By Aaron Blake - 09/07/09 09:12 PM EDT
But with a mere 14 months to go in the election cycle — and that includes four months before the first big special election and five months before the first regularly scheduled primary — several big questions remain about who is running for what, and when.
The Hill brings you the seven major unanswered questions in the 2010 field of candidates — most of which will likely be answered in the 2009 calendar year.
1. Does North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven (R) run for Senate?
Just two months ago, this seemed like a GOP pipe dream. It still appears unlikely, but at least the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) thought enough of the possibility to run a poll on Hoeven’s candidacy. And unlike another poll, it showed the extremely popular governor in very good shape to take Sen. Byron Dorgan’s (D-N.D.) seat. The question is whether he believes it and wants to leave the governor’s mansion. If he runs, it’s a battle; if he doesn’t, the seat is a 2010 afterthought.
2. What will Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) do?
This much seems pretty certain: Castle is not running for reelection to the House. But whether he seeks his state’s Senate seat is the real question. The former governor would start the race as the favorite against pretty much whichever Democrat is matched up against him, including state Attorney General Beau Biden. But without him, Republicans have little shot at the Senate seat or his House seat.
3. Who runs in Colorado?
Of any Senate race that looks to be competitive right now, Colorado’s is perhaps the most uncertain as far as its personnel. Former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton appears a good bet to enter the race on the GOP side and would be the front-runner, but former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff’s potential primary challenge looms even larger. Romanoff could damage appointed Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) or give him valuable campaigning experience, depending on how things pan out. Bennet’s numbers aren’t good, so it might even benefit Democrats to have a different nominee. Both Norton and Romanoff have reportedly been telling people they will run, but that hasn’t been the most reliable indicator this cycle.
4. Who do the Club for Growth and EMILY’s List back in major Senate races?
The Senate primaries against Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) would take on a different life if the Club gets involved. Former Florida state House Speaker Marco Rubio (R) looks like a long shot, but Utah state Attorney General Mark Shurtleff (R) could have a good shot against Bennett, and that race would be much cheaper for the Club. On the other side of the aisle, EMILY’s List could throw a wrench in the Illinois Senate race by backing Chicago Urban League President Cheryle Jackson over state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias in the Democratic primary. It would be going against much of the Democratic establishment. Don’t expect EMILY’s List to back Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) in a potentially tough primary and general election, though; she voted for a ban on partial-birth abortion and lost the group’s support.
5. What form does the special election for Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s (R-Texas) seat take?
This should be the second special Senate election of 2010 (after Massachusetts) and probably the only bona fide intra-party battle. Governor candidate Hutchison looks set to resign after the deadline for a November special election. That would likely push the race into May 2010. But Gov. Rick Perry (R) has signaled that he might declare it earlier, using a special emergency special-election clause. This could help a self-funder like wealthy Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R), who is the favorite if he runs. But if Dewhurst didn’t run, it would probably help lesser self-funders on the Democratic side: Houston Mayor Bill White and former state Comptroller John Sharp. The other big question here is whether Perry appoints a placeholder or someone who is running for the seat, like Dewhurst.
6. Who retires?
Something very odd is happening in the House right now: Nobody is retiring without seeking other office. This is a significant change of pace from last cycle, when gobs of Republicans called it a career. In addition to the 18 who have already done so, several other members could also make the jump to other races, including Castle, potential gubernatorial candidate Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) and potential Senate candidate Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-N.C.). But relatively few seem ready to leave elective office altogether. Worth keeping an eye on are Reps. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.), Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.) and Bill Young (R-Fla.). All seven seats would be battlegrounds, and Castle, Kind, Skelton and Young already have potentially tough reelection bids on their hands. In the Senate, about the only game-changer now would be if Democratic leaders can prevail on Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) to bow out and give his party a better shot at holding his blue seat.
7. How well can the GOP fill some key recruiting holes?
House Republicans have an opening now, and they’ve lost so many seats the last two cycles that there are many places where they need to land a recruit. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) has spent much of his first eight months in office giving the GOP ammunition to use in 2010, but there is still no major opponent to run against him. Republicans will almost surely get someone formidable, but it’s mildly troubling that nobody major is raising money yet against one of the wealthiest members of Congress. Other top holes to fill include the races against Reps. Parker Griffith (Ala.), Michael Arcuri (N.Y.), Zack Space (Ohio) and Tom Perriello (Va.), and for the seven-month-old open seat of Senate candidate Paul Hodes (D-N.H.). Those are just the big ones. Also keep an eye on seats like the three Democratic-held seats in Arkansas, as well as Rep. Chet Edwards’s (D-Texas) and Rep. Rick Boucher’s (D-Va.).