Ranking the Top 5 Senators Vulnerable in 2014 Primaries

WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 2: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (L) listens to Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) speak during a press conference on Capitol Hill November 2, 2007 in Washington, DC. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) held the news conference to speak about pending legislation and the pending confirmation of Michael Mukasey for attorney general. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)
National Journal
Julie Sobel
See more stories about...
Julie Sobel
Dec. 27, 2013, midnight

As we close out 2013, here’s a look at the sen­at­ors at risk of los­ing their primar­ies. It’s worth not­ing that it’s a re­l­at­ively rare event for sen­at­ors to fall in a primary — in 2012, only former Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., lost to a primary chal­lenger, and the pre­vi­ous cycle just Sens. Robert Ben­net, R-Utah, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, did — though Murkowski came back and won reelec­tion as a write-in can­did­ate. So, keep­ing in mind that we pre­dicted in our fi­nal Hot­line Spot­light of the year that no Sen­ate in­cum­bent will lose a primary next year, here are the can­did­ates who should be most wary as we head in­to 2014.

1. Sen. Thad Co­chran, R-Miss., ap­pears to be the most in danger of fail­ing to earn re­nom­in­a­tion. His chal­lenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, has lined up a num­ber of out­side groups — Sen­ate Con­ser­vat­ives Fund, the Madis­on Pro­ject, Club for Growth — be­hind him. For the 76-year-old Co­chran’s part, he seemed geared up for the chal­lenge when he an­nounced he’d run again. But, to this point, Co­chran hasn’t been rais­ing money ag­gress­ively (he ended the third quarter with just over $800,000 in the bank), and he hasn’t had a com­pet­it­ive race in 30 years.

2. The only Demo­crat on our list, Sen. Bri­an Schatz of Hawaii faces a primary chal­lenge from Demo­crat­ic Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who had also hoped to be ap­poin­ted to the seat at the end of last year when the late Sen. Daniel In­ouye died. An Oc­to­ber robo-poll showed the race neck and neck, as did a poll this sum­mer — and a poll from EMILY’s List (which is back­ing Hanabusa) over the sum­mer showed the con­gress­wo­man up. But Schatz also pulled ahead in fun­drais­ing dur­ing the third quarter, bring­ing in $678,000 to Hanabusa’s $441,000. Ex­pect a hard-fought race.

3. Liz Cheney, daugh­ter of former Vice Pres­id­ent Dick Cheney, is giv­ing Sen. Mi­chael En­zi, R-Wyo., the first com­pet­it­ive race of his ca­reer. And she out­raised the sen­at­or in the third quarter, bring­ing in more than $1 mil­lion to En­zi’s nearly $850,000. But En­zi’s haul was much more than the $100,000 he took in dur­ing the pre­vi­ous quarter, in­dic­at­ing he’s geared up in light of the ag­gress­ive chal­lenge. A poll re­leased this month by a su­per PAC that has been run­ning ads against Cheney showed the in­cum­bent up by a whop­ping 52 points, so Cheney will need to make up a lot of ground. Dis­trac­tions like the pub­lic fight with her sis­ter Mary Cheney over gay mar­riage do not help.

4. Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham, R-S.C., has a num­ber of primary chal­lengers, none of whom is likely to beat him out­right. But un­der South Car­o­lina’s sys­tem, if no can­did­ate garners 50 per­cent of the vote in the primary, the top two vote-get­ters go to a run­off. And if Gra­ham’s chal­lengers man­age to keep him un­der 50 per­cent, con­ser­vat­ive sup­port could gel be­hind his op­pon­ent in the one-on-one run­off. Gra­ham was boos­ted this week by TV ads from former Arkan­sas Gov. Mike Hucka­bee, the con­ser­vat­ive stal­wart who fin­ished a close second in the state’s 2008 pres­id­en­tial primary. Mean­while, state Sen. Lee Bright, the front-run­ning Gra­ham chal­lenger, has filed a bill that wouldn’t al­low people to vote in a primary “un­less the per­son has re­gistered as be­ing a mem­ber of that party.”

5. Sen­ate Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell is very un­pop­u­lar in Ken­tucky. And un­like the oth­er sen­at­ors on our list, he has to po­s­i­tion him­self on two fronts: a primary chal­lenge from busi­ness­man Matt Bev­in, and a real gen­er­al-elec­tion chal­lenge from Demo­crat Al­is­on Lun­der­gan Grimes. Mc­Con­nell has a huge war chest built up — he fin­ished the third quarter with nearly $10 mil­lion in the bank — as well as a vaunted polit­ic­al or­gan­iz­a­tion, and shouldn’t be un­der­es­tim­ated. While Bev­in has the sup­port of the Sen­ate Con­ser­vat­ives Fund and some abil­ity to self-fund, it’s far from clear that he has what it takes to oust the minor­ity lead­er.

Sev­er­al oth­er GOP sen­at­ors are also fa­cing primary op­pon­ents. In Kan­sas, phys­i­cian (and dis­tant cous­in of Pres­id­ent Obama) Milton Wolf is chal­len­ging Sen. Pat Roberts; in Ten­ness­ee, state Rep. Joe Carr is run­ning against Lamar Al­ex­an­der; and in Texas, Rep. Steve Stock­man is op­pos­ing Sen. John Cornyn. At this point, it doesn’t look as though any of these chal­lenges will gain the trac­tion ne­ces­sary to be­come ser­i­ous threats, al­though Wolf has the sup­port of some key con­ser­vat­ive groups that haven’t yet lined up be­hind Carr or Stock­man.

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 4627) }}

What We're Following See More »
BACKING OUT ON BERNIE
Trump Won’t Debate Sanders After All
1 days ago
THE LATEST

Trump, in a statement: “Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher. ... I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.”

AKNOWLEDGING THE INEVITABLE
UAW: Time to Unite Behind Hillary
2 days ago
THE DETAILS

"It's about time for unity," said UAW President Dennis Williams. "We're endorsing Hillary Clinton. She's gotten 3 million more votes than Bernie, a million more votes than Donald Trump. She's our nominee." He called Sanders "a great friend of the UAW" while saying Trump "does not support the economic security of UAW families." Some 28 percent of UAW members indicated their support for Trump in an internal survey.

Source:
AP KEEPING COUNT
Trump Clinches Enough Delegates for the Nomination
2 days ago
THE LATEST

"Donald Trump on Thursday reached the number of delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination for president, completing an unlikely rise that has upended the political landscape and sets the stage for a bitter fall campaign. Trump was put over the top in the Associated Press delegate count by a small number of the party's unbound delegates who told the AP they would support him at the convention."

Source:
TRUMP FLOATED IDEA ON JIMMY KIMMEL’S SHOW
Trump/Sanders Debate Before California Primary?
2 days ago
THE LATEST
CAMPAIGNS INJECTED NEW AD MONEY
California: It’s Not Over Yet
2 days ago
THE LATEST

"Clinton and Bernie Sanders "are now devoting additional money to television advertising. A day after Sanders announced a new ad buy of less than $2 million in the state, Clinton announced her own television campaign. Ads featuring actor Morgan Freeman as well as labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta will air beginning on Fridayin Fresno, Sacramento, and Los Angeles media markets. Some ads will also target Latino voters and Asian American voters. The total value of the buy is about six figures according to the Clinton campaign." Meanwhile, a new poll shows Sanders within the margin of error, trailing Clinton 44%-46%.

Source:
×