Tuesday, October 21, 2008
New CQ ratings have Democrats abuzz
The Congressional Quarterly recently published its revised analysis of United States House of Representative races. If their analysis is accurate, it could be a long night for Republicans around the nation.
South Carolina saw two races shift. Henry Brown in District One found his "Republican favored" status downgraded to "leaning Republican." Joe Wilson found his "solid Republican" status downgraded to "Republican favored."
Such shifts have South Carolina Democrats abuzz. However, how excited should the Democrats be and how worried should the Republicans be? Let's break it down.
First, this is a good year for the Democrats. The financial crisis, and the pork laden bailout plan has given the Democrats new found ammunition against Republican incumbents. There is little doubt about that. Add to that the excitement and expected high voter turnout in the African American community for Obama and things are a bit troublling or exciting, depending upon your point of view. However, is that enough to knock off Brown and Wilson?
Let's start with Joe Wilson in the Second. Wilson is running against a respectable opponent, his first in a General Election. Rob Miller is a Iraq veteran who comes from the opposite base of the district than Wilson. Further, Miller has raised enough money in which ignoring him would be dangerous.
Miller's problem is Wilson is not ignoring him. Wilson is campaigning hard and has a nice financial war chest in which to do so. Further, having worked for Wilson years ago, I can attest to the fact that Wilson has the constituent service touch that is often the difference for a Republican incumbent in a Democratic year. Having learned from the late Floyd Spence, who held the seat prior to Wilson, Wilson hits every festival, parade and the like. Wilson shakes every hand in the cafe he has lunch in, makes sure constituent calls are returned and knows the details of ground campaigning better than any other major Republican official in South Carolina today. Wilson does not seem to have ambitions for the statewide office. He seems content and dedicated to serving as the Congressman from the Second Congressional District. That sort of content and dedication often comes through to voters. As a result voters will often vote for an incumbent that might disagree on a good many issues with. In South Carolina, I call it the "Fritz Hollings factor." And, that factor is hard to beat. Look for Wilson to win, though likely by the closest margin he has won the district by so far.
Henry Brown's situation in the First is bit more troubling for Republicans. Brown has not worked his district to the extent that Wilson has worked his. Further, I believe the Brown forces were caught a bit off guard by the unexpectedly strong campaign of Linda Ketner. Ketner was first dismissed by Republican consultants and bloggers alike as a liberal gay rights activist. However, she has run a surprisingly strong campaign.
There are things to hit Ketner hard about, such as a her out of state fund raising, her support from Emily's list and her far left social points of view. However, the out of state money issue is harder to stick because of all the hubbub about Howard Rich and his friends from New York and Florida funding Republican candidates in South Carolina. Add to that Brown's run ins with the Bush Administration regarding matters pertaining to Brown's personal property.
The demographics of the First also need to be considered. A good many voters in the district are transplants from other parts of the country. Those transplants seem to be more independent in their election decisions. More of then than any other group in South Carolina are apt to vote for McCain and Ketner.
Henry Brown does have an ace in the hole, so to speak, named Rod Shealy. While some might want to count Shealy and his operation out due to Shealy's recent health problems, I do not. Shealy is another one of those old soldiers who likes to wait in the tall grass and pounce when it counts the most. In the next couple of weeks, watch for that. That will likely be the difference and deliver Brown a fifth term. Hopefully, Brown will win and this will be a wakeup call to his people. The situation as it is should never have happened, even with the Obama factor in a Democratic year. If Ketner somehow wins, it will be a signal that the South Carolina Republican Party has taken a big step backwards.
In short, Wilson will win. Brown should win. We Republicans can no longer take anything for granted in South Carolina.