Category Archives: Senate

Graves Out in Minn.; Tillis Commits In N.C.

When Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) announced that she will not seek re-election to a fifth term in the House at the end of last week, her action set in motion another political move. The congresswoman’s 2012 opponent, businessman Jim Graves (D), who held her to a 50.5 – 49.3 percent re-election victory on the heels of Bachmann’s unsuccessful presidential campaign, had previously announced his intention to seek a re-match.

Responding to Bachmann’s retirement announcement, Graves followed suit. Over the weekend, the Democrat announced that he is “suspending” his 2014 congressional campaign. He is unlikely to re-start his political effort.

Minnesota’s 6th District is the safest Republican seat in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Though Bachmann only barely survived, 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney scored a 56.5 – 41.5 percent advantage over President Obama in the district. Romney carried only one other Minnesota CD, the 7th (53.9 percent), ironically represented by Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson.

At this point, neither party has an official 6th District candidate. That will soon change, as a number of Republican hopefuls are about to come forward. Without Graves in the on the Democratic side, the eventual GOP nominee should cruise to election in the fall of 2014.

NC-Senate

The North Carolina Senate race is one of the campaign opportunities that has so far confounded the Republicans. With a vulnerable Democratic incumbent, first-term Sen. Kay Hagan (D), the GOP leadership was surprisingly having trouble recruiting a candidate. In the past few days, that situation has changed.

Thom Tillis, 52, is the Speaker of the NC House of Representatives. First elected to the state House in 2006, Tillis was chosen by his colleagues to lead the chamber when the Republicans captured the majority in the 2010 elections. Late last week he made official his quest for the US Senate.
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Arkansas Gun Ads

The Mayors Against Illegal Guns organization, founded and largely funded by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s political operation, has launched an air attack against Arkansas Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor (above). The senator opposed the background check legislation that recently died in the Senate. In response, Pryor launched his own counter-ad (below).

http://youtu.be/m5JDuTkHt20

Chafee Changes in RI; Fortenberry Stays in Nebraska

Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee has come full circle. The son of former governor and senator John Chafee (R), Lincoln, then the Republican mayor of Warwick, RI, was appointed to the US Senate succeeding his late father in 1999. He then won election to a full term in 2000, but began straying further and further to the left through the first six years of the George W. Bush administration.

In the anti-Republican year of 2006, Sen. Chafee was turned out of office in this most Democratic of states at the hands of former Rhode Island Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse (D). Embittered by his defeat and some Bush Administration policy directives such as the Iraq War, Chafee left the Republican Party and became an Independent. Returning to run in a three-way race for the open governor’s seat in 2010, Chafee made his comeback successful, becoming the only Independent elected to a gubernatorial post in that particular election year.

Yesterday, Gov. Chafee completed his conversion to the Democratic Party by officially registering as a member. He did this for purely political reasons, thinking the action would bolster his desperate re-election chances. Chafee’s approval ratings are arguably the worst in the nation. Nate Sliver’s 538 website (May 28 data table) recently gathered job approval scores for 41 governors who are measured in 2013 public polling data. Of the 41, Gov. Chafee placed dead last, scoring a miserable 26:69 percent favorable to unfavorable ratio.

Chafee has never been known as one who executes brilliant political moves, and this action may actually make his re-election even more difficult. The first primary election before the new electorate is always the most tenuous for a party-switcher and already two major Democratic office holders appear poised to enter the gubernatorial campaign. It is unlikely that Chafee now joining the Democratic Party will dissuade either state Treasurer Gina Raimondo or Providence Mayor Angel Taveras from running against him.
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The Bogus Tie

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

Public Policy Polling just tested Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R) political strength through a liberal Senate Majority PAC-sponsored push poll (May 23-24; 556 registered Kentucky voters). The data projects McConnell to be in a flat-footed tie (45-45 percent) with Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D); but in reality, the veteran senator is in much better position.

Though Grimes might be the Democrats’ strongest potential senatorial candidate, it is highly unlikely that she will run. Despite repeated overtures from Democratic leaders asking her to enter the race, Grimes has yet to make any move that suggests she is contemplating such a move.

The Senate Majority PAC polling questionnaire is far from being objective. Containing inflammatory statements against McConnell, the poll is designed to obtain negative responses about him. Examine their questions:

  • Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? “Mitch McConnell is part of the problem in Washington, DC, and has forgotten about the people of Kentucky.” Result: Agree, 50-40 percent
  • Mitch McConnell has voted to cut taxes for millionaires like himself, while supporting cuts to Social Security and Medicare for hard-working Kentucky seniors. Does this make you more or less likely to vote for him, or does it not make a difference? Result: Less Likely, 50-23 percent
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Nebraska’s Heineman Won’t Run

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman (R) announced over the holiday weekend that he will not run for his state’s open US Senate seat next year, ending more than 13 weeks of political speculation concerning his decision. Heineman said he believed a campaign would take away from serving his final 18 months as governor but, at least at one point, claimed he was very close to becoming a federal candidate.

