Dems face primary battles of their own
As the party works to retake control of the Senate in 2016, Democrats are looking at a Senate landscape that could feature titanic intraparty clashes starring big personalities who have been waiting years for a shot at the big time.
It’s a big shift from recent years when Republicans, riven by long-standing ideological fault lines, faced divisive and attention-grabbing primaries, usually pitting a party favorite against insurgents from the conservative grassroots. Memorably, in 2010 and 2012, the fights were so damaging that Republicans failed to pick up winnable Senate seats by nominating flagrantly unprepared candidates.
Democrats, for the most part, have not had to face the same problem. But that might be changing.
While the fields of candidates are still taking shape, a platoon of Democrats are mulling Senate bids in Ohio, Florida, Maryland, California, Pennsylvania and Illinois. While many of them have yet to formally declare campaigns, none possess the kind of field-clearing star power that could help Democrats avoid a primary bonanza, and few show signs of putting their ambitions aside for the sake of party unity.
Republican primary battles aren’t going anywhere in 2016, and on the presidential level, Democrats continue to line up behind Hillary Clinton as their nominee, without a whiff a serious primary challenge.
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But there is a different story unfolding in the next race for the Senate, where the question is whether Democrats will cleave along ideological and generational lines in primary fights, jeopardizing the party’s hopes of regaining control of the the Upper Chamber.
Republicans are also hoping for Democratic carnage in Ohio, where Sen. Rob Portman is up for re-election. National Democrats have endorsed former Gov. Ted Strickland for the nomination, but the news did not force P.G. Sittenfeld, an up-and-coming 30-year-old Cincinnati city councilman, out of the race.
Democrats are skeptical that Sittenfeld can raise the kind of money to compete against Strickland and Portman, but if he does, his candidacy will make for a stark contrast against the 73-year old Strickland.
In an interview, Sittenfeld spoke critically of Portman, calling him “a 25-year creature of Washington” who is “out of touch” with Ohio. But the next-generation rhetoric could also stir inevitable questions about Strickland’s age.
“I fit the mold for new leadership,” Sittenfeld told CNN in an interview, careful to note his admiration for Strickland and stressing that he is running against Portman.
“If you put together 100 people into the Senate, wouldn’t you want at least one person from the largest generation in American history, the most technologically savvy generation in American history?” Sittenfeld asked. “How can we invest in technology and innovation to solve problems when we are rehashing stale battles?”
As in Maryland, there appear to be no major early-stage differences between Strickland and Sittenfeld on the issues, which again suggests that the Democratic primary boom of 2016 is more about timing and opportunity than anything else. With a presidential election on the ballot, increased voter turnout is expected to give Democrats a lift in the general election.
“There is an ideological reason for running, but let’s not separate that from a path to victory,” said Nathan Gonzales, editor of the Gonzales & Rothenberg Report. “Primaries happen when multiple candidates see a good opportunity. Democrats have good opportunities in multiple states this cycle, specifically in Maryland. The Democratic nomination is incredibly valuable because Maryland is a Democratic state. Lots of candidates see paths to victory and think, ‘Why not me? Why not now?’ ”
Republicans are additionally trusting for Democratic massacre in Ohio, where Sen. Ransack Portman is up for re-decision. National Democrats have embraced previous Gov. Ted Strickland for the designation, however the news did not drive P.G. Sittenfeld, a best in class 30-year-old Cincinnati city councilman, out of the race.
Democrats are wary that Sittenfeld can raise the sort of cash to contend with Strickland and Portman, yet in the event that he does, his nomination will make for a distinct difference against the 73-year old Strickland.