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Jews in the Senior Chamber

Rating the candidates’ chances

Dan Klein
October 12, 2010
Sens. Ron Wyden (L) and Chuck Schumer (R).(Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Sens. Ron Wyden (L) and Chuck Schumer (R).(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Democratic politicians are bracing for big losses three weeks from today. According to election-predicting honcho Nate Silver (to whom many apologies), eight senators are likely to turnover their seats. According to The Scroll, three are Members of the Tribe: Russ Feingold, Michael Bennet, and Arlen Specter—who in fact did lose his seat in the primary.

Barbara Boxer’s chances have improved; she is likely to hold her California seat. Meanwhile, Chuck Schumer and Ron Wyden seem favorites to keep theirs. On the other hand, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal will likely gain a seat, while challengers Lee Fisher, Rodney Glassman, and Paul Hodes are too far behind to recover. There are 14 Jewish senators; next year, there could be eight, 17, or something in between.

Jewish candidate: Richard Blumenthal (D).
Opponent: Linda McMahon (R).
Who’s going to win? In the bag for Blumenthal.
Main issue: The Blumenthal campaign, with a few dangerous bumps, has successfully kept the race a contest between two biographies, rather than a debate over national issues. Both candidates are familiar faces to voters by now: Blumenthal because he’s been attorney general since 1990, McMahon because she pretend-kicked a guy in the nuts on television (presumably harming herself in key demographics). Anyway, there just aren’t enough undecided voters left to swing this one.
Fun fact: If/when Blumenthal wins, Connecticut will be the third state to have two Jewish senators. California (if Boxer holds on, which she likely will) and Wisconsin (if Feingold holds on, which he likely won’t) would be the other two.

Jewish candidate: Senator Michael Bennet (D).
Opponent: Ken Buck (R).
Who’s going to win? Colorado has been trending blue, but Michael Bennet (who is of Jewish and Christian descent) just got appointed at the wrong time. Conventional wisdom is that if the Obama-backed (and Goldberg-backed) Bennet had lost the primary to Clinton-backed co-religionist Andrew Romanoff, this may have been a Democratic Jewish hold. As it is, things are looking up for Buck.
Main issue: Bennet wants this to be about social issues, as Buck often trends far to the right of Coloradans; if he can get voters to change the focus from the economy, he may have a chance.
Fun fact: Senator Al Franken has been campaigning for Bennet by making jokes about Bolsheviks. Topical!

Jewish candidate: Rodney Glassman (D).
Opponent: Senator John McCain (R).
Who’s going to win? Once McCain won the primary, there wasn’t much Glassman could do. Democrats will take this seat when they pry it from his cold dead hands. On the other hand, Glassman is only 32, so expect to hear about him in the future.
Main issue: Glassman opposed Arizona’s controversial immigration law, and has condemned the anti-pork kosher McCain for not bringing enough federal money into Arizona.
Fun fact: Glassman is the co-founder of the Jewish-Latino Coalition.

Jewish candidate: Senator Russ Feingold (D).
Opponent: Ron Johnson (R).
Who’s going to win? All that glitters is not Feingold: Probably Johnson.
Main issue: Feingold is one of the Democrats whom Republicans would most like to take down. He was the lone vote opposing the Patriot Act, worked with John McCain on the signature campaign-finance reform act, and is one of the few politicians running on health care reform. The combination of the Tea Party and low base enthusiasm may mean that the Hebrew liberal lion is down for the count. Johnson, however, is still relatively unknown and the upcoming debates (the first was last night) will be many voters’ first unscripted look at the Republican candidate.
Fun fact: The first time Feingold ran for the Senate, he taped his campaign promises to his garage door.

Jewish candidate: Senator Chuck Schumer (D).
Opponent: Jay Townsend (R).
Who’s going to win? If every Jewish liberal in New York left before Election Day, Schumer would still win.
Main issue: That the state is New York, and Chuck Schumer is in the race.
Fun fact: His ancestors were guardians of the ghetto wall in Chortkov, in present-day Ukraine, he says.

Jewish candidate: Lt. Governor Lee Fisher (D).
Opponent: Former Rep. Rob Portman (R).
Who’s going to win? Ohio (home of the hated Buckeyes and the half of my family that will be sending me angry e-mails in a minute) is the quintessential weather-vane state. This year the wind blows toward Republicans, and therefore Portman.
Main issue: If you yourself are made head of the state Department of Development, and the state proceeds to lose 400,000 jobs, perhaps running for senator isn’t the best choice. This may not be fair, and things may have been worse without Fisher, but that’s not an easy argument to make. Both candidates have close ties to the Jewish community.
Fun facts: Fisher was born in Ann Arbor, and Portman attended the University of Michigan; yet both claim to be Buckeyes fans. This proves neither are to be trusted.
Disclaimer: Go Blue!

Jewish candidate: Senator Barbara Boxer (D).
Opponent: Carly Fiorina.
Who’s going to win? It may be the year of the Tea Party, but it’s still California. Leans Boxer. (Unlike myself, who leans brief.)
Main issue: While the two candidates differ on many issues, this election is about jobs. Endorsements have been another problem: Fiorina over-flouted an endorsement from Sarah Palin in a state where 60 percent of voters have an unfavorable view of her; Boxer was pointedly non-endorsed by The San Francisco Chronicle.
Not the smartest thing she ever said: “Those who survived the San Francisco earthquake said, ‘Thank God, I’m still alive.’ But, of course, those who died, their lives will never be the same again.” No, they won’t, Senator Boxer. No, they won’t.

Jewish candidate: Rep. Paul Hodes (D).
Opponent: Kelly Ayotte (R).
Who’s going to win? Ayotte has been consistently up in the polls since winning the Republican primary, although only 31 percent of likely voters have settled on a candidate. Though things could change if it turns out that Ayotte dabbled in Skoptsy in high school, or if Hodes saves a baby (or four) from a burning building in the next month, Ayotte has it.
Main issue: Ayotte was the non-Tea Party candidate, which has made it more difficult for Hodes to paint her as an extremist in a moderate state. National Republicans, on the other hand, have worked hard to tie Hodes to the Democratic leadership, even as he has attempted to position himself as a fiscal conservative who voted against the bailout.
Fun facts: Hodes was the president of his congressional freshman class. All the other freshmen’s mothers scolded them for not being like that nice Hodes boy.

Jewish candidate: Senator Ron Wyden (D).
Opponents: Jim Huffman (R); Pavel Goberman (healthy alter kocker).
Who’s going to win? Wyden’s numbers have been hurt by the national atmosphere, but not so much to cost him the seat.
Main Issue: Wyden supports foreigner ants stealing the jobs American ants won’t do. Or something.
Fun fact: Wyden circulated a letter to his fellow senators asking them to condemn the Rotem Bill.

Jewish candidate guy: Senator Arlen Specter (D).
People who are actually running: Joe Sestak (J Street) and Pat Toomey (Emergency Committee for Israel).
Who’s going to win? In general, a Gentile. In particular, Pat Toomey. In a way, Bill Kristol.
Why this is still a Jewish story: This race is kind of weird. Arlen Specter switched parties, robbing Republicans of their only Jewish senator, and then lost the Democratic primary to Joe Sestak. Then, with no Jewish candidates in the race, this became the surrogate electoral battleground for Israeli-American politics: Bill Kristol’s newly formed Pro-Israel, Pro-Committee Emergency Committee for Israel cut an ad attacking Sestak, and then the Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace, Iffy-Soros J Street made their own defending him.
Fun fact: Toomey’s press secretary, Nachama Soloveichik, is “an heir to America’s leading Orthodox rabbinic dynasty.”

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