Senate races

Senate races

DeMint’s Senate PAC sinks $210,000 into ads boosting Nebraska conservative

When Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) dropped the news last week that he would duck a race for a third term in the Senate, conservative luminary Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) blasted out an email calling it very good newsand previewing a pre-cut television ad supporting Don Stenberg, DeMints pick to replace Nelson.

With your help, we can run this ad statewide on cable and network television,read the pitch from DeMint to supporters of his Senate Conservatives Fund.

Documents filed Wednesday with the Federal Election Commission show DeMint is making good. His PAC has purchased almost $210,000 in airtime in Nebraska to bolster Stenberg in the Republican primary.

Lifelong conservative leader Don Stenberg has shown the same love of freedom, cutting spending, fighting crime, defending the unborn, the narrator says in the ad. Don Stenberg has the courage we need now in the U.S. Senate.

In the absence of any declared Democratic candidates with the political muscle to be competitive in heavily red Nebraska, Republicans are more sanguine than ever that 
Nelson’s seat will flip into their column come November. And with Nelson — who would have been Democrats best chance to hold the seat — headed to retirement, conservatives are free to rally behind a candidate who is far to his right.


{mosads}Stenberg will need a generous infusion of cash and support from groups such as DeMints PAC if he is to pull off an upset in the GOP primary, where Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning is leading in the polls. Stenberg has had a rough time raising money on his own, and had more than $125,000 in debt at the end of September — five times as much as he had in the bank.

DeMints support also brings national attention and scrutiny to Stenbergs campaign that opponents could use to their advantage. When DeMint endorsed Stenberg in November, Brunings campaign manager said it would be Nebraska voters — not DeMint — who would pick the states next senator.

Bruning is facing tough scrutiny of his own after Democrats alleged he fast-tracked approval for a $100,000 grant to a farm group whose support he sought for his political ambitions. Email records revealed that Brunings office approved the grant 32 minutes after it received the application, which also came less than a week before Bruning was to appear at the farm groups convention.

This is all about the election. Its silly season, Bruning told the Omaha World-Herald. We did it because it was the right thing to do.

Watch the ad:

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Dem poll: Stabenow leads by double digits in Michigan

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) holds a fairly comfortable 10-point lead over her likely opponent, former Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), according to a poll conducted for the Democratic Party of Michigan by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner.

Stabenow led in the poll with 52 percent support to 42 percent for Hoekstra.

She has been favored in most polls, but Republicans are hoping to make the race close. Generally, if an incumbent is polling above 50 percent in their reelection matchups, they're on relatively safe ground.

The poll of 603 likely voters was conducted from Dec. 15-19 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 points.

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Senate hopefuls staff up in Virginia, Missouri

With the election year officially under way, Senate candidates in Virginia and Missouri moved to beef up their campaign operations.

In Virginia, former Gov. Tim Kaine, the presumed Democratic front-runner in the state's open Senate race, brought on half a dozen new staffers on Wednesday — all of them women.

Notable about Kaine's hires is the unambiguous backing of the state party for one of Virginia's favorite sons. Kaine's new political director, Tyee Davenport, held the No. 2 political position at the Democratic Party of Virginia before heading to Kaine's campaign. And his new operations director has held that same title at the state party since 2009.

Polls show a dead-even race between Kaine and former Sen. George Allen, the GOP front-runner. But Bob Marshall, a conservative state lawmaker in Virginia, indicated this week he could challenge Allen from the right for the GOP nomination.

In Missouri, Republican businessman John Brunner added four to his payroll on Wednesday on the political, financial and communications fronts. Heading his political department will be Miriam Stonebraker, a veteran of the consulting firm run by John Hancock, who has been Brunner's media spokesman since October, when he entered the race to unseat Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).

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Hatch picks up primary challenge

Utah state Sen. Dan Liljenquist (R) made official his bid for the Senate on Wednesday, formalizing the first primary challenge against Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

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Conservative Virginia lawmaker could challenge Allen in Senate primary

Republican Bob Marshall, a long-serving member of the Virginia House of Delegates, is weighing a run for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat.

Marshall told The Examiner he was serious about the prospect, but had no timetable for making a decision.

