Senate races

Senate races

Sen. Hatch: I'm not Bob Bennett

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who could face a primary challenge from the right in 2012, said Wednesday he's confident he will not meet the same fate as fellow Utah Sen. Bob Bennett (R), who lost a bid for his party's nomination in 2010 in the face of Tea Party opposition. 

Hatch said on MSNBC Wednesday that he's "a lot tougher" than Bennett and that he isn't worried by the prospect of a primary challenger.

"I think Bob Bennett should have been reelected. He's a fine man," Hatch said. "On the other hand, I'm not Bob. I'm a lot tougher. And I'm actually more conservative, by quite a measure."

It echoes what Hatch is telling supporters back in his home state, where he has been pitching his conservative credentials and reaching out to Tea Party leaders in the state.

"I'm tough as nails, and you don't want to lose me," Hatch told Utah voters at an event last week where he praised the Tea Party as a force that has helped "rev up America."

One potential challenger for Hatch is Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who is expected to make a decision on a Senate run within the next year.


Sen. Murkowski declares 'miracle' victory in Alaska

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) officially declared victory in her write-in campaign for Senate Wednesday evening before a group of supporters in Anchorage.  

"Tonight, after 8 weeks, I think we can say our miracle is here," Murkowski said hours after the AP officially declared her the winner over Tea Party-backed Republican Joe Miller, who has yet to concede the race. 

It marks the first time a candidate has won election to the Senate as a write-in in more than 50 years. The last candidate to win a write-in bid was the late-Sen. Strom Thurmond (S.C.) in 1954. 

"They told us that this could not be done," Murkowski said. "What a risk. But for the right thing. To hell with politics. Do what's right for Alaska."  

Murkowski's unlikely triumph over Miller and Democrat Scott McAdams comes nearly two weeks after voters went to the polls. It caps a long vote-counting process that was filled with debate over voter intent, mostly concerning ballots that misspelled her last name, and featured a hand count of more than 100,000 write-in ballots.

The Miller campaign released a statement late Wednesday that made it clear the Republican is not yet ready to concede. Miller said he may ask for a full hand recount of ballots in the race. 

In an interview on MSNBC Wednesday night, Murkowski suggested a recount would be counterproductive.

"All I can tell you is that over 100,000 Alaskan voters have correctly filled in the oval and written in Lisa Murkowski," she said. "That's a pretty affirmative act of the electorate here in this state." 

Murkowski said in the wake of defeat, Miller is "trying to blame this, that or the other thing, but the fact of the matter is, even if we were to throw out every one of the ballots he has challenged, he still loses by the count." 

The senator recalled Miller's recent pledge that he would not forge ahead with any further legal challenges if the math doesn't appear to be in his favor. 

"He had said several days ago that if the numbers don't line up, he would not drag this out," she said. "So he's going to have to make that call." 

The number of ballots challenged by Miller’s legal team for either improper spelling of Murkowski’s name or other irregularities stands at just over 8,000. Murkowski defeated Miller by more than 10,000 votes. 

Murkowski told supporters Wednesday that the results of her Senate race show that "Alaskans have chosen the path of unity" and that she intends to head back to Washington and work with both parties. 

"I left Washington D.C. this morning and I wish that I could tell you that the elections brought in a whole wave of enthusiasm and cooperation and bipartisan spirit," Murkowski joked. "I had to leave after two days. But we're going to work on that because that's what Alaskans want. That's what the American people want." 


Joe Miller: It's not over yet

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has been declared the winner over Tea Party favorite Joe Miller in Alaska's Senate race, but Miller isn't giving up just yet. 

In an appearance on Fox News Wednesday, after the AP called the race for Murkowski, Miller declared, "It's never over until the count's done." 

The Republican declined to concede and said he may press ahead in asking for a hand recount of ballots. 

"Our position is, we want to pursue this to ensure theres integrity, to ensure there's a consistent standard and to ensure that one percent difference that we've identified really is there," Miller said. "And we're going to do it even if there is a significant amount of political pressure for us to pull back and say don't do this."  

The Miller campaign has raised concerns over ballots that appear to be written in similar handwriting and questioned the security firm tasked with securing the counting process.

Murkowski is headed back to Alaska to officially declare victory Wednesday night. 

Victory for the incumbent was all-but assured after thousands of additional write-in votes were counted Tuesday. According to unofficial vote totals from the state division of elections Murkowski lead with 100,868 votes to Miller's 90,448.

The number of ballots challenged by Miller's legal team for either improper spelling of Murkowski's name or other irregularities stood at just over 8,000, meaning the incumbent's margin over Miller is more than the number of disputed ballots in the race. 

Even if Miller decided to forge ahead with his legal challenge and succeeded in getting all of those contested ballots thrown out, Murkowski would still come out on top.


