Senate races

Senate races

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Poll: Hirono dominant in Hawaii

Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) holds a strong lead over both her primary and general-election challengers, according to a new poll from Ward Research.

Hirono leads former Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii) by 56 percent to 36 percent in the primary, and leads former Gov. Linda Lingle (R) in the general election by 57 percent to 37 percent, according to the nonpartisan poll.

Both Case and Hirono have already been on television running advertisements. Hirono is the favorite of the Democratic establishment both in Hawaii and in Washington: The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is backing her over Case, and most of Hawaii's Democratic officials are either privately or publicly in her corner. Case angered many of them when he nearly beat Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) in a 2006 primary.

Lingle has been bringing in a ton of money and Republicans hope she can make this a competitive race. But if the poll is correct, Hirono starts off the race as the prohibitive favorite.

The poll included 771 registered voters with an oversample of 599 Democrats, and was conducted from Jan. 26 to Feb. 5. The margin of error for the primary ballot test is plus or minus four percentage points, while the margin of error for the general election is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.


Dems land a recruit in Nebraska Senate race

Democrats finally have a candidate running to replace retiring Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.): University of Nebraska Regent Chuck Hassebrook will jump into the race on Tuesday, according to the Lincoln Journal Star.

Hassebrook was not Democrats' first choice: After Nelson announced his retirement they tried to recruit former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.) to run, but he decided against it.

State Sen. Steve Lathrop (D), another possible candidate, is expected to make a decision soon about the race. The filing deadline for candidates who currently hold office is this Wednesday.

On the Republican side are state Treasurer Don Stenberg, state Attorney General Jon Bruning and state Rep. Deb Fischer. Whoever wins the GOP primary will be the heavy favorite in this race.


Sheyman up with first ad in Illinois

Democrat Ilya Sheyman is up with the first ad of the Democratic primary to take on freshman Rep. Robert Dold (R-Ill.) in a Democratic-leaning district outside of Chicago.

The ad paints Sheyman as the only true liberal in the primary race.

"There's no one definition of the American dream," says Sheyman, who mentions that his family were Jewish refugees from Russia and promises to defend Social Security and Medicare and "pass the jobs bill."

Sheyman, a Democratic activist in his late 20s, has received the backing of many liberal groups, including endorsements from the Progressive Campaign Change Committee, and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean's Democracy for America, a group he used to work for.

He faces off against businessman Brad Schneider and Air Force reservist John Tree. Sheyman has led in fundraising.

The three are vying to take on Dold in a district made more Democratic by redistricting. But Democrats have failed for a decade to win the seat despite its Democratic leaning at the national level: it was held by now-Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) for years, and Dold won the seat last election during the election's Republican wave.

Watch the ad here:


Rep. Rehberg ups the ante on Montana outside-spending ban

Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) upped the ante on his opponent, Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), expanding a proposed agreement to ban outside money in their race.

Tester sent Rehberg a letter on Wednesday calling for a ban on most forms of outside spending in the campaign, including from super-PACs, interest groups and the state parties. Rehberg's counter-offer expands that to include a ban on all donations from political action committees and lobbyists — as well as anyone not living in Montana.

{mosads}Rehberg sent a letter ripping Tester for his "newfound concern" about the issue, and pointed out that outside groups had spent heavily to help Tester win his election in 2006. 

"Because your concern is so newfound, you will understand if Montanans are rightly skeptical about its authenticity," Rehberg writes, describing Tester's "nascent concern [as] a self-serving political ploy."

Rehberg then blasts Tester for being the "number one recipient of lobbyist contributions in the entire United States Congress this election cycle."

Tester's offered agreement would have given him an edge in the race because of his strong cash on hand advantage and Rehberg's weak fundraising so far. Rehberg's calls for a return of lobbyist contributions would give him a relative edge in the race.

Tester's campaign responded quickly. "Jon is reviewing Congressman Rehberg's response, which reads like the attack ads we're trying to keep out of this race," Tester spokesman Aaron Murphy emailed The Hill. "The bottom line is that he rejected Jon’s simple proposal to give Montanans the transparency and accountability they deserve.  Saying no to transparency and accountability comes as no surprise from Congressman Rehberg, who just got caught hiding tens of thousands of dollars he took from out-of-state lobbyists."

The two campaigns seem happy to take potshots at each other for now, and it is unclear if they will be able to reach an agreement. But a similar scenario played out in Massachusetts, with Sen. Scott Brown (R) and Democrat Elizabeth Warren scoring political points off each other on the issue. The two eventually came to an enforceable agreement by which they are now both legally bound.

The state has seen a high level of third-party spending. Outside groups have already spent more than $1 million on television and radio ads — which is a lot of money in the small state.

This post was updated at 7:36 p.m.