Sen­a­tors should have shown them the money

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

En­ter­ing the post-pri­mary pres­i­den­tial cam­paign of 2004, po­lit­i­cal strate­gists, com­men­ta­tors and jour­nal­ists be­lieved that if any sin­gle state would rep­re­sent the dif­fer­ence be­tween vic­tory and de­feat in the gen­eral elec­tion, Ohio would be that state. As it hap­pened, that uni­ver­sally ac­cepted con­ven­tional wis­dom proved to be ab­so­lutely cor­rect. Thus, to­day, more than two years later, strate­gists from both par­ties are still scratch­ing their heads over John Kerry’s fail­ure to legally trans­fer to Ohio, which he lost 51-49, a large chunk of the $12.4 mil­lion that re­mained in his pre­con­ven­tion cam­paign ac­count at the end of 2004.

In the same vein as Mr. Kerry’s mis­judg­ment, dozens of Repub­li­can sen­a­tors re­turned to Wash­ing­ton this week as mem­bers of the mi­nor­ity party. They know full well that their fail­ure to help fi­nance many Repub­li­can sen­a­tors’ cam­paigns was a ma­jor fac­tor in the elec­toral de­ba­cle that has cost their party ev­ery sin­gle com­mit­tee and sub­com­mit­tee chair­man­ship. More than 50 days af­ter Democrats de­feated six Repub­li­can in­cum­bents to cap­ture a de facto 51-49 ma­jor­ity in the Se­nate, it makes no more sense now than it did be­fore the elec­tion, when nu­mer­ous Repub­li­can sen­a­tors ig­nored calls to trans­fer a por­tion of their own bulging war chests to a hand­ful of piv­otal states.

Just as ev­ery­one knew that Ohio would be the de­ci­sive bat­tle­ground state for the 2004 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, we all knew which states were go­ing to make the dif­fer­ence in de­ter­min­ing which party would con­trol the Se­nate in the in­com­ing 110th Congress. For months ev­ery­body knew that Novem­ber’s tight races would in­clude: Mis­souri, where Sen. Jim Tal­ent, who nar­rowly de­feated an in­cum­bent in a spe­cial elec­tion four years ago, had a real fight on his hands; Rhode Is­land, where the White House and the Na­tional Repub­li­can Sen­a­to­rial Com­mit­tee (NRSC) held their col­lec­tive noses and strongly backed lib­eral in­cum­bent Lin­coln Chafee over a bona fide con­ser­va­tive in the sum­mer pri­mary be­cause they be­lieved (rightly) that Mr. Chafee would have a much bet­ter chance in the gen­eral elec­tion; and Ten­nessee, where Ma­jor­ity Leader Bill Frist was re­tir­ing. Sev­eral weeks be­fore Elec­tion Day, it also be­came clear that Vir­ginia Repub­li­can Sen. Ge­orge Allen was in po­lit­i­cal dan­ger and that Mon­tana Re- publi­can Sen. Con­rad Burns had erased the large lead that his Demo­cratic op­po­nent had built ear­lier.

Those were the five clos­est races on cred­i­ble po­lit­i­cal score­cards. Shortly be­fore Elec­tion Day, the con­sen­sus view was that the races in Mis­souri, Vir­ginia and Mon­tana were all in­cred­i­bly tight. Repub­li­can in­cum­bents held all three seats. In the end, Mr. Tal­ent lost in Mis­souri by fewer than 50,000 votes among the more than two mil­lion cast (49.6 per­cent to 47.3 per­cent); Mr. Allen lost in Vir­ginia by fewer than 10,000 votes among the nearly 2.5 mil­lion cast (49.6-49.2); and Mr. Burns lost by fewer than 3,000 votes among the nearly 400,000 cast (49.1-48.4). For the record: Alabama Repub­li­can Richard Shelby, who lost his chair­man­ship of the Se­nate Bank­ing Com­mit­tee when he be­came the panel’s rank­ing mi­nor­ity mem­ber this month, gave only $15,000 to the NRSC. Mr. Shelby, who last won re-elec­tion with 68 per­cent of the vote against an op­po­nent who spent less than $5,000, has $11.6 mil­lion in his war chest for his next re-elec­tion cam­paign in 2010.

Texas Repub­li­can Sen. Kay Bai­ley Hutchi­son won her 2006 elec­tion (62-36) and fin­ished her cam­paign with $7.3 mil­lion in the bank. All she gave the NRSC was a $115,000 do­na­tion. Fel­low Texas Repub­li­can Sen. John Cornyn, who had $2.8 mil­lion in the bank on Sept. 30 in prepa­ra­tion for his likely cake­walk in 2008, gave the NRSC $50,000 in 2006.

Repub­li­can Utah Sen. Or­rin Hatch, who used to chair the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, won re-elec­tion this year (62-31), fin­ish­ing his cam­paign with more than $2.5 mil­lion in the bank. That’s more than 12 times the $200,000 he gave the NRSC.

