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Except For N.C., Both Parties Win On Primary Night

North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall finished short of winning the 40 percent necessary to take the Democratic nomination and the right to challenge Republican Sen. Richard Burr. The result was the one aberration in an otherwise good night for the two national parties, which got their favored candidates in the other two states holding contested Senate primaries on Tuesday.

In Ohio, Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher defeated Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner in the Democratic primary and will face former Rep. Rob Portman in the general election. In Indiana, former Sen. Dan Coats won a competitive Republican primary and will likely take on Rep. Brad Ellsworth, whom Democratic leaders in the state are expected to select as their nominee next month.

The Ohio and Indiana seats are open following the retirements of Sens. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and Evan Bayh (D-Ind.).

In North Carolina, Marshall received 36 percent, followed by Cal Cunningham with 27 percent and Ken Lewis with 17 percent. As the top two finishers, Marshall and Cunningham will face each other again in a June 22 runoff, a costly addition for Democrats who would rather turn their attention toward Burr.

The Marshall campaign has already requested that Cunningham drop out of the race in deference to Marshall winning a plurality of the votes.

Continue reading "Except For N.C., Both Parties Win On Primary Night" »

Rasmussen: Parties Hold Seats In CA, OH and NY

Rasmussen continues its polling of potential 2010 Senate battlegrounds, with new data in California, Ohio and New York. In each race, the incumbent party holds the advantage.

Ohio Senate
(9/23, 500 LVs, MoE +/- 4.5 percent)
Portman (R) 41 - Fisher (D) 40 - Und 14
Portman (R) 40 - Brunner (D) 38 - Und 18

New York Senate
(9/22, 500 LVs, MoE +/- 4.5 percent)
Gillibrand (D) 44 - Pataki (R) 41 - Und 4

California Senate
(9/23; 500 LVs, MoE 4.5 percent)
Boxer (D) 49 - Fiorina (R) 39 - Und 8
Boxer (D) 46 - DeVore (R) 37 - Und 10

OH Sen: Dems Lead Portman

In the latest Quinnipiac survey in the Ohio Senate race, both Democratic candidates lead likely GOP nominee Rob Portman in hypothetical general election matchups. Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher and Sec. of State Jennifer Brunner both also lead Cleveland area car dealer Tom Ganley.

For the Democratic primary, 55% remain undecided as Fisher leads Brunner 26%-17% -- a 6-point margin increase for Fisher since July. In the GOP primary, Portman leads Ganley 27%-9%.

General Election Matchups
Fisher 42 (+5 vs. last poll, July 7)
Portman 31 (-2)
Und 26 (nc)

Brunner 39 (+4)
Portman 34 (nc)
Und 25 (-4)

Fisher 41 (+5)
Ganley 29 (-1)
Und 27 (-4)

Brunner 39 (+4)
Ganley 31 (nc)
Und 27 (-4)

In the RCP Averages for the two most likely general election matchups, Fisher leads Portman by 9.0 points and Brunner leads Portman by 5.7 points.

President Obama returns to majority approval in the state, as 53% now approve of the job he's doing; last month he was down to 49%. The president is also more trusted to handle health care than congressional Republicans by a 49%-28% margin.

"Perhaps it's because the poll was taken immediately after the President's nationally-televised prime-time speech to Congress, but Democratic fortunes in Ohio have improved slightly across-the- board," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "Not only have the President's numbers improved, but so have those of Gov. Ted Strickland and the party's two U.S. Senate candidates."

OH Sen: Brunner Slams "Insiders" Pushing Her To Quit

There's probably no turning back now for Jennifer Brunner.

Any hopes that the Ohio Secretary of State could be convinced to abandon her Senate campaign to avoid a primary with Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher (D) would seem to be dashed after Brunner excoriates Democratic "insiders," both in Columbus and Washington, for trying to push her out. Writing on her campaign Web site, Brunner repeats some of the entreaties she's heard -- including one from an unnamed Congressman who says she should quit even though he or she thinks Fisher can't win.

"She can't raise the money," said many. "You shouldn't run for the Senate if the Governor supports Lieutenant Governor Fisher," warned some Washington insiders in January. "You need to take one for the team, even though I don't think the Lt. Gov. can win in the general election," one Congressman cautioned. "I think you have the political skills to win this election, but you need the money," said a political mentor.

A poll released just today showed Brunner trailing Fisher by just three points, but Fisher is expected to build on his significant financial advantage when new reports are released. That factor is something Brunner confronts head on.

Public service for me has never been about the money. I know I must raise it. I always have, deliberately, steadily and having enough in the end to get the votes I need to win. For me, public service at its essence is about standing up for the kinds of things we as Democrats believe in and taking the fight of my fellow Ohioans to Columbus or Washington or wherever I can best help people in need.

And just as Ohio Democrats were thrilled when likely Republican nominee Rob Portman boasted in a recent interview of being a Washington "insider," Brunner hands the GOP a quote to fight back with in the event Fisher is the nominee.

If this race for the U.S. Senate is about the trappings of insider politics, then I suspect Lee Fisher will be your man. But if Ohio's Democratic faithful are willing to look toward a new way that is really nothing more than the old way of the Golden Rule, then Jennifer Brunner will be the first woman from Ohio to be both nominated and elected to the U.S. Senate.

She concludes her 1,300-word opus with references to the tough U.S. presidential primary Democrats saw play out in Ohio last March.

