Senate races

Senate races

Poll: McMahon ahead in GOP primary, but fares worse against Dems

Former wrestling magnate Linda McMahon is ahead in the Republican primary for the Senate seat in Connecticut, but would have a tougher time in the general election, a poll out Friday shows.

The Quinnipiac University poll has McMahon beating former Rep. Chris Shays (R-Conn.) 50-35, but losing in a matchup with two Democratic candidates, Rep. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz (D).

In a general election, the poll showed, Bysiewicz would lead McMahon 46-38, and Murphy would beat her 49-38.

McMahon left her position as the head of World Wrestling Entertainment to run for Senate in 2010, but was defeated by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) by 11 points. She is said to be planning a second go in 2012, this time for the seat left open by Sen. Joe Lieberman's (I-Conn.) upcoming retirement.

McMahon would be the state's first female senator if elected, but the poll found women are less likely to have formed an opinion in the Republican primary. McMahon is ahead of Shays 54-37 among Republican men; among women, it's 47-32.

President Obama gets mixed reviews from Connecticut voters, with 48 percent approving of his job performance and 48 percent disapproving. But matched up leading GOP presidential candidates, Obama leads Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) 52-33 and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) 49-36.

The poll of 1,230 registered voters was conducted Sept. 8 to 13 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.6 percentage points.

- This post was updated on Sept. 21 to correct a figure.


Rep. Kind won't run for Senate in Wisconsin

Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) has announced he won't run for the Senate, eliminating the largest hurdle for Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) to be the Democratic nominee to replace retiring Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.). This will allow Baldwin to save her resources for what could be a tough general-election fight in the Democratic-leaning state.

"Now is not my time to run for the U.S. Senate," Kind said in a statement Thursday. "The issues are just too pressing right now. Furthermore, at this time a divisive primary contest will not serve the interests of the state or the real needs of families. It will not create one job, help one family pay for college, cut one dollar from our state or federal deficit, protect one senior citizen’s Social Security and Medicare, or help one of the thousands of veterans in Wisconsin who served our country. Most certainly it will not reduce the hyper partisanship that is needlessly tearing apart our state and country."

Kind survived a tough race in 2010 in a swing district along the Mississippi River, but his district became safer in redistricting and he is unlikely to face another serious challenge in future years — making the prospect of giving up a safely Democratic seat to run for the Senate somewhat less enticing for Kind.

Baldwin is a liberal congresswoman from Madison who has a fervent following among the state's liberal base and would be the first openly gay senator. She would likely have started a primary with an advantage over Kind, who is known as more of a centrist.

Former Rep. Steve Kagen (D-Wis.) from northeastern Wisconsin is still seriously considering a run. But Kind has much more political experience in the state and deeper connections with Wisconsin Democrats, and would have been a stronger opponent against Baldwin.

On the Republican side, former Rep. Mark Neumann (R-Wis.) is running, as is Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald. Former Gov. Tommy Thompson is also expected to run for the seat.


EMILY's List gets behind Warren for Senate

Elizabeth Warren (D), who announced Wednesday she would run for Senate in Massachusetts against Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), has won the approval of EMILY's List, which backs female candidates who come out in favor of abortion rights.

While Brown has a relatively pro-abortion-rights record, especially for a Republican, Democrats are still hurting from his 2010 win over Martha Coakley (D), a bruising defeat in what was considered one of the safest Democratic seats in the Senate. It was also a missed chance for Massachusetts to elect its first female senator.

"Scott Brown has pursued a corporate-backed, anti-woman Republican agenda ever since he rode the Tea Party wave into office," said EMILY's List President Stephanie Schriock in a statement Thursday announcing the endorsement. "Elizabeth Warren is the leader who will truly fight for middle-class families in Massachusetts."

Half a dozen other Democratic candidates will vie with Warren for the chance to take on Brown, but as the person who spearheaded President Obama's consumer protection efforts, Warren already has a national profile and will likely secure the support of high-powered fundraising and campaign groups.

Early signs from Brown's campaign indicate he will seek to portray Warren as an out-of-touch elitist more suited for the ivory tower than retail populism. Warren teaches at Harvard University and is known for speaking eloquently about complicated economic policy.

