We still have two years to go before the 2010 midterms, but Harry Reid is getting close to eliminating his toughest competition.
The Senate Majority Leader is generally considered to be the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent of the upcoming cycle, but his most obvious opponent - Rep. Ron Porter - lost his re-election race on November 4th. While that does not take him out of the running in 2010, it certainly handicaps his credibility as a serious challenger.
Ten days ago, I pointed out that Republicans have an other potential candidate waiting in the wings, Lieutenant Governor Brian Krolicki - but it is now Krolicki’s turn to be heading towards disqualification: Krolicki said on Monday that he had been notified by the state Attorney General that he was facing indictment “for how he handled a multibillion dollar college savings program while serving as state treasurer.” (The Las Vegas Sun has the details of the allegations.)
Needless to say, an indicted Krolicki would not be a viable Senate candidate. Nevada is not Alaska, after all, and neither is Krolicki Ted Stevens. If indicted, Krolicki would have a damaged reputation, would face fundraising problems and most probably pressures to drop out of the race - not to mention that other prominent Republicans would probably be forced to publicly repudiate him.
Krolicki quickly accused the Attorney General’s office of a witch-hunt and accused Harry Reid of organizing his destruction. “All Democratic partisan roads lead to Harry Reid,” Krolicki said in what could be the prelude of a very vicious Senate campaign if Krolicki escapes indictment. The problem for Republicans is that Krolicki is now stuck in waiting mode: He can still launch an explanatory committee, but how seriously can he consider a statewide run when his legal future is in limbo - not to mention that his fundraising ability will certainly be limited?
In Florida, meanwhile, Democrats are looking to recruit a top-tier candidate against Mel Martinez, the Senator who is generally considered to be the most endangered Republican incumbent. They have a relatively crowded field of potential candidates, but Democrats have to be careful to avoid a crowded primary: Florida primaries are held late (in mid-September) and that has hurt Democrats in the past few cycles.
One top contender is Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, who might be one of the only Democrats with enough stature to clear the primary field. Yesterday, Sink confirmed to the Florida press that she was considering running for higher office in 2010 and that she would announce her intentions “soon.” She could choose to run in the gubernatorial election, but that is considered somewhat unlikely given Charlie Crist’s popularity.
In Pennsylvania, finally, Quinnipiac released a poll of a potential match-up between Senator Arlen Specter and Hardball host Chris Matthews and found Specter leading 45% to 33%. This is already the second Specter-Matthews poll released this year, confirming that such a match-up would be the marquee race of the 2010 cycle if it were to take place (how could it be otherwise given the stature of both contenders?).
The stars are far from having aligned for now, however: Specter could choose to retire, Matthews has not made definite plans to run and he could certainly fail in the Democratic primaries. It seems unlikely that Matthews, who has never held public office before (though he did work as a top aide for Tip O’Neill), would easily scare away other potential challengers.