Rep. Tanner’s exit signals more trouble for Dems than Moore’s

Republicans tried to make the case after Rep. Dennis Moore (D-Kan.) announced his retirement last week that it was a precursor to a mass Democratic exodus.

They might be right, but they should have waited a week to start preaching about how they are scaring away incumbents.

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Rep. John Tanner’s (D-Tenn.) announcement late Tuesday that he will not seek reelection is much more suggestive of Democratic retirements than Moore’s was.

While Moore had yet to receive a strong challenger, Tanner saw one burst onto the scene last quarter.

While Moore has faced tough battles before, Tanner hasn’t had one … well … ever.

And while Moore’s retirement wasn’t exactly a surprise, Tanner’s was more out-of-the-blue.

Democrats insist they knew about Tanner’s decision for weeks, and Tanner himself said the pressure from the GOP almost caused him to reconsider his retirement. But the fact that the story was leaked during President Barack Obama’s nationally televised Afghanistan address suggests they are genuinely concerned about other Democratic incumbents catching the bug.

Overall, Tanner fits the GOP’s narrative much better than Moore ever did. But we’re going to have to see whether he is joined by anybody else in the coming weeks before we know whether the story is actually true.

The guys to keep an eye on are Reps. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.), Vic Snyder (D-Ark.), Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) and John Spratt (D-S.C.). If those guys start stepping down, we can really start crediting the GOP’s recruiting.

As for Tanner’s West Tennessee district, it went 56-43 for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in last year’s presidential contest, but it has also gone for the last two serious Democratic Senate candidates — former Rep. Harold Ford Jr. in 2006 and former Rep. Bob Clement in 2002. Not to mention Tanner has never taken less than 62 percent of the vote.

State Sen. Roy Herron has already switched from the Democratic primary for governor to the congressional race. Republican farmer and gospel singer Stephen Fincher raised more than $300,000 in the third quarter on the GOP side.


New most vulnerable senator: Bob Bennett?

If you thought Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) was in trouble, check out Sen. Bob Bennett’s (R-Utah) reelect numbers.

A poll for the Deseret News released Wednesday showed just 27 percent of Utahans say Bennett deserves another term. That’s lower than Specter’s 31 percent reelect in a recent poll, and is probably the lowest of any senator in the land (save Roland Burris, who decided not to run).

What’s more, even though it’s a general-election sample, you can rest assured that a solid majority of those surveyed are Republicans or conservative-leaning voters. Extrapolating those numbers among that segment of the population, it’s safe to say Bennett’s reelect is well below 50 percent among primary voters.

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In the entire sample, well more than half — 58 percent — say it’s time for someone else to be their senator, while another 7 percent say it depends whom that other person is.

These numbers have to be at least a little bit intriguing for a guy like Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah).

First, of course, Bennett faces a May state convention where a candidate can win his party’s nomination with 60 percent of the vote. If no candidate gets that, it’s on to a two-man primary.


Schweitzer tips hand on White for Texas governor

Houston Mayor Bill White (D) has said he will decide whether to switch from Texas’s Senate race to the governor’s race by Friday.

In Brian Schweitzer’s mind, though, he’s already made the swap.

The Montana governor and outgoing chairman of the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) was asked about White at the DGA’s Washington conference on Wednesday. His answer suggests he knows what White’s going to say.

“I think it’s a great shot that the mayor of Houston has decided to run for governor and not the United States Senate,” Schweitzer said. “We like the chances of Mayor White. He is a pragmatic businessman. He is one of the greatest current mayors in America.

“The entry of Mayor White is a great start in the Texas battle.”



Runyan drama beginning to wear on GOP

The Backroom said a few weeks ago that people shouldn’t hold their breath when it comes to NFL offensive lineman Jon Runyan running for Congress.

And then Runyan said he would run against Rep. John Adler (D-N.J.).

Whoops, right?

What has ensued since then, though, provides some vindication.

Within days of Runyan’s announcement, the “candidate” suggested he wasn’t so sure about running for Congress, and now an influential GOP figure in the district appears to be running out of patience.

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Ocean County Republican Party Chairman George Gilmore told PolitickerNJ.com that he’s not convinced Runyan will leave the NFL behind at season’s end.

And, more importantly, the chairman is not prepared to hang around and find out.

More important, perhaps, is the fact that Runyan is from Burlington County, and Ocean County Republicans would very much like to have their own nominee (Gilmore ran Freeholder Jack Kelly last year in a nasty, nasty primary against eventual nominee Chris Myers).

In short, Runyan threw things off by deciding to sign with the San Diego Chargers for the rest of the season, and it appears as though an influential Republican is headed in a different direction.

Runyan was wary of a tough primary to begin with. Will he really want to stick around if he faces strong GOP opposition? Especially when he didn’t become a Republican until just recently?

Don’t call him a candidate just yet.

Blake is a campaign reporter for The Hill.