The Progressive Fix

The Permanent Campaign: North To Alaska

There will remain eight state primaries this year after today, but none involving competitive Senate seats (unless you count Louisiana, which has the first stage of its Top Two primary on November 4).  So the last chance for a GOP Senate upset–the big discussion point throughout the primaries–is in Alaska today.

It would be judged an upset if Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell beat former Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan for the right to take on incumbent Sen. Mark Begich.  But that’s mainly a matter of money and general electability rather than ideology.  The bigger and ideologically significant upset would be another win by former House Speaker Joe Miller, who’s been running a poorly financed third in the race in the wake of his general election loss in 2010 to a write-in campaign from incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski (whom Miller had beaten in the GOP primary).  It’s very unlikely to happen.

The other nationally prominent race today is actually a state senate special election in VA that will determine control of the chamber.  It’s a historically Democratic district, but also one that’s been trending heavily Republican in presidential contests.  So Republican state delegate Ben Chafin is a solid favorite over Democrat Mike Hymes.  This is the district recently abandoned by Democrat Phil Puckett in very suspicious circumstances (a cushy state job for him–which he was then forced to quit–and a judicial confirmation for his daughter).

Meanwhile, in Hawaii, as expected, Sen. Dean Schatz held onto–and actually increased–his victory margin over Rep. Collen Hanabusa in a special Senate Democratic primary.  No final word yet as to whether Hanabusa will challenge the results on grounds that elections were arbitrarily held in some places on primary day but not in others.  But it looks good for Schatz.




The Permanent Campaign: A Quiet Three-Primary Tuesday and Confusion in Hawaii

Yesterday’s primaries in Connecticut, Minnesota and Wisconsin occurred without a great deal of drama, with front-runners mostly cruising.  In the Nutmeg State, Tom Foley beat John McKinney 55/45 to earn a rematch with Democratic Gov. Dan Malloy. In MN, it was a bit dicier for state GOP-endorsed gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson, who held off three major challengers with only 30%; he’ll now face Gov. Mark Dayton.  The one barnburner was the GOP primary in WI-06, where fire-breathing conservative state senator Glenn Grothman very narrowly (214 votes) edged Joe Leibham, which if it holds should give Democrats at least some hope of winning a seat Republican Tom Petri held for 36 years.

But there was more drama in Hawaii, where the Democratic Senate nomination most thought appointed incumbent Brian Schatz had more-or-less won is still in some doubt. You may recall that two precincts on the Big Island didn’t have balloting on primary day due to flooding. Election officials originally announced a three-week mail ballot process for the precincts, but then decided on a full live vote this coming Friday.  Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who trailed Schatz by just over 1700 votes with all the other precincts reporting (and who had little hope of making that up in the precincts that haven’t voted) is now talking about suing to stop Friday’s balloting due to continuing storm damage issues, and is also threatening to go to court to challenge the results because other storm-effected precincts voted “irregularly.” So Hawaii could join Mississippi as a state with a Senate primary under legal challenge.

The Permanent Campaign: Three Low-Profile Primaries

If all you had to go by was national media, you might not know there are three primaries being held today, in Connecticut, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

CT’s marquee race is the GOP primary for governor, where former ambassador to Ireland Tom Foley is seeking a rematch with Democratic Gov. Dan Malloy, who is generally deemed vulnerable. Foley’s being challenged by state senate Republican leader John McKinney, whose exploitation of a gaffe by the front-runner could be undermined by his own past support for gun regulation.

There’s another relatively non-ideological GOP gubernatorial primary in MN, where the usually-influential state party endorsement went to Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, who’s stirred some intraparty controversy by refusing to sign a no-tax-increase pledge.  Three other candidates are in the race; the one to watch is probably self-funder Scott Honour, who’s calling for a major reduction in the state budget.

In WI, eighteen-term incumbent Republican Rep. Tom Petri is retiring, and two conventionally conservative candidates are seeking to overcome wild man ideologue and state senator Glenn Grothman for the GOP nomination in what has normally been a safe Republican district.

