Senate races

Senate races

Poll: Rep. Flake with commanding lead in Arizona Senate primary

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) holds a commanding lead over businessman Wil Cardon in the GOP primary for Arizona’s open Senate seat, a new poll showed.

Flake takes 56 percent to Cardon’s 7 percent in the race to replace retiring Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.). Flake also holds a 56 percent approval rating among GOP primary voters in his home state, while Cardon remains unknown to 83 percent of voters.

Flake does best among supporters of Rick Santorum in the survey from Democratic firm Public Policy Polling. He takes 72 percent of Santorum supporters, compared to 58 percent of Mitt Romney supporters and 51 percent of Ron Paul supporters.

One interesting tidbit buried deep in the poll was that an endorsement from Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio now goes further for Arizona politicians than one from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Thirty-two percent of GOP voters said an endorsement from the man who calls himself “America’s toughest sheriff” would make them more likely to vote for a candidate, compared to 15 percent for McCain and 25 percent for Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R).

The poll of 412 likely GOP primary voters was conducted Feb. 17-19 using automated telephone interviews. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.8 percentage points.

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GOP war veteran preparing to challenge Klobuchar

Army National Guard Capt. Pete Hegseth, a counterinsurgency expert who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan, is preparing to challenge Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), two sources close to Hegseth told The Hill.

The former head of Vets for Freedom, a hawkish foreign policy advocacy group and PAC, Hegseth has a national network of supporters who have donated to his organization, and is a common face on cable television. He returned in February from Afghanistan, where he served a tour training counterinsurgency forces.

Hegseth did not respond to an email Thursday seeking comment, but two sources said his candidacy is all but official.

His decision to run is 99 percent made, said one GOP source with knowledge of Hegseths thinking.

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Cain to campaign with Hoekstra

Herman Cain will campaign for former Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) as he challenges Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).

Cain will join Hoekstra next week on the campaign trail in Grand Rapids, Troy, Kalamazoo and Ypsilanti and will talk up Hoekstra's Tea Party credentials, the Grant Rapids Press reported.

“The Tea Party conservatives have been increasingly supporting Pete Hoekstra over the years as a result of his staunch fiscal policies in Congress,” Cain said in a statement to the paper.

Since dropping out of the presidential race in December, Cain has focused on convincing House and Senate candidates to adopt his signature 9-9-9 flat-tax plan. Hoekstra is one of the only candidates to have signed on as supportive of the plan.

“The Cain train derailed months ago but Pete Hoekstra’s is still trying to get on," said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Shripal Shah. "Supporting such a reckless plan shows Hoekstra will pander to any group to get elected, regardless of the consequences for Michigan families."

Hoekstra's campaign has been consumed for much of February by an uproar over a campaign ad that Democrats and Asian-American groups alleged was racist. The actress who appeared in the ad apologized Wednesday for shaming her community.

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Massachusetts Republicans try to tie Elizabeth Warren to Martha Coakley

Republicans in Massachusetts are using the ongoing wrangling over contraception coverage to tie Elizabeth Warren to another Democrat — state Attorney General Martha Coakley.

Coakley's loss to Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) in a 2010 special election to fill the seat that former Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) held for more than four decades was the biggest stain on Massachusetts Democrats' pride in recent memory.

Coakley and Warren in most respects have nothing in common as candidates; unlike Coakley, Warren is running a tightly disciplined, mostly gaffe-free campaign that takes nothing for granted.

But as Coakley did in 2010, Warren is now attacking Brown for his support for conscience exemptions for religious groups that object to certain medical procedures or services.

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Warren, Brown spar on spending, contraception

Republican Sen. Scott Brown (Mass.) and Democrat Elizabeth Warren traded barbs on two policy issues consuming Capitol Hill on Tuesday, just as a new poll showed the two in a dead heat in their Senate race.

Brown released a new radio ad touting his support for a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution and decrying the nation's $15 trillion deficit.

"If you bundled and stacked the debt into $1 bills, you could easily go to the moon and back — twice. Yet, there are still those who argue for more government spending paid for by higher taxes and borrowing," Brown says in the ad, part of a series of "radio reports" Brown is producing for his reelection campaign.

Just in case the nuance was lost, a Brown aide emailed to point out that the comment was aimed squarely at Warren.

