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November 11, 2010

Snowe, Lugar, Hatch, Hutchinson, and Ensign Face Likely Primary Challenge; Michael Steele May Lose RNC Chairmanship

The first four are going to get primaried because of their frequent departures from anything resembling conservatism. Ensign will be challenged due his personal ethics problems, making him a weak candidate at best in 2012.

Here's hoping they all do get challenged, and beaten, by strong candidates. And not weak ones put up just to "teach the establishment a lesson." There is a diminishing-returns quality to that and we've hit that point.

But we have two years to find good challengers, and they've already begun declaring.

On the whole, the 2012 map looks extremely promising for the GOP. After posting a six-seat gain in 2010, Republicans are in a position to pick up even more seats in the 2012 cycle, with 21 Democratic senators up for re-election, including two Independents who caucus with them, compared to just 10 Republicans.

But the possibility of multiple fractious primary challenges casts a shadow over the 2012 cycle after an election season marked by two GOP Senate incumbents who were denied renomination, a third who switched parties to avoid a tough primary and several other messy primaries that likely cost the party a chance at winning a majority.

Actually I think the primary process doesn't "cast a shadow" on prospects for victory, in and of itself. Superficially, creates drama and interest in the race. More substantively, it connects actual voters to government policy -- that is, it increases democratic engagement, and that's always a good thing.

The problem isn't that these old hucksters are being challenged. That's to the good -- how could it be otherwise? Do we believe in democracy, competition, accountability to the voters, and the clash of ideas, or not?

The problem comes when defeating an incumbent becomes the only important factor for a party. The Democrats are working hard enough on that; we don't need to help them too much in that regard.

Again, it's about candidate quality. With two years to figure this out, we'll get some good ones.

Particularly in Texas and Utah -- there is simply no excuse whatsoever for bright red states putting up weak-tea Republicans more interested in cordial relations with the Democrats than conservative principles.

Having witnessed the primary election carnage, some GOP incumbents have already begun their preparations to appease the conservative elements of their local parties—modeling their reelection efforts after Arizona Sen. John McCain, who easily won a primary over a former GOP congressman.

And that will not be terribly successful, as we all watched John McCain begin his maverick ways again the day the primary was over.

No one is going to believe that after compiling a long, long record of stabbing Reganism in the back that Olympia Snowe suddenly "gets it" because she attends a few Tea Party meetings.


Snowe, Lugar, Ensign and Hatch are the senators who seem most at risk at the moment. Hutchison has not said yet whether she will run for another term, but has already attracted at least one competitive primary challenger—Texas Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones— who is actively campaigning, plus at least two other prominent statewide Republicans who are said to be planning to run against her.

Meanwhile, there's movement away from Steele at the RNC.

As he contemplates running for a second term, Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele is on the verge of losing his coalition of supporters. Even some of those closest to the controversial chairman have begun urging him to step aside.

Strategists familiar with the RNC who both support and oppose Steele agree there are between 40 and 50 of the 168 voters who will back Steele for a second term. Another 40 to 50 members will definitely vote for someone else. The remaining members, numbering between 88 and 68, are undecided.

Meanwhile, a group of prominent Republicans led by Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie are searching for a consensus candidate capable of defeating Steele.

Steele's an interesting case. On one hand, you have a free-spending semi-competent who sees the RNC primarily as a vehicle for raising his own profile at the expense of others, and whose stewardship so undermined confidence in the RNC that it saw very low fundraising totals and in fact had to abandon the traditional 72-hour boots-on-the-ground GOTV efforts before the election (they say they found it wasn't cost effective; I say: they didn't have the money and had to rely on cheaper means such as the call 40 friends from home program).

On the other hand, he's made some noises that the Tea Party appreciated. Whether he was doing this out of conviction or survival instinct I don't know.

I really hope that people aren't going to go with a failed chairman just because he offered up some pleasing rhetoric.

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posted by Ace at 04:22 PM

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