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« Gichrest Faces Primary Fight | Blog Home Page | Dems Heed Cattle Calls »

Two Big Recruits For GOP

It's a rare day when Republicans get good news. Today, though, they scored big, as campaign committees on both sides of the Hill recruited strong candidates for next year.

In Louisiana, state Treasurer John Kennedy announced he will challenge incumbent Mary Landrieu for her Senate seat next year and released an initial benchmark poll showing him well ahead. Kennedy, a former Democrat, had been heavily wooed by NRSC chief John Ensign and former White House political guru Karl Rove, and with the results of the poll, it's no wonder he got in.

Conducted early last month, from 10/10-14, the survey contacted 1001 Louisianans for a margin of error of +/- 3.2 points. Zogby International made the calls on behalf of Kennedy's campaign.

General Election Matchup
Kennedy 45
Landrieu 38

Landrieu was forced into a run-off during her initial re-election bid five years ago, and many believe that Hurricane Katrina, which chased hundreds of thousands of residents from the state, dramatically reduced New Orleans' African American population. Landrieu's father was the popular mayor of New Orleans, and she has relied on the city as a base from which to launch her successful statewide campaigns. The loss of thousands of black voters hurts Landrieu's re-election chances.

Whether she can overcome a well-financed challenger depends heavily on Landrieu's ability to expand her base beyond traditional Democratic strongholds in the cities. Louisianans vote Democratic for state legislative seats in more rural areas, but those areas have not favored federal Democrats in the same proportion.

Senate Republicans did not win a single Democratic seat in 2006, and 2008 doesn't look much better. Louisiana presents them with a very rare opportunity, and it is likely that the party will do everything in its power to help Kennedy go after Landrieu. The NRSC lags sorely behind its Democratic counterpart in fundraising, but one has to expect a significant investment in Louisiana.

In other good recruiting news for the GOP, when House Republicans unexpectedly lost Rep. Mike Ferguson to retirement this month, the party scrambled to find a suitable replacement, and quickly. Ferguson's 2006 opponent, Assemblywoman Linda Stender, is raising money quickly, and after her closer-than-expected finish last year, Republicans needed to act quickly to find a replacement who could take her on.

The obvious choice: State Senator Tom Kean Jr., who last year lost a bid for Senate but maintained the financial ties and good will among the GOP base to mount a strong bid. In fact, his candidacy would likely have been greeted with front-runner status. Kean, though, was just elected Senate Republican Whip, and as quickly as his name was floated, he announced he wouldn't run. The candidate Kean said he would back also pulled out, leaving the GOP temporarily in the lurch.

Now, the party has recruited State Senate Minority Leader Leonard Lance, whose Senate district covers part of the 7th Congressional. But Lance's path to the nomination isn't clear, and in a state with two prominent Republican dynasties, the other candidate hopes to trade on her family's good name to create a third. Kean's father served as governor before his son got into politics.

The next GOP governor, Christine Todd Whitman, apparently also passed on the political gene. Her daughter, businesswoman Kate Whitman, announced today that she will run against Lance for the right to face Stender in November. The younger Whitman gets a big boost with former RNC finance chief Lew Eisenberg on her finance committee, and though both Lance and Whitman would make good candidates, the GOP is clearly more excited about Whitman.