Senate races

Senate races

Rep. Vern Buchanan eyeing Fla. Senate run

Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) is seriously considering entering the already crowded Republican Senate primary, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and a tweet from nonpartisan campaign expert Larry Sabato.

Buchanan has the personal wealth and deep party connections to spend his way into the race. Buchanan spent $7.5 million of his own money in his first congressional race, and was a top fundraiser for former Gov. Jeb Bush (R) and former Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.).

But he is susceptible to a challenge from the right: He has one of the more centrist voting records of Florida's Republican House delegation, and has supported Democratic priorities including banning offshore drilling off Florida's coast, raising the minimum wage and creating the State Children's Health Insurance Program. He also publicly stressed bipartisanship in his 2008 reelection, which could come back to bite him in a primary.

Other Republicans in the race include former Sen. George LeMieux (R-Fla.), former state Rep. Adam Hasner and former Ruth's Chris Steakhouse CEO Craig Miller. The campaign for the right to challenge Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) will be an expensive one, with a crowded and deep-pocketed field in a large, exorbitantly expensive state to campaign in.

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SEIU hits Scott Brown on debt ceiling

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is running radio ads attacking Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) for keeping quiet during the debt-ceiling debate.

"Last week Scott Brown stood with congressional Republicans, voting for a proposal that could force cuts to Social Security, Medicare and other vital programs while protecting tax breaks for oil companies and CEOs who take corporate jets," says the ad's narrator. "Now Scott Brown won’t say where he stands, even though America is just days away from not having enough money to issue Social Security checks, pay our military and provide veterans benefits."

SEIU spokesman Mark McCullough says the ads will run throughout the weekend, and that the group has spent in the mid-five figures on it and might buy more airtime in the future.

Brown's campaign pushed back. "This is just more negative attacks from special interests who have an interest in protecting the status quo," said Brown campaign manager Jim Barnett. "Scott Brown believes we ought to reduce spending and avoid higher taxes. We can't continue with business as usual in Washington. It is bankrupting the nation and harming economic recovery."

Brown is a top target of unions and Democrats in the next cycle in the deep blue state. But he has amassed almost $10 million in the bank to ward off any challenger, and Democrats are not yet satisfied with the field.

Some hope that Harvard Professor Elizabeth Warrern, who helped create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, will enter the race. For now, the leading candidates seem to be entrepreneur and City Year co-founder Alan Khazei and Newton Mayor Setti Warren.

Without a definite front-runner to attack Brown, it will be up to unions and outside groups to put some dents in his image in the next few months. The SEIU is in the position to do so: It spent $1.7 million in the lead-up to Brown's special-election victory in late 2009 and early 2010.

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Elizabeth Warren leaves financial bureau, setting up possible Senate bid

Elizabeth Warren will resign her position as a special adviser to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to return to Harvard Law School, setting up a potential run for Senate in Massachusetts. 

Warren, the top choice of many Democrats to lead the new consumer protection panel created in last year's Wall Street reform legislation, will head back to Boston after months of awaiting a potential appointment to lead the CFPB. 

Democrats had urged President Obama to use a recess appointment to install Warren as the agency's chief, since Republicans in the Senate expressed resistance to confirming her as its first chairwoman.

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Lugar trails Mourdock in Club for Growth poll

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) is trailing his conservative primary challenger in a new poll commissioned by the fiscally-conservative Club for Growth, a group that has attacked him in the past.
 
The incumbent senator, who’s facing one of the toughest challenges of his career, is down by 2 points with one-third of GOP primary voters undecided.
 
Indiana state treasurer Richard Mourdock has the backing of 34 percent of Republican primary voters while Lugar gets 32 percent and 34 percent are undecided, the poll found.
 
The Club for Growth, which has made noises about backing Mourdock in the primary, did not release the full poll or give all the details for how it identified Republican primary voters, which casts some doubt on its results. The group has run ads attacking Lugar’s record and warning him against voting for an increase to the debt ceiling, and Lugar’s campaign questioned the poll’s methodology.
 
“The data released by the Club for Growth does not resemble anything we are seeing,” said Lugar Political Director David Willkie. “Before commenting on a purely publicity driven poll commissioned by an outside group that has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars against us, we need to know much more about the methodology.”
 
The Club for Growth refused to release the full poll questionnaire or results but the group’s spokesman pushed hard against the Lugar campaign’s suggestion that it was a push poll designed to make Lugar look beatable. “It’s a straight ballot test,” said Club for Growth spokesman Barney Keller. “I’m sure Sen. Lugar and his allies are going to be completely disappointed by this poll and will say and do anything to discredit it.”
 
The senator has been a leading target for the conservative Tea Party movement this cycle and these numbers indicate he is in a tough spot despite reassurances from Lugar’s campaign that the senator will breeze by Mourdock in the primary.
 
"An incumbent who sits at 32 percent in his own party’s primary, and trails a much less known challenger, is in a world of trouble," said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola in a statement. "Senator Lugar is a very decent man, but it’s clear from the poll that after 35 years, Hoosier Republicans are eager for a more conservative alternative."
 
Lugar, the most senior Republican in the Senate, has not faced any real competition in decades. He did not face major-party opposition in 2006, and the last time he was held to under 60 percent of the vote was in 1982.
 
