Red State Weekly Political Synopsis

Senate Update

Louisiana: Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-LA-3) has told national Democratic leaders that he definitely plans to challenge incumbent Sen. David Vitter (R) in 2010. Melancon has not made an officially announcement, but is expected to do so soon. Vitter remains the favorite despite his 2007 prostitution scandal.

New Hampshire: Attorney General Kelly Ayotte (R) is close to making a decision about running for retiring Sen. Judd Gregg‘s (R) Senate seat. Ayotte is apparently becoming the first choice of Republican leaders to challenge the likely Democratic nominee, Congressman Paul Hodes (D-NH-2). This also delivers a clear signal that former Sen. John E. Sununu (R) will not become a candidate.

New York: Quinnipiac University released its first poll of the Democratic Senatorial primary featuring a Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand/Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY-14) head-to-head ballot test. The survey of 2,477 New York registered voters (1,048 Democrats) was conducted over the June 16-21 period. Though Gillibrand is successfully gaining endorsements from prominent politicians and activists throughout the state, she still trails a potential primary opponent. The Q-Poll showed Maloney with a 27-23% lead over the appointed incumbent. Gillibrand’s name ID has now gone over 50% statewide, and she posted a 37:15% job approval rating in this same survey.

Ohio: It appears Democrats continue to have a slight advantage in the open Ohio Senate race. Public Policy Polling (6/17-19; 619 OH registered voters) shows potential Democratic nominees Jennifer Brunner and Lee Fisher, both hard leftists, leading former Republican Congressman Rob Portman in head-to-head pairings. Brunner has a 40-32% lead over Portman, while Fisher leads the former Bush Budget Director and Congressman 41-32%.

Pennsylvania: Republican Congressman Jim Gerlach (PA-06) has decided not to challenge the former head of Club for Growth Pat Toomey in the race for the GOP Senatorial nomination. Gerlach said he will make a final decision about running for Governor in about a month. A new Franklin & Marshall College poll shows Sen. Arlen Specter ahead of Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA-7) by just a 33-13% count. The survey tested 508 PA adults, meaning that not all of the respondents are registered voters and the Democratic cell size is unacceptably low to make such a forecast.

House Update

AL-2: The 2008 GOP nominee who lost a 51-49% race to Rep. Bobby Bright (D) in what should be a Republican seat announced he would not seek a 2010 re-match. With former state Rep. Jay Love (R) now officially out of the race, Montgomery City Councilmember Martha Roby has a strong chance of becoming a consensus Republican candidate. This will be one of the best challenger races in the country next year.

NM-1: Former New Mexico Republican Party Vice-Chairman Jon Barela has announced his candidacy against freshman Democratic Congressman Martin Heinrich (D). Barela is also the
former Head of the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce and could command support from the all-important Latino community in the Albuquerque-based district.

PA-15: After first saying he was not planning to challenge three-term Rep. Charlie Dent (R), Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan (D) maybe changing his mind. He has reportedly contacted Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee officials indicating that he is now seriously considering a run next year. Despite the marginal nature of this district, Dent will begin as a big favorite.

TN-3: Conservative radio talk show host Chuck Fleishmann (R) is set to announce his candidacy for the open 3rd congressional district (Rep. Zach Wamp (R) running for Governor). Bradley County Sheriff Tim Gobble is already an official candidate and former Tennessee GOP chair Robin Smith is also expected to soon join the Republican primary fray. The eventual winner of this race will be the prohibitive favorite in November.

Governor Update

Alaska: Rumors abound from well-placed Alaska Republican sources that Gov. Sarah Palin (R) may not run for re-election in order to devote full-time to preparing a 2012 presidential run. A new Pew Research poll (6/10-14; 1,502 adults via landline and cell phone) gives the former GOP Vice-Presidential nominee a 45:44% favorability score, but a 73:17% rating among Republicans, better than any other potential GOP candidate.

California: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has announced he will not seek the Democratic nomination for Governor. This leaves only two official candidates in the Democratic primary field, former Governor Jerry Brown and San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) has not totally ruled out a run for the state’s top office, but gives no firm indication that she’s running. Former E-Bay CEO Meg Whitman, ex-Rep. Tom Campbell, and state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner are announced Republican candidates.

Florida: A new Rasmussen Reports poll (6/22: 500 likely FL voters) shows Attorney General Bill McCollum (R) opening up his largest lead against state CFO Adelaide “Alex” Sink (D). According to this late June data, McCollum’s advantage is 43-34%. The Florida Governor’s race has major redistricting implications.

Georgia: A Rasmussen Reports poll (6/17; 247 D/463 R primary voters) of the Georgia Democratic primary field shows defeated former Governor Roy Barnes with a huge lead. Barnes garnered 48% according to the RR sample, while his closest challenger, Attorney General Thurbert Baker, recorded a mere 8%. On the Republican side of the fence, Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine leads the field with 35%. Secretary of state Karen Handel and Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA-9) trail with 11 and 10 %, respectively. The Democratic sample is too low to form any definitive conclusion.

Michigan: Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land (R), who was shown with a slight lead over Lt. Gov. John Cherry (D) in hypothetical November gubernatorial pairings, announced that she will
not run for Governor after all. She went onto endorse Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard, who just recently made public his own intentions to run for Governor. Attorney General Mike
Cox and Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI-2) are also official Republican candidates. Former Michigan State football coach George Perles joins Cherry on the Democratic side of the primary action.

New York: Former Rep. Rick Lazio (R-NY-2), who lost the 2000 US Senate race to Hillary Clinton, will soon announce his gubernatorial candidacy according to members of Lazio’s current political staff.

Ohio: Democratic Governor Ted Strickland appears to be politically vulnerable according to the aforementioned Public Policy Poll. Strickland leads likely Republican nominee John Kasich by only 2 percentage points, 44-42%. This represents a huge increase in support for Kasich and puts this critical seat in play during the early going.

Virginia: Research 2000 (6/15-17; 600 likely VA voters) shows the Virginia governor’s race to be a dead heat between state Senator Creigh Deeds (D) and former Attorney General Bob McDonnell (R). Deeds trails McDonnell by only one point, 45-44% with 11 percent still undecided.