By Doug Heye, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
"President Obama and Vice-President Joseph R. Biden won't be on the midterm ballot next year, but their former Senate seats will be," writes the Washington Times' Donald Lambro.
Though the states, Delaware and Illinois, are both considered blue--and Obama and Biden would have been shoo-ins for reelection--their Senate seats are not only on the ballots, they're up for grabs.
In Delaware, state Attorney General and Iraq war veteran Beau Biden is widely expected to throw his hat into the race against longtime GOP Congressman Mike Castle.
Castle, who represents an at-large district and has been elected statewide repeatedly (he's also the former governor), is well liked by Delaware voters--including Democrats. Attacking Castle is a strategy likely to backfire. Indeed, campaign observers wanting to see fireworks won't see them here--a Biden/Castle campaign could be one of the friendliest in memory. Current polling shows Castle leading Biden and the Rothenberg Political Report has listed the race as a "lean Republican takeover."
Illinois' Senate race looks to put state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, the Democrat, against Republican Congressman Mark Kirk. Rated a toss-up by both the Cook Political Report and the Rothenberg report, polling shows the race to be a deadlock--a recent Rasmussen poll had Kirk down, but within the margin of error, 42-39. That Illinois Democrats are still stinging from the Rod Blagojevich scandal and appointment of Roland Burris to the United States Senate, along with allegations of Giannoulias' own scandal-related issues can't help.
One year out, anything could happen. Democrats could well win one, or both of these races. So far, however, they remain on defense and forced to commit resources that might be better spent elsewhere.
Should the GOP pick up these seats, it will, obviously, be seen as a stinging and personal rebuke of the Obama administration. No doubt, should President Obama's approval numbers improve, it would help the Democrats' cause. But 2008 isn't shaping up to be a Democratic year, to say the least, and aren't Obama's falling approval numbers the cause of much what has made the political landscape throughout the nation so difficult for Democrats?