Campaign Crawlers

Campaign Crawlers

Sen. Lindsey Graham Lives Another Day

By 6.11.14

During an interview I conducted back in April with Rep. Trey Gowdy for a profile that would appear in this very magazine, I asked the amiable South Carolinian if he had thought about challenging Sen. Lindsey Graham in his Senate primary this year. Gowdy laughed at me.

“Yes, I thought about challenging Lindsey Graham,” he told me jokingly, “because he out-negotiated me on the tee box the last time he and I played golf. And I would love to challenge him again at the course of his choosing!”

“Um, no,” he added simply. Gowdy, a popular and well-liked conservative in the House of Representatives, would have been as formidable a challenger as they come. He’s spent his life in the Palmetto State, working in the legal system to put criminals behind bars. He’s a legal crusader and a prosecutor, and even Speaker John Boehner, for better or worse, recognized his star power by appointing him chairman of the special committee to investigate Benghazi.

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Mississippi Keeps Fighting

By 6.4.14

HATTIESBURG, Mississippi — The most closely watched campaign in the country will continue for another three weeks, as Tea Party-backed challenger Chris McDaniel and Sen. Thad Cochran head to a June 24 runoff in the Republican primary here. Neither candidate won a majority in Tuesday’s primary vote, but McDaniel’s margin of about 2,000 votes out of more than 300,000 votes cast was enough for the young state senator to declare his win “a historic moment” for Mississippi.

“Our fight is not over,” McDaniel told the crowd in the Hattiesburg Convention Center ballroom last Tuesday night, as votes continued to be counted. “Whether it’s tomorrow, or whether it’s three weeks from tonight, we will stand victorious.”

The runoff was forced because there were three candidates on the ballot and a little-noticed third candidate, businessman Thomas Carey, got nearly 5,000 votes — only 1.6 percent of the total, but enough to keep McDaniel below the crucial majority needed to avoid the runoff. Yet the result Tuesday was cause for celebration among Tea Party activists who have spent months campaigning to defeat the six-term incumbent Cochran.

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Shock Waves in Mississippi

By 6.3.14

ITAWAMBA COUNTY, Mississippi — State Sen. Chris McDaniel finished up an early morning campaign stop Monday by urging his supporters to “push like you’ve never pushed before” to get voters to the polls in Tuesday’s Republican primary. Polls show the Tea Party-backed challenger is neck-and-neck with incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran and turnout will be the decisive factor in a bitterly contested GOP fight that has drawn national attention.

“If we can unseat a 42-year incumbent, it will send shock waves through this country,” McDaniel told about 40 of his supporters who turned out for a breakfast meeting at Chick-fil-A in Tupelo.

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A Jolly Time for St. Petersburg Republicans

By 5.15.14

If Nancy Pelosi becomes the new Speaker of the House after November — don’t put the mortgage money on it — it won’t be St. Petersburg’s fault.

Almost certainly Republicans won’t have to worry about retaining Florida’s District 13 seat in the U.S. House this November. The filing deadline for the race has passed, and the Democrats have no candidate.

The March special election to fill the remainder of long-time Republican Bill Young’s term -- Young died in October -- was major political news nationally because it was the only game going. And what’s a political reporter without a race to report on?

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A Jolly Time for Central Florida Republicans

By 3.12.14

For the first time in 44 years, someone other than Republican Bill Young will represent Florida’s 13th congressional district in the U.S. House. That someone will be Republican David Jolly, a 41-year-old lawyer who worked as an aide to Young for years before becoming a lobbyist and businessman.

An 82-year-old Young, a senior and well-liked member of Congress, announced last October that he would not seek a 23rd term. He died a week later, setting up Tuesday’s special election to fill his seat. It was a close business, with Jolly edging out Democrat Alex Sink by 88,294 votes to 84,877, a margin of a little more than 3,400 votes. Libertarian Lucas Overby scooped up 8,799 votes. The 40 percent turnout was higher than most expected, higher than your average off-year, special election.

The dimension of the narrow win roughly reflects the narrow registration advantage Republicans enjoy in the district, throwing into doubt the idea that this special election informs us about the much talked about but almost never sighted “national mood.”

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Will Alex Sink?

