April 8, 2011


The Democrats' 2012 Senate Blues: The Democrats have 23 Senate seats to defend next year, but in a number of states, including Massachusetts, Arizona, and Nevada, few top-tier candidates are jumping at the chance to run, David A. Graham reports. (David A. Graham, 4/07/11, Daily Beast)

Even if it’s early in the game, though, there is some reason for concern. Several strong candidates are simply opting not to run, leaving the party to turn to aspiring senators who would otherwise be warming the bench. Take Nevada, where Republican Sen. John Ensign is retiring in disgrace. Republicans got their first choice to run for the seat, Rep. Dean Heller. Democrats, too, have a strong prospective candidate: Rep. Shelley Berkley. In February, she said she’d run if pollster Mark Mellman’s results looked good: "If he comes back and says there's a path to victory, then I'm all in." Fast-forward to April: despite a poll showing her with a five-point lead even before she enters the race, Berkley is still hedging. A spokeswoman said Berkley’s weighing a range of factors, from her family to her position in the House, to come to a decision. In Indiana, former Rep. Brad Ellsworth, who has strong name recognition from his unsuccessful 2010 Senate run, declined to run, as did North Dakota’s Earl Pomeroy, a former representative who’s one of the few Democrats with statewide name recognition.

In other states, unusual circumstances have left the Democrats hesitating while Republicans forge ahead with runs. No one in Arizona is willing to jump into the race for the seat vacated by retiring Sen. Jon Kyl—just in case Rep. Gabrielle Giffords recovers from her shooting injury and wants to run. Meanwhile, GOP Rep. Jeff Flake appears to have a clear path to the nomination.

More puzzling is Massachusetts, where Democrats seem to still be reeling from Martha Coakley’s shocking loss to Sen. Scott Brown in January 2010. Despite Brown’s win, the Bay State remains solidly blue, but no top-tier contenders have jumped in yet. “Democrats are going to find someone,” says Jeffrey Berry, a political scientist at Tufts University, but “they’re waiting for the last possible moment to see if they think that Brown can be beat.”

Already, several candidates have taken themselves out of contention. Gov. Deval Patrick has just been through a bruising reelection contest. Vicki Kennedy, former Sen. Ted Kennedy’s widow, isn’t interested either, and Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, a rumored contender, announced on Tuesday she was out. Reps. Michael Capuano and Stephen Lynch—a liberal and a centrist Democrat, respectively—could both be strong. But Massachusetts is set to lose a seat in Congress, and representatives are holding their breath to see who might get squeezed out—and take the Senate leap instead. Democratic consultant Mary Anne Marsh says some big-name Democrats might also have an eye on Sen. John Kerry’s seat: the senior senator is rumored to be a frontrunner to be the next secretary of State, and a special election for his seat would mean a representative could hold on to his seat and also run for an open seat—without an incumbent.

Posted by at April 8, 2011 6:19 AM

blog comments powered by Disqus