The Permanent Campaign: One Storm Over, Others Still on Radar

In forecasting Saturday’s Hawaii Democratic primary on Friday, I noted the state was being hit by one tropical storm with a hurricane still approaching. As it turns out, Tropical Storm Iselle weakened at landfall and wrought less damage than expected, while Hurricane Julio missed Hawaii entirely.

The stormy gubernatorial primary ended shortly after polls closed, with Gov. Neil Abercrombie losing by better than a two-to-one margin to state senator David Ige.The incumbent suffered from chronically low approval ratings, turmoil in the legislature, conflict with unions, and controversy over his choice of his Lt. Gov., Brian Schatz, to succeed Dan Inouye despite the iconic senator deathbed request that Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (a fellow Japanese-American; Schatz is white) get the nod.  It was all too much for Abercrombie. But Ige must now face another storm in the general election, with former Democrat (and former Honolulu mayor) Mufi Hannemann running as an indie, giving Republican former Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona the lead in at least one early poll.

Meanwhile, it looks as though Schatz will probably survive his primary with Hanabusa, but it won’t be official for a while.  He led by just over 1600 votes with all but two precincts counted, but these were Big Island precincts where flooding largely prevented Election Day voting. Voters there are being allowed three more weeks to send in mail ballots.  But the math seems to decisively favor the incumbent, creating a victory for the president and many liberal and environmental groups, and a setback for Emily’s List.  Schatz is not expected to have any trouble in November.

The Permanent Campaign: Cross-Currents in TN, Big Storms in HI

Yesterday’s primary in Tennessee produced a real mixed bag of results. In the only race most national pundits noticed, Sen. Lamar Alexander beat right-wing challenger by a healthy but hardly overwhelming 50-41 margin.  But an equally big deal was the resounding defeat of a partisan effort financed by Americans Prosperity and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey to remove three Supreme Court Justices accused vaguely of “liberalism.”  And in a contrast to Alexander’s win, one of the rare Republican candidates (especially in the South) who campaigned on making the GOP more moderate and open to bipartisanship, Weston Wamp, narrowly lost a challenge to fire-breathing conservative Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, who said he had no interest in talking to “ultra-liberal leftists.”

In an interesting test of ideology versus credibility, another fire-breather, Rep. Steve DesJarlais, basically tied his well-funded challenger Jim Tracy (provisional ballots and a recount will determine the winner, though the incumbent led by 35 votes with all precincts reporting) despite massive publicity about DesJarlais’ alleged sexual and professional indiscretions, including encouragement of abortions by a wife and a lover.

Tomorrow’s Hawaii Democratic primary promises to be even stormier, and only partially because of the weather (Tropic Storm Iselle is currently battering the islands, and Hurricane Julio could arrive on Sunday).  In a tangle of ideology and race, appointed Sen. Brian Schatz is in a close battle with Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, a Japanese-American whom Japanese-American icon Daniel Inouye clearly wanted to serve as his successor.  Schatz, who is white, is being supported by many liberal and environmental groups, and by the president, who has a lot of clout here. Hanabusa is considered more moderate, and both she and Inouye backed Hillary Clinton in 2008 over Obama.  Whoever wins will be a heavy favorite in the general election.

Meanwhile, the man who appointed Schatz, Gov. Neil Abercrombie (another white progressive and Obama ally), is in real trouble against state senator David Ige (another Japanese-American).  Whoever wins will have a tough three-way general election to navigate.  There’s also a seven-candidate Democratic primary to succeed Hanabusa in her House seat.

It’s anybody’s guess how the weather will affect turnout patterns, but it’s not a great environment for GOTV.

We’ll talk about the results on Monday.

The Permanent Campaign: Close Races But Few Cigars For Challengers

Last night’s primaries in KS, MI, MO and WA had some drama but not many upsets.  In the Sunflower State, Sen. Pat Roberts dispatched damaged Tea Party challenger Milton Wolf by a comfortable but not overwhelming 48/41 margin; this is widely being described as a missed opportunity for conservative insurgents.  Tea Party House incumbents Tim Hueselkamp of Kansas and Justin Amash of MI had some nervous moments but won (Amash defied the usual party-healing conventions and denounced his opponent and his campaign as “despicable”).  Another hard-core conservative, KS Rep. Mike Pompeo, pummeled his predecessor, Todd Tiahrt.  KS Gov. Sam Brownback showed why he’s in trouble in November with a pallid 63-37 win over a challenger with zero money.

