Florida Gov. Crist will get another photo op with a top administration official when Vice President Biden visits the state Tuesday.
The legal questions over whether West Virginia's Senate vacancy should trigger a special election this November aside, there is one political reason West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin III (D) would be better off waging a campaign for the Senate seat in 2012: The federal PAC he set up in May just started raising money and he has no other federal campaign account.
It's no secret that Manchin is interested in ascending to the Senate. And even though money from his recently-formed Country Roads PAC wouldn't be transferrable to a federal campaign, the governor still lacks a national fundraising infrastructure at this point. That would make an election in less than six months more difficult.
On the state level, Manchin is a prolific fundraiser. In his last race for reelection, the governor raised and spent nearly $3 million.
Meanwhile, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), a potential contender for the Senate seat, has more than $500,000 cash on hand according to her most recent FEC filing.
The West Virginia secretary of state's office will announce a decision on the succession process for Sen. Robert Byrd's (D) seat Monday afternoon.
West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant will explain the succession process for the late Sen. Robert Byrd's (D-W.Va.) seat during a press conference Monday afternoon, according to her spokesman.
Tennant's office has been consulting with the staff of Gov. Joe Manchin III (D) to determine how to proceed. The state's election code isn't clear about whether a special election should be held to fill the remainder of Byrd's ninth term or whether a placeholder can serve until 2013.
The governor told the Associated Press Monday that he won't appoint himself and has no timetable for finding an interim senator.
Tennant, a Democrat, issued a statement early Monday expressing condolences to Byrd's family but didn't comment on the procedure for filling the vacant seat.
West Virginia Democratic Party officials told The Ballot Box they were unsure whether to expect a special election call or the appointment of a placeholder.
The first woman ever to serve Nevada in Congress, former Rep. Barbara Vucanovich (R), told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that she will have a tough time voting for Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle in November.
Her comments came in a story about gender politics in the Senate race — Angle would be the state's first female senator if she wins in November. From the LVRJ:
Vucanovich, a well-respected GOP matriarch, said she isn't sure she'll vote for Angle on Nov. 2.
Vucanovich said it's not because of Angle's conservative views but because of her record of not compromising as a lawmaker. Angle often was the lone "no" vote, refusing to go along with moderate GOP leaders.
"She's very rigid and I have a little bit of trouble understanding her positions," Vucanovich said. "So I'm not out there waving the flag. She's a very difficult person. She's very positive in her own way, but when you're elected you have to work for everybody."
What about making history by putting a woman in the U.S. Senate?
"I'd love to see a woman from Nevada in the Senate," said Vucanovich, who added that she won't vote for Reid but must think "long and hard" before deciding whether to throw her support behind Angle or choose none of the candidates. "I just don't know if Sharron can beat Harry."
During the Republican primary, Vucanovich backed Sue Lowden over Angle.
It's unclear whether there will be a special election to fill the remainder of the late Sen. Robert Byrd's (D-W.Va.) term.
West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin III (D) has the authority to appoint Byrd's interim replacement and decide whether to call for a special election.
If a vacancy is declared more than 30 months before the expiration of a senator's term, the appointee serves until a special election is held, according to the state's election code.
Byrd passed away early Monday. His ninth term was to end Jan. 3, 2013.
If Manchin declares Byrd's seat vacant before July 3, according to the state code, there would have to be a special election, likely set for November.
Declaring the seat vacant after July 3 would mean the interim senator would serve until January 2013.
A spokesman for the West Virginia secretary of state's office said they are consulting with Manchin's office to determine how to proceed.
Manchin told the Associated Press Monday that he has no timetable for appointing a successor to Sen. Byrd. Manchin also said he has no intention of appointing himself to the seat.
"Like all West Virginians, the news broke our hearts. Sen. Byrd was a fearless fighter for the constitution, his beloved state and its great people," the governor said in a statement Monday on Byrd's passing.
Secretary of State Natalie Tennant (D) issued a similar statement.
"We will never replace Senator Byrd," Tennant said in a statement. "He truly was a great West Virginian, and the people of our state have lost a trusted and powerful friend in Washington."
The Senate campaign committees are unsure what will happen next.
A spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee called the process "murky."
Officials with the National Republican Senatorial Committee said Sunday they didn't expect a special election for the remainder of the term.
— Updated at 10:45 a.m.
Democratic Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias (Ill.) spent the weekend answering questions about former Gov. Rod Blagojevich after news that he was subpoenaed in Blagojevich's corruption trial.
In an interview Sunday, Giannoulias told Chicago Sun-Times columnist Lynn Sweet that he contacted Blagojevich chief of staff John Harris to offer his thoughts on the vacancy. Giannoulias said he suggested Valerie Jarrett for the seat.
