Sabato's Crystal Ball

Low-Carb Convention Wrap

Peter Jackson, Senior Correspondent August 30th, 2004

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May We Present the Republican Candidates for U.S. Senate

While the focus of this week will be on President Bush, his first-term accomplishments and his plans for another, the Monday morning session showcased seven Republican candidates for Senate. After an introduction by National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) Chairman George Allen (R-VA), the candidates proceeded to deliver quick stump speeches sticking to this week’s talking points.

Some highlights from the four candidates in the most contested races:

A senior Republican strategist has told the Crystal Ball that this was not at the bequest of the Bush-Cheney campaign and that candidates drafted their own speeches. The timing of the speeches, a minute to two minutes at most, also limited the speeches themselves and probably kept other notable Senate candidates from attending.

But, it’s hard not to notice the absence of a few other key GOP Senate candidates–namely Lisa Murkowski (AK), Johnny Isakson (SC), and David Vitter (LA)–all entangled in tough races.

In addition, the speculation among the news media and some Republicans is that Mel Martinez-should he win his primary tomorrow-will be added to the speaking lineup. Martinez is without a doubt the favorite of the Bush campaigns-both Jeb and George-and adding another Hispanic speaker running in a tight Senate race to the GOP lineup in primetime is an obvious plus. The latest Hill Research (R) poll shows him four points behind Bill McCollum. Essentially, it’s a dead-heat and not even your Crystal Ball is willing to place a bet.

The big question for Republican Senate candidates is whether these four days help or hurt them in their respective races. Without a huge chunk of time allotted for a candidate to speak on the floor with the news cameras rolling, it doesn’t make strategic sense to commit. Most of them could raise a large sum of campaign dollars in the time it takes them to get in and out of the convention hall. And your Crystal Ball wouldn’t dream of flying from Alaska to the Big Apple-as Senator Murkowski would have to-because a trip like that makes political prognostications too cloudy for our taste. Of course, surging popularity for Bush generally translates to coattails in November and this isn’t their show, it’s the president’s. But with control of the Senate in question, the White House isn’t the only building Democrats hope to control next year and Senate candidates will want to do what serves them best.

Primetime Viewing Guide

With the convention called to order this morning by Chairman Ed Gillespie, the Crystal Ball returns with its schedule of evening coverage. Of course PBS is the only network providing coverage-from 8pm until 11pm-until the rest of the networks start tomorrow night. C-SPAN is also providing gavel-to-gavel coverage all week long.

Today’s theme has been “A Nation of Courage.” Tonight’s line-up includes a tribute to President Ford, recognition of the first family, Arizona Senator John McCain and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.