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July 23, 2014

Posts in "Kentucky"

July 11, 2014

Imperfect People Get Elected to the Senate

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Warren is a Democrat from Massachusetts. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In the heat of the campaign, it can be easy to disqualify or dismiss candidates based on unsettling, or sometimes unseemly, revelations. But all you have to do is look at the current lineup of senators to realize that imperfect people win elections.

Connecticut is a great place to start.

In 2010, The New York Times pointed out inconsistencies between Democratic state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s rhetoric and his military service during the Vietnam era. It became a major issue in the campaign, but Blumenthal prevailed, 55 percent to 43 percent, over former wrestling executive Linda McMahon. Full story

May 7, 2014

Why This Year’s Primaries Won’t End GOP Civil War

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Tillis is the GOP nominee in North Carolina. (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call)

The Republican establishment is fighting back, but winning a few primaries this year won’t do much to end the insurgency from party purists. It only takes one general election loss by an establishment candidate to reignite the fire.

Observers see what they want to see in the results, and they can be blinded by their preconceptions and personal preferences.

For example, state Speaker Thom Tillis won the GOP nomination in North Carolina on Tuesday. But if he loses to Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan in November, anti-establishment Republicans will cry, “See, I told you so.” Full story

April 29, 2014

Warning: Senate Races Aren’t as Close as They Appear

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Nunn is running for the open Senate seat in Georgia. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

I’ve noticed with some alarm how many people fail to make reasonable distinctions among races that admittedly have some factors in common.

So let me make an important distinction: While Democratic Senate candidates Alison Lundergan Grimes, 35, and Michelle Nunn, 47, have difficult races ahead of them in Kentucky and Georgia, each has a path to victory.

Conversely, I don’t currently see a path for West Virginia Democrat Natalie Tennant, 46. Full story

March 5, 2014

Bill Clinton’s Real Impact on the Kentucky Senate Race

clinton 445x296 Bill Clintons Real Impact on the Kentucky Senate Race

Clinton campaigns for Alison Lundergan Grimes’ bid for Senate. (Luke Sharrett/Getty Images)

The national media’s reaction to former President Bill Clinton’s recent trip to Kentucky to boost the Senate candidacy of Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes was predictable.

Most of my colleagues in the media can’t resist a Clinton (Bill or Hillary) sighting, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s electoral test has become one of the go-to stories of this electoral cycle, even outside the Bluegrass State.

What is less understandable is why many of those who covered the Clinton event in Louisville didn’t address the question of his impact on the race in a serious way. Full story

January 7, 2014

Early TV Ads: Not New and Mostly a Waste of Money

By mid-December, more than $17.5 million had been spent on TV ads in just four Senate contests: in North Carolina ($8.3 million), Kentucky ($3.5 million), Arkansas ($3.4 million) and Louisiana ($2.3 million), according to a recent piece by Roll Call’s Kyle Trygstad.

The numbers are interesting and newsworthy. But it’s important to understand the dirty little secret of early TV ads: At the end of the day, most of the ads, and most of the money spent on them, won’t make a dime’s worth of difference in the November results.

I know because I’ve seen this movie before — almost 30 years ago. Full story

December 19, 2013

Race Ratings Change: Kentucky Senate

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McConnell is seeking re-election in 2014. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

It’s no secret that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell faces a troublesome re-election bid. The Republican incumbent is taking heat from the left and the right on a daily (or even hourly) basis.

We continue to believe that McConnell is the favorite in both the primary and general elections, but there is no denying that his polling numbers are mediocre at best. Full story

December 17, 2013

How the Calendar Will Influence GOP Senate Primaries

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Cornyn’s primary is first on the 2014 calendar. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Stories about Republican primaries are all the rage, and we’re still nearly three months from the first actual election. But in all of the analysis of vulnerable senators, voting scorecards and outside groups, it’s important to remember the calendar and how primary results could affect subsequent races.

It’s possible that a snowball effect could work for or against tea-party-aligned groups next year, depending on the outcomes.

The first Senate primary contest will be March 4 in Texas. Rep. Steve Stockman’s last-minute challenge to GOP Sen. John Cornyn got plenty of media attention. But unless Stockman can find a pot of gold (worth at least $10 million or so) at the end of a rainbow, Cornyn will cruise to victory. Full story

October 21, 2013

The Most Important Election of 2014

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McConnell has two tough races in 2014: a primary and the general election. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

So now we know.

