The Beltway Bandit

An online journal of politics, culture, and sports

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

A NEW SENATE LEADER FOR THE DEMS? -- There has been some talk in the blogosphere lately about replacing Tom Daschle [D-SD] as Minority Leader in the U.S. Senate. I tend to think the dump Daschle crowd are on to something, but we should not necessarily expect too much from a replacement. Being a leader in the Senate is tough. Minority Leader is tough. Majority Leader is tougher. When you're a Senate leader, your entire caucus is composed of egomaniacs who think they are smarter than you are. What's more the rules of the Senate make it very difficult, especially for Majority Leaders, to have their way. It's much easier to run a tight ship in the House, as the Republicans are demonstrating.

Pandagon is suggesting Hillary Clinton [D-NY] as the new Dem leader in the Senate, touting her fundraising skills and political savvy. It's an interesting thought and one I would not dismiss, but I think the best candidate is Christopher Dodd [D-CT]. Dodd is more partisan and telegenic than Daschle and has far more experience in the Senate than Clinton. Dodd finished second to Daschle in the leadership race some years ago and I think he'd make a fine replacement. He's articulate, does well on television, is a reliable liberal, and enjoys a safe seat immunity--which Daschle emphatically does not.

THE BELTWAY BANDIT POWER POLL: WEEK 13

01. Kansas City Chiefs [11-1]: They don't always destroy their opponents, but have been very efficient at putting games away. [No change]

02. New England Patriots [10-2]: Have not lost since a week four defeat at Washington when the team was riddled with injuries. With victories in 10 of their last 11 games, the Patriots are not only well coached and professional, they're hotter than fire. [+2]

03. Indianapolis Colts [9-3]: Tough loss at home to New England proves the Colts are good, but still not good enough to win big games against top opponents. [No change]

04. Tennessee Titans [9-3]: Steve McNair did not look healthy in Monday night loss to the Jets. The Titans depend completely on McNair and if he is not right in December, the Titans will have to play road games in the playoffs. [-2]

05. Philadelphia Eagles [9-3]: Establishing themselves as the class of the NFC. If they can beat Dallas this Sunday, Philly's only real competition in the NFC will be theā€¦ [No change]

06. St. Louis Rams [9-3]: I still have grave doubts about the Rams defense, but a 48-17 pasting of the Vikings proves there is nothing wrong with the offense. [No change]

07. Miami Dolphins [8-4]: Did what few teams can do: Went into Dallas on Thanksgiving Day and embarrassed the Cowboys. A huge matchup against New England looms this week. Miami must win or be content with a wild card berth. [+2]

08. Seattle Seahawks [8-4]: The 'hawks have doubtful killer instinct and a terrible record on the road, but the talent is all there. They just need some consistency. Destroying a team like Cleveland was a step in the right direction. [+2]

09. Dallas Cowboys [8-4]: All year long I've suspected this team was just waiting to be exposed. On Thanksgiving Day it happened. Dallas has a small defensive front seven that can be handled by a physical offense. Bill Parcells and Defensive Coordinator Dave Zimmer have ably masked this weakness most of the year, but Miami Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner laid it bare last week. Did the rest of the league notice? [-2]

10. Carolina Panthers [8-4]: This is another team that benefits from a smart coaching staff that hides weaknesses. Now, however, the Panthers are beginning to struggle and--worse still--against NFC teams. Carolina barely put away a lousy Redskins team and then lost back-to-back games against Dallas and Philadelphia. With their division in a shambles, the Panthers should still control the NFC South, but trouble looms in January for Carolina. [-2]

11. Cincinnati Bengals [7-5]: Never-say-die team is aided by a great head coach and a journeyman quarterback, Jon Kitna, who is playing like an MVP candidate. [No change]

12. Baltimore Ravens [7-5]: Defense is crushing opponents and offense has come alive. A Sunday game with Cincinnati should decide the championship of the AFC North. [+1]

