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Tuesday's Primaries:  Fisher (D) Leads In Ohio, Coats (R) Up In Indiana

Apr 29, 2010

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The primaries resume on Tuesday, with three states holding contests:  Indiana, where Republicans pick a nominee for the seat vacated by two-term Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh; North Carolina, where three Democrats are battling for the right to face GOP Sen. Richard Burr in November; and Ohio, where voters will choose from two Democratic statewide officeholders for the seat of retiring Sen. George Voinovich (R).  Here's the latest:

INDIANA:   Dan Coats, the Republican who succeeded Dan Quayle in the Senate after the 1988 elections and who is seeking a comeback after a dozen years out of office, is leading Tuesday's GOP primary.  A statewide poll conducted by SurveyUSA shows Coats with 36 percent to 24 percent for former Rep. John Hostettler and 18 percent for ex-state Sen. Marlin Stutzman; two other candidates share 10 percent.  Coats gave up his seat in 1998 when it seemed likely that he would fall to Evan Bayh, a Democratic former governor who went on to win two Senate terms before announcing his retirement earlier this year. 

The poll's methodology is in some question — it's considered a "robo" poll — but FoxNews.com's Steve Brown was most impressed with Coats' standing among those voters who identify with the Tea Party movement.  Coats received 30 percent from that group, compared to 23 percent for Stutzman, who has "courted the Tea Party vote and has won four Tea Party debate straw polls."  Outside endorsements: Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) for Stutzman; Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) for Hostettler.

Coats has been on the defensive with some conservatives for his vote to ban semi-automatic weapons while he was in the Senate and his subsequent role as a Washington lobbyist.  Maureen Groppe of the Indianapolis Star itemizes the $818,000 Coats has reported in earnings since the start of 2009, mostly from the D.C. law firm.  That is probably Coats' most vulnerable point.  The Wall Street Journal's Susan Davis writes in Washington Wire, "There’s a tremor coming out of Indiana’s Senate race that suggests Tuesday’s GOP primary might not be a cakewalk" for Coats, but nothing in her blog explains why that might be the case ... other than the fact that this has not been a good year for being the establishment favorite in a campaign, and she cites Martha Coakley in Massachusetts.

The Democratic nominee will be Rep. Brad Ellsworth, who ousted Hostettler from his House seat four years ago. 

OHIO:  A new poll from Qunnipiac University suggests that the Democratic race for the Senate is no longer close.  Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher has opened up a commanding 41-24 percent lead over Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner for the right to take on former Rep. Rob Portman (R) in November.  Fisher's lead has increased from where it was on March 30, when it was 33 to 26 percent.

Helping Fisher extend his lead is money; he has spent more than $3 million thus far, compared to just under $800,000 for Brunner, who has very little cash on hand.  Darrel Rowland of the Columbus Dispatch spells out the differences in the haves and have-nots, noting that while Fisher was purchasing $900,000 worth of TV air time this month, Brunner "was spending $862 for a new exhaust pipe for the converted school bus she is using for her 'grassroots' campaign.

Portman, meanwhile, has raised $10.2 million for his campaign, with $7.7 million on hand as of April 14.

The poll also showed that voters see Fisher as "more electable" than Brunner, by a margin of 46 to 16 percent.

But, as the Toledo Blade's Tom Troy writes, there is "still a glimmer of hope" for Brunner, in that a third of the likely Democratic voters are still undecided.  And Rick Jackson of member station WCPN reports that Brunner is far from giving up, saying that Fisher is "someone not ready to lead in the Senate, because he hasn’t led the state in past elections":

The last time he won an election was 20 years ago in 1990. He ran in ‘94, lost as an incumbent, lost in ‘98 for governor, and then when Governor Strickland put him on the ticket in 2006, that revived his statewide political career. But I have never lost an election.

NORTH CAROLINA is also holding primaries on Tuesday.  The main event is the Democratic primary to take on GOP Sen. Richard Burr in November.  Candidates:  Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, former state Sen. Cal Cunningham and attorney Ken Lewis.

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