Republican primaries in three competitive 2010 U.S. Senate races may see attacks from the right on candidates who voted for the financial bailout last year. The bailout was never particularly popular among Republicans, even when nominee John McCain supported it. Now just 35 percent of Republicans say that passing the $700 billion bailout was a good thing, according to a December Gallup poll. This low support could mean uphill battles for Republican House members who are running for Senate next year.
In Missouri, former Sen. Jim Talent (R) announced today he would not run for Sen. Kit Bond's (R) open seat next year, leaving the Republican contest a likely fight between Rep. Roy Blunt and state Treasurer Sarah Steelman who are said to be considering Senate campaigns. Blunt could face heavy fire from Steelman for voting twice in favor of both versions of the bailout last year and being the chief House Republican negotiator with Democrats to pass the bill. Steelman said in September she would have voted against the bill.
In Illinois, Reps. Mark Kirk and Peter Roskam are also considering running against Sen. Roland Burris (D) and could also fight over the bailout. Kirk voted in favor of both versions of the bailout while Roskam opposed them.
As for the newly competitive Connecticut race to beat Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), whose popularity has tanked over a mortgage controversy, the bailout dynamic may be slightly less harmful. Connecticut is stacked with insurance and financial industry employees who may been the most keen to the bailout. Still, former GOP Reps. Chris Shays and Rob Simmons could spar over the issue. Shays voted for the bailout twice before losing reelection in 2008. Simmons, who was booted from Congress in 2006, said the bailout money's been wasted.
Having seen that plan's roll-out go over like a lead balloon with the stock market and Republicans' low approval of bailouts, Blunt, Kirk and other Republicans who supported the original bailout may decide to revise their stances for fear of primary challenges.