Senate races

Senate races

Dems seek to capitalize on unemployment debate

Democrats want to capitalize on the Senate debate over extending jobless benefits by portraying Republicans as “out of touch.”

“Senate Republicans and Republican Senate candidates are nearly united in their opposition to extending unemployment benefits even as their leadership calls for extending the George Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest of Americans without paying for them,” Sen. Robert Menendez (N.J.), chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said in a statement. 

Menendez reiterated Democrats’ belief that November’s vote will be about a “choice” between their party and “Republicans who want to return to the failed George Bush economic policies of the past.” 

“When Republicans prefer unpaid tax cuts for the richest Americans over helping those who need it most, they make that choice crystal clear for voters,” he said.

The DSCC blasted releases hitting Republican Senate candidates in Missouri, Kentucky, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, North Carolina, Iowa, Nevada, Arkansas, California, Indiana, Wisconsin and Washington state for being “out of touch” for opposing the extension.

Several GOP Senate candidates have already been tripped up by this issue. Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle (R), for instance, tried to appear hawkish on the deficit by opposing the extension but sounded callous for portraying the unemployed as “spoiled.”

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Toomey the centrist?

Over the weekend, The Philadelphia Inquirer took a lengthy look at Pennsylvania Senate candidate and former Rep. Pat Toomey's (R) outreach to centrist Republicans.

Toomey faces Rep. Joe Sestak (D) in the fall. Sestak ran to the left of Sen. Arlen Specter (D) when he defeated him in a May primary.

Toomey has a fundraiser planned with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and has a former Specter hand connecting him with GOP centrists in D.C.

From the Inquirer:

When he was president of the free-market advocacy group Club for Growth, Republican Senate candidate Pat Toomey was the most fearsome RINO hunter in the land. He sought the defeat of GOP incumbents deemed soft on the Club's drive for lower taxes and smaller government - often termed Republicans in Name Only by the right.

Now, Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine - lampooned as "Comrade of the Month" by the Club in 2009 for her pro-stimulus vote--is coming to Philadelphia to raise money for the staunchly conservative Toomey, a sign that his campaign's effort to court moderates is paying dividends.

Collins will headline a $1,000-a-plate luncheon for Toomey's Pennsylvania Senate campaign Aug. 2 at the Union League.

"Pat Toomey gets the fact that he needs to work with a lot of folks, that there doesn't need to be unanimity on all issues in the party," said Washington lobbyist David Urban, an influential GOP moderate and a host of the event.

Urban was Sen. Arlen Specter's chief of staff from 1997 to 2002, when the outgoing Pennsylvania senator was still a Republican. He stayed loyal when Specter became a Democrat last year, and he returned to the GOP fold after Specter lost the May 18 primary to Rep. Joe Sestak.

Urban is helping to connect Toomey with moderate Republicans in the capital and from the Specter camp. He calls Toomey "more of a fiscal conservative than a social conservative."

Meanwhile, a new Rasmussen poll out Monday gives Toomey a 45 percent-to-38 percent lead over Sestak.

Despite any attempt to move to the middle, Democrats note that Toomey's record in Congress was anything but centrist on social issues or just about anything else, and they plan to hit him on that record through the fall.

Toomey's camp is betting that the focus on government spending and deficits makes Pennsylvania's more Democratic electorate less of a climb for the Republican in November.

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Obama to headline fundraiser for Giannoulias

President Obama is headed back to Chicago early next month to headline a fundraiser for Democratic Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias. The Illinois state treasurer is battling Rep. Mark Kirk (R) for the seat formerly held by Obama. The event is set for Aug. 5.

Giannoulias certainly needs the fundraising help. He raised just $900,000 in the second quarter to Kirk's $2.3 million. Kirk reported nearly $4 million cash on hand at the end of June.

The president's visit is sure to sharpen what is shaping up to be one of the country's nastiest Senate races this year. It also comes against the backdrop of the ongoing corruption trial of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D).

The fundraiser should help settle the question of whether the White House is fully invested in Giannoulias. The lack of attention from the White House over the past few months raised questions about just how much confidence the administration had in the Democratic candidate.

But Vice President Joe Biden and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have already made fundraising trips to Illinois for the Giannoulias campaign. White House adviser David Axelrod is also slated to headline an event for the candidate.

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Colorado Republican releases first ad of Senate campaign

Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck (R) released his first TV ad of the Colorado Senate primary campaign. The 30-second ad is airing statewide on broadcast TV beginning Friday and will air on cable television starting on Monday, according to a Buck spokesman. The ad was produced by Walt Klein’s Colorado Media Group.   

Buck’s ad is entirely positive, focusing on his desire to cut spending. Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, in contrast, hammered her rival for the GOP Senate nod in her latest ad. She also cited the recent spots by Americans for Job Security, a conservative group that has been promoting Buck and criticizing her. “You think Ken would be man enough to do it himself,” she says in the ad. 

The primary is Aug. 10.

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Sheriff again makes TV pitch for McCain

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu is back on TV pitching for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

The sheriff is one of several law enforcement officers featured in a new 30-second spot released by the McCain camp Friday. Babeu appeared in McCain's earlier, and much-maligned, "Danged Fence" ad.

This one talks up McCain's efforts to secure the border and how he is "stand[ing] up" to President Obama, who has made protecting the border "incredibly difficult."

The ad's release comes as McCain prepares to meet primary challengers J.D. Hayworth and Jim Deakin in a debate  Friday night in Phoenix. A recent poll shows McCain pulling ahead of his rivals.

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New GOP group runs ad blasting Reid

A new Republican political group launched a television ad Friday ripping Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for his state’s struggling economy. 

American Crossroads, an 527 group backed by former Bush adviser Karl Rove and ex-Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie, bought $120,000 of state airtime starting Friday. The ad is one of the first GOP responses to Reid’s aggressive advertising strategy against his opponent Sharron Angle (R). 

“While Nevada’s economy was falling apart, Harry Reid was using his position to promote the interests of his Washington friends, not Nevada’s,” said Steven Law, president and CEO of American Crossroads. “The one thing a Senate majority leader should be able to control is what’s in the bill — but Reid was too busy taking orders from the White House to put his own state first.”

A poll released Friday showed that Reid had taken a statistically significant lead over Angle for the first time in a major poll since she won her primary contest last month. Reid’s surge followed a string of television ads released by his campaign hitting Angle for being too extreme. 

The Senate majority leader has spent $3 million in television ads since the beginning of April. 

By law, American Crossroads’ 527, tax-exempt status bars them from making direct expenditures that advocate for the election or defeat of a specific candidate. The language of the ad does not specifically call on voters to choose Angle over Reid. 

But like other 527s, the group is working to get Republicans elected in the fall midterm elections. After falling behind on their $50 million fundraising goal for the midterms earlier this year, the group raised $8 million in June. 

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