Senate races

Senate races

Sen. Thune to stump for Boozman

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) is traveling to Arkansas to campaign for the Republican Senate nominee.

Thune, often mentioned as a potential presidential candidate, will be in Little Rock on Aug. 24 to stump with Rep. John Boozman (R-Ark.). 

Boozman, who's running against Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln (Ark.), said he considers Thune a role model. 

"Senator Thune has been standing up to the Obama-Pelosi-Reid agenda in the U.S. Senate, the exact type of leadership that the people of Arkansas have been demanding from their U.S. Senator," Boozman said in a statement. "I look forward to welcoming him to Arkansas and, ultimately, serving with him in the U.S. Senate."

Thune famous defeated then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle in 2004. He's up for reelection this year but is running unopposed.


Sen. Lincoln drops below 30 percent in new poll

The latest Rasmussen poll on the Arkansas Senate race shows Sen. Blanche Lincoln's (D) numbers dropping to their lowest point yet in her reelection bid against Rep. John Boozman (R). 

Boozman leads 65 percent to 27 percent, according to the latest numbers. Four percent prefer another candidate and just 3 percent say they're undecided. A Rasmussen poll from last month had Boozman leading 60-35.  

It's obviously a long way to November, but right now Arkansas continues to look like the easiest Senate pick-up on the calendar for Republicans this fall.

Boozman has maintained a large lead over Lincoln since the senator narrowly survived a primary challenge from state Lt. Gov. Bill Halter (D), and Democrats in Arkansas have still not entirely coalesced around her reelection bid.

The poll found just 69 percent of Democrats backing Lincoln, while 89 percent of Republicans are supporting Boozman.  


DSCC just edges NRSC in July fundraising

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised $4.4 million in the month of July, compared to the $4.1 million pulled in by its Republican counterpart. 

The DSCC also holds a slight edge when it comes to cash on hand. The committee will report $22.4 million to the National Republican Senatorial Committee's $21.1 million. The DSCC also spent $3.5 million last month to the NRSC's $2.6 million. 

“Even though Republicans have enjoyed a hospitable political environment, Democrats continue to outraise them and hold a cash-on-hand advantage," DSCC National Press Secretary Deirdre Murphy said in a statement. "The committee and candidates are all in strong positions to wage competitive races in each of our targeted races, including many red seats."

On the NRSC's numbers, Executive Director Rob Jesmer said in a statement that they "help ensure that our candidates have the resources to win in November." He also proclaimed that Republicans are "on offense in at least 12 Democrat-held Senate seats."  

Even though the DSCC holds an edge, its $4.4 million is well under their total from June. The committee raised $7.1 million that month, topping the NRSC by some $3 million.


Carnahan backs extension of Bush tax cuts

Missouri Senate candidate Robin Carnahan (D) is just the latest Democrat facing a tough race in 2010 to buck her party's leaders in Washington. 

Carnahan, who is battling Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) for the seat left open by retiring Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), told voters while campaigning at the Missouri state fair Thursday, "Now is not the time to be doing anything to raise taxes."

In an interview with The Associated Press, Carnahan admitted that her position marks a shift from earlier this year.

In a February radio interview, Carnahan had said she favored extending tax cuts for the middle-class but not for the wealthiest Americans. She said then that the nation couldn't afford it.

Carnahan said in an interview Thursday with The Associated Press that her position has evolved because of an additional six months of difficult economic times, which she blamed on policies backed by Blunt.

Carnahan said she supports making permanent the tax cuts affecting lower and middle-income people and extending tax cuts for wealthier people until the economy improves enough to consider ways of balancing the budget. She declined to specify how long that extension should last. 

The issue has become a sticky one for both parties, as a handful of Democrats have come out in favor of an across-the-board extension of the tax cuts passed by Congress under former President George W. Bush. 

Most Democrats, including President Obama, only want to extend those cuts for people earning less than $200,000 a year. 

Republicans, meanwhile, have been pressed on how they square their support for extending the cuts with their calls to cut spending and reduce the federal deficit. The cuts are set to expire at the end of the year. 


Boozman left out of new NRSC Web video

Are Washington Republicans taking the Arkansas Senate race for granted? A Web ad released Thursday by the National Republican Senatorial Committee features almost every competitive contest except for Arkansas.

