Senate races

Senate races

Angle's campaign under scrutiny after backing out of debate with Reid

The Nevada Senate race has been dominated for the past two days by the drama surrounding Republican Sharron Angle's commitment and subsequent withdrawal from a debate with Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.).

Political reporter Jon Ralston had organized the meeting to take place on his interview show, "Face to Face," Oct. 21 in Reno. But Angle withdrew after agreeing to go ahead, which prompted an angry rebuke from Ralston on Twitter. "Remember 'Scanners' where people's heads exploded. That's how I feel right now. This is a Senate race, not a competition for h.s. president," he tweeted Thursday.

In his Friday column, Ralston explained the tick-tock of the debate that wasn't to be, as well as the personality conflicts within Angle's campaign.

This is all about a campaign organization riven by personality conflicts between seasoned pros and amateurs, and a candidate torn between longtime friends and operatives parachuted in to save her. [Angle spokesmen Jerry] Stacy is trying to use the campaign's previous insistence on having a debate before early voting starts as a fig leaf, but it is not a very effective one since Oct. 21 is still just under two weeks before the balloting. This is about ego and inside baseball (do they think anyone cares when the debate is or will care about Stacy's demand about the early voting cutoff?) Besides, Angle can't get away from that public commitment and I have been told it's not over yet. We shall see.


Obama will be in Connecticut next week for Dem Senate candidate

President Obama will head to Connecticut Thursday to campaign for Democratic Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal.

The White House made the announcement Friday. Obama will also attend events for the Democratic National Committee while he's in the Constitution State.

Blumenthal, the popular attorney general, seems to have weathered an earlier scandal about his military service during the Vietnam War era. In the latest poll, he leads Republican candidate Linda McMahon by nine points, 53 percent to 44 percent.

In his press conference at the White House Friday, Obama predicted his party could do well in the midterm elections as long as it convinced voters it is providing the best options for an economic recovery.

The party is planning to use the president in the runup to Dlection Day. The Democratic National Committee announced Thursday some October campaign dates for Obama. He'll be in Philadelphia on Oct. 10, in Ohio on Oct. 17, and in Las Vegas on Oct. 22. All three states have competitive November contests.

-- Michael O'Brien contributed to this post.


Robin Carnahan says 'no' to new stimulus money

Another Democrat in a hotly-contested election came out on Friday against President Obama's proposal for an additional $50 billion in spending for infrastructure improvements. 

Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan (D), who is locked in a tight Senate race with Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), told The Associated Press that the plan "doesn't seem like a practical way to solve what is a huge problem in our country with this continuing high levels [sic] of unemployment and lagging economic activity." 

Blunt also slammed the idea at a campaign event Friday, telling supporters the president is "grasping at straws" and calling the impetus behind the proposal political. 


Ex-Gov. Ridge endorses Toomey for Senate

Tom Ridge spent much of 2009 publicly mulling a bid for Senate in Pennsylvania, but he opted not to run and on Thursday endorsed Republican Pat Toomey’s bid.

"As a member of Congress Pat consistently fought for taxpayers, and in today’s economic climate, that trait is more important than ever," the former governor said in a statement.

Toomey said he was "honored" to have the backing of Ridge, who also served as Homeland Security secretary.

The endorsement comes as a new report shows Toomey is one of the top recipients of campaign contributions from Wall Street and financial interests.

The industry's contributions, which favored Democrats in recent election cycles, are now helping Republicans vie for control of the Senate.

Between February and June, financial, insurance and real estate interests contributed heavily to five Senate Republican candidates, including Toomey, who received $728,000, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.


Bill Clinton set for busy Sept. on the trail (updated)

Bill Clinton is headlining a fundraiser for Georgia Senate candidate Mike Thurmond (D) Thursday in Atlanta.

Tickets to the evening event at the Sheraton range from $1,000 to $2,400. Thurmond advisers had previously told The Ballot Box that Clinton could be helpful in broadening the Democrat's appeal. He's currently trailing Sen. Johnny Isakson (R) in polls and money raised.

Thurmond's connections with Clinton go way back, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was a supporter of then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D-N.Y.) 2008 presidential campaign, and worked with the Clinton White House in the 1990s on welfare reform.

The former president is also set for events in Cleveland and Columbus on Sept. 14 to help Gov. Ted Strickland (D). 

And Clinton will be the headliner at a rally and fundraiser for Ohio Senate candidate Lee Fisher (D) in Cincinnati on Sunday, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. 

--Updated at 10:25 a.m.


Kirk again trying positive message in Illinois Senate race

The Illinois Senate race could veer away from so-called gutter politics — at least temporarily.

The race for the seat formerly held by President Obama had been marred by an ongoing exchange of bitter accusations ranging from lying about military service to connections to Chicago mobsters. It's expected to be one of the most hard-fought Senate contests of the midterm campaign.

But Republican Mark Kirk's newest ad, which is set to go up on the air this week, according to a campaign spokesman, is positive and doesn't mention his Democratic opponent. 

"In a country where too many just vote the party line, there are only a few thoughtful, independent leaders who do what's right for us," the female announcer says in the ad.

