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News from the Votemaster

Roberts Beats Tea Party Challenger in Kansas Senate Primary

Although three-term Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) is a dyed-in-the-wool conservative, that was not good enough for the tea party, which found a challenger, Dr. Milton Wolf, to run against him. It didn't work. Yesterday Roberts decisively defeated Wolf by a margin of 48% to 41% despite Wolf attracting a considerable amount of attention and money from right-leaning groups nationwide. This is the fifth time this year that a well-funded tea party challenger has failed to unseat a Republican senator.

The campaign was an odd one because there was no ideological daylight between the candidates. Wolf first tried attacking Roberts for voting to confirm Kathleen Sebelius as Secretary of Health and Human Services but he eventually figured out that berating a senator for supporting the state's governor was not the key to the voters' hearts. Then he switched his campaign to attacking Roberts for living in Virginia instead of Kansas, despite the obvious fact that all senators live either in Virginia, Maryland, or D.C. itself. Commuting to the Capitol every day from Kansas might be a bit tricky since there are no nonstop flights from anywhere in Kansas to any airport near D.C.

Roberts fought back hard, going after Wolf, a radiologist, for posting x-rays of patients to his Facebook page. In short, it was a campaign completely devoid of any substance. For a challenger who had never before run for public office to take down a three-term incumbent senator was always a tall order and it is surprising how close it turned out. Although it wasn't a campaign issue, some voters may have preferred the young and energetic Wolf (43) to the aging Roberts (78).

An odd sidelight to this race is that Wolf is President Obama's second cousin once removed. Obama's mother, Ann Dunham, was born in Witchita, KS, and her great grandfather, Thomas McCurry, was Wolf's great grandfather. Despite the familial relationship, during the campaign Wolf didn't have a lot of kind things to say about his cousin, but what did you expect in a Republican primary?

The Democrats nominated Shawnee County district attorney Chad Taylor to run against Roberts. It is hard to fathom why Taylor would want the honor: Kansas hasn't elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1932 and won't this year. Perhaps he just wants some statewide exposure so he can run for the state senate or some other office in the future.

Peters and Land to Face Each Other in November in Michigan

As expected, Democrats nominated Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI) and Republicans nominated former Michigan secretary of state Terri Lynn Land in uncontested Senate primaries yesterday. For what it is worth, Land got more votes (584,000) than Peters (503,000), but turnout in uncontested primaries are probably not a good indicator of much. The seat is vacant due to the retirement of Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI).

Peters was the Democrats' first choice and he has run a competent campaign so far. Land was never the Republicans' first choice but they couldn't get anyone better to volunteer in this fairly blue state. Her campaign has been disorganized and one of her ads, in which she spends about 10 sec drinking coffee on camera, has been roundly criticized by Republicans. Polls have consistently shown Peters with a small lead.

Rand Paul is Already Campaigning in Iowa against Hillary Clinton

When a young, telegenic senator and son of a former congressman whose hobby was running for President decides to make a 10-stop tour of Iowa, attacking Hillary Clinton at every stop, people can be excused from thinking he caught the bug from Dad. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), an ophthalmologist and tea party crush, is hardly making a secret that after only 4 years in the Senate, he wants to move down the street to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and is prepared to work hard to achieve this goal. Spending a lot of time in Iowa getting to know local activists is obviously a good start. None of his potential rivals have even begun taking action. Nevertheless, it is awfully early to not only think about 2016, but begin taking concrete action to gear up for it.

One possible problem for Paul, however, is that he will also be up for reelection to the Senate in 2016 and under Kentucky law, a candidate can appear only once on the ballot. Unless the law is changed, Paul may be forced to give up his Senate seat to run for President. Of course, he will try mightly to get the law changed, but with the Democrats in charge of the Kentucky house of representatives, he will first have to convince speaker Greg Stumbo, who recently said: "We kind of take the position over here that a man (who) can't decide which office he wants to run for isn't fit to hold either office." And even if Paul could sweet talk Stumbo into going along with a change to the law, Gov. Steve Beshear (D-KY) would probably veto it.

As it so often is, the devil is in the details. Paul can comfortably act like he is running for both offices until he hits the filing deadlines, when he may have to choose. But by then, he will have a better idea of his presidential chances. If polls show him winning the Republican presidential nomination, he might just abandon his Senate race (or even resign from the Senate) and spend full time campaigning for President.

Keeping in mind that in politics a week is a long time, at this moment, Paul currently looks like one of the stronger contenders for the GOP nomination for President in 2016. The tea party loves him and he inherits his father's extensive network of contacts. He also is much more able to attract younger voters than any other Republican, in part due to his liberal stance on marijuana and his opposition to the U.S. fighting unnecessary wars all over the world. In the primaries he may have to face Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), another tea party hero, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), and others. Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) would dearly love to be President but when all the ongoing investigations of his office have finished, he may be finished, too. The Republican donor class would be ecstatic if former Florida governor Jeb Bush were to follow in the footsteps of his brother and father, but so far Bush has been very coy about his intentions. According to rumors, his Mexican-born wife, Columba, does not want him to run. Also, his position on immigration ("it's act of love") is anathema to much of his party.

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---The Votemaster
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