Senate: ROUND 2

In South Dakota, former Governor Mike Rounds is entering the race to face Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) in 2014. Entering now dissuades other candidates from jumping in, namely Rep. Kristi Noem. Senator Johnson suffered a brain injury and has had past health problems and is 65. No word yet on whether he will run again or not. If he chooses to retire, the seat is safely in the hands of Rounds or whoever wins the primary.

Suffice to say, the GOP may have picked up two of the six seats they need in 2014 just this week alone. Even so, there’s chatter of Arkansas (definite pickup) and the Alaskan Lieutenant Governor jumping into that race (slight pickup).

That Rice is Cooked and Other Thoughts

Susan Rice is in a boatload of trouble if she think she’s the next Secretary of State. Despite allegations that her critics are racist and sexist Republicans (um, Colin Powell and Condi Rice, anyone?), she’s having a hard time gaining the necessary 5-7 Republicans she will need for Senate confirmation. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) has vowed to put a hold, and she is one of the influential Three Amigos of the GOP Foreign Policy Team. As well, very moderate Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) has a lot of questions. We just want real answers.

In one of the two 2013 races worth a hoot, Virginia LG Bill Bolling is stepping aside for Virginia AG Ken Cuccinelli to run unabated for the nomination. In addition to stopping a nasty primary, it also allows Bolling the opportunity to jump into the 2014 Senate race if Governor Bob McDonnell chooses not to. Cuccinelli will run basically unopposed against former DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe.

West Virginia Rep Shelley Moore Capito, under fire from right-wing groups like the Club for Growth and Senate Conservative Fund after announcing her run for the 2014 Senate seat held by Jay Rockefeller, says the GOP had poor communication in 2012. I agree.

“We as Republicans have those solutions; we just have poorly communicated that,” she said on Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends.” “And that’s why I think I’m excited about being a woman running for Senate, but I’m proud to say I’m a great Republican that believes our solutions are what’s going to help women in my age bracket help those children and help those parents have a better life.”
It was not the message, but how we delivered it, and who delivered it. Some people just shouldn’t be allowed the opportunity to communicate our message because they are crazy whackadoodles.
Maybe Delaware isn’t as boring as we all thought? Freshman Senator Chris Coons, who got so lucky getting to run against Christine O’Donnell in 2010, isn’t taking chances for 2016, in the event she runs again, or Beau Biden, son of VP Joe Biden, primaries him. My opinion: he’s safe.
Chris Christie is like, omg, so popular! 72% approval rating for a Republican in New Jersey is pretty remarkable.
In the most interesting news of the day: vulnerable Senator Saxy Chambliss, often targeted as being the most likely to be primaried in 2014, has picked up a potential rival: RedState.com founder Erick Erickson. He is very conservative, but it is Georgia, and would be a better Senator than Chambliss’ other declared opponent, Karen Handel. If Georgia wants him, I’m all for it. Good guy who cares about the cause.

Punting on Plans

2014 Senators are already punting on their re-election decisions, though not all:

  • Rockefeller (D-WV): vague statement on making decision
  • Harkin (D-IA): vague statement on making a decision
  • Enzi (R-WY): yes
  • Roberts (R-KS): yes
  • Cochran (R-MS): vague statement on making a decision
  • Johanns (R-NE): most likely
  • Hagan (D-NC): vague statement on making a decision
  • Alexander (R-TN): yes
  • Landrieu (D-LA): yes
  • Durbin (D-IL): planning on it, but hasn’t made a final decision
  • Johnson (D-SD): no idea
  • Warner (D-VA): no comment
  • Levin (D-MI): vague statement on making a decision
  • Lautenberg (D-NJ): vague statement on making a decision

Of those, Rockefeller’s seat is a near-definite pickup, as is Hagan’s, Landrieu’s, and Johnson’s.

The First Domino to Fall

To no surprise, West Virginia Representative Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV) is jumping in  the 2014 Senate Race against incumbent Democrat Jay Rockefeller. Moore Capito is in her 7th term as US Representative for the 2nd district of West Virginia; Rockefeller is in his 5th term as West Virginia’s now-senior Senator.

After deciding to skip the 2012 race against the highly popular Senator Joe Manchin, Moore Capito is jumping into a race seen as a pickup opportunity, ripe as either knocking off an unpopular liberal incumbent in a deep red state or an open race. Rockefeller, who says he is running, is seen as one of the most likely to retire before 2014.

A PPP poll had Moore Capito at 48% to Rockefeller’s 44% in 2011 — Moore Capito had a 53/28 favorability and Rockefeller had a 47/41 job approval rating.

