Senate races

Senate races

Vitter, Melancon trade shots over drilling halt

Democrats are furious with Louisiana Sen. David Vitter (R) over his claim that Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-La.) supports President Barack Obama's six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling.

"Charlie Melancon's support for President Obama's offshore moratorium will kill Louisiana jobs," Vitter wrote in a recent e-mail to supporters. "Melancon has endorsed Obama's moratorium in numerous interviews and repeatedly makes the point that he thinks offshore rigs are 'toys,' not jobs."

Vitter's message called for the president to lift the moratorium. His campaign has consistently sought to tie his Senate challenger to Obama, who is unpopular in Louisiana.

The Melancon camp said Vitter was "lying" about Melancon's position.

"Charlie Melancon couldn't be any clearer: he opposes the President's moratorium on offshore drilling," Jeff Giertz, a spokesman for Melancon, said in an e-mail. "David Vitter's just trying to distract attention from his efforts to bail out BP by lying about Charlie's record — Vitter's lied to Louisiana once, and he'll lie again."



Trumka said he would be surprised by union endorsement of Lincoln

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said Tuesday he would be "highly surprised" if his union federation's state chapter supported Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) if she won her runoff against Lt. Gov. Bill Halter (D).

The labor movement has invested millions in defeating Lincoln by canvassing the state and running television ads.

Lincoln has ended up on the wrong side of unions — traditional Democratic allies — for her opposition to legislation that would make union organizing much easier, as well as being against a government-run health insurance program. 

Trumka said the decision to endorse Lincoln, if she emerged victorious on Tuesday, would be up to AFL-CIO members in Arkansas. "That is a decision that our members on the ground make. I would feel highly surprised if they were to do that," Trumka said.

While the AFL-CIO has not committed to not supporting Lincoln if she did win Tuesday, at least one powerful labor group has pledged not to help her in the fall.

The Service Employees International Union, another Halter supporter, has said that they would not endorse Lincoln if she was the Democrats' general election candidate.

The union leader also said he thought Halter would prevail Tuesday in his challenge against Lincoln.
"I think Halter wins tonight and I think he ultimately goes on and wins in the fall. If I didn't believe that, we would probably have not been in the race," Trumka said.


Video: Super Tuesday primer

Here's a video our HillTube team put together to preview three of Tuesday's most closely watched races. During its production, we noted Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) was expected to pull out a victory over Lt. Gov. Bill Halter (D), but that looks increasingly unlikely given the momentum the challenger built up ahead of the runoff vote. 


Delaware candidate and Sen. Reid are fast friends

Two months ago last week, Delaware Senate candidate Chris Coons (D) spoke to the Senate Democratic Conference during its weekly lunch.

“I gave about a 10-minute speech, got a standing ovation,” Coons told The Ballot Box.

Appreciation wasn't the only thing he took away from the meeting.

"I've so far received about $140,000 [in campaign contributions] from 30 sitting senators, which is a pretty substantial response," Coons said. "And a number of them have committed to hosting events for me."

To Coons's surprise, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was one of the senators who offered to host a fundraiser. "He called and he offered," Coons said. "We've got a date and a place and everything."

Coons said he couldn't go into the details until Reid's office made the official announcement. But he sounded upbeat about their growing friendship. "He and I have developed a really great relationship. I've been very pleasantly surprised," he said. "I didn't know him before this.

"And we have these fairly long personal talks and he's a very straight-up, engaging guy who's very concerned about my family. We talked about values, about 'How do you manage it?' and balancing things."

Coons didn’t expect to find the majority leader so personable, he said. "He's a very gentle, gracious person."

Several people told Coons that Reid has been talking him up during fundraising events for his own reelection campaign.

"I've been very pleasantly surprised to hear that from folks in New York and Chicago, as well as here several times," Coons said. "He's taken a real personal interest in the race."

Coons, the New Castle County executive, is expected to face Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) in the general election. He's been trailing in some recent polls but says his campaign operation is gearing up thanks to some help from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC).

Coming off a "cold start," Coons said the DSCC lent him staff to get his campaign up and running.

Still, he maintains he's managing his own race.

"They’re very clear about, 'This is your race to win, we're here as a resource, we want to help you with strategic advice,' " Coons said. "But they are not telling me how to run or what positions to take."

From Vice President Joe Biden — Delaware's most famous Democrat — Coons said he'd received a "general offer of support and encouragement."

Reid's office did not respond to a request for comment.


Tarkanian closes with electability argument

Las Vegas businessman Danny Tarkanian (R) argues he has the best chance of defeating Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) in November.

Tarkanian made the electability pitch in a last-minute fundraising appeal to supporters, released in the wake of a poll that shows him with a lead over Reid in a potential general election clash.

Tarkanian tops Reid 43-37 percent, in a match-up polled in the latest Mason-Dixon/Las Vegas Review-Journal survey.

Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle (R) leads Reid by three points, inside the poll's margin of error, and Reid leads former state Sen. Sue Lowden (R) by one point.

The fundraising appeal, which cites Tarkanian's performance in the poll, asks voters to help pay for a telephone town hall Monday night, and "to contribute what you can afford to retiring Reid."

Just a month earlier, Lowden had a commanding lead in the primary race, but her claims that residents could barter for cheaper healthcare and the media storm it created precipitated her drop in the polls.

Tarkanian isn't the only GOP Senate candidate trying to close the gap with an electability argument ahead of Tuesday's vote.

In a recent TV ad, California GOP Senate candidate Tom Campbell cited a poll that showed him leading Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) by seven points as a reason for Republicans to vote for him in the primary.


Lieberman undecided on Fla., Conn. Senate races

Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman (Conn.) said Monday he is considering skipping any endorsement in the Connecticut and Florida Senate races, even after he was visited recently by Florida Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.).

Lieberman told The Hill he was visited by Meek "a few weeks ago" and that the two had "a good conversation" but that he is still mulling whether to get involved in the Florida and Connecticut races. Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, a friend of Lieberman's, is waging an independent bid for the Florida seat against Meek and GOP candidate Marco Rubio.

In Connecticut, where state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (D) is running against Republican candidate Linda McMahon, Lieberman said he is so torn between the two candidates that he may stay out of the race altogether.

"I haven't made up my mind. I'm still watching it," Lieberman said of the Blumenthal-McMahon contest. "I'll probably wait until the primaries are over and see if there's any other third-party candidate that I'd consider. And frankly, I might decide to just sit it out. I'm always skeptical about the impact of endorsements. I might just decide to quietly go in and vote. That in itself would be a refreshing change."

 Cross-posted from the Briefing Room 


Halter thanks progressive allies ahead of Ark. vote

Lt. Gov. Bill Halter (D) is continuing to pull in significant amounts of campaign cash from national progressive groups. He sent an e-mail to supporters of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee on Monday to thank them for helping him raise $250,000 ahead of Tuesday's vote.

"Thousands of PCCC members gave $250,000 in small-dollar donations, which went to fund our grassroots field operation and TV ads," Halter wrote in the e-mail. "You also helped make over 200,000 phone calls to voters in the final days, allowing us take the lead in the polls."

Halter is up against Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) in the runoff for the Democratic Senate nod.

A spokesman for PCCC said the group "has had senior staffers on the ground for the past couple months, leading Halter's field operation."

The photo below captures the moment Halter wrote the note onboard his campaign bus, according to the PCCC spokesman.