When Rep. Adam Putnam abruptly announced his retirement early in 2009, FL-12 did not vault at the top of the Democrats’ priority list: While it had only gone for John McCain by 1%, George W. Bush had prevailed by double-digits in both 2000 and 2004. Yet, Democrats started paying attention when Polk County Supervisor of Elections Laure Edwards announced her candidacy: Not only has won re-election in red-leaning Polk County since 2000, but she also served as a state representative for much of the 1990s.
Last week, Edwards sought to prove that the worsening political climate shouldn’t cause Democrats to give up on FL-12 by releasing an internal poll, conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner: It shows Edwards leading former state Rep. Dennis Ross 46% to 42%.
This is an internal poll, so it should be taken with a grain of salt; in particular, there doesn’t seem to be a clear explanation as to why Ross was the only opponent tested or whether match-ups pitting Edwards against other Republicans who’ve declared their candidacy (for instance Polk County Commissioner Randy Wilkinson) yielded worse results that were not released. Yet, the poll suggests that Edwards will at the very least be competitive; if nothing else, it should help her draw national Democrats’ attention, perhaps getting the DCCC to commission a poll of its own and generally get more involved.
That FL-12 would be competitive makes sense. The district is described as hostile to Democrats based on the 2000 and 2004 results, and the 2008 tie is dismissed as due to exceptional turnout patterns that won’t hold in 2010. But I explained in October that FL-12 has gone through big demographic changes over the past decade that suggest Obama’s gains will be long-lasting rather than ephemeral: In 2000, 72% of FL-12’s residents were white while in 2008, 63% were white (we are talking about residents here, not voters, so this isn’t about turnout).
Two Democratic recruits drop out in Ohio and in Virginia…
Despite OH-02’s red lean, Democrats have dreamed of taking it over ever since the controversial Jean Schmidt became the GOP’s flag-bearer. Yet, they’ve fallen short cycle after cycle - and it looks like Schmidt might not even face that tough a general election this time. State Rep. Todd Book, whose entry a few months ago was celebrated by Democrats, is now withdrawing from the race. Sure, the race always looked tough for the party to pull off: In a district that gave John McCain 59%, how could they succeed in 2010 if they failed in 2006 and 2008? But Book is term-limited out of the state House in 2010, so it’s not like he was giving up his legislative seat for a run against Schmidt.
The Democratic primary is now in the hands of David Krikorian, who received 18% in 2008 as an independent. Whether or not the campaign is tight (Krikorian’s impressive showing as an independent suggests he has an audience in the district), it should be explosive since Schmidt and Krikorian have a lot of history: The two have faced off in court last summer after Schmidt sued Krikorian after the latter charged that she had received “blood money” in exchange for denying the Armenian Genocide.
Lawyer Patrick Lewis, the candidate who dropped out of VA-10, was not as highly touted by national Democrats but his withdrawal is no less frustrating: When the cycle started, the party had hopes for a Northern Virginia district that voted for Obama by 7% after giving Bush double-digit victories. Yet, much of it was predicated on Wolf retiring (he is 70). That’s apparently not happening, and the GOP should hold on to VA-10 next year.
… while GOP lands one in NJ-03
Rep. John Adler represents a swing district (NJ-03 voted for Obama by 5% in 2008, for Bush by only 2% in 2004) but he at times behaves like it’s staunchly conservative territory; 2 weeks ago, he was one of only 8 Democrats representing Obama districts to vote against the health-care bill, and one of 6 to do so from the right. Starting this week, he will at least be able to point out he’s facing a credible opponent: Jon Runyan, who used to play for the Philadelphia Eagles, has informed local GOP leaders he’s running for Congress.
The twist: Runyan is first going back to football. Just this week, he signed on with the San Diego Chargers, which means that he will not be able to engage in political activities until the NFL season is over. Sure, the season will end early enough that he should have time to prepare for the GOP’s June primary but this is still a bizarre decision: Runyan has no political experience, has never ran for office and will presumably need to brush up his hold on issues and his campaign skills before launching himself in a race. Heath Shuler, who transitioned from NFL quarterback to Congress, did not do so in a matter of weeks.
While the burden is on Runyan to prove he can appeal to voters in a political sense, he is the sort of candidate - big name, rugged looks - that national parties are often attracted to. (In 2006, The Washington Post devoted an incomprehensibly long article to the good looks of top Democratic recruits, all of them male.) That should ensure that the NRCC pays a lot of attention to his campaign, which will help him avoid rookie mistakes, target the incumbent and access the party’s fundraising network. Adler-Runyan is a race we’ll hear about again.