Red State Weekly Political Update for Period Ending March 20, 2009

Key Political Developments

Senate Update

Ohio: A new Quinnipiac University poll shows a wide open US Senate race in the Buckeye State. Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher (D) leads former Bush Budget Director Rob Portman 41-33% in the large sample poll (1,299 respondents), conducted from March 10-15. Portman trails Jennifer Brunner (D), the very partisan Ohio Secretary of State, 39-34%. Meanwhile, the same survey shows Gov. Ted Strickland (D) leading former Rep. John Kasich (R-OH-12) by a sizable 20-point margin, 51-31%. The poll is particularly good news for Portman because his statewide name ID is only 32%. Of the people who can identify him, his favorability ratio is a strong 25:7.

New Hampshire: Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH-1) announced she will not run for the Senate next year, thus giving fellow ultra-liberal Rep. Paul Hodes (D-NH-2) a clear shot at the Democratic nomination. No decision as yet regarding whether former Sen. John Sununu (R) will get into the race. Sen. Judd Gregg (R) is retiring. Should Sununu not run, former Gov. Steve Merrill (R), whose popularity ratings topped 65% when he left office, has not ruled out a Senatorial attempt.

New York: Democrats are about to tear themselves apart over appointed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. Ten of her former New York congressional colleagues signed a letter to the state Democratic chairman demanding that the party stop promoting Gillibrand without mentioning the other potential candidates. Reps. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY-4), Steve Israel (D-NY-2), and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer (D) are all considering the race. Not surprisingly, McCarthy and Israel were among the ten members who signed the letter.

House Update

CA-10: Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA-10) will reportedly accept President Obama’s offer to become Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, thus forcing a post-confirmation special election to fill the seat. Democrats are heavy favorites to retain this gerrymandered district. A large field of candidates is expected.

DE-AL: Public Policy Polling released a new poll (3/5-8; 782 respondents) of Delaware voters that shows Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE-AL) in relatively strong political shape. When paired against former Lt. Gov. John Carney, Castle leads 49-32% on the ballot test question. Against New Castle County Executive Chris Coons, Castle soars to a 56-21% advantage. The Congressman’s favorable to unfavorable ratio is 54:33. More interestingly, Castle also leads Attorney General Beau Biden, son of the Vice-President, in a hypothetical race for Senate. The Republican Congressman is up 44-36% against Biden, in a surprising result. Castle has not indicated he would run for the Senate, but if he’s going to be competitively challenged for his At-Large House seat, it’s possible that he may jump. The National Republican Senatorial Committee is recruiting him heavily. Appointed Sen. Ted Kaufman, a Biden family lackey, has already announced he will not seek election next year.

NH-1: With former US Representative and 2008 congressional nominee Jeb Bradley (R-NH-1) now running for the state Senate, several Republican candidates are publicly indicating their intention to run for Congress. John Stephen, the former state Health and Humans Services Commissioner who lost a close GOP primary battle to Bradley in ’08, is expressing interest in another attempt. Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta, chief executive of the state’s largest city, is also saying that he is seriously considering making the race, as is businessman John Wieczorek, son of former Manchester Mayor and current Executive Councilor Ray Wieczorek. This seat is winnable for a Republican.

NH-2: New Hampshire insiders are reporting that new state Republican chairman John Sununu, the former Governor and White House Chief of Staff, is pulling out all the stops in an attempt to recruit former Rep. Charlie Bass (R-NH-2) to run again for his old position. The seat is open as Rep. Paul Hodes (D) is running for the Senate.

SC-1: Carroll “Trumpy” Campbell III, son of the late Governor Carroll Campbell (R), stated publicly that he will challenge Rep. Henry Brown (R-SC-1) in next year’s Republican primary. Brown, 73, had a close call in the last election (52-48%) in a district that should perform more strongly for a Republican incumbent. Katherine Jenerette, an Iraq War veteran who ran for the seat in 2008, is also planning to again enter the GOP primary. Linda Ketner, the 2008 Democratic nominee, is considering another race but has not made a decision to run.

SC-2: Iraq War veteran Rob Miller, who held Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC-2) to a 54-46% victory in 2008, is beginning to raise money for another attempt. The Congressman is favored by a greater margin as this campaign begins. Wilson is one of the brightest conservative lights in the House.

Governor Update

Michigan: A new gubernatorial poll isn’t bringing much positive news for Lt. Gov. John Cherry. The survey, conducted by the Michigan-based Marketing Resource Group (3/4-10), projects that Cherry trails every major Republican candidate tested. Against Attorney General Mike Cox, the liberal #2 man to lefty Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D), is behind 41-34%; the margin is 34-39% when he’s paired with Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land; and Oakland County Executive Brooks Patterson posts a 38-34% lead against the Lt. Governor. Michigan is a critical redistricting state in 2011, so this Governorship becomes one of the most important in the country.

New York: Another new poll suggests Gov. David Paterson (D) is in deep trouble. Manhattanville College conducted a survey of 505 registered New York voters over Feb. 28 – March 5. The results show Paterson dropping to a 29% job approval rating, lower than even Eliot Spitzer’s score when he was thrown out for his prostitution escapades. A full 66% disapprove of Paterson’s job performance. The Governor trails former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) 50-36%, in a hypothetical pairing. The news, however, is not all good for Republicans as Giuliani would lose to Attorney General Andrew Cuomo (D) by a similar 51-36% margin.

Pennsylvania: Attorney General Tom Corbett (R) announced his campaign for Governor next year. No Democrat has officially entered the race, but Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato, state Auditor Jack Wagner, and Lehigh County Executive Don Cunningham are all expected to throw their respective hats into the ring. Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA-6) and former US Attorney Pat Meehan (R) are considering bids on the Republican side. Gov. Ed Rendell (D) is term-limited. The political trends in this state are not favorable for the GOP, but the impending Democratic field of candidates is not particularly strong.