Senate races

Senate races

Liberal group raises money for Warren Senate run

A liberal group announced Tuesday that it has raised $30,000 in 24 hours to support a Senate run by Elizabeth Warren.

Warren, a liberal Democrat and the architect of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has been widely touted as a candidate suited to oppose Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) in 2012. Warren has said she will give a run some thought, but has not committed to being a candidate.

Warren was also favored by Democrats to run the new CFPB, but because so many Republicans strongly objected to her in that role and promised a filibuster if she were selected, the White House decided to nominate former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray (D), a Warren protégé, to lead the agency.

The CFPB, created by the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, goes into operation Thursday.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) had supported Warren to run the CFPB and is calling for her to run for the Senate against Brown. In a 24-hour period from Monday into Tuesday, PCCC reported collecting 24,000 signatures in support of a Warren Senate candidacy, as well as $30,000.

Warren on Monday said she would take a little vacation time from setting up the CFPB and then decide about the Senate race.

"When I go home, I’ll do more thinking then. But I need to do that thinking not from Washington," Warren told MSNBC.

If Warren decides to get into the race, she could face formidable opposition in Brown, who recently announced raising $2 million in the second quarter of 2011, bringing his political war chest to almost $10 million.

Still, liberals consider Warren a strong candidate against Brown.

“It would be a marquee race of 2012, potentially second only to the presidential race,” PCCC co-founder Adam Green said.


Sen. Stabenow's job approval ratings down

Thirty-eight percent of Michigan voters approve of the job Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) has done as senator, while 51 percent disapprove, the weakest job approval ratings the swing-state senator has seen this year in polls conducted by Lansing-based pollster EPIC-MRA.

Stabenow remains relatively popular personally, however: 47 percent of voters have a favorable opinion of her, while 35 percent have an unfavorable opinion.

The senator may have a tough reelection campaign on her hands, although Republicans have failed thus far to find a top-tier candidate to challenge her. Michigan has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation and the economic downturn has soured voters on President Obama. He won the state with 57 percent of the vote in 2008, but in this poll his favorable and unfavorable numbers are tied at 47 percent apiece.

Stabenow also faces demographic challenges: Detroit, the state's treasure trove of Democratic votes, has seen its population plummet by 25 percent in the last decade.

But so far, no top-notch Republicans have risen to the challenge. Former Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) is reconsidering a run after earlier saying he wouldn't challenge her. 

Hoekstra may not be a giant-killer; he finished second the 2010 gubernatorial primary to now-Gov. Rick Snyder and isn't known for his fundraising prowess. Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner John McCulloch is also running.

The poll of 600 likely voters was conducted from July 9 to July 11 has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.


Internal GOP poll shows Scott Brown up big in Mass.

Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) is widely popular and leads all possible Democratic opponents by big margins, according to a new survey from Republican pollster Neil Newhouse's Public Opinion Strategies, conducted for the Brown campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Two thirds of Bay Staters approve of the job Brown is doing while only 27 percent disapprove, according to the poll, and 56 percent believe he deserves to be reelected.

Brown is Democrats' top Senate target. He narrowly won his seat in a special election in early 2010 with 52 percent of the vote. The state is solidly Democratic, but Brown has sought to cultivate a centrist, populist image, and has voted with Democrats on such issues as financial regulation overhaul and allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the military.

"Voters primarily view Scott Brown as a man of the people," writes Newhouse in the release. "He's a regular guy, a family man, not a politician, and not swayed by ideological pressure. ... While November 2012 is still over a year away, this poll makes it clear that Scott Brown is well-positioned for re-election."

Brown leads philanthropist Alan Khazei (D) 54 percent to 24 percent, and leads Harvard Professor Elizabeth Warren (D), who helped spearhead the financial industry regulatory overhaul and is considering a Senate bid, 53 percent to 28 percent. Newton Mayor Setti Warren (D) also trails Brown, 21 percent to 57 percent.

Brown will also have the money to run: He has almost $10 million in the bank for his reelection effort thus far.

The poll's release does not say what the name-recognition levels are for the Democrats, but it is likely their low name recognition is a big part of Brown's wide margin in the poll. Its release is also selective, making it unclear whether it was crafted to inflate Brown's numbers or whether other indicators in the greater poll might not be as good for Brown. It was conducted in late June, when Warren was still working on setting up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and hadn't publicly discussed running.

"The only percentage that will matter to Bay Staters next November is that Scott Brown votes with extreme Republicans in Washington nearly 90 percent of the time," Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee communications director Matt Canter said in a statement. "Not only does this month-old poll contradict other polls that show Brown’s popularity slipping, but the simple fact that national Republicans feel the need to release it reeks of desperation and fear that Scott Brown is very vulnerable."