Republican nominee John Boozman (R) is currently leading Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) by more than 20 points in an average of public polls by Despite the comfortable lead, Boozman insisted the committee hadn't forgotten about him.

"They've been very, very helpful," Boozman told The Ballot Box. "They have literally done whatever we've asked."

Indiana Senate candidate Dan Coats (R) and Connecticut Republican Linda McMahon were also left out of the video.

There's only so many candidates the NRSC can squeeze into an ad, said Boozman. Attention's being directed elsewhere because the GOP has seen new pick-up opportunities emerge.

"I think what's happened is, is that neither side realized how many seats would be in play," the congressman said. "You've got Senator Boxer behind in California, the Washington state race so close, Wisconsin, and the list goes on and on. It's a challenge for both sides to figure out where to best spend their resources."


Didier moving toward backing Rossi in Washington state

In his first interview after Tuesday's primary, the Tea Party-backed Clint Didier had nothing good to say about his former Republican opponent, Dino Rossi. But now it looks as though Didier is moving closer to backing Rossi. 

From the AP:

Sarah Palin-endorsed candidate Clint Didier, who won 12 percent of the vote in Tuesday's Senate primary, says he's inclined to back Republican Dino Rossi to help defeat Democrat Patty Murray. 

Didier told KOMO Radio in Seattle Wednesday he'd first like to see Rossi sign a pledge not to add or increase taxes. Didier says he hopes to come to terms with Rossi to lend supporters to help defeat Murray.

Asked whether he was ready to back Rossi after Tuesday's primary, Didier initially told the Seattle Times, "I've got to see more fire in the belly. I've got to see more conviction."

Republican strategists in the state also say party officials are leaning on Didier to back Rossi sooner rather than later to avoid prolonging the narrative that Republicans aren't unified heading into November. 

"The question is, At what point will he endorse him?" said a Republican strategist with knowledge of the race. "If this drags out too long, it could hurt Rossi, and they're very aware of that."    

No comment yet from Rossi's camp. 

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) led the way Tuesday, winning 46 percent of the vote to Rossi's 34 in the state's "top-two" primary, advancing both to the general election in November. 

Didier pulled just over 12 percent of the vote, while businessman Paul Akers managed 3 percent.


Conway wants mosque project 'located elsewhere'

Kentucky Senate candidate Jack Conway (D) weighed in Wednesday on plans for an Islamic center and mosque to be built near Ground Zero in New York. 

Conway called the controversy over the project "an issue for New York primarily." But, he said, “I think we have to keep the families of the victims of 9/11 foremost in our minds and because of that I would prefer to see it located elsewhere,” according to the Kentucky Times-Tribune.

Conway's comments come after declining to take a position on the project earlier in the week. 

While the campaign of Conway's Republican opponent Rand Paul has also called it a "local matter," the candidate himself told a local Kentucky TV station that he's opposed to the project being built near Ground Zero. He also suggested the Muslim community donate to the 9/11 memorial.


Report: Vitter aide traveled on taxpayer funds to court dates

Sen. David Vitter's (R-La.) former aide traveled at taxpayers' expense to court appearances in Louisiana.

Records show Vitter's office covered the expenses of Brent Furer to travel to Louisiana on trips coinciding with "court-related activities" involving the aide's most recent DWI arrest.

The dates of the trips in 2007 and 2008 match times Furer was scheduled to make appearances related to his Dec. 28, 2004, arrest for driving while intoxicated and other related charges, according to records unearthed by the Baton Rouge Advocate.

Furer left Vitter's staff in June after ABC News reported he'd been arrested for allegedly assaulting a female friend with a knife and threatening to kill her. He later pleaded guilty to lesser charges.

A Vitter spokesman said the senator "certainly doesn't condone any questionable timing of these trips."

"The senator did not know about any Baton Rouge DWI incident until it was reported in the press just this past June. ... It is standard for our Washington legislative staff to visit Louisiana periodically for meetings," the Vitter spokesman said.

It's unclear if this latest revelation about Furer will cause Vitter any political harm as he faces a challenge from Chet Traylor, a former Louisiana Supreme Court justice, for the Republican Senate nomination.

Traylor recently released a tough radio ad that hits Vitter for employing Furer. Listen to it below.