1,448 Days Until the 2016 Presidential Election

At least 17 Republicans have began, either privately or subtlety, to make moves towards gearing up a presidential run for 2016. They are:

  1. Florida Senator Marco Rubio
  2. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal
  3. Wisconsin Representative and House Budget Chair Paul Ryan
  4. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul
  5. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
  6. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum
  7. Texas Governor Rick Perry
  8. Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann
  9. Indiana Governor Mike Pence
  10. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker
  11. New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte
  12. New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez
  13. Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval
  14. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley
  15. South Dakota Senator John Thune
  16. Ohio Senator Rob Portman
  17. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell

This all might seem premature — and a possible big-time distraction for a party that lost the presidency and Senate and House seats this time around. But top Republican officials are encouraging the never-ending presidential campaign in hopes of creating influential national voices beyond Fox News and Rush Limbaugh. “On every conference call, the message is the same,” one top official said. “We’re going to push out our new generation of leadership. We’re not going to sit back and let the extreme voices define what it means to be a conservative.”

Republicans are still haunted by the post-election chaos of 2008, when, with John McCain diminished by defeat and few clear future leaders with national juice on the scene, Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin filled the void — and dominated news coverage. This time feels different: Unlike 2008, when Republicans chalked up their defeat to a bad GOP ticket in a terrible post-Bush environment for the party, many of the most influential voices are calling for substantial rethinking of the conservative approach to politics. They are reckoning with demographic trends that favor Democrats — as well as with exit polling suggesting the assumption this is a center-right country might be wrong, or was at least wrong on Nov. 6, when a center-left electorate showed up.

If even half that list runs it would be the deepest, most policy-oriented primary we could hope for.

Filling the Bench for the GOP

2016 isn’t too far off and hell, 2010 isn’t either. 2014 is crucial for the GOP to fill in its bench for 2016 and beyond. We have a great bench of governors for 2016: Fallin, Haley, Walker, Christie, Martinez. I’ve handicapped the 2014 Senate races where the GOP will make gains. Now the gubernatorial races:

Term Limited Republicans

  • Arizona (Jan Brewer): AZ law limits office holders to two consecutive terms and Brewer served out the remainder of Napolitano’s term and then was elected to her own term in 2010. The Dem bench is terrible and Brewer is challenging “ambiguities” within that law. GOP should hold with Brewer or Sec. of State Ken Bennett.
  • Nebraska (Dave Heineman): Easily GOP hold.

Term Limited/Retiring Democrats

  • Arkansas (Mike Beebe): already going to be a great picking opportunity for the GOP.
  • Maryland (Martin O’Malley): easily a hold for the Democrats. O’Malley will be a 2016 player for the Democrats if Hillary doesn’t run.
  • Massachusetts (Deval Patrick): eligible to run again but has declared retirement. In an open race, if Kerry doesn’t leave for State or Defense, Scott Brown could be a player, as well as 2010 Republican nominee Charlie Baker.

Republican Incumbents Running Again (Declared)

  • Florida (Rick Scott): not terribly popular, but his saving grace is his job approval is on the rise. Former Republican and now Democrat Charlie Crist will run for his old job. I’m not sure how popular Crist is as a party switcher, lots of oppo material here. Tossup.
  • Idaho (Butch Otter): easily retained.
  • Nevada (Brian Sandoval): Sandoval is pretty popular as a Republican governor in a blue state. He’s also a darkhorse 2016 candidate if he wins again and he should. Hold.

Republican Incumbents Eligible to Run Again

  • Alabama (Robert Bentley): regardless of his decision to run again or not, GOP will retain.
  • Alaska (Sean Parnell): if he runs again, he will hold. He’s a darkhorse contender to run against Dem. Senator Mark Begich as well. GOP should hold this seat regardless.
  • Georgie (Nathan Deal): will hold regardless of decision.
  • Iowa (Terry Branstad): no decision made yet, polls have him up 2-4 points over potential opponents but down to current Ag Sec Vilsack. Branstad is also a darkhorse 2014 Senate candidate. If Branstad jumps to Senate race, Lt. Gov Kim Reynolds would be the favorite. GOP hold until Vilsack decides what he wants to do, then tossup.
  • Kansas (Sam Brownback): GOP hold. No more Sebelius’ coming around
  • Maine (Paul LePage): in a three way race, he won; in a rematch three-way race, he would lose. If 2014 is 2010, he can win again but he’s not terribly popular. However, the Democratic party has a hard time putting up good candidates. If he runs again, its an Independent pickup; if he doesn’t, depends on how jumps in for the Republicans – Charlie Summers….or Olympia Snowe? Right now, Dem pickup
  • Michigan (Rick Snyder): his popularity is on the rise, so I will assume if he runs again, he wins. GOP hold.
  • New Mexico (Susana Martinez): most popular Governor in the country. Up 12-13 points on potential challengers. GOP hold.
  • Ohio (John Kasich): his popularity is on the rise and the Ohio economy is getting better by the month. He can win again. GOP hold.
  • Oklahoma (Mary Fallin): GOP hold regardless but it’s important she runs again as a female governor who is very popular. Darkhorse 2016 contender.
  • Pennsylvania (Tom Corbett): not very popular and will probably lose if he runs again. Dem pickup.
  • South Carolina (Nikki Haley): another governor we need to stay in office and I think she will run again. GOP hold.
  • South Dakota (Dennis Daugaard): should run again barring a surprise entrance into the Senate race, but all decisions on that are based on former Gov. Rounds’ decision. GOP hold.
  • Tennessee (Bill Haslam): GOP hold.
  • Texas (Rick Perry): if he runs again, he’s very vulnerable to a primary challenge by AG Greg Abbot. If he wins that, he will win the race because the Dem party in Texas is in shambles, they can’t win statewide. GOP hold. A Governor Abbot could be a contender in 2020…A Governor Perry is a 2016 dud (again, haha).
  • Wisconsin (Scott Walker): blue state governor who won, was recalled, won again, and should win again; the Dem bench is awful with Tammy Baldwin going to D.C. GOP hold for Walker
  • Wyoming (Matt Mead): GOP hold regardless.