The 30-second spot, which paints Kirk as "independent and effective," was produced by Larry McCarthy of McCarthy Marcus Hennings.

Democrat Alexi Giannoulias is also moving away from the harder-edged ads that ran earlier in the campaign. His latest spot, which was released Wednesday, features footage of a rally he held with President Obama in August.

"Alexi's my friend; I know his character. You can trust him. You can count on him," Obama says in the ad.


Obama labels Ohio Dem next senator from 'Illinois'

President Obama mistakenly labeled an Ohio Democrat the next senator "from the great state of Illinois."

Obama made the error while acknowledging officials before his speech in Cleveland, Ohio, on Wednesday.

"The lieutenant governor and soon to be junior senator from the great state of Illinois," Obama said, before correcting himself. "I was thinking about my own … Lee Fisher is here."

Fisher faces Republican Rob Portman in November.

Coincidently, Democrat Alexi Giannoulias, who is running to be the next junior senator from Illinois, released a TV ad Wednesday featuring footage of an event he held with Obama.

The Portman campaign was quick to point to the president's error as a sign of "trouble" for Fisher. "How do you know your campaign's in trouble?," a Portman spokeswoman said in an e-mail. "When the leader of your party — whom you’ve personally asked for help — calls you the next junior senator from … Illinois?"

The National Republican Senatorial Campaign committee also noted the president's error in an e-mail to reporters.

In an interview with the Columbus Dispatch, Fisher said he has asked for Obama's help raising money. "We've talked about it, and all I would say is that we are in active discussions with the White House, and I've spoken personally to the president about it," the Democrat said. 

—This post was updated at 3:38 p.m.


Sen. Murkowski says she's 'still in the game'

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) told the Associated Press Tuesday that she is still weighing her options when it comes a potential third-party or independent bid for Senate this November. 

Murkowski conceded the Republican primary to Tea Party-backed Joe Miller a week ago, but said Tuesday that she has been flooded with emails from supporters appealing to her to not exit the Senate race.

From the AP:

She said that if this was "all about Lisa, certainly the easy thing for me to do would be to figure out what my next opportunity would be with my family and just settle in to a nice job."

"But what I'm looking at is my state and the future of my state for my kids. So, I have not made that determination that I'm going to give up. I'm not a quitter, never have been. And I'm still in this game," Murkowski said.

She met briefly Tuesday with the Libertarian candidate, David Haase after friends of hers - without her direction, she said - approached his party, asking if they would consider a Murkowski candidacy. She said she had an interesting discussion with Haase but made clear she's not interested in changing her "political stripes."

Miller campaign spokesman Randy DeSoto told the Ballot Box, "Both Joe and Sen. Murkowski agreed at a forum on August 20 that they would honor the outcome of the primary. We trust that the Senator will keep her word."

DeSoto called the Senator's concession last week "classy" and said, "the Alaskan people have spoken."  

An official with the state Libertarian Party told the Anchorage Daily News over the weekend that there have been discussions with the Murkowski campaign about a potential run on their ballot line. If Murkowski were to replace Haase, it would have to happen by September 15.

Though the Libertarian party already rejected the idea once, an official told the Ballot Box immediately after Murkowski conceded to Miller that the party could reconsider if the senator made an appeal. 

Political consultant and former independent gubernatorial candidate Andrew Halcro first broached the idea of Murkowski running on the Libertarian line to party officials and maintains that it's still a possibility. 

The greatest negative for Murkowski if she did decide to pursue another ballot line would be the anger she would undoubtedly generate among the base of the Republican Party. Not to mention how the NRSC would react to such a move. 

Murkowski's only other option would be an independent write-in bid, which would be an uphill climb given the logistics involved.  

-Updated at 7:03 p.m.


$50 billion stimulus could be issue in Pennsylvania Senate race

Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) backed President Obama's call for a $50 billion in additional spending for improvements to the nation's infrastructure Tuesday. 

Here's how the Christian Science Monitor characterized Sestak's remarks Tuesday: 

Senate hopeful Rep. Joe Sestak (D) of Pennsylvania today backed President Obama’s call on Labor Day for $50 billion in new stimulus spending to create infrastructure jobs — and, anticipating the president’s speech in Cleveland on Thursday, another $200 billion in research-and-development tax credits for business. 

But in a campaign season where the polls are running hard against incumbent Democrats, Congressman Sestak says he wishes his party’s focus on jobs had come about 18 months earlier – and not just because the polls have gone south. 

“Why now? We’re doing it for the polls, we should be doing it because it’s the right thing to do,” he said in a speech on the economy at Carnegie Mellon University.

A spokesman for the Sestak campaign noted he wasn't specifically referring to the president's proposed infrastructure spending, but that he was encouraging a focus on supporting small business and thinks more should have been done on that front over the past 18 months. 

Here's a link to Sestak's full speech Tuesday, which focused on his plan to buck up small business.

Sestak is facing former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) in one of the nation's marquee Senate races this fall. President Obama is set to headline a fundraiser for Sestak later this month, and the congressman has said he expects former President Bill Clinton to stump for him, too. 

-Updated at 6:50 p.m. and 9:07 p.m.