-- already deemed by the media as the archetype for Republican Party intra-fighting; bad blood between the two campaigns; an aggressive political press corps in the state; a huge state with lots of interesting problems, including, for example, water supply; a cranky GOP state party; national issues are gnarly here: Charlie Crist supported the stimulus package and hugged President Obama; hunky, experienced conservative Marco Rubio's been on him like a snake on a hamster ever since. The specter of Jeb Bush hovers above it all. The primary is August 24.
Why funky? Because the media will be over these primaries like catnip; these races are exuding the pheromones that drive us crazy. And, of course, there are funky Democratic primaries too, which I'll cover in a later post. One thing to point out about all these Senate races: Republicans may be fighting with each other, but in Florida and Kentucky they are leading the presumed Democratic nominees.
CA SEN -- a great underdog primary, with an establishment-backed candidate (ex-Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina) who has a national profile -- and an insurgent Republican assemblyman named Chuck DeVore who has a solid netroots operation behind him. It's more of an ideological battle than even the FL SEN race; right-to-lifers don't trust Fiorina and hope that a DeVore win will help move the California party apparatus back to the right and away from the clutches of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Whether incumbent Barbara Boxer can be beaten is an entirely separate question. Running for statewide office in California is like running in five separate states at once, but the "modified closed primary system" somewhat dilutes the power of party activists, but not much. Fiorina will outraise DeVore by at least five to one; with debt factored in, DeVore has about $56K right now. Fiorina is pretty much running a cookie cutter GOP Senate campaign, taking on the incumbent, rather than her challenger, on the typical issues (health care, "out of control" spending). The primary is June 8.
KY SEN, Ron Paul's son, Dr. Rand Paul (yes, named after Ayn) is now leading...or slightly leading... in the Republican primary (incumbent Sen. Jim Bunning is retiring). The GOP establishment chose Secretary of State Trey Grayson, but Paul has pushed hard on his party's dissatisfaction with GOP leaders. (There's a bit of Mitch McConnell fatigue in his home state.) Paul is ostensibly a libertarian, but he's getting support from all the conservative establishment interest groups, including the taxpayers union he once headed. For TV producers, the Paul pa-son angle is irresistible. And the "audit the Fed" message resonates beyond the confines of the ReLOVEution. Also funky: one of those campaign-aides-posts-something-racist-and-has-to-resign angles. Grayson, again, is running a conventional NRSC campaign against Washington (jobs, Democrats, D.C.); Paul is running against Grayson as an embodiment of Washington. The primary is May 18.
-- Three well-known entities -- Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard, Rick Snyder (a Gateway EVP), Attorney General Mike Cox, and ubiquitous Rep. Pete Hoekstra want the chance to snatch the governor's mansion away from a Democrat. This race has got everything to make it sexy: the Daily Show parody factor (I won't go there, though this particular candidate has come up in connection
to the Kwame Kilpatrick/Strippergate investigation); it's Michigan (GM! Detroit! Depression!); its got well-funded factions within the state GOP establishment; and all the candidates are required by circumstance to lay out actual, non-schlocky economic recovery plans, which makes this primary meaningful, rather than just entertaining. (The big GOP talking point is the state's business tax. Most of the candidates want to eliminate it.) Snyder is the sleeper candidate. He's a wealthy, conservative pro-lifer, but he supports stem cell research. He's a job creator. He's a nice guy. He talks about environmental issues as much as he does business issues. The primary is August 3.