Friday Line: Primary Colors
It's Good Friday and with the Fix's parents coming to visit for Easter, we're taking it slow today as we try to spruce up the house, wedge Charlie into his Easter outfit (he's a big boy) and generally put our lives in order.
But, it wouldn't be good Friday without a good Line so at this time of joy and celebration for those of the Christian faith, we thought we would highlight something that should bring joy to all political junkies around the globe: the ten best primary races in the country in 2009 and 2010.
Primaries are often painted as the warm-up act to the general election but often times they wind up eclipsing the main event -- the 2008 Democratic presidential primary campaign being a primary (heh!) example.
With so few actual issues differentiating the candidates, primaries often are decided on style and strategy -- two things the Fix loves about politics.
The number one ranked race -- a new one! -- is the best of the best when it comes to the pending primaries (duh) and, as, always your suggestions, words of praise or expressions of disagreement are welcome in the comments section below.
Dropping off the Line: New Hampshire Senate (D), Florida Senate (R), Kentucky Senate (D), Illinois Senate (D), Florida Senate (D).
Coming onto the Line: Nevada Governor (R), New York Senate (D), South Carolina Governor (R), California Governor (D), Pennsylvania Senate (R)
To the Line!
10. Nevada Governor (R): Nevada Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons (or just "0" in the parlance of Jon Ralston) has problems on top of problems. The latest? The unsealing of his divorce proceedings -- never good -- features allegations from his wife of multiple affairs including one with a former Playboy playmate. Former state Sen. Joe Heck, smelling political blood, is already in the primary race and others may join him. Can Gibbons possibly survive? It doesn't seem likely but stranger things have happened. (Previous ranking: N/A)
9. Illinois Governor (D): Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has never been much of a fundraiser. And, his likely primary opponent -- state Attorney General Lisa Madigan, has more than $4 million sitting in a state account that can be spent on a governor's race. On an unrelated note, Quinn proposed that all candidates running for governor in 2010 should start with a $0 balance in their campaign accounts. Um, ok. (Previous ranking: 6)
8. Kansas Senate (R): The Kansas Republican party has spent the last decade or so tearing itself apart in a battle between its conservative and moderate wings. Now comes a different sort of problem: two well known conservatives -- Reps. Todd Tiahrt and Jerry Moran -- both want to replace Sen. Sam Brownback (R) in 2010. Both candidates will be well financed and will run serious campaigns. Moran may be a slight favorite because his massive congressional district means he has been exposed to more of the state's voters but this is as close to a genuine toss up as you can get. (Previous ranking: 5)
7. New York Senate (D): Appointed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) has struggled a bit in her first few months in office, but she showed what kind of candidate she will be earlier this week when she reported raising an eye-popping $2.3 million in the first three months of the year. Our sense is that Rep. Steve Israel is very serious about challenging Gillibrand, and, if he does, this race will move up our primary Line in coming months. If, on the other hand, Israel takes a pass and Gillibrand's only primary opponent winds up being Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, then this race won't spend much more time on our Line. (Previous ranking: N/A)
6. California Governor (R): Two extremely wealthy individuals -- state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner and former eBay president Meg Whitman -- with a posse of national consultants aligned on each side running for the GOP nomination in the country's largest state. This is going to be a terrific race. Whitman is a slight favorite at the moment, but she remains almost entirely untested as a candidate. So much can change between now and next year's primary. (Previous ranking: 3)
5. South Carolina Governor (R): This three-way race between Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, Rep. Gresham Barrett and state Attorney General Henry McMaster is interesting on a number of levels. First, it's a rarity to see three popular elected officials risk their political careers on a race against one another. Second, the behind-the-scenes consultant battle that makes South Carolina Republican politics absolutely fascinating is well under way in this contest. Third, South Carolina's prominent place in the 2012 nominating process means that the race will get far more national attention from those interested in being the party's next presidential nominee than the typical gubernatorial primary. (Previous ranking: N/A)
4. Virginia Governor (D): The lone 2009 race on our Line, this primary has it all: a national hook in the form of former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe's candidacy, scads of money (also courtesy of McAuliffe) and a genuine geographic debate about just how powerful northern Virginia will be in the overall math of a statewide primary. While McAuliffe -- and his larger-than-life personality -- is the big draw here, both former state Assemblyman Brian Moran and state Sen. Creigh Deeds are credible candidates with a defensible path to the nomination. And, this race is less than two months away! (Previous ranking: 4)
3. California Governor (D): Because the eventual winner of this primary will be the odds-on favorite to be the next governor of California, expect a brawl for the Democratic nomination. The race is either a two or three candidate affair. State Attorney General Jerry Brown and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom are in while Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa continues to mull a candidacy. Lt. Gov. John Garamendi is in the race but isn't seen as a serious factor and we can't find any sharp California observers who think Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) is a real possibility as a candidate. Whoever wins the Democratic primary -- especially if it's Newsom or Villaraigosa -- will instantly become a major national figure and player in national politics in 2012 and beyond. (Previous ranking: N/A)
2. Texas Governor (R): There's no doubt that the race between Gov Rick Perry and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison will be a bloody affair. But, of late, the two sides have generally played nice -- preferring to stalk one another from afar in advance of the melee. But, the battle plans are already drawn up. Perry will cast Hutchison as a squishy moderate, particularly on the abortion issue; Hutchison will paint Perry as an ineffective governor whose time has passed. (Previous ranking: 1)
1. Pennsylvania Senate (R): It takes a lot to knock the Texas race from the top spot but the pending primary between Sen. Arlen Specter and former Rep. Pat Toomey is, without doubt, the marquee intraparty scrap on the docket over the next two years. Toomey came within two points of ousting Specter six years ago and the landscape -- in terms of Republican registration -- has grown worse for the incumbent since then. Specter, however, is a political junkyard dog, and is already up on TV bashing Toomey -- before the former Congressman is even in the race. Love it! This is going to be a doozy. (Previous ranking: N/A)
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