GOP goes after Dem trophy Senate seats

Washington Post:

Every now and then, there comes a congressional race so fraught with history and symbolism that it becomes as much about sending a message as winning a seat.

This year, Republicans are looking to hit the trifecta in the Senate.

As things stand now, they are well within striking distance of winning President Obama's old seat in Illinois; Vice President Biden's former perch in Delaware, and toppling Majority Leader Harry M. Reid in Nevada.

"I call them the trophy seats," said Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.), who heads the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Winning all three would affirm a GOP resurgence, and announce -- as Scott Brown did, when he won a January special election for the late Edward M. Kennedy's Senate seat in Massachusetts -- that Democrats aren't safe anywhere anymore.

As is the case pretty much everywhere in the country, Republican candidates in Cornyn's three "trophy" races are the beneficiaries of a sour national mood. But Illinois, Delaware and Nevada also present unique sets of problems for the Democrats.

Illinois, the seventh most heavily Democratic state in the nation, is a place where the party generally wins statewide races in a walk. But this year, it has picked a nominee whose background could hardly be less suited to the times. He is state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, whose failed family-owned bank was seized last Friday night by federal regulators. He is now running about even in the polls with moderate Republican Rep. Mark Kirk, who outraised him by $1 million in the first quarter of 2010.


If the problem for Democrats in Illinois is their own nominee, their obstacle in trying to hold onto Biden's old seat in Delaware is the likely Republican one. "Literally, there's one Republican in all of Delaware who could win a statewide race, and that's Mike Castle," said one Biden adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.


No one, however, will be feeling that pressure as strongly as the beleaguered Senate majority leader, the Republicans' top target this year. Polls show Reid running double digits behind his likely opponent, casino owner Sue Lowden, a former state GOP chairman, television newscaster and Miss America runner-up.


Reid has two big problems and probably more. First he is just not a likable personality. The man rarely shows any charm whatsoever. Then he is a Senator from a relatively conservative state and he is having to push a very liberal agenda for Obama. His predecessor, Tom Daschle found himself in similar circumstances before his defeat.

As for the other two seats the Republicans are targeting, it appears that the John Tower effect is also driving the election. He was the conservative Republican who won LBJ's senate seat after he was elected Vice President in 1960. Illinois Democrats are also suffering from the taint of corruption compounded by a candidate associated with a failed bank.


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