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RealClearPolitics Politics Nation Blog

 

Blog Home Page --> House -- Kentucky -- 03

Northup Trails Own Poll

Former Rep. Anne Northup, a Republican caught in the 2006 Democratic wave, is trailing in a poll conducted for her own campaign, though the survey shows incumbent Democrat John Yarmuth is not completely safe for re-election. The Republican is seen as her party's best chance to take back the Louisville-based seat, though she remains the underdog to her well-financed rival.

The survey, taken for Northup's campaign by Voter/Consumer Research, polled 400 respondents between 6/4-5 and 6/8, for a margin of error of +/- 5%. Northup and Yarmuth were tested.

General Election Matchup
Yarmuth........51
Northup.........43

It is somewhat unorthodox to release a poll showing one's opponent ahead of 50%, but the Northup campaign did so after a SurveyUSA poll showed a 17-point margin in Yarmuth's favor. Pollster Jan van Lohuizen wrote that the survey was flawed, and that the margins were too large to be believed.

Northup had represented the Third District for five terms, often winning narrow re-election bids in a Democratic-leaning district because of her strong campaigning skills. But 2006 proved too difficult, and Yarmuth took a narrow 6,000-vote majority in the district, which encompasses almost all of Jefferson County.

Lunsford, McConnell To Face Off

As the pledged delegates were being divvied up between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in Kentucky last night, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell learned who will be challenging him in November.

Entrepreneur Bruce Lunsford, who has lost the last two Democratic primaries for governor, defeated Greg Fischer 51%-34% and now faces an uphill battle against McConnell. A recent poll showed Lunsford trailing McConnell by 12 points, though McConnell was held below 50%. While McConnell enjoys a substantial fundraising lead, as well as the advantages of incumbency, his ties to President Bush could prove troubling in the general election.

Both Democratic candidates are wealthy and spent much of their own money on the race. Lunsford held the advantage of key union endorsements and high name recognition, as well as the endorsement of former candidate Andrew Horne following his departure from the race. Fischer ran a last-minute TV attack ad against Lunsford that called him the "Mud Man" and noted Lunsford's 2003 endorsement of Republican Ernie Fletcher, who went on to a scandal-plagued governorship.

Another competitive race was crystallized in the Louisville-based Third District, where the 2006 election was decided by just 6,000 votes. For the second cycle in a row, freshman Rep. John Yarmuth will face Anne Northup, the former congresswoman whom he knocked out of office. Northup easily won the Republican nomination with 77% of the vote. Yarmuth begins the general election race with a $300,000 cash advantage, according to the latest FEC reports.

In Western Kentucky's vast Second District, State Senator David Boswell defeated Daviess County judge-executive Reid Haire 59%-41% to win the Democratic nomination. In the general election for the open seat, Boswell will take on Republican State Senator Brett Guthrie, who ran unopposed in the GOP primary. Both Boswell and Guthrie hope to replace the retiring GOP Rep. Ron Lewis, whose May 1994 special election victory foreshadowed the Republican takeover of Congress later that year.

Lewis had attempted to choose his successor by announcing his retirement just before Kentucky's January filing deadline, ensuring that Daniel London, his chief of staff, would be the only Republican on the ballot. However, Guthrie caught wind of the retirement and filed his paperwork at the last minute; and London dropped his bid a week later.

Despite the district's Democratic-leaning tradition, it has been solidly Republican since Lewis entered Congress and gave President Bush his best winning percentages in the state in both 2000 and 2004.

-- Kyle Trygstad

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

Northup Tries 2nd Comeback

Former Republican Rep. Anne Northup will file for her old seat today, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports, setting up a grudge match with Democrat John Yarmuth in Kentucky's 3rd District. Yarmuth defeated Northup 51%-48% in 2006 to take back the Louisville-Jefferson County based seat for Democrats.

Northup's first four elections were close, running against relatively well-funded candidates in a district that Bill Clinton, Al Gore and John Kerry all won in the last three presidential elections. In 2006, Northup's campaign faced challenges both political -- she fell victim to the national anti-incumbent mood that swept the country -- and the personal, when one of her six children unexpectedly passed away. After the death, she suspended her campaign for six weeks.

After her defeat, Northup mounted an ultimately unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination for governor last year, losing 50%-37% to scandal-tainted Ernie Fletcher, the incumbent who was soundly beaten by the Democratic nominee in November. Before deciding to enter the race this year, Northup had been supporting Republican Erwin Roberts, who recently pulled out because of the likelihood his Army Reserve unit would be activated.

Those who follow Kentucky politics say Northup will be aided by Senator Mitch McConnell's run for re-election this year, especially if no Democrat emerges as a strong challenger. McConnell, who had nearly $7 million in the bank by the end of the 3rd quarter, will spend heavily, especially in Yarmuth's district. The two are close politically -- McConnell did not back incumbent Fletcher while Northup was challenging him -- and the seat returning to the Republican fold is good for GOP candidates running at all levels. McConnell, who hails from Louisville, would certainly like to be represented by a Republican in Congress as well.

In her latest financial disclosure with the FEC, Northup reported having less than $10,000 cash on hand. In 2006, she spent about $3.4 million to Yarmuth's $2.2 million. Through September of last year, Yarmuth had banked an impressive $610,000. He has no reason to worry about money anyway -- he donates his congressional paycheck to charity.

-- Kyle Trygstad