George Herbert Walker Bush knows that better than anybody else. The economy had officially come out of recession March, 1991, and actually was growing at a 4.2 percent rate in the third quarter of 1992, yet unemployment stood at 7.4 percent on Election Day, which gave Bill Clinton and the Democrats a decisive advantage in making their case.
An unemployment rate of higher than 7.5 percent should produce a competitive electoral contest – Obama can argue that the economy is heading in the right direction while his Republican opponent can argue that it is not moving nearly fast enough.
5. Harry Reid Hangs Tough. The Las Vegas Review Journal’s latest poll out of Nevada shows Harry Reid holding a two-point lead over Republican Sharron Angle in the battle for the United States Senate. Meanwhile, Reid’s son Rory is trailing badly in the race for governor, down a whopping 16 points against Brian Sandoval. The reputable firm Mason-Dixon conducted the LVRJ polls, and its Senate and governor numbers are consistent with recent polling from other firms.
Sharron Angle’s campaign has been problematic so far, and the markedly different positions between the elder and junior Reid help quantify the self-inflicted damage she has suffered. The good news for Republicans? Reid is still under 50 percent support, has a terrible favorable rating (just 41 percent) and a higher unfavorable rating than Angle (52 percent for Reid against 46 percent for Angle).