Red State Weekly Political Synopsis

Senate Update

Arkansas: Two sets of conflicting polling numbers were almost simultaneously released for Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D). Rasmussen Reports (12/1; 500 likely AR registered voters) shows the incumbent Democrat trailing four virtually unknown Republican challengers. Senate Minority Leader Kim Hendren leads Lincoln 46-39%; state Sen. Gilbert Baker (R) leads the Senator 47-41%; businessman Curtis Coleman has a 44-40% advantage against Lincoln; and TEA Party leader Tom Cox (R) also leads – 43-40%. But Research 2000, polling for the national liberal Daily Kos blog (11/30-12/02; 600 likely AR voters), has a much different take. Against Baker, Lincoln leads 42-41%. The Senator leads Coleman 44-39%; Cox 45-31%; and Hendren 46-30%. Such widely divergent results suggest one of the two polls is an outlier.

Delaware: Public Policy Polling (11/30-12/2; 571 DE registered voters) gives At-Large Rep. Mike Castle (R) a 44-39% lead over Attorney General Beau Biden (D). This is the exact opposite of last week’s Susquehanna Research poll that showed Biden leading 45-40%.

Indiana: Former Rep. John Hostettler (R-IN-8), who lost his congressional seat 61-39% to Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-IN-8) surprisingly announced that he will challenge Sen. Evan Bayh (D) next year. Hostettler, never a major fundraiser during his twelve years in Congress, takes on one of the Senate’s best money hawks in Bayh. The Senator had almost $13 million in the bank at the end of September.

Kansas: A brand new Survey USA poll (12/4-6; 466 likely KS Republican primary voters) again shows the GOP primary to be a close race between Reps. Jerry Moran (R-KS-1) and Todd Tiahrt (R-KS-4). After some November data pointed to Moran pulling away, this new survey pegs the race back to within the margin of error. According to the SUSA poll, Moran leads 37-34%.

Massachusetts: Tuesday is the scheduled primary for the special Senatorial election. Attorney General Martha Coakley appears to be a lock for the Democratic nomination and to win the special general election on January 19th.

North Carolina: When it appeared that Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-NC-2) was going to challenge Sen. Richard Burr (R), former state Sen. Cal Cunningham (D) dropped his fledging Senatorial bid. Now that Etheridge backed off the Senate race and will stay in the House, the liberal Cunningham is getting back in to the statewide contest. This underscores the Democratic Party’s lack of confidence in Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, who is an announced candidate.

House Update

GA-8: State Sen. Ross Tolleson, widely believed to be the strongest Republican challenger for Rep. Jim Marshall (D), has decided not to run for Congress in 2010. Though the district is marginal, Marshall has been able to survive several tough challenges and will be the favorite to do so again next year.

NH-1: Two Republicans appear to be forcing a primary for the right to challenge leftwing sophomore Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D). Along with former Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta, who is already in the race, businessman Rich Ashooh says he will run and former state Republican chairman Fergus Cullen is likewise expressing interest in becoming a candidate. Guinta is the favorite for the nomination and will be competitive against Shea-Porter.

NH-2: Action on the Democratic side in the adjoining 2nd CD is also occurring. Former NH-2 nominee Katrina Swett, the wife of ex-Rep. Dick Swett and the daughter of the late California Congressman Tom Lantos (D), is saying she is likely to enter the open seat primary. Already in the race is liberal Concord lobbyist Ann McLane Kuster (D), the daughter of a former Concord Mayor (father) and a state Senator (mother), and state Rep. John DeJoie (D). Kuster has already raised $340,000 for the race, but Swett still has over $870,000 in a federal campaign account from an aborted Senatorial bid. Former Rep. Charlie Bass is the likely GOP nominee. He defeated Katrina Swett 57-41% in 2002.

NY-1: Republican challenger Randy Altschuler is releasing the results of his internal McLaughlin & Associates poll (11/18-19; 300 registered NY-1 voters) to underscore the fact that incumbent Rep. Tim Bishop (D) is already under 50% on the ballot test. Altschuler trails by 20 points, however, 46-26%.

