CAMPAIGN OVERNIGHT: Student loans on the trail

Overlooked in all the Cantor chaos in the last few days: the failure, on a party-line vote, to pass legislation through the Senate that would have helped people carrying heavy student loan debts to refinance at lower rates.

Democrats unanimously supported the legislation, and are already hitting Republicans in a few key Senate races for their opposition. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), the bill’s author, is heading down to Kentucky to campaign with Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D), who is already pounding Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for “votes against helping students at every turn.”

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Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) has also made it a campaign theme, slamming Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) for holding a similar position.

The issue could be a good one for red-state Democrats who need to win poorer, blue-collar voters that have moved away from the Democratic Party in recent decades, set alongside others like the minimum wage and disaster relief. Expect to see more of it on the campaign trail in coming months as Democrats look to turn out younger voters — and the parents that are sometimes stuck paying their student loan bills.

 

SENATE SHOWDOWN

AK-SEN (BEGICH): American Crossroads released an ad Wednesday slamming Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) for his inaction on the Veterans Affairs scandal despite his position on the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee. The ad features veterans condemning Begich as a “politician, not a fighter,” calling on him to show leadership in the situation. 

HI-SEN (SCHATZ): Hawaii residents will receive a mailer from the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare that suggests Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) would privatize entitlement programs if elected to the Senate. The committee has publicly endorsed Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) as its pick for the Senate seat, saying he would better protect Social Security and Medicare programs from spending cuts.

GA-SEN (OPEN): Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) earned the endorsement of the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund on Thursday as he heads into the July 22 runoff election. Chris Cox, the fund's chairman, called Kingston “a critical ally of the NRA in protecting our Second Amendment freedoms.” 

KY-SEN (MCCONNELL): Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) announced she will travel to Kentucky to campaign for Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes in an attempt to “fight back” against Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Both Warren and the Grimes campaign have criticized McConnell for voting against Warren’s student loan reform bill that was derailed this week, and Grimes welcomed Warren’s interest in campaigning.

But Warren’s support for Grimes could allow McConnell to tie his opponent to President Obama, whose disapproval rating is 60 percent in the state according to a recent survey conducted by GOP pollster Magellan Strategies. However, that same survey indicates a lead for Grimes, who garnered 49 percent support among likely voters against McConnell’s 46 percent.

MS-SEN (COCHRAN): The Club for Growth slams Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) in a new pair of radio and television ads, attacking him for having “lost touch” with his constituents after five decades in office. McDaniel released a new internal poll that showed him up over Cochran by 8 points and announced that he’ll be campaigning in the state with former Texas Rep. Ron Paul and Josh Duggar, one of the stars of the popular TLC reality show “19 Kids and Counting,” this weekend.

Meanwhile, Cochran released an ad of his own that features former Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) praising Cochran’s work for the state and warning that, without him, the state could lose some of its job-producing facilities, like the Stennis Space Center.

But that ad was overshadowed by Cochran’s off-the-cuff comments at a campaign event earlier this week that he spent time in the country as a boy “doing all sorts of indecent things with animals,” which drew ridicule on Twitter.

OK-SEN (OPEN): The Senate Conservatives Fund is launching a new ad supporting Oklahoma Speaker T.W. Shannon as the state’s “conservative choice for U.S. Senate.” The ad attacks Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.), Shannon’s main competition for the Republican nomination, calling him a “Washington insider.” 

Shannon boasts the endorsements of several big-name conservatives, including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, but a supportive group released a new survey Wednesday that put him 2 points behind Lankford. These results indicate a significant decline in support for Shannon since the group’s last survey in April. 

And the negative attacks from pro-Shannon groups may end up backfiring — at least, they’ve inspired Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) to weigh in on the race, decrying the negative attacks and touting Lankford as “one of the most honest, thoughtful and sincere men I have met in my time in Washington.” Though it’s not an outright endorsement, it’s certain to provide a major boost to Lankford in the race.

