House races

House races

Va. Rep. Perriello has $1.3 million for final stretch

Virginia Rep. Tom Perriello (D) trailed his Republican challenger in third-quarter fundraising but has a robust war chest for the final three weeks of the campaign.

The freshman Democrat raised some $810,000 in the last three months and now has more than $1.3 million cash-on-hand for the closing stages of the race.

Meanwhile, Perriello's opponent, state Sen. Robert Hurt (R), raised $900,000 in the third quarter. His campaign did not provide a cash-on-hand figure.

Reports are due to the Federal Election Commission by Oct. 15.

Last week, The Hill's 2010 midterm election poll showed Perriello trailing Hurt by a single point —44 percent to 45 percent — with 9 percent of likely voters undecided.

Perriello recently got the backing of the National Rifle Association and the Veterans of Foreign Wars PAC.


AFL-CIO sees path for Dem House majority

The nation's largest labor federation says it will make the difference for Democrats this November by reaching out to more union members than in past election years.

In a briefing with reporters Tuesday, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka released internal polling that has 75 House Democratic seats in play. The Republicans only need to win 39 of those seats to take control of the House. 

But the labor leader is confident the Democrats will retain control of the lower chamber thanks to union support. Thirty-seven of those seats are in districts with “high union density” — having 40,000 union voters or more — and those voters will be key for Democrats to hold onto those seats. 

“Our job is going to make a difference in this election,” Trumka said. “Union voters really are the firewall for candidates who support working families.” 

The AFL-CIO has expanded its political program from 80 House races to more than 100 and is also campaigning in 18 Senate races. 

“Because of the narrowness of so many of these races, we consistently evaluate what races are in play,” said Karen Ackerman, AFL-CIO’s political director. 

Ackerman said expansion of the AFL-CIO’s political program came about when House seats that were once considered safe became endangered. The organization also is looking to flip some seats that are now in Republican hands. 

“It goes both ways. Incumbents that we have endorsed are looking more vulnerable than before, and there are a few seats that look like they are in play,” Ackerman said. 

Along with Hawaii and Delaware’s lone House seats, the AFL-CIO has also been active in canvassing their members in Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart’s (R-Fla.) and Dan Lungren’s (R-Calif.) districts. 

The AFL-CIO is working its ground game to turn out voters in November. They have concentrated on sending out direct mail to union members, canvassing neighborhoods and reaching out to voters at their work sites. 

“Our campaign is about worker-to-worker contact. The more contact, as you can see, the higher margin that they vote for Democratic candidates,” Trumka said. 

Trumka said he believes the contact program has helped closed the enthusiasm gap between Democratic and Republican voters and that momentum is now beginning to move in Democrats’ favor before the elections. 

But the union president estimates the biggest variable in the 2010 campaign is the role of special-interest money. The election spending by groups in favor of Republicans cannot be matched by the labor movement, according to Trumka.

“There is no comparison. We will never be able to keep pace with corporate America,” Trumka said. 

Further, campaign spending by outside groups has resulted in more requests to the AFL-CIO for help from endangered Democratic candidates this year. 

“Has there been requests for money? Oh, a few,” Trumka joked. 

“The more they get hit with independent expenditures, the more they look around for help,” Trumka said. “The requests for money have been broadened from people who you would normally think would have safe seats, are normally the safe seats, they have been little less safe-acting, which is probably smart.” 


Pollster: Enthusiasm gap is widening

Campaigns are beginning to enter a GOTV phase, abandoning efforts to persuade voters and focusing instead on driving out their base on Election Day. But there are new signs Democrats might have more trouble getting supporters to the polls than Republicans, according to GOP pollster Glen Bolger.

That's because Democrats' enthusiasm remains anemic.

Bolger writes:

In the last two weeks, I've polled in more than 50 congressional districts (nearly all of them currently Democratic-held), and there is no evidence of a surge of either Democratic enthusiasm or of a surge in ballot strength.

