More Key Primaries Ahead

Flickr/<a href="" target="_blank">Theresa Thompson</a> (Creative Commons).

While the Senate fields are set in Ohio and Indiana, more big primaries loom in the next week. Incumbent Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) could very well lose his seat on Saturday when he faces that state’s GOP nominating convention. If Bennett doesn’t do well enough there, he won’t even get to contest a primary. His crime: working on a bipartisan health care reform proposal with Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden. If the polls of the convention delegates are accurate, Bennett is doomed. He could soon become Utah’s first incumbent senator to lose his party’s nomination in 70 years. The message is clear: Democrats are the enemy, and any work with them—however inchoate—is a grave sin for a true Republican.

There are primary elections for three House seats in Nebraska and three in West Virginia next Tuesday. Of the incumbents, only Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.), a 14-termer, faces a real challenge. Both Mollohan and his challenger, state Sen. Mike Oliverio, have released polls showing themselves with high single-digit leads.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this race is the dynamic: Oliverio is running against Mollohan from the right, and has even said he would support someone other than Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House. That’s a weird thing to say. The vote to  elect a speaker at the beginning of each session of congress is basically what separates Democrats from Republicans—it’s one vote when you really have to vote with your party. You can bet Nancy Pelosi will be the Dems’ “candidate” for speaker. And you can bet that she’ll expect Oliverio to vote for her.

Followers of Massey Energy, the coal company associated with the mining disaster last month, will be focusing on the Republican primary in another West Virginia district. In the north of the state, Elliot “Spike” Maynard, a former state supreme court justice, is running for the right to face incumbent Dem Nick Rahall. Maynard is famous for being photographed vacationing with Don Blankenship, the notorious Massey CEO, on the French Riviera while Massey was appealing a $50 million case to his court.