Alex's Outlook

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Republican Sen. Peter Fitzgerald has called it quits re going for a second term in 2004.

Fitzgerald has been a lousy senator, pirouetting far to the left of his base without even winning over any Democrats, a lot like ex-Sen. Percy of not too long ago. It's true that Illinois is a Democrat stronghold now, but if Fitzgerald had been somewhat more conservative he would have been much more electable. GOP ex-Gov. Jim Edgar is the apparent frontrunner in the upcoming battle to replace Fitzgerald. He will almost certainly be an improvement over Fitzgerald and will be very electable, much more so than Fitzgerald would have been. Fitzgerald's quitting will probably save that seat for the GOP.

President Bush pushed for $550 billion in tax cuts over the next ten years in a Rose Garden speech yesterday, as if he's going to get anything close to that. The Senate Republicans caved to Voinovich and particularly Olympia Snowe of Maine by putting a $350 billion ceiling on any tax cuts. The House Republicans are mad about it, but they can't do anything except get as close to the House version as possible ($550 bn) in committee.

Arnold Schwarzenegger recently conferred(subscription required) with Sen. George Allen, the chairman of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee. That suggests two things: Schwarzenegger is strongly considering a run against Sen. Barbara Boxer; and, if that's true, Condoleeza Rice is aiming for the California governorship in 2006. Ah-nold would give Boxer the fight of her life, and Rice would probably slaughter whomever Davis picked to succeed her, given Davis' disastrous administration of California.

John Kerry appears to be the frontrunner in the Democratic primary now. John Edwards has lost some critical endorsements and consultants lately, despite an impressive showing in the fundraising war. Edwards is really the only Democrat with a chance against Kerry. Now that Bob Graham is finally getting serious about running, the South will be at least somewhat split between Edwards and Graham, leaving the Northeast for Kerry. Gephardt might emerge later, but the Pacific west and the Northeast are out of his reach, as is the deep South.

Thus will John Kerry emerge as the Democrats' standard-bearer. John Kerry will be one of the most caricaturable politicians in recent history (right behind pre-911 Bush), the populist who married a $600 million fortune and gets $75 haircuts, and who is easily the most aristocratic snob in the Senate. (That's how he comes across, anyway.)

The Democrats desperately need to rework their nomination system, because they're going to go down in flames if Kerry wins - red-meat liberals like Adlai Stevenson, George McGovern and Michael Dukakis sell well with the base, but they're a disaster with independent voters, and nominating another uber-liberal just because he says all the right lines will only guarantee another electoral fiasco.

Florida Sen. Bob Graham has already announced that he won't run for his seat, and the Florida Democrats are near the extinction point in terms of competence and power. Fritz Hollings will be 82 in 2004, and his daughter just died. Even then, he will have a rough fight on his hands in one of the nation's most Republican states. John Edwards will have a bruising primary with Kerry, and once (if?) he loses he will face Rep. Richard Burr, probably the toughest campaigner in the United States (he is known to go through up to 30 cups of coffee in a day's campaigning). Zell Miller's Georgia seat is a goner. Bush is hugely popular in the Dakotas, where Byron Dorgan and Tom Daschle are, although Daschle is by far the more vulnerable of the two. Barbara Boxer will be in serious trouble if Schwarzenegger runs against her, as will New York's Chuck Schumer if Giuliani runs against him. Blanche Lincoln's seat in Arkansas will come under assault from Asa Hutchison or Gov. Mike Huckabee.

The only Republican weak spots are in Illinois and Alaska, and Bush will probably save Alaska because he's so popular there. Jim Edgar will probably succeed on his own in Illinois. Pennsylvania could be a wild card because Sen. Arlen Specter and Rep. Pat Toomey will have a bloody primary. Even so, that leaves the Democrats at a huge disadvantage.

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