Friday, June 22, 2007

Barrasso named new Wyoming senator

Ending speculation after Republican Sen. Craig Thomas died, Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal has chosen a conservative state legislator, John Barrasso, to replace him.

You may recall that under Wyoming law, the deceased senator's party -- in this case, the Republicans -- selects three nominees, one of whom the governor must choose. There was some added spice to the process because Freudenthal is a Democrat, and both parties would presumably be considering the 2008 election when making their choices -- though everyone involved said they wouldn't.

Freudenthal chose Barrasso over Cheyenne attorney and lobbyist Tom Sansonetti and former state treasurer Cynthia Lummis. The Hill has a breakdown on the three.

Lummis had the disadvantage of having had sharp public disagreements with Freudenthal when she was treasurer, and she chaired the campaign of Freudenthal's opponent in the November elections.

Sansonetti was state Republican chairman in the 1980s, during part of which Freudenthal was the state Democratic chairman. But neither apparently let that get personal. Similarly, while Freudenthal vetoed some Barrasso bills, it never turned personal.

Barrasso appears to be the most qualified of the three. Thus Freudenthal's claim that he didn't take politics into account may be true, if only because it would probably be futile: Wyoming hasn't had a Democratic senator since 1977. But assuming he was considering politics, he may have relied on history: Barrasso ran for the Senate in 1996, only to lose in the Republican primary to current Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi. And he already enjoys high name recognition, so serving in the Senate doesn't help him there. Two years in office will give him a voting record during a difficult time for Republicans, conceivably making him more vulnerable in 2008 than he would have been otherwise.

Lummis, by contrast, has handily won statewide office twice, another strike against her. Sansonetti has never run for office, which would seem to make him a weaker candidate; but the high profile of the Senate would help him more than the other two. And he's a Bush appointee, which carries its own baggage.

That's how one of the Hill's sources broke it down in the process of correctly predicting that Barrasso would be the pick:

GOP insiders say that Lummis is the top potential candidate and that Sansonetti might struggle as somebody with no campaign experience who has spent a lot of time outside of the state.

A political science professor at the University of Wyoming, James King, said Freudenthal’s clashes with the Bush administration on recent environmental issues could also cause him to shy away from choosing a Bush appointee like Sansonetti.

“Which leaves us with Barrasso, more as a process of elimination than as someone who has an array of strengths,” King handicapped. “It’s maybe more the weaknesses of the other candidates that make me think that he might be the selection.”

Which makes you wonder if the GOP gamed it that way. They had to know Freudenthal wouldn't be inclined to pick Lummis, both for their personal history and her electoral success. And if the Bush taint on Sansonetti was obvious, they'd know that was unlikely, too. Leaving Barrosso as the only palatable pick, giving the GOP a senator with a long political resume and high name recognition, positioning them as well as possible for 2008.

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Blogger Becky said...

For more information about Senator Barrasso, including voting records, interest group ratings, and speeches, please visit: Senator Barrasso’s Project Vote Smart Page


For more information please visit Project Vote Smart or call our hotline at 1-888-VOTE-SMART.

6/22/2007 4:11 PM  

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