Poor picks would se­cure Democrats

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

The Repub­li­can pri­mary sea­son kicks into high gear this month with a se­ries of high-pro­file Se­nate con­tests that will help de­ter­mine whether the GOP can take con­trol of the up­per cham­ber from Democrats in the midterm elec­tions.

The matchups — some of which could evolve into runoff elec­tions — will show the strength of the GOP as it tries to hang on to seats in Ne­braska, Ge­or­gia and Ken­tucky and to seize Demo­crat-con­trolled seats in North Carolina, West Vir­ginia and Ore­gon.

“The GOP could po­ten­tially win the Se­nate in Novem­ber, but the party could hurt its chances if pri­mary vot­ers make poor de­ci­sions in some up­com­ing pri­maries,” said Kyle Kondik, of the Univer­sity of Vir­ginia’s Cen­ter for Pol­i­tics. “Sev­eral states with Se­nate con­tests in May fea­ture some clas­sic in­sider-out­sider matchups, and na­tional Repub­li­cans are hop­ing the in­sider/es­tab­lish­ment can­di­dates get the nom­i­na­tions.”

Repub­li­cans need to win six, net, to take the gavel away from Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Harry Reid, Ne­vada Demo­crat.

In its lat­est break­down, the Cen­ter for Pol­i­tics pre­dicts Repub­li­cans will gain four to eight Se­nate seats.

Democrats, mean­while, see the Se­nate races in Ken­tucky and Ge­or­gia as their best op­por­tu­ni­ties to pick up seats. They hope Repub­li­cans field can­di­dates cut from the same cloth as some of their 2012 and 2010 nom­i­nees, in­clud­ing Shar­ron An­gle in Ne­vada, Chris­tine O’Don­nell in Delaware and Todd Akin in Mis­souri, who lost seats that some po­lit­i­cal ob­servers felt Repub­li­cans would have won had they put for­ward bet­ter can­di­dates.

But, with the Se­nate ma­jor­ity within reach, the Repub­li­can es­tab­lish­ment has taken a stronger stand against con­ser­va­tives and tea-party-fu­eled in­sur­gents in pri­mary races.

In­deed, Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell of Ken­tucky told The New York Times last month that Repub­li­can in­cum­bents would “crush” their tea party ri­vals in the pri­mary sea­son.

“In 2010, they did not take the tea party se­ri­ously,” said Jennifer Duffy, of the Cook Po­lit­i­cal Re­port. “In 2012, they tried to work with them. They tried to nom­i­nate or get be­hind can­di­dates that they could both agree on. And in 2014, they are just fight­ing back. They want the strong­est gen­eral elec­tion can­di­date in place be­cause they do have a shot at the ma­jor­ity.”

The first com­pet­i­tive pri­mary is Tues­day in North Carolina. The win­ner of the four­way race will face off in the midterm elec­tion against Sen. Kay R. Ha­gan, one of the most vul­ner­a­ble Democrats.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory on Tues­day be­came the lat­est mem­ber of the Repub­li­can es­tab­lish­ment to en­dorse state House Speaker Thom Til­lis.

Polls show Mr. Til­lis holds a dou­ble-digit lead over his clos­est ri­val, Greg Ban­non, a for­mer doc­tor who has won en­dorse­ments from Sen. Rand Paul of Ken­tucky and con­ser­va­tive colum­nist Ann Coul­ter.

Mr. Til­lis will have to clear a 40 per­cent thresh­old to avoid a July runoff elec­tion, which would give his ri­vals a chance to rally around an al­ter­na­tive.

A week later, vot­ers in Ne­braska and West Vir­ginia head to the polls in races that Repub­li­cans are fa­vored to win.

The four-way nom­i­na­tion race in Ne­braska has turned nasty, with the top com­peti­tors, for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Shane Os­born and Ben Sasse, in­creas­ing their at­tacks in the run-up to the May 13 pri­mary.

The win­ner is ex­pected to roll to vic­tory in the Novem­ber elec­tion and suc­ceed re­tir­ing Sen. Mike Jo­hanns, a Repub­li­can.

Rep. Shel­ley Moore Capito, mean­while, is po­si­tioned to win the Repub­li­can pri­mary in West Vir­ginia, where the re­tire­ment of Sen. John D. Rock­e­feller IV, a Demo­crat, of­fers a prime pickup op­por­tu­nity for Repub­li­cans.

Six states, in­clud­ing Ge­or­gia, Ken­tucky and Ore­gon, have pri­mary elec­tions sched­uled for May 20. Those states could fall into Repub­li­can hands if the elec­tion be­comes a tidal wave.

In Ken­tucky, Mr. McCon­nell faces off against busi­ness­man Matt Bevin, a po­lit­i­cal new­comer who has won the back­ing of groups aligned with the tea party that have ac­cused Mr. McCon­nell of aban­don­ing small-govern­ment prin­ci­ples.

Mr. Bevin has painted the in­cum­bent as a con­ser­va­tive sell­out and a Wash­ing­ton in­sider who has lost touch with the people in his home state.

Po­lit­i­cal ob­servers say Mr. McCon­nell is poised to win, putting him a step closer to a sixth term and per­haps the Se­nate ma­jor­ity lead­er­ship.

Mr. McCon­nell has been fo­cus­ing on tear­ing down Demo­cratic can­di­date Ali­son Lun­der­gan Grimes, Ken­tucky’s sec­re­tary of state.

Ms. Grimes is tied with Mr. McCon­nell in polls and has the sup­port of for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton, a close ally of her fa­ther, Jerry Lun­der­gan, a prom­i­nent Demo­crat power bro­ker in the state.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell of Ken­tucky told The New York Times that GOP in­cum­bents would “crush” their tea party ri­vals in the pri­mary sea­son.

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