Ballot Box

Michigan eyeing early primary

The state Senate in Michigan voted Thursday to hold its presidential primary on Feb. 28, a move that could bolster the state's influence in the contest but could also subject it to major penalties at the GOP nominating convention.

The bill heads to the House for consideration, and then to the governor's desk. Republicans control both chambers in Michigan's Legislature.

The vote came the same week that Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) scheduled her state's primary for Feb. 28, an attempt to give Arizona voters a bigger say in the nominating process. Florida is also flirting with moving up its primary.

The attempts set up the groundwork for a showdown between the states and the national political parties. An agreement between the Democratic and Republican committees allows only Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada to hold contests before March 6.

States that flaunt that rule risk losing some of their delegates to the nominating conventions. Republicans in Michigan are also concerned that voters might not turn out if they think their votes won't fully count.

In Michigan, state statute already calls for Feb. 28 voting as part of the consolidated election days Michigan holds four times per year. Lawmakers would either have to move that Feb. 28 date to be later than March 6 or schedule a fifth date to accommodate the primary.

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Former Rep. Kilroy to run for House

Former Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D-Ohio) will run for a new Democratic-leaning seat in Columbus, she announced Thursday afternoon on Facebook and The Huffington Post.

The former congresswoman lost by 13 percentage points to Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) last year after beating him by 1 percentage point in 2008. The old district was a true toss-up; the new one, created after the federal Census, would be much easier for a Democrat in a general election.

Kilroy, who also narrowly lost her first bid for Congress in 2006, might face her fourth competitive race in four cycles despite the new districts Democratic lean. Other Democrats, including former Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, who ran for the Senate in 2010, are also considering running.

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Blue Dogs hire Whalen to beef up operations

The Blue Dog PAC has tapped Andrew Whalen, a former top adviser to Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.), to head its political operations heading into the 2012 cycle, and charged him with expanding the coalitions grassroots and new media efforts.

Republicans picked off many centrist and conservative Democrats — called "Blue Dogs" — when they took control of the House in 2010, leaving a smaller contingent of more liberal Democrats in office. Aggressive campaigning in centrist districts is a key component of the Democratic playbook to flip the 25 seats they need to take back control of the lower chamber.

“As the extremes on the right and the left fight for their own interests, the interests of the American people are being left behind, said Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah), co-chairman of the Blue Dog PAC. “With this expanded operation, Blue Dogs will be better equipped to recruit, endorse and support candidates in the 2012 election who are committed to fiscal responsibility, everyday American values and commonsense measures that help businesses grow.”

Whalen, a campaign veteran, has also served as executive director of the North Carolina Democratic Party.

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Poll: Romney leads Perry in delegate-rich California

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney leads Texas Gov. Rick Perry in California, a delegate-rich state, by 30 percent to 22 percent, according to a new Field Poll. No other candidate cracked double digits.

California Republicans will go to the polls on Super Tuesday in early March, the same day as many other states. Even though it will not be a swing state, because of its size it could be very important in the nomination process. If the race is still competitive at that point the state will be the biggest prize of the day.

Romney came in second place with 35 percent in the 2008 California GOP primary, behind Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Unlike when he faced McCain, there are no other centrist Republicans who at this time appear to be viable candidates in the race, meaning he should be able to court those voters. Sixteen percent of California Republicans remain undecided on the race.

The poll showed that while President Obama's numbers have slid considerably in the Golden State — his job approval rating was at just 46 percent, with 44 disapproving — he still led both candidates by double-digit margins.

The poll of 333 registered Republicans was conducted from Sept. 1 to 12. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.6 points.

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Romney applauds bill limiting NLRB

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was the first Republican candidate for the presidential nomination to respond Thursday to the House passage of a bill intended to prohibit the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) from ordering companies to relocate employees.

Romney tweeted: “Congrats to House #GOP on passing #HR2587 to protect workers and job creators from Obama Administration Labor Board.”

Romney gave a speech blasting the NLRB earlier this week, siding with Boeing in a labor dispute over the airline company’s new South Carolina plant. The bill came in reaction to NLRB's lawsuit against the company that alleges Boeing relocated its expansion project to South Carolina as retaliation to worker strikes in Washington state.

Union issues look to be an important issue in 2012, with several labor-related clashes between Democrats and Republicans taking place this year in multiple states and a fight shaping up between the Tea Party movement and union leaders in August. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) has been pushing the GOP field of candidates to state their positions on the controversy in her state.

Haley also applauded Congress on Thursday for “bringing common sense to a rogue agency that has lost its way” with the bill.

“We ask the U.S. Senate to show the same leadership and realize this is not about Republicans versus Democrats or the next presidential election — but about making sure American companies can keep creating American jobs,” Haley said in a statement.

The bill, introduced by South Carolina Rep. Tim Scott (R), passed in a 238-186 vote Thursday afternoon.

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Gov. O'Malley: Obama will win on Republicans' record

President Obama will win reelection in 2012 because voters will realize that Republican policies are responsible for the stalled economy and record deficit, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) said Thursday.

During a wide-ranging conversation with reporters, the second-term governor and chairman of the Democratic Governors Association said House Republicans were deliberately blocking the nation's recovery to avoid giving Obama a win. 

The GOP candidates are only offering reheated trickle-down economics that failed the nation over the eight years of the George W. Bush administration, he said.

"Their party is directly responsible for a great deal of damage to our economy because of their policies, and they cannot run away from that," O'Malley said during a breakfast hosted by The Christian Science Monitor. "Facts are stubborn things. And people over time do figure out who's on their side."

Republican policies, he said, "are responsible for an awful lot of damage to our country's economy, to the erosion of our middle class, to first stagnating and then declining wages."

