Campaign 2010

Jun 21, 2004

Disco Stu

Rothenberg that is.  From Roll Call,
In Just a Week, Stu Finds Five Candidates He Actually Likes”:

It’s just another week in the life of a handicapper. I interviewed five candidates, and my reactions may surprise some.

Candidate No. 1 is Jim Sullivan, a Democrat running for Congress against Rep. Rob Simmons (R) in Connecticut’s 2nd district.

Sullivan, a 37-year-old financial adviser whose head of gray hair makes him look older, served two terms on the Norwich City Council. He also worked as an aide to then-state Senate President (now U.S. Representative) John Larson (D).

A pro-choice Catholic, Sullivan ran for the Democratic nomination two years before pulling out in favor of Joe Courtney, who fell with a thud to Simmons in November.

The district certainly is competitive. Al Gore won it with 54 percent in 2000, and Ralph Nader drew a credible 6 percent as well. It’s difficult territory for any Republican.

Sullivan is a low-key, extremely likable guy. He’s a credible challenger, but not one without some problems. First, he finished March with about $136,000 in the bank and says that’s about where he stands now. He’s not going to beat an incumbent with that kind of cash. His end-of-June Federal Election Commission numbers will determine whether he is truly credible.

Second, I’m skeptical that he can sell his view that Simmons is some kind of right-winger who is in lock-step with House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and President Bush, or that Simmons’ CIA background won’t continue to be a huge plus for the Congressman.

Sullivan needs a wave to beat Simmons. Still, it’s a race that shouldn’t be ignored.

Candidate No. 2 is Matt Connealy (D), a farmer who is serving his second term in the Nebraska Legislature. Connealy is the Democratic nominee in Nebraska’s 1st district, left open by GOP Rep. Doug Bereuter’s retirement.

The district is Republican, but the GOP nominated a former Lincoln city councilman, Jeff Fortenberry, known for his conservative views. Establishment Republicans preferred another candidate in the primary, and they may not embrace their nominee.

But while the Democrat has raised more than $300,000 for his bid, he has only about one-third of that total on hand, not what we’d like to see at this point. And the big question for Connealy is whether he can withstand his opponent’s general election attacks, since his legislative record included votes for new taxes.

Still, Connealy has a presence about him. He looks and sounds like a Congressman. And if Fortenberry runs an amateurish campaign (as he did during the primary) or paints himself into a religious right corner, this could be a very interesting contest. People I talk to, however, say that Fortenberry is far more appealing and far stronger than Democrats think.

Candidate No. 3 is yet another Democrat. Lois Murphy is challenging freshman Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.), a narrow 51 percent to 49 percent winner over Dan Wofford (D) two years ago in a newly created district.

Murphy, 41, lives in upper-crust Lower Merion Township in Montgomery County, graduated from Radcliffe and Harvard Law School, and has served as president of NARAL Pro-Choice Pennsylvania for more than 10 years.

But that profile may give you the wrong impression about Murphy. She knows her campaign nuts and bolts, and I got the distinct feeling she has that relatively rare ability to connect with people of various backgrounds, She has a natural, down-to-earth quality. In other words, Gerlach, who doesn’t have the reputation of raising cash or running great campaigns, is in big, big trouble.

Sure, Murphy is a liberal, and that’s a problem in parts of this district. In addition, since most of the 6th district is in the Philadelphia media market, it will be difficult for the challenger to get the visibility she needs to oust an incumbent. But her fundraising has been good, and Gerlach still has plenty to prove after his 2002 squeaker.

Ok, so the other two are Republicans, but this gives a taste of some our strong candidates.  And just when you least expect it…whammo!

Hard Sell Monday!

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