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News from the Votemaster

Competitive Senate Primaries Ahead

Many states have their presidential and Senate primaries on different days, often months apart. The main reason is that states keep moving their presidential primaries forward to have a bigger voice in the selection of the national candidates, but for statewide races they have kept their traditional dates, sometimes as late as September. As a consequence, there are 16 states where we don't (officially) know the Senate candidates yet. Today we will divide the states that haven't held their primaries yet into three categories.

  • Competitive races in full swing
  • It's all over but the shoutin'
  • Who cares?

Let us look each each category in turn, starting with the major competitive races.

Hawaii. The retirement of Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) is leaving an open seat behind in a very blue state, so there is a naturally a competitive Democratic primary. Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) is running against former representative Ed Case. Recent polling puts Hirono ahead by about 15 points. The Republican nominee will be former governor Linda Lingle.

Missouri. Two top-tier Republicans are competing for the chance to oppose Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) in November, former State Treasurer Sarah Steelman and Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO). However, also in the primary is a tea-party backed businessman, John Brunner. There hasn't been any nonpartisan polling of the primary. Whoever wins will be in a strong position to challenge McCaskill, who barely won in the Democratic wave year of 2006.

Texas. Texas had a primary in May and now has a runoff at the end of July. The tea party backed Republican candidate Ted Cruz is putting up a ferocious battle against Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R-TX), who is backed by the entire Republican establishment. In theory, when a candidate has the clear backing of his party and lots of money, as Dewhurst does, it should be an easy win, but we have seen tea party candidates snatch victories in so many races before that nothing is sure until the voting is over. There hasn't been much neutral polling of the runoff, but Dewhurst did beat Cruz in the first round and is probably the favorite to win the runoff and the general election. The Democrats also have a runoff but it hardly matters.

Wisconsin. With the retirement of Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI), this seat is being fought over fiercely. The Democrats have a candidate, Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), the only openly lesbian member of Congress. The Republicans have a multiway brawl between former governor Tommy Thomson, Rep. Mark Neumann (R-WI), businessman Eric Hovde, and Speaker of the Assembly, Jeff Fitzgerald. Thompson is currently leading, but as primary day approaches, supporters of candidates with no chance may switch.

It's All Over but the Shoutin'

Arizona. With Sen. Jon Kyl's retirement, there is an open seat in this Republican leaning state. Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) is the establishment favorite but he will first have to beat back a challenge from tea party candidate Wil Cardon. Current polling puts him ahead of Cardon by more than 20 points, so it looks like he is going to do that, although in establishment vs. tea party races you never know for sure.

Connecticut. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) wisely decided that running again would not be a fun thing to do given that both parties hate him. Remember that he lost the Democratic primary in 2006, ran as an independent, and won, but the bad blood with the Democrats is still there. Two Democrats are vying for the nomination in this very blue state: Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz. The most recent poll puts Murphy ahead by 30 points. On Republican side, former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon, who ran for the Senate in 2010 and lost to Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) is trying again, but first she has to get past former representative Chris Shays. Polling puts McMahon 30 points ahead of Shays, so it looks like a Murphy-McMahon race. Polling for the general election gives Murphy a small but fluctuating lead.

Florida. The Republican primary started out competitive, but some candidates dropped out and Connie McGillicuddy IV now has an insurmountable lead. He will face Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) in the general election. Polling puts Nelson slightly ahead for the moment, but Florida is going to get a huge amount of attention from the presidential candidates, so a lot could change.

Massachusetts. Technically, the primary is Sept. 6, but the epic general election battle between consumer rights advocate Elizabeth Warren (D) and Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) began long ago.

Michigan. While Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) has some tea party opponents in the Republican primary, he is now so far ahead that the general election campaign has effectively begun, where he will face Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). Recent polling puts her about 10 points ahead of Hoekstra.

Minnesota. At the state Republican convention, state representative Kurt Bills came out on top and all his opponents but one dropped out, so he still has to compete in the primary. Nevertheless, he is very likely to win it and then face Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) in November. There has been only one nonpartisan poll on this race and Klobuchar is up by 26%, so she is likely to coast to victory.

Rhode Island. A young software entrepreneur was the only Republican who filed to run against Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), but Whitehouse will win the general election in a landslide.

Starting today, we will begin tracking the general election Senate races in Connecticut, Michigan, and Minnesota. We are already tracking Florida and Massachusetts.

Who Cares?

Delaware. Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) will win easily in this blue state. This time the state Republican party won't embarrass itself by running Christine "I am not a witch" O'Donnell again, but businessman Kevin Wade, who is almost certain to win the primary, will still lose the general election.

Tennessee. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) is up for reelection but the Democrats have essentially conceded the race to him. Yes, there are several unknown candidates vying for the Democratic nomination, but heaven knows why they want it. It won't do them any good.

Vermont. The Democrats aren't bothering to run anyone against Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who caucuses with them, but there is a Republican primary. John MacGovern, who served four terms in the Massachusetts legislature, is likely to win over Len Britton, a local businessman, but it doesn make much difference as Sanders will sail to reelection.

Washington. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) is popular in this blue state and will win, no matter who the Republicans nominate. They are having a primary between state senator Michael Baumgartner and a tea party backed candidate Dr. Art Coday. In races like this, where it doesn't matter who the Republicans nominate, conservatives often go for the tea party candidate since they have nothing to lose, but there hasn't been any nonpartisan polling in this race.

Wyoming. This race is similar to Tennessee. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) will win the general election in a walk, so it hardly matters who the Democrats nominate, although there actually are three complete unknowns running.

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---The Votemaster

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