Senate races

Senate races

Crist on party switch: 'I'm liberated and I'm free'

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (I) faced a barrage of questions Tuesday night over his decision earlier this year to bolt the Republican Party to run for the Senate as an Independent.

In the sixth and final face-off between Crist, Republican Marco Rubio and Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.) Tuesday, Crist repeatedly defended his decision in the face of pointed questioning from debate moderator David Gregory.

At one point, Gregory held up a copy of the Republican Party platform, asking Crist how voters could trust a politician who is now shunning policy positions he strongly advocated in the recent past.

The governor described his switch as "a heartfelt change of views" and said thanks to his newfound independence from the GOP, "I'm liberated and I'm free."

Crist repeated his contention that the GOP has moved too far to the right and said he was no longer comfortable in his own party.

The governor's party switch came this past April at a time when it was increasingly clear that he would lose the Republican nomination to Marco Rubio.

Tuesday was the governor's last chance for a closing argument in a race that hasn't appeared competitive in more than a month, but Crist spent most of the debate on the defensive. 

The latest CNN/Time poll in Florida's three-way race gives Rubio a 14-point edge in the contest. Rubio leads with 46 percent of the vote to 32 percent for Crist and 20 for Meek.  


In documents, Republican Joe Miller admits he lied to former employer

Records released Tuesday by a former employer of Republican Senate candidate Joe Miller show the candidate admitting to improperly using office computers for political purposes and to lying about it when asked.

Alaska's GOP Senate nominee has fought the release of the records, but the documents from his time as a government attorney for the Fairbanks North Star Borough were made public Tuesday per a court order.

The Tea Party-backed Miller upset Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) in the Republican primary earlier this year and now faces Democrat Scott McAdams as well as Murkowski, who is waging a write-in campaign, in next week's general election.

The documents were obtained by the Alaska Dispatch after the publication sued to have the records released. A handful of other news organizations, including The Associated Press, followed suit. 

The records show Miller admitting to improperly using several borough computers to vote in an online poll advocating the ouster of the state's Republican Party Chairman.  

Miller admitted his actions in an e-mail dated March of 2007, writing, "Over the lunch hour this past Wednesday, I got on three computers (not belonging to me) in the office."

He went to say that he used them to access his personal website "for political purposes (participated in a poll), and then cleared the cache on each computer."

Miller admitted to lying about accessing the computers, but later said, "I then admitted about accessing the computers, but lied about what I was doing. Finally, I admitted what I did."

In the same e-mail, Miller wrote, "I acknowledge that my access to others' computers was wrong, participating in the poll was wrong, lying was wrong, and there is absolutely no excuse for any of it."

Miller was suspended for three days as a result of the incident and was placed on six months' probation. 

The Miller campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 


Manchin ad labels GOP opponent 'crazy'

Gov. Joe Manchin's (D-W.Va.) closing argument in West Virginia's Senate race is a simple one — his Republican opponent is "crazy."

A new 30-second Manchin campaign spot targets Republican businessman John Raese by stringing together several comments Democrats have used to hit Raese throughout the race.   

In one, the Republican says, "I don't agree with minimum wage." The shot then cuts to Raese at a campaign event where he tells supporters, "I'm in the business of making money." 

In another, Raese says, "We don't need the Department of Education." That's followed by a clip of Raese's pitch for a network of lasers capable of shooting down incoming missiles. 

The ad's narrator concludes: "John Raese's ideas are crazy."

In response, a spokesman for Raese's campaign said it's Manchin's ideas that are crazy.    

"Crazy? No Joe, supporting Obamacare is crazy," Raese spokesman Kevin McLaughlin said. "Wasting trillions in stimulus spending is crazy. $13 trillion in debt is crazy. Cap and trade is crazy. West Virginians who oppose all those things aren't crazy, but politicians who support them sure are." 

Poll numbers in the race continue to seesaw ahead of Election Day. A new Fox News poll out Tuesday gives Raese a two-point edge over Manchin — 48 percent to 46.

On Monday, Democrats were touting numbers from Public Policy, which put Manchin up six percentage points. 

-Updated at 10:29 a.m.


GOP pollster: Ohio's Senate race all but over

Republican strategists are confident Ohio's open Senate seat will remain in the GOP column.