The single most important election in the country next year won’t take place in Louisiana, Arkansas, North Carolina or Alaska. And it won’t occur next November, when voters across the country pick the next Congress. It will take place in Kentucky on May 20.

While the general election in the commonwealth — and in other states — could decide which party controls the Senate for President Barack Obama’s final two years in office, the GOP primary will go a long way in determining whether the Republican Party continues its evolution toward uncompromising utopian purity and, eventually, possible irrelevance. Full story

September 4, 2013

3 Local Races That Could Affect the Fight for the House

Local races rarely have an impact on statewide or congressional elections, but a trio of local races this year could have an effect on three competitive House districts next year.

The most immediate example is the special election for mayor of San Diego.

Republican former City Councilman Carl DeMaio lost the 2012 mayoral election to Democratic Rep. Bob Filner. But DeMaio is using that narrow loss as a springboard to challenge Democratic Rep. Scott Peters in the 52nd District, and the challenger starts that race in a very strong position.

DeMaio was thought to be preparing to drop his congressional bid in order to run in the special election to replace the discredited and recently resigned Filner. Doing that would have taken a top GOP challenger off the table for the National Republican Congressional Committee. But instead, DeMaio has re-affirmed his congressional bid, and he remains a strong Republican challenger for Congress next year because of his high name identification, proven vote-getting ability in the area and fundraising power. Full story

August 5, 2013

Incumbent Primary Challengers: Some Promising, Others Premature

The 2014 primary season has begun with high-profile Democratic Senate primaries in Massachusetts and New Jersey. But they’re the tip of the iceberg in what promises to be a cycle of competitive, and possibly nasty, primaries in both parties.

Republicans face plenty of intraparty fights, including one in Kentucky where Minority Leader Mitch McConnell faces a challenge on his right flank. Conservatives aiming to knock off establishment GOP incumbents are most excited, however, about their prospects against Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson, whom they see as fundamentally weak with a record they can pick apart.

Simpson, a dentist who served as speaker of the Idaho House before winning election to Congress in 1998, hasn’t had a serious primary or general-election challenge since his first race, when he defeated former Democratic Rep. Richard Stallings in an open-seat contest.

The Club for Growth has already endorsed attorney Bryan Smith in the primary. “Simpson has been in Congress forever, he’s an appropriator and prolific earmarker, and he voted for the [Troubled Asset Relief Program] bailout and for the 527 reform act,” said Andy Roth, the group’s vice president of government affairs.

Smith calls himself a “real conservative.” His website says he won’t support “ANY tax increase as a member of Congress and would not have supported the debt limit deal passed by Congress this year.” He also criticizes Simpson for opposing a libertarian amendment to end certain National Security Agency surveillance programs.

By most broad measures, Simpson is a conservative Republican. He has a lifetime AFL-CIO rating of 15 and lifetime rating from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce of 92. He received an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association in 2012 and a 100 percent rating from National Right to Life that same year.

But National Journal rates him as only the 201st most conservative member of the House (fellow Idaho Republican Raúl R. Labrador rates as the 189th), making him comparable to Ohio’s Steve Stivers and Illinois’ Adam Kinzinger. In Idaho, that may not be conservative enough for Republican primary voters — especially for those who regard even one “wrong” vote a violation of principle.

After the Idaho race, the prospects for the other high-profile GOP primary challengers seem less certain.

Kentucky

Businessman Matt Bevin is challenging McConnell in the Kentucky GOP primary. But conservatives who are less than enthusiastic about McConnell don’t yet know whether Bevin, who has some personal resources to put into the race if he chooses, will run a strong enough campaign to threaten the minority leader’s renomination.

Even conservative critics of McConnell say he’s not unpopular among Republicans. And the senator had almost $9.6 million in the bank on June 30. In addition, the president and CEO of American Crossroads, Steven Law, is a former McConnell chief of staff.

Seeing how Rand Paul easily vanquished then-Secretary of State Trey Grayson in the GOP Senate primary last cycle, McConnell has worked to protect his right flank. He’s hired Jesse Benton, who ran campaigns for both Paul and his father, Ron Paul, to run his campaign. Rand Paul has already endorsed McConnell.

South Carolina

The initial reaction in some circles to a primary challenge to Sen. Lindsey Graham can only be described as premature.

Nancy Mace, a public relations company owner and one of the first women to graduate from the Citadel, got plenty of attention over the past week both in South Carolina and Washington when she announced her entry into the GOP primary. She becomes the second Republican hoping to deny renomination to Graham, but some insiders believe the field could grow and that a runoff could present Graham with problems.

