Saturday, October 11, 2008

Virginia U.S. Senate Race

Race of the Day

Virginia U.S. Senate

October 11, 2008
24 Days Until Election Day

Status: Republican Open
2004 Presidential Result: Red State (South)

Outlook: Likely Democrat

The open Senate seat contest in the Old Dominion has basically been over before as soon as it begun.

Longtime Republican Senator John Warner, who has typically been reelected by large margins announced his retirement some time ago and that immediately got Democrats thrilled when the state's popular former Governor Mark Warner announced he would run for the seat. Back in 1996, Mark Warner (no relation), then an unknown but wealthy businessman was John Warner's opponent and gave him a rare difficult race in which the Democrat came a lot closer than anyone expected, due to both his political skills and anger from the state's conservatives against the GOP incumbent who often values going his own way over party support. In fact, John Warner is currently not ruling out the possibility that he might cast a vote for the Democrat to succeed him.

Mark Warner was a popular Governor of Virginia from 2002-2006, but was forced to leave office due to the state's unique "one in a row" term limits for their Governors. In fact, Warner was widely expected to run for President in 2004 and had begun to take steps to do so in 2006, when he surprised most political observers by abruptly dropping out, under circumstances that many considered suspicious. At that point, Warner looked unlikely to challenge John Warner in a rematch, so his options seemed to consist of hoping for an open seat, waiting to run again for Governor in 2009, or hoping the eventual Democrat nominee would select him as his running mate. When the seat opened and Warner jumped into the race to replace Warner, all the other options seemed to fall by the wayside, and it is clear that if the Democrat ever wants to run for President, he will have to do so as a Senator. Despite the fact that he was running for the U.S. Senate this year, a lot of Democrats hoped that Barack Obama would still pick him as his running-mate. Republicans should feel pretty good that did not happen as even though Warner is poised to flip a Senate seat, his place on an Obama ticket might very well have made the battleground state of Virginia out of reach.

Deciding the Republican nominee for this open seat also involved some manuevering and intrigue. There was discussion if the candidate should be chosen by a convention or a later statewide primary and the various pros and cons of both options. Ultimately, a convention was decided upon, but a surprise from the one candidate who might have been considered the most electable happened about a year ago when Congressman Tom Davis dropped out, thus effectively giving the nomination to former Governor Jim Gilmore, Warner's predecessor in Richmond.

The more conservative Gilmore would have had the edge in a convention setting and Davis set the stage for more general Republican disappointment and the continuing trend towards Democrats in Northern Virginia by announcing he would not seek reelection to the U.S. House either. Gilmore, who had ended his own quixotic campaign for the Republican Presidential nomination in order to see the Senate seat was able to avoid a terribly expensive primary, still faced some opposition at the convention, but managed to win in a less than dominant fashion, demonstrating that his political star might have faded. Gilmore was a fairly popular Governor of the Commonwealth between 1998 and 2001 and has a proven history of winning statewide elections, but he has not been able to approach the popularity of Mark Warner.

Still though, the race ought to be competitive on paper, considering the history of the candidates and the competitive nature of the state, but it just has not been from the get-go. Warner has consistently led Gilmore in the polls by large margins and the race is basically a foregone conclusion. I have debated if I should change the ranking to Safe Democrat, but for reasons I do not have to explain to anyone, I will leave it as is.

Gilmore campaign link:

2008 U.S. Senate races predicted: 14 D, 18 R
Predicted Senate balance of power thus far: 53 D, 44 R

Race for the White House- 10/11/08

24 Days Until Election Day

What to write about?

Second debate of the general election, the Town Hall format, was fairly boring and uneven, and did not do anything to alter the course of the race or the momentum of Barack Obama.... Alaska state legislative panel finds that Sarah Palin violated no laws in "Troopergate" but ran afoul of ethical guidelines nonetheless.... both sides claim victory... but the headlines certainly cannot help the GOP ticket....while some national tracking polls show widening lead for Obama in popular vote, new Zogby daily tracking poll shows a pretty close race in that regard... giving Republicans some hope... although we all kind of wrote Zogby off four years ago....state polls continue to provide contradictory information regarding the key states, although news certainly does tend to be better for Obama than McCain on a daily basis.......

McCain-Palin campaign crowds continue to be large and enthusiastic but also increasingly angry and frustrated.... there are some isolated incidents of ugly rhetoric on behalf of those in the crowd regarding and Democrats are focusing on it.... today, Congressman John Lewis made the absolutely shameful analogy of the Republican ticket to George Wallace and seems to have the impression that any cricitism of Obama's record or ideas is racially based or designed to stir up hatred.... yesterday McCain himself took steps to calm down a crowd and tell audiences to be respectful and that an Obama Presidency would not be anything to fear.... the crowd was not so happy to hear that reassurance.... is McCain acting to make it clear that his campaign does not tolerate hateful outbursts or is he perhaps sort of realizing that victory is unlikely and he doesn't want to be pilloried after the election for the closing days of the campaign? It is really tough to tell... Republican partisans believe that the only way to win might be to focus on Obama's personal connections to terrorist William Ayers and other folks like Rev. Jeremiah Wright... Sarah Palin has talked about these matters increasingly... they did not of course come up in this week's debate.... is McCain pulling his punches?.... will they be a part of next week's final debate?....

Things sure looked a lot different a month ago.... things change fast in politics... but the time on this marathon campaign is running out.....

Simply put, Americans are in an anxious and worried mood for a variety of reasons this year, most of it related to the current economic situation and an all-out financial meltdown which seems to bring massive losses on Wall Street every weekday. With these headlines and these circumstances, it is just hard to see what the party that currently holds the White House can do to prevent the general mood of people wanting to give the other party a chance to "fix things." I really believe that if this election were primarily about foreign policy and national security or about cultural and moral values, John McCain would have the edge, maybe even significantly... but that is just not the environment we live in. The economic problems are global and Republicans can certainly make a case as to how Democrats (including Obama himself through his association with ACORN) were the real culprits in contributing to the sub-prime mortgage debable and the whole Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac business, but the party that holds the Oval Office is still apt to get most of the blame, as unfair as that may be. As long as the economy remains the dominant issue, McCain has to more effectively demonstrate how electing Obama, along with overwhelming Democrat majorities would not bring about needed change, but would instead add fuel to a growing fire.... both sides want to win this election of course, as they should, but circumstances are such that whomever the 44th President turns out to be... it could be quite a thankless and difficult task.

Twenty-three days is a long time in politics and this race does still have some fluidity, but at this point, it pains me to say that it is looking more and more like John McCain is headed for an unfortunate loss and the entire election may tip in such a way that is very bad for Republicans all over.... but there will be other elections.... John McCain is a true patriot and someone I will be proud to vote for.....for flashes of this campaign, he has even shown flashes of brilliance... but if it does not end well, there will be plenty of second guessing about campaign strategy, preperation, and the like. Those who like myself supported a different candidate in the primary, for reasons including the fact that the general election is progressing in some ways like we imagined it would with McCain as our leader, will be left wondering what might have been if another candidate had been given the chance to compete nationally against Obama..... But none of this is an argument for today.... Republicans need to keep working and perhaps keep praying for this election to turn out the way it should for the betterment of the country and the world... we fear the alternative is pretty scary.