Even today, O'Malley said, Republicans are continuing to damage the nation's economy by obstructing the president's jobs agenda.

"I firmly believe that Republicans in Congress, driven by a concerted group, have decided that it is not in their party's political interest to have the president succeed at creating any jobs," O'Malley said. "And I believe, therefore, they will do their very best to deny him any victories that could lead to job creation or a speedier recovery."

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Ohio Democrats might try referendum against GOP redistricting map

Ohio Democrats might try to get a ballot referendum against the GOP's newly released redistricting maps, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

“It’s a piece of legislation that can be put to a referendum,” Ohio Democratic Chairman Chris Redfern told the newspaper.

The GOP released a plan earlier this week that would give the party as many as 12 of the 16 House seats the swing state will have next election. The plan is likely to pass through the Republican-controlled State Legislature without a problem; state law allows for petitions to put any law not related to the budget on a referendum.

If the referendum gets on the ballot, the redistricting plan could not go into effect until it was voted on in the 2012 elections, meaning the courts would likely draw a plan that would give Democrats more opportunities. Ohio is losing two congressional seats due to slow population growth.

Ohio Democrats have been successful in getting other new Republican-backed laws on the ballot, including one similar to Wisconsin's controversial law that limits collective bargaining rights for state employees. After they got that on the ballot, Ohio Gov. John Kasich approached unions and Democrats about reaching a compromise.

The move could also be a bluff to try to force Republicans to negotiate with the minority party.

Republicans could keep the referendum from happening by attaching a budgetary item to the bill, according to the paper.

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Poll: GOP split on Tea Party

For every Republican who supports the Tea Party movement there's one who doesn't, according to a poll released Thursday by CNN/Opinion Research.

The poll showed just under half of Republicans and GOP-leaning Independents supporting the movement or participating in it, with the other half opposed or undecided.

Republicans in both the presidential race and down-ballot races have been actively courting the Tea Party vote. The movement was largely credited with helping Republicans flip control of the House in 2010 and for setting the agenda in this summer's debt-ceiling debate.

All the major candidates participated in a debate Monday co-hosted by CNN and Tea Party Express, and even former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) — who is considered far more moderate than the Tea Party on most issues — has gone out of his way not to be seen as shunning the movement.

But the Tea Party also poses a general-election challenge for most candidates, because appealing to Tea Party sensibilities means moving farther to the right than the public at large. The CNN poll showed Tea Party supporters are farther from the center on both economic and social issues.

Half of Tea Party Republicans surveyed said Obama should focus on the deficit instead of jobs, compared to only 37 percent of Republicans outside of the Tea Party. Those non-Tea Party Republicans were almost four times as likely as Tea Party supporters to say that global warming is proven phenomenon caused by emissions.

Almost three-quarters of Tea Party Republicans said gay and lesbian marriages shouldn't be equivocated with heterosexual marriages, compared to about half of non-Tea Party Republicans.

The poll included 446 Republicans and GOP-leaning Independents, and was conducted Sept. 9-11. The overall margin of error was 4.5 percentage points.

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Rep. Kind won't run for Senate in Wisconsin

Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) has announced he won't run for the Senate, eliminating the largest hurdle for Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) to be the Democratic nominee to replace retiring Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.). This will allow Baldwin to save her resources for what could be a tough general-election fight in the Democratic-leaning state.

"Now is not my time to run for the U.S. Senate," Kind said in a statement Thursday. "The issues are just too pressing right now. Furthermore, at this time a divisive primary contest will not serve the interests of the state or the real needs of families. It will not create one job, help one family pay for college, cut one dollar from our state or federal deficit, protect one senior citizen’s Social Security and Medicare, or help one of the thousands of veterans in Wisconsin who served our country. Most certainly it will not reduce the hyper partisanship that is needlessly tearing apart our state and country."

Kind survived a tough race in 2010 in a swing district along the Mississippi River, but his district became safer in redistricting and he is unlikely to face another serious challenge in future years — making the prospect of giving up a safely Democratic seat to run for the Senate somewhat less enticing for Kind.

Baldwin is a liberal congresswoman from Madison who has a fervent following among the state's liberal base and would be the first openly gay senator. She would likely have started a primary with an advantage over Kind, who is known as more of a centrist.

Former Rep. Steve Kagen (D-Wis.) from northeastern Wisconsin is still seriously considering a run. But Kind has much more political experience in the state and deeper connections with Wisconsin Democrats, and would have been a stronger opponent against Baldwin.

On the Republican side, former Rep. Mark Neumann (R-Wis.) is running, as is Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald. Former Gov. Tommy Thompson is also expected to run for the seat.

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Romney will join other top GOP candidates at Values Voter Summit

Mitt Romney will join the other top Republican presidential candidates at the Values Voter Summit, a conference considered a measuring stick for conservative religious voters.

Romney joins previously confirmed GOP hopefuls Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) and a slew of other lawmakers scheduled to speak at the three-day event taking place Oct. 7-9, the legislative action arm of host organization the Family Research Council announced Thursday.

Romney won the straw poll at the event as a presidential candidate in 2008 in a close race with then-candidate and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Last year, Romney took third place in the poll, which is also held during non-election years, when Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) won.

The event could be an important indication of Romney’s appeal to a mostly Christian crowd relative to the current crop of candidates. This year’s field includes two outspoken evangelical candidates in Bachmann and Perry, which could mean Romney will face a stronger challenge for this particular group of voters due to his Mormon beliefs.

Organizers say the annual Washington event draws pro-family grassroots activists from across the country. It is co-sponsored by other well-known conservative groups including The Heritage Foundation, Liberty University, American Values and Liberty Counsel.

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