Senate races

Senate races

Anuzis encouraged by Stabenow's slumping poll numbers

Michigan GOP Chairman Saul Anuzis, who's weighing a bid for Senate next year, says he's encouraged by Sen. Debbie Stabenow's (D-Mich.) slumping poll numbers. 

"Her numbers are well below 50 percent," Anuzis told The Ballot Box. "That's why you see a number of people looking so seriously at this race."

Former Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), former Gov. John Engler (R), former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land (R) and GOP businessman Tim Leuliette are also rumored contenders for the seat. 

A poll released earlier this week by GOP pollster Wilson Research Strategies showed Stabenow would start out with just a narrow edge over either Hoekstra or Land. The poll also found just 33 percent of voters said they would vote to reelect Stabenow. 

A December poll from Democratic-leaning Public Policy also showed trouble for Stabenow, measuring a job approval rating of just 41 percent. 

Anuzis, who is fresh off a second-place finish in his run for chairman of the Republican National Committee, plans to push his name out more aggressively in the coming weeks, talking up a potential bid with party insiders and activists this weekend at the party's state convention in Michigan to "gauge support."   

"I'm making the rounds, doing my due diligence," Anuzis said. "This is not a small undertaking, so you have to be prepared for it." 

Anuzis held a series of meetings with party strategists in Washington this week and had dinner with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Thursday night. 

Anuzis said he realizes he has some real work to do should he decide to jump into the contest, but said he's confident the organization he has built as head of the state party and during his two runs for RNC chairman, would serve him well in a bid.


Texas Dems still searching for Senate contenders

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro (D) looks set to pass on a 2012 Senate run.

The first-term mayor had been considered a possible contender for the Democratic Senate nomination, but the Texas Tribune notes he's now preparing for his reelection bid.

"Representing the city is why I got interested in politics in the first place," said Castro. "I haven't even finished my first term, so it would be a little premature to look beyond that."

He has a kickoff rally for his mayoral campaign slated for Feb. 13.

Meanwhile, the Republican field remains influx. Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams formally announced the launch of his campaign on Thursday.

"Our voters want someone who can go to Washington and legitimately cut the size of government," Williams said. "They want somebody who can inspire and rally. I'm able to do all of that."

Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones (R) announced her bid on Tuesday.

And former Secretary of State Roger Williams and former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz are also in the race for the GOP nod.

Meanwhile, Former state Comptroller John Sharp has said he plans to seek the Democratic nomination.


Tea Party Express won't target Sen. Hatch in 2012

A top strategist for one of the nation's leading Tea Party groups says Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) will not be a target in 2012. 

Sal Russo, the top strategist for the Tea Party Express, told National Review Online that the group will not back a primary challenge to Hatch next year should one emerge. 

"I think he was an original tea partier," Russo told NRO. "He has been talking about our issues from the beginning. Orrin is a Reagan conservative, as far as I'm concerned, and that's as good as it gets." 

In 2010, the Tea Party Express endorsed and ran TV ads on behalf of Sharron Angle in Nevada, Joe Miller in Alaska and Christine O'Donnell in Delaware.  

The declaration from the Tea Party Express certainly doesn't mean a Hatch primary challenge won't still happen in 2012, but the senator is fighting hard to avoid one.

Utah Tea Party organizer Darcy Van Orden told The Ballot Box recently that Hatch has been increasingly responsive to Tea Party groups in the state and the senator is in contact with her "frequently."

"He's made strong moves to the right," she said. "But there's still going to be a lot of scrutiny and we'll be taking a close look at his record." 

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) has been openly weighing a run against Hatch.


Tea Party activist: Conservatives will back Allen alternative in Va. primary

Virginia Tea Party activist and U.S. Senate candidate Jamie Radtke says she's confident conservatives in her state will unite behind an alternative to former Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) ahead of next year's Senate primary. 

Aside from Allen, Radtke is the only other Republican already in the race for Sen. Jim Webb's (D-Va.) seat, but the GOP field is expected to be a crowded one.

The chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, Corey Stewart (R), is likely to get in and Del. Bob Marshall (R) could join the race, too. 

While Radtke acknowledged that a multi-candidate primary could help Allen, she predicted activists would coalesce behind a single alternative before the primary. 

