Race-switchers abound as candidates look for winnable contests

Al Lawson will have to forgive us.

We got all agitated when there were reports that he might drop his primary challenge to Rep. Allen Boyd (D-Fla.) and run for Florida chief financial officer. Turns out the speculation was short-lived.

Mostly, though, we became convinced that Lawson was switching races because, well, everyone else seems to be doing it right now.

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Two candidates dropped out of Connecticut’s Senate race in recent weeks to run for governor (Tom Foley) and against Democratic Rep. Chris Murphy (Sam Caligiuri).

In Texas, Bill White (D) announced Friday that he will run for governor instead of Senate.

And Tennessee state Sen. Roy Herron (D) waited about two hours after Rep. John Tanner’s (D-Tenn.) retirement last week to swap his gubernatorial bid for one in Tanner’s 8th district.

They follow closely on the heels of race-switchers including Colorado Republican Ryan Frazier (from Senate to challenging Rep. Ed Perlmutter), Pennsylvania Republican Steven Welch (7th district open seat to 6th district open seat), New York Republican Greg Ball (Rep. John Hall to state Senate) and Nevada Republican Joe Heck (governor to Rep. Dina Titus).

Race-switching is nothing new, but with so many competitive gubernatorial, Senate and House races on the map, candidates have a lot more options this cycle than they had in previous ones.

If we start seeing an uptick in retirements in the coming months — specifically among aging, targeted Democrats — that number could continue to rise.

There are also some very, very crowded gubernatorial primaries out there (looking at you, Minnesota), and if candidates fail to get traction in those races, that’s when they’ll start looking for alternatives.

Tiahrt campaign communications off-track

Rep. Todd Tiahrt’s (R-Kan.) Senate campaign has some messaging issues. The left hand doesn’t seem to know what the right hand is doing, and Tiahrt’s wife continues to be something of a loose cannon on Twitter.

Vicki Tiahrt on Sunday tweeted incredulously about how Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) had supported the bailout, and she went on to go after the Club for Growth.

“What a joke-Tom Coburn voted for the bailout! How’s that growth?” she tweeted. “Club for Growth PAC endorsed candidates @JimDeMint @TimHuelskamp @TomCoburn”

Coburn, of course, is supporting Tiahrt’s opponent, Rep. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), and so is Sen. DeMint (R-S.C.). Huelskamp is a Club-endorsed candidate for Moran’s House seat.

The Club has not endorsed in the primary between Moran and Tiahrt, but as an appropriator who has advocated for earmarks, Tiahrt isn’t its favorite. He recently received a 29 percent rating on the organization’s RePORK Card, while Moran rated a 96.

And it’s not the first time Tiahrt’s wife has gone after Moran supporters for backing the bailout.

Back in October, she tweeted “2 bad Sen ThuneMcCainColburn [sic] voted 4 it-who do they take us 4.” (All three senators are backing Moran.)

Then she upped the ante: “Thank goodness my GOP doesn’t look like old white guys who stand for bailouts, the French tanker and amnesty — McLame indeed!”

That’s not the only example of messaging troubles for her husband’s Senate campaign.

After a new poll this week showed Tiahrt down by three to Moran, Tiahrt’s campaign noted to reporters that it has a longstanding policy of not commenting on polls. But it hasn’t always stuck to that policy.

Back in February, when a poll showed Tiahrt up by five, Tiahrt’s campaign sent an e-mail to supporters proudly playing up the survey.

“This independent data shows our campaign ahead in the primary battle leading our nearest opponent 24 percent to 19 percent,” Tiahrt proclaimed.

Tiahrt also was more than willing to comment on a poll at the tail end of his 2008 reelection campaign, when SurveyUSA showed him with a vast lead.

“Tiahrt’s Message Resonating with 4th District Voters,” read the headline of a press release, with details of the poll beneath it.

A Tiahrt campaign source suggested the e-mail to supporters is different from commenting to the press. The source said the press release from 2008 must have been an aberration.

The campaign did not comment on Vicki Tiahrt’s tweets.

Another example came earlier this year, when the campaign was surprised to learn that it had sent fundraising letters saying it intended to raise $3 million for the primary. It hasn’t come close to approaching such a pace thus far.

Coakley wins, nation snores

In the end, the race to replace Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) will probably be known for what didn’t happen rather than what did: no huge field chock-full of members of the state’s congressional delegation, no Kennedy in the race, no big Kennedy endorsement, no fireworks and no drama.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley’s easy win in Tuesday’s Democratic primary was so lopsided it barely made a dent in the national news cycle. She led the race by double digits from start to finish and wound up winning 47-28 over Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.).

Her margin is expected to rival or top that in the general election, barring something entirely unforeseen out of GOP nominee and state Sen. Scott Brown.

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Looking back on other special Senate elections, the race for Kennedy’s seat is notable for its blandness.

About the last good example of a truly unexpected special-election snoozer was in California in 1992, when Dianne Feinstein cruised in the primary by 25 points and went on to win the special election over appointee John Seymour by 16.

If Brown can get anywhere near 16 points down by Jan. 19, the GOP will probably count it a huge victory.

Blake is a campaign reporter for The Hill.