Some interesting tidbits in the bid for control of the Senate in the 2016 election cycle:
Alaska: [mc_name name=’Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’M001153′ ], the technically independent, nominally Republican Senator from Alaska will likely face a primary opponent in 2016. State senator Mike Dunleavy, who is considerably more conservative than Murkowski, is said to be mulling a primary bid. If one remembers, Murkowski lost the GOP primary in 2010 to Joe Miller, but won in a write-in campaign in the general election. In reality, Murkowski’s greatest threat to reelection is from the Republican Party as the Democratic bench in Alaska is rather weak.
He (Dunleavy) is holding off on a decision until after the legislative session ends, but Governor Walker called a special 30-day extension to deal with the state budget which is seeing a decline in revenue due to falling oil prices. Dunleavy does have another option- a primary run against long-time incumbent at-large [mc_name name=’Rep. Don Young (R-AK)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’Y000033′ ], although he is leaning towards challenging Murkowski. If that happens, expect Joe Miller to challenge Young in the House GOP primary.
Murkowski may be a formidable opponent for any Democrat to take down, but should Dunleavy surprise in a primary, then their chances increase. Alaska has a late primary and filing deadline and the Democrats are said to be recruiting [mc_name name=’Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’B001265′ ] for a run should Dunleavy show any promise of upsetting or damaging Murkowski. As for Miller, look for him to take on Young.
Arizona: The Democrats believe they have their person in [mc_name name=’Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’K000368′ ] who currently represents the 1st District. Bolstered by terrible favorability ratings in the state for McCain (36-51), they view the incumbent as vulnerable to defeat. So far McCain has drawn two primary challengers with state senator Kelli Ward being the toughest, which is not saying much.
But, this is a calculated risk on two levels. Even under the best of circumstances, it will be difficult to unseat McCain and Kirkpatrick now leaves the swingish 1st District open to Republican take over. Adding to the drama, a case pending before the Supreme Court regarding their independent redistricting commission could abolish the current district boundaries and throw redistricting back to the Republican-controlled legislature. If so, then the 1st is likely to become even more difficult for the Democrats to win. Either way, Kirkpatrick was in for a tough fight in 2016.
Colorado: Throw out the Supreme Court drama and switch parties and we get the same dynamic in Colorado. There is no secret that the GOP would like current 6th district [mc_name name=’Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’C001077′ ] to take on Democrat [mc_name name=’Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’B001267′ ]. However, the 6th District is as swingish as the First is in Arizona. What prompts the GOP is the fact that Coffman is repeatedly targeted by the Democrats, but he repeatedly wins. They believe he could parlay this into a statewide win given the fact he represents the Denver suburbs and has a relatively high profile in the state. Regardless of his ultimate decision, he would face a crowded primary field as three other Republicans have lined up to take on Bennet.
Florida: With an important open Senate race, this could prove to be a pivotal state for control of the Senate. [mc_name name=’Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’M001191′ ], who is vacating the 18th District, is the front runner on the Democratic side at this point although [mc_name name=’Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’G000556′ ] from the 9th District is considering entering the race. Murphy’s seat could possibly be taken by a Republican and both sides will have at least three candidates on the primary ballot as of now.
The Club For Growth has recently been running ads in Florida praising Grayson for his opposition to the Import-Export Bank. If conservative outside groups start touting Grayson, it is a good bet they view Murphy as the stronger Democratic candidate in a general election. This tendency of outside groups to get involved in opposing party primaries started with the Democrats in 2012 and turnaround is fair game.
Nevada: With the impending retirement of Harry “One Eye” Reid, all eyes will be on the Senate race here where the Democrats would have had a tough time with Reid as the candidate. Thus far, the only Democrat to declare their candidacy is ex-state attorney general Catherine Cortez Masto with 2006 senatorial candidate Bob Beers on the GOP side. Obviously, the GOP would love to have popular Governor Brian Sandoval run, but he has shown no inclination to do so, although [mc_name name=’Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’H001055′ ] from the 3rd District is mulling the possibility. For the Democrats, they would have loved to have Dana Titus run as she would give them their best chance to retain this seat. However, those hopes were delivered a blow when she ruled out a Senate bid and will instead seek reelection in the First District. This one is ripe for the taking for the GOP and the chances just slightly increased.
North Carolina: The pressure is on for Kay Hagan to take on [mc_name name=’Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’B001135′ ] in the Tar Heel State. In all honesty, despite the alleged weaknesses for Burr in his home state, Hagan is the best they can muster. Burr’s weaknesses are his generally low profile and weak fundraising history.
Pennsylvania: The Democratic Party is not happy about another run by Joe Sestak against Pat Toomey in 2016 and they have been actively recruiting someone else, but may have to settle on Sestak’s primary opponent Ed Pawlowski, not exactly a household name in Pennsylvania.
The primary focus of their recruitment effort was Montgomery County executive Josh Shapiro who would have likely delivered the all-important Philadelphia suburbs. But, he never showed any great interest and this past month rebuffed those recruitment efforts thus leaving Pawlowski to battle it out against Sestak. This announcement by Shapiro is a big blow to the Democratic Party’s efforts.
Wisconsin: The Democrats got their man when former Senator Russ Feingold announced he would seek a rematch against [mc_name name=’Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’J000293′ ], the man who surprisingly defeated him in 2010. Most political pundits immediately changed this race from a toss-up to leans Democratic as a result.
In 2010, Feingold ran a shoddy campaign that underestimated his Tea Party-backed opponent. But times have changed in two respects in six years. First, the power of the Tea Party in electoral politics has declined and the issues are different this time around. Second, how a man who championed campaign finance reform reacts to outside funding (will he embrace or shun it?) remains to be seen. Also, Wisconsin can be quirky and unpredictable. Recent polls show Feingold up by about 9 points, but that could change on a dime in Wisconsin. In effect, we are likely to see a rematch in 2016 in two states- Pennsylvania and Wisconsin- for control of the Senate that also loom large in the race for the White House.