Women voters will be energized by this election across our state, because many of their hopes and dreams were piqued by the candidacy of Hillary Clinton and fueled by the election of our first African-American president, Barack Obama. Rob Portman introduces himself to the voters of our state as a former Congressman, Bush trade representative and budget director. I know that Democrats will fight to make sure that all voting Ohioans know he is not their man, and that their next U.S. Senator must be a woman whose courage has been tested and who has only just begun to help Ohioans earn a new respect for their state.

The last line: "I am in this race to stay."

A Dent In GOP Ohio Plans

One of the reasons Republicans have been hopeful about their chances of holding on to the Voinovich Senate seat in Ohio is that while Democrats are heading for a potentially bruising primary between Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher and Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, former Rep. Rob Portman (R) was unopposed and could stockpile money for the general election.

Not anymore, apparently:

Cleveland-area auto dealer Tom Ganley will announce his Republican candidacy for the U.S. Senate today, setting up a potentially expensive 2010 primary election against former U.S. Rep. Rob Portman of Cincinnati.


A millionaire, Ganley indicated that he is willing to spend a considerable chunk of his fortune to win the GOP nomination against Portman.

"The campaign will be well-funded," Ganley said. "It will be very well-funded."

By virtue of his auto dealerships' heavy advertising, Ganley said he has "tremendous name recognition in northern Ohio."

Portman's camp may not be too nervous about the end result as it faces a political neophyte. Also, while Portman does not quite have high name-ID statewide, he did represent the Cincinnati area in Congress -- an area that also is rich with GOP primary votes. Cleveland -- not so much.

But having to spend that warchest to avoid an upset certainly puts a dent in their plans. The Ohio GOP chairman, Kevin DeWine, is quoted in the Dispatch piece as saying: "With all due respect to Tom, I don't believe a seat in the United States Senate is an entry-level position, and I don't think it's something you can buy."

OH Sen: Brunner Facing Pressure With Redistricting Looming

The retirement of Sen. George Voinovich presented Democrats with another opportunity to build on their recent winning streak in the Buckeye State. The party took all but one of the statewide offices in 2006, including a landslide win by Gov. Ted Strickland. In 2008, Democrats not only turned the state blue in the presidential race, but took control of the state House of Representatives for the first time in 14 years.

But now a looming Democratic primary contest spells trouble for the party. Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher and Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner both have set their sights on the Voinovich seat and Democrats worry that a bitter and costly primary fight might not only weaken the party's chances of winning the seat next year (shoring up their dominance in the U.S. Senate). It could also weaken Democratic chances of controlling the Ohio redistricting process that begins after 2010.

That's why some Democrats say Brunner should give up the race and seek re-election to her current job. In her current job as secretary of state, Brunner happens to be one of five members of the Ohio Apportionment Board that oversees the redrawing of state legislative and congressional district lines.

Also on the board are the governor, state auditor, and two representatives from the state legislature, including one of the minority party. Gov. Strickland is a slight favorite to win re-election next year. State Auditor Mary Taylor, a Republican, announced this week that she would seek re-election too. If both were to win, that would make the secretary of state the swing seat in the apportionment process. Republicans held majorities in the reapportionment panel in 1991 and 2001.

It hasn't helped Brunner's case that Fisher, buoyed by support from Gov. Strickland, has gotten off to a fast fundraising start. She reported raising just $207,000 in the first quarter, compared to $1 million raised by her Democratic rival. Brunner attributes the early disparity to Fisher's longer career in state politics, having served as attorney general from 1991-95, and his failed 1998 gubernatorial bid. But Brunner herself is hardly an unknown: She succeeded the controversial Ken Blackwell in a job that has assumed a high profile because of Ohio's need to fix election systems strained by large turnouts and close finishes in the key presidential battleground state.

So far Brunner isn't buckling. She wrote to party leaders this week insisting she was in the Senate race for good. "I want to make it clear that under no circumstances will I consider seeking re-election to the Secretary of State's position, or any other statewide or federal office, other than the open U.S. Senate seat of retiring Senator George Voinovich," she said in an email to key Democrats last week, as reported by the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Meanwhile, former Rep. and Bush OMB director Rob Portman appears to have a clear field in winning the GOP Senate nomination. Though early polls show him being beaten by either Brunner or Fisher, he is personally popular and dissatisfaction with Democratic dominance in Washington could be a bigger factor by late 2010.

Ohio Senate Race Takes Shape

Ohio Sec. of State Jennifer Brunner formally entered the 2010 Senate race today by announcing her candidacy in a video released this afternoon.

"I'm running for the United States Senate to be a part of the solution, to meet our challenges and to help Ohio emerge stronger than ever," Brunner says in her announcement video.

Joining Brunner in the Democratic primary contest will be Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, who is set to announce his candidacy at a news conference this evening in Columbus. Gov. Ted Strickland (D) said publicly two weeks ago that Fisher was the "best qualified" candidate among the Democrats considering a bid.

The winner of the Brunner-Fisher primary will likely face former Congressman and U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman (R) in the general election. Portman announced his candidacy a month ago.

All three candidates are vying for the seat that Sen. George Voinovich (R) is vacating at the end of his term. Voinovich was first elected to the Senate in 1998, and also served two terms as Ohio governor from 1990-1998.

Democrats view this race as an excellent opportunity to pick up a Republican Senate seat. The party is coming off two impressive election seasons, with Obama taking Ohio by a 4-point margin in November, and Strickland and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) both taking over for a Republican in 2006.

Here is Brunner's announcement video: