GOP candidate demands Dodd reject HELP chairmanship

One of Sen. Chris Dodd's (D-Conn.) potential Republican opponents next fall is calling on Dodd to reject the permanent chairmanship of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee.

Dodd had managed the HELP committee in the absence of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), who passed away late Tuesday night, in addition to his responsibilities as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.

Republican state Sen. Sam Caligiuri, a GOP primary candidate to face off against Dodd, demanded the incumbent Democrat reject taking over the HELP committee.

"I am calling on Senator Dodd to decline the position of the HELP Committee Chairman, if it is offered to him," Caligiuri said in a statement. "He should be finishing the job he has barely started of fixing the financial sector problems that got us into this economic disaster in the first place, and not spending his time promoting ill advised health care legislation."

Dodd said earlier today in a teleconference that he wasn't sure what his status with the committee would be going forward, and that it would take a few weeks to sort it out.

"Only in Washington would someone who failed miserably at one crucial job be considered for taking the reins on another important front," Caligiuri said. "In typical DC fashion, Senator Dodd is all politics all the time, hoping to secure this new post to dust his past failures under the rug and forge ahead with yet more bad legislation."

Campaign Update: Schumer's dis, another