Ballot Box

Toomey up with first general election spot in Pa.

Republican Senate nominee Pat Toomey took his first jabs at Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) in a new TV spot released Thursday.

The ad, titlted "Clear Choice," is a continuation of Toomey's effort to brand the Democratic Senate nominee as being too liberal. The Toomey campaign said it made a "significant statewide buy" for the ad.

TV Clear Choice from Pat Toomey on Vimeo.


Top of the ballot: California polling

A new California poll shows the Whitman-Poizner race is still close, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) leads her potential GOP rivals and Dr. Rand Paul (R) offers to fly President Obama to Kentucky.

To the numbers:

Support for California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman has "plummeted 23 points since March," according to a new survey by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC). Whitman now leads Republican rival Steve Poizner 38 percent to 29 among likely Republican primary voters. A third of likely voters (31 percent) is undecided. In January, Whitman led Poizner by 30 points, and in March, by 50. But Poizner has spent weeks relentlessly attacking Whitman on everything from her voting record to her investment strategy, which may have contributed to the shift. The Poizner campaign called it a "surge" in his support.

On the Senate side

Boxer leads former Rep. Tom Campbell (R) and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina (R) in the PPIC survey, though Campbell has the better numbers in the hypothetical match-up: his 40 to 46 for the senator.

In the primary, Fiorina leads with 25 percent, while Campbell pulled in 23 percent. State Assemblyman Chuck DeVore (R) has doubled his support since March and is currently at 16 percent.

A reader notes that PPIC is the only pollster ever to show Campbell trailing in the primary. And other surveys conducted around the same time (May 6-16) show him leading Fiorina. Bottom line, these results may not tell the whole story.

Got a ticket for an aeroplane

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine said Wednesday that President Barack Obama plans to start campaigning for Democratic candidates after the primary season is over. Kaine didn't say where, but one Republican offered him a suggestion.

Paul, who on Tuesday became the Kentucky GOP Senate nominee, was asked about Kaine's speech during an interview with CNN's John King on Wednesday.

"What I tell to the national Democrats is bring it on and please, please, please bring President Obama to Kentucky," Paul said. "We would want him to come and campaign for my opponent. In fact, we'll pay for his plane ticket if President Obama will come to Kentucky."


Republicans drop millions in Calif. primary

The Republican gubernatorial primary in California could cost more than $100 million as the two wealthy frontrunners continue to spend their own fortunes attacking each other.
Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner released his latest salvo earlier this week, using a Web video to argue that former eBay CEO Meg Whitman created a "special site for the sale of pornography and sex paraphernalia."
"Meg Whitman oversaw the creation of a special website just to sell pornography and amassed millions in profits from it," Poizner spokeswoman Bettina Inclan said in a statement. "If Californians wanted a governor who made a fortune off pornography, then Larry Flynt would now be in office."
The Whitman camp noted that Poizner's outlandish attack was released shortly after former Vice President Dick Cheney endorsed Whitman in an op-ed in the Orange County Register.

"Is Steve Poizner seriously trying to tell us that eBay is a pornography site?," Whitman spokesman Dan Comstock said in a statement. "eBay's millions of users, including my grandmother, will find that a little hard to believe. Steve Poizner is desperate. He lacks momentum. He lacks grassroots support. Most of all, he lacks honesty."
Whitman once had a commanding lead in this race but polls were showing it tightening in recent weeks, after Poizner attacked her in a TV ad which said she profited from home foreclosures in California. But the Whitman camp says that it's now beginning to put distance between them again.
Still, that hasn't stopped Whitman from pumping another $4 million from her own fortune into her campaign. Ahead of the June 8 primary, Whitman has spent a total of $68 million on her bid, while Poizner has cut checks for $24 million.


Bennett on write-in bid: 'Stay tuned'

Fresh off a stinging primary defeat, Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) hinted today that he is considering a bid as a write-in candidate in 2010.

In the days following his defeat, Bennett was tight-lipped about running without the support of the GOP, saying only he had "made the firm decision to not make any decisions."

Today, however, he went a little further:

Asked in an interview whether he would pursue the write-in route, Bennett offered his standard line: "Once I make that decision, you'll be the second to know," he said. But Bennett, 76, then added, "Stay tuned tomorrow." Asked if that meant he would announce his decision tomorrow, Bennett repeated, "Stay tuned tomorrow."


Dem campaign chief defends Pelosi: She's not a 'boogeywoman'

Republicans are portraying Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as a boogeywoman in their attempt to win back the House, according to Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine.

"I have my own theories about why Republicans often like to make the speaker a 'boogeywoman.' And you might divine my theories from the way I phrased that," Kaine told a National Press Club lunch Wednesday.

