Top 10 conservative conundrums of 2010

The conservative turmoil in New York’s special election has been the story of the last two weeks, and Republican leaders are now concerned about an ideological and anti-establishment backlash in other races.

It remains to be seen whether a legitimate movement will form. But if it does, there are certain races where it will first catch on.

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The Hill looks at the Top 10 conservative conundrums on the GOP’s map:

1. Florida Senate -- Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioTop Democrat calls for new strategy to address China threats The Memo: 'Whistleblower' furor gains steam Liberal super PAC launches browser extension replacing 'Mitch McConnell' with 'Moscow Mitch' MORE vs. Gov. Charlie Crist

If conservative activists had their chance to take down one frontrunner, it would be Crist. And they might get their chance, as Crist has shown some chinks in his armor of late. If and when Rubio gets the support of the Club for Growth, look for this race to shift into an even higher gear. Rubio will benefit from New York conservative candidate Doug Hoffman’s momentum in the new conservative cause célèbre.

2. Kentucky Senate – Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulThis week: Congress races to prevent shutdown as recess looms On The Money: House votes to avert shutdown, fund government through November | Judge blocks California law requiring Trump tax returns | Senate panel approves three spending bills Paul objection snags confirmation of former McConnell staffer MORE vs. Trey Grayson


Grayson’s Senate candidacy has yet to light the world on fire, and he has now been both outraised and outpolled. A SurveyUSA poll this week showed Paul overtaking Grayson 35-32, with much yet to be decided in their race. When you look at the national map, Paul’s candidacy is the real test of whether the movement of his father, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), can succeed at the statewide level.

3. New Hampshire 2nd. District – Jennifer Horn vs. former Rep. Charlie Bass

Bass, as the pro-abortion rights former head of the centrist Republican Main Street Partnership, is a natural target for conservatives. Horn has plenty of name recognition as the 2008 GOP nominee for the seat, and she’s going after Bass hard. At the tail end of the New York special election, she endorsed Hoffman and said she thought the same dynamic would play out in her race with Bass. Even Bass supporters admit Horn could give him a run for his money, but a diluted primary field could hurt her chances.

4. Ohio 15th district – Anti-abortion crowd vs. Steve Stivers


Stivers is also pro-abortion rights, and it likely cost him a seat in Congress. In his near-miss 2008 loss to now-Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D-Ohio), he ceded 10 percent of the vote to anti-abortion rights third-party candidates. Now, Ron Paul supporter David Ryon could fill the void in 2010. Ryon isn’t going to win, but the 2008 third-party candidates didn’t need much money. And if he can put together some funds, it could be really damaging for Stivers.

5. California Senate – Chuck DeVore vs. Carly Fiorina

While Rubio and Hughes have tapped into some conservative discontent, DeVore is different; the assemblyman was actually part of the movement before he launched his campaign. Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R-S.C.) endorsement of DeVore, which coincided with Fiorina’s launch this week, has now lent DeVore some credibility. Money is a problem for him, especially since it is a big reason the establishment likes Fiorina. But as long as DeVore has enough to get his name out there, he can’t be counted out.

6. Illinois Senate – Patrick Hughes vs. Rep. Mark KirkMark Steven Kirk The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation Advocates push for EpiPens on flights after college student's mid-flight allergic reaction Funding the fight against polio MORE


It’s not yet clear whether Hughes will have what it takes to upset Kirk, but the congressman’s recent tacking to the right on issues like cap and trade make it clear that he’s aware of his right flank. And this week’s revelation that Kirk has been lobbying for Sarah Palin’s endorsement is the clincher. Hughes, a developer, is fighting a battle (a la Rubio) to prove that he has a chance against a well-funded frontrunner, and getting over that hump will be key to his chances.

7. Virginia 5th district – Field vs. Robert HurtRobert HurtThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — GOP faces ‘green wave’ in final stretch to the midterms Democrat defeats controversial chair of House Wall Street subpanel Republican groups launch final ad blitz in key House battlegrounds MORE

Hurt’s vote for a $1.4 billion 2004 tax increase has haunted him ever since, and now that he’s running for Congress, it will be a campaign issue. It’s not yet clear whether he will have formidable primary opposition, but at the very least he could cede some votes in the general election to third-party Fair Tax advocate Bradley Rees. And general election votes will be at a premium against Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.).

8. South Carolina 4th district – Field vs. Rep. Bob Inglis

Inglis’s real trouble began when he opposed the troop increase in Iraq in 2007, but he has also irritated his conservative base on environmental issues. He has gotten by without a tough primary challenge – until now. Prosecutor Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyRising star Ratcliffe faces battle to become Trump's intel chief Cummings announces expansion of Oversight panel's White House personal email probe, citing stonewalling Pelosi says it's up to GOP to address sexual assault allegation against Trump MORE and state Sen. David Thomas are both building war chests and could give Inglis real problems this time. If conservatives can narrow their focus to one of the two, that’s even worse for Inglis.

9. Ohio’s 16th district – Matt Miller vs. Jim Renacci

Miller took 42 percent against Rep. Ralph Regula (R-Ohio) in 2006 and lost an open seat primary by five points in 2008. The former Ashland County commissioner has been largely overlooked, but he won’t be this time. With Republicans promoting a wealthy political newcomer in businessman Jim Renacci, Miller’s name recognition and base could loom large. With so many voters having chosen Miller before, Renacci will have to give them a good reason to switch to his side next year. This one has less an ideological flare than an anti-establishment one.

10. New Hampshire – Field vs. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteGOP fears Trump backlash in suburbs Trump makes rare trip to Clinton state, hoping to win back New Hampshire Key endorsements: A who's who in early states MORE

Wealthy businessman Bill Binnie got into the race this week, and we’re still waiting on former gubernatorial candidate Ovide Lamontagne and others to make their decisions. Ayotte doesn’t have a voting record and she hasn’t run for office, so going after her on issues will be a process. Much of the early knocks on her have to do with how she’s the establishment favorite. If anything, it looks like there might be too many candidates making that argument for any of them to take advantage of it. If she’s head-to-head with one of them, though, it could get interesting.