He also attended a meeting with Jarrett and labor leader Tom Balanoff where the Senate vacancy was discussed. From Lynn Sweet:
Because of the Senate race, in which Giannoulias faces U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk, the GOP nominee, Republicans are trying to drag Giannoulias into the Blagojevich mess.
"Despite what the Republicans are trying to say," Giannoulias told me, "I am really not a part of this circus. I think you know I have always thought very highly of Valerie."
After the presidential election, Giannoulias told me he "reached out to Harris to give him my thoughts and at a certain point, Tom Balanoff reached out to me to get in touch with Valerie; he did not know how to get ahold of her. I put the two together in the meeting."
The meeting was held in the office of John Rogers, a close friend of the Obamas and Jarrett. Giannoulias attended the meeting. He said Jarrett was not aggressively pushing for the seat, but she wanted to "hear Tom out."
Former Senate candidate Terrence Wall (R) accused the Republican expected to face Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) of using bribery and coercion to win the party's endorsement at the state convention last month.
A spokeswoman for upstart Senate candidate Ron Johnson (R) was quick to dismiss the allegations as "sour grapes."
"There is no evidence associated with Mr. Wall's claims," Kristin Ruesch, a spokeswoman for Johnson, said in an e-mail to The Ballot Box.
Johnson, a wealthy businessman, was the surprise winner of the endorsement at the May GOP convention in Milwaukee with 64 percent of the vote.
Wall told a reporter from WTDY's "Sly in the Morning" on Friday that "the process was corrupted."
"The campaign at the convention demonstrates the problems that we've got," he said. "We've got a handful of people who came in and spread money around."
Wall said supporters had come to him to say that their hotels rooms were paid because they voted for Johnson, while another man said he took votes for Wall and "[put] them in his pocket so they weren’t counted."
"I've got over 100 stories like that of corruption, bribery, you know, coercion," he said.
Johnson's campaign said it would provide hotel receipts to refute Wall's charge. "The claims are categorically and completely false," Ruesch said.
Johnson still faces businessman Dave Westlake in the September primary. Westlake, who has been critical of Johnson, said he didn't see anything wrong at the convention.
"Look, we all thought Wall was going to win," Westlake told the Wisconsin State Journal. "But I didn't see anything, or hear of anything, like (vote tampering or buying votes) going on."
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has agreed to participate in two debates with primary challenger J.D. Hayworth.
The McCain camp announced Friday it had accepted debate invitations from KTVK 3TV in Phoenix for a July 16 meeting and for the next day on PBS 6-Tucson's "Arizona Illustrated." In addition to Hayworth, Navy veteran Jim Deakin (R) will also be allowed to participate. Both debates are set for 7 p.m.
A spokesman for McCain said he "looks forward to a spirited discussion on the issues."
Hayworth had been calling for a series of 10 debates. When McCain didn't respond respond for 100 days he noted the anniversary by sending out a release titled "Century Mark of Shame."
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) continues to struggle with voters of her own party, according to new numbers from Public Policy Polling.
The poll found Hutchison's approval ratings have taken a dive since she lost a nasty Republican primary to Gov. Rick Perry. In a PPP poll from February of 2009, Hutchison's approval rating was near 60 percent. But her latest approval number stands at just 37 percent, with 43 percent of voters disapproving.
A full 48 percent of respondents said Hutchison should not run again in 2012.
From pollster Tom Jensen:
"Texas doesn't seem a likely candidate to elect a Democratic Senator any time soon so the greatest challenge for Hutchison in 2012 could be if she draws a serious primary challenger from the right flank of her party. Even among Republicans only 42% say they'd vote for Hutchison again to 41% who say they would rather vote for someone else, and it's clear that ideology is a big factor in that sentiment. 39% of GOP voters think Hutchison's too liberal to 46% who are comfortable with her ideologically."
After her gubernatorial bid, Hutchison indicated she would not run for re-election to the Senate in 2012, but she has since failed to rule out a run for another term.
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) wants Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet (D) to "hit … back harder" against his Republican challenger.
Jane Norton, a Republican Colorado Senate candidate, recently put up a Web video that criticizes President Barack Obama's handling of the war on terrorism.
"The liberals in Washington seem to have forgotten ... (sound of jet engines over a black screen symbolizing 9/11) ... But we haven't. Let's win the war on terror," Norton says in the video.
"This is about the same dirty campaign tactics I've seen a hundred times, and they don't just make my blood boil, they demand action," Kerry wrote in a fundraising pitch to Bennet's supporters Friday. "Like other desperate politicians who've deployed the tactics of fear and smear, she has sunk to invoking images of our heroic service members to launch a thinly veiled attack on" Bennet and Obama.
Kerry recalled the time he came under so-called "Swiftboating" attacks. "I learned a lot from that experience," he wrote. "The lesson: they hit you, hit them back harder — make them pay a price."
Norton has been watching her lead in the polls slip against Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck (R). Observers believe she is trying to shore up her base of support ahead of the August Republican primary.