Liberal groups and Democratic insiders are pushing Warren hard to run. Democrats believe she could raise the money needed to raise her name recognition and attack Brown to drive his poll numbers down, and are still confident they can make the race a close one by going after his voting record. Still, Brown's atmospheric approval ratings will make him hard to beat in next fall's election.

—This post was updated at 12:16 p.m.


Sanchez trails Wilson in fundraising for NM Senate seat

New Mexico's Republican Lieutenant Gov. John Sanchez trails former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.) in the cash race despite loaning $200,000 to his campaign in the last three months. Sanchez raised $312,000 in that period, including the loan, and has $247,000 in the bank. Wilson raised $450,000 in the last fundraising quarter and has more than $600,000 cash on hand for the race.

Sanchez also trails self-funding businessman Greg Sowards in fundraising. Sowards, running to the right of the centrist Wilson and the conservative Sanchez, has $334,000 cash on hand after loaning his campaign more than $200,000.

This is the latest good news for Wilson. A late-June poll conducted by the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling firm had her holding a wide lead in the primary, with 52 percent of likely Republican primary voters supporting her, 24 percent supporting Sanchez, 8 percent supporting Sowards and 4 percent supporting fringe candidate Bill English.

She is the preferred candidate of many establishment Republicans. Wilson is known to voters statewide after her 2008 Senate primary run, which she lost to Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.), who went on to lose to Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.). She also represented Albuquerque, the state's largest city, in Congress. But some conservatives believe she is too centrist. Erik Erickson, founder of the popular conservative blog RedState, tweeted when she announced that "Keeping Heather Wilson out of the Senate will be the next great noble cause for conservatives."

Doing so will be harder without a consensus conservative candidate. If Sanchez cannot raise the money to unite conservatives around him and Sowards spends enough to keep himself polling outside the margin of error, it will be hard for either candidate to catch Wilson.


Haridopolos drops Senate bid in Fla.

Florida's Republican state Senate President Mike Haridopolos dropped his bid for the U.S. Senate Monday morning. 

"It became increasingly clear to me and those around me that the responsibilities I was managing on both fronts were in conflict," he said in an email to supporters. 

"I truly believed I could handle both jobs but I was wrong. Now, I'm determined to make it right."

Haridopolos had started out strong: He was the only candidate to outraise a sitting senator in the first quarter of this year, which he did by bringing in $2.6 million in three months. 

This quarter his fundraising dipped to $900,000, and on Friday, two key advisers resigned from his campaign.

He had also faced charges of ethics violations because a community college he worked at had paid him $150,000 to write a book, an unusual move.

With Haridopolos out of the race, former Sen. George LeMieux, former Florida House Majority Leader Adam Hasner and former Ruth's Chris Steakhouse CEO Craig Miller will vie for the Republican nomination to challenge longtime incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).


Steelman lags Akin in Missouri GOP Senate fundraising

Former Missouri State Treasurer Sarah Steelman spent more money than she raised for her Senate campaign, the second quarter in a row that the woman once considered a top recruit to challenge Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) has posted lackluster fundraising figures. Steelman finished the quarter with less than $200,000 cash on hand after raising $200,000 and spending more than that from April through June.

Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) raised more than a half million dollars in the same period and has $1.2 million cash on hand for the race, putting him in the driver's seat for the primary. But his numbers aren't overwhelming: Ann Wagner, who is running for his House seat, raised about the same amount in slightly more than two months, although her numbers were very high for a non-incumbent House candidate.

McCaskill raised $1.4 million in the last quarter and has almost $3 million cash on hand to use against the eventual nominee. No matter who the GOP candidate is, she could face a tough race in the swing state. Her job approval numbers have been below 50 percent in polls conducted this year, and she admitted in March that she owed $300,000 in back taxes on a private plane she owned with her husband, and that she had used taxpayer money to fly the plane on a political trip. She tackled the issue head-on, apologizing to voters, paying the back taxes and selling the plane, but the issue will likely be raised by Republicans in the general election.

Akin may have his own troubles: he recently switched his voting registration the same day that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that he had been voting in a town where he no longer lived.

Some Democrats are privately rooting for Akin to win the primary — they believe his more conservative profile and long voting record in the House make him an easier opponent than Steelman would be, at least on paper. Businessman John Brunner is also considering entering the GOP primary field. Brunner would be able to self-fund, and Steelman's anemic numbers might encourage him to run.


Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised $11.8M

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised $11.8 million in the last three months and has $9.8 million cash on hand, the committee announced Friday afternoon. That includes $4.8 million raised in June alone.

