Senate races

Senate races

Cornyn: Obama caved on taxes thanks to GOP midterm gains

The GOP's Senate campaign chief John Cornyn (Texas) said in a fundraising e-mail Tuesday that President Obama's decision to compromise with Republicans on tax cuts was a direct result of GOP Senate gains in November's midterm elections. 

"President Obama's decision yesterday to join with Republicans in opposing the largest tax increase in American history was made not because he had a sudden change in political or economic philosophy," Cornyn wrote in an e-mail that will go out to supporters of the National Republican Senatorial Committee on Tuesday afternoon. 

Cornyn thanks donors and makes the pitch for 2012 cash with the party well within reach of the Senate majority in 2012. 

The Republican said now that Senate Democrats no longer have as many votes to help push their legislative agenda through the Senate, the election results have forced compromise.      

"With a much slimmer Senate Democrat majority, Republicans now have a very important seat at the negotiating table, and because of the pressure you brought to bear on many Democrats, there is growing bipartisan opposition to raising taxes, particularly in this time of economic recovery," wrote Cornyn. 

The deal would temporarily extend the Bush-era tax cuts across the board along with extending unemployment benefits for another 13 months. 

Cornyn said Democrats "are in disarray," pointing to party infighting over Obama's decision to compromise and said the committee has already turned to 2012 when 23 Democratic Senate seats are up. 

Many on the left are in revolt over the president's compromise, with liberals already warning the decision could cripple the president's reelection bid.

A number of House and Senate Democrats have also slammed the decision. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who's likely to be a top Republican target in 2012, said he's "very unhappy" with the deal and called it "bad economic policy."


Tea Party-backed Didier 'open' to Cantwell challenge in 2012

Former NFL star Clint Didier, the Tea Party-backed Republican who took on Dino Rossi in a Senate primary this past year, isn't ruling out a run against Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) in 2012. 

Didier, who jumped in the midterm race against Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) well before Rossi got in, was largely shunned by the party establishment and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

While he lost handily to Rossi in the GOP primary, Didier did have the endorsement of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, and he won the backing of a core group of Tea Party activists in the state, some of whom have already encouraged him to take another shot at the Senate.   

"I'm open to it and I'm certainly not going to rule it out," Didier said of a challenge to Cantwell. "But I'm not so sure we're going to see the same environment in 2012." 

Didier proved a thorn in the side of the national GOP in 2010. He hammered the NRSC and the party establishment continually during his primary contest with Rossi, and refused to endorse the Republican nominee after losing. 

"We need to be the ones picking our candidates in these races, not the party elites," said Didier, who blamed Rossi for the outcome of the race against Murray this past November.  Murray retained her seat.

"There was no message. No one knew where he stood," he said. "The Republican Party thinks it needs to move to the center and the left to get the votes, and that's exactly why we lost here." 

Should he opt to run in 2012, Didier said he doesn't expect to reconcile with the NRSC, and predicted the committee would likely find a candidate to oppose him again in the Republican primary. 

"There's way too much bad history there," Didier said of his relationship with the national party. 

Shortly after Rossi entered the race, Didier reached out to the NRSC and the committee met with him in Washington, D.C. this past summer. 

Former Washington state GOP Chairman Chris Vance said that given the lack of any obvious top-tier contenders to run against Cantwell in 2012, Didier could prove to be a force in a GOP primary then. State Attorney General Rob McKenna is expected to run for governor. 

Right now, Didier said his focus is on keeping his campaign message alive through his "Taking Back Washington" group, and said even with a six-seat Republican gain in the Senate this fall, he's worried GOP senators won't show enough backbone come January.   

"You can't raise the debt ceiling. You just can't do it," Didier said emphatically, noting that Republicans shouldn't fear the prospect a government shutdown. "Republicans in Washington have to realize the hard facts and start making some tough choices now."

-Updated at 12:45 p.m.


Sen. LeMieux waiting on Jeb Bush to decide about '12

Florida Sen. George LeMieux (R) is waiting to see if Jeb Bush or another prominent Republican steps forward in 2012 before deciding whether to run for a full Senate term.

"If I feel that there's somebody who would do as equal or better job than me for our country, then it would be smarter for me to step aside and allow me to spend more time with my four kids who are 7 and under," LeMieux said Monday at a speech to the Forum Club of the Palm Beaches.

"If I look out and don't think that there’s someone like a Jeb Bush, for example, who’s going to run and I don't think there's someone who’s going to be a problem-solver who’s going to go to Washington not to be a career politician, but go there to do the work that's needed and come home, that's going to be compelling for me," he said, according to the Palm Beach Post

Bush has ruled out a presidential bid in 2012 but hasn't indicated if he's considering a Senate bid.

LeMieux, who was appointed to the job by Gov. Charlie Crist, said he’ll decide "pretty soon" whether or not he’ll challenge Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) in 2012.


Sen. Ensign has most to fear from voters, paper says

The Las Vegas Sun argues the investigations focusing on Sen. John Ensign (Nev.) are the least of the Republican's problems. Rather, the paper's editorial board writes, it's the Nevada Republican primary voters from whom Ensign has the most to fear.  

The decisions by the FEC and the Justice Department to dismiss the complaints are not surprising. The FEC typically isn't very aggressive, and the Justice Department is still stinging after the rebuke it received in the prosecution of former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens.

And it's possible that Ensign will be cleared by the Senate Ethics Committee. But even if it does clear him, his problems are not over.

He has been badly damaged by this. Ensign, who has been a conservative’s conservative, was once a rising star in the Senate and held a leadership position in his caucus. Now, he has been isolated to the back bench.

In the coming months, Republicans will have to do some soul searching, particularly as others, including Rep. Dean Heller, have reportedly considered running against Ensign. Can his party still support him? Can the voters support him?


'Worn out' Raese unlikely to run again in W.Va.

Republican businessman John Raese told a West Virginia newspaper over the weekend that after four failed runs for elected office, he's unlikely to run for either governor or Senate again in 2012. 

"I've run four statewide elections, and I've never been successful, and I think this last time resonated with me," Raese told the Charleston Daily Mail. "I never say never to anything, but at this point I'm worn out."

Raese has lost three U.S. Senate races and another run for governor. He was rumored to have interest in the governor's race in 2012, and some thought he could even consider another run at Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), but in his interview with the Daily Mail he sounded like he's calling it quits.  

Jim Dornan, Raese's campaign manager in his 2010 bid against Manchin, told the Ballot Box Monday that Raese is "burnt out on the political thing" and he doesn't expect him to run for statewide office again in two years.

"He told me more than once that this last one was it, win or lose," said Dornan. "As great a Senator as he would make and as much as he thinks that Joe Manchin is completely unqualified to represent the state, I just don't think he wants to go through another brutal campaign like that, where his family was unfairly attacked day after day."

The Senate contest this past fall between Raese and Manchin turned out to be much closer than expected after the Republican gained traction with the message that Manchin would be nothing more than a rubber stamp for President Obama and Democratic leaders in the Senate. 

In the end, Manchin was able to pull away, winning by a full 10 points.

Despite the four statewide losses, Raese remained a potential statewide candidate given the lack a GOP bench in the state. It's just about empty once you get past Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who is a potential candidate for governor in 2012, or to challenge Manchin, which is the race many national Republicans would rather see her in. 

She recently told The Hill that she hasn't ruled out a run in either of those races, but of a possible challenge to Manchin, Capito said she hasn't yet given it any thought. 

-Updated at 10:27 a.m.