Primary Races 2014: Kentucky

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This, honestly, is not a discussion we should be having.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is an icon in Kentucky. He is a 5 term Senator in a red state. He will raise more money than virtually any other Republican in this cycle.  He has every major Kentucky GOP member behind him.

And yet…this is still an open question.

The problem for McConnnell is his likely Democrat challenger, Alison Lundergan Grimes, Secretary of State of Kentucky.  She has family lineage, Democrat support, and a cash reserve all of her own.

Even worse…she is running even with McConnell in early polling.

Into this dynamic enters Matt Bevin.  A businessman, he believes McConnell has betrayed the conservative wing of the party.  As such, he has the support of virtually every Tea Party and Conservative action group, including the Madison Project, the Senate Conservative Fund, and radio personalities Mark Levin and Glenn Beck.

Questions of Bevin’s conservative credentials came to light this week, as evidence showed that Bevin supported the TARP rescue program in late 2008.  That said, this is likely a small bump in the road for Bevin, and likely doesn’t change his prospects at all.

I am not a big fan of challenging GOP stalwarts that are relatively conservative.  McConnell is flawed, but unlike many of the RINOs of the past, his departures from conservatism largely are because of his leadership position more than his true beliefs.

That said, McConnell is a relatively weak candidate in a state the GOP should and must hold to have a reasonable chance of taking the Senate.  If McConnell’s poll numbers stagnate or drop further, conservatives in the state have to take a serious look at the alternatives.

Election 2014: Senate

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From Center for Poltics, UVA

The 2014 midterm provides many possibilities, and many conundrums for conservatives. After squandering several ideal potential Senate race victories in 2012, most notably in Missouri and Indiana, Republicans face a relatively favorable landscape in this cycle.  However, that by no means implies that taking the Senate majority will be an easy task.

States that are foregone conclusions:

Safe Republican Seats:  Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Nebraska*, Oklahoma, South Carolina (both Senators), Tennessee, Texas, Wyoming.

Safe Democrat Seats: Iowa*, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island

* denotes seats where the incumbent is retiring. 

Races Up For Grabs:

Alaska:   Mark Begich was lucky to win his seat 6 years ago.  If not for a late prosecutorial action against former Senator Ted Stevens, Begich would never have won the seat in the first place. The best thing going for Begich is the competitive Republican primary, where Lieutenant Governor  Mead Treadwell, 2010 nominee Joe Miller (a Tea Party candidate), and State Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan will all challenge each other in a heated primary.  Miller ran a very poor race last time, and his strength this time is dubious.  Treadwell is the candidate that is most likely to unite the GOP.  The key point in this race will be Begich’s defense of his Obamacare vote, which will be a recurring meme in this piece.

Prediction:  Slight Democrat lean, because of the GOP primary fight.

Arkansas:  Mark Pryor is among the weakest incumbents, and has consistently trailed Republican Rep. Tom Cotton for months.  Pryor is actively running away from Obamacare now, although advertisement money is pounding him on the issue.

Prediction:  Republican lean.

Colorado:  Mark Udall seems like he was on course for a smooth re-election campaign a year ago; that is no longer the case.  A mix of Obamacare, along with resurgent gun rights movement in the state, have moved his seat into a tossup.  2010 Sen nominee Ken Buck, Ex-state House Majority Leader Amy Stephens, State Sen. Owen Hill, State Sen. Randy Baumgardner, Businessman Mark Aspiri, and Businessman Jaime McMillan all are considering primary challenges.  Buck is the most well-known name, but he ran a poor campaign in his Senatorial loss last time.  This is a primary that will be hotly contested by the GOP and the Tea Party.

Prediction:  Democrat lean.

Georgia:  With the retirement of Saxby Chambliss, and without a clear obvious successor, Democrats hope to steal this seat with Michelle Nunn, the daughter of long-time Democrat Senator Sam Nunn.  Even with money and name recognition, that will be a hard slog.   Ex-Sec. of State Karen Handel, Rep. Jack Kingston, Rep. Phil Gingrey, Rep. Paul Broun, Businessman David Perdue are just a few of the Republicans challenging for the seat.

Prediction:  Republican lean.

Iowa:  Iowa should be a much competitive race for Republicans this cycle, with the retirement of Tom Harkin.  However, a primary race with no clear big name limits the GOP chances against Democrat Rep. Bruce Bailey.

Prediction:  Democrat lean.

Kentucky: Mitch McConnell is the Wiley E. Coyote of Republican politics.  Tea party hates him, he has been challenged multiple times, but he somehow always pulls through.  That is the most likely result here against well-financed Democrat Sec. of State Allison Lundergran Grimes.

Prediction:  Republican lean.

Louisiana:  Mary Landrieu is in trouble.  But we hear this during every re-election cycle and she still manages to pull through.  Is Obamacare the albatross that finally weighs her down too much?  A strong GOP field is led by Rep. Bill Cassidy, Ret. Air Force Col. Rob Maness, and State Rep. Paul Hollis.

Prediction:  Tossup.

Michigan:  This is a race that should be an easy lay-up for Democrats.   Carl Levin has held this seat for decades, and Republicans have not been a significant factor in Senate or Presidential races here for decades.  But former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land has won statewide races here before, and is well-financed, and Rep. Gary Peters, her Democrat opponent, is not exactly a household name.

Prediction:  Tossup.

Montana:  With Sen. Baucus’s retirement, this should be an easy pickup for Republicans.  But considering 2012 where Republicans lost three seats that they should easily have picked up, nothing should be considered easy.  This is a wide open primary race on both sides of the aisle.

Prediction:  Republican lean.

North Carolina:  Kay Hagan is in big trouble.  She trails all of her GOP challengers, and these are not well-known Republicans running. She is running away from Obama and Obamacare as fast as her feet will take her, but it is not likely enough.

Prediction:  Republican lean.

New Hampshire:  Jeanne Shaheen should be a cakewalk for re-election, but Obamacare is dragging down her favorables.  With former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown ready to jump in the race, he will make it at least somewhat interesting.

Prediction:  Democrat lean.

Virginia:  Similar to New Hampshire above.  Mark Warner should be walking easily to re-election, but well-known insider Ed Gillespie will be able to raise money and is high-profile enough to make the race interesting.

Prediction:  Democrat lean.

This is just the earliest look at the Senate races.  In the short run, what will be most important is the primary races, choosing the most competent conservative to challenge in the general election.

Early next week, I will have a primer on which primary races we should watch, and candidates to keep an eye on.