Senate races

Senate races

Mourdock gets Indiana Right to Life endorsement; Lugar gets unhelpful Specter shout-out

The Indiana Right to Life political action committee has endorsed Indiana state Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R) in his bid to unseat Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.).

Lugar, on the other hand, got some unhelpful praise from former Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), a Republican-turned-Democrat loathed by most conservatives.

"We cannot afford to give Richard Lugar the opportunity to help place one more activist judge like Elena Kagan or Sonia Sotomayor onto the United States Supreme Court," Indiana Right to Life Chairman Mike Fichter said in a statement. "Richard Lugar will give the President his rubber stamp approval for any nominee put forward for the Supreme Court, just as he did when he voted to confirm Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. Richard Mourdock, on the other hand, understands the dangers of judicial activism and will firmly oppose any Supreme Court nominee who does not hold to a conservative judicial philosophy that is rooted in the United States Constitution."

The conservative anti-abortion-rights group is the latest to back Mourdock over Lugar: The National Rifle Association, FreedomWorks, The Club for Growth and other conservative groups are already in his corner. A recent Democratic poll showed Mourdock trailing Lugar by six points.

Specter, appearing on C-SPAN Monday morning, gave a shout-out to Lugar. When he took a call from an Indiana voter, he responded by saying "Vote for Dick Lugar." The caller then said he was likely planning to, leading to a smile from Specter.

The former Pennsylvania senator, an avowed centrist, has long been hated by conservatives: he barely warded off a GOP primary challenge from now-Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) in 2004, and when Toomey planned another run in 2010 Specter left the party, became a Democrat and voted for a number of Obama's key legislative achievements, including Democrats' health insurance overhaul.

His comment was not missed by the Club for Growth, which immediately took it and posted it on YouTube. The group was a major player in the 2004 race against Specter, and Toomey ran it until he announced his second Senate run.

"The Club for Growth might think this is cute to package Sen. Specter's off the cuff comment as an endorsement," Lugar spokesman Andy Fisher said when asked about the Specter remark. "Clearly Club for Growth is part of a negative campaign that is devaluing the vital leadership we need in these serious times that is being provided by Sen. Lugar."

Watch Specter on C-SPAN here:

This post was updated at 2:36 p.m.


Poll: McMahon tops GOP Senate field in Connecticut but would lose in general

Republicans in Connecticut could be headed for a repeat of 2010, when they nominated Linda McMahon for the Senate, then saw her lose in the general election, a new poll showed.

The former wrestling mogul took 51 percent in the GOP primary in a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday, besting former Rep. Chris Shays (R-Conn.) by 9 points.

But McMahon would lose by double digits to either of the two front-running Democratic candidates, while Shays is pulling just a few points behind and within the margin of error.


Tea Party group backs Steelman for McCaskill seat

A major Tea Party group waded into the contested GOP Senate primary in Missouri on Thursday, calling former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman "a true Tea Party candidate" and backing her bid to unseat Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).

Tea Party Express Chairwoman Amy Kremer called Steelman "a true Tea Party candidate," framing her fight against McCaskill as key to the group's goal of electing a GOP majority to the Senate.

"Americans are demanding real solutions to the fiscal woes facing our nation," Kremer said in a statement. "Sarah Steelman’s understanding of the economy and experience managing Missouri’s $19 billion annual revenue and over $3 billion in investments in the state’s portfolio have prepared her to tackle the issues McCaskill has failed to address during her past five years in Washington."

Steelman isn't the only candidate in the primary claiming the economic experience needed to tackle fiscal issues in Washington. Businessman John Brunner has made his family's company the central theme of his largely self-funded campaign, while Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) has touted his record as a solid fiscal conservative in the House.

Steelman is the fifth Senate candidate that Tea Party Express has backed this cycle. The group is also supporting Jon Bruning in Nebraska, Ted Cruz in Texas, Richard Mourdock in Indiana and Josh Mandel in Ohio.


Missouri Senate candidate becomes litmus test for ‘Washington outsider’ campaign strategy

The "citizen-senator" campaign of Republican John Brunner in Missouri is serving as a litmus test for whether anti-government sentiment means a candidate can win on his business record alone.

With Congress’s approval ratings at record lows and voters from both parties perturbed by the seeming inability of Washington lawmakers to solve major problems, candidates up and down the ballot have promoted themselves this cycle as “Washington outsiders” who can upend the status quo.

And with unemployment still at the top of most voters’ list of complaints, aspiring politicians are burnishing their own business credentials as evidence they have the know-how to create jobs.


Air war heats up in Maryland Senate race

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) has launched his second television ad of his reelection campaign, while a Republican challenger took to the radio to tout his outsider status ahead of an April 3 primary.

Cardin’s ad is a positive bio-spot focusing on his advocacy for Maryland’s oyster industry, and shows him in full fishing gear on an oyster boat.

“It’s Oysternomics 101. Start with a U.S. senator named Ben,” says the narrator in the ad, explaining how Cardin helped keep oyster workers on the job, creating a positive domino effect for others in the chain of production. “It’s like he’s out here with us. He’s my friend Ben, and I hope he’s your friend too.”

Dan Bongino, the most prominent of almost a dozen GOP candidates vying to take on Cardin, released a radio ad knocking “career bureaucrats” and promoting himself as the outsider who can get the job done.

“Can we all agree that politicians aren’t getting the job done? I’m Dan Bongino: husband, father of two beautiful daughters, small-business owner and a former special agent with the Secret Service,” Bongino says in the ad. “I refuse to accept that the current crop of D.C. bureaucrats is the best we can do.”

Cardin is well-positioned to win reelection, and had $2.6 million on hand to spend on that effort, as of the end of December.

Watch Cardin’s ad:

Listen to Bongino’s ad:


Schweich won't join crowded GOP Senate field in Missouri

Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich (R) has opted against running for Senate against Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), putting to bed the hopes of some GOP donors who encouraged him to join the crowded primary field.

"I just spoke to Tom Schweich, and he just announced he is not going to go forward in this race," Jon Brunner, one of the other GOP candidates in the primary, told The Hill. "Now it's back down to three candidates."

Prominent members of the state party had been recruiting Schweich, a former chief of staff to two U.N. ambassadors, to enter the race in early March, hinting that the current field was too weak to be able to reliably unseat McCaskill. Schweich filed the paperwork indicating an interest in the seat, and 18 top Missouri Republicans penned a letter to him urging him to formally enter the race.

Schweich's decision is welcome news for the rest of the GOP field, which includes Brunner, Rep. Todd Akin (Mo.) and former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman. But Democrats are unlikely to forget the fact that Republicans were dissatisfied with their slate of candidates — and that Schweich took a pass at challenging McCaskill — as they defend McCaskill against the eventual GOP nominee.