Senate races

Senate races

Chamber of Commerce up with its first ads of cycle

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is up with its first television ads of the 2012 campaign, praising three Republican congressmen and one GOP senator and slamming two Democratic senators for their policies.

The Chambers ads slam Sens. Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and Jon Tester (Mont.), two potentially vulnerable Democrats who have voted with their party on economic issues. Another ad praises Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), who is locked in a tough election battle with Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.).

The group did not say how much money is behind the push, but said the ads will run on broadcast and cable television in 15 markets.

The Chamber is also running ads for Republican Reps. Dave Reichert (Wash.), Pat Meehan (Pa.) and Tom Latham (Iowa). Because of redistricting, Latham is facing off against fellow incumbent Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa), while Meehan represents Philadelphias Democratic-leaning suburbs and could face a tough reelection battle. Reichert has survived a number of tough races and his district is likely to become much safer from redistricting.

While the Chamber never endorses in the presidential race, it made no bones about attacking President Obama in many of the ads in attempts to frame his signature economic policies — including Obamacare — as job-killers.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee pushed back against the ads, pointing out that Heller, Brown and Rehberg voted against increasing the debt ceiling, which the Chamber supported.

"Republicans like Dennis Rehberg, Dean Heller, and Josh Mandel know exactly how the DC game is played.  You can tell the Chamber to take a long walk off a short pier and they will still come crawling back," said Matt Canter, spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Click here to watch the ads.

Updated at 3:20 p.m.


Ads hit Sens. Heller and Brown, Rep. Rehberg on Medicare

Americans United for Change, AFSCME and the SEIU are up with a small ad buy claiming Sens. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) want to cut Medicare.

"If you cut my Medicare, Sen. Heller, I'll remember it every time I visit my doctor. I'll remember you cut Medicare and Medicaid every time I fill a prescription," says the narrator, an older woman, in one version of the ad. "I'll remember you cut Medicare every time I fall or get hurt. I'll remember you protected millionaires over protecting my health. My friends will remember it, too — all of them. Call Sen. Heller. Tell him to protect Medicare and Medicaid."

All three Republicans are in tight Senate races. Heller voted for House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) budget, which would both privatize Medicare and cut tax rates for top earners. Rehberg and Brown were two of a handful of Republicans who voted against the budget, though Brown initially praised the plan. Democrats and unions believe they can gain major traction on the issue.

National Republican Senatorial Committee communications director Brian Walsh pushed back against the ads' message, arguing that the half-trillion dollars Democrats shifted out of Medicare to pay for their health insurance overhaul undercuts their argument.

"The irony of this pathetic attack ad is that in each of these three races, it’s actually the Democrat candidates who are all firmly on record supporting the $500 billion in Medicare cuts that were included in their massive healthcare overhaul," said Walsh. "The big labor unions funding this ad know that, but yet they are doing everything they can to mislead voters in Montana, Nevada and Massachusetts."

The ad buys are in the low five figures and are running in Boston, Reno, Missoula and Billings.

Watch the Heller ad here:

This post was last updated at 9:05 a.m. to accurately describe Rehberg's and Brown's votes on the Ryan budget.


Tea Party group petitioning against supercommittee compromise

The Tea Party Express is circulating a petition blasting any supercommittee compromise that includes tax increases, following reports that some Republican members of the panel have put nominal tax increases on the table.

Reports that the Republican members of the committee have agreed to a framework of tax increases to replace spending cuts is appalling, Tea Party Express co-chairman Amy Kremer wrote in an email sent to members asking them to fight any compromise. The election of 2010 was a total repudiation of the tax and spend mentality that has brought America to a fiscal crisis with excessive spending and an out-of-control national debt.

The group strongly opposed all proposed compromises in the debt-ceiling debate last summer, a move that might have helped keep hard-line conservatives in the House from supporting a deal House Speaker John Boehner had reached with President Obama. They are looking to recreate that environment this time around and force Republicans into an uncompromising position.


Warren pushes back on Crossroads attacks in first TV ad

Elizabeth Warren doesn't want almost $600,000 in negative ads from a conservative group to define her for Massachusetts voters. So the leading Democrat vying to challenge Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) is hitting the air with ads of her own, a full year out from the 2012 election.

Warren's television ad — one of the first by a Senate candidate in this cycle — will start airing statewide on Tuesday, her campaign announced.

"Before you hear a bunch of ridiculous attack ads, I want to tell you who I am. Like a lot of you, I came up the hard way," Warren says at the start of the ad.

A montage of photos from throughout Warren's life cycles on the screen while Warren tells of growing up in a struggling family, teaching elementary school, putting herself through law school and fighting for consumer protection while working for the Obama administration.

Warren's first ad came less than a week after Crossroads GPS, a conservative outside group, went on the air with almost $600,000 in ads tying Warren to the rowdiest elements of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Warren's campaign isn't making the size of its first buy public, but said it had raised more than $300,000 to fight back against the Crossroads ads.