Republicans made Pelosi and President Barack Obama an issue in Tuesday's special election for former Rep. John Murtha's (D-Pa.) seat. Both were unpopular in the district but Democrat Mark Critz, a former Murtha staffer, prevailed with a comfortable nine-point margin, which Kaine pointed out several times during his remarks.

He also defended Pelosi's tenure in the House.

"She's done a very effective job especially in a Democratic caucus that is extremely broad," he said. "Being a speaker of a very broad caucus in its diversity and its ideological position is a tough job and she's done a good one. I should have given her praise in terms of that special win last night, because, boy I'll tell you, the House Democrats have quite a track record going winning those special elections. She gets a lot of credit."

Republicans also have made the speaker an issue in several competitive House races, given the controversial votes the chamber has held under her tenure, including ones on climate change and healthcare reform.

Kaine, meanwhile, declined to play political predictor, refusing to name how many seats his party may gain or lose this fall.


Washington favorites lose primaries in Pa. and Ky.

Kentucky businessman Jeffrey Reetz (R) wasn't the only National Republican Congressional Committee-backed candidate to lose in Tuesday's primaries. Former U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan, who was running in Pennsylvania's 4th district GOP primary, also failed to win her party's nomination. Buchanan was reportedly a top recruit for the NRCC but she lost by more than 30 points to attorney Keith Rothfus (R).

From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

According to preliminary results, Rothfus held a commanding lead with 67 percent of the vote compared to Buchanan's 33 percent with 77 percent of precincts reporting Tuesday night.

Rothfus, 48, raised more money and carried less political baggage than Buchanan -- two reasons he said made him the stronger choice to face Democratic U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire, 42, of McCandless in November. Altmire took office in 2007.

"People I actually came in contact with were very supportive and very responsive. Apparently there were a lot of other people out there who felt differently," Buchanan said at her campaign headquarters in Wexford.

Rothfus, a father of six, touted his time as an attorney in President George W. Bush's Office of Faith-Based Initiatives. The Bush administration hired Rothfus after he volunteered on the former president's 2004 re-election campaign.

Buchanan promoted her eight years as Western Pennsylvania's top federal prosecutor even though opponents ridiculed her for a failed corruption case against former Allegheny County Coroner Dr. Cyril H. Wecht and her conviction of famed marijuana advocate Tommy Chong for selling bongs online.


AFL-CIO plans aggressive push for Halter in Arkansas runoff

The AFL-CIO said Wednesday that it would wage a "very aggressive" campaign in the runoff election between Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and her Democratic primary challenger.

The labor group said it would spend what it needs to in order to help Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter unseat Lincoln in a Democratic primary challenge.

"We're in it to win it," AFL-CIO political director Karen Ackerman said in a conference call Wednesday. "We are certainly ready and able to spend whatever we need to do on behalf of Halter."

The union said it saw a "real victory for working people" in last night's Arkansas primary, in which neither Lincoln nor Halter received 50 percent of the vote, forcing a June 8 runoff primary between the two.

The AFL-CIO and other labor groups poured millions into the race on Halter's behalf, angered by Lincoln's stance on healthcare reform legislation and a union organizing bill, among other issues.

Ackerman also hailed the victory for Democrats in Pennsylvania's 12th congressional district, and downplayed incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter's (D-Pa.) loss in a Democratic primary. She said that local AFL-CIO officials had decided to back Specter, in part due to their years of support for him.

But she said that their focus had shifted to Arkansas, where they will commit resources to Halter, though Ackerman wouldn't put a price tag on the amount.

"We figure that it is very important to take a stand against incumbents or candidates who are not sympathetic to the needs of working people, and who have not really proven themselves to fight for the economic security of working people," she said.

Cross-posted from the Briefing Room.


Boehner: GOP needs more money, organization before November

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said his party needs to raise more more money and get organized before the November election.

The GOP suffered a setback Tuesday night when its candidate lost the special election for former Rep. John Murtha's (D-Pa.) seat. The party had invested heavily into the race and billed it as a referendum on national Democrats. The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) spent close to $1 million supporting businessman Tim Burns’s (R) campaign.

Boehner told reporters Wednesday that “it’s pretty clear that we have to organize and we’ve got to continue working on our agenda project. … We’ve got to continue to raise resources.”

The top-ranking House Republican explained that Burns was at a disadvantage because the “fact is that this is a Democratic district and (there were) two big statewide Dem primaries.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) carried the district by one point in 2008. Murtha had held it for 19 terms.

But Boehner praised Burns, who will be the Republican candidate for the seat in the November general election.