Senate races

Senate races

Internal poll shows Sen. Hatch in great shape ahead of convention

An internal poll for Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) shows him in great shape to win the GOP nomination outright at the state's Republican Party Convention late this month, a major coup for the senator.

Hatch led his poll with 62 percent support, followed by former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist at 16 percent and state Rep. Chris Herrod at 5 percent. Hatch needs 60 percent of convention delegates to back him to avoid a primary. Even if he is forced into a primary he's likely in good shape — polls have indicated that he remains popular with Republicans statewide and would have little trouble winning his race.

"What this says is Sen. Hatch is in pretty good shape," his campaign manager, Dave Hansen, told The Hill. "Three weeks is a long way to go to the convention and we're continuing to work hard; we're not taking anything for granted. But we feel very, very good about where we are."


LeMieux pranks Connie Mack with Charlie Sheen endorsement

Former Sen. George LeMieux (R-Fla.) duped his opponent in Florida’s Senate primary, Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.), with an April Fools' prank that scored a few political points as well.

LeMieux sent his supporters an email on Sunday announcing big campaign news: “Charlie Sheen endorses Connie Mack.”

LeMieux has repeatedly compared Mack to Sheen, the television and film actor whose personal life has been filled with moments of questionable temperament and run-ins with the law. Mack has called those comparisons outrageous and offensive.

“We both have famous and respected fathers, both went into the family business, and we love living in California and having a good time (especially on the red carpet). We’re also both known for our public displays of rage and frequent 'lapses in judgment,' " reads the fake endorsement letter from Sheen.

The prank email also poked fun at Mack’s former occupation as a special events coordinator for a prominent restaurant chain.

“The U.S. Senate can be such a boring and serious place; it needs people like Connie Mack,” read the email. “And maybe a few Hooter’s girls [sic].”


Delegate turmoil at ND GOP convention

Rep. Rick Berg (R-N.D.) was endorsed by the North Dakota GOP in a turbulent state convention where party elders wrangled over national convention delegates.

Rick Santorum won the caucuses in North Dakota in March, but supporters of Santorum and Ron Paul complained that the slate of 25 delegates to the GOP’s national convention was stacked with Mitt Romney supporters, according to The Associated Press. One former state party chairman called it “a railroad job.”

Among those 25 delegates is Berg, who has not publicly endorsed in the presidential race.

Berg is the GOP front-runner for retiring Sen. Kent Conrad's (D-N.D.) seat and faced no opposition at the convention for the endorsement, but does face a primary challenge from Tea Party figure Duane Sand. Berg is expected to face former state Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp (D) in November.

- This post was updated at 12:03 a.m.


Brown to cut $35,000 charity check after oil group breaks pledge

Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) has agreed to cut a $34,545 check to charity after an oil lobby ran ads attacking his challenger, Democrat Elizabeth Warren.

It's the second time Brown has coughed up campaign cash to satisfy the pledge he signed with Warren to bar outside groups from spending in the race. In early March, Brown donated $1,000 to the Autism Consortium after a conservative political action committee broke the pledge.

The groundbreaking agreement struck between Warren and Brown in January stipulates that any candidate who benefits from an outside group's ad must donate half the cost of the ad to the charity of his or her opponent's choice. Although neither campaign can control what outside groups spend, the idea is to create a disincentive for those groups to hurt their preferred candidate.

The American Petroleum Institute, an oil-and-gas lobby group, last week launched radio ads in Massachusetts supporting Brown's position on maintaining tax breaks for large oil companies. Because the ad was an issue ad — it never explicitly encouraged people to vote for Brown — it was an open question as to whether it would fall under the jurisdiction of the pledge.


Sherrod Brown, Josh Mandel bicker over campaign trackers

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and state Treasurer Josh Mandel (R) are sparring over when and where campaign trackers should be allowed to gather opposition research.

It’s the latest round of bickering in a swing-state Senate race that has been increasingly focused on petty process issues over serious policy discussions.


Vets group to spend $200,000 to boost McCaskill

The veterans advocacy group will spend $200,000 on an ad touting Sen. Claire McCaskill’s (D-Mo.) work on behalf of veterans, as she fights for a second term in the Senate.

The ad will air for two weeks in the St. Louis and Kansas City media markets, and the group said it was considering extending the buy.

VoteVets spent $15 million on political activity in the previous cycle, but the McCaskill ad is its first of the 2012 cycle. The group says it represents more than 100,000 veterans and their families and supporters.

The 30-second spot shows a combat scene as seen through a scope, then features Iraq veterans describing how the return home has been difficult. The veterans laud McCaskill’s efforts to ensure proper services for veterans and to preserve funding for Veterans Affairs hospitals, including one in Columbia, Mo.

“Claire McCaskill’s got our back,” says one veteran.

“And senator, we’ve got yours,” says another.

{mosads}The first-term Democrat is facing tough opposition in her reelection bid in a conservative-leaning state where the public has soured on President Obama. Republicans and GOP-aligned outside groups have made McCaskill a top target for 2012, spending millions of dollars to air attack ads.

But McCaskill has raised huge chunks of cash too, and has positioned herself as a centrist who occasionally diverges from her party on key issues. She has also showcased her advocacy for constituency groups such as veterans, hosting a forum last week in St. Louis to listen to their concerns and working to strengthen education benefits and prevent base closures.

The Hill rates this race a toss-up.

Watch the ad: