House Outlook for 2008
Will the GOP Swing the Pendulum Back?
Wyoming (0) (Open Seat)
September 16, 2008 Update:
Change may be in the air this election season, but in Wyoming, experience and ideology still matter. Such was the case when former state treasurer Cynthia Lummis prevailed over rancher Mark Gordon by a comfortable margin of 46 to 37 in the Republican primary last Tuesday. Lummis is a longtime fixture of Wyoming state politics and was one of the finalists to replace the late Senator Craig Thomas last year. Gordon’s fresh-faced candidacy generated buzz among primary observers, but revelations that he donated to Democratic campaigns and liberal organizations ultimately doomed his nomination bid.
Choosing a known quantity like Lummis has advantages and disadvantages for the Wyoming GOP. From day one, Lummis has nearly statewide name identification and can tap into networks of establishment donors. Her staunch conservatism, which played well in the primary, however, might not cross over as well to a more moderate to libertarian general electorate. Without a doubt, this remains Lummis’ race to lose, but she had better keep her guard up lest Democrat Gary Trauner can improve upon his surprise showing of 2006.
June 3, 2008 Update:
While Democrat Gary Trauner waits in the wings for the eventual Republican nominee, who will be chosen on August 19, the two main Republican candidates are duking it out on the primary stage. Former state treasurer Cynthia Lummis leads in name recognition and political experience. Her primary rival for the nomination, rancher Mark Gordon, holds the edge in money and, according to him, the votes. Gordon released a poll, taken in late April, that showed him leading Lummis 39-23, albeit with 30 percent undecided. Gordon has been using his money advantage, he has raised more than twice as much as Lummis, to run television ads to conquer Lummis’ name ID advantage in the remaining two months of the primary campaign. While his camp must be excited by their internal numbers which show him in the lead, the nearly one-third of voters without a preference should be a scary thing, especially against a better-known opponent who may get some votes from name recognition alone.
May 8, 2008 Update:
There is good news and bad news for repeat Democratic candidate Gary Trauner. The good news is that he continues to out-pace his rivals in fundraising (he has raised $648,123, while the leading Republican candidate, newcomer Mark Gordon, has raised only $412,417, with the majority being self-funded). The bad news for Trauner is that the demographics of the district have not changed (Wyoming gave John Kerry just 29% of the vote in 2004) and that Gordon has emerged from the pack of Republican challengers as a well-funded potential foe. The only Republican likely to seriously contest Gordon for a shot at Trauner in November is ex-state treasurer Cynthia Lummis, who has raised just $170,720 to date, and trails Gordon by a 39-23 margin in a recent poll. The August 19 primary will be a key determinant in deciding how this race pans out.
Representative Barbara Cubin’s retirement from the House may be a case of addition by subtraction for national Republicans. Cubin’s abrasive commentary, aggressive personality, and propensity for gaffes alienated many Wyoming voters in a traditionally conservative state. Upon surviving a contested primary, Cubin would have been vulnerable to a repeat challenge by 06 Democratic nominee Gary Trauner who came within 1,012 votes last cycle and is running again in 2008.
Instead, the opportunity passes to former state treasurer Cynthia Lummis, businessman Ken Gilchrist, and state representative Dan Zwonitzer to keep the seat safely in GOP hands for another thirty years. Lummis, who was snubbed for the late Senator Craig Thomas’ seat is the primary frontrunner for now, but the likely entrance of former assistant Attorney General Tom Sansonetti could scramble the nomination. Odds are, given the conservative nature of Wyoming, Republican voters will coalesce around their nominee to defeat Trauner and secure the seat for posterity, but until then, how much will the cash-strapped NRCC have to spend on a district that will give the Republican presidential nominee at least a 30% margin in 2008?