Missouri’s seat — held by Sen. Jim Talent — “was one we’d targeted as winnable, along with Pennsylvania, and all of those other seats weren’t ones we were overly concerned about, even Maryland, where we think we have two strong candidates on our side,” says a DNC staffer. “But now we’re seeing bad signs inside our polling data and folks here aren’t happy.”
Why should they be? In Maryland, where Rep. Ben Cardin is leading in fundraising, former Rep. Kweisi Mfume is actually ahead of Cardin in name recognition and support in some Democrat polls. Republican Lieutenant Gov. Michael Steele is currently garnering greater support among African-Americans than any other Republican in recent state history.
In Michigan, where there is a contested Republican primary to face off against Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Democrats across the state are seeing support collapsing, and Stabenow is now considered in danger by her own party. In Minnesota Rep. Mark Kennedy (R) is polling ahead of expectations, and in Washington state, Democrat Sen. Maria Cantwell is now the No. 1 Republican target in the 2006 cycle as her polling numbers slide.
“The problem is this: we’ve committed huge amounts of resources on the state level in anticipation of that investment paying off in getting out the vote,” says another DNC staffer. “Dean has taken heat for spending so much money. Right now, that investment isn’t looking very good and no matter what anyone says, we’re nervous. Things were never as good as people were saying they were, and now the numbers are confirming that.”
Dean especially has been taking heat from Sen. Chuck Schumer, head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and from minority leaders Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi about the amount of upfront spending the DNC has been making. They had been pressing for the DNC to invest funds into the House and Senate campaign committees so that the funds could be used for important races.
“We had targeted Pennsylvania and Maryland as high cost races,” says an outside Democrat political consultant. “After that, you’re looking at Missouri and Minnesota as races we really wanted to win. Now, we’re looking at spending a lot more in Maryland and Minnesota, and a lot more than we probably budgeted in Washington and Michigan. That means less for other states. The upshot is if the numbers hold or continue to get worse, we aren’t winning the Senate.”p> LIEBERMAN’S OPPORTUNITY br> All of that bad Democrat news makes the ongoing saga between Connecticut Democrat, Sen.