Senate races

Senate races

Rep. Berkley primary opponent drops Nevada Senate bid

Millionaire Byron Georgiou (D) has dropped out of the Nevada Senate race, clearing the Democratic field for Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.).

In a statement, Georgiou said he could "more effectively contribute to resolution of the serious economic issues facing our state and nation" through private-sector work.

Berkley was already the odds-on favorite to win, as the entire Democratic establishment was behind her, but Georgiou had threatened to spend heavily on the race, which could have forced her to do the same, potentially weakening her in the general election against Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.). Berkley led Georgiou by 71 percent to 6 percent in a recent poll conducted by the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling firm.

Democrats believe the seat is one of their top pickup opportunities in the Senate next year. The state has trended Democratic due to high levels of Hispanic growth, and President Obama won the state with 55 percent of the vote in the 2008 election.

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DSCC hits Lugar for statements on economy

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) attacked Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) Wednesday morning for calling the economy "strong."

Lugar told a Louisville, Ky., television station on Tuesday that "The American economy is still strong, that we're making progress although it's very slow in terms of job creation, and that we still have a dollar that is the world currency and we are still selling bonds to everybody all over the world despite the S&P downgrade."

The DSCC said Lugar's statement indicates he does not understand voters' problems. 

"After 35 years in Washington, Senator Lugar is clearly out of touch with the struggles that so many Hoosiers are facing right now," said DSCC spokesman Shripal Shah. "His remarks are nothing short of insulting to the Hoosier families who are very worried about what's happening on Wall Street and don't feel that the economy is strong. 

"Senator Lugar has demonstrated exactly why even rank and file Hoosier Republicans are saying that it is time for a change. Hoosiers already knew it was time for new leadership and Senator Lugar’s remarks only reinforce that sentiment."

Lugar's campaign said his comments were about the underlying elements of the American economy, not the economy of the moment. 

"Dick Lugar believes the American economy is resilient and will come back from the damage done from President Obama and the Democrats. We need to elect a GOP president and majorities in the Senate and House in 2012," said Lugar Campaign Political Director David Willkie. "He’s saying the underlying basis of the free market economy is still there, that there’s strength in our system. There’s certainly been damage done by the Obama administration but the underlying basis for the American economy is still strong and will come back."

Democrats hope that Lugar's comments will have the same reverberations as Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) remarks in September 2008 that the "fundamentals of the economy are strong." The comment hurt McCain's presidential campaign.

Lugar, the longest serving Republican in the Senate, is facing a tough primary challenge from Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who has attacked him for being out of touch and too willing to work with President Obama.

Lugar’s campaign recently released an internal poll that showed him leading Mourdock 45 percent to 31 percent among likely GOP primary voters, with 23 percent undecided.

Those numbers indicate Lugar has the upper hand in the primary but is not guaranteed a victory. Generally, any incumbent who polls less than 50 percent should be concerned about a challenge.

If Lugar survives the primary, he will likely have the upper hand in a general election. He has not faced a tough race in decades and polling shows that he remains very popular with the broader electorate.

— Posted at 10:03 a.m. and updated at 11:20 a.m.

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ESPN analyst Craig James eyes fall decision on Texas Senate run

ESPN analyst Craig James said he'll make a decision this fall about whether to run for Senate as a Republican in Texas.

James, a college football announcer who played on powerhouse teams at Southern Methodist University during the school's controversial rise, said it's "too early" to make a decision about whether to jump in the crowded GOP field in Texas.

"It's been on my radar for two years. And I've gone around the state and I've listened to people," James said on the "Coffee and Markets" podcast published on the conservative blog RedState. "I do believe right now it's too early to make that decision. In the state of Texas, no one's paying attention to the U.S. Senate race right now other than the hardcores. And I believe that somewhere late in the fall, it will become important and people will start paying attention."

James is a noted conservative activist — he said he would have voted against the recent compromise to raise the debt ceiling — and has talked in the past about joining the race to succeed Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) in the Senate. He said he sees a relatively "short race," since Texas Gov. Rick Perry's (R) emerging presidential campaign is likely to suck up most of the political attention in the Lone Star State.

The race includes a number of heavyweights already who have begun to build the political infrastructure and fundraising base to win the GOP Senate primary, including Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, Comptroller Susan Combs, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, Solicitor General Ted Cruz, Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones and former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), through his influential Senate Conservatives Fund, has endorsed Cruz.

"I don't think we have a candidate right now that has signed up who is from real street and understands my issues, understands your issues, understands us," James said of the current field.

A late fall decision would presumably allow James to fulfill most of his obligations with ESPN through the bulk of the college football season, but arguably handicap him in a campaign. He wouldn't be the first member of the ABC/ESPN sports team to step down to pursue political office; Lynn Swann left ABC Sports to pursue the governorship of Pennsylvania in 2006 as the Republican nominee.

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Portman endorses GOP challenger in Ohio Senate race

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) endorsed Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel (R) in his race against Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) on Monday, according to the Columbus Post-Dispatch.

"I think his fundraising in the second quarter has been pretty impressive," said Portman. "I think he's a good candidate. He also understands that the message has to be the economy and jobs."