Richard Lu­gar, who would have re­mained chair­man of the For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee for the 110th Congress if Repub­li­cans had re­tained their ma­jor­ity, won his sixth term this year by an 87-13 mar­gin against an op­po­nent who spent vir­tu­ally noth­ing. Alas, Mr. Lu­gar will re­turn as rank­ing mi­nor­ity mem­ber of the for­eign-af­fairs panel, which will be chaired by Demo­cratic Sen. Joe Bi­den. In­com­ing Chair­man Bi­den gave the Demo­cratic Sen­a­to­rial Cam­paign Com­mit­tee (DSCC) $200,000, 33 per­cent more than the sum given to the NRSC by in­com­ing rank­ing mi­nor­ity mem­ber Lu­gar, who fin­ished his cam­paign with $2.1 mil­lion in the bank.

Iowa Repub­li­can Charles Grass­ley will lose his chair­man­ship of the Se­nate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee to Demo­cratic Sen. Max Bau­cus of Mon­tana. Mr. Grass­ley, who faces re-elec­tion in 2010, had $2 mil­lion in the bank on Sept. 30, which was 10 times the $200,000 he gave to the NRSC.

Ge­or­gia Repub­li­can Saxby Cham­b­liss, a first-term sen­a­tor who had al­ready climbed the lad­der to the chair­man­ship of the Agri­cul­ture Com­mit­tee, gave the NRSC $120,000 this year. That’s less than 6 per­cent of the more than $2 mil­lion that Sen. Cham­b­liss had in the bank on Sept. 30. He will seek re-elec­tion in 2008 as rank­ing mi­nor­ity mem­ber of the Agri­cul­ture Com­mit­tee. Fel­low Ge­or­gia Repub­li­can Sen. Johnny Isak­son, who won his first term in 2004 by 18 per­cent­age points (58-40), gave the NRSC $25,000 in 2006, which was less than 2 per­cent of the $1.3 mil­lion he had in the bank on Sept. 30.

Repub­li­can Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham, the 51-year-old first-term sen­a­tor from South Carolina who prob­a­bly has a safe seat (he re­placed Strom Thur­mond), is build­ing se­nior­ity on the Armed Ser­vices, Judi- ciary and Bud­get com­mit­tees, where he will serve as a mi­nor­ity mem­ber in the 110th Congress. With nearly $2.5 mil­lion in the bank as of Sept. 30, Mr. Gra­ham gave the NRSC only $50,000.

Mis­sis­sippi Repub­li­can Sen. Trent Lott, the in­com­ing mi­nor­ity whip, eas­ily won his 2006 elec­tion (64-35). He fin­ished the cam­paign with $1.5 mil­lion in the bank, which was 15 times the $100,000 he con­trib­uted to the NRSC. (Cheers to fel­low Mis­sis­sippi Sen. Thad Cochran, the in­com­ing rank­ing mi­nor­ity mem­ber of the Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee who did more than his fair share by do­nat­ing $225,000 to the NRSC this year. That amount rep­re­sented a huge por­tion of his cash on hand in 2006, which to­taled a mere $350,000 on Sept. 30.)

In­com­ing Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, a Repub­li­can from Ken­tucky, was the only Repub­li­can sen­a­tor who gave the NRSC at least $1 mil­lion. By con­trast, Demo­cratic Sens. Dianne Fe­in­stein of Cal­i­for­nia, Ted Kennedy of Mas­sachusetts and Richard Durbin of Illi­nois each gave the DSCC $1 mil­lion as of Oct. 18. And Sen. Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton of New York gave the DSCC $2.1 mil­lion. Al­to­gether, through Oct. 18, Demo­cratic sen­a­tors trans­ferred $10.2 mil­lion to the DSCC from their own cam­paign com­mit­tees, ac­cord­ing to a tally by the Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion. Repub­li­can sen­a­tors gave only $4 mil­lion to the NRSC.

On the mar­gin, the $6 mil­lion dif­fer­ence be­tween what Demo­cratic sen­a­tors gave their party’s na­tional sen­a­to­rial cam­paign com­mit­tee and what Repub­li­cans gave to theirs may very well have meant the dif­fer­ence in pro­duc­ing the Democrats’ nar­row 51-49 ma­jor­ity in the 110th Congress. An ex­tra $6 mil­lion spent by the Repub­li­cans in Vir­ginia, Mis­souri and Mon­tana dur­ing the fi­nal weeks may well have gen­er­ated a nar­row Repub­li­can ma­jor­ity in the Se­nate (and 100 per­cent of the com­mit­tee and sub­com­mit­tee chair­man­ships). As Repub­li­can sen­a­tors com­mis­er­ate among them­selves over their mi­nor­ity sta­tus, many of them should take a mo­ment to look in the mir­ror. There they will find a big rea­son for their dilemma. And if Repub­li­can sen­a­tors want to find out if the po­lit­i­cal mis­for­tunes they have caused them­selves will dis­si­pate af­ter a cou­ple of years, they can ask John Kerry how he feels to­day af­ter squan­der­ing his 2004 op­por­tu­nity.

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