The committee refused to say how much debt it has. As of the end of May it had $3.8 million. At this time in 2009 the DSCC had $8 million cash on hand and almost no debt, and had raised $6.3 million in June.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has not yet disclosed its fundraising totals for the quarter. As of the end of May it had $1.8 million cash on hand and no debt.


Nelson far outpaces challenger in Nebraska Senate race

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) raised more than $900,000 and has $2.9 million cash on hand, far outpacing the Republican front-runner in preparation for what will likely be a hard-fought election. The total was first reported by the Lincoln Journal Star.

His most likely Republican opponent is state Attorney General Jon Bruning, who announced although Bruning will have primary competition. Bruning announced Friday that he had raised $334,000 for the quarter, a low sum for a presumed front-runner in a competitive race. Bruning does have $1.3 million in the bank thanks to his early start, however.

Nelson has had success in the conservative state by running as a center-right Democrat. But that image was tarnished by his vote for President Obama's healthcare reform package and support for other Democratic initiatives.

The state is a cheap one to campaign in: Omaha's media market is not very expensive, and covers much of Nebraska. Nelson spent almost $7 million in his cakewalk reelection in 2006, although he was outspent by businessman Pete Ricketts that year by a two-to-one margin.

This post was updated at 2:00pm to reflect Bruning's fundraising totals.


GOP Senate dark horse posts solid fundraising start in NM

Former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.) and New Mexico Lieutenant Gov. John Sanchez (R) are the front-runners to be their party's Senate nominee. But a third candidate, businessman Greg Sowards (R), may raise enough money to put his name in the conversation.

Sowards raised $230,000 in the last three months and has $334,000 cash on hand, a promising early sum for an unknown candidate. If he continues to fundraise at that pace, he could have enough money be a factor in the race. Much of that was self-funding: He has given his campaign more than $200,000 so far, and promises to spend enough of his own funds to remain competitive in the state. Neither Wilson nor Sanchez has announced how much they've raised.

A late-June poll conducted by the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling firm had Wilson holding a wide lead in the primary, with 52 percent of likely Republican primary voters supporting her, 24 percent supporting Sanchez, 8 percent supporting Sowards and 4 percent supporting fringe candidate Bill English.

Wilson is the preferred candidate of many establishment Republicans. She is well-known after her 2008 Senate primary run, which she lost to Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.), who went on to lose to Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.). She also represented Albuquerque, the state's largest city, in Congress. But some conservatives believe she is too centrist. Erik Erickson, founder of the popular conservative blog RedState, tweeted when she announced that "Keeping Heather Wilson out of the Senate will be the next great noble cause for conservatives."

Doing so will be harder without a consensus conservative candidate. Sanchez's hopes to catch Wilson would be complicated if Sowards can keep himself in the high single digits in polls or improve upon that.


Cornyn coaches GOP recruits on how to rebut Dem debt-limit criticism

The head of Senate Republicans' campaign efforts sent a memo to GOP Senate candidates Wednesday, warning them of withering Democratic attacks and advising how to best ward off criticism related to the debt ceiling.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), warned candidates to brace for Democratic efforts to place the blame on Republican candidates if the government defaults on its debt and, as a result, halts payment of Social Security checks or other government benefits.

Cornyn told the candidates to keep the blame squarely on the Obama administration, which, the Texas Republican said, could easily guarantee the continued flow of Social Security benefits. President Obama's warning that checks could cease in case of a default was just a scare tactic, Cornyn charged.

"[T]he decision to stop sending Social Security checks, or other benefits lies solely with the Obama Administration," Cornyn wrote to the GOP candidates.

The idea that seniors might not see their checks as a result of a default is meant to drive home with voters the need for an agreement, as their benefits might be threatened if the administration and GOP leaders can't reach a deal.

“The possibility that seniors could be denied Social Security benefits is frightening," said Sen. Patty Murray, the chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, in response. "Rather than accuse the President of scare tactics, my Republican colleagues should tell the extreme voices in their own party that it is time to act responsibly."

Cornyn's memo is meant to prepare Republicans for the eventual criticism Democrats would level toward their campaigns in case of default. The NRSC chairman, though, lined up a series of talking points for candidates, including emphasizing the ballooned deficits during Obama's time in office and Senate Democrats' not having passed a budget in more than 800 days.

"[A]as negotiations between the two parties moves forward, we would not be surprised to see Democrats continue to use any and every tool such as this to increase our country’s credit card limit, while passing job-killing tax hikes on to American families and small businesses," Cornyn wrote.

—Updated 10:41 a.m.