PLAINS: After Bush-Kerry, Thune-Daschle Is Main Event

Posted October 1, 2004 at 11:11am

IOWA
Senate
Incumbent: Chuck Grassley (R)
4th term (69 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican

Grassley is a month away from winning a fifth term.

Former state Rep. Art Small is the Democrats’ sacrificial lamb.

Grassley, who always runs as though his re-election is in serious doubt, had $5.9 million on hand at the end of June. Small had $6,000 on hand at that time.

House
3rd district
Incumbent: Leonard Boswell (D)
4th term (53 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

Although attorney Stan Thompson (R) gave Boswell a serious race in 2002, he appears unlikely to improve on his showing in this year’s rematch.

Thompson has been running for much of the past two years, announcing soon after his 53 percent to 45 percent defeat in 2002.

Even so, Boswell rarely is mentioned when national Republicans list their targeted Democratic incumbents.

In 2002, Boswell was forced by the state’s nonpartisan redistricting process to move from his southern Iowa 2nd district into the more urban 3rd district, centered in Des Moines.

Although he got off to a slow start, Boswell proved up to the race, eventually outspending Thompson by nearly $500,000.

Boswell has a similar edge in fundraising as of June 30.

He ended that month with an impressive $802,000 in the bank; Thompson had just $289,000 on hand at that time.

Although this district is extremely competitive between the parties, Thompson will be hard-pressed this cycle to improve on his 8-point losing margin of 2002.

KANSAS
Senate
Incumbent: Sam Brownback (R)
1st term (65 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican

Brownback is among the safest of Senate incumbents up for re-election this cycle.

National Democrats made some noise about contesting Brownback early in the cycle but lost hope when former Rep. Dan Glickman (D) passed on the race.

Brownback will face railroad worker Robert Conroy (D) in the fall. The only question is whether he will improve on the 65 percent he won in 1998.

House
2nd district
Incumbent: Jim Ryun (R)
4th term (60 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

Businesswoman Nancy Boyda (D) has run a solid challenge to Ryun but because of the partisanship of the district she needs a wave to sweep the incumbent out of office.

Boyda has done a respectable job of fundraising for a first-time candidate, bringing in $396,000 in the race to date with $302,000 left to spend. She also has secured the support of EMILY’s List, which should boost her fundraising effort.

After a slow start Ryun has picked up his own fundraising pace considerably, raising $645,000 so far in the cycle with $618,000 on hand.

Boyda must figure out a way to change the perception of Ryun, a former Olympian, among the district’s voters. Ryun was the first high schooler to run a sub 4-minute mile and is still looked upon with pride by many people in the state.

And the district’s demographics clearly favor Ryun — especially in a presidential year.

In 2000, President Bush won a 13-point victory in the eastern Kansas 2nd district, a margin he is likely to match in 2004.

Boyda is a solid candidate in the wrong district. Without a huge move among voters toward Democrats nationally, she is a long shot.

3rd district
Incumbent: Dennis Moore (D)
3rd term (50 percent)
Outlook: Leans Democratic

For the second time in as many cycles, Republican primary voters delivered an upset in the fight for the right to take on Moore in the fall.

Adam Taff (R), who won a come-from-behind victory in 2002, was the heavy favorite in the August primary but was toppled by former Overland Park City Councilman Kris Kobach (R). Kobach’s margin of victory was just 207 votes.

Kobach painted himself as the conservative in the race, labeling Taff a liberal on issues like abortion and immigration.

Kobach is an underdog to Moore, who has won this Republican-leaning, Kansas City-area district by close margins in 1998, 2000 and 2002. He has never won re-election with more than 50 percent of the vote, however.

Moore has proved to be an extremely able campaigner and fundraiser during those races.

This cycle appears to be no exception as his pre-primary report — through July 17 — showed $1.1 million on hand. Kobach raised $400,000 during the primary (a somewhat underwhelming figure) and had $111,000 in the bank on July 17.

In past races, Moore has won by co-opting the ideological middle from Republicans, a tactic he seems to be successfully employing against Kobach.

Perhaps Moore’s biggest hurdle in this contest is the demographic trends of the 3rd district.

The 2000 Census showed that Johnson County — the strongest Republican area in the district — grew by nearly 100,000 people during the 1990s. In contrast, Wyandotte, a Democratic stronghold, lost 4,000 people in that same time frame.

According to voter registration statistics as of July 19, there were 195,563 registered Republicans in the 3rd district’s three counties, compared to just 128,130 registered Democrats.

Moore has an edge there.

MISSOURI
Senate
Incumbent: Kit Bond (R)
3rd term (53 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

State Treasurer Nancy Farmer’s (D) chances in this race hinge almost entirely on the presidential race.

If Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (D) carries the state — a long shot at press time — Farmer could ride his coattails to make her challenge to Bond more competitive than it currently appears.

