Mikulski’s Retirement: A New Republican Opportunity
Barbara Mikuslki’s retirement announcement today has been much welcomed in conservative circles. For thirty years we’ve been stuck with a Senator who has been labeled the meanest person in Congress, somebody who has worked hard on behalf of special interests, has been mean to constituents who may not necessarily be from “the Big 3 counties”, and somebody who has considered the interests of working and middle-class Marylanders a secondary consideration to her political career and the Democratic Party.
But now we have an opportunity on the Republican side of the aisle to field a competitive candidate in a competitive race against an challenger who is either well known to Marylanders but disliked (Martin O’Malley, Anthony Brown) or is relatively unknown to most (John Delaney, Donna Edwards).
The graphic above notes the results of our February Red Maryland Poll (and you can vote now in March’s poll). The top three vote-getters, by far, were Dan Bongino, State Senator Michael Hough, and former Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman. I doubt seriously Senator Hough will run, and that really makes Bongino and Neuman the top two candidates in the field, if either of them decide to run. Both of them would be credible challengers to whichever establishment candidate the Democrats decide upon.
Dan Bongino has the experience of having done this before. He ran an aggressive campaign in a very bad Republican year in 2012. He also had to put up with an obnoxious, self-funded candidate in Rob Sobhani who parachuted into the race, spent a lot of money that nobody is really sure where he got it from, and has basically never been seen again. Dan’s campaign last year against John Delaney was one of the closest in the country, and could have benefited from a few dollars thrown his way by the NRCC late in the race. He’s good on the stump, he tells it like it is, and he can tap into a national network of volunteers and fundraisers. The one thing that may ultimately keep Dan out of the race? John Delaney. If Delaney runs for the Senate, Dan will have a very good shot to reclaim Delaney’s seat as a Republican pickup.
Laura Neuman as a statewide candidate would be an absolutely rock star. She is personable, well-liked, and does have a record in nearly two-years as County Executive. Her unique circumstances put her at an electoral disadvantage against Steve Schuh, but she would be able to overcome that in a Senate race. She raised a ton of money very quickly, and would have been the top fundraiser in a countywide primary had Schuh not been so far ahead of the curve. Her personal success in business as well as her personal story connects with voters across the ideological spectrum. And while the “war on women” stunts that the Democrats tried to pull on Governor Larry Hogan did not succeed, they would be nearly impossible to start against Neuman.
At this juncture, Bongino and Neuman constitute the first tier candidates in this race. Other candidates, of course, may kick the tires on the race:
- Richard Douglas also ran in the 2012 primary, and has serious national security chops. He did pass on a run for Attorney General in 2014, but he might be wiling to reconsider a Senate race.
- National media have focused on Former Governor Bob Ehrlich and Former Lt. Governor Michael Steele, but locally there isn’t much buzz about them. Ehrlich seems to be more focused on running for President still (a statement earlier said that he is not changing his plans). Steele has his MSNBC gig. There is no enthusiasm in the base for either to run.
- Delegate Tony O’Donnell has run for Congress before, and he has been a great champion of the Republican Party. He would do us well as a candidate.
- Don’t laugh, but John Leopold has nothing to lose and has thought about a Senate run before. You…..can’t say he doesn’t have name ID.
- And you gotta suspect that somebody, somewhere, has said “Charles Lollar is the only candidate that can beat the Democrat in November!”
Needless to say we’re not done changing Maryland yet, and the Republican nominee will still be a huge underdog. But this race on the Republican side has gotten far more interesting today than it would have been otherwise. Stay tuned to Red Maryland throughout.