Mandel is the front-runner in the Republican primary, and raised a hefty $2.3 million in the first quarter of his campaign.

While some conservatives have questioned his right-wing bona fides, Mandel already has the backing of Tea Party favorite Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.). He faces state Sen. Kevin Coughlin (R) in the primary. While Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) has said he won't run, some conservatives including former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell have encouraged him to reconsider in recent weeks.

While Ohio is a purple state, Brown may be hard to beat. Forty-seven percent of voters in a recent Quinnipiac poll said he deserved reelection, compared to 33 percent who disagreed.

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Barbour endorses LeMieux in Florida

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) endorsed former Sen. George LeMieux's (R-Fla.) bid to run against Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), LeMieux's campaign announced Monday.

"George is a solid conservative who served the people of Florida well in the U.S. Senate," said Barbour. "I am happy to lend my support to his campaign."

LeMieux faces a tough primary against state Rep. Adam Hasner, and there has been speculation that other Republicans including U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan are considering a bid.

Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (I) is a close confidant of LeMieux's, who appointed him to the Senate in 2009. This association has hurt LeMieux with the Republican base because Crist, a centrist, left the GOP during his Senate race and campaigned as an independent.

Barbour, a well-respected figure in Republican circles since his time running the Republican National Committee in the early 1990s, could help LeMieux shore up his conservative credentials.

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McCain: Rep. Flake is ‘my choice’ to replace Kyl

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called GOP Rep. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) my choice to replace retiring Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) in 2012.

McCain had held off on making an endorsement in the race to replace Kyl. But on Arizonas KMLE radio Thursday, he said Flake was a solid conservative and obviously a good choice to be Kyls replacement.

The senators support for Flake could be an important factor in what is likely to be a fiercely competitive race.

Flake does face a primary from little-known businessman Douglas McKee, but the six-term lawmaker is favored to win. Its the general election that could prove much tougher.

His competition in the race could include Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.). Giffords has not yet announced her 2012 election plans, but Democrats are holding out hope that she will be recovered enough from Januarys assassination attempt to make a bid. Giffords’s friends in the Democratic Party, including Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), have said they are working to make sure she has the resources she needs in order to make her decision.

The conservative Club for Growth, the Tea Party group FreedomWorks and Utah Sen. Mike Lee (R) also made early endorsements of Flake earlier this year.

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New FreedomWorks Super-PAC to focus on Senate, grassroots

The Tea Party-affiliated group FreedomWorks has launched a new political action committee that will focus on funding local organizers and get-out-the-vote efforts.

FreedomWorks Vice President Russell Walker said that the PAC's money will go mostly towards Internet communication, get-out-the-vote materials for local Tea party groups and activists, and materials for door-to-door and phone-banking campaigns.

"Our main focus will be providing the tools in which activists can be engaged in campaigns," he said. "What gives us a competitive edge is we have all these connections to the grassroots."

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Thompson edges towards Wisconsin Senate run

Tommy Thompson, a former Republican governor of Wisconsin, seems almost ready to annouce a Senate run.

Thompson told a Milwaukee NBC affiliate on Wednesday that he thinks he would be the strongest candidate in the race.

You cant take over the Senate without having a Republican senator from Wisconsin,” he saidWho is the strongest candidate to win that seat? I believe it's myself.

The former governor would likely enter the race to replace retiring Sen. Herb Kohl (D) as the Republican front-runner. Former Rep. Mark Neumann (R), who ran against Gov. Scott Walker (R) in the 2010 GOP gubernatorial primary, is also considering a bid.

On the Democratic side, Rep. Tammy Baldwin is the most discussed likely candidate. Rep. Ron Kind and former Sen. Russ Feingold have also been mentioned as possible Democratic candidates, although Feingold seems to be more interested in running against Walker in a recall election than running to rejoin the Senate.

Wisconsin has voted for Democrats at the presidential level in every election since 1984, but Republicans have often run close races and had a banner year in 2010, picking up the governorship, a U.S. Senate seat and two U.S. House seats, as well as total control of the state legislature.

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Citizens United endorses Lugar challenger

The conservative group Citizens United endorsed Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock in his primary against Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) on Wednesday following Lugars vote to raise the debt ceiling.

Dick Lugar could have showed some spine in the recent debt vote and followed the junior senator from Indiana, Dan Coats, in voting no on a piece of legislation that does not solve our nation’s debt crisis, said David Bossie, president of Citizens United. Richard Mourdock is the only true conservative in the race for U.S. Senate, and he will stand up against the failed policies of Barack Obama. At the end of the day, Dick Lugar just wants to be Barack Obama’s friend.

The group gave $5,000 each to Mourdock’s primary and general election funds.

Lugar has come under fire from conservative groups including the Club for Growth, which accuse him of being too willing to work with Democrats and not standing up for conservative principles.

Lugar’s campaign released an internal poll Friday evening that showed him leading Mourdock 45 percent to 31 percent among likely GOP primary voters, with 23 percent undecided.

Those numbers indicate Lugar has the upper hand in the primary but is not guaranteed a victory. Generally, any incumbent who polls less than 50 percent should be concerned about a challenge.

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