2012 Senate Updates: Connecticut, Florida, Utah

Guy Benson

8/23/2011 9:14:00 AM - Guy Benson

Yesterday witnessed a flurry significant developments on the 2012 Senate battle front.  A few pieces of analysis:


Connecticut - Former Rep. Chris Shays has announced his intention to run for Senate in the Nutmeg State:


Shays, who had sold his home in Connecticut and moved to Maryland after he was defeated by Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) in 2008, has moved back to the Nutmeg State with his wife Betsi, and recently re-registered to vote in the state.  The seat will be open: Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) has decide to retire. The state is strongly Democratic and has not had a Republican senator since 1988, although centrist Republicans have run well there and the state had a Republican governor from 2004 through 2010.


Rep. Shays is a very moderate Republican who represented CT-04 for more than 20 years.  Connecticut can present tough political sledding for conservatives, although the state elected Republican Governors from 1995 through last year.  Shays will likely face a primary rumble with Linda McMahon, the former WWE executive, who poured millions into a failed Senate race against faux "Vietnam Vet" Richard Blumenthal last year.  Shays may not be the Right's cup of ideological tea, but he'd likely be competitive in the race.  This seat is a must-have for the beleagured DSCC.


Florida - Tea Party hero Col. Allen West has decided against running for Senate, opting instead to focus on a tough re-election battle in his Congressional district:
 

Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) is not going to run for Senate in Florida. “Over the last several weeks, numerous leaders of the Florida Republican Party, including current and past elected officials, have spoken to me about the race for the United States Senate. Out of respect, I was willing to listen," said West in a statement. “I believe the place where I can best effect the needed change is from the People's House — the House of Representatives.” That leaves former Sen. George LeMieux, former state Rep. Adam Hasner, former Ruth’s Chris Steak House CEO Craig Miller and retired Col. Mike McCalister in the primary to take on Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).


This seems like a good call by West, who will be a top target for Democrats next year.  You know DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz will have him in her sights.  Meanwhile, Charlie Cook calls incumbent Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson "extremely vulnerable" heading into the general election contest.


Utah -  I've been reporting for months that Rep. Jason Chaffetz was seriously considering challenging Sen. Orrin Hatch in a GOP primary.  Despite heavy rumors that Chaffetz was preparing to pull the trigger, he has evidently reconsidered  -- which must come as a great relief to the Hatch camp:
 

U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah says he is seeking a third term in Congress instead of challenging incumbent and fellow Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch.  Chaffetz says during a Monday news conference on the University of Utah campus that he decided against a Senate run. The decision comes after hinting for months that he planned to challenge Hatch.
 

To Hatch's credit, he's clearly taken the lessons of Bob Bennett's unceremonious political demise to heart.  To inoculate himself against a Tea Party uprising, the six-term incumbent has mounted an aggressive conservative outreach campaign over the last year.  Will it work?  Some conservatives are rather dubious, and Chaffetz himself isn't convinced just yet:


“I think he’s vulnerable,” Chaffetz said. “He’s got a major task ahead of him in convincing Utahns he’s still the right guy for that job. I think he’s got a serious threat of [Democratic Rep.] Jim Matheson running against him, a serious campaign, and another insurgent campaign on the Republican side.”


Let's face it:  Utah isn't going to elect a Democratic Senator next year.  This is an instance of Chaffetz laying down a political marker by underscoring his belief that Hatch can still be had by a more conservative Republican.