How long this honeymoon period will last is unknown, but even if a Democrat got in the race today, he would already find himself in a deep fundraising hole. Flake, who entered the Senate race in February shortly after Sen. Jon Kyl (R) announced his retirement, had $2 million in the bank through the second quarter after an $831,000 three-month haul.
Flake is well-liked by both the GOP establishment and tea party groups, and he’s already receiving assistance from outside groups such as the Club for Growth. In a state that has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1988, and with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) not expected to run statewide, Flake is in a good position at this point.
Still, President Barack Obama is looking to expand his electoral map to include Arizona, where he lost in 2008 by single digits to home-state Sen. John McCain (R). The Obama turnout machine could give the boost that a well-financed and well-organized Democratic nominee needs to pick up the open seat. Democrats who have formally announced they are exploring bids include former state Democratic Party Chairman Don Bivens and Tucson businessman David Crowe.
These races are unlikely to be competitive for Democrats next November, but Republicans will be locked in tough primaries before they can secure victories. Should the incumbent Senators lose in Indiana or Utah, the dynamics would shift dramatically.
Lugar is in better shape now than he was at the beginning of this cycle, but that’s not saying much. He’s still vulnerable in the GOP primary, but the Hoosier State’s longest-serving Senator is fighting to keep his seat.
In the past few months, Lugar was the most vocal opposition to the president’s decision to initiate military intervention in Libya. He co-sponsored a bill promoting the FairTax, which seeks to replace federal income taxes with a national sales tax. He issued his first television ad — a spot criticizing President Barack Obama. He also put together a campaign team and amassed a $3.5 million war chest.
However, money won’t be able to buy love from many conservative Republicans in Indiana who would like nothing more than to force Lugar into retirement. It’s up to his primary opponent, state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, to seize on that sentiment if he wants to be propelled to victory.
But Mourdock’s fundraising has been lackluster since he got into the race, and he brought in only $312,000 in the last quarter. He also has not solidified support from many conservative groups in Washington, D.C., such as the Club for Growth, which could help him raise dough.
Nonetheless, Mourdock has a good chance of defeating Lugar. He’s won statewide twice before, and he’s known as a dogged campaigner.
Rep. Joe Donnelly sits on the sidelines while these two Republicans fight it out in the primary. That’s an advantageous position for a Democrat, although this is Republican-trending Indiana.
Democrats have a better chance of taking this seat if Mourdock is the nominee. But the party’s previous nominee for Senate — another Democratic Congressman, Brad Ellsworth — lost by 20 points in an open-seat race last year.