Red State Weekly Political Synopsis

Senate Update

Arkansas: Though poll numbers show vulnerability for Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D), a promising Republican potential contender has decided not to make the race. Former US Attorney Tim Griffin, who according to at least one national poll posted to within single digits of Lincoln, announced he will not make the challenge. Republicans are still searching for a top-tier candidate.

Connecticut: A new Quinnipiac University poll (5/20-25; 1,575 CT registered voters) continues to show bad news for five-term Sen. Chris Dodd (D). Paired with former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-CT-2), Dodd trails 45-39%. The more troubling signal for Dodd, however, could be the Senator’s early performance against little known GOP state Sen. Sam Caligiuri. The former Presidential candidate only leads him 41-39%, a clear sign of serious weakness for the scandal-tainted incumbent.

Florida: Rep. Ron Klein (D-FL-22), always keeping his name alive for the open Senate race but never making any concrete moves to get in, officially announced that he will seek re-election to the House. At this point, Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-FL-17) is unimpeded for the Democratic nomination. Gov. Charlie Crist and former House Speaker Marco Rubio are running on the Republican side.

Illinois: After a Chicago press report suggested that Christopher Kennedy, president of Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, Inc. and son of former Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, would announce a Senatorial campaign committee this week, Mr. Kennedy himself refuted the story, saying such a statement is premature. He further said that he has made no final decision to run.

Kentucky: Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo (D), who held Sen. Jim Bunning (R) to a 51-49% win five years ago, just released a Garin Hart Yang survey (5/12-13; 336 D primary voters) conducted for his new Senatorial campaign. The results show Mongiardo leading Attorney General Jack Conway 43-28% in the Democratic primary. The Conway campaign criticized the poll as having too small of a sampling universe to be statistically significant. Bunning continues to languish as the GOP’s weakest Senator running for re-election. GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, also of Kentucky, and other national Republican leaders want Bunning to retire. Republican Secretary of State Trey Grayson waits in the wings.

North Carolina: New polling puts Sen. Richard Burr (R) in significantly better re-election position now that Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) will not challenge him next year. In a new just-released survey, Burr places ahead of seven different NC political figures including Elizabeth Edwards (+11 points), and Reps. Bob Etheridge and Heath Shuler (leading both by 16), in addition to Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton (+19 points) who has already said he won’t run. Ms. Edwards, as well, is an unlikely candidate. Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-NC-7) was not included in the Public Policy Polling survey (5/19-21; 798 registered NC voters), even though he has been the most positive about running after Cooper decided to remain in his current position.

Pennsylvania: Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA-7) is reportedly telling supporters that he will challenge Republican-turned-Democrat Sen. Arlen Specter next year in the April Democratic primary and will soon publicly announce his intentions. A new Quinnipiac University poll (5/20-26; 1,191 PA registered voters; 561D/517R) has Specter leading Sestak 50-21%. In hypothetical general election pairings, Specter leads former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-PA-15) 46-37% and Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA-6) 45-36%.

House Update

AL-5: Navy veteran Lester Phillip, currently the Minority Outreach Director for the Alabama Republican Party, has announced a challenge to freshman Rep. Parker Griffith (D) of Huntsville. The Congressman defeated insurance businessman Wayne Parker, Jr. (R) 52-48% in 2008.

GA-9: State Rep. Tom Graves joined an increasingly large Republican primary field, all of whom are vying to replace Rep. Nathan Deal (R), who is running for Governor. Also in the race are is ex-Transportation Commission chairman Mike Evans, former state Sen. Bill Stephens, and County Commissioner Mike Cowan. The GOP nominee is a sure winner in the general election.

MO-7: State Senator Gary Nodler joined the Republican field to replace Rep. Roy Blunt (R), who is running for Senate. Also in the race is fellow state Sen. Jack Goodman and auctioneer Billy Long. The winner of the August 2010 GOP primary battle will be the prohibitive favorite in the general election.

NC-8: Republican attempts to recruit former Carolina Panthers defensive back Mike Minter into the race against freshman Rep. Larry Kissell (D) have failed. Minter announced he will not run for Congress next year.

PA-12: Rep. John Murtha (D), under the cloud of a federal investigation that is reportedly examining his Defense appropriation earmarks, has drawn a Democratic primary challenger. Ryan Bucchianeri, a former State Department official and Naval officer this week announced his candidacy. Unless the investigation becomes more serious, Murtha will easily secure renomination for a 19th term in the House.

Governor Update

Alaska: Ethan Berkowitz (D) who, as the 2006 Lt. Governor nominee, lost to the Palin-Parnell Republican ticket and then returned to lose to scandal-ridden Rep. Don Young (R) in 2008, says he will challenge Gov. Sarah Palin (R) next year. The former Vice-Presidential nominee has not stated her own electoral plans for 2010, but most observers believe she will seek re-election. With Berkowitz’s losing record in the past four years, Palin will be the prohibitive favorite should she seek another term.

Alabama: Republican Bradley Byrne, the Chancellor of Alabama’s Two-Year College System, announced that he will run for Governor. Byrne is expected to be a strong contender. Gov. Bob Riley (R) is term-limited. Competitive primaries will occur on both sides. The GOP nominee will begin the general election as the favorite.

Michigan: Republican Attorney General Mike Cox officially announced his candidacy for Governor. Cox joins Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land and Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI-2) as major GOP candidates. Lt. Gov. John Cherry is the leading Democratic contender. Recent polls suggest tight primary campaigns for both parties and an equally close general election race. Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) is term-limited.

Minnesota: Survey USA (5/18-19; 551 registered MN voters via automated messaging) tested Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) against nine different potential Democratic challengers. The Governor, still deciding whether to run for a third term, leads every potential opponent, most of whom by double-digits. The two closest challengers would be ex-Sen. Mark Dayton (trailing Pawlenty 47-43%) and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak (down 47-42%).

Oklahoma: Former Rep. J.C. Watts (R-OK-4) announced he will not run for Governor next year. This is a big boost to Rep. Mary Fallin (R-OK-5), who has already made her candidacy official. Early polling pegs Fallin, previously Oklahoma’s Lt. Governor, to double-digit leads over both Attorney General Drew Edmondson (D) and Lt. Gov. Jari Askins (D). Gov. Brad Henry (D) is term-limited.

Virginia: Two new polls basically confirm last week’s Survey USA data that showed former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe pulling away from his gubernatorial primary opponents. Research 2000 (5/18-20; 600 likely VA Dem primary voters) posts McAuliffe to a 36-22-13% lead over former Alexandria Delegate Brian Moran and state Sen. Creigh Deeds, respectively. Public Policy Polling, in their survey (5/19-21; 617 likely VA Dem primary voters) reveals similar, but closer, numbers, and with Deeds in a much stronger position. Their study says McAuliffe polls at 29%, and the other two share 20% apiece. Republican Bob McDonnell leads all potential opponents and is in strong position to convert this state to the GOP column.