Election Update 2
The elections here are somewhat complicated by the resignation of former senate, Trent Lott, which results in two elections happening simultaneously.
The normal election will be fought between Republican incumbent Thad Cochran and Erik Fleming. Both of these men have made mild position switches. Fleming used to support Lyndon LaRouche, but has since rejected such notions. Cochran originally states of McCain, “The thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine. He is erratic. He is hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me.” He now supports McCain. Fleming is currently a Mississippi House of representatives member, and has previously unsuccessfully run for the Senate seat of Trent Lott. Polls have Cochran ahead 60:35.
The other election is being fought as a result of the resignation of Senator Trent Lott last year. The republican governor, Haley Barbour, appointed former house of representatives member Roger Wicker as his temporary replacement. His Democratic opponent, Ronnie Musgrove, was the former lieutenant Governor and Governor of Mississippi, during whose time in office he banned Gay and Lesbian adoption, the pay of Mississippi teachers fell to 49th lowest level of all the states and claimed that there was, “no freedom from religion”. The polls have these two politicians in a tie.
Elizabeth Dole has been sitting senator since a 2002 special election. A former member of the Johnson, Nixon, Reagan and Bush Sr. administrations, challenger for the Republican nomination in 2000 and wife of former Senator and republican candidate Bob Dole, she has excellent connections, name recognition and fundraising potential. Her opponent – Kay Hagan is a Lawyer and member of the State Senate. Dole is currently enjoying a 10 point lead in the polls.
Centrist Republican incumbent and opponent of the Iraq war, Chuck Hagel, has decided not to seek reelection. In a fascinating piece of trivia, courtesy of wikipedia, “Hagel has a tradition of wearing costumes to work on Halloween, usually masquerading as colleagues or other notable political figures. He has arrived at work dressed as Joe Biden, John McCain, Colin Powell, and Pat Roberts in past years.” This leaves the field open between the two candidates both running for the position.
Mike Johanns is the republican candidate – a former governor who stepped down to act as US secretary of agriculture. He is highly popular in the state, having won the gubernatorial election in a landslide. Scott Kleeb (tagline: “Nebraska’s brand of change”) is a rancher and ironically professor of history and provides the democratic contender. Johanns, as one might expect, is polling 15-20 points ahead.
Currently New Hampshire is represented by the father-sun duo of John H. Sununu and John E. Sununu. It is the father, a former 3 term governor and White House chief of Staff, who is up for re-election. His opponent is Jeanne Shaheen, also a former governor. This is a re-run of the 2002 election, in which Sununu narrowly won, however, the political momentum has swung away from the republicans and towards the democrats in subsequent years. Consequently Shaheen leads in the polling by 10-15%.
Dick Zimmer is a former US House of Representatives member, and former member of the New Jersey legislature. He had unsuccessfully run for the Senate in 1996, and was drafted for the current race after Anne Estabrook withdrew, having suffered a mini-stroke. Frank Lautenberg currently holds the seat up for election, and has held 4 non-consecutive terms of office. He is one of the most liberal members of the Senate. Age is an important issue in this election, with Lautenberg having passed his 84th birthday, but its a double edged blade for the republicans, due to their presidential candidate and the relatively high proportion of electorate who are over 65 in New Jersey.
Another republican incumbent retiring leaves the door open for more democratic gains in New Mexico. With the support of popular Governor Bill Richardson and a rising democratic tide the party is confident of making gains here. Their candidate is Tom Udall, a former member of the House of Representatives for the state and cousin of Mark Udall mentioned earlier. The taking of this seat is another test of the Western strategy pushed by Howard Dean. His opponent, Steve Pearce, has a similar background in the House, but is sitting 15-20% behind in polling.
Incumbent Jim Inhofe is skeptical on global warming, cites the Bible as backing for his position on everything and has claimed that 9/11 was devine retribution for the US failing to defend Israel. He is also one of only 12 senators who opposed cutting interest rates on student loans. His opponent Andrew Rice is a member of the state Senate and largely behind in the polls, albeit with a large percentage yet to make up their minds.
Republican Senator Gordon Smith is up for re-election, his moderate view may continue to hold their appeal in these hard times for the republican party. The democratic challenge comes in the form of Jeff Merkley, the second cousin of the Udall cousins. Gordon Smith is currently the only elected Republican official in the state, and is currently holding onto a narrow lead in the race – which is considered highly competitive.
Tim Johnson is the Democratically aligned sitting senator from South Dakota, who holds quite a conservative voting record, such as repealing the ban on semiautomatic weapons and welfare reform. The 2002 election saw him claim a very narrow victory in a republican leaning year, and is a pretty strong candidate for re-election. His opponent, Joel Dykstra, is currently sitting in SD House of Representatives, and not a big name candidate. Trivia: Johnson was the only member of the senate to have a son in the military at the time of the Iraq invasion.
Single term republican incumbent John Cornyn has been ranked as the 4th most conservative US Senator. His democratic challenger is Veteran Rick Noriega, a member of the Texan House of Representatives. The low approval ratings of Cornyn make this a potentially interesting election, despite him being ahead of Noriega, that has potentially a large number of undecided voters. Obama is also looking at campaigning with the Texas senate and house challengers who are competitive.
Incumbent republican John Warner is retiring, leaving an open race between two former Governors: Jim Gilmore and Mark Warner (no relation). This is generally considered the Senate seat most likely to change hands from Republican to Democrat. Polling puts Warner 25% ahead of Gilmore, and with a widening gap as polls become more recent. As well as national momentum – the state is slowly swinging democrat, they have won the last two gubernatorial elections in 2001 and 2005, and Jim Webb took George Allen’s senate seat in 2006.