But he angered some conservatives by voting for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), which has been characterized as a Wall Street bailout, and voting to confirm both of President Obama's Supreme Court nominations. Lugar has also backed the DREAM Act, a measure favored by the administration which would give some illegal immigrants brought here as children a path to citizenship.
 
Mourdock has worked to capitalize on Lugar’s positions as well as the perception the senator is a Washington insider.
 
In an interview with The Hill earlier this month, Mourdock attacked Lugar for not being conservative enough on economic issues and for being too much of a foreign policy wonk.
 
"People in Indiana want to see fiscal controls, they want to see someone who’s with them regularly back there, not just someone sitting in Washington, D.C. thinking about the lofty issues of foreign affairs," he said. "People in Indiana care less about democracy in the Middle East than they care about Hoosier jobs moving to China."
 
The poll was conducted by the Republican firm Basswood Research from July 23-24. The sample contained 500 likely Republican primary voters, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percent.

This post was updated at 3:20pm.

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Rand Paul to endorse Ted Cruz in Texas

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) will endorse former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz in the state's Republican Senate primary, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

"Having grown up in Texas, I know Texans don’t want a career politician in the Senate who will compromise with Democrats to keep growing our out-of-control federal spending and debt. Washington already has too many tax-and-spend politicians in Washington from both parties," Paul plans to say in a statement. "We don’t need another. What we need is someone who is serious about cutting spending and getting our debt problem under control by passing a balanced-budget amendment."

Paul, a Tea Party favorite who grew up in Texas, is just the latest Tea Partier to back Cruz over Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst: Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) endorsed him last week, and the conservative groups Freedomworks and Club for Growth have also backed Cruz.

Dewhurst is deep-pocketed and better known around the state, making him the front-runner — for now. But Cruz's endorsements continue to roll in, making him a viable candidate. Former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert is also running and trying to burnish his conservative credentials. But the early primary is really about which candidate emerges as the anti-Dewhurst vote, and these endorsements help Cruz gain the upper hand in that fight.

Paul's father, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), is well-known in the state and very popular with some elements of the Republican base there.

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Crossroads offensive targets five Dem senators up in '12

A major outside conservative spending group on Tuesday launched a seven-figure spending blitz against five Democratic senators.

Crossroads GPS, the twin super-PAC affiliated with American Crossroads, said it was spending $1.6 million in TV and Internet advertising against Democrats facing a tough reelection in 2012.

The ads, which focus on the poor state of the economy, accuse the Democratic senators of wanting to raise taxes, all while linking them to President Obama.

There's a variation of the spot for each of the five Democratic incumbents targeted by the offensive, which is part of Crossroads's $20 million summer campaign. The ads will target Sens. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

“President Obama has made it clear that he wants to raise taxes in these debt negotiations, which will cost jobs and send the economy further into a tailspin” said Crossroads GPS President and CEO Steven Law. “Between his healthcare bill and the failed stimulus, Obama and his allies in the Senate have blown a massive hole in the deficit, and it’s time to take away their blank check.”

View a version of the Ohio spot below:


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Hoekstra challenger to bow out

Former Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) might not have a competitive primary after all in his bid to take on Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.): Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner John McCullogh (R) plans to drop out of the race and endorse Hoekstra on Tuesday, according to the Detroit Free Press.

This is good news for Hoekstra: McCullogh's base in populous, and donor-heavy suburban Detroit could given him a chance against the former congressman, who hails from western Michigan.

Hoekstra is also not known as a strong fundraiser, and a non-competitive primary would allow him to husband his resources for the main event against Stabenow. The senator has more than $4 million cash on hand after netting more than $2 million from April through June.

McCullogh's exit could increase the chance that charter school executive Clark Durant enters the primary. Durant hails from the same part of the state as McCullogh and would now not have to compete with him there for resources. Sources told The Hill last week that he would make a decision by the end of this week.

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Sen. Nelson gets help in Nebraska

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) is getting some help at home: Democratic-affiliated political action committee Patriot Majority is running a television ad defending his fiscal record.

"Ben's fighting to tear up Washington's credit card while protecting senior citizens," says the ad's narrator. "No radical changes to Medicare or Social Security. No benefit cuts. No premium increases. Because Ben Nelson believes in responsible budget cuts that protect Nebraska's seniors."

This is the third state Patriot Majority has aired ads in: Their first two were to defend Sens. Jon Tester (Mont.) and Claire McCaskill (Mo.), two other Democrats from Republican-leaning states. All three are top GOP targets this year, and all three have recently faced attack ads from the Republican-affiliated outside group Crossroads GPS.

Nelson hails from by far the most Republican state of any Democratic senator up for reelection this year.

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Democratic group running Senate ads in MT, MO

A Democratic-allied outside group is running ads in Missouri and Montana, two states with vulnerable Democratic senators, that attack Republicans for pushing to privatize Medicare.

"No to Medicare. No to seniors. That’s the Republican plan," say the ads.

The political action committee, Patriot Majority, has spent $150,000 on the buys, and the spots will run in the two states for the next week.

The group isn't the first to get involved in the states. Crossroads GPS, a Republican-affiliated outside group, has been running ads attacking Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) for weeks. The conservative group plans to spend a total of $20 million going after them and three other senators up for reelection: Sens. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

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