Senate races

Senate races

Alaska judge rules write-in candidates can't be listed at polling sites

In a decision that could strike a blow to the write-in campaign of Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), a judge ruled Wednesday that state elections officials cannot hand out the names of write-in candidates at polling places Tuesday. 

The judge pointed to language in the state's election code that bars information on write-in candidates from being "discussed, exhibited or provided" at polling places or "within 200 feet of any entrance to the polling place." 

Alaska's Democratic Party led the charge to prevent a list of candidate names from being disseminated at polling stations. The state party sued Monday to prevent the move and was joined by the state GOP.

"This is something that has never been allowed before and frankly, doing this was not a well thought-out decision," said state Democratic Party Chairwoman Patti Higgins. 

She argued that allowing voters to see a list of names of write-in candidates would offer Murkowski an unfair advantage.  

After an upset in the Republican primary earlier this year by Tea Party-backed Joe Miller, Murkowski decided to launch a write-in campaign to keep her Senate seat. 

Murkowski's campaign has engaged in a massive voter education effort, working under the assumption that voters must correctly write-in the senator's name for the vote to count. 

Polls show the race between Murkowski, Miller and Democrat Scott McAdams close, but the difficultly of polling a write-in campaign makes it tough to get a real gauge of Murkowski's support.


The Obamas team up to help struggling Illinois Dem

The president and first lady are both featured in a new TV ad for Illinois Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias (D). It's the first time President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama have appeared in the same commercial for a candidate — a sign of how important the White House considers the Senate race.

The Obamas don't appear together but are featured in separate clips praising Giannoulias. 

The ad tightens Obama's connection to Giannoulias's political fortunes, which poses some risk. The Democrat has been under fire from Republican rival Rep. Mark Kirk for his role in loans his family’s bank made to convicted felons while he was a senior loan officer. Broadway Bank collapsed in April. A report examining the causes of its collapse was expected before Nov. 2, but the inspector general's office of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. announced last week the report will be delayed until after the election.

The latest Chicago Tribune poll showed Kirk leading Giannoulias 44 to 41 percent, with 7 percent undecided. Kirk's lead fell within the poll's margin of error.


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.