Wednesday, May 5, 2004

Fred Barnes Need to Stop Reading Novels

I like Fred Barnes. He is very articulate, very capable of formulating and expressing complex ideas. But sometimes he seems to get bored. I guess it isn't fun to pick on Kerry anymore. No sense in kicking a guy when he isn't just down, but is inside his grave and scooping dirt onto himself.

He writes here of a possible shift in the control of the Senate. Like some quickly churned out paperback novel, there are several plot lines - limited loss in the South, sweep of the four (alleged) vulnerable Pub seats, and re-election of the Dark Lord of the Sith - Tom Anakin Daschle.

Such a confluence of events is akin to purposefully soft-pushing your putt on the 18th green at Pebble Beach because you know that the San Gregorio fault was about to twitch. Sound plausible? Of course not. But the thinking exists - what else could explain Phil Mickelson's 1 and 854 record in Majors? "C'mon baby, twitch for daddy ... twitch ... awwww!"

But let's ride along with Fred for a while.

The first issue is the lay of the land. The Pubs hold a 51-48-1 advantage in the Senate. Class III is up for re-election - which includes 19 Dems and 15 Pubs.

Townhall has an easy to digest list in the far right column of this article.

Fred's first folly volley is that the Dems limit themselves to two lost seats in the South. The Dems have Southern races in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, and South Carolina. The Pubs in Alabama and Kentucky. The Dems hope to survive the 2-6 exposure by coming out 4-4.

In Alabama, Shelby's switch to the Pub party in 1994 hasn't affected his popularity - he easily won re-election in 1998 with over 63% of the vote. Wayne Sowell and Johnnie Swanson III are vying for the Dem nod in a late primary - June 1. Mr. Sowell has been active running in but not winning campaigns for several years. Mr. Swanson has a JD, industry and military backgrounds, no public office experience, and no chance. Shelby's seat is secure. Pubs 1, Dems 0.

Kentucky is a shade more interesting. Bunning is running against one of sixth Dems (the primary is May 20). As an example, take Dem state senator Daniel Mongiardo. Mondiardo has a few structural problems - Kentucky looks like Bush country so Kerry will probably steer clear and spend his limited money elsewhere; Mongiardo calls himself a "conservative democrat" then goes around showing pics of him and Teddy (Make yourself useful - get me a drink) Kennedy; and Mongiardo is a doc - and wears it on his sleeve like Dean did. Bunning can be vicious in a campaign, and I suspect W has coattails in November. It is Bunning's to lose. Pubs 2, Dems 0.

The Dems six seats begins with Arkansas. Although Lincoln is not impressive, neither are the three Pubs trying to face off with her. The primary is May 18, and the field includes a former KFC commercial actress, a state senator, and a former sheriff. Not top-shelf competition. Oh well. Pubs 2, Dems 1.

The Florida primary is a laughably late August 31. This means that the people with present statewide recognition have the greatest opportunity to win - and the Pubs hold big names including Bill McCollum and Mel Martinez. The Dems are pushing their equivalent to an education secretary - Betty Castor. She has won local and state elections handily since 1972, but her only statewide elections have been in education - an area heavily dominated by Dem political activists. Her ability to take McCollum or Martinez is highly suspect. Pubs 3, Dems 1.

One of Georgia's seats is open because of Zell Miller stepping out. Among the 3 Pubs and 8 Dems respectively squaring off in the June 20 primaries, no one has national prominence. The Pubs include Mac Collins, a five-term US Rep, and Johnny Isakson, who replaced Mr. Newt. The Dems most prominent candidate is a one-term Congresswoman, and the least a 41-year old guy whose never run for anything. Pubs 4, Dems 1.

Louisiana pits two House members against each other - Dem Chris John and Pub David Vitter. Louisiana politics, with its open system, is as screwy as its recognition of Civil Law over Common Law. Who will take? The Pub and here is why - there is no possible way that one of these guys will pull a simple majority in the first round. That will require a run-off. By the time a run-off happens in December, W will have been re-elected and the Pub majority in the Senate will have expanded. John will lose heart. Pubs 5, Dems 1.

North Carolina. Do you believe that Erskine Bowles is running? Look at his positions - typical Dem. Refuses to provide answers. What a loser. Pub Rep Richard Burr is in his sixth term and is well respected on the Hill. No contest. And don't forget the supposed "tight, close, can't call" race that Libby Dole won in 2002 by over 8 points. Pubs 6, Dems 1.

South Carolina. The dems are offering another education secretary - Inez Tenenbaum. The Pubs have a mixed bag of a former governor that lost his bid for re-election, a sitting US Rep, and a former AG who lost a primary bid to be governor. Rep Jim DeMint has money and the edge. The problem Pubs have is the shadow of the retiring Fritz Hollings. Maybe a sympathy vote. Pubs 6, Dems 2.

I'll save the Fred's other races for discussion later. Dem-controlled Senate? Not a chance.

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