A new survey by Wilson Research Strategies has Republican Rob Portman leading Democrat Lee Fisher 49 to 38 percent. The poll of 500 likely Ohio voters conducted Oct. 20-21 doesn't leave much hope for Fisher. There are only 8 percent undecided — meaning that if all those voters break his way, Portman still has enough support to win.

When it comes to independents, who make up more than a quarter of the electorate, the Republican has an even larger lead. Fisher trails Portman 29 to 54 percent among independents. 

"Barring unforeseen circumstances, Rob Portman should be the next U.S. Senator from Ohio," Wilson Research Strategies concluded in a polling memo released Monday.

Earlier polls had shown Portman leading by as many as 22 points, but the Republican isn't sitting on his lead. His campaign recently released five versions of a TV ad titled "Future Generations" to air in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Toledo. It's the 10th TV commercial he's released, compared to one for Fisher during the general election.


Poll: Toomey reclaims narrow lead in Pa. Senate race

Former Rep. Pat Toomey (R) has reclaimed a narrow lead in Pennsylvania's exceedingly close Senate race, according to a poll released Monday.

The Morning Call/Muhlenberg College daily tracking poll of the race found Toomey leading Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak 47-42 percent, with 11 percent undecided.

The poll surveyed 437 likely voters in Pennsylvania and has a margin of error of 5 percentage points.

Sestak made up ground on Toomey in recent weeks in the closely watched contest, but Monday's poll suggests Toomey could be heading off that momentum. Three polls last week showed the Democrat and the Republican running in a dead heat after Toomey had led the race for weeks.

That caused White House senior adviser David Axelrod to say last week the "momentum has shifted" back to the Democrats side, which the Toomey campaign refuted. 

The White House has made the Pennsylvania Senate race a top priority for maintaining the Democrats' majority in the upper chamber in the face of a potential Republican wave.

President Obama two weeks ago headlined a large rally in Philadelphia to mobilize the Democratic base that polls show is trailing Republicans in voter enthusiasm.


Toomey makes play for centrist voters with Giuliani visit

BLUE BELL, Pa. — With Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) surging in Pennsylvania's Senate race, Republican Pat Toomey was working to make inroads with centrist voters Friday, bringing in former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani for a rally in the heart of the Philadelphia suburbs.

Giuliani rallied Toomey backers at a firehouse in Montgomery County, noting their kinship on fiscal issues and warning that the Obama administration and Democratic leadership in Congress are pursuing policies that will ultimately morph the U.S. into "one of those European socialist democracies."

Giuliani labeled Sestak "more extreme" than President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and said casting a vote for Toomey next month will help deliver a much-needed "correction to the Obama-Pelosi-Reid agenda."

The voters in Philadelphia's suburbs, particularly Bucks and Montgomery counties, are key to any statewide race in Pennsylvania, and house plenty of centrist Democrats.

For his part, Toomey warned supporters the race is close and urged them to get out and vote on Election Day.

"I think we've got a victory within reach, but it's not in hand," said Toomey, telling supporters to be "confident, not complacent."

"Please, don't let up now," urged the Republican.

He hit Sestak as a Pelosi pawn, charging, "When Nancy Pelosi tells him to vote, he says 'yes ma'am and can we do more?' "

The latest Quinnipiac poll in the race showed Toomey with just a 3-point edge, and a new Rasmussen poll out Friday also showed Toomey's lead narrowing to just 4 percentage points.

Sestak appears to have consolidated some Democratic support over the past two weeks, and the congressman's campaign says the Democratic base in the state is finally stirring to action.

The Democrat's campaign pushed back on Giuliani's visit Friday, claiming Toomey still has "a fringe problem."

"Congressman Toomey can use any optics he wants," Sestak spokesman Jonathon Dworkin said in a statement. "It won’t change the fact that he would be the most far-right Senator from Pennsylvania since the Great Depression."

The tightening of the contest sets the stage for the final debate between the two candidates Friday night in Pittsburgh, which is likely to be a testy exchange.

In a debate Wednesday, Sestak tied Toomey to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Delaware's Republican Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell and has continued to argue that Toomey is out of step with Pennsylvania voters.

On Friday, Toomey labeled the attacks "desperate" and said voters aren't buying it.

"He knows that he is so far out of step with the state of Pennsylvania that he's desperate to change the subject and pretend that he's running against someone else," said Toomey. "It isn't gonna work."

-Updated at 6:56 p.m.