Red State Weekly Political Synopsis

Senate Update

Connecticut: A new Quinnipiac University poll (7/16-20; 1,499 CT registered voters) again reveals trouble for ethically-troubled Sen. Chris Dodd (D). The new numbers show him trailing former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-CT-2) 49-38%. He ties ex-Ambassador to Ireland Tom Foley (R) at 42%; leads state Sen. Sam Caligiuri (R) 42-40%; and has only a five point advantage (43-38%) over anti-tax activist Peter Schiff (R). Dodd’s favorability rating, though upside down at 40:50% favorable to unfavorable, is actually four points better than what the May Q-Poll showed. Simmons enjoys a big lead in the GOP primary.

New Hampshire: Former state Education Board chairman and conservative leader Ovide Lamontagne is taking concrete steps to challenge moderate Attorney General Kelly Ayotte in the GOP Senatorial primary. Lamontagne has recruited two key former aides to presidential candidate Mitt Romney to run his fledging campaign. Sen. Judd Gregg (R) is retiring. The Democrats will nominate liberal Rep. Paul Hodes (D-NH-2).

Louisiana: Public Policy Polling (7/17-19; 727 registered LA voters) published new numbers in the proposed Sen. David Vitter – Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-LA-3) match-up: Vitter leading 44-32%. Despite the prostitution scandal taint surrounding the incumbent, Melancon, rather surprisingly, has a considerably worse favorability rating than Vitter. The Senator posts a 44:36% positive to negative rating, while Melancon is upside down at 26:32%. In fact, a generic Democrat even fares better against Vitter than does Melancon, widely believed to be the Ds best potential candidate. Vitter only leads a generic Democrat 44-38%.

Pennsylvania: The latest Quinnipiac University poll in Pennsylvania (7/14-19; 1,173 registered PA voters) is showing high vulnerability for party-switching US Sen. Arlen Specter (D). In a trial ballot test against former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-PA-15), the veteran Senator’s lead has dropped to just a single point, 45-44%. Toomey even leads Specter’s soon-to-announce Democratic primary challenger, Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA-7), 39-35%. Specter has a 55-23% lead over Sestak in the Democratic primary (sample size: 512 PA Democrats from the original 1,173 respondents), but that will change once Sestak becomes better known. The Congressman already has amassed $4.2 million for his statewide campaign.

House Update

IL-10: Now that Rep. Mark Kirk’s (R) intention to seek the GOP Senate nomination is public, potential congressional candidates are beginning to make their moves. Dan Seals, the man that ran two close races against Kirk in 2006 and 2008 announced that he will again run for what is now an open congressional seat. He joins state Sen. Michael Bond and attorney Elliot Richardson as announced Democratic candidates. Highland Park city councilor Jim Kirsch said he may run, as did ultra-liberal state Rep. Julie Hamos (D), who does not reside in the district. State Sen. Susan Garrett (D), whom many believe is the Democrats’ best candidate, said she will keep her current position. On the Republican side, state Reps. Ed Sullivan and Beth Coulson are considering entering the race, while state Sen. Matt Murphy, a current gubernatorial candidate, may switch to the congressional campaign now that Kirk is running statewide. Businesswoman Patricia Bird is already an announced GOP candidate. This will be a hot, and very expensive, contest.

NV-2: Douglas County school board president Cindy Trigg (D) who had already announced a campaign against Rep. Dean Heller (R), has now decided that she won’t make the challenge. Two-time Democratic nominee Jill Derby is also taking a pass for 2010. Heller is now a heavy favorite to win a third term, assuming he doesn’t challenge beleaguered Gov. Jim Gibbons (R) or Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D).

NJ-3: Despite forcing her out of the 2008 open seat congressional race, NJ Republican Party leaders are reportedly attempting to recruit state Sen. Diane Allen to challenge now-incumbent Rep. John Adler (D).

NY-23: Republicans this week nominated in caucus liberal state Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava as their eventual special election candidate when Rep. John McHugh (R) is confirmed as Army Secretary. The Democrats’ best potential candidate, state Sen. Darrel Aubertine, then announced that he would not run for Congress. The Democrats will caucus to choose their own nominee sometime later. State Democrats did not want to risk losing control of the New York Senate, where they maintain a slim 32-30 majority, since a Republican would have been favored in a special election to fill the Aubertine seat had the Senator been elected to Congress.

PA-15: As expected, Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan (D) will challenge three-term Rep. Charlie Dent (R) next year. Dent has performed well in the marginal district, but Callahan will be a top-tier Democratic challenger.

SC-3: Former NFL football coach (Cincinnati Bengals; Tampa Bay Buccaneers) Sam Wyche, currently an elected member of the Pickens County Council, is testing the waters for a congressional run. With Rep. Gresham Barrett (R) vacating the seat to run for Governor, Wyche would join a crowded Republican primary in what will be a safe GOP open seat.

VA-11: Businessman Keith Fimian (R), who lost a 55-43% race to freshman Rep. Gerry Connolly (D) last year, will seek a re-match in 2010. Former Rep. Tom Davis (R) had represented this district for seven terms before Connolly converted it to the Democratic column in November. This will be a tough race for Fimian, as northern Virginia continues to move decidedly leftward, but he is a good candidate who has the potential of making this a competitive campaign.

Governor Update

Alaska: Even before Lt. Governor Sean Parnell (R) officially takes over for resigning Gov. Sarah Palin (R), he already has several 2010 opponents. State Sen. Hollis French (D) and former Dept. of Administration commissioner Bob Poe (D) both say they will run. Former losing Democratic Lt. Governor nominee and defeated congressional candidate Ethan Berkowitz (D) is also expected to soon enter the race.

Illinois: Dodging a bullet earlier this month when Attorney General Lisa Madigan (D) said she would not challenge Gov. Patrick Quinn (D) in the Democratic primary, the new chief executive is not so lucky now. Three-term Illinois state Comptroller Dan Hynes (D) now says he will challenge Quinn for the party nomination. Quinn ascended to the Governorship after Rod Blagojevich (D) was impeached. Businessman Chris Kennedy (D), son of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who had been flirting with launching a Senatorial bid, is now also apparently considering running for Governor. It looks like the gloves are coming off in Illinois.

New Jersey: Another statewide poll again confirms Republican challenger Chris Christie’s lead over unpopular Gov. Jon Corzine (D). Strategic Vision, in a poll conducted July 17-19 (800 NJ registered voters), posts Christie to a 53-38% lead. Only 24% of New Jersey voters feel the state is on the right track, versus 62% who say the NJ government is off course. Corzine’s job approval rating drops to 35:55%, compared to President Obama’s 50:40% mark.

Ohio: Former US Sen. Mike DeWine (R), who was considering a run for Governor, has decided to enter the Attorney General’s contest instead. This gives ex-Rep. John Kasich a virtually clear path to the gubernatorial nomination in order to face-off against Gov. Ted Strickland (D) next year. With DeWine in the AG’s race and former Rep. Rob Portman running for Senate, the Republicans have their strongest possible statewide ticket.

Pennsylvania: Quinnipiac University also surveyed the Pennsylvania electorate about gubernatorial preferences in their current poll (see PA-Senate race above). Attorney General Tom Corbett has a 38-15-9% lead in the GOP primary when pitted against Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA-6) and former US Attorney Pat Meehan, respectively. Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato, state Auditor Jack Wagner, and Philadelphia businessman Tom Knox are all within three points of each other on the Democratic side (16-16-13%). Surprisingly, the Republicans lead the generic question (would you prefer the Republican or Democratic candidate in the 2010 gubernatorial race) 38-37%. Pennsylvania, too, will be very interesting this time around.