Iowa: Christie Vilsack is out and Roxanne Conlin hints she’ll step in
Well, that didn’t last long: Just 10 days after she opened the door to challenging Chuck Grassley, Christie Vilsack announced she would not run. And thereby ends the possibility that Iowa’s Senate race will be one of the highest-profile 2010 battles, as the confrontation between a five-term senator and the wife of a Cabinet member who once harbored presidential ambitions would have been.
However, what does not end is the possibility that Iowa’s Senate race will be competitive: attorney Roxanne Conlin pressed ahead with her campaign plans last week, declaring that she was “more likely than not” to run. In doing so, she also made clear that she (not Vilsack) was the mystery candidate about which the state party chairman had said: “I’m going to tell you here today that Chuck Grassley is going to be in for the race of his life.”
I will not repeat here my breakdown as to why Conlin would not be that formidable a contender but she would have a credible shot at an upset, especially in light of Research 2000’s finding that she is well-known and has a good favorability rating: 67% of respondents had an opinion about her, with 44% holding a positive impression and 29% a negative one. However, Conlin looks less likely to clear the primary field than Vilsack would have been, which means we could have a competitive race for the Democratic nomination between Conlin, Tom Fiegen and Bob Krause.
From the timing of Conlin and Vilsack’s statements, it’s hard not to conclude that part of the reason the latter pulled the plug on her candidacy is the realization that Conlin was serious about a run. After all, it was always unlikely these two women would have taken a risk of a facing off in a primary. Both are as involved in Iowa’s Democratic establishment as can be, one as the former state party chair and the other as the state’s former First Lady; and Vilsack would not have wanted her electoral debut to risk being ruined by a primary defeat.
New York Post reports Andrew Cuomo signaling run
Prominent New York journalist Fred Dicker has quite a report out this morning: Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has told Rudy Giuliani that he will run for Governor next year whether or not David Paterson seeks re-election. (Relatedly: New York Magazine has a lengthy article about Giuliani, his post-presidential campaign days and the odds he’ll run for Governor.)
Why might Cuomo do this? Simply because it would be likely to succeed at keeping Giuliani out of the race (sure, Cuomo would be favored to beat Giuliani, but that doesn’t erase the fact that the former mayor is the only Republican with a shot at beating the Attorney General): A major reason Giuliani is considering running is that he would be heavily favored to beat David Paterson - but he would be a heavy underdog if he were to face Cuomo. The more likely it looks that Cuomo becomes the Democrats’ nominee, the less likely Giuliani is to run.
A potential flaw in Cuomo’s plan (as it’s being reported): If Giuliani announces he won’t run, Democrats will be less stressed about losing the governorship (Paterson does tie Rick Lazio in polls) and thus less desperate to recruit Cuomo in the Democratic primary; that could mean Cuomo finds himself less welcome than he would be if he announced a run today, with the Giuliani threat still looming in the air.
One last consideration: If Giuliani is also considering running for Senate (and that’s a huge if, since there have been contrasting reports on this), might being told Cuomo will run for Governor push him towards challenging Kirsten Gillibrand? In this contest, Giuliani better stay in communication with former Governor George Pataki, who said last week he would soon decide whether to run for Senate.
Brian Halter, Jay Dardenne are not ruling out primary challenges
Two last nuggets of midterm speculation come to us from Louisiana and Arkansas, where Senators David Vitter and Blanche Lincoln are not out of primary trouble. In the latter state, Lieutenant Governor Brian Halter is playing up the possibility that he’ll go after Lincoln. Note that, while it is possible Halter would choose running from Lincoln’s left to take advantage of national liberals’ dissatisfaction with the senator, little in his profile suggests he would be comfortable in such a role. (I wrote more about Halter back in April.)
In Louisiana: While countless other Republicans have ruled out challenging Vitter, Secretary of State Jay Dardenne reitereated this week-end that he is considering running for the GOP nomination. A contested primary here could be a major headache for Republicans, as it would not be decided before August 28th at the earliest, with the potential of a runoff on October 2nd - just a month from the general election, in which the GOP nominee will have to face Rep. Charlie Melancon.
In both cases, it is very possible (some might say probable, especially in the case of Halter who similarly opened the door to challenging Mark Pryor in 2008) that Dardenne and Halter have absolutely no intention of running for Senate and that they are only floating these trial balloons to increase their notoriety and position themselves as natural front-runners for future open seat races. After all, it is getting very late in the cycle for candidates to mount primary challenges to incumbents - the type of campaign that takes a lot of preparation.