Graham, who had $6.3 million in cash on hand on June 30, has been preparing for possible primary opponents. His reputation as a conservative who seeks compromise to get things done certainly assures that some Palmetto State Republicans will want to see him retired.

But political insiders who have already met Mace (I have not) have come away less than impressed.

“She is kind of JV,” one conservative told me, adding, “If she gets a good team around her, maybe she can elevate her game. But a debate with Lindsey Graham would be really tough for her.”

Other GOP Seats

There are other primaries already in the works, of course — Liz Cheney’s challenge to Sen. Michael B. Enzi in Wyoming is probably the most obvious — and others could develop, particularly in the House. But it’s equally noteworthy that two pragmatists, Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander and Maine’s Susan Collins, have avoided serious primary challenges.

Hawaii

Democrats don’t have as many interesting primaries yet, but their Hawaii Senate nomination fight already looks like quite a battle. Appointed Sen. Brian Schatz has drawn a primary from Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, a former president of the Hawaii Senate. Polls suggest that the race starts off as very competitive, though they differ as to who has the upper hand.

Schatz, who served in the state legislature and as Democratic Party state chairman, was appointed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie to fill Daniel K. Inouye’s vacant seat after the nine-term Democrat died in December. Inouye made it clear that he wanted Abercrombie to appoint Hanabusa to fill the vacancy, and Inouye’s widow has endorsed the congresswoman.

Hanabusa has had a tough few weeks after the Washington Post reported that her campaign may have violated campaign finance laws prohibiting “coordination” between an independent expenditure effort and a candidate’s campaign.

Schatz’s financial advantage — $1.6 million in the bank on June 30 to Hanabusa’s $650,000 — comes primarily from his huge haul in political action committee money. But the congresswoman has been endorsed by EMILY’s List, and she should raise enough money to be competitive.

The only elected senator from Hawaii of European ancestry was Oren Long, who won a 1959 special election after Hawaii became a state. He did not seek re-election in 1962.

Correction 11:15 am |  An earlier version of this column mistakenly said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., is up for re-election this cycle. His colleague, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., is up for re-election in 2014.

July 11, 2013

Top 5 Races to Watch in the South

This cycle, the South is dominated by competitive Senate races. That doesn’t mean there won’t be critical House races (including Florida’s 18th and 26th districts) or other interesting contests (such as the crowded Republican primary in Georgia).

Here are the top five races to watch in the South next year:

Arkansas Senate. Sen. Mark Pryor, a Democrat, is one of the most vulnerable senators in the country, and he represents a state where President Barack Obama has never been popular. Republicans are likely to nominate Rep. Tom Cotton, who appears to be a rare breed in that he appeals to both the tea party and the establishment. If Republicans can’t defeat Pryor, they ain’t getting back to the majority anytime soon. Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call Rating: Pure Toss-Up. Full story

July 8, 2013

Rating Alison Lundergan Grimes’ Chances in Kentucky

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McConnell has a challenger for re-election. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Does the candidacy of Kentucky Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, who is challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, change McConnell’s re-election prospects? The answer depends on whether you think she will be 2014’s version of Linda Lingle or Heidi Heitkamp.

Lingle, a former two-term Republican governor of Hawaii, was unable to overcome her partisan label in a state that President Barack Obama won with more than 70 percent of the vote. While Lingle ran almost 10 points ahead of Mitt Romney in the Aloha State, she got buried in her bid for the Senate in 2012.

On the other hand, Heitkamp, a Democrat and former North Dakota attorney general, ran almost 12 points ahead of Obama in the Peace Garden State, enabling her to squeeze out a very narrow Senate victory. Full story

March 28, 2013

Not All State Offices Are Political Launching Pads

My colleague Nathan Gonzales has written a terrific piece on Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, the young Democrat mentioned as a potential challenger to veteran GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell. He explains her election as Kentucky secretary of state and her family’s connection to the Clintons, among other things.

But while her position as a statewide elected official would seem to make Grimes a formidable contender for the Democratic nomination and possibly even a threat to McConnell, her office probably isn’t much of a launching pad for a tough U.S. Senate race.

Other than state attorney general and state treasurer, most downballot state offices don’t have enough visibility to translate immediately to a high-profile federal race. There are former secretaries of state in the Senate, but they generally were elected to another office — Joe Manchin and Jay Rockefeller became governor, while Sherrod Brown, Dean Heller and Roy Blunt were in the House — before winning election to the Senate. Full story

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