Today Republicans in two states will choose their candidates in two very important Senate races. In Montana, incumbent Sen. Conrad Burns, one of the Senate’s most reliable conservatives, faces a primary challenge from the underfunded State Senate Minority Leader Bob Keenan. Keenan entered the day expecting defeat, but considers himself to have accomplished something by forcing Burns to answer to charges of corruption. To the contrary, he was simply an unnecessary headache for the incumbent. Burns should coast to a victory today.
Equally importantly, the Democrats will choose their nominee. They have a choice between State Auditory John Morrison, whose own ethical troubles would make it impossible for Democrats to run against the alleged “culture of corruption”, or State Senate President Jon Tester, who, while clean (at least from the information currently available), is too liberal to get elected as a Senator from Montana. Tester is clearly the easier target for Burns, but a much longer, more drawn out investigation of Morrison’s abuse of power in his office, will likely pave the way to another Burns victory.
On the other side of the country, Tom Kean will in all likelihood defeat conservative primary challenger Tom Ginty handily, as Ginty has been badly outspent. A relatively easy and short primary for Kean may give him a chance in a state where Republicans have struggled and where the incumbent has had ethical troubles of his own, but barring a much larger scandal for Sen. Menendez, the traditional problems between the state Party and conservatives will likely once again cost the GOP a seat. (Maybe after that happens, they’ll give a conservative another shot?)