"I think that everyone who may be challenging Senator Allen agrees that before the primary there needs to be only two people in the race," Radtke told The Ballot Box on Thursday after criticizing Allen's voting record during his single term in the Senate. 


Sen. Manchin on Obama vow to veto earmarks: 'I strongly disagree'

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is one of several Democrats to criticize President Obama's State of the Union pledge to veto any and all bills containing earmarks.

For Manchin, it's a thorny issue given that he just survived a closer-than-expected special election contest against a Republican who painted him as a pawn of big-spending Washington Democrats.

Also of note: Manchin is serving out the remainder of the the late Sen. Robert Byrd's (D) term and Byrd was one of the Senate's most prolific earmarkers. Manchin has to run for a full term in 2012 and is a top GOP target.

In a statement released after the president's Tuesday speech, Manchin said while earmarks have been "misused in the past," slamming the door on them entirely is a bad idea.

"While all West Virginians agree that we can't spend our way to prosperity, we must stop confusing sound investments with wasteful spending," Manchin said in the statement. "So I strongly disagree with the president's plan to veto all earmarks."

Back in December, Manchin voted against an earmark ban in the Senate, claiming the issue warranted more substantive discussion and debate in the upper chamber.

Speaking on CNN Wednesday, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) also expressed disapproval of Obama's veto threat.

"I, frankly, wasn't very taken with the president's thought," Hoyer said. "Clearly, if there is additional spending that is not appropriate, the president ought to veto it. On the other hand, if it is an appropriate expenditure — in a community, in a state, in the nation — then I think the president ought to sign that."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) also rebuffed the earmark ban Tuesday, telling reporters on Capitol Hill that it would give "the president more power, and he's got enough power already."

Some other Senate Democrats, who face reelection in 2012, however, are applauding the effort. The veto threat earned a standing ovation Tuesday night from Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who's likely to face a tough challenge next year.


Sen. Webb unfazed by Allen's entrance into 2012 Senate race

If Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) feels any added urgency to decide on his reelection plans now that former Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) is officially in the race for his seat, he isn't showing it.

Asked about Allen's bid Tuesday, Webb said, "Today's no different than yesterday for me."

Allen is already slamming Webb for voting with "the Washington liberals like Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer," but Webb wouldn't engage him Tuesday.

"I have no comment on what George Allen is doing," Webb said on a conference call with reporters. "That's up to him."

The Democrat said he has not yet made a decision on whether to seek another term in 2012. His office said earlier this week that he will announce a decision before the end of the first quarter of the year. 

Webb also dismissed suggestions that waiting would hurt his reelection chances should he ultimately decide to run again, noting that he started his 2006 campaign just months before Election Day with "zero dollars" and "no campaign staff." 

Still, Virginia Democrats are worried that Webb's posture could hurt the party's chances of holding his Senate seat should he decide to retire rather than seek a second term.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine would be the party's first choice to run if Webb bowed out, but he has indicated he's not interested in a Senate race. 


Former Sen. Coleman not ruling out another run for office

Former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman (R) is not ruling out another run for elected office.

The one-term senator, who lost to Democrat Al Franken in 2008, said in an interview published Tuesday that he has not yet decided to run, but also claimed he enjoys being out of the press.

"I love public service. I can't tell you that I've run my last race. The public will decide that," he told the conservative Newsmax magazine. 

Coleman has been seen as a potential candidate for a number of positions since he lost his Senate seat in one of the closest elections in recent memory. But he declined to run for Minnesota governor last year and did not get into the race for chairman of the Republican National Committee. 

Democrat Mark Dayton defeated Tom Emmer (R) to win the governorship after potential 2012 presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty (R) held it for two terms. Reince Priebus, of neighboring Wisconsin, won the party chairman position this month.

Coleman now serves as CEO of the American Action Network, a conservative advocacy group. 

But Coleman's opportunity could come in 2012, when first-term Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) is up for reelection. Coleman's presence in the race could make it competitive, but Klobuchar also has high approval ratings and would be tough to unseat.

Coleman, however, indicated he is not yet enthusiastic about reentering electoral politics.

"It is kind of nice getting up in the morning every day opening the paper and not worrying about who is trying to kill you today politically," he said.