Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Three States, Three Potentially Challenging Races for Incumbents

In Election Analysis on August 2, 2013 at 10:33 am
Sen. Lindsey Graham

Sen. Lindsey Graham

South Carolina

The long-expected Republican primary challenge to Sen. Lindsey Graham is now coming to fruition. A candidate emerged yesterday who has an interesting background. It remains to be seen if she has the political wherewithal to compete with the veteran senator, however.

Nancy Mace is the first female graduate of The Citadel. Born into a military family, her father is a retired Army general. She announced her challenge to the senator late this week, joining Greenville area businessman and former 3rd District congressional candidate Richard Cash in the nomination race. State Sen. Lee Bright, coming from the Ron and Rand Paul wing of the Republican Party, says he will soon follow suit.

Can any of the three beat Lindsey Graham? While it’s clearly a long shot, the senator does have some obvious vulnerabilities. First and foremost, as any casual political observer understands, Graham is to the left of the South Carolina Republican electorate and has taken some unpopular stands in the state, such as his leadership efforts in the area of immigration reform.

Secondly, though a crowded field usually helps an embattled incumbent, South Carolina does have a run-off law, meaning it could become harder to capture a majority in a split vote primary situation. If someone is strong enough to deny the senator an outright primary victory, the scenario would then be drawn to upset him in the secondary election.

Third, while none of his opponents has significant name ID, they are all substantial individuals, and if one or more can prove they possess fundraising ability, outside conservative groups are ready to come to their aid if Graham begins to falter.

On the other hand, the senator’s fundraising has been brisk and he’s already sitting on more than $6.3 million in his campaign account. Almost all of his money will be spent in his nomination effort as the Democrats probably stand little chance of scoring a victory in a South Carolina mid-term election. Additionally, Graham is a smart politician with a strong record of electoral success. Defeating him is a major task, and is highly unlikely to happen, but it ought to be an interesting campaign.

Michigan

Now that House Ways & Means Committee chairman Dave Camp (R-MI-4) is toying with the idea of running for the Senate, the conventional wisdom is that he will be a much stronger Republican opponent to Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI-14) than former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, the only major announced GOP candidate.

Land, isn’t even overtly standing her own ground in relation to a potential Camp bid, remaining non-committal as to how his entry might affect her standing. Such inaction suggests that she could step aside should the congressman decide to run.

A new Denno Research poll (July 23-24; 600 registered Michigan voters) projects Land to be holding her own against Peters, however. According to their tally, the two candidates would be tied at 39 percent apiece if they were to meet in the 2014 general election. The data leads one to consider that Land may be stronger than most of the pundits are currently predicting, or maybe that Peters is weaker.

Kentucky

For the second time, Public Policy Polling has surveyed the Kentucky electorate for two liberal organizations (Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America) and come to the conclusion that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) is tied or trailing his Democratic opponent. Included in the poll, however, are a series of push questions designed to cast a negative light upon McConnell. Is the ballot test that shows Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) clinging to a one-point 45-44 percent lead asked before or after the series of push questions … or both? This is something we do not know.

If the push questions that directly cast McConnell in a negative light are asked before the published ballot test, then the senator only trailing by one point is actually a good sign for him. A different survey taken in the same time period suggests that his standing is much better than does this PPP push poll. Early this week, Wenzel Strategies (July 23-24; 624 registered Kentucky voters) released their own data projecting McConnell to be polling beyond the margin of polling error, 48-40 percent, over Grimes.

The activity level already seen in this campaign suggests that we will witness many twists, turns and hard knocks as time progresses toward the 2014 election. The senator will clearly use his entire political arsenal to secure a sixth term, while the Democrats and outside liberal organizations are committed to matching him dollar for dollar.

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