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House Dem 254   GOP 177  

2010 Senate Races (colors are from 2004 races for the time being)
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PW logo Can Blumenthal Hang On? What to Watch in Pennsylvania
What to Watch in Arkansas What to Watch in Kentucky
Blumenthal Invents a War Record Spitzer Not Making Comeback This Year

News from the Votemaster            

Four Key Primaries Today     Permalink

Today is the super Tuesday of Senate primaries with four major contests on tap. From north to south, first is Pennsylvania, where former Republican and currrent very loyal Democrat Arlen Specter (D-PA) is in the fight of his life for the Democratic senatorial nomination. Why an 80-year with Hodgkin's disease who has already served 30 years in the Senate wants another term is something only Specter knows, but he is fighting hard for it. When he jumped ship to the Democrats, he got the entire Democratic establishment to sign onto his campaign and they all loyally campaigned for him. He is facing retired Rear Admiral and two-term congressman Joe Sestak (D-PA). For most of the year, Specter was 20 points ahead, but then Sestak began running an ad statewide accusing Specter of trying to save only one job--his--and poof, Specter's lead vanished. All the polls show it to be a tossup now. A lot depends on turnout in Philadelphia, Specter's base, and rain is expected there today, which might reduce turnout. A smaller turnout might mean that only dedicated activists will vote and Sestak is the darling of the netroots--not because he is so liberal--but because many bloggers think if Specter is reelected he will be as unreliable a vote for the Democrats as he was for the Republicans.

Next we hit Kentucky, with two senatorial primaries. The GOP primary is between Secretary of State Trey Grayson (R) and ophthalmologist Rand Paul. Grayson is the handpicked choice of minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who forced Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) into retirement by drying up his sources of campaign funding. Paul is the son of perennial presidential candidate and always gadfly Ron Paul. A victory by Paul--and polls show this is likely--will be a major win for the tea partiers, who are still cheering about knocking off Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT) in the state convention. It will be a big defeat for McConnell and establishment Republicans everywhere. If a doctor with no political experience and eccentric views on everything can take down an elected public official with a strong track record and the backing of the most powerful politician in the state, what else is in store for them? And Ron Paul has four other adult children. They could form their own Senate caucus. A Paul victory is likely to move Republicans elsewhere to the right, which may help in primaries but probably won't help in the general election.

Speaking of doctors, the Democrats also have one running for the Senate in Kentucky, namely Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo (D-KY). He ran against Bunning in 2004 and came within a whisker of winning. However this time he is engaged in a nasty primary with state Attorney General Jack Conway (D). Conway is slightly more liberal of the two and has strong backing from the netroots. Mongiardo is probably the establishment choice, but he and Gov. Steve Beshear (D-KY) are known not to get along that well. It could be close.

The final contested primary is in Arkansas where Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) is fighting for her political life. She was one of the conservative Democrats who tried to slow down or stop the health-insurance bill, which earned her the enmity of the left. She also was polling very badly against the likely Republican candidate, Rep. John Boozman (R-AR), and this is probably what encouraged Lt. Gov. Bill Halter (D-AR) to jump into the race. He polls better against Boozman than Lincoln, but the Democratic establishment is on her side. No matter who wins the primary, Boozman is the favorite in the general election.

This race could have an effect on the bank reform bill before the Senate now. Lincoln, as chairman of the Senate Agriculture committee, wrote and shepherded through the committee a measure to ban banks from dealing in derivatives, one of the causes of the current recession. Major Democrats don't like this provision (because the banks and Republicans are against it and it could threaten the entire bill) but don't want to kill it just now because it would reflect badly on Lincoln and make it appear that she has no clout. But if she fails to get 50% in the primary, there will be a runoff between her and Halter in June, forcing Senate Democrats to either (1) delay the bankiing bill until June (2) kill the provision and hurt Lincoln or (3) accept the provision and have to deal with angry banks and a potential Republican filibuster.

Special Election for Murtha's Seat Today     Permalink

When Rep. John Murtha died earlier this year, that triggered a A special election for his seat that will be held today. PA-12 is a swing district (R+1) and is the only district in the country that voted for both John Kerry in 2004 and John McCain in 2008. Clearly they like people named John there, but neither the Democrat, Mark Critz, nor the Republican, Tim Burns, is named John, so it could go either way.

Special Election in Hawaii This Week     Permalink

Republican Charles Djou is likely to flip a House seat in a special election this week because the Democrats are probably going to split the vote in HI-01, a seat vacated by Neil Abercrombie so he could run for governor. The district is D+11, but neither Democrat is willing to drop out and Hawaii law says the candidate with the most votes wins. There are no runoffs in Hawaii. Even if Djou wins, he will be a congressman for only 7 months as the Democrats are sure to win the seat back in November when they will be more unified. The election is a mail-in election and will be over May 22.

The problem here is that the Democratic establishment backs former representative Ed Case (D) but powerful senator Daniel Inouye backs state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa. Part of this is racial--Inouye and Hanabusa are Japanse-Americans, but part of the problem is that Case challenged Inouye's colleague and long-time friend Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) in 2006 and Inouye has not forgiven him. The DCCC threw up its hands and abandoned the race, effectively conceding it to Djou.

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