"Budgets reflect our values as a country," Warren told The Hill in a statement. "The President put forward a balanced approach that gets serious about spending cuts, but that also invests in our future and makes sure that millionaires and billionaires don’t get an unfair advantage."

But Warren also launched an offensive of her own, telling the Washington Post she was shocked that Brown was supporting an attempt by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) to allow employers to opt out of providing their employees with services they find morally or religiously objectionable.

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Dems' North Dakota Senate recruit spoofs Chamber ad

When the U.S. Chamber of Commerce went on the air in 20 congressional races last week, one of the candidates they boosted was Rep. Rick Berg, the North Dakota Republican now running for Senate. The Chamber spend about $200,000 touting Berg's support for the Keystone XL pipeline, which President Obama blocked last month.

The problem, according to Democrat Heidi Heitkamp: She too supports the pipeline, and said as much to Obama in a letter last month urging him to reverse course.

Heitkamp's campaign released a video Tuesday spoofing the Chamber ad by replacing her likeness and name every time Berg is mentioned in the original ad.

The video even photoshops Heitkamp's face onto photos of Berg smiling in a suit in front of a flag.

"Heidi Heitkamp opposes the president and supports the Keystone XL pipeline. She supports creating jobs here at home," the ad says, with a comical, low-pitched voice superimposing her name over the original narration.

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Poll: Stabenow's lead expands in Michigan after controversial Hoekstra ad

Sen. Debbie Stabenow's (D-Mich.) lead over former Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) has expanded to fourteen points in the most recent poll following a controversial Hoekstra ad some viewed as racist.

The poll, conducted by the Democrat-leaning Public Policy Polling, shows Stabenow up 51 percent to 37 percent. That's an increase over the 9-point lead she held in their July poll.

According to the survey, more than half of Michigan voters were familiar with the controversial ad, in which an Asian-American actress playing a Chinese girl thanks Stabenow in broken English for shipping jobs to China. Of those, almost half said the ad made them less likely to vote for Hoekstra, while just 16 percent said it made them more likely to back him.

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Club for Growth backs Lugar opponent in Indiana

The deep-pocketed, fiscally conservative Club for Growth has endorsed Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock's (R) bid to unseat longtime Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.), a major boon for the right-wing challenger.

"After 36 years in Washington, it's time to send Richard Lugar home," said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola. "Richard Lugar has served honorably, but he’s been part of the problem in Washington. He's voted for bigger government, more spending, and he even recently voted against a permanent ban on congressional pork. Richard Mourdock will vote to limit government, repeal ObamaCare, and will help bring back the jobs lost to Obama's economic policies."

{mosads}The group has long attacked Lugar, ran ads against him last year and put out a poll showing him and Mourdock in a close primary race. But it had adopted a wait-and-see approach on an actual endorsement over concerns Mourdock would not have the money to run a real race against Lugar.

Lugar is a top target of Washington-based conservative groups; Mourdock was already backed by FreedomWorks and Citizens United. But the Club for Growth has the ability to spend much more money than those other groups. Chocola, a former Indiana congressman, might take a personal interest in the race.

Lugar recently come under fire for primarily living in Washington, D.C. and voting at the address of a home he sold more than three decades ago. Mourdock has also tried repeatedly to tie him to President Obama.

But the longtime senator has a big cash advantage in the race and boasts the backing of most Republicans in the state, including popular Gov. Mitch Daniels. The early-May primary will be hard-fought.

Democrats hope Mourdock can upset Lugar, giving their candidate, Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), a better shot at the seat.

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Dem decides against Nebraska Senate run

Nebraska state Sen. Steve Lathrop (D) won't run for the U.S. Senate, he announced Monday morning.

"I appreciate the encouragement I have received over the past several weeks from Nebraskans throughout the state. I gave this decision serious thought and based it on discussions with my family and on how I can best serve the people of Nebraska," said Lathrop in a statement. "After much consideration, I have decided to continue to focus on finding solutions to the problems facing our state such as: balanced tax relief, child welfare reform, protecting our most vulnerable citizens, and job creation."

Democrats have scrambled to find a candidate to run for the seat since Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) announced his retirement. They hoped to recruit former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.) into the race, but he announced last week that he wouldn't run.

The only serious Democrat in the race is University of Nebraska Regent Chuck Hassebrook, who is expected to officially announce his campaign on Tuesday. He faces a steep uphill race against the eventual winner of the GOP primary in the heavily Republican state.

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