House races

House races

Democrat closing on California Rep. Lungren

Democrats are getting more bullish about unseating Rep. Dan Lungren. The California Republican has less than 50 percent support in a new poll that shows Democrat Ami Bera within single digits.

Lungren took 46 percent to 38 percent for Bera in the Public Policy Polling survey for the Daily Kos. But the Republican had a 46 percent unfavorable rating, compared to 39 percent who viewed him favorably. Respondents were split 20-20 on favorability on the Democrat.

But Bera, a first-time candidate, has room to grow. He was unknown to 60 percent of the 617 respondents.

The poll was conducted Sep.t 18-19 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percent.

Bera is a member of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's Red to Blue program and one of his party's top prospects this cycle.

He held a financial advantage over Lungren as of the last reporting period. The Republican incumbent reported having $800,000 in cash on hand at the end of June, compared to $1.14 million for Bera.

The congressman spent more than $1.3 million on his reelection in 2008.


Florida Republican worried about identity theft

Florida House candidate Allen West (R) is signing up for LifeLock after Democrats circulated his Social Security number in a campaign mailer.

"Allen and his family had to go out and get identity theft protection, I believe LifeLock is what they purchased," Josh Grodin, a spokesman for West, told the Ballot Box. "They're also in the process of getting new Social Security numbers."

LifeLock's advertising features company chairman Todd Davis sharing his Social Security number on busy city streets. 

West is challenging Rep. Ron Klein (D), who he ran against and lost to in 2008. 

Last Friday, a Florida Democratic Party mailer featuring a copy of a 2005 tax lien against West that inadvertently bore his Social Security number landed in voters’ mailboxes.

A spokesman for the Florida Democratic Party apologized to West. "We apologize for the oversight of not redacting this information from the public record included in the mailer," Eric Jotkoff told the Palm Beach Post. "In order to stop the crazy West accusations, we will pay for identify theft monitoring for the next two years."

Grodin said the Wests were "offended by that apology." They turned the party down on the offer. Moreover, West’s campaign is now considering legal action. "We're talking to our lawyers right now about our options," he said.

The unfortunate incident may be West's political gain. Twenty percent of the district is over 65 and seniors are disproportionately victims of identity theft, which could cause a backlash against Klein.

To drive the message home, West released a new TV ad Wednesday calling Klein a "desperate politician."

"It makes you wonder what else Klein will do to me, or to you," West says in the 30-second ad.


Obama’s education chief poised to hit campaign trail

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Wednesday he plans to hit the campaign trail for Democrats in mid-to-late October and raise money for candidates.

Asked if a campaign role might politicize education, Duncan replied, "We need leaders in the Senate, we need leaders in the House."

The secretary made his remarks to reporters at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.
Top on his list, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Alexi Giannoulias, who is seeking to hold on to President Obama's old Senate seat in Illinois, and Congressman Tom Perriello (D) who's in a tough fight in Virginia's 5th district.

Duncan was quick to add that he has a great working relationship with the House Republican leader John Boehner (Ohio) and John Kline (Minn.), the top-ranking Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee.

The secretary also criticized the Senate for failing to pass an immigration reform bill called the DREAM Act on Tuesday.

"I'm deeply, deeply disappointed. We're not in the right place on this … To deny young people who have played by the rules and through no fault of their own, makes absolutely no sense. This is personal … I'm going to push for this [bill] very, very hard."

The DREAM Act would grant citizenship for children of illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. before they turned 16 in exchange for military service after they finish school.


Consultant Fred Davis reveals voice behind iconic ads

Many of the top Republican campaigns this cycle are using Hollywood-based consultant Fred Davis to produce their TV ads. The image-maker has been responsible for some of the most memorable spots of the cycle.

He created "demon sheep" for California Senate candidate Carly Fiorina, the "danged fence" ad for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and the "one tough nerd" spots run by Rick Snyder during the Michigan GOP gubernatorial primary.

Davis allowed The Washington Post to shadow him for three days for a profile. Here's one of the best anecdotes that came out of the piece.

One night, he took a reporter to the cedar-hued lounge for cocktails. During the 2004 presidential campaign, Davis and strategist Mark McKinnon met here regularly to plot Bush's ad campaign.

