Southern Political Roundup

By Jeff Schwartz, Tory

In a year most analysts predict that control of the House of Representative and even the Senate has fallen within reach of the Republican Party, the South is no exception. In a region generally distrustful of increased government economic interference and ‘big government’, the legislative agenda of President Barack Obama, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was never very popular to begin with. When combined with the nation’s high unemployment, severely felt in several Southern states, and the continuation of these tough economic times for the last 20 months, it is no surprise that the political landscape for even the most moderate and experienced of Democratic incumbents is somewhat grim for November. What is more interesting than the success Republican candidates seem to have by nationalizing their local elections against the unpopular administration in a stagnant economy is the composition and background of these Republican candidates themselves: many establishment Republicans who expected to ride the anti-Obama sentiment to office found themselves replaced by Tea Party Candidates, claiming themselves as more fiscally conservative and more indisputably opposed to government expansion. These common themes became apparent in several highly contested races for the Senate, the House, and even governorships in this election cycle:

Senate:

West Virginia:

In the race to fill the seat held by the late Democratic Senator Robert Byrd for fifty-one years, Democrats find themselves in a highly competitive race to keep what is one of many seats that was once believed safe. Republican tea party endorsed candidate, businessman John Raese is actually leading the very popular Democratic Governor Joe Manchin in the polls by the slight margin. In spite of an impressive nearly 2/3 of registered voters approving of Governor Manchin, according to a Fox News Poll, most voters seem to feel more concerned with sending a candidate to oppose President Obama than the individual candidates themselves, with very strong majorities of voters from this coal driven state with conservative values favoring a repeal of the healthcare law and opposing the Cap and Trade legislation currently stalled in the Senate. In spite of many unpopular positions taken by Raese, including his often anti-union rhetoric and strong support of the free trade agreement NAFTA, the anti-Democratic sentiment in West Virginia has forced the once heavily favored governor to go beyond openly denouncing the Obama administration and even sue the EPA over recent coal mining regulations (most information taken from a Fox News Article.. how do citations work??).

-Kentucky:

One of the first Tea Party upset Candidates, Dr. Rand Paul is currently favored to defeat the Democratic state Attorney General Jack Conway. In spite of what many perceive as extreme views taken by the Republican nominee, including supporting unpopular adjustments to Social Security and Medicare benefits and previous controversial statements about the Civil Rights Act, Dr. Paul’s anti Obama message of fiscal responsibility seems to be registering with many voters. This election is to replace current sitting Republican Senator Jim Bunning.

Florida:

A race that was once viewed as an easy victory for then Republican governor Charlie Christ has become a highly contested, highly publicized three way election between Republican nominee Florida Speaker of the House Marco Rubio, now independent Governor Charlie Christ, and Democrat Kendrick Meek to fill the seat held by current Senator George S. LeMieux. After Tea Party favorite Rubio upset Governor Christ, in spite of his overwhelming establishment endorsements, and the governor’s surprise decision to continue his candidacy independent of party affiliation, the race only became more interesting. Rather than compete for the Republican base with Rubio, Christ seems to have shifted his focus instead to garnering from the Democratic base of Meek, leaving Rubio currently leading in most polls by a reasonable margin (variety of sources mostly general knowledge)

This is not the only competitive race from the Sunshine State:

Florida:

In the race for the governorship of Florida, another Tea Party favorite, Rick Scott, defeated Republican state Attorney General Bill McCollum, endorsed by Jeb Bush, in an exciting primary election. In spite of his controversial past as CEO of HCA/Columbia Hospitals during a multi million-dollar Medicare fraud scandal, Rick Scott’s conservative message has allowed him to run a very competitive campaign against the current Democratic CFO of Florida with business experience, Alex Sink.

Other highly contest gubernatorial elections include:

Georgia:

Democratic candidate and former governor Roy Barnes D versus Republican Nathan Deal who narrowly defeated Karen Handel in primary Deal has left a state with a historic preference for Democratic governors, electing only Democrats from 1872-2003, narrowly deciding between these two candidates. In spite of more effective fundraising by Barnes, Deal seems to have gained a slight edge in the polls (New York Times).

Texas:

Incumbent Texas Governor Rick Perry is eligible to become the longest serving governor in that state’s history, should Texans ultimately accept his pitch that his opposition to increased taxation has created a business friendly environment which has softened the blow of the current economic recession. Running against former mayor of Houston Bill White, Perry has joined the myriad of Republicans campaigning against not only their opponents, but also Washington as well, often contrasting the manner in which he would govern the state of Texas with the claimed irresponsibility in which President Obama is governing the country. Although Perry is favored to win this election, White has proved himself a very competitive adversary, and the end result is far from certain (NYT).

In terms of House races, many of even the most moderate of Democratic incumbents are facing very competitive challenges from Republican candidates campaigning against the unpopular economic policies of the Obama administration

Georgia 8th District:  In spite of Democratic incumbent Jim Marshall’s eight year record representing his district, his successful fundraising, and his vote against the unpopular healthcare legislation, Republican Austin Scott’s criticism of his vote for the stimulus package and tarp have placed him slightly ahead in many polls, according to the New York Times

Mississippi 1st district:

Democratic Incumbent Travis Childers is outspending Republican Challenger Alan Nunnelee by a significant margin and can claim that he voted against health care reform and the tarp bailouts, however is still have a very difficult time protecting his seat, according to the New York Times

Florida 2nd District:

Allen Boyd, an incumbent Democrat, has found that his record of voting for healthcare after first voting no failed to completely satisfy either side of the controversial legislation, as after barely winning a tough primary contest he now finds himself narrowly trailing Republican funeral home owner Steve Southerland, according to the New York Times.  Southerland’s criticisms of big government spending against Boyd’s retaliations involving Southerland’s inexperience represent the larger themes of this election cycle, with many inexperienced Republican candidates almost ubiquitously campaigning against the government expansion seen under the Obama administration.

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