Hawaii cruises into ‘Monthly 10’
By: David Catanese – October 27, 2011
Republicans’ Big Kahuna recruit, Linda Lingle, hands Hawaii its first foray into the Senate Monthly 10 — POLITICO’s monthly ratings of the most competitive contests in the country. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Warren has cleared the deck in Massachusetts, moving the race up to the second spot, and a cloudy GOP primary pushes Wisconsin down a notch.
Not only did Tim Kaine outraise George Allen by about $400,000 for the quarter; filings reveal the Republican spent 83 percent of what he raised. It’s a rapid burn rate Team Allen sees as an early investment, but it’s allowing Kaine some legroom in the dash for cash, despite getting a later start in the race. It’s also unclear whether the GOP strategy of linking Kaine to President Barack Obama is effective. While the president’s numbers have dropped in the commonwealth, Kaine has stayed steady in public polling of this deadlocked race.
Who won October: Kaine
Latest poll: Kaine 45 percent, Allen 44 percent (Quinnipiac University, Oct. 3-9, 1,459 registered voters)
2. MASSACHUSETTS (up 1 spot)
Last month, the question was whether Elizabeth Warren was the new Martha Coakley. Just 30 days later, the question has changed: How much has she rattled Scott Brown? The freshman Republican has endured a rough patch since the consumer advocate burst into the race. He got dinged for expressing relief that Warren “kept [her] clothes on” to pay for college and for blaming an intern for lifting portions of a speech by former Sen. Elizabeth Dole. Another poll showed Warren has all but eradicated Brown’s once comfortable lead. Her Democratic opponents — the latest being Alan Khazei — keep dropping. And then there’s the fact that Warren rolled up $3.1 million — a cycle best — in just six weeks.
Who won October: Warren
Latest poll: Brown 47 percent, Warren 42 percent (Western New England University, Sept. 29-Oct. 5, 475 registered voters)
3. MONTANA (down 1 spot)
With Massachusetts rising, the Jon Tester-Denny Rehberg clash falls to its lowest slot since February. While the first-term Democrat voted against the president’s jobs package to provide some cover for himself ahead of spending attacks, Rehberg was targeted by a hunting and angling group that doesn’t like legislation he authored on land rights, a seminal issue in Montana. Rehberg also held town hall meetings only after receiving tough press about his accessibility as he drafts a controversial health and labor budget. There hasn’t been any recent polling in the race, but Tester has built up a $1.2 million cash-on-hand advantage.
Who won October: Tester
No recent public polling
St. Louis businessman John Brunner became the third Republican in the race and was welcomed with a sharp brushback by one of Missouri’s most prominent political columnists who declared him not ready for prime time. “Brunner’s not ready. Not even close,” wrote The Kansas City Star’s Steve Kraske. Nonetheless, an early ad buy demonstrated his seriousness and the strength of his bank account, which could give him a leg up over Rep. Todd Akin and Sarah Steelman, both of whom turned in paltry third-quarter totals. Republicans aregenuinely perplexed over which of the three can take out Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.
Who Won October: McCaskill
No recent public polling
Las Vegas mogul Steve Wynn’s claim that Rep. Shelley Berkley was strong-armed into voting for the health care bill forced her office into an awkward denial — a disappointing end to what was otherwise a fairly successful month for her. The seven-term Democrat relentlessly pounded Sen. Dean Heller on China currency, which Democrats believe has particular resonance in hard-hit Nevada. Berkley’s ability to outraise an incumbent in third-quarter dollars also proved her mettle and prompted some political operatives to wonder whether Heller is working hard enough.
Who won October: Berkley
Latest poll: Berkley 45 percent, Heller 45 percent (Public Policy Polling, Oct. 20-23, 500 voters)
6. HAWAII (new)
Linda Lingle is to October what Elizabeth Warren was to September: a new candidate whose near-flawless rollout attracts favorable media coverage and instantly reshapes a Senate race. The Star Advertiser dubbed Lingle’s debut “a textbook example of how a major campaign rolls out a kickoff.” Her candidacy is a coup for GOP recruiting efforts and widens the playing field even further in 2012. She’s also made it clear to leaders in Washington that she’s determined to separate herself from the GOP’s national and tea party brands. Whether she succeeds will determine whether the race stays hot in the coming months.
Who won October: Lingle
Latest poll: Rep. Mazie Hirono 48 percent, Lingle 42 percent (Public Policy Polling, Oct. 13-16, 568 voters)
7. WISCONSIN (down 1 spot)
In many ways, Wisconsin’s Republican primary mirrors Missouri’s: Three announced candidates with no clear front-runner. That includes Tommy Thompson — Public Policy Polling’s latest round of numbers show that despite superior name recognition, his lead over former Rep. Mark Neumann is just 6 points. The former governor announced he wouldn’t actually campaign until the spring, prompting some head scratching. The poll might force him to rethink that move, especially since Rep. Tammy Baldwin continues to coalesce support without a credible primary threat of her own.
Who won October: Baldwin
Latest poll: Thompson 35 percent, Neumann 29 percent, Jeff Fitzgerald 21 percent (Public Policy Polling, Oct. 20-23, 650 primary voters)
Josh Mandel got a little bruised in the local press for avoiding concrete positions on policy, but his fundraising could make him the Republican dark horse of the cycle. His $1.5 million haul topped Sen. Sherrod Brown for the second consecutive quarter, and a Public Policy Polling survey put him within 8 points of the incumbent. (Quinnipiac sees it differently, giving Brown a 15-point lead.) Former state Sen. Kevin Coughlin, a nominal primary challenger, got the message and terminated his campaign earlier this month.
Who won October: Mandel
Latest poll: Brown 49 percent, Mandel 34 percent (Quinnipiac University, Oct. 17-23, 1,668 registered voters)
By the end of next week, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee will have dedicated $1.2 million to ads meant to shore up Sen. Ben Nelson, a full year before an election in which he hasn’t yet said definitively whether he will take part. It’s a remarkable investment on behalf of the Democrats’ most vulnerable incumbent, but it’s not clear whether it will be enough to buy his heart. After a bumpy patch, state Attorney General Jon Bruning is seeking to right the ship with new campaign leadership. He lapped his GOP rivals and was one of only three Senate challengers in the country to outraise an incumbent last quarter.
Who won October: Bruning
Latest poll: Bruning 46 percent, Nelson 42 percent (Public Policy Polling, Sept. 30-Oct. 2, 739 voters)
Pete Hoekstra’s political conundrum was crystallized earlier this month when he brought in Iowa Rep. Steve King to stump for him. It was a signal to wary conservatives that he’s one of them. But as The Macomb Daily opined: “It wasn’t an attempt to win over independent voters who aren’t necessarily big fans of incumbent Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow.” Hoekstra’s $1 million quarter may have put the fundraising demons to bed, but charter school co-founder Clark Durant’s $750,000 total was enough to get the front-runner’s attention.
Who won October: Stabenow
No recent public polling