Thompson gets four senator endorsements

Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) announced four endorsements Monday afternoon in his bid for the Senate: Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) and Jim Risch (R-Idaho).

The endorsement roll-out seems timed as a response to two big endorsements Thompson's primary opponent, former Rep. Mark Neumann (R-Wis.), announced last week, from Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), two Tea Party favorites.

"Tommy Thompson’s leadership for our party has been remarkable and far-reaching," said Alexander in a statement released by Thompson's campaign. "Today, parents have real choices in how they educate their children due in large part to the reforms Tommy spearheaded as governor. And when it was clear that the welfare system was failing and needed an overhaul, it was his ideas that became a model for the country. These were landmark victories for conservatives everywhere."

All four of the senators backing Thompson are former governors, and are also known more as establishment Republicans rather than movement conservatives, reinforcing the emerging dynamic of the race as being between the establishment candidate and a conservative hard-liner.


Battalion-sized volunteer force shows up for Elizabeth Warren in Boston

If Elizabeth Warren had any concern her staggering fundraising success might not translate into grassroots support, she doesn't anymore.

Warren packed a gym on Sunday with about 1,000 volunteers — the size of a large Army battalion — at her first volunteer meeting in Boston, a full year from the election.

"The daughter of a maintenance man who went on to become fancy-pants professor at Harvard Law School. America is great country," Warren said, according to New England Cable News. 

Warren's self-description was a riff off Republicans' favorite crack at Warren — that her prestigious pedigree makes her too elitist and detached to represent all of Massachusetts.

A former Obama administration official and the leading Democrat to take on Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) in 2012, Warren has generated intense interest and support among Democrats since entering the race in September, and has put Republicans in Massachusetts in full-on defense mode trying to protect Brown's seat.

Republicans recently have hit Warren for saying that while earmarks are problematic, as long as earmarks are part of the system, members of Congress have a responsibility to secure resources for their state. They have also criticized her for supporting what she called President Obama's "nuanced approach" to fending off a nuclear threat from Iran.

A Warren aide said between 200 and 500 people turned up at each of the seven volunteer meetings the campaign held before Sunday's event in Boston.


GOP front-runner up with his first ad in Texas Senate race

Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R) will launch his first ad of the campaign Tuesday, a spot that ignores his primary opponents altogether and calls for a balanced-budget amendment and a repeal of President Obama's health insurance overhaul.

The ad will run on cable in all the major Texas markets, and the buy was in the low six figures, according to the campaign.

The front-runner has higher name recognition statewide than his GOP opponents, former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz and former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, and while all three have had strong fundraising numbers, so far Dewhurst has the most cash to spend in the expensive state, partly because of his large personal wealth. Leppert has already been on the air with two ads.

The three are running to replace Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), who is retiring.

"What are they thinking in Washington? You can't tell me they can't cut spending. I know they can," Dewhurst says in the ad, before a narrator announces, "We've got to clean up the mess. We've got to prioritize. We've got to choke down government. It's worked in Texas — it can work in Washington."

Watch it here:


Maine lawmaker Jon Hinck to challenge Snowe

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) picked up a new challenger on Saturday when Jon Hinck, a Democratic state representative, entered the primary race to unseat her in 2012.

Hinck kicked off his announcement Saturday at a rally before a college football game in Orono, Maine.

"Over the past 33 years in Washington, Olympia Snowe has been losing touch with Maine, opting to support Wall Street windfalls over the working families in our state. She supports policies that have increased our national debt, weakened public education and shipped jobs out of Maine," says a message on Hinck's website. "We deserve a senator who will vigorously challenge the special interests and take on the issues vital to our state."

Matthew Dunlap, a former Maine secretary of state, is already in the Democratic primary. On the Republican side, Tea Party-affiliated candidate Andrew Ian Dodge has entered the race, as has businessman Scott D'Amboise.

None of the contenders are expected to pose a major threat to Snowe, one of the most popular senators in the country. A survey released Nov. 3 by Democratic firm Public Policy Polling put her approval rating at 57 percent and showed her beating both of the Democrats by more than 40 points.


Crossroads ad pulled off Montana cable network

An ad from the Republican-affiliated outside group Crossroads GPS attacking Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) has been pulled from one Montana cable network because it falsely says he voted for tougher Environmental Protection Agency rules for farm dust.

The ad is still running on broadcast stations in the state, and Crossroads' Nate Hobson told The Hill that they are "communicating with the cable system and expect that the ad will be back up and running on cable soon."

Democrats been pushing hard against the series of ads Crossroads launched against five Democratic Senate candidates. In Virginia and Massachusetts, the campaigns immediately released statements slamming the group for falsely representing their records. This is their first success at getting one of the ads off of television.