Potential Senate candidates typically do a great deal of their thinking over holiday periods, and we are thus getting a fair amount of news stories about politicians mulling statewide runs.
However, the most important development of the past few days consists in a potential challenger dropping out of consideration: Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack has been tapped as Secretary of Agriculture, as unexpected a move as Salazar’s designation to the Interior Department. One immediate consequence is that we are now sure that Vilsack will not run for Senate in 2010.
Democrats will have a tough-time challenging longtime Senator Chuck Grassley, and Vilsack might have been the only Democrat strong enough as a credible opponent. (A Research 2000 poll released last week found Grassley leading Vilsack by 4%.) If Grassley runs for re-election, it is difficult to see him facing a competitive race.
The problem for Democrats is that Vilsack’s departure from the state makes it more likely Grassley runs for re-election. Incumbents considering retirement might be more comfortable launching another run if they do not expect a competitive race, whereas the threat of two years of tough campaigning can be all they need to opt against a run.
Meanwhile, two of the Democrats’ top potential candidates in Florida and Kentucky are continuing to hint at their interest in a 2010 run.
In Florida, this alone is a victory for the DSCC: Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink said shortly after the November election that she would not run in the senatorial or gubernatorial election in 2010, but Mel Martinez’s unexpected retirement put her back on the fence. Now, The Miami Herald reports Sink traveled to Washington to meet with Harry Reid and new DSCC Chairman Bob Menendez about a potential run - a sure sign that she is the national party’s preferred candidate.
Democrats have a number of other candidates who could potentially jump in the race, but no one has provided anything more than a vague statement of interest.
In Kentucky, Lieutenant Governor Daniel Mongiardo acknowledged his interest in a challenge to Republican Senator Jim Bunning in an interview with The Hill and took the opportunity to take a shot at his potential opponent. “We haven’t seen him since the last election, and we barely saw him then,” he said. While Mongiardo might not be the DSCC’s preferred candidate (Rep. Ben Chandler would probably be a stronger candidate), Mongiardo would undoubtedly be a very credible candidate. In 2004, when he was only a low-profile state Senator, he already faced Bunning and lost by less than 2%.
Democrats might not have any declared candidates in those former state,s but they already have many in Texas where there isn’t even a scheduled race yet! But with Kay Bailey Hutchison looking like she might leave her office sometime in the next two year, Democrats are jockeying for the special election that would follow.
As I wrote the other day, former state Comptroller John Sharp has already announced his candidacy while The Houston Chronicle reported that Houston Mayor Bill White was looking to do the same in the coming days. And that’s exactly what White did yesterday in a video he released on his campaign website.
The race got more crowded with a Republican - Railroad Commission Chairman Michael Williams - announcing his candidacy. Williams, who would be the first African-American Senator from Texas, did so via a statement first published on… Facebook!
Should we be more surprised that an inexistent election is already attracting so many declared candidates or that Facebook has become an acceptable medium to declare one’s candidacy?