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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.

Friday Line

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.

By Chris Cillizza  |  February 6, 2009; 3:40 PM ET
Categories:  The Line  
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Regarding the California GOP primary, Poizner, with all his bucks, couldn't get elected State Representative a couple of cycles ago against a local city council member--it was only in running for the obscure post of Insurance Commissioner against sleepy opposition that he managed to win office. He ran away from his party that time.

As for Whitman, I wish her the best of luck using McCain campaign retreads. Her own impact for McCain was negligible.

I'm glad these two billionaires will spend this money against one another, but they'll spend it trying to woo a very conservative GOP base in California, and those advertisements will likely cost them in the general.

Posted by: fallenstarseven | February 9, 2009 7:57 PM | Report abuse

I think it's amazing that anyone could really call Hutchison a "moderate." I guess that's testimony to how extreme the R's of Texas have gotten!

Posted by: al_jal | February 9, 2009 4:08 PM | Report abuse

By Dwight Baker
317 words

The use of the Internet is not going to save our nation. Just because we can air our wishes and desires to bring coalitions together to discuss between ourselves the needs of others and us is far from a FIX for our GOVERNMENT.

The Internet is not the fix it is just one step along the way to bring saneness back as a core of thought between us.

But WAKE UP WE HAVE NO POWER for our thoughts and desires to be pushed along inside of our corrupt affairs of our GOVERNMENT.

Petitions and Pleas and all our blogging trying to tell each of our stories best as we can will never bring the kind of POWER to bring about the needed changes.

The economic stimulus bill being discussed has had the LOBBYIST in Washington DC in a feeding frenzy adding the things that their clients WANT ADDED to the bill and some call that PORK.

I call it GREED. The give and take and chit chat and back slaps and ballyhoo are just a repulsion to me how about you?

We have the number of folks to start our own LOBBY in Washington DC. When done we would have power to affect the changes needed to bring a halt to our run a way GOVERNMENT for a time.

Our LOBBY would represent us. They would snoop too ---- to give all of us the day by day LOW DOWN what and who were pushing for what to be added to a bill to get a FREE RIDE in our DEMOCRACY.

Our LOBBY would be seen on CSPAN each night for the nightly NEWS not VIEWS from the elites and EAST COAST BLUE BLOODS needs to have their agendas pushed down our throats.


Contact on how you can help push the concept of

Posted by: dbaker00711281944 | February 9, 2009 10:57 AM | Report abuse


The Democratic Primary for California Governor needs to be on this list. With Governor Moonbean, two liberal mayors with high visibility, and the possibility of DiFi all in the mix, this will be a good one.

My bet is Fienstein will say in Washington given her new position as Chairman of Senate Intel., giving Brown the clear advantage. California loves comeback stories.

Posted by: Irish_Bruin | February 9, 2009 9:38 AM | Report abuse

The 2010 Primary Election excitement -- who needs Lunesta -- just stayed glued to the Fix. I'm on the edge of my roller chair -- just what will happen next in the ever exciting political arena??

Posted by: newbeeboy | February 8, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

OK, fake scrivener gets my nomination for post of the month.



Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | February 7, 2009 11:40 PM | Report abuse


Those of us who have access to the deepest secrets of government KNOW that the Senate has been infiltrated... by SPACE ALIENS! Led by Mitch McConnell, the Aliens claim to come in peace, and have even offered up one of their own... LEONARD NIMOY... as a presidential candidate! You might THINK that the next election will not take place until 2012, but the insurrection has already begun to plan the "accidental" disappearance of the entire White House. At this time, Nimoy and McConnell will step forward, along with Jabba the Newt. They will reveal themselves and claim to come in peace, all the while HUNGERING FOR HUMAN FLESH!'s-a-cookbook/


Posted by: scrivener60 | February 7, 2009 10:58 PM | Report abuse

My Democratic friends in Pennslyvania will all be voting for Arlen Spector to make sure he is the nominee to go up against our nominee

Posted by: mattadamsdietmanager1014 | February 7, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone at the Post track the travels of members of Congress when they take a full WEEK off for President's DAY?

Posted by: Rivery | February 7, 2009 9:01 AM | Report abuse

The race for the Republican nomination in Pennsylvania should be interesting; if Pat Toomey, Tom Corbett, and Jim Gerlach all get in, the two more moderate ones will probably crowd each other out and hand it to Toomey, which would seriously hinder efforts to retake the governorship.

Posted by: SeanC1 | February 6, 2009 11:08 PM | Report abuse

Fun reading, Chris. I would probably put the Pennsylvania (R) primary on the list, though defeating Spectre would be fatricidal. I'm curious about the VA governor's race--already got a flier from McAuliffe.

By the way, hope all is going well in anticipating Fixicito. Those first few months are a blur for me (though having twins didn't help).


