House races

House races

Democrat Critz dodges question about Pelosi

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — Democratic Rep. Mark Critz is boasting about his voting record with House Republican leader John Boehner (Ohio), but he’s not ready to join other conservative House Democrats in breaking completely with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

In an interview Friday at his campaign office, Critz would not say whether he’d back Pelosi for Speaker next year.

“I have to get elected. I’m in a tight race,” the Democratic incumbent said, dodging a question that’s become dominant on the campaign trail. “I’ve never voted for Nancy Pelosi before, but I’m concentrating on my race.”

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Sen. Thune boosts GOP House hopeful Noem

South Dakota state Rep. Kristi Noem (R), who has evoked comparisons to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and gained national attention after a monster third-quarter fundraising haul in her race to unseat Rep. Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin (D-S.D.), is embarking on a final campaign swing with Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.). 

Noem's campaign said Friday that Thune, a rumored 2012 Republican presidential hopeful, will stump with her at several stops during a bus tour that will hit more than 25 South Dakota cities before Election Day.

A new Rasmussen poll out Friday gave Noem a five-point edge over Herseth-Sandlin — 49 percent to 44 percent. Two percent of likely voters prefer a different candidate, while 5 percent remain undecided. 

The poll surveyed 500 likely South Dakota voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points. 

Noem has argued that Herseth-Sandlin votes with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the Democratic leadership too often, even though the Blue Dog Democrat voted against healthcare. 

During the third quarter, Noem raised $1.1 million for her campaign to Herseth-Sandlin's $550,000. 

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Tea Party Express backs Idaho Republican after Rep. Minnick rejects endorsement

The Tea Party Express, which threw its support behind Rep. Walt Minnick (D-Idaho) earlier this year, announced Friday that it's now backing Minnick's Republican challenger, Raul Labrador.

Minnick rebuffed the group's backing in July, after a controversy over a racially-charged blog post written by former Tea Party Express Chairman Mark Williams. 

The group said it has re-evaluated Minnick's positions over the past three months and decided that he has bowed to pressure from the Democratic leadership. 

"During the Primary Election campaign the Tea Party Express had endorsed Congressman Minnick for re-election in light of his independence in standing up to significant items in President Obama's agenda," Tea Party Express spokesman Levi Russell said in a statement Friday. "Since then, Congressman Minnick has engaged in a pattern of behavior which shows he is more responsive to the Democrat Party's establishment than he is the voters of Idaho."

The group noted that Minnick hasn't expressed support for repealing healthcare, and added: "He refuses to say he will vote against [House Speaker Nancy Pelosi] in the next session of Congress despite how abundantly clear her liberal agenda has become to everyone it seems but Congressman Minnick." 

But Minnick is one of several embattled House Democrats who have indicated that he may not back Pelosi again as House Speaker should Democrats retain control of Congress this fall. 

Minnick, who was originally thought to be one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents in 2010 given his heavily conservative Idaho district, now appears poised to survive the expected Republican wave next month. 

He outraised Labrador in the third quarter, and his GOP challenger has struggled to gain traction despite the Republican-friendly district. 

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Warning: Watch where you campaign

CLARKSBURG, W. Va. — Early voting may offer candidates the chance to drive up turn-out among their faithful, but it also carries a warning: Watch where you campaign.

David McKinley, the Republican nominee for the House seat in West Virginia’s 1st district, had been stumping on the third floor of the Harrison County courthouse here on Thursday when he was politely informed that his campaign stop was also a polling place; district residents were casting ballots two floors below.

“Whoops,” said a member of McKinley’s entourage, who quickly recalled that first lady Michelle Obama caused a stir last week when she touted the Democratic agenda at a polling place in Chicago after casting an early ballot. McKinley had been in the courthouse for about an hour, going into offices and greeting employees.

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Rep. Van Hollen: Some Dems ignored warnings

Some Democratic incumbents ignored warnings from the party leadership about the tough political climate and didn't "fully prepare" for the campaign season, according to the party's House campaign chief.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), said Thursday that his party has been preparing for months for a difficult reelection year for incumbents.

"There are a few members who we approached many, many, many months ago to tell them to get their act together, who did not take that advice," Van Hollen said at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. "We're obviously working very closely now to try and protect even those who did not fully prepare themselves."

Normally safe members such as Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Phil Hare (D-Ill.) and Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.) are locked in tight reelection contests this year. All of them hold Democratic-leaning districts; the DCCC has spent money to support Grijalva and Hare.

Van Hollen wouldn’t name the members he thought were caught napping. But he did say Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) was one example of a member who took the committee's advice and prepared for a tough environment.

Some members, he said, are in tough races because of spending by outside groups.

"What has obviously shuffled the deck in some of these districts is the outside money," Van Hollen said.

He estimated Republican-allied groups were outspending their Democratic counterparts by about a five-to-one ratio.

"It's pouring in. That is something that obviously in some of the races people are having to contend with."

Van Hollen pointed to Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa), who was elected in 2006 and serves as a vice chairman of the DCCC.

"He's a member of Congress who understands campaigns, he fought a hard campaign and yet he’s seeing now $2 million" being spent against him in the district, the Maryland Democrat said. "So we’re going to war in that district's race, despite the fact that I’m confident he's going to win."

Van Hollen noted that the committee was in its strongest position ever to help struggling incumbents.

"I believe the DCCC in 2006 and 2008, today [are] the strongest DCCCs in the history of the organization," he said. "We demonstrated very clearly in the special elections in the past that we know how to win races."

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