Off To The Races: Days Away From Primaries In IN, NC, OH

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April 29, 2010 5:11 am
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May is just around the corner, and with it comes one of the busiest months for primaries in 2010. By the time the month is out, we’ll have nominees in ten states, including some of the most closely-watched races of the year. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Before we get to the big races Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Arkansas (May 18), there are several smaller, relatively below-the-radar primaries to look out for next week.

The May 4 primaries will decide which Republican is going to try and take back Evan Bayh’s Senate seat in Indiana, and which Democrat is going to get the chance at knocking off Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC). In Ohio, the Democratic Senate primary has drawn some real excitement from progressives, if not much attention from national observers.Indiana

Probably the most closely-watched race on May 4 will be the GOP Senate primary. When Sen. Evan Bayh (D) announced his retirement in February, it suddenly got much easier for Republicans to pickup his seat. Most expect the national party choice, former Sen. Dan Coats, to win the GOP nomination handily — though state Sen. Marlin Stutzman has been making waves of late with an endorsement from tea party favorite Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC). Former Rep. John Hostettler is also a factor, having earned the endorsement of another fringe Republican favorite, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX).

The Democrats already have their man in the race: Rep. Brad Ellsworth. He’s got Bayh’s support and has been running hard for the seat for months. But polls show he’s in trouble in a general election matchup so far.

The TPM Poll Average for a race against Coats shows the Republican ahead by a margin of 46.5-33.8.

Race ratings (general election):

CQ: Leans Republican, Washington Post: Toss up, Cook Report: Leans Republican

Ohio

It’s another open seat in Ohio, where incumbent Sen. George Voinovich (R) is retiring. This time, the Democratic primary is the one to watch: Progressives are fired up about Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, though most predict the winner of the primary will be Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher.

Brunner’s supporters are loud, vocal and promise an upset win, but Brunner has struggled with fundraising and trails Fisher in the polls. The TPM Poll Average for the Democratic primary shows Fisher ahead by a margin of 31.8-23.0.

Meanwhile, Republicans feel good about their nominee. Former Rep. Rob Portman has built a considerable campaign war chest and has had the advantage of running alone while Fisher and Brunner duke things out on the Democratic side. But the general election matchup is very much up for grabs. The TPM Poll Average of a Portman-Fisher race shows a dead heat, with Fisher just slightly ahead by a margin of 40.5-39.2. It’s the same story with Brunner. The TPM Poll Average of that potential mathchup shows Portman ahead by a margin of just 39.6-39.3.

Race ratings (general election):

CQ: Tossup, Washington Post: Tossup, Cook Report: Tossup

North Carolina

Democrats have said for a long time that they can defeat incumbent Sen. Richard Burr (R). But the Democratic primary in North Carolina — which pits Secretary of State Elaine Marshall against attorney Ken Lewis and Iraq War vet Cal Cunningham — has failed to draw much national attention or, it seems, excitement inside the state. A poll by NC-based pollster PPP (D) this week showed state Democrats know very little about the candidates in the final days of the primary, leading some to predict the three-way contest is headed for a run-off.

Marshall has some national support, having picked up the endorsement of Democracy For America in the final week of the primary race. Lewis, meanwhile, has drawn the support of the state’s prominent African Americans who hope to see Lewis become the state’s first African American Senate nominee since the days when Harvey Gantt took on Jesse Helms. Cunningham is the choice of national Democrats, who hope his personal story will set up another upset win for the Democrats, who saw Sen. Kay Hagan knock off Elizabeth Dole in a hard fought Senate race in 2008.

If no candidate reaches 40% in the final tally on May 4, the top two candidates will square off in a run-off election June 22.

Burr, meanwhile, is still sitting on the lackluster approval ratings that make Democrats think they can beat him in the first place. But he’s raised a lot of money — and can keep doing it without spending a dime — and is ahead in general election polling so far.

The TPM Poll Average for a Burr-Marshall race shows Burr ahead by a margin of 48.2-34.3. Against Cunningham, the TPM Poll Average shows Burr ahead by a margin of 48.4-31.6. And against Lewis, the TPM Poll Average shows Burr ahead by a margin of 44.1-31.2.

Race ratings (general election):

CQ: Leans GOP, Washington Post: Lean GOP, Cook Report: Likely GOP

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