President Bush carried Missouri 50 percent to 47 percent over then-Vice President Al Gore in 2000.

Bond continues to run a nearly flawless campaign and has rolled up a huge fundraising edge.

At the end of June, he had $5.4 million on hand compared to $1.2 million for Farmer. He has already been on television for more than a month while Farmer has yet to air an ad.

Polling consistently has shown Bond with a double-digit lead but hovering close to 50 percent, signaling the possibility that a well-financed challenger could have made this a real race.

Bond’s past re-election contests provide more evidence that this could be a tight race as he has never won with more than 53 percent of the vote.

But Farmer has generated little excitement to this point and the Senate race will be overshadowed by the gubernatorial contest between state Auditor Claire McCaskill (D) and Missouri Secretary of State Matt Blunt (R).

Farmer is likely to come up short without a discernable movement toward top-of-the-ticket for Democrats over the next month.

House
3rd district
Open seat: Richard Gephardt (D) is retiring
Outlook: Safe Democratic

State Rep. Russ Carnahan (D) will be the next Congressman from this St. Louis-area district, continuing one of the most well-known political legacies in the state.

Long the primary favorite due to his famous last name, Carnahan eked out a 23 percent to 21 percent primary victory in early August over hard-charging Washington University professor Jeff Smith. State Sen. Steve Stoll and former state Rep. Joan Barry each won 18 percent.

Carnahan won none of the four distinct areas in the district, losing St. Louis and St. Louis County to Smith and St. Genevieve and Jefferson to Stoll. But by placing second or third in each, he was able to secure the 23 percent that delivered him a victory.

Carnahan is the son of the late Gov. Mel Carnahan (D) and former Sen. Jean Carnahan (D). His sister, Robin, is the Democratic nominee for secretary of state in Missouri this fall.

Perennial candidate Bill Federer easily won the Republican primary but is given little chance in a district that Al Gore carried by 11 points in 2000.

5th district
Open seat: Karen McCarthy (D) is retiring
Outlook: Likely Democratic

After enduring a bruising primary, former Kansas City Mayor Emanuel Cleaver (D) enters the general election as a solid favorite though Republicans believe they may be able to steal this seat.

Cleaver began the primary race as the strong favorite after serving eight years as mayor of Kansas City, the population anchor of the 5th district.

But former Council on Foreign Relations fellow Jamie Metzl ran an extremely aggressive primary campaign, outraising Cleaver and attacking him on ethical issues relating to a car wash the former mayor owned.

In the end, Cleaver won 60 percent to 40 percent as Metzl was unable to simultaneously introduce himself to voters and raise doubts about the former mayor.

Meanwhile, Republicans nominated wealthy businesswoman Jeanne Patterson. Patterson already has given more than $1 million to her campaign and there appears to be more where that came from.

With nearly unlimited funds at her disposal, Republicans believe Patterson can continue to hammer Cleaver on character questions, creating a window of opportunity for the GOP.

Despite Patterson’s wealth, however, this is a difficult challenge. The district gave Al Gore 60 percent of the vote in 2000 and is reliably Democratic.

6th district
Incumbent: Sam Graves (R)
2nd term (63 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican
After giving Graves a pass in 2002, Democrats have recruited a real challenger to the incumbent this cycle, but their chances of victory seem to get slimmer by the day.

Businessman Charlie Broomfield is the Democratic standard-bearer in the race after a less-than-impressive primary victory in August. Against a man that had run six times before (four of whose bids came as a Republican) and was incarcerated on primary day, Broomfield won 62 percent of the vote.

One thing Broomfield has done a respectable job of is fundraising. Thanks to a $300,000 personal loan, Broomfield had raised $573,000 through July 17. He had $361,000 on hand.

But Graves is no fundraising slouch with $804,000 in the bank in his pre-primary report.

It remains to be seen whether Broomfield can use his personal wealth to run a modern campaign.

Broomfield last ran for Congress in 1972, losing a Democratic primary to Rep. Jerry Litton. Litton was killed four years later in a plane crash following his victory in the Democratic Senate primary.

The district is competitive between the two parties as President Bush won 53 percent there in 2000.

Still, this remains a major long shot for Democrats.

NEBRASKA
House
1st district
Open seat: Doug Bereuter (R) resigned
Outlook: Likely Republican

Although Democrats seemed to have caught a break when conservative former Lincoln City Councilman Jeff Fortenberry won the Republican nomination, the GOP establishment quickly has coalesced behind him, making a Democratic pickup less likely.

A parade of high-profile Republicans have come to the Lincoln-area district on Fortenberry’s behalf including Vice President Cheney and Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).

As a result, Fortenberry brought in $309,000 between April 22 and June 30 with $269,000 left on hand.

The Democratic nominee, state Sen. Matt Connealy, had $138,000 on hand at the end of June.