NY-23: Conservative special election nominee Doug Hoffman, who lost to Rep. Bill Owens by two points in early November, announced he will seek the Republican nomination for a full term next year. Hoffman will have to unite the entire right-of-center coalition to have a chance of winning. The seat was in Republican hands since 1992, in the person of now-Army Secretary John McHugh.

TN-3: Former state Commerce & Insurance Commissioner Paula Flowers, billed as the Democrats’ best hope to make a solidly conservative district competitive, has decided not to run, citing family concerns. A crowded Republican field of candidates battle for the GOP nomination. Rep. Zach Wamp (R) is running for Governor. The eventual Republican nominee will be a prohibitive favorite to hold the seat.

TN-6: Republican state Senator Jim Tracy is taking steps to enter the race against 13-term Rep. Bart Gordon (D) in this middle Tennessee district that gave John McCain 62% of its votes against President Obama. Former Republican County Chair Lou Ann Zelenik is already a candidate. Tracy would be the favorite for the nomination and could make this a competitive race for the first time since Ronald Reagan was President.

TN-8: State Senator Roy Herron (D) confirmed he will be pivoting out of the Governor’s race and into the now open 8th district congressional race. Rep. John Tanner (D) announced he would not seek re-election earlier this week. Several candidates from both parties will likely enter the race, which is expected to become highly competitive in the general election.

TX-17: State Sen. Steve Ogden (R), clearly the Republican that could give Rep. Chet Edwards (D) his strongest race, has again decided to bypass running for Congress. He’ll seek re-election
instead. Businessman Rob Curnock (R), who held Edwards to 53% last November, is planning to run again.

Governor Update

Connecticut: GOP Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele made his quest for Governor official. Former Ambassador to Ireland Tom Foley also officially jumped out of the Senate race and into the battle for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. The Democrats feature Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz and businessman and former 2006 Senatorial nominee Ned Lamont. Gov. Jodi Rell (R) is not seeking re-election.

Massachusetts: Gov. Deval Patrick (D), despite poor job approval ratings and unquestioned vulnerability in a two-way race, continues to fare well in a three-way contest. Rasmussen Reports (11/23; 500 likely MA registered voters) shows the liberal Patrick leading Independent state Treasurer Tim Cahill and Republican businessman Christy Mihos 32-28-26%, respectively. With businessman Charlie Baker as the GOP nominee, Patrick leads 33-28-25%, though Baker moves into second place and Cahill drops to third.

Michigan: Mitchell Research, polling for the Detroit News, released the results of their pre-Thanksgiving poll for the Republican gubernatorial primary, of 600 respondents. Attorney General Mike Cox led Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI-2) and Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard 27-24-12%. This is a prime GOP conversion opportunity. Lefty Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) is term-limited.

Minnesota: Former Sen. Norm Coleman (R), who lost a seven-month recount to Saturday Night Live Sen. Al Franken (D) by a scant 312 votes statewide, is at least considering entering the race for Governor. Coleman is raising his public profile but says a decision about running next year is “down the road.”

Texas: Gov. Rick Perry (R) filed his papers for re-election on the opening day of candidate filing. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) is expected to present her documentation next week. For the Democrats, Houston Mayor Bill White, who was planning to run for the Senate if Hutchison resigned, will now reportedly file for Governor.

Utah: The first 2010 poll for new Gov. Gary Herbert (R) was released. The Deseret News and KSL-TV tested Herbert against Democratic Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon (11/19-23; 408 registered Utah voters) and found a 56-32% spread in the new incumbent’s favor. Herbert, the state’s former Lt. Governor, assumed the Governorship when Jon Huntsman (R) was appointed Ambassador to China by President Obama. A special election will be held in November of 2010 to fill the remaining two years of the term Huntsman won in 2008.

Wisconsin: Public Policy Polling (11/20-22; 767 registered WI voters) gives Milwaukee Mayor and former Congressman Tom Barrett (D) a 46-41% lead over former three-term Governor and Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson (R). He leads former Rep. Mark Neumann (R) 41-39%, and ties Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker (R) at 40% apiece.
Thompson is not a gubernatorial candidate. Walker and Neumann have indicated that they will run.

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