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | February 6, 2009 9:56 PM | Report abuse

I agree with some of the other posters about the omission of the Democratic primary for California Governor. Attorney General (and fmr. Gov.) Jerry Brown and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom are already in. Lt. Gov. John Garamendi will almost certainly run in addition to the possible candidacy of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Also consider the possibility (however remote) that Sen. Dianne Feinstein will jump in and this primary definitely looks like it will be a barnburner.

While it won't get as nasty or be as fought on such ideological turf as Texas Gov. (R), it will probably make for good political theater.

Posted by: marcbess | February 6, 2009 9:55 PM | Report abuse

I concur with the commenter above. I am surprised to see CA-Gov (R) so high in the list when CA-Gov (D) isn't there at all.

There is quite a cast of character on the Democratic side: from Villaraigosa to Newsom to JERRY BROWN to a whole host of gray longtime hands that could swoop in and take the whole thing (page Gray Davis) and there are much much more likely to be elected in November than either Whitman or Poizner.
I realize those two sound like people to watch for the national stage as seen from the Beltway but from down here in CA, the Dem. side is as exciting.

Posted by: benjaminomeara | February 6, 2009 8:00 PM | Report abuse

mnteng, Is there no office other than congress that Sestak covets? The guy seems to me to be a rising star.

Palin has bet on Goodhair who probably cannot get within ten points of KBH in a primary, not within 15 if Ds and Is x-over.

TX has open primaries. Goodhair has not lifted his 39% approval rating and probably will not. I ask my fellow Texans to chime in on the silliness of rating this race in the top ten.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | February 6, 2009 6:27 PM | Report abuse

chris, kbh has a 90% GOP Voting Record, American Conservative Union Lifetime Rating 90%, National Rifle Association Current Rating A+, Americans for Tax Reform 110th Congress 95%, and National Right to Life Lifetime Rating 94%

Posted by: anonymous39 | February 6, 2009 6:22 PM | Report abuse

So, you don't think Palin's endorsement means a slam dunk win in the primary for Gov. Goodhair against KBH? I'm shocked.

PA Senate (R) will not be in play. Toomey has decided against running and will likely try for Gov. instead (Rendell is term limited). And I haven't heard of any other R challenger stepping up. On the other hand, PA Gov. (R) might be interesting with Toomey, Tom Corbett (AG),and maybe even The Rick.

There may be a little jockeying among the Ds, but Wagner and Schwartz will probably end up with the nominations for Gov. and Sen., respectively. No Patrick Murphy or Sestak, unfortunately.

Posted by: mnteng | February 6, 2009 5:54 PM | Report abuse

PA Senate should be very interesting. Arlen Specter will likely face a difficult challenge from Pat Toomey, the ultra-conservative Rep. and President of the Club for Growth. He challenged Specter in 2004 and really came close to winning it. If he won, Dems would probably be a lock on the seat in a moderate state like PA.

Posted by: benbuchwalter | February 6, 2009 5:18 PM | Report abuse

The more I think about it, the more I am sure that there will be no D distraction from the R Gov Primary in TX. If the R primary is the only show in town this will not deserve a place in the top ten.

The Ds will surely focus on the special election for Senate. That special election could be a top ten race.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | February 6, 2009 5:10 PM | Report abuse

Some more nominees:

* NY Gov (D) (will Paterson draw a challenge?)
* PA Sen. (D and R) (does Specter get another right-wing challenge? and which D gets to take him on?)
* MN Gov. (D) (as many as 8 possible candidates, no frontrunner)

Maybe none gets into your top 10, but these are all ones to watch.

Posted by: billmcg1 | February 6, 2009 5:07 PM | Report abuse

jenny11, I'd say that's one of the major problems that intelligent citizens in general have with political journalists.

CC, a campaign focused on nasty personal attacks may be more fun for you to cover. Issue-oriented politics can be pretty dry, especially when the issues are only of local interest. But in the end, the issues are more important than the attacks and the personalities, and you should remember that.

Posted by: Blarg | February 6, 2009 4:21 PM | Report abuse

"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!)"

Chris, you realize this is one of the major problems political staffers have with political journalists, right?

Posted by: jenny11 | February 6, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

CA-Gov (D) has to make this list, unless you have some intel that points to a Feinstein run. It should be a great primary with Lt. Gov Garamendi, AG Brown, May. Newsom, and possibly May. Vill (can't spell his whole last name), Rep. Sanchez and a few others.

Also, Oregon Gov (D) has a lot of potential contenders, and TN Gov (R) should be interesting with Gibbons, Haslam, and Wamp.

Posted by: AnthonyJBrady | February 6, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

I suppose the R Primary could be tricky for KBH if two strong Ds are in a primary the same day. So if KBH times her withdrawal from the Senate so that the D Senate race between White and Sharp is on the same day as the R Gubernatorial primary, KBH could lose. That scenario is unlikely.

So conservative Ds and Is will likely vote in the R Primary, where the action will be. Then, KBH wins.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | February 6, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

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