The Friday Line: Primary Madness!
General election races may attract the most interest from the casual political observers but for true political junkies there is nothing that matches the intensity (read: nastiness) that defines primary fights.
In general elections, the differences tend to be more issue-driven -- there are typically real disagreements between the two candidates on a variety of social and fiscal matters; in a primary, there are usually few such differences, which ensures that the fight often descends into the personal. (Hooray!)
Although it's early in the 2010 election cycle, there are already a number of intraparty matchups brewing that promise to be memorable for their cost, their ferociousness or -- in an ideal world -- a little of both.
Today's Line ranks the 10 best primary matchups on the horizon with the number one ranked race our best bet to be the most watchable (and memorable) primary of the cycle.
Have picks of your own? Feel free to offer them in the comments section below.
To the Line!
10. New Hampshire Senate (D): Rep. Paul Hodes is moving quickly to unify establishment Democrats behind his candidacy for what will be an open seat in 2010. (Bonnie Newman (R) will serve as a caretaker in the seat until then.) But, Rep. Carol Shea Porter has proven an ability to beat the establishment -- she beat the national party endorsed candidate in the 2006 primary and then won the general election without a dime of support from the national committee -- and is looking seriously at the race. If she runs, Shea Porter will bring the grassroots army that got her elected in 2006 (and reelected in 2008) with her while Hodes will have the backing -- tacit or explicit remains to be seen -- of the state and national establishment.
9. Florida Senate (R): Florida Republicans have been on a roller-coaster ride for the past few months. First, Sen. Mel Martinez announced his retirement, which most party strategists believed was a good thing as the incumbent's numbers were relatively poor. Then former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush decided against running, a major let down for Republican recruiters. What all of that means is that Republicans are likely headed to a crowded primary -- unless Florida Gov. Charlie Crist decides to run, which is being cast currently as something of a long shot. A Crist-less field would feature any number of up and coming GOPers including Reps. Vern Buchanan and Connie Mack IV as well as former state House Speaker Marco Rubio.
8. Kentucky Senate (D): Of all the Senate incumbents currently seeking reelection. Sen. Jim Bunning (R) is, without question, the most vulnerable. And so, any number of Democrats are circling -- seeing this as the best chance they may ever get to be in the Senate. Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo, who narrowly lost to Bunning in 2004, is already in the race but state Attorney General Jack Conway is preparing to run as well. Both Conway and Mongiardo are seen as rising stars within the party who have lost races for federal office; a second loss for either one would take the shine off and both men know it. That means they will fight all the harder to win.
7. Florida Senate (D): Florida always seems to be at the center of national politics and 2010 looks to be no exception. With Crist expected to cruise to reelection (if he decides not to run for the Senate), the focus for national Democrats is on the seat being vacated by Sen. Mel Martinez (R). State CFO Alex Sink's decision not to run means that the contest will be wide open with Rep. Kendrick Meek and state Sen. Dan Gelber formally running and Reps.
Allen Boyd (Boyd has decided not to run -- oops!) and Ron Klein still mulling bids. Given Florida's growth and the fractured geographic nature of the state's voting patterns (the I-4 corridor versus south Florida), this will be a fascinating study in primary politics.
6. Illinois Governor (D): The removal of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his subsequent replacement by now-Gov. Pat Quinn is still sorting itself out, but a real possibility exists that Quinn will face a serious primary challenge in 2010. State Attorney General Lisa Madigan is clearly interested in being governor but, of late, there have been some reports that she may see a Senate race as the better (and easier) next step for her. Quinn has a chance to cast himself as the anti-Blagojevich to a public more than ready to move on. If he does, it's possible he dodges a serious primary. If he stumbles, the sharks will be circling.
5. Kansas Senate (R): Sen. Sam Brownback's decision to return to the Sunflower State and run for governor has created a terrific primary between Reps. Jerry Moran and Todd Tiahrt. Moran has the early jump thanks to his cash position ($2.5 million on hand) and his exposure statewide thanks to a massive congressional district that encompasses most of western and central Kansas. Polling provides mixed messages; a Research 2000 survey for Daily Kos showed Tiahrt leading Moran 24 percent to 19 percent while a poll conducted for Moran by Public Opinion Strategies showed Moran ahead 41 percent to 25 percent. Given that no Democrat has won a Senate seat in Kansas since 1932, it's clearly a nomination worth having.
4. Virginia Governor (D): Even before former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe decided he wanted to be governor of the Commonwealth, this race was marked with an asterisk on the calendars of political junkies. Now, with McAuliffe as well as former state Rep. Brian Moran and state Sen. Creigh Deeds seeking the post, the Virginia Democratic party has something of an embarrassment of riches with three quality candidates seeking to build on gubernatorial victories by Mark Warner and Tim Kaine. McAulliffe's presence in the race means it will draw national attention and, so far, the Moran team has made clear they will not simply roll over for the Macker. Put on your hard hats -- this one is going to get rough.
3. California Governor (R): Take two political unknowns, add $50 million of personal money (at least) and voila! -- you have yourself the makings of a GREAT primary. Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman and state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner are both extremely wealthy and (apparently) extremely willing to spend from their own pockets. Running for office in California is a massive financial undertaking that you could -- theoretically -- throw hundreds of millions of dollars at to get your name known statewide. This primary could set all spending records and, for that fact alone, is well worth watching.
2. Illinois Senate (D): When former Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) appointed Sen. Roland Burris to the world's greatest deliberative body, he left a lot of wanna-be senators at the altar. Burris continues to play coy about whether he will run for a full term in 2010 but even if he does he seems likely to face a primary challenge from at least one major Democratic candidate with state Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Rep. Jan Schakowsky and state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias most regularly mentioned. If Burris decides against a run, this could be a knock-down drag out fight with Madigan, if she wants to be in the Senate, the immediate favorite in an open seat scenario.
1. Texas Governor (R): Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison has had her eye on the governorship ever since she was first elected to the Senate in 1993. The only problem? Gov. Rick Perry has absolutely no plans for vacating the office. Hutchison has already transferred nearly $8 million from her Senate account to a gubernatorial war chest and Perry is no slouch himself with more than $6.5 million in the bank. The Hutchison team argues that voters are tired of Perry, who has been in office since late 2000, and ready for a change; Perry's side retorts that Hutchison is a moderate who has never faced a real opponent in her 16 years in elected office. This one is going to be an all-out war that is already garnering national attention; Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (remember her?) endorsed Perry earlier this week. This is going to be an old-fashioned political brawl. Get your BBQ sauce ready.
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