The club has 300 members, among them many of Hollywood's leading men. Davis steps into the humidor room, where he and other members store their cigars in personal wooden lockers. Never mind that he's not much of a smoker and says that he hasn't opened his box in months. Davis is here to gaze at the gold-plated name cards: Arnold Schwarzenegger ... Sylvester Stallone ... Hulk Hogan ... Mel Gibson ... David Geffen ...

Fred N. Davis III.

He returns to a retro velvet couch to meet his friend, the actor Robert Davi, one of Hollywood's lonely dyed-in-the-wool conservatives. Davi, who played the villain in the James Bond film "License to Kill," has a distinctive baritone. And in an exclusive deal, he provides the voice-overs for many of Davis's ads. He narrated every video at the 2008 Republican convention.

"We never told who Robert Davi was," Davis says. "If you write that in your story, you'll be the first. He's the voice of Rick Snyder, McCain — all the McCain stuff — Carly. He was the voice of 'Demon Sheep.' "

Davi, smoking a Cuban torpedo, turns to his friend and dubs him "the Wizard of Oz of political campaigns."

"Here you have the Yellow Brick Road," Davi says. "You're creating an illusion. You're creating a world in Dorothy's head. The iconic use of the straw man and the lion. In the political arena, you're creating an illusion."


Two ads target Ohio Republican on unpaid taxes

The Democrats and their union allies have zeroed in on Ohio Republican Jim Renacci's tax troubles.

Renacci got entangled in a complicated dispute with the state of Ohio over whether his network of businesses, which includes nursing homes and an auto dealership, made a profit in 2000.

Renacci, who's running against freshman Rep. John Boccieri (D-Ohio), declared a loss on his taxes. But after getting audited, he and his wife ended up settling with the state for more than $1.3 million in back taxes, interest and penalties, court records show

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Service Employees International Union tried to unravel the issue in separate 30-second spots.

But it appears the union, whose ad was released first, may have done the better job. 

This is the SEIU ad

Here's the DCCC's spot


DCCC targets N.Y. Rep. Arcuri challenger

A new poll shows New York Rep. Michael Arcuri (D) leading businessman Richard Hanna (R), but the party isn't taking that lead for granted.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Tuesday released a TV ad hitting Hanna for, among other things, his position on Social Security.

Arcuri led Hanna 48 percent to 40 percent in a Siena Research Institute poll released Monday. However, the poll of 605 likely voters — the first independent survey of the race — had a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4 percent. Arcuri defeated Hanna by only 4 percent in 2008.


Former GOP senator backs Rep. Walz

Former Republican Sen. David Durenberger (R-Minn.) has endorsed Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.) for reelection, the first time the former lawmaker has backed a Democrat. 

"I have my own set of experiences of bringing people together," Durenberger said while announcing his backing of Walz at an event Tuesday. "I had the experience of watching Tim try to do it in the district, and if Tim Walz were a Republican, I'd be endorsing him anyway, but he's a Democrat."

Durenberger is a strong supporter of the recently enacted healthcare law and noted Walz's support for it in his endorsement. The former senator broke with his party publicly several years ago, saying that while he no longer supports the GOP, he doesn't consider himself a Democrat either.  

Walz faces Republican state Rep. Randy Demmer in the fall. 


Poll: Arizona grudge match tied

There's new evidence to support Democrats' claims that Rep. Harry Mitchell (D-Ariz.) is running a strong reelection campaign.

A new poll shows the two-term incumbent leading former Maricopa County Treasurer David Schweikert (R) — albeit by a single point.

Mitchell had 45 percent support to 44 percent for Schweikert, with 6 percent for Libertarian Nick Coons and 5 percent undecided, in an internal poll obtained by the Ballot Box. 

Harstad Strategic Research, a Colorado-based firm, conducted the survey of 509 likely voters Sept. 13-16. The firm's polling memo does not state the poll's margin of error.

An earlier National Research Inc. poll showed Mitchell trailing Schweikert 46 percent to 38 percent. 

Democratic strategists are pleased with the results of the survey in light of the aggressive TV ads that have been run in the district against Mitchell. 

The conservative-leaning 60 Plus Association and Americans for Prosperity both ran ads against Mitchell starting after the primary in August. 

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had reserved $1.2 million worth of TV airtime in the Phoenix market, but has since scaled that back based on the strength of Mitchell and their other incumbents.

Democrats have released a plethora of internal polls recently to counter the narrative of a GOP wave election.