After next week, primary season will rekindle for its last stretch before everyone can finally focus entirely on the general election. And the first week back could end up being the most dangerous primary week of the year for incumbents.
— Two House incumbents are more likely to lose than not: Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-MI) and Scott DesJarlais (R-TN). But don’t write them into any broader pattern. Bentivolio, who was the only other Republican on the ballot in MI-11 when Thad McCotter‘s fradulent nominating petitions were thrown out, is the definition of an accidental congressman, while the 2012 revelations that DesJarlais had sexual relationships with co-workers and medical patients and pressured one to have an abortion destroyed his standing with Republicans. Both attracted very well-funded challengers with business and establishment GOP support.
— Other incumbents up at the beginning of August are better-positioned, though some still face potentially difficult challenges. Ex-Rep. Todd Tiahrt‘s (R) KS-04 comeback attempt also defies political pigeonholing. Many of the groups backing Rep. Mike Pompeo (R) had few ideological quibbles with Tiahrt while he was in Congress, per their vote scorecards, but they’re sticking with the incumbent. Both candidates are accusing the other of cronyism, and Pompeo is using Tiahrt’s service against him by attacking him over earmarks. Meanwhile, most still expect Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) to win renomination, but physician Milton Wolf (R) hasn’t faded as far as people thought after his X-ray controversy.
— Then, in Hawaii‘s traditional Saturday primary, there’s the lone big Democratic Senate primary of the cycle, pitting appointed Sen. Brian Schatz (D) against Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D), who wanted that appointment in the first place and was backed by late Sen. Daniel Inouye. That race and Gov. Neil Abercrombie‘s (D) contested primary are studies in contrast among Hawaii Democrats, highlighting ethnic differences, generational differences, and a long-term ideological shift within the state party.
Only two congressional incumbents have lost primaries this year (though as we’ve noted, that by itself isn’t a full measure of incumbent strength and weakness). As primaries restart, that figure could go up fast.
— Scott Bland
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