Louisiana: Honore supposedly backs down from Vitter challenge
Who even knew there were this many Louisiana Republicans who were high-profile enough to be credible primary challengers to a sitting Senator? At this point, we have more GOPers than Democrats who have thought about jumping in this race, which really tells you all you need to know about the state’s political situation. Over the past year, Tony Perkins, former Rep. John Cooksey and former Senate candidate Suzanne Haik Terrell all looked like they would enter the race - but all backed down within days of their names surfacing. (Secretary of State Jay Dardenne is still considering it.)
It has now happened again: Reports last week indicated that retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, who led the Army’s efforts in the aftermath of Katrina, was leaning towards challenging Vitter in the Republican primary. Honore moved to quell speculation today, insisting that this buzz is “all about speculation and rumors,” that “no one’s talking to me about running for Senate” and that he doesn’t even have a partisan affiliation. “As of this time, I’m not running for any political office,” he said.
Yet, Honore could have issued an infinitely more emphatic denial had he wanted to. His use of the qualifier “as of this time” is typical political parlance used to evade offering a definite answer (see Cuomo, Mario) and it ensures that Honore’s statement is perfectly meaningless: Yes, of course he is not running for anything as of this time. The question is if he will do so in a few months, namely when he finalizes his return to Louisiana. And the terms rumor and speculation don’t tell us much either, since neither rumors nor speculation are necessarily wrong.
What happens in the Republican primary matters a great deal for Democrats as well: Much of Vitter’s vulnerability comes from the D.C. Madam scandal he was involved in, but poll numbers suggest he has managed to get voters to put that behind him. If Vitter faces a primary, the 2007 events are sure to be revisited at great length; by the time Vitter gets around to facing Melancon, voters would have the D.C. Madam fresh on their mind - making the Democrats’ task that much easier. Otherwise,it’s tough to see Vitter enter the compressed general election period vulnerable enough for Melancon to have a good shot.
South Carolina: Will anyone take on DeMint?
Whatever small chance Democrats had of unseating South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint looks to be evaporating. The ultraconservative Republican is helped not only by his state’s right-wing bent but also by the dismally thin Democratic bench. With the few Democrats who can hope to win statewide eying the open Governor’s race and Inez Tenenbaum’s move to Washington, all eyes had turned to state Senator Brad Hutto as the DSCC’s only viable hope.
As one of 46 state Senators, Hutto obviously lacked the profile to make a formidable challenger. But having served since 1996, he has had the time to build enough political connections that the prospect of his candidacy was taken seriously by national Democrats: Hutto had already met with DSCC officials, which is how his name surfaced as a potential contender in the first place. (In third tier races like this one, it’s difficult to foresee any movement unless national parties are willing to get minimally involved, give their blessing to a contender to make him credible in the eyes of donors and possibly even consider some ad buys to test the incumbent’s vulnerability.)
With Mark Sanford’s scandal weighing down state Republicans, 2010 might have provided an opening for state Democrats. But it does not look like DeMint has much to worry about.
Colorado: What just happened?
Last week, The Denver Post reported that Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck was going to announce his exit from the Colorado Senate race yesterday… only to change his mind in the morning and issue a statement reasserting his candidacy and warning national Republicans not to interfere with state politics. “While other candidates may still jump in the Senate race, one thing is clear — our party’s nominee will be chosen by Colorado’s grassroots Republicans, not by political operatives in Washington D.C,” said his statement.
Translation: Former Lieutenant Governor Jane Norton, whose name suddenly surfaced two weeks ago, should not count on having an easy ride through the Republican nomination. If reports of Buck’s exit suggested that Norton was indeed on the verge of entering the race and that the GOP establishment was simply trying to clear up the field for her (remember that Bob Beauprez unexpectedly said he would not run last week), Buck’s defiant statement is just as clear an indication that we should expect Norton to enter the race. And if she does, it looks like we might have to add Colorado to the growing list of states in which local conservatives are in an open feud with the NRSC.
(Of course, the Colorado landscape is further complicated by the prospect of Andrew Romanoff challenging Michael Bennet in the Democratic primary. But since that buzz is also based on a Denver Post report, let’s wait for Romanoff to make a more public move before analyzing that match-up.)