The one House incumbent who lost, MI Republican Kerry Bentivolio, was widely regarded as an accidental congressman; no one was surprised by the outcome.  In one of several open-seat primaries, there could be a recount in MI-14, where Roy Hobbes barely edged Brenda Lawrence in the race to succeed Rep. Gary Peters in a deep blue district.

Out in WA, the perils of the “top two” system were illustrated again as two Republicans will advance to the general election in the district being vacated by Rep. Doc Hastings.  But Democratic Rep. Suzan DelBene got lucky as wealthy GOPer and tech exec Pedro Celis does not appear to have made the cut.

There were no statewide or competitive primaries in MO, but a controversial “Right to Farm” ballot initiative aimed at killing regulations seems to have very narrowly passed.

I wrote up an analysis of the Senate GOP primary cycle so far over at TPMCafe if you’re interested.

Friday we’ll be back with results and analysis of tomorrow’s Tennessee primary (the most interesting race may involve a highly partisan GOP effort to remove three State Supreme Court Justices), and a forecast for Saturday’s Hawaii primary, where two scary weather events–a hurricane and a tropical storm–are overshadowing unusually vicious Democratic contests for Senator and Governor.


The Permanent Campaign: Bloody Kansas

There are four primaries being held today, though one (Missouri) has no competitive congressional or statewide contests.

Most of the national attention is focused on Kansas, where Tea Folk have long targeted Sen. Pat Roberts.  But various stumbles and revelations about his opponent, physician Milton Wolf, have made Roberts a clear favorite for re-election, though he still suffers from perceptions he’s grown distant from life in Kansas.  In this heavily Republican state, Roberts will be the overwhelming favorite against district attorney Chad Taylor in November, though Taylor’s actually run even with Wolf in limited polling.

There’s one red-hot GOP House primary in KS, where arch-conservative Rep. Mike Pompeo is being challenged by his predecessor, social-conservative champion Todd Tiahrt, who represented the district from 1995 until an unsuccessful Senate race in 2010. Pompeo is favored to survive, but Tiahrt has attracted some outside funding, and no one would be shocked if he won.  Meanwhile, fire-breathing Tea Person Rep. Tim Huelskamp attracted a more moderate challenger (Alan LaPolice) who’s being backed by wealthy ag interests, but is expected to win.

Overshadowing all the primaries is the trouble GOP Gov. Sam Brownback is in thanks to his radical fiscal policies. He’s expected to win his primary easily, but has trailed Democrat Paul Davis in at least one recent poll.

There are several competitive House primaries in MI today. Like Kansas’ Huelskamp, hard-core Tea Partier Rep. Justin Amash has attracted a well-funded challenge from the more mainstream (and wealthy) Brian Ellis, but is expected to win. Another GOP incumbent, Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (who was a fluke winner in 2012 after Thad McCotter was forced off the ballot) may not be as lucky, and will probably lose to wealthy challenger Dave Trott. There’s also a competitive Democratic primary in Bentivolio’s district (which is reasonably marginal) between former State Department official Bobby McKenzie and physician Anil Kumar.  There are crowded open-seat primaries for districts occupied by retiring GOP Reps. Dave Camp and Mike Rogers (the latter district could be competitive in November, and by Democrat Mike Peters, who’s running for the Senate, and, like GOP opponent Terri Lynn Land, has no primary opposition today.

In WA, which has a “top-two” non-partisan primary system like CA’s, there are eight Republicans and two Democrats running for GOP Rep. Doc Hastings’ open seat, with former NFL player and Tea Partier Clint Didier being the best known. Republicans could lock Democrats out of the second round here, though it’s unlikely.