Although numerous candidates are already vying for the GOP nomination, none have come close to touching former Sen. George Allen, who held the seat from 2001 to 2007 and is a favorite of national Republicans who see him as their best chance to replace retiring Sen. Jim Webb (D). The Senate contest has largely stood as a two-man race between Allen and presumed Democratic nominee Tim Kaine, and the two former governors have already squared off in a debate months ahead of the primaries.

But many Virginia Republicans, including Tea Party voters and those seeking to use their vote to buck the establishment, have been clamoring for a more conservative, outsider candidate to challenge Allen.

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New ads from Missouri Republican aim for McCaskill, ignore primary opponents

John Brunner, one of the three main Republican candidates vying to take on Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), launched new radio and television ads on Tuesday, but neither address his GOP primary opponents.

Instead, Brunner is going straight for McCaskill, the first-term Democrat who is bracing for a tough reelection fight in a state where President Obama is inherently unpopular.

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Sherrod Brown won't appear with Obama in Ohio

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) will be in Ohio on Wednesday when President Obama delivers a speech on the economy at a Cleveland-area high school, but he won't be appearing with the president.

Brown has a series of his own appearances Wednesday, including a visit to the Ohio Farm Bureau and a tour of a specialty-vehicle factory, his congressional office said. Brown will be joined at the factory by Veterans Affairs officials and will tout the creation of 30 jobs through programs to provide mobile care units for veterans.

A source close to Brown's campaign said that the commitments were scheduled before Obama announced his trip, and that Brown would appear with Obama at campaign events later in the year.

But those assurances were unlikely to quell Republican claims that Brown is avoiding appearances with Obama that his GOP opponent, Ohio state Treasurer Josh Mandel, could later use to paint Obama and Brown as overly cozy.

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Lugar loses potential primary foil

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) wont be getting a primary challenge from Bob Thomas, but he probably wishes he was.

Thomas, an auto dealer, in December all but jumped into the primary, which already included Indiana state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, a Tea Party-backed candidate challenging Lugar from the right.

The prospect of a second challenger put both Democrats and Mourdock on edge, raising prospects that Mourdock and Thomas would split the support of those conservatives who have soured on Lugar. Mourdock would prefer a two-man fight with Lugar, and Democrats in this swing state would prefer to fight a Tea Party candidate in the general election, rather than the more centrist Lugar.

But Thomas made an abrupt about-face Monday, saying that while Mourdocks support is paper thin, the race doesnt look winnable.

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Lincoln mayor: No plans to succeed Nelson

Chris Beutler (D), the mayor of Lincoln, Neb., dismissed reports he was considering a bid to be the Democratic nominee to replace retiring Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), saying on Thursday that he had given the idea little thought.

"At this point, I believe I can best serve people by continuing my term as Lincoln's mayor," Beutler said in a statement to the Lincoln Journal Star.

Beutler, who this year started a second four-year term as mayor, lauded Nelson’s integrity and compassion, but said he enjoyed living in Nebraska and had no plans to take Nelson’s place in Washington, D.C.

Reeling from Nelson’s announcement this week that he would not seek a third term in the Senate, Nebraska Democrats are engaged in a last-minute frenzy to identify a viable candidate to replace him.

Although Nelson’s chances for reelection were far from certain, his withdrawal from the race has made it all but certain that Republicans will capture his seat in 2012 — unless they can quickly identify a heavy-hitting contender.

Democrats’ top pick, former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.), has said little publicly to indicate he is prepping for a run, but hasn’t ruled out a comeback to the Senate.

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Poll: Nevada Senate race neck and neck

Nevada's hotly contested Senate race is essentially tied, according to a new poll conducted for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) leads Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) 44 percent to 43, according to the poll.

Berkley holds a 14-point lead in Clark County, home to Las Vegas and her congressional district, while Heller does much better in rural Nevada, with a 24-point lead outside of the county. Heller served as congressman from that area until he was appointed to the Senate earlier this year.

Nevada is one of Democrats' top two targets, along with Massachusetts, for picking up seats. Republicans need to net four seats to take control of the Senate, and if Democrats can pick up this seat it makes it harder for the GOP to accomplish that goal.

The poll of 600 registered voters was conducted from dec. 12-20 by University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

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