The enthusiasm gap — which I measure by comparing net difference in the overall ballot among likely voters and the ballot among the most highly interested voters (the 8-10s on a scale of 1-10) — actually widened last week compared to the week prior.

The gap has gone from 4.6 two weeks ago to 5.4 last week (while not statistically significant, it did move in the right direction). Thus, a candidate who is leading by 2% overall leads by approximately 7.4% among the most interested voters. Remember, that’s the average across the districts — the actual enthusiasm gap varies from district to district, and there is no discernible pattern as to where it is larger or smaller.


Pennsylvania Dem attends event with Biden, but not in his district

Rep. Mark Critz (D-Pa.) continues to keep the Obama administration at arm's length, even as he accepts its fundraising help.

Critz represents Pennsylvania's 12th district, but traveled to Pittsburgh, which is in the 14th, on Monday for a fundraising event with Vice President Joe Biden.

During the special election earlier this year that saw him succeed the late Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), Critz benefited from a fundraiser that was also staged in the city.

Biden is thought to be unpopular in Critz's coal-country district because of comments he made about building coal power plants during the 2008 campaign.

During the midday event at the Rivers Club in downtown Pittsburgh, Critz acknowledged his differences with the Obama administration on coal issues.

"Although I'm at odds with the administration over this issue, he is
 willing to come here and campaign for me,'' Critz said of Biden.

Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper (D-Pa.) also attended the event. "We do have a very tough race in front of us, both Mark and I,” she said, according to the pool report.

President Obama, meanwhile, was also helping his party raise money. He spoke at a fundraiser hosted by former NBA star Alonzo Mourning at his Coral Gables home. The $1 million expected to be raised from the event is going to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Florida Rep. Ron Klein (D).


Oregon Republican compares healthcare reform to slavery law

An Oregon Republican running for the House recently compared the Democrats' healthcare reform bill to the Fugitive Slave Act.

Republican Scott Bruun, who is challenging freshman Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), told a crowd in Canby, Ore., during an Oct. 7 speech that the healthcare bill was "right up there" with the infamous slave act.

The bill, passed in 1850, required any runaway slaves who had escaped their bondage and were living free in the Northern states be returned to their owners.

"I would argue that from a fiscal perspective, it's probably the worst piece of legislation this nation's ever passed," Bruun said during a speech that was recorded by a Democratic campaign tracker.

The audience clapped its approval, but then Bruun continued.

"From a social perspective, it's right up there, I would argue — probably the fugitive slave law was worse," he added. "But still, the healthcare bill was pretty darn bad."



RNC Chair Steele stops at Mount Rushmore

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele plans to stop at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota on Monday, but his party's House candidate won't be joining him.

Kristi Noem, who's challenging Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.), has a previously scheduled "hunting event" on the other side of the state and won't be able to appear with Steele at the rally, according to her campaign.

Steele has been on a national bus tour for the past several weeks. His appearance in South Dakota falls on Native American Day, which the state celebrates in lieu of Columbus Day. Democrats noted the coincidence in a release linking Noem to her party's beleaguered chairman.

"Of all days, Noem and the [South Dakota] Republican Party chose Native American Day to bring a scandal-plagued national political partisan to South Dakota to benefit her campaign," Erin McCarrick, the South Dakota Democratic Party's executive director, said in a statement. "Either Noem didn't remember when Native American Day was, or she didn't care and scheduled this event on the same day anyway."

Steele will also visit one of the RNC's field offices in Rapid City. There are four of the party's "victory offices" in the state.

Meanwhile, Noem's camp announced Monday she raised $1,110,288 in the third quarter. She had $776,945 cash on hand as of Sept. 30. Herseth Sandlin has yet to release her fundraising total for the last three months.

Also on Monday, the Rapid City Journal reported the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee cut its TV ad reservation in the state from $500,000 to close to $350,000.

--Updated at 1:02 p.m.



Mike Oliverio will be right there when former President Bill Clinton rallies for Gov. Joe Manchin on Monday.