By Hastings Wyman
Southern Political Report
May 8, 2009 —
Florida: Rubio makes it official
Former state House Speaker Marco Rubio (R) announced on May 5 that he will run for the US Senate next year. The seat is currently held by US Sen. Mel Martinez (R), who will be retiring. Rubio will carry the conservative standard, presumably against Gov. Charlie Crist (R), a moderate conservative, who is expected to announce soon. Crist is riding high in the polls and will be the early favorite. However, he is taking lumps from some rightward GOPers for appearing with President Obama in Florida in support of the president’s stimulus package. Rubio’s best bet would be if former Gov. Jeb Bush (R) got behind him, but there is no sign that will happen. Indeed, some figure if Crist runs for the Senate, Bush will run for his old job as governor.
Oklahoma: Henry to succeed Coburn?
The word from the Sooner State is that Gov. Brad Henry (D), a moderate Democrat, is getting lots of pressure from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to run for the US Senate next year if -- as is looking likely -- US Sen. Tom Coburn (R) decides to step down. Henry has managed to stay reasonably popular despite having to contend with a Republican legislature. Coburn, who has yet to say yea or nay on a 2010 re-election bid, raised only a pittance ($17,000) in the 1st Quarter, which suggests he isn’t planning to run again. Meanwhile, the OK GOP is looking like the gang that couldn’t shoot straight in this year’s state legislative session, failing to pass its two top priorities, tort reform and an English-only proposal, plus lost an anti-stem cell research measure. Stay tuned.
Oklahoma: Women ahead in both parties’ gubernatorial races
In the Oklahoma governor’s race, US Rep. Mary Fallin (R) is leading potential primary opponents among likely Republican primary voters and Lt. Gov. Jari Askins (D) is ahead among likely Democratic voters, indicating that 2010 could be the year of the woman in Sooner State politics. The Sooner Poll, taken in late April, gave Fallin 45% to 26% for former Congressman J. C. Watts, who has not announced, and 5% for socially conservative state Sen. Randy Brogdon, who has announced. On the Democratic side, Askins got 34% to 29% for Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson.
Georgia: Isakson has tepid lead
US Sen. Johnny Isakson (R), deemed a shoo-in for re-election next year by insiders in both parties, nevertheless is getting some unimpressive poll numbers. In a survey completed by Research 2000 on April 27-29, Isakson led former Gov. Roy Barnes (D) by 47% to 43% and led US Rep. Jim Marshall (D) by 48% to 40%. Barnes is currently considering a race for governor and has shown no interest in a US Senate bid; nor has Marshall. Isakson’s “safe-bet” reputation combined with weak numbers is reminiscent of US Sen. Saxby Chambliss’s (R) similar situation in 2008; Chambliss was forced into a runoff by a relatively unknown foe, but won in the runoff.
Virginia: McAuliffe leads in another poll
A Public Policy Polling (D) survey of likely Democratic Primary voters in Virginia’s gubernatorial race showed former DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe with 30%, former state Delegate Brian Moran with 20% and former state Sen. Creigh Deeds with 14%, with 36% undecided. The poll was taken May 1-3. In an earlier poll, taken by SurveyUSA, McAuliffe had 38%, while Moran and Deeds had 22% each. Moran, meanwhile, has separated himself from the other two by pledging to work for repeal of Virginia’s ban on state recognition of same sex relationships. The primary is June 9.
Kentucky: Grayson exploring Senate run
Bluegrass Secretary of State Trey Grayson (R) has formed an exploratory committee for a possible US Senate run in 2010. The seat is currently held by US Sen. Jim Bunning (R), whose weak fundraising so far is one factor leading to speculation that he will not run again. Whether Grayson would challenge Bunning in a GOP primary isn’t clear; however, his latest move puts more pressure on Bunning to step aside.
South Carolina: Tenenbaum named to head consumer commission
Former Palmetto State Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum (D) has been appointed by President Obama to chair the Consumer Product Safety Commission, likely to be a particularly active group under this Democratic administration. Tenenbaum, who was an early Obama backer in 2008, ran for the US Senate in 2004, garnering 44% against Jim DeMint’s (R) 54%.