Red State Weekly Political Synopsis

Senate Update

Illinois: Both Sen. Roland Burris (D) and Attorney General Lisa Madigan (D) said they will not seek the Senate seat next year. Though Burris is the sitting incumbent, his departure had been a foregone conclusion because of his non-existent fundraising and poor standing in the polls. Reports suggest that his aggregate campaign receipt total did not even reach $20,000. Madigan’s choice to stay in her current position is a boon for Republican Rep. Mark Kirk. The Democrats only announced Senatorial candidate, State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D), is not particularly strong. This campaign could become one of the premier political contests of the 2010 election cycle.

New Hampshire: Attorney General Kelly Ayotte (R) is saying that she will resign her post on July 17, suggesting that she will then officially enter the Senate race to oppose Rep. Paul Hodes (D-NH-2). Sen. Judd Gregg (R) is retiring. This is arguably the Republicans’ most vulnerable seat, but Ayotte has the profile of a strong candidate. She is untested, though, as New Hampshire appoints its Attorneys General, so this will be Ms. Ayotte’s first attempt at securing elective office.

Ohio: Quinnipiac University just released the results of their latest Buckeye State poll (6/26-7/1; 1,259 OH registered voters; 483 Democrats/445 Republicans). The data shows former Bush Budget Director and Congressman Rob Portman (R) gaining on Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher (D). The latest figures post Fisher to a slight 37-33% lead. Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner’s (D) lead over Portman drops to just one point, 35-34%. The surprise finding in the poll is the huge drop in President Obama’s job approval rating. His numbers free-fall to 49:44% according to this data. Research 2000, polling for the liberal Daily Kos political blog, showed a better picture for the Democrats in the Senate contest. Their latest data (7/6-8; 600 registered OH voters) placed Fisher ahead of Portman 42-35%. Brunner was up 40-36%. The R2000 poll uses a much smaller sample and has a higher error factor.

House Update

CA-10: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) set the special election to replace former Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D), who was confirmed as an Undersecretary of the State Department. The at-large primary will be September 1st. If no candidate obtains an absolute majority, the top vote-getters from each party will run-off on November 3rd, concurrent with the state’s municipal election calendar. Democrats are favored to retain the seat.

FL-12: Polk County Commissioner Randy Wilkinson officially announced his candidacy for the Republican congressional nomination. He joins former state Rep. Dennis Ross in the GOP field. The Republicans are favored to retain the district. Rep. Adam Putnam (R) is vacating the seat to run for state Agriculture Commissioner.

FL-24: In what is becoming a busy Republican primary, state Rep. Sandy Adams will soon officially announce that she is joining the field of candidates vying for the opportunity to oppose liberal freshman Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D). Already in the race are state Rep. Dorothy Hukill and Winter Park City Councilor Karen Diebel. This race will be competitive, as FL-24 should be Republican.

MI-9: Former state Rep. Andrew Raczkowski announced he is planning to challenge freshman Rep. Gary Peters (D). Raczkowski is a former Republican Senatorial nominee (2002, against Sen. Carl Levin). Peters is rated as a heavy favorite.

NE-2: State Sen. Tom White (D) is filing a congressional exploratory committee to test his viability against six-term Rep. Lee Terry (R). The Congressman won his last race with only 52% of the vote, though President Obama did carry the Omaha-based district. Terry will be stronger this time around.

NM-2: Former Rep. and defeated 2008 Senatorial candidate Steve Pearce (R) declared his candidacy to regain his old congressional district from freshman Rep. Harry Teague (D). The new Congressman’s vote in favor of the Cap & Trade legislation is the defining factor in convincing Pearce to run again, the former Representative stated. This will be a toss-up race, as the 2nd district still leans Republican despite the strong statewide lurch to the Democrats. NM-2 goes to the top of the GOP conversion chart for the coming election cycle.

OH-15: Former state Sen. Steve Stivers (R) announced that he will challenge freshman Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D) next year. Stivers lost a tough 2008 race to Kilroy, coming within 2,300 votes of victory in a district that contains both the state Capitol in Columbus, and Ohio State University. A different turnout model in 2010 could easily send Stivers over the top. This is another prime GOP conversion opportunity.

SD-AL: Rep. Stephanie Herseth (D) ended speculation that she would run for Governor and officially announced her candidacy for re-election to the House. Herseth is rated as the prohibitive favorite to win a fourth full term. While the move secures a Democratic House seat, it also takes away their best opportunity of capturing the Governor’s chair. The eventual Republican nominee will now be a heavy favorite to succeed term-limited Gov. Mike Rounds (R).

VA-2: Automobile dealer Scott Rigell (R) announced that he will challenge freshman Rep. Glenn Nye (D). Others are expected to join the GOP field of candidates before next year’s filing deadline. Nye defeated then-Rep. Thelma Drake (R) to win the seat last November.

Governor Update

Massachusetts: Democratic state Treasurer Tim Cahill announced that he is leaving the party to become an Independent. Cahill is then expected to challenge Gov. Deval Patrick (D), who appears vulnerable. Republican businessmen Chris Baker and Christy Mihos are likely to seek their party’s nomination. This race could get very interesting with the added dimension of a serious three-candidate contest.

Minnesota: Former Sen. Norm Coleman (R) is being tested as a candidate for Governor. Public Policy Polling was in the field on 7/7-8. Coleman’s biggest problem is that he scores only a 38:52% favorability ratio, clearly related to the eight month losing battle he waged to overturn the results of the Senate election. Against Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak (D), Coleman trails 43-37%. Against one-term ex-US Sen. Mark Dayton (D), the margin is only one-point, 41-40%, in the Democrat’s favor. Coleman fares best against state House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher (D). He tops her 42-34%. Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) is retiring. A multitude of candidates are expected to run for both parties.

Ohio: The R2000 and Quinnipiac polls mentioned in the Senate capsule above, also report similar numbers in the Governor’s race. According to R2000, Gov. Ted Strickland (D) leads former Rep. John Kasich (R) 44-39%. Quinnipiac shows a comparable 42-38% spread in the Governor’s favor. The Q-Poll also tested former Sen. Mike DeWine (R) against Strickland and
found that he does better than Kasich. Strickland’s lead over DeWine falls to just one point, 41-40%. Strickland’s approval numbers are finally coming down to earth. This is now a legitimate race. With Ohio likely to lose two seats in the 2010 reapportionment, the Governor’s office becomes critical for both parties in terms of redistricting.

Texas: The Government Department at the University of Texas just released the results of a survey they conducted in June. The data (6/11-22; 924 adults), showed Gov. Rick Perry (R) leading Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) 38-27%. Though it is clear Perry has stormed back into this race after trailing Hutchison by large numbers, this poll has major flaws. The sampling period (12 days) is too long; the surveyors did not screen for registered voters; and the total preference (65%) is very low for candidates who are so well known to the Texas electorate.

Virginia: Public Policy Polling (6/30-7/2; 617 registered VA voters) also tested the Virginia Governor’s race. There, GOP nominee Bob McDonnell leads Democrat Creigh Deeds by a 49-43% count, suggesting that the latter’s bounce from winning his June 9th primary has evaporated. This race is officially a toss-up.