LA-SEN (LANDRIEU): Following restrictive abortion rights legislation signed by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) on Thursday, Senate candidate Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) hopes to make abortion an issue in the tight race between him and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) for the Senate seat. While Landrieu claims to have a nuanced opinion of abortion rights, Cassidy criticizes her for supporting pro-choice positions in a largely pro-life state. 

AR-SEN (PRYOR): Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney announced his support Thursday for Arkansas Senate candidate Rep. Tom Cotton (R), calling him a “true leader” who would fight for conservative values. In addition to the endorsement, Romney has promised to help Cotton fundraise by sending direct mail to Republican donors.  

IA-SEN (OPEN): The Iowa Democratic Party is out with a Web video calling Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst (R ) a “conspiracy theorist” for criticizing Agenda 21, a nonbinding United Nations resolution that she has publicly railed against.

 

BATTLE FOR THE HOUSE

VA-7 (CANTOR): In his first post-election interview, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) campaign manager, Ray Allen, told The Hill that Democrats were to blame for Cantor’s loss. 

"We had probably 15,000 card-carrying Democrats come into this primary. There's just no way to anticipate something like that," Cantor’s longtime advisor told The Hill. 

A number of nonpartisan analysts have called his reasoning highly unlikely.

AZ-2 (BARBER): Republican Congressional candidate Martha McSally will air her first television ad of her campaign during the commercial breaks for the World Cup matches, in both English and Spanish.

FL-2 (SOUTHERLAND): Rep. Steve Southerland’s (R-Fla.) challenger Gwen Graham will air her first television ad campaign next week. It’s early, but Graham has the money to spend: she was one of only four House challengers to end last quarter with more funds than her incumbent. 

FL-26 (GARCIA):  Congressional candidate Carlos Curbelo, the front-running Republican in this Florida race, is campaigning to end the political scandals and fraud that he says have “haunted” his community. But the Miami New Times reports that Curbelo may not necessarily have a clean record. The article suggests a correlation between Curbelo’s voting to approve certain school board contracts and donations to his campaign. Curbelo’s campaign denies the connection, however, saying that he votes simply “based on the recommendations of the school district’s professional staff and in advancement of the interests of students, teachers and taxpayers.” 

NY-1 (BISHOP): GOP congressional candidate Lee Zeldin (R) still expects House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) attendance at his Saturday fundraiser in Quogue, despite Cantor’s shocking loss Tuesday night. In a news conference Wednesday, Cantor expressed his willingness to campaign for fellow Republican candidates, despite his not being on the ballot in November. Cantor’s support of Zeldin would be particularly significant because if Zeldin were elected, he would replace Cantor as the sole Jewish voice in the House.  

NY-13 (RANGEL):

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) set out to portray challengers state Sen. Adriano Espaillat and the Rev. Michael Walrond as inexperienced in a debate Wednesday at Lehman College in the Bronx. During the debate, Rangel slammed his challengers for not being ready for the job of a congressional seat, saying that it is not “the time for trainees, no matter how passionate they are.”

 

2016 WATCH

CLINTON: Hillary Clinton received support Wednesday from an unlikely source. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a likely contender for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, called Clinton a “very, very capable public servant, great secretary of state, first lady,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

A heated exchange with NPR host Terry Gross forced Clinton to defend her position on gay rights. Gross persistently challenged the timing of Clinton’s announcement of support for gay marriage, charging that she only publicized her support when it was politically safe to do so. Clinton accused Gross of “playing with her words,” affirming her support for the Supreme Court striking down the Defense of Marriage Act and denying the notion that her support for gay marriage was politically timed. 

PERRY: When questioned by a San Francisco interviewer Wednesday night, Texas Gov. Rick Perry compared alcoholism and homosexuality, causing a murmur of disbelief in the California crowd that included Perry supporters. This month the Texas Republican Party adopted a platform rooted in the possibility to change sexual orientation, arguing for access to “reparative therapy” for gays and lesbians. 

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY 

"It was an adventure to be out there in the country and see what was going on, picking out pecans, from that to all kinds of indecent things with animals." — Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), talking about his local ties