Heineman’s decision now opens up what should be a fierce campaign to replace one-term Sen. Mike Johanns (R), a former governor and US Agriculture Secretary, who decided not to seek re-election. All potential candidates had been awaiting Heineman’s decision, because his popularity is such that no person in either party is likely to defeat him.

The Democrats are in the more precarious position because they are now staring at two open statewide races with a depleted political bench. Former two-term senator and governor Bob Kerrey returned to the state last year and went down to an ignominious 58-42 percent defeat at the hands of then state senator Deb Fischer (R). The result left the Democrats in a politically moribund state as Kerrey was always viewed as the party’s best possible standard bearer. For him to lose as badly as he did to a state legislator in what should have been a strong Democratic year, casts major doubt over the party’s 2014 prospects.

That being said, the Democrats will likely concentrate on the open gubernatorial campaign, a position more important to party leaders. Heineman, who will be the longest-serving governor in the state’s history (10 years at the end of his term), is ineligible to seek re-election. At this point, the Democrats’ strongest candidate may be Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler. He will likely run statewide, but probably as a gubernatorial candidate, thus by-passing the Senate contest. Beyond Beutler, their options are few.
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South Dakota Dems: Going, Going . . .

The Politico newspaper ran a story yesterday detailing a strategic political difference between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and former leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) over who should be the South Dakota Democratic senatorial nominee. The party is battling to hold retiring Sen. Tim Johnson’s (D) seat. We analyze a number of points related to this contest below.

First: Polling shows, and most people believe, that former representative Stephanie Herseth Sandlin would be the Democrats’ strongest candidate. Sen. Reid was clearly in this camp, but Daschle was apparently a major force behind his former aide, Rick Weiland, entering the race. Last week, soon after Weiland’s announcement, the former congresswoman made public her decision not to run.

Analysis: While Herseth Sandlin showed best against GOP former governor Mike Rounds in early ballot test polling, she was still consistently trailing. Though she successfully served three terms, the ex-member did lose her House seat as a sitting incumbent. The fact that she fails to lead a poll in what could well be the apex of her candidacy is a good indication that she may not be the ideal 2014 Democratic standard bearer, and probably made the right decision in bypassing the race.

Second: The prevailing wisdom suggests that the Democrats should field a more conservative candidate who would have greater appeal to the South Dakota electorate. Conversely, Weiland argues, “You run a Republican against a Republican, you’re going to elect a Republican.”

Analysis: The record since 2006 seems to back Weiland’s assessment. Moderates of both parties have not fared well during this four-election period, as their ranks in both houses have become badly depleted. Particularly in 2006, ’08 and ’10, an anti-incumbency strain that affected both parties became more of a driving factor than  Continue reading >

Georgia Senate Race Now Defined

On the heels of representatives John Barrow (D-GA-12) and Tom Price (D-GA-6) both making public their decisions not to run, it appears that a set open-seat field of Georgia Senate race contenders is in place, some 14 months before the 2014 primary election.

Former Secretary of State Karen Handel, who was expected to run for the Senate once Price made clear that he will stay in the House, and businessman David Perdue now join representatives Jack Kingston (R-GA-1), Paul Broun (R-GA-10), and Phil Gingrey (R-GA-11) in vying for the Republican senatorial nomination and the right to succeed retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R).

Handel and Perdue entering the race greatly changes the campaign. Now with five strong candidates, the Georgia Republican senatorial primary will likely be the most interesting nomination battle in the entire country.

Handel began her career in the private sector before landing a position on Marilyn Quayle’s staff when Dan Quayle, was vice president. Handel later became deputy chief of staff to Gov. Sonny Perdue (R-GA). Her first elected position was as Fulton County commission chair. From that office, she launched a successful bid for secretary of state in 2006.

Four years later, Handel joined a similarly crowded field in the open governor’s race. She placed first in the primary, capturing 34.1 percent of the vote, topping her six opponents. Former Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA-9) slipped into the second run-off position, gliding past insurance commissioner John Oxendine, who had been the early front-runner. But things did not go as well for her in the August run-off. She and Deal basically fought to a draw, but the former congressman (Deal had resigned his House seat prior to the primary election) nipped her at the end and claimed a 50.2-49.8 percent win, a margin of just 2,519 votes of just under 580,000 cast.

David Perdue is the former Chief Executive Officer of both the Dollar General and  Continue reading >