The biggest Senate primary contests of the cycle may be over (well, except for that outstanding Hawaii nail-biter), but there’s still plenty of action in August. Today, voters in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Connecticut head to the polls to pick their nominees. In two cases, incumbent Democratic governors will get their challengers. In Connecticut, former ambassador to Ireland Tom Foley faces off against state Senate minority leader John McKinney for the GOP nomination to run against Democratic Gov. Dan Malloy. And in Minnesota, four Republicans are vying for the chance to oust incumbent Gov. Mark Dayton. Connecticut could end up being a race to watch in November; most of the focus on gubernatorial races this cycle has been on Republicans who are in trouble – think Rick Scott in Florida, Sam Brownback in Kansas, and Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania – but Malloy is one of the few vulnerable Democratic incumbents out there (other than the upside-down Pat Quinn in Illinois).
What a difference six years makes
But one race that’s not dominating junkies’ attention is the GOP Senate primary in Minnesota. Businessman Mike McFadden is trying to beat back four other candidates to get the nod to run against Sen. Al Franken. That’s the same Al Franken who only won the seat after an eight month legal battle resulting from one of the closest elections in Senate history. Now? There just aren’t signs that Franken’s the kind of serious trouble that most observers would have predicted in 2008. In a year when Republicans are boasting of a big Senate map, it’s remarkable that this is the one we aren’t talking about.
Wisconsin’s fall brawl gets set
Incumbent Gov. Scott Walker doesn’t have a primary challenger, and Mary Burke is ignoring her Democratic rival entirely as she focuses on November. But this race – already in general election mode – will kick into high gear when the ballot is officially set after tonight. And right now, Walker seems a LOT more vulnerable than he did six months ago. Polling shows a virtual dead heat in a race that looked earlier this year like a matchup between a big 2016 GOP player and a little-known Democrat. Now, Burke is managing to come across as a pro-business Democrat without as many direct ties to labor as Walker’s previous opponent. Whether it’s that Walker is having trouble running against a woman or that he hasn’t been able to land a decent blow to attack Burke’s lack of experience, this is shaping up to be MUCH more interesting than it seemed at the first of the year.
Is Iraq back to being America’s 51st state?
Here we are: Another U.S. president is having to micromanage the government in Iraq. In his remarks Monday evening, Obama didn’t explicitly mention Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki at all, but the message was clear. “I urge all Iraqi political leaders to work peacefully through the political process in the days ahead,” he said, noting that both he and the vice president spoke yesterday to Prime Minister designate Dr. Haider al-Abadi. “This new Iraqi leadership has a difficult task. It has to regain the confidence of its citizens by governing inclusively and by taking steps to demonstrate its resolve. The United States stands ready to support a government that addresses the needs and grievances of all Iraqi people.” By not even mentioning Maliki’s efforts to cling to power, the administration is showing it’s no longer interested in working with him. But the question is: will it work? The more that the U.S. tries to micromanage the politics in the country, the more obvious it becomes that – as Obama said last week – this is going to be a long-term project.
Summertime, and the news is Hillary
It’s August. With Congress out, the president on vacation and the biggest narratives of the primary season mostly set, we’re in for a LOT more Hillary versus Obama chatter in the news cycle. Here’s our big questions about her efforts to draw some clear lines between herself and Obama on foreign policy: 1) She’s been consistent in separating herself to Obama’s right on foreign policy, but is that really where the country is? All our polling suggests that Americans don’t want to see more engagement abroad. And 2) How much do progressives fret about a potential nominee sounding this hawkish this early? As POLITICO reports, liberals are already having flashbacks to the 2008 intra-party foreign policy war that ultimately handed Obama the nomination. And David Brooks praises her “certain muscular tone, a certain assumption that there will be hostile ideologies that threaten America” in his column this morning. Does this reopen some progressive wounds – and push Democratic challengers who were on the fence to get engaged in the race?
Pressure’s on in Puna
Here’s the latest on that outstanding Senate contest in Hawaii, from the Honolulu Star-Advertiser: “The state Office of Elections announced Monday that voters in the Paradise Community Center precinct and the Keonepoko Elementary School precinct, which did not open for Saturday's primary because of nearby damage from Tropical Storm Iselle, will be able to cast ballots Friday at Keone­poko Elementary School.” But Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who’s currently trailing incumbent Brian Schatz by about 1,600 votes, is eyeing her legal options and questioning whether a quick vote is fair.
Click here to sign up for First Read emails. Text FIRST to 622639, to sign up for First Read alerts to your mobile phone. Check us out on Facebook and also on Twitter. Follow us @chucktodd, @mmurraypolitics, @carrienbcnews