We’ll have results and analysis tomorrow, before turning to Thursday’s primary in Tennessee and Saturday’s in Hawaii.





The Permanent Campaign: Good News From Dixie For Senate GOPers

As we pause between primaries, there’s some good if scattered news for Republicans longing for a southern-fried Senate takeover this November.

In Georgia, the first post-runoff polling has two surveys–from Rasmussen and Vox Populi (a Republican firm)–show David Perdue sprinting into a lead over Michelle Nunn, by (respectively) 46/40 and 49/40. But Landmark Communications continues to show Nunn up 47/43, as did most polls before the runoff.

And in Arkansas, a long string of polls showing Sen. Mark Pryor leading Rep. Tom Cotton came to an end with a Hendrix College survey that has Cotton up 44/42.

In Kentucky, after shifting to a “likely voter” model, the Louisville Courier-Journal now has Mitch McConnell up 47/45 over Alison Grimes.

Meanwhile, yours truly has a column at TPMCafe suggesting that growing GOP over-confidence about 2014 could exert a price during the 2016 cycle.


The Permanent Campaign: 31 Primaries Down, 19 To Go

Thirty-one states have now held their 2014 primaries, and all but one of those 31 have finished their runoffs as well (the exception is not, as you might guess, a southern state, but California, where the November general election is technically a “top two” runoff).  There’s nothing on tap next Tuesday, but a lot of activity the following week: primaries in Kansas, Michigan, Missouri and Washington on August 5, then Tennessee on Thursday, August 7, and Hawaii on Saturday, August 9.

The competitive Senate primaries in that batch are a GOP tilt in KS, where veteran incumbent Pat Roberts is holding a healthy but possibly shrinking lead against conservative activist Milton Wolf, and a special Democratic primary in HI to complete the term of the late Daniel Inouye, where interim Sen. Brian Schatz is facing a serious challenge from Rep. Colleen Hanabusa.  Tea Party types also hope Joe Carr, campaigning almost exclusively on the immigration issue, could throw a scare into Lamar Alexander in TN.

Next week we’ll focus on general election developments, and perhaps some early 2016 speculation or polls.

The Permanent Campaign: Upset in GA

It’s safe to say the CW yesterday was that Rep. Jack Kingston, who’d led most polls since the May primary and seemed to have the upper hand in the perpetual “who’s most conservative” sweepstakes, would dispatch businessman David Perdue in the Georgia GOP Senate runoff, albeit perhaps by a less comfortable margin than imagined a month ago. Abysmal turnout (it came in at under 10% of registered voters) was expected to help Kingston over the hump, given his more motivated and SE GA regional base. But instead Perdue won by a margin just outside the maximum that would have triggered a recount.

To put it simply, Kingston did not get the lion’s share of votes cast for the three major defeated primary candidates in metro Atlanta, even though two of them (Karen Handel and Phil Gingrey) endorsed and campaigned with him.  It appears Perdue’s heavy runoff advertising outside metro Atlanta was more effective than Kingston’s heavy advertising in the big metro market.

While most observers wrote off the result as the sort of upset that can occur when a nasty and negative campaign turns off many voters, at least one–Kingston backer and right-wing opinion leader Erick Erickson–attributed it to Perdue’s shrewd attack ad on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s support for “amnesty.”  The Chamber supplied the bulk of Kingston’s resources during the runoff.

Downballot, the two House “constitutional conservative” members who lost in the Senate primary in May will both be replaced by likeminded firebrands in heavily Republican districts. State legislator Barry Loudermilk crushed former congressman Bob Barr in Phil Gingrey’s GA-11, and Baptist minister/radio talk host Jody Hice comfortably defeated Mike Collins in Paul Broun’s GA-10. A con-con trifecta was avoided when state senator Buddy Carter edged “Dr. Bob” Johnson in Kingston’s GA-01, where elevated turnout probably helped Carter.

In one more interesting downballot runoff, the GOP contest for state school superintendent, a supporter and an opponent of Common Core fought to a near tie, with the opponent, Richard Woods, up by 700 votes.  A recount is likely.