It has been a little over two months since the last time Americans headed to the polls (the Texas primaries). But, in three states, the polls opened up this morning to determine the field for the November general elections. And in those three states (Indiana, North Carolina, and Ohio), there is plenty to catch the eye of the political junkie...
IN-Sen (R): Dan Coats vs. John Hostettler vs. Marlin Stutzman
In what will almost certainly be an open-seat Senate battle against southern Indiana Congressman Brad Ellsworth, a trio of Republicans are vying for the GOP nomination. Coats has been the establishment choice from the outset, and he is by far the best-funded Republican in the field (though his war chest in underwhelming enough that Coats felt the need to supplement it from his own pocket). Hostettler is the quirky conservative who Ellsworth knocked out of Congress in 2006. Hostettler's iconoclastic ways might resonate in an anti-establishment climate, but his fundraising, as always, has been anemic. Stutzman has touted some outsider conservative credentials (he has the endorsement of the former head of the American Conservatives Union), but he might be hamstrung by the fact that he and Hostettler are essentially breathing the same political oxygen. A recent SUSA poll had Coats leading, but not decisively. The best news for Indiana Republicans is that, after a brief flirtation with Democrats in 2006 and 2008, this state seems to have returned to its rock-ribbed red state status. Polls of the general election show any of the Republicans leading Ellsworth.
THE HOUSE RACES
A race on virtually no one's radar screen until about a week ago was the Republican primary in IN-03. But a SUSA poll in the district showed that Class of 1994 Republican Mark Souder is in real danger against self-funder Bob Thomas. Meanwhile, downstate in IN-05, veteran Republican Dan Burton barely survived in 2008 in a primary challenge by John McGoff. McGoff is back, but unfortunately for him, so are several other GOPers. That should divide the anti-incumbent vote, allowing Burton to survive. Primaries also are on tap on the GOP side in a trio of targeted Dem seats: IN-02, IN-08, and IN-09. Especially watch the southern Indiana 9th, where former Congressman Mike Sodrel is making his fifth consecutive bid for the seat. Polls have shown him leading, but he has actually been outraised in the race, and he is far from a lock.
NC-Sen (D): Elaine Marshall vs. Cal Cunningham vs. Kenneth Lewis
One of the more interesting races on tap today begins today, but it is far from a lock that it will end today. If neither candidate makes it to 40% of the vote or more today, this battle will go to a runoff. Marshall and Cunningham are somewhat universally acknowledged to be the frontrunners, although Lewis is close to double digits as well, and could be the factor that prevents the leader from getting over 40% of the vote. A PPP poll taken over the weekend had Marshall up 28-21 over Cunningham, with Lewis back at 9%. There are enough undecideds to pull one of them over the top, and clearly both candidates would love to get a jump at training their fire on potentially vulnerable GOP Senator Richard Burr, whose polling has been underwhelming.
THE HOUSE RACES
There is a little less intrigue at the House level in the Tar Heel State than in Indiana. No incumbents appear to be in immediate danger here, and the only headlines here will be the Republican primaries in NC-08 and NC-11, seats that will certainly be getting some attention come the Fall.
OH-Sen (D): Lee Fisher vs. Jennifer Brunner
A toss-up since its inception, recent polling has suggested that state Lt. Governor Lee Fisher has begun to stretch out a lead over Jennifer Brunner, Ohio's Secretary of State. Given the huge resource deficit Brunner found herself in for most of the campaign, this late separation was not entirely surprising. What was surprising, as Laura Clawson wrote about on DK yesterday, was Brunner's statement that she would not offer any help to Fisher post-primary (although, per a statement from the comments, Brunner is chalking that up to her role as SoS, rather than any particular animus towards Fisher).
The winner awaits former Congressman and Bush administration official Rob Portman.
THE HOUSE RACES
Probably the biggest "fireworks" primary is down in Portman's old stomping grounds: OH-02. There, 2008 Indie candidate David Krikorian is going heads-up in the Democratic primary with marketing executive and reality TV contestant Surya "Chili" Yalamanchili. The winner will likely face fifth-year incumbent Jean Schmidt, although she is being primaried by a local attorney and a Warren County Commissioner. In OH-10, Dennis Kucinich's streak of getting primaried by local Dems pissed at his national ambition finally comes to an end, but there is a three-way GOP primary to face him. Matt Miller is wondering whether the third time will be the charm in OH-16. Miller, a former county commissioner, almost won shocking victories against an incumbent (Raph Regula) in 2006 and an establishment favorite (Kirk Schuring) in 2008. This time around, it is another establishment favorite in the form of well-funded businessman Jim Renacci.