Arizona, Connecticut Contests Are Flipping the Script

October 10, 2012

By Abby Livingston, Roll Call Staff

The emergence of Arizona and Connecticut as competitive Senate battlegrounds has reinforced one of the most important themes of this cycle: In a neutral political environment, candidates matter more than ever.

Both open-seat races share similarities that extend beyond the fact that each party was favored to hold one seat until recently. The contests are the latest surprises on the 2012 Senate map, following the open seats in Indiana, North Dakota and Maine — all of which turned into more competitive contests than were originally expected.

Republicans are defending the Arizona seat while Democrats are defending the seat in Connecticut. The parallels are striking, if reversed. A House Member was the early favorite to win the Senate race in a state that leans in favor of his party. But the other party’s candidate has some unique quality that has been able to put this seat in play.

In Democratic Connecticut, former WWE CEO Linda McMahon (R) is over-performing in polls against Rep. Christopher Murphy (D). In Arizona, it is former Surgeon General Richard Carmona (D) gaining on Rep. Jeff Flake (R) in a GOP-leaning state.

“Broadly what you’re seeing in races across the country, it’s hand-to-hand combat. It’s trench fighting,” one national GOP strategist said.

Flake and Murphy have a fundamental hurdle that nearly every ambitious House Member faces in a Senate run: building statewide name identification.

While each are known commodities in Washington, D.C., Flake and Murphy represent a fraction of their states and have had to boost their images. At the same time, their opponents bring unique assets to their campaigns.

For McMahon, the assets are literal. She has deep pockets and made it known in her failed 2010 Senate run that she wasn’t afraid to spend whatever it takes to win. She spent about $47 million on that campaign — giving her residual high name identification — and she is currently up in the expensive New York City television market to sell her message.

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1 Comment - what are your thoughts?

  • Norma Nicholson says:

    The Canadian election process is much more reasonable. The campaign is allowed to run about 3 months instead of the nearly 2 years that it runs in the USA monopolizing the media for nearly a year and by the sheer fact that time is limited, the astronomical campaign spending is limited. No candidate should be allowed a budget of more than $1-2 million and they should pay for all of thier expenses out of it – including the president, who should not expect the taxpayer to pick up any of his tab.

    Our system is extremely sick and needs to be fixed. And by fixed, I mean it should have a revamping of who actually elects the candidates. The president should be elected by the popular vote NOT by the Electoral College who is bought and paid for by the media and the corrupt elected officials.

    They should have to run on their record and issues rather than play dirty politics using unfounded myths and lies. ALL of them should be properly vetted and have to prove they are USA citizens and those who might become president must provide proof they are NATIVE BORN citizens – not some illegal who has hidden all of their records from the public, making their candidacy a criminal action that should bare the full weight of the court and everything they have done an illegal action.

    Fund raising is suppose to be limited to USA citizens and not allow international contributions like we saw happen in the last presidential election. That unto itself is an inditable offense, and then refusing to provide the required documents regarding his donations or any documentation. Obama will forever stand as the most questioned person to hold the office of President and the biggest failure in the eyes of the world.

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