Aside from the presidential contest, there are a great many other races around the nation that have conservatives excited about the prospects of victory. Be it for governor, senator, or representative, the GOP can reasonably anticipate gains across the board.
But before we get to the general election, there are THREE Republican primaries for senate contests that are crucial to determining the future of both the GOP and the US Senate. Even more so, because the Republicans expect to take control of the Senate in 2012 by a considerable margin, and position themselves towards winning a filibuster-proof majority in 2014.
Each of these races in its own way mirrors the struggle now engaging the party....what we can term the battle between the Tea Party/conservative base and the GOP establishment. And to no surprise, this is reflected in the battle for the GOP presidential nomination; again, a battle between the establishment candidate Romney and the as yet to be determined not-Romney.
But curiously, all three of these primary contests are now in sort of a "semi-quiet" period...aside from fund raising, not much is really happening. Perhaps it is too early, or possibly, it's as if everyone is sort of holding their breath, and their wallets and endorsements, waiting to see how the national campaign shakes out.
The three Senate races are in Florida, Texas, and Indiana. All three can be viewed as either solidly Republican or very much trending in that direction. All have similarities, all should be GOP wins, but each has one unique characteristic.
Florida: Primary date January 31st.
The candidates are vying to beat incumbent Ben Nelson, who more and more seems old, tired, uninspiring, and will be handicapped by having Obama atop the ticket, where he appears more unpopular every day.
The main candidates are:
Adam Hasner, who was early on anointed as the second coming of Marco Rubio, (but who has so far failed to gain any real traction and separate himself from the field)
Mike McAlister, who is attempting to capitalize upon his status as a complete non-politican/outsider, and his surprising 10% showing in the 2010 governor's primary race, when he ran almost a phantom, and very underfunded campaign. I suspect that most of his votes were from those ( like myself) who weren't happy with either Scott or McCollum.
George LeMieux, who is doing everything imaginable to convince Republicans that Charlie Crist is no longer on his Christmas card list. Not that LeMieux ever had a chance of succeeding, but as I write this, there are stories surfacing in Florida that Crist's wife has changed her registration to Democrat, and that Crist himself is considering another run for office as a...yup..you guessed it...Democrat. That should pretty much finish good old George.
Texas: Primary date March 6th
This is for the open seat of the retiring Kay Hutchinson ( who lost the GOP primary for governor to now-candidate for president Rick Perry) KBH also reneged on her earlier promise to resign her senate seat to campaign full-time for governor ( possibly because she didn't want to let Perry appoint her replacement?) and has now said that she's not sure that she can endorse Perry for the WH.
Upfront, I'm not that conversant with the Byzantine-like world of Texas Republican politics. Hopefully other Red Staters who are will flesh this out. Whoever is the nominee IS the odds-on favorite to win the seat. The main contenders are:
Ted Cruz: Hands down favorite of conservatives and Tea Partiers across the country. Reminds me of a very successful blend of Marco Rubio and Mike Lee. ( And boy, wouldn't those three be a great trifecta in the Senate next year?)
David Dewhurst: The current Lt. Governor, and the perceived "establishment" candidate. Prodigious fund raiser.
This sets up a clear battle between the two wings of the Texas GOP. And of course, Perry's success, or lack of it, in the presidential primaries, will have considerable influence on the outcome. Will he endorse, or stay neutral? And if he's a failing candidate at that time, what would that mean?
Personal plea: Can the Texas GOP please, PLEASE find a House seat for Elizabeth Ames Jones to run for? Since the House GOP believes that it MUST have a photogenic female in leadership ( ever since the days of Jennifer Dunn) surely we can have one with the ability to articulate a conservative vision and position. Kristie Noem has proven to be a mistake, and an embarassment.
Indiana: Primary date May 8th
Perhaps the one contest that cleasrly defines the ongoing struggle for the heart, soul, and mind of the GOP.
Dick Lugar, the "old bull" RINO, who is more a citizen of the Beltway, and the world, rather than that of Indiana, is seeking yet another term in the Senate. Barack Obama's favorite Republican, the one to whom he turns for counsel and advice, is now furiously attempting to convince Indiana conservatives that he's one of them. He also appears old, tired, and may not be up for the rigors of a vigorous, contested race, as in the past he's all but coasted to victory.
Dick Mourdock, who seems far more in touch with, and representative of, the views of Indiana voters, has yet to show real traction. Polls do show that the majority of Indiana Republicans are willing to consider someone other than Lugar, which bodes well for his chances.
In some ways, this contest is similar to the 2010 Utah one, that resulted in Mike Lee ousting Bob Bennett, except that unlike in Utah, where the nomination was decided by a few thousand GOP delegates, Indiana will be an actual state wide primary race.
Indiana has traditionally been solidly Republican. Obama's win in 2008 was a fluke, he won't carry the state again. If Lugar wins the primary, he will easily win in November. The Democrats feel that is Mourdock wins, they have a far beter chance of beating him in the general election.
Indiana is blessed with two very well respected conservative leaders: Mitch Daniels, the outgoing governor, and Mike Pence, the prohibitive favorite to replace him. Both are long time friends and colleagues of Lugar, and for that reason has both professed to remain neutral ( which in and of itself is a de facto endorsement of Mourdock).
If Romney is the nominee, or close to it, by the time of the primary, it bodes well for Lugar. OTOH, once we get he first reliable poll, if it shows Mourdock well ahead, as many suspect, then the dam may well break, and Lugar will be all bu done.
Cain endorsed Mourdock on August 15th, well before his sudden meteoric rise in the polls. If that continues, by itself it may well give Mourdock the impetus he needs. If it somehow persuades Daniels, and/or Pence to come out for Mourdock, then Lugar is finished.
Again, what seems most curious about all three races is how in many ways they reflect what is going on at the national level, with the presidential primaries.
One can make the case that because of the accelerated primary calendar, the national race will define these three races.
The Florida primary is now about 100 days away. Cain is the overwhelming favborite in the state, right now it is his to lose. Perry may not be able to regain his momentum. Should one, or more likely both endorse Hasner, then he's the nominee.
As I stated above, in my understanding ofTexas Republican politics I'm like Joe Biden..it's waaaaay above my pay grade. Hopefully others will elaborate...or, mpore likely, pile on. I know that Perry's success, or lack of it, will be crucial..I'm just not sure how it plays out.
Indiana, because of its late primary date, will be defined by the then national standings. I think that Lugar's only chance is if Mitt is the nominee, or close to it, and I don't see any chance of that happening. I think Lugar will actually begin to implode with the first credible poll that shows him trailing.
All three races will very much define and shape the Republican party, and the US Senate, for years to come.