Democrat Incumbents Eligible to Run Again

  • California (Jerry Brown): he’s old and California is a blackhole. There’s a lot of Dems gunning for this (Newsom, Kamala Harris, Antonio Villaraigosa) and on the Republican side, the big name is Condoleezza Rice – she is a Republican California could elect (minority, moderate, pro-gay marriage, pro-choice). If Condi jumps in, its a top-tier race she can win. Tossup with Condi, Dem hold without.
  • Colorado (John Hickenlooper): he was a darkhorse 2016-er if Hillary stayed out, but his recent divorce would suggest he will stay out and run again. Dem hold.
  • Connecticut (Dan Malloy): he’s not popular and a rematch with Tom Foley would probably swing the GOP’s way. GOP pickup for Foley
  • Hawaii (Neil Abercrombie): Dem hold. No Linda Lingle walking through the door.
  • Illinois (Pat Quinn): he’s very unpopular (most Illinois governors are); this is a prime pickup opportunity for Republicans – he’s unpopular and the state economy is in shambles. GOP pickup
  • Minnesota (Mark Dayton): Dem hold. I’m sick of waiting for Minnesota to turn purple again.
  • New Hampshire (Maggie Hassan): NH makes you run every two years rather than four; NH is prone to wild partisan swings in midterms so she isn’t safe. I will lean Dem hold as she hasn’t even taken office yet!
  • New York (Andrew Cuomo): Dem hold. Look out 2016!
  • Oregon (John Kitzhaber): probable Dem hold barring Greg Walden skipping the Senate race and gunning for governor. Dem hold.
  • Vermont (Peter Shumlin): Dem hold regardless of decision.

Independents Eligible to Run Again

  • Rhode Island (Lincoln Chafee): he’s very unpopular; if he runs again, GOP pickup; if he says out, Dems technically pickup

The GOP needs its stars like Haley, Fallin, Sandoval, Walker, and Martinez to run again and win. They are all favorites. There’s opportunities for new faces (Abbot, Condi Rice, Scott Brown) that we need to take advantage of.

Petraeus, Scott Brown, and the Rebuilding GOP

  1. Oh General Petraeus, why? WHY? You had everything going for you and you blew it. You were going to be like Eisenhower, someone both parties were going to fight over to run for President. You would become immensely popular on both sides of the aisle and unite a divided nation with your leadership, and you blew it.
  2. Rumors of Massachusetts Senator John Kerry moving into SecDef role. While I think that is hilarious, Kerry, weak, spineless, John Kerry as Secretary of DEFENSE, it does open up a Senate seat. A 2013 special election would be perfect for Scott Brown — Senate control is not up in the air, he’s way popular still, and those idiots in MA can have the best of both worlds, Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren. He’d run for a full term in 2014. So that’s 2010 special, 2012 general, 2013 special, 2014 general. Poor man.
  3. Susan Rice will not be Secretary of State. She won’t get through Senate confirmation. That I can say with absolute certainty. Darkhouse: Jon Huntsman.
  4. 2014 Senate races heating up. 3 of the 4 Republican House members in Arkansas are exploring potential runs against Mark Pyror. I’d say his time is running out. Within the next few months, we will candidates gear up for races in Alaska, Louisiana, South Dakota, Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, Colorado, West Virginia and Minnesota.
  5. Seems like GOP leaders are looking hard in the mirror. In the past few days, we’ve seen immigration reform, tax reform, potential tax hikes, and gay marriage work their way into the soul searching of the GOP before 2016. The party of small government: tax reform, immigration reform, civil liberties, and getting government out of your personal life (gay marriage and drug laws). Winning message.
  6. Texas secession = shut up. Same to you Louisiana and Alabama. Just shut up.

In the words of Meghan McCain this week, “I am not a moderate Republican. I am a modern Republican.”

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