It’s no secret that we haven’t considered Rep. Steve Stockman (R) to be a serious threat to Sen. John Cornyn (R) in their March 4 Lone Star State Senate primary. The reasons are as much structural as they are Texas-specific: For all the ink spilled over congressional primaries (and Texas, specifically, on A1 of the Washington Post this past Sunday), scholarship shows they aren’t more common (or more successful) now than in recent decades. And Stockman doesn’t fit the profile of a successful challenger.
— Recent developments — an anti-Stockman TV ad launched this week by a pro-Cornyn super PAC and a new TV ad out Friday from Cornyn’s camp — would seem to indicate that the incumbent is taking the threat more seriously. But with just 7 weeks until the primary, these moves seem more due diligence than panic button. Team Cornyn has been preparing for a primary challenger (one more credible than Stockman) for two years, as evidenced by his nearly-$7 million bank account at the end of the third quarter. And without a serious Democrat in the race, not spending in the primary would be malpractice.
— Clark University professor Robert Boatright examined the past 40 years of congressional primaries in his 2013 book “Getting Primaried: The Changing Politics of Congressional Primary Challenges,” finding that they aren’t more common now; their frequency waxes and wanes with overall political polarization. There’s more outside money than ever boosting primary challengers, but that cuts both ways: Incumbent-aligned super PACs are popping up, too, like the McConnell-backing Kentuckians for Strong Leadership and the Cornyn-aligned Texans for a Conservative Majority.
— Texas is just the first primary on the calendar in 2014. Hotline senior Senate analyst Julie Sobel took a look at the top Senate primaries at the end of last year, ranking Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) as the most vulnerable to losing renomination. Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) has the support of key outside groups (Stockman does not). Beyond Mississippi, which some automated surveys show might be a coin-flip, the incumbent is favored in each of the other “competitive” Senate primaries. (Wyoming has since dropped off the map altogether.) We’d set the over/under on Senate incumbents losing renomination at 0.5.
We spend a lot of time on Senate primaries, but few Senate incumbents actually end up losing. Just because John Cornyn is stepping up his campaign doesn’t mean he’s any closer to becoming the next Dick Lugar or Bob Bennett.
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A Russian government think tank run by Putin loyalists "developed a plan to swing the 2016 U.S. presidential election to Donald Trump and undermine voters’ faith in the American electoral system." Two confidential documents from the Putin-backed Institute for Strategic Studies, obtained by U.S. intelligence, provide "the framework and rationale for what U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded was an intensive effort by Russia to interfere with the Nov. 8 election."
"The FBI last year used a dossier of allegations of Russian ties to Donald Trump's campaign as part of the justification" to monitor Carter Page, who was then a defense adviser to the Trump campaign. "The dossier has also been cited by FBI Director James Comey in some of his briefings to members of Congress in recent weeks."
"The Air Force is set to deploy its high-tech, fifth-generation F-35A fighter jets to Europe this weekend as part of an effort to assure U.S. allies there who are worried about Russian aggression." The new, state-of-the-art fighters will train with European air units. "The Pentagon noted that the deployment had been long planned, meaning it was not a reaction to recent increasing tensions between the United States and Russia," although a statement noted the move is part of the "European Reassurance Initiative," which began three years ago when Russia annexed Crimea.