Members on both sides scramble to make up campaign ground during recess

The Senate recess couldn’t have happened early enough for some members. Those facing reelection — some in primaries as early as Tuesday — rushed home to campaign, raise money and film TV commercials.

The House made its break from Washington on July 30 only to be recalled into a special session this week to vote on a $26 billion state aid package. The interruption to the chamber’s August recess comes at a critical period in the political calendar — parade season.

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Members need to exploit every opportunity to get in front of their constituents and assuage their simmering urge to fire them.

Even Democrats will readily acknowledge that voters need far more detail about the major pieces of legislation that have passed since the start of the year.

And for those incumbents in danger of losing in November, the next two weeks is when they need to register a shift in the polls or an increase in campaign contributions — anything to show their party committees an improvement and prevent their support from getting cut off in the fall.

Colorado Democrat Michael Bennet was perhaps the senator most acutely aware of when the August recess kicked off. He jetted to Colorado shortly after casting his vote for Elena Kagan’s confirmation to the Supreme Court last Thursday.

He had little time to waste — he’s polling in a statistical tie with primary rival Andrew Romanoff with less than 48 hours to go before Tuesday’s primary. He’s also had to contain the fallout from a New York Times story about a financial deal he orchestrated at the time he was superintendent of Denver Public Schools.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) is also looking at some difficult poll numbers as she heads into the August recess. Lincoln trails her Republican rival, Rep. John Boozman (R-Ark.), by almost 25 points in an average of public polling compiled by Pollster.com.

“Polls are just polls, most people create ’em to say what they want ’em to say,” she told The Hill.

Her first trip around the state will be to highlight and "celebrat[e] 75 Years of Social Security."

“We have a great ground operation,” Lincoln said. “Our field operation’s excellent. We’ve got a great coordinated effort with the other candidates on the ballot. The governor’s running; we’ve got other congressional seats that are open.”

Lincoln is still receiving some support from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. It transferred $42,000 to her campaign on July 1, according to its Federal Election Commission filing. But with so many competitive races this cycle, she’ll need to close the gap with Boozman in order to ensure her support doesn’t get cut off. 

“We always welcome more finances and resources,” she said. “Glad to have ’em. But the DSCC’s been a great partner and we’re pleased to work with them, they’re doing a great job.”

Lincoln wouldn’t say if she’ll get another visit from former President Clinton during the August recess.

“I told him to just get past [Chelsea’s] wedding and we’d figure out when he wanted to come,” she said. “He might want to wait until it cools down a little bit down there.”

Rep Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.) will also be looking to make the most of his truncated August House recess. A poll released Friday by the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List showed the congressman trailing former Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) 35 to 50 percent, with 14 percent undecided in the race for retiring Sen. Evan Bayh’s (D-Ind.) seat.

Ellsworth has been trying to make his time as a sheriff — not his career in the House — the focus of his campaign. He was in South Bend on Saturday to participate in a shooting competition organized by the Indiana Police Firearms Training Association. Getting pulled off the campaign trail to vote for another spending measure won’t make closing the gap with Coats any easier.