News has been slow coming out that a Harry Reid staffer pulled off the kind of stock market trick that would make Gordon Gecko come out of retirement for a sequel, doubling an investment in part on the results of legislation that was already moving through Congress. (And leave it to a retiring Member of Congress, Brian Baird, to actually file a bill that holds Congress and their staffers to the same standards they have set for those evil Wall Street speculators.)
But as dumb as it was to pull such a stunt, Reid’s opponent Sharron Angle is keeping wisely mum. Politico chalks it up to a “don’t trust media” strategy, but what could Angle gain from blasting Reid.
As Reid’s opponent, Angle is just about the worst person to criticize him – she’s a vested interest. If the media carries the torch on the story, Angle is best to stay out of the way – and if they don’t, the NRSC’s independent expenditure division will likely jump on the story if there’s any political hay to be made.
Why should Angle sling the mud if others are willing to do the dirty work?
Picking the winners in most of today’s primary contests is easy, according to the polls. Much more interesting, though, is reading the tea leaves and trying to gauge what the results mean – specifically in Arkansas.
As mentioned after the Democrat primary was sent to a runoff weeks ago, Bill Halter’s challenge to Sen. Blanche Lincoln is not about her standing with Arkansas’s non-existent liberal base. It does reflect that many Arkansans feel disenchanted, and the word on the street is that this malaise will bring Halter to victory.
Lincoln has tried to fight back by painting Halter as the puppet of national left-wing interests, working through the most famous Arkansas politician in history:
Bill Clinton, a Lincoln supporter, has gotten in on the act as well, appearing at a Little Rock rally last week and now in a television commercial in which he decries the influence of national unions on the race. “This is about using you and manipulating your votes,” the former president says. “If you want to be Arkansas’ advocate, vote for somebody who will fight for you.”
Clinton then got on a plane and flew back to either New York or Washington D.C., the two places he has lived for the past 17 years since he was elected President and his wife was elected as a Senator from a state that is not Arkansas.
But despite the idea that Halter is “too liberal” for Arkansas, that could dramatically help Democrats’ chances of keeping this seat.
Halter isn’t campaigning to the left of Lincoln in state, but he does benefit from left-wing energy from out of state. Much like Scott Brown’s insurgent campaign, Halter’s website allows anyone to chip in with GOTV phone calls. Donations are still pouring in, too. That won’t subside in the coming months, as liberal activists sense the chance to basically turn a seat from a squishy vote to a solid vote on their key issues. If Halter can continue to enjoy the fruits of national energy without alienating Arkansas voters, he will be a much more formidable candidate than Lincoln – who, despite the advantage of incumbency, would not have enjoyed those benefits.
The double-barreled retirements of Senators Dodd and Dorgan – combined with the revelations that Democratic frontrunnerswill be giving up bids to claim and maintain (respectively) in Michigan and Colorado – launched speculation of what possibilities await the Republican party in 2010.
In the Senate, the Democrats’ prospects have actually brightened. Dodd’s seat would have been a near lock for a Republican pickup. In both Connecticut and North Dakota, new Democratic candidates can run against the status quo without being tainted by the failures of the previous or current Congress.
And nationally, while Dodd and Dorgan have generated some Republican excitement, these types of anouncements are better done early in a cycle than late. Like ripping off a band-aid in one fell swoop, early retirements allow adequate time to allow the media story of a flailing party to run its course and to recruit and fund replacements on the ballot.
There are going to be more calls for Senate Democrats to retire, though, as several incumbents have polled weakly. But of all the flagging incumbents, the one who might be most likely could be Majority Leader Harry Reid – even if there is no obvious replacement for him on the ticket.
In many respects, Reid is in the same position as Tom Daschle was in 2004 – a vulnerable national party leader whose prominence caused some within his own state to feel he had lost touch with them. And like Daschle, Reid will fight not only Republicans within his own state, but GOP donors and volunteers from across the country who sense blood in the water and are hungry for a win that would officially end the “Republican Party is Dying” media story (for a few years, at least).
That kind of energy fueling a get out the vote operation could cause a 5% bounce, seriously hurting not only Reid, but other Democrats… including gubernatorial candidate Rory Reid, the Majority Leader’s son.