Illinois primary produces close races; No favorite in 2012 GOP presidential race
1. Illinois kicked off the primary season right on Tuesday with a series of closely contested intra-party fights. Favorites held serve in the state's open seat Senate race with state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D) and Rep. Mark Kirk (R) winning their respective primaries and moving on to face one another in what will be a terrific general election scrap. Republicans quickly sought to define Giannoulias as corrupt with a Web video detailing his alleged mafia ties; National Republican Senatorial Committee executive director Rob Jesmer called Giannoulias "yet another ethically-challenged candidate who was raised in the tradition of the Chicago political machine," in a memo set to be released this morning. (The race is currently ranked as the ninth most likely to switch parties on our Senate Line.) Meanwhile, Gov. Pat Quinn held a narrow lead over hard-charging state Comptroller Dan Hynes in the Democratic primary while unheralded state Sen. Bill Brady had an even smaller edge on the GOP side. (With 99 percent of precincts reporting, the margins were thin enough to raise the prospect of a recount in both gubernatorial primaries. On the Democratic side, though Quinn sought to portray himself as the winner, Hynes did not concede. On the Republican side, the latest reporting had Brady and state Sen. Kirk Dillard in a virtual tie.) Down at the House level, Dan Seals (D) is hoping his third bid for the 10th district is the charm as he narrowly defeated state Rep. Julie Hamos. Seals will face off against businessman Robert Dold who won a convincing victory in a crowded Republican field. In the 14th district, Ethan Hastert, the son of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, lost a Republican primary race to state Sen. Randy Hultgren for the right to take on Rep. Bill Foster (D) this fall.
2. The 2012 Republican presidential race is wide open with more than four in ten self-identified GOPers in the undecided camp, according to a new Research 2000 poll conducted for the liberal Daily Kos blog. Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin led the field with16 percent followed by former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney at 11 percent and former vice president Dick Cheney, who isn't running, at 10 percent. No other candidate scored in double digits although former House speaker Newt Gingrich and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee tied for fourth place with 7 percent each. While this poll is rightly regarded as a test of little more than name recognition -- Palin is the best known name nationwide and hence leading the pack -- it does suggest the high level of fluidity in the 2012 field. We continue to believe that while much of the focus of the chattering class is on the likes of Palin, Romney and Huckabee, the level of indecision among the Republican electorate means semi-dark horse candidates, like Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and South Dakota Sen. John Thune, or even bigger darkhorses (Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, anyone?) have plenty of room to run. The GOP field in 2012 is far more open than it was in 2000 when then Texas Gov. George W. Bush was a clear frontunner and is even more open than in 2008 when the likes of Arizona Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani were in the running. ALSO READ: Palin will headline Tea Party event in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's hometown of Searchlight, Nev.
3. Former state party chairwoman Sue Lowden launched her first ad of the Nevada Senate campaign, a bio spot aimed at introducing her to voters and capitalizing on her financial edge over her Republican opponents. The 30-second ad is standard issue stuff -- Lowden's ancestors worked in the coal mines (apologies to Derek Zoolander), she became a teacher, a "conservative state Senator, etc. The ad's tagline? "Restoring opportunity, leading with integrity." The ad is costing the campaign roughly $125,000 with a buy of roughly 800 points in the Las Vegas and Reno media markets -- meaning that the average viewer will see it eight times in a week. Lowden, who is running neck and neck with businessman Danny Tarkanian in most Republican primary polls, put together a solid fundraising quarter by raising $820,000 and ended the year with $497,000 in the bank. Tarkanian, the son of former UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, was less impressive -- raising $397,000 and closing 2008 with $257,000 in the bank. Wealthy (and unknown) businessman John Chachas (R) loaned his campaign $1.3 million, suggesting he will be a player in the primary as well. The X-factor in the primary continues to be Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki who, after being cleared of wrongdoing in an indictment related to his past service as state treasurer, is now actively considering the contest. Several Republican luminaries -- including Arizona Sen. John McCain -- have urged him to make the race but others in the state are more skeptical, noting that the negative publicity surrounding the indictment could make it difficult for him to beat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) in the fall. ALSO READ: Reid asks for, and receives, an apology (of sorts) from President Obama after the chief executive's remarks about Las Vegas on Tuesday.
4. It's no secret that Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) is in deep trouble in her bid for a third term this fall but new data from Public Policy Polling -- an auto-dialer so take the results with a major grain of salt and read ABC polling director Gary Langer's take -- suggest that Rep. John Boozman's (R) expected entrance into the race may be the political death knell for Lincoln. The PPP survey showed Boozman, who has held the northwest Arkansas 3rd district since 2001, ahead of Lincoln by a 56 percent to 33 percent margin; Lincoln also trailed state Sen. Gilbert Baker (R) by a 50 percent to 35 percent margin. PPP also tested other well known Democrats against Boozman in the event Lincoln steps aside but the results weren't much different. Boozman led Lt. Gov. Bill Halter 53 percent to 30 percent, held a 48 percent to 37 percent edge over Rep. Mike Ross and was up 51 percent to 36 percent on retired Gen. Wesley Clark. As evidence of the dislike of Democrats in the Razorback State at the moment, popular Gov. Mike Beebe, who is coasting to a second term this fall, was in a statistical dead heat with Boozman. The PPP numbers are more optimistic for Republicans than some of the other independent data that has been released of late but they aren't entirely out of step with those numbers either. Lincoln allies insist that she still has a story to tell -- if the health care bill either dies or passes some time soon -- and the money ($5 million on hand) to tell it. But, Lincoln's numbers continue to tumble, expect there to be considerable pressure brought to bear on her to step aside. ALSO READ: Our profile of Beebe -- in better times.
5. Thanks to our friends at the Hotline and Roll Call, we now have a two handy-dandy charts detailing all of the money raised -- and spent -- by candidates for Senate in the final three months of 2009. Since there are too many numbers to take in at once, we sliced and diced them a few different ways for you. Most cash-on-hand at the end of the year (incumbents): Alabama Republican Sen. Richard Shelby ($16.3 million), Indiana Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh ($13 million), Nevada Democratic Sen. Harry Reid ($8.7 million), Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter ($8.7 million) and California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer ($7.2 million). Most cash-on-hand end of of 2009 (challengers/open seats): Charlie Crist of Florida ($7.6 million), Rob Portman of Ohio ($6 million), Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania ($5.1 million), Mark Kirk of Illinois ($3.2 million) and Roy Blunt of Missouri ($2.9 million).
February 3, 2010; 6:04 AM ET
Categories: Morning Fix
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