Two years after they were the Republican Party’s national ticket, John McCain and Sarah Palin will both be the focus of national attention August 24—McCain because of the strongest primary challenge he has ever faced for his Senate seat in Arizona, Palin because her latest endorsement is in her own state of Alaska, for the opponent of incumbent Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
And there will be other key primaries as well, such as Florida’s bitterly fought Republican primary for governor to succeed outgoing Gov. Charlie Crist, who is running for the Senate as an independent.
Arizona: Mac Should Be Back
When conservative former six-term Rep. J.D. Hayworth announced last year he would challenge Sen. John McCain in 2010, things did not look good for the ’08 presidential nominee. Hayworth had strong backing from the Tea Party movement, a following from his post-Congress incarnation as a charismatic radio talk show host, and national funding from conservatives angry at McCain for what they consider his apostacies on issues ranging from global warming to comprehensive immigration reform.
But things have a way of changing and McCain is now headed for a big win, possibly by a margin of 3-to-2. He has endorsed his state’s tough new law on illegal immigration, run TV spots saying it was time to “complete the danged fence” along the border with Mexico, and backed away from cap-and-trade legislation after the “Climategate” scandal cast doubts on the science behind global warming.
Outspent by a margin of nearly seven-to-one, Hayworth found himself playing defense amid reports showing he had voted for earmarks—a contrast to McCain’s reputation as a fiscal skinflint.
There will be no surprises in the race for governor. Republican Jan Brewer should coast to renomination and the Democratic nominee will be state Atty. Gen. Terry Goddard. Brewer signed the state’s illegal immigration law known as AB 1070 into law, while Goddard voiced disagreement with it and recused himself from the legal challenges to the measure.
In the only open U.S. House seat in the Grand Canyon State, ten candidates are vying in the all-important Republican primary in the 2nd District (suburban Phoenix).
With GOP Rep. John Shadegg retiring, the race appears to be boiling down to a photo-finish between two other strong conservatives: lawyer Ben Quayle, son of former Vice President Dan Quayle, and Scottsdale Mayor Vernon Parker, a charismatic former Bush Administration official who is black. Area Tea Partiers insist that their favorite, state Rep. Pam Gorman, should not be written off.
Alaska: Sarah vs. Lisa by Proxy
With a few exceptions (such as backing former football star Clint Didier for the Senate nomination against winner Dino Rossi in Washington State), Sarah Palin has had a pretty good year endorsing candidates in primaries.
But she has left friend and foe breathless in her home state of Alaska, by weighing in for district magistrate Joe Miller against incumbent Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski. It is no secret that the two Republican women dislike one another (Palin unseated Lisa’s father Frank to become governor four years ago) and Murkowski is much more moderate (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 70%) than Palin or Miller, a stalwart conservative.
But Murkowski has raised more than $2 million, compared to late-starting candidate Miller’s $300,000 (much of which was generated by Palin’s SarahPAC and e-mails from husband Todd, both Palins being close friends of the challenger).
Desert Storm veteran Miller has proved to be a hard-hitting candidate, slamming Murkowski for her pro-abortion votes and support of more funding for the International Monetary Fund.
Miller is impressive but this doesn’t look like his race or year.
Florida: Don’t Feel Sorry for the “Poor” Guy Who Loses
Although the all-star three-candidate Senate race (Republican Marco Rubio, Independent Charlie Crist, and the Democrat nominated Tuesday) will have to wait until November, the Florida primaries are attracting attention because wealthy renegades are challenging familiar politicians for the Republican nomination for governor and the Democratic nod for the Senate.
State Atty. Gen. Bill McCollum appears headed for a comfortable win in the GOP primary to succeed Crist. This will come in spite of a barrage of attacks on him by former healthcare executive Rick Scott, who has spent more than $40 million of his money on the race. Recently, the Republican Governors Association issued a statement criticizing Scott’s ads and McCollum launched a counteroffensive raising questions about his opponent’s latest business venture, a chain of walk-in clinics.
The Democratic nominee is sure to be state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink.
With the endorsements of both Bill Clinton and President Obama, Rep. Kendrick Meek should take the Democratic Senate nod with relative ease. Real estate tycoon Jeff Greene made an early splash with heavy spending on TV and radio but appeared to suffer major wounds from newspaper stories about his lavish lifestyle and partying aboard his 145-foot yacht.
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