Rep. Capito: Given 'no thought' to a Manchin challenge in 2012

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), the Republican many in the GOP camp had hoped would challenge Sen. Joe Manchin (D) earlier this year, said she hasn't given any thought to 2012 yet but she's keeping her options open. 

"I'm not ruling it out by any stretch," Capito said of a run at Manchin in two years when he seeks a full six-year term. "But I have given no thought to it." 

A Senate run isn't Capito's only 2012 option. She would also be the leading GOP contender for the governor's mansion should she decide to seek Manchin's old job. 

Noting that the state is currently "in turmoil over what happens with the governor's race," Capito said the only thing she will say definitively is that she has no intention of running in a special election for governor if it were to occur sometime this year. 

Lawmakers in the state are once again debating whether state law requires a special election to fill the remainder of Manchin's term as governor or whether Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) can remain in office until 2012. 

Mirroring the fight that ensued after the death of Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), several lawmakers are arguing for a special gubernatorial election later this year.   

National Republicans, meanwhile, are already chomping at the bit for another shot at Manchin in 2012. The National Republican Senatorial Committee is keeping up the leading attack on Manchin throughout 2010 — that he will prove to be a rubber-stamp for the president and Senate Democrats.

New numbers released earlier this week from West Virginia pollster Mark Blankenship showed Manchin and Capito to be the most popular politicians in the state. 

A full 80 percent of voters hold a favorable view of Manchin, even after his bruising Senate fight against Republican businessman John Raese. Capito is right behind him: 77 percent of voters hold a favorable view of her.      

Despite a closer-than-expected race between Manchin and Raese this fall, Capito said she has no regrets that she decided against jumping into the contest.


Miller wants hand recount in Alaska

With a lead of more than 10,000 votes in Alaska's Senate race, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) appears almost certain to claim victory, but Tea Party favorite Joe Miller is demanding a hand recount of the more than 250,000 votes cast in the Senate contest.

The Miller campaign has continually raised concerns over the ballot counting process, questioning the impartiality of the state division of elections and of Lt. Gov. Craig Campbell, who plays a leading role in overseeing the process.

The head of Alaska's division of elections told the Anchorage Daily News that a hand recount isn't even an option for Miller and that all recounts are done using the state's optical scan machines. It likely means another fight with state elections officials.

According to unofficial vote totals from the state division of elections, Murkowski leads with 100,868 votes to Miller's 90,448. Murkowski began Tuesday with a lead of less than 2,000 votes over Miller.  

At this point, Miller's legal battle over contested ballots appears irrelevant. The number of ballots challenged by Miller's legal team for either improper spelling of Murkowski's name or other irregularities currently stands at 8,153.

Even if all of those ballots were thrown out by a judge, Murkowski would still come out on top by more than 2,000 votes.

It's the scenario the Miller campaign has previously said would lead it to fold their legal efforts and cede defeat to Murkowski, but the Miller campaign has now made clear it has no intention of doing that just yet.


DSCC outraises NRSC by $3M in October

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) outraised its Republican counterpart by just over $3 million in the final month before the midterm elections.

The committee took in $17.4 million opposed to the $14.2 million raised by the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). For the entire cycle, the DSCC outraised the NRSC $107.1 million to 92.9 million. DSCC Executive Director J.B. Poersch said Tuesday the fundraising advantage helped prevent a GOP wave from sweeping Democrats out of power in the Senate like it did in the House.

“We were able to beat back Republicans this year because of the strong support from Democrats around the country," Poersch said in a statement. "In state after state, as Republicans nominated extremist candidates, our supporters became more energized. Senate Democrats exceeded expectations this year because we had better candidates with the resources they needed running aggressive campaigns."

Republicans made a net gain of six seats on Democrats in the Senate, diminishing their majority but falling short of taking control of the upper chamber. Democrats will begin next year with a 53-47 majority, down from a 59-41 advantage.

NRSC Chairman John Cornyn (R-Texas), who was unanimously selected Tuesday to lead the committee for another two years, expressed confidence last month that the GOP could take the Senate in 2012, when Democrats have to defend 21 seats as opposed to 10 for the GOP. He also lauded GOP gains this cycle, including winning President Barack Obama's old Senate seat. 

"Two years ago, few would have imagined that Senate Republicans would win seven Democrat-held Senate seats, while successfully defending every single Republican Senate seat," Cornyn said in a statement Tuesday. "And over the last two years, we were successful in adding nearly 400,000 new, first-time donors to the NRSC, we strengthened relationships with our longtime supporters and ultimately raised over $100 million. In fact, just last month, the NRSC raised $14.2 million, which represented the highest monthly total since the passage of McCain-Feingold in 2002."