Another day comes, and two more races are added to our growing list of senate races. Today we are going to look at two states that would normally host boring races. One state is red and one is blue, and both have republican incumbents that will be challenged in primaries from the right.
We suspect that 2012 will be a republican year for the senate, even if the democrats could manage a strong year in the house and presidency. Our current floor for GOP pick-ups in a democrat wave is 1 pick-up, while our ceiling for a republican wave is 9. Either way, the GOP makes gains (even if they don’t get the senate in their worst case scenario). Our official pick so far is 5 seats.
Will a gamble to knock out liberal/moderate republicans in Indiana and Maine work out for the GOP in these two states (as in PA with Arlen Specter and UT with Bob Bennett), or will it backfire? Let’s take a closer look.
Indiana – Richard Lugar (R)
Status – Incumbant GOP
Rating – Likely GOP.
Lugar is in a very tight spot. Despite years of service to Indiana and the GOP, Lugar has voted outside the mainstream of republican values. He supported the Dream Act (a tip to illegal immigration), the START treaty (which also included giving British nuclear secrets to the Russian Govt), earmarks, and only manages moderate scores from both NRLC (pro-life) and NARAL (pro-choice) groups.
A solid conservative in other areas, it probably isn’t fair to peg Lugar as a liberal republican. But “moderate” is probably accurate, and in 2010 when republican and independent voters sent a message to both parties that Obama was over-reaching, Lugar stood by his own record. Challengers from within his own party are lining up, and as we reported a few days ago, one challenger may have already lined up official GOP support from Indiana.
We believe that Richard Mourdock (R), state treasurer, has lined up his state’s GOP executive committee as well as an overwhelming majority of county chairmanships for endorsement of his race.
Complicating the issue for Lugar, Indiana’s Governor (Mitch Daniels, a potential republican presidential candidate) has verbaly attacked the social policy base of the party, as well as surrendering to private union activists and democrat legislaters that fled his state on a Right to Work bill. This likely adds blood in the water for conservatives out to topple moderate and liberal republicans.
This race would be “Safe” for republicans without a primary. Indeed, Lugar has gone unchallenged by democrats in the past! But conservatives are willing to roll the dice for a better candidate, and democrats have a viable party with a decent bench in Indiana. We still think red Indiana will go with a republican in the end, but a bitter primary could swing this race one or two clicks in either direction.
For now, we’ll call the race a “Likely” hold for the GOP.
Maine – Olympia Snowe (R)
Status – Incumbant GOP.
Rating – Leans GOP.
The conservative gamble to challenge a moderate republican in a red state like Indiana has its arguments, both for and against. Pushing the envelope a little, conservatives look like they will also challenge an outright liberal republican in a blue state. Can this work?
Again, there are arguments both ways. Polling not only shows a willingness to dump Snowe for another un-named republican, but early polls also show favorable, majority margins for named candidates. Snowe may be in trouble.
Further, in what may have been a surprising twist, blue state Maine appeared to be deep red in 2010 state races, giving republicans the governorship and both houses of the state’s general assembly.
Still, assuming that Snowe loses (and we aren’t making an assumption either way yet), could a conservative republican win in a state known for electing 3rd party governors, democrat presidents, and liberal republicans? We’ll watch this one closely, and we’ll know much more after the primaries.
For now, we believe that the race leans to the GOP.
Check out our Election Chart for an overview of the entire 2012 US Senate Election. The page is updated regularly.