By 3.7.14

Tuesday we will know who is to represent the 13th Congressional District of Florida in the U.S. House, at least until November, when we will have to count votes for the same office again. Will voters in St. Petersburg, Clearwater, and Largo choose the reasonably conservative Republican David Jolly, or the standard-issue liberal Democrat Alex Sink?

Political handicappers might be tempted to forecast a win for Sink, as an average of the polls taken so far puts her narrowly ahead. When she ran for Florida CFO in 2006 and for governor in 2010, Sink carried the congressional district. And the little hustler from Chicago, now watching HBO and reading Golf Digest at 1600, also carried the increasingly purple district in 2008 and 2012. 

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A Solid Republican Night

By 3.5.14

No, Republican voters didn’t go nuts in Texas, stampeding in every direction, trampling abortionists, illegal immigrants, and gun-control advocates — as Democrats had hoped might be the case.

A total absence of certified crazies with tinfoil hats — at least on the Republican/Tea Party side — is to be noted as Texas finishes counting votes from the nation’s first primary on March 3.

Such temptations as arose among Republicans — chiefly to endorse Congressman Steve Stockman’s bid to knock off John Cornyn, the U.S. Senate’s No. 2 Republican — were easily squelched. Cornyn won hands down. So did Attorney General Greg Abbott in the contest to succeed Rick Perry as governor. Abbott triumphed over a field of non-entities, one of whom had tantalizingly changed his Christian name to “Secede.” Abbott this November will wallop — in gentlemanly fashion — the celebrated Wendy Davis, in whom Democrats at both the state and local levels have reposed touching hopes for rebuilding Democratic eminence in Texas. (No Democrat has won statewide office in Texas since 1994, and Republicans control the Legislature.)

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Texas’ Tuesday Primary Primer

By 3.3.14

To judge from the New York Times — which, by the way, no rational human should ever do — the Texas primary on Tuesday is all about who occupies the absolutely, genuinely, no-kiddin’ geographically farthest right position on the ideological spectrum, where none thrive save those who oppose regulation of firearms that could be used to wing an abortionist.

Nah. Nothing that exciting or even plausible. The Texas Republican primary field, the one that counts, emits its share of noise, but rumors of an imminent Tea Party, or Tea Party-affiliated, takeover of the state are a little bit over the top: chiefly on account of Ted Cruz, I infer. Our junior senator and his capers in the capital city inspire many to suppose that Texas conservatives regard moderates as the political equivalent of Santa Anna’s lancers.

The Republican primary campaign has been a grapple-fest due mostly to Barack Obama. The animating idea among various Republican candidates is to suggest a unique personal capacity to grab Obama by the ears and make him holler “Uncle.” What we want around here is enthusiasm — got that?

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Message Bottled Up

By 2.28.14

Voters in the 13th Congressional District of Florida (South St. Petersburg north to Dunedin) who would like to learn what the candidates wishing to represent them in the U.S. House are all about will get little help from the avalanche of television ads on the race. The febrile ads mostly call the opponent of their candidate a knave and an incompetent.

Even compared to the average campaign, the ads in this one go to exceptional lengths to not talk about what the candidates would do if elected. They mostly shout about how ill suited the other guy, or gal, is for the job. The local media are happy enough to play along with the gag, building their stories around the charges.

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Is Mark Pryor Toast?

By 2.20.14

There was a time when Mark Pryor was seen as inevitable in Arkansas politics. Pryor, after all, is the son of David Pryor, former senator and governor and all-around political legend in the Natural State, second only to fellow Democrat Bill Clinton in recent lore. The younger Pryor’s rise from private attorney to the state legislature to attorney general to the U.S. Senate from 1991 to 2002 was one of the most rapid in America.

In fact, Pryor didn’t even have a Republican opponent when he came up for re-election in 2008; he pulled an astounding 80 percent of the vote against a little-known candidate from the Green Party that year.

But the purple Arkansas, which elected and re-elected Pryor to the Senate, is rapidly reddening, and with the fading of the state’s Democrats, Pryor’s chances for a third term are waning. This fall he’ll have a Republican challenger, and quite possibly an unwinnable race in front of him.

And worst of all, Pryor has an apparently unpardonable sin on his voting record — namely, that his was the deciding “yea” in favor of Obamacare.

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