Democrats believe this district offers an opportunity for them despite its decided Republican tilt. President Bush carried the seat by 23 points in 2002.

Connealy is a conservative Democrat who has shown an ability to attract wide crossover support in his state Senate races. But a federal race will break down more along party lines. which makes it tough for the Democrat.

2nd district
Incumbent: Lee Terry (R)
3rd term (63 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

Terry faces his most serious challenge since being elected to this Omaha-area seat in 1998 but still remains a heavy favorite to win a fourth term.

State Sen. Nancy Thompson (D) already has outdistanced Terry’s last two opponents in fundraising.

Thompson had brought in $467,000 as of June 30 with $300,000 on hand.

Thompson has been in the state Senate since 1997 when she was appointed to that office by then-Gov. Ben Nelson (D). Her district is based in Sarpy County, traditionally a Republican stronghold.

Terry appears to have put down roots in his six years in Congress, winning with 66 percent and 63 percent in 2000 and 2002, respectively.

He also is in a strong fundraising position with $605,000 on hand at the end of June.

While on paper this is the most competitive of the state’s three Congressional districts, it still remains a very tough sell for a Democrat — especially in a presidential year.

Terry is not likely to repeat his wide margins of past races but it still looks like a relatively easy win for him in November.

NORTH DAKOTA
Senate
Incumbent: Byron Dorgan (D)
2nd term (63 percent)
Outlook: Safe Democratic

Dorgan is being challenged by attorney Mike Liffrig (R) in November but his re-election seems assured.

Dorgan had $2.2 million in the bank at the end of June compared to $151,000 for Liffrig.

Liffrig has little chance.

House
Incumbent: Earl Pomeroy (D)
6th term (52 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

Unlike past cycles, national Republicans seem content to give the oft-targeted Pomeroy a pass in this election.

The Republican nominee is former Navy submarine officer Duane Sand. He was expected to challenge Dorgan this year but pivoted to take on Pomeroy.

Sand has run an active and aggressive campaign, as he did in 2000 when he took 38 percent against Sen. Kent Conrad (D).

Sand had raised $553,000 with a respectable $265,000 in the bank at the end of June. Pomeroy, always a strong fundraiser, had $897,000 on hand.

Sand is resting much of his hopes on an increased Republican turnout in this presidential year.

And while President Bush seems headed for a repeat of his 28-percent margin in 2000, North Dakota voters have shown a willingness to split the ticket, regularly electing three Democrats to represent them in Washington.

Pomeroy is a battle-tested campaigner who knows how to win in this GOP-leaning state. He seems likely to do so again in November.

SOUTH DAKOTA
Senate
Incumbent: Tom Daschle (D)
3rd term (62 percent)
Outlook: Tossup

The race between Daschle and former Rep. John Thune (R) is tightening — as expected — as the Republican has begun his long-awaited television campaign.

While Daschle has been on television for months with ads touting his accomplishments for the state, Thune began his own advertising campaign in July with a biographical ad featuring his two teenage daughters.

Thune followed that commercial with a spot touting his independence from both parties.

That is a major strategic shift from Thune’s 2002 campaign against Sen. Tim Johnson (D) when the Republican tied himself closely to President Bush.

Both sides will be lavishly funded in this race.

Daschle already had raised more than $13 million at the end of June. Thune had brought in $6 million in just six months of fundraising. Daschle had $5.5 million in the bank; Thune had $3.9 million on hand.

Daschle has sworn off any outside advertising in the race, content to raise and spend what his campaign believes he needs to win the race.

Several independent groups with Republican ties advertised in the state prior to Sept. 2, after which any political ads had to be paid for with hard dollars.

In addition, the National Republican Senatorial Committee is spending more than $2 million on independent expenditure ads that began a month ago.

Both sides concede this race is likely to be extremely close. Last cycle, Thune lost by just 524 votes to Johnson, thanks to the latter’s huge margins on American Indian reservations.

A similar result seems likely this time around with Daschle perhaps having the slightest of edges.

House
At-Large
Incumbent: Stephanie Herseth (D)
1st term (51 percent)
Outlook: Leans Democratic

Herseth’s 3,000-vote margin in the June 1 special election ensured that she again will be a Republican target in the fall.

Herseth faces a rematch against state Sen. Larry Diedrich (R), who fell just short in the surprisingly close special.

Heading into the fall, Herseth seems a slight favorite as she enjoys the power of incumbency even if it has been for only six months.

Since 1996, there have been 23 special elections; only once did the winner not go on to take a full term.

Herseth already has raised $2.7 million so far this cycle and had $380,000 on hand at the end of June.

Diedrich, who was sidelined shortly after his special election loss due to a leaky heart valve, had $152,000 in the bank in June.

This race will be overshadowed by the Senate contest between Daschle and Thune, an oversight that will likely benefit Herseth.

— Chris Cillizza