For all the talk about Republicans wallowing in pity and mediocrity, the Senate GOP is beginning to sense a bit of a shift in perspective. National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman Sen. Elizabeth Dole has been spending the past couple of weeks touting her committee's candidates, and her remarks have been buttressed by private remarks made by White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove.
As it stands, Republicans appear to be looking at minimum at a wash in terms of holding the majority in the Senate. That's because of a failure on the part of the NRSC to find truly viable statewide candidates in Florida, a serious challenge to Sen. Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania and growing unease among some Republicans in the Virginia Senate race, where Sen. George Allen was thought to have an easy go at it, only to run into a possible challenge against former Navy Secretary James Webb, who served in that post during the Reagan Administration.
Republicans have high hopes for three of their candidates, Maryland lieutenant governor Michael Steele, state Sen. Tom Kean Jr. in New Jersey, who is challenging Sen. Robert Menendez, and former Safeco CEO Mike McGavick, who is challenging Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell.
Two other Senate candidates, executive John Raese in West Virginia and former Ameritrade COO Pete Ricketts in Nebraska have garnered attention, but are running behind incumbents Robert Byrd and Ben Nelson, respectively.
Kean and McGavick are perhaps the biggest surprises thus far. Polls now have Kean running as much as seven points in front of Menendez. And Kean has shown the political instincts to possibly keep up the heat -- his support of deportation of illegal immigrants garnered attention last week and separated him enough from the President to make it more difficult for Menendez to tar him as a White House drone.
McGavick is now within five percentage points of Cantwell in Washington, with momentum clearly on his side. His campaign has garnered increasing attention nationwide among Republicans, with donors paying close attention to the race.
"That's one race that has everyone paying attention now," says an NRSC staffer. "We're already getting offers from longtime Republican supporters to go out there in September and October to help on the get out the vote program. Mike has a lot of people excited."
The same can't be said for Dole's failures in Florida, where national Republicans have essentially conceded the seat to incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson. Rep. Katherine Harris's failures as a candidate continued to mount throughout the spring, as much of her staff quit and a possible ethics investigation hangs over her head over a $2,800 dinner for two she shared with a defense contractor tied to the Rep. Randy Cunningham scandal.
"Florida should have been a winner for us, and we failed," says a fundraiser active with the NRSC. "We wanted that seat, but we can't seem to find an alternative willing to put in the time. A competitive race there forces a lot more money from the Dems down there, making it a bit harder for other Democrat candidates. All that said, we're a lot better off than people think we are. At some point, someone in the national press is going to have to pay attention."
SEE NO EVIL
Last week the Christian Coalition joined forces with the likes of Google and Microsoft to support government regulation of the Internet. The Christian Coalition's announcement came at a time when Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) was holding a press conference to support "Internet Neutrality" with left-wing activist and recording artist Moby. Markey and his backers at Google and Microsoft are seeking Congressional action that would shift the cost of most Internet services to consumers and bar broadband network operators from charging companies -- like Yahoo, Amazon and e-Bay -- for the kinds of services such companies pay for right now, such as enhanced network security.
Conservatives on Capitol Hill were stunned by the Christian Coalition's decision, particularly given Google's fight with the Justice Department over refusing to cooperate in a child-pornography investigation and the ease with which the service enables access to pornographic sites.
"You have a company that in many ways runs counter to the beliefs of the Christian Coalition's membership," says a Senate Commerce Committee staffer. "They aren't pornographers by any stretch of the imagination, but there is probably a good case to be made that they make money off of porn. And then you have Google's involvement with the Chinese government. They are trying to limit the Internet here at home and in China. That's just not right, and you have to wonder if the Christian Coalition's membership knew what their leadership was doing."
And then, there is the Internet Regulation crowd's newest poster boy, Moby. Recently, he posted on his website the letter of Iranian President Mahmood Ahmadinejad, along with this personal message to his fans:
i'm posting the letter that the president of iran recently sent to president bush. apart from his anti-zionism he makes a lot of very salient and relevant points. it's a long read, but it's worth taking 10 minutes to read what really is a very remarkable document.
my posting this letter here does not mean that i'm endorsing it, although he does make a lot of great points.
"This has to be the weirdest group of people to get together over an issue that we've seen in a long time," says a staffer to Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who is a strong advocate of not regulating the Internet. "They're also some of the most ill-informed people you could imagine. How well-intentioned conservatives get involved with people who support abortion, Islamofascism, and the communist Chinese government is beyond me."
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