Although Democrats have a registration advantage of about a million voters in Massachusetts, Brown remains popular in the state. A poll by radio station WBUR in the days before Warren officially announced showed Brown nine points ahead of Warren.

In 2009-10, EMILY's List raised almost $40 million to support female politicians.


Delph won’t run for Senate, complicating Lugar’s reelection bid

Indiana state Sen. Mike Delph (R) will not run for the Senate, bad news for U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.), who would have had an easier primary if Delph had run and split the Tea Party vote with Republican state Treasurer Richard Mourdock.

My wife and daughters need me here in Indiana helping with homework, assisting with carpooling and just being Dad,” Delph said Wednesday, according to the Evansville Courier & PressThat is my number one obligation.”

Delph had also been considering a U.S. House campaign.

Conservative national groups including the Club for Growth, Freedomworks and Citizens United have all criticized Lugar and indicated that if Mourdock proved a viable candidate they would back him in a primary. Hoosiers for Conservative Senate, an Indiana Tea Party group, will meet later this month to endorse a candidate against Lugar, and Delphs decision all but guarantees they will support Mourdock.

Lugar, a six-term incumbent, is popular statewide but has trouble with the states conservative base because of his vote for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which many view as a bailout to Wall Street, as well as his support of President Obamas Supreme Court nominees.

But Mourdock has yet to prove himself as a strong candidate — his campaign has had relatively weak fundraising figures so far. Still, he appears to be the best chance for conservative and Tea Party groups to take out a centrist Republican senator, as others they have criticized, including Olympia Snowe (Maine), Bob Corker (Tenn.) and Orrin Hatch (Utah) have not drawn serious opposition.


Crossroads ad campaign rehashes McCaskill airplane saga

American Crossroads, the conservative group founded by GOP strategist Karl Rove, is rehashing Sen. Claire McCaskill's (D-Mo.) private plane saga with a combination of radio ads and billboards.

Unpaid back taxes on a private plane owned by McCaskill caused major political problems for the senator in March and gave Republicans fodder to portray her as out of touch and elitist. McCaskill eventually repaid almost $300,000 in taxes and said she would sell the plane.

The radio ad simulates a detective drama, interjecting sound bites from McCaskill's public statements as if she were responding to interrogation by a detective.

"I was working the truth squad out of St. Joe Airport. I found Sen. Claire McCaskill standing next to a fancy private jet," the narrator says sardonically.

"I made a huge mistake," McCaskill says.

The ad ends with the detective handing down a sentence of "guilty, for violating our trust."

The billboard, for fictional airline "AirClaire," shows McCaskill in a flight attendant-style outfit and suggests that while high air fares might be a downer for the general public, they don't affect McCaskill.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee blasted the ad and GOP strategist Karl Rove, one of the founders of American Crossroads.

"Karl Rove and his anonymous billionaires are at it again with blatantly inaccurate commercials about Claire McCaskill,” DSCC spokesman Matt Canter said in a statement. 

“The bottom line is that Claire self-reported, fully corrected any mistakes and hasn't stepped foot on the plane since. Karl Rove and out-of-state special interest groups are going to use this issue like a piñata, but it won't work," Canter said. "These Washington groups simply don't like that Claire is an independent moderate who fights for Missouri’s working families – not the special interests."

McCaskill, a fiscally conservative Democrat who took her seat from a Republican in 2006 by a slim margin, is considered one of the most vulnerable senators up for reelection in 2012.

This isn't the first time American Crossroads has gone after her. Earlier this year the group launched radio ads against McCaskill and put up a website arguing that she's more liberal than she makes herself out to be.

This post was updated at 4:37 p.m.


Nebraska Dems air early ad for Sen. Nelson

The state Democratic Party in Nebraska has hit airwaves with its first ad of the season in support of endangered Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), hoping to set him apart in voters' minds from both unpopular national Democrats and interparty bickering that has bogged down Washington policymaking. 

The ad starts with a montage of video footage of two Republicans and two Democrats — including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). Nelson then appears in front, gesturing behind him with his thumb as he tells viewers that establishment politicians don't get it. 

