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« Dem Leads In MS? | Blog Home Page | OR Primaries Tight »

Bluegrass Voters Pick Nominees

Down-ballot from the presidential primaries in Kentucky are three congressional races that will decide the players for what could be competitive general elections. Two incumbents are awaiting their challengers, while Democrats will decide their candidate for an open House seat.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is still favored to retain his seat in November. However, recent polls have backed up national Democrats' view of this race as an upset possibility. McConnell's strong support for President Bush, including on the Iraq war, is his biggest liability; and with his wife still serving as Bush's Labor Secretary, McConnell, some Democrats might argue, is quite literally married to the administration.

Leading the pack of seven Democratic challengers are wealthy businessmen Bruce Lunsford and Greg Fischer, who both hail from Louisville. A recent poll showed Lunsford leading Fischer by 20 points, while both candidates trailed McConnell by 12 points in general election matchups. Both Democrats have spent more than $1 million on the primary, while McConnell has spent closer to $4 million so far, despite a cake-walk primary. The four-term incumbent spent about $5 million in each of his last two re-election campaigns, but he is already close to eclipsing that figure with more than five months remaining until the general election.

In Kentucky's Third District, freshman Democrat John Yarmuth will likely be defending his seat in a grudge match with former Rep. Anne Northup, whom he knocked out of office in 2006 by about 6,000 votes. This marginal Louisville-based district -- both John Kerry and Al Gore defeated Bush by 2 points here -- offers the possibility for competitiveness almost every year. Northup herself won more than 53% just once in her five-term House career. In her attempt to win back the seat, Northup will first need to defeat three GOP primary opponents, though she is likely to do so.

In the 2nd District, which GOP Rep. Ron Lewis is retiring from after seven full terms in office, two Democrats are vying to take on state Senator Brett Guthrie, the Republican nominee. The filing deadline offered some last-minute drama for the GOP, as Lewis attempted to select his successor -- his chief of staff -- by announcing his retirement just before the deadline. However, Guthrie, whom the NRCC calls an "A" candidate, rushed in his paperwork, just in time.

The Democratic nominee will be either State Senator David Boswell or Daviess County judge-executive Reid Haire. Both come from the Owensboro area in Daviess County, the large district's western-most county. Through the end of April, Haire had outspent Boswell two-to-one. Either candidate will face steep odds in the general, as Bush scored his best winning percentages in the state here in both 2000 and 2004. This formerly Democratic district has been in GOP hands since Lewis took over in a 1994 special election that many believe was the first visible crack in the tidal wave that swept Republicans to power that November.

-- Kyle Trygstad