Ballot Box

Van Hollen: Dems would 'welcome' Obama in 'contested districts'

Democrats in closely contested races would "welcome" a visit from President Obama, according to Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

"We welcome the president [to campaign] in [our] contested districts. As he has said, he's going to take his lead from Congressional candidates," Van Hollen told Bloomberg Television's Al Hunt. "And besides, there's only a certain number of places the president can go between now and November."

Van Hollen said he "disagreed" with the prediction that Republicans would retake control of the House. 

“We're not making any predictions other than that we are going to work very hard to do as best we can going forward," he said. "I believe that when people do focus on that choice. Republicans want this just to be about the Democrats -- 'Don't listen to what we have to propose; just look at the Democrats.' We're asking them to finally listen to what Republicans would do if given the chance."

Obama said Friday he's not surprised by members of his party who are running away from the Democrats' Washington leadership. 

"Every candidate out there has their own district, their own makeup, their own plan, their own message," the president said during a news conference Friday. "In an environment where we still have 9.5 percent unemployment, people are going to make the best argument they can right now."

--Shane D'Aprile contributed to this post.

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NRA backs Tea Party candidate in Delaware

The National Rifle Association endorsed conservative commentator Christine O'Donnell Friday in Delaware's Republican Senate primary. The Tea Party-backed O'Donnell is looking to upset Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) on Tuesday.

The NRA's Political Victory Fund cited O'Donnell's "commitment to preserving the Second Amendment" in its endorsement of her Friday.

“Christine O’Donnell will be a strong voice in fighting ongoing efforts by anti-gun politicians to dismantle the Second Amendment,” chairman of the NRA's Political Victory Fund Chris Cox said in a statement. “We ask all Delaware gun-owners and hunters to vote for Christine O’Donnell in the U.S. Senate Republican primary on September 14th.”

The NRA's endorsement made no mention of Castle, but the longtime congressman earns an "F" from the gun lobby for his voting record. 

The NRA backing comes as Castle and O'Donnell are in a battle of last-minute "conservative" endorsements, which is at least one metric where O'Donnell seems to have come out on top over the past two days. 

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin officially backed O'Donnell Thursday, while Castle's campaign touted in-state endorsements from former Delaware Gov. Pete du Pont (R) and former Judge Bill Lee, who ran for governor in 2008. 

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Robin Carnahan says 'no' to new stimulus money

Another Democrat in a hotly-contested election came out on Friday against President Obama's proposal for an additional $50 billion in spending for infrastructure improvements. 

Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan (D), who is locked in a tight Senate race with Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), told The Associated Press that the plan "doesn't seem like a practical way to solve what is a huge problem in our country with this continuing high levels [sic] of unemployment and lagging economic activity." 

Blunt also slammed the idea at a campaign event Friday, telling supporters the president is "grasping at straws" and calling the impetus behind the proposal political. 

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Obama on Dems running from party: 'That's how political races work'

President Obama indicated Friday that he isn't surprised by the increasing number of Democratic lawmakers who are working to distance themselves from the Democratic leadership in Washington.

"Every candidate out there has their own district, their own makeup, their own plan, their own message," the president said during a news conference Friday. "In an environment where we still have 9.5 percent unemployment, people are going to make the best argument they can right now."

Vulnerable lawmakers have increasingly worked to distance themselves from their party's leadership in Washington, in some cases running campaign ads highlighting their votes against the Obama administration's two signature legislative achievements — healthcare and financial reform. 

Reps. Bobby Bright (D-Ala.), Jason Altmire (D-Pa.) and Glenn Nye (D-Va.) are prime examples. All three have run ads touting their votes against the healthcare law. 

Reps. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.) have run similar spots highlighting their opposition to cap-and-trade and distancing themselves from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).  

Obama suggested he understood that the message would not always reflect the priorities of the Democratic leadership, noting that he fully expects congressional Democrats to be responsive to the sentiment of voters in their individual districts.  

"That's how political races work," he said.

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GOP leaders help Rep. Lungren close money gap

House Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) appears to have no hard feelings toward Rep. Dan Lungren despite the California Republican's 2008 bid to usurp his job. 

Boehner will be in Sacramento on Friday night to headline a fundraiser for the eight-term congressman.

"Lungren's targeted, so we appreciate the leader taking the time to come through and help with the fundraising," Rob Stutzman, a Lungren spokesman, told The Sacramento Bee. "Obviously, we're getting outraised."

Lungren had $800,000 in cash on hand at the end of June, compared to $1.14 million for Ami Bera, his Democratic challenger.
 The congressman spent more than $1.3 million on his reelection in 2008.

Bera, as a member of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's Red to Blue program, is one of his party's top prospects this cycle. He's also received financial support from the Democratic leadership, with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.) headlining an event for him last week.

The DCCC has also reserved air time in the Sacramento media market, which could be used to support Bera.

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Rep. Reichert reveals life-saving brain surgery

Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) told a local TV station Thursday that he came close to death this past spring and underwent life-saving brain surgery at a Washington, D.C., hospital.

In late March, Reichert's office released a statement that said the congressman was treated for a "head injury" sustained after he was hit by a tree branch while doing yard work. Reichert's office said he was treated for a "subdural hematoma" but gave no further details at the time.

In an interview Thursday, Reichert suggested the injury was much more serious than originally thought. He described two months of headaches that eventually led to numbness on the right side of his body. After being rushed to George Washington University Hospital, Reichert said he underwent emergency brain surgery.

Reichert is a Democratic target this year facing a challenge from Suzan DelBene (D).

Here's the report from Washington state's KING 5 news featuring Reichert's interview.

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Hawaii Dem tries to excite voters by telling them 'what you see is what you get'

Democrat Colleen Hanabusa is trailing Rep. Charles Djou (R-Hawaii) in money raised and recent polls, but her latest ad plays like she's ahead.

In the 30-second spot, released on Thursday in Hawaii, Hanabusa speaks directly to the camera and doesn't mention Djou, who defeated her in the May special election for the seat. "I've never been known as a flashy politician; pretty much what you see is what you get," Hanabusa says in the ad.

The take-it-or-leave-it approach may not be the best one for Hanabusa as even the Democratic leadership wasn't satisfied with what it saw with her performance during the special election and chose to back former Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii).

Republicans had some fun with Hanabusa's new ad.

"If Hawaii families get what they see from Hanabusa, they'll see more of their hard-earned money leaving their own pocket to be spent recklessly by the federal government," Joanna Burgos, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in a statement.

Hanabusa recently closed the fundraising deficit she had with Djou. The Democrat raised $330,000 in the last reporting period, according to her pre-primary filing. Djou raised $205,000 during the same time. Hanabusa now trails Djou by less than $25,000 cash on hand, having $403,000 banked for the general compared to $427,000 for Djou.

A poll conducted by the Tarrance Group for Djou's camp in July had the Republican leading Hanabusa 50 percent to 42.

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