13. Denver Broncos [7-5]: Win over Oakland was unimpressive, but Denver will take anything it can get right now. A tough battle for a wild card berth looms, however, and failure to make the playoffs should turn the heat up on Mike Shanahan. [+3]

14. New Orleans Saints [6-6]: Rallied for a tough road win outdoors in Washington. The defense looks shaky, though, and so does QB Aaron Brooks. How long and how far can TB Deuce McAllister carry this team? We'll find out. [+4]

15. Green Bay Packers [6-6]: Favre has thrown six interceptions in the last two games and is doing more to hurt his team than help right now. Being outdueled by Joey Harrington on Thanksgiving Day must have been humbling for the three-time MVP winner, but the Packers still have a good chance at the playoffs because their main competition is falling apart. [-3]

16. Minnesota Vikings [7-5]: The Vikings are Green Bay's main competition. The defense is finished. The offense cannot keep up. The dream is over. [-2]

17. New York Jets [5-7]: Tough win at home over Tennessee keeps their playoff hopes alive, but the Jets are just playing for pride right now. QB Chad Pennington's stellar play since returning from injury raises the fans' hopes and breaks their hearts with thoughts of what might have been. [+3]

18. Chicago Bears [5-7]: Hard not to admire this team for refusing to give up. Their season is essentially over, but the Bears are still playing hard and are now even winning some games. [+3]

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers [5-7]: Loss to Jacksonville on Sunday night was the final straw for this team. The Bucs have thrown in the towel less than a year after winning the first Super Bowl in franchise history. Look for big changes in the offseason. [-3]

20. San Francisco 49ers [5-7]: Tony Bennett left his heart in San Francisco, so maybe he'd lend it to a team that has no heart of its own. A 44-6 defeat at the hands of the Ravens puts an end to San Francisco's season with a giant thud. [-3]

21. Houston Texans [5-7]: Talk about the benefits of good scheduling; the Texans were the last team to catch the Falcons without Michael Vick in the lineup. [+2]

22. Buffalo Bills [5-7]: Every once in a while the Bills offense scores a TD on the road. Last week it happened three times in the Meadowlands. [+3]

23. Pittsburgh Steelers [4-8]: Tough loss to Cincy, but it just reminds everyone in the Steel Town that those ain't yer father's Bengals. [-1]

24. New York Giants [4-8]: Fans leaving early, blowout losses at home, ancient and reclusive owner actually speaking publicly about the sorry state of his team? All this adds up to bad news for the New York Giants and their walking dead coach, Jim Fassel. The only question now is whether or not the team mails in the last four games. [-5]

25. Washington Redskins [4-8]: Still playing hard, but bad coaching is undoing the Redskins. This team would be a decent hockey club, but, unfortunately, they play four quarters in football. [+1]

26. Cleveland Browns [4-8]: William Green has gone AWOL after his drug suspension and the quarterback shuffle isn't working because Couch and Holcombe are not any good. It's time to start holding the front office responsible for some of these problems. [-2]

27. Detroit Lions [4-8]: Big Thanksgiving Day win buoys their spirits until Joey Harrington's next interception blue plate special. [+1]

28. Jacksonville Jaguars [3-9]: With good young players on the defensive line, a tailback like Fred Taylor and the next Dan Marino at quarterback, the Jags could take a big step forward next year. [Don't believe me about the Marino comparison? Then you must have missed rookie Byron Leftwich carving up Tampa on Sunday night.] [+3]

29. Oakland Raiders [3-9]: Fire everybody. [-2]

30. Arizona Cardinals [3-9]: Rookie star WR Anquan Boldin is the only bright spot in another dark year in the desert. [-1]

31. Atlanta Falcons [2-11]: Save us, Mike! Save us! [-1]

32. San Diego Chargers [2-11]: Game Doug Flutie won't quit, even if the rest of the team [and most of the fans] already have. [No change]