Arizona: Simcox drops out, endorses Hayworth
Of the many factors that make John McCain the favorite to survive Arizona’s Senate primary, one has been conservatives’ division between former Rep. J. D. Hayworth and Chris Simcox, head of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps. While Simcox failed to pick-up much traction, whatever support he received was bound to come from voters who could be receptive to Hayworth, since McCain’s two challengers are both best-known for their staunch opposition to immigration. As such, Hayworth’s path to victory cleared up this week when Simcox dropped out of the race and endorsed him. Not only does this development open up a new group of voters to Hayworth, but it also makes the primary a straightforward opposition between McCain and Hayworth, which could help the latter highlight the battle’s ideological significance and as such gain traction among conservative voters.
It is essential for Hayworth to make the primary’s ideological stakes as high as possible since he cannot count on much support among the conservative movement’s elected establishment: McCain’s stature ensures that many of the hard-right’s leaders not defy him. We’ve long known Sarah Palin wil campaign for McCain, and during the past week two Republicans who have been endorsing conservatives left and right announced they would sit Arizona out: South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint and former Texas Rep. Dick Armey, a major player in NY-23’s special election.
But McCain’s national profile ensures that the Arizona primary gets covered at length by the local and national press, which should ensure Hayworth a lot of free media and should also help him be financially competitive. Also, the GOP establishment will stay by McCain’s side in a way they have not by Crist’s, but conservative media outlets will help Hayworth, as a new Politico story makes clear: commentators like Glenn Beck and Michael Savage want McCain gone. Come early August, I would not be surprised if Arizona’s primary grabs more attention than Florida’s in some quarters.
Michigan: A clearer picture of the Democratic primary
Six weeks after John Cherry’s unexpected withdrawal, the situation in Michigan’s gubernatorial race has gotten more straightforward as two Democrats took themselves out of the running: pizza heiress and UM regent Denise Ilitch, whom the party was courting because of her fortune, and former Treasurer Bob Bowman, who pulled the plug just a few days after hinting that he would run. That leaves Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero and state Rep. Alma Wheeler, who have already announced, and state Speaker Andy Dillon, who has formed an exploratory committee and who is believed by many to be a sure candidate. (Former Genesee County Treasurer Dan Kildee is also mentioned as a possible candidate, though he doesn’t appear to have taken steps towards a possible candidacy.)
This could make for a fiery primary with clear fault lines between the centrist Dillon and the populist Bernero. Dillon has a very rough relationship with unions, which are obviously a powerful force in Michigan primaries. Bernero, who is considered a labor ally, will campaign as an outsider ready to take on anyone associated with the state government or the federal government, which is arguably a message Democratic candidates need to be credible making this year. “The clueless leadership at the State Capitol doesn’t get it,” he said upon launching his campaign last week. “The so-called leaders in the Washington bubble don’t get it either. And the Wall Street wizards who helped put us here definitely don’t get it.” That Bernero did serve in the sate legislature this decade could in this context be turned against him.
Bernero’s main problem should be a lack of name recognition (Lansing is a small city relatively to Michigan’s size, with about 140,000 inhabitants out of the state’s 10 million), which could be tough to overcome given his late entry in the race if party leaders and donors rally behind Dillon; that said, the AFL-CIO and the UAW could do a lot to help him in this regard. Yet, while most of the recent attention has been turned to Bernero, Alma Wheeler could also stake a claim to being the lead alternative to Dillon; a state legislator with a liberal profile, she could win over union support (she was an ally of David Bonior, who’s close to labor) but she could also hope to position herself as an outsider from the state’s Democratic leadership since she has been a longtime critic of Governor Jennifer Granholm.
Colorado: Romanoff rolls out endorsements
Challengers to U.S. Senators rarely win low-profile primaries, as voters are usually than not reluctant to oust incumbents of their own parties. That made Andrew Romanoff’s low-key approach to challenging Michael Bennet somewhat confusing, but the former Speaker is finally generating more press and showing the signs that he’s putting together the type of campaign he’ll need. First, he was endorsed by a long slate of Democratic slate legislators, including House Majority Leader Paul Weissmann and Senate Majority Leader John Morse and two thirds of the state House’s Democratic delegation.
Second, Romanoff received the endorsement of the Teamsters and of the UFCW, two large unions who will help Romanoff in what could be a low-profile opponent. Their move is undoubtedly partly due to Bennet’s refusal to take a stand on EFCA; not only was he one of 11 wavering Democrats, but he also bashed the measure.
Yet, the recent days have reminded us of why incumbents are often favored: they can put themselves in the news far more easily. As such, Barack Obama will visit Denver on Bennet’s behalf tomorrow, and however much Romanoff criticizes as Washington’s involvement in Colorado politics, the president remains very popular among Democrats. Second, Bennet took the lead in writing a letter to Harry Reid yesterday asking him to revive the public option through the use of reconciliation; the letter, which has now been joined by 7 senators, has been largely covered by the local press, is the sort of story that could make the state’s Democratic voters warm to Bennet.