"They put politics ahead of what's best for the country," Nelson says in the ad. "We need to balance the budget, but not on the backs of senior citizens." He goes on to talk about bringing U.S. troops home and investing in American jobs as a child is shown playing on a swing. 

The ad may represent an effort, very early in the season, to test the waters for Nelson, whose seat is among those Republicans are most hopeful of capturing. Nelson has not yet said for certain that he will run for reelection. 

Democrats will spend more than $200,000 to air the ad, according to the National Journal, in Omaha, Lincoln and North Platte, and on cable channels. 

A spokesman for the party did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Former Florida GOP chairman's trial could hurt LeMieux

The trial of former Florida Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer for charges of money laundering and fraud could deal a serious blow to former Sen. George LeMieux's (R-Fla.) Senate campaign.

Greer has said that LeMieux knew about most of the actions he committed that have led to the charges, and emails obtained by the St. Petersburg Times earlier this week show that Greer remained close to both Lemieux and then-Gov. Charlie Crist (R-Fla.) for much of the time he was chairman.

LeMieux, who was then a Republican consultant, recommended Greer for the job to Crist and was paid $150,000 by the state party while Greer was chairman. Greer continued to help Crist in his Senate campaign even after now-Sen. Marco Rubio (R) emerged as a serious threat, and set up a separate fund that paid himself and a friend from GOP coffers as consultants on top of their own salaries.

Former Florida House Majority Leader Adam Hasner (R), who is running against LeMieux in the GOP primary, sent around the story to supporters and the press, while the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has pushed it as well. Both have tried to tie LeMieux to Crist, who is hated by many conservatives in the state for his abandonment of the GOP to run as an Independent in 2010 after it became clear Rubio would beat him in a primary.

Florida Republicans seem dissatisfied with the current slate of candidates to challenge Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) in the swing state: Recent polling shows none of the candidates in the race have gained traction within the Republican electorate.

Florida's primaries don't occur until August; if Republicans fail to coalesce around a candidate long before then they will face an uphill battle against Nelson, a relatively popular incumbent, in the very expensive state.


Massachusetts Dems call on Sen. Brown to fire aides behind anti-Warren website

The Massachusetts Democratic Party is calling on Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) to fire the aides behind what it's calling a smear campaign on likely challenger Elizabeth Warren.  

The demand followed the revelation that a Brown adviser had registered the domain name, first reported by left-leaning blog Blue Mass Group. Republicans frequently criticized Warren, a Democrat, during her tenure with the Obama administration as overstepping her role and promoting elitist, anti-business policies.  

“It is hypocritical of Scott Brown to criticize Massachusetts citizens who merely question his voting record while engaging in the kind of nasty personal attacks that are common place in Washington, D.C.," Massachusetts Democratic Party Chairman John Walsh said in a statement. "If Sen. Brown is who he says he is, he will take decisive action to take his campaign out of the gutter and fire these aides immediately."  

The Brown campaign rebuffed the Walsh's demand, calling it blatant hypocrisy. 

"Before hyperventilating over a $10 domain name for a website that does not even exist, he might want to begin with those that do – universally owned and operated by the Beacon Hill political machine – that feature false and misleading attacks on Scott Brown," said Jim Barnett, Brown's campaign manager. 

Barnett pointed out that Brown himself has been the target of tongue-in-cheek websites such as, a site run by union-backed group Mass Uniting that portrays Brown as a figurine with an oscillating head, calling him a "yes-man" for big business and establishment Republicans. is not active, but Internet registration records show the name was purchased on Aug. 26. That was around the same time Brown's campaign was dealing with another technology flap, in which adviser Eric Fehrnstrom was revealed to be behind fake Twitter account @CrazyKhazei, which mocked Democratic Senate candidate Alan Khazei.  

Warren, who advocated for and then helped to build the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for President Obama but was not asked to lead it, has formed an exploratory committee to challenge Brown for his Senate seat. She is widely expected to run in 2012 when Brown seeks his first full term.  

Brown is the No. 1 target for Democrats in Massachusetts, a heavily Democratic state where Brown's 2010 victory was largely attributed to a poor campaign run by state Attorney General Martha Coakley in a special election to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.). The front page of the state party's website features a clock counting the years, minutes and seconds since Brown held office without holding an open last town hall meeting.