Feb. 5, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Tough Terrain for Senate Democrats

Bill Clark/Roll Call
Sen. Scott Brown faces an uphill battle to keep his seat in heavily Democratic Massachusetts.

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.


Open seat (R) | Likely Republican

Local pundits refer to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s nascent campaign as the 800-pound gorilla candidacy, with good reason. The Republican would be the best-known in the field, and he can reportedly throw $10 million of his own cash into the race without blinking.

The question is who will be Dewhurst’s chief competition, especially if the race heads to a runoff in May.

Conservatives including the Club for Growth, FreedomWorks and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) have banded together to support former state Solicitor General Ted Cruz (R). National conservatives have big concerns about Dewhurst; for example, RedState.com’s Erick Erickson quickly tagged him “DewCrist,” a reference to former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who bolted from the Republican Party. Cruz could easily play conservatives’ foil to the lieutenant governor, especially after he brought in big bucks last quarter by raising nearly $800,000 for his bid.

Former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert could compete financially, but he’s not well-known outside the city. Leppert reported $3.4 million in cash on hand at the end of June, including significant funds from his own pocket.

Texas Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones is not well-known or a strong fundraiser, and she brought in only $313,000 in the second quarter. But Jones has an inherent advantage as the only female candidate on a Senate ballot filled with men.

State Sen. Dan Patrick (R), a local radio talk-show host, also is pondering a bid.

That’s a crowded Senate field even after two GOP candidates, former Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams and former Secretary of State Roger Williams, dropped out of the race last month to run for a newly drawn House seat.

Democrats were joyous to recruit retired Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez to run here. But it’s uncertain whether Democrats can play in a state where they have not won a major statewide race since the mid-1990s. President Barack Obama’s team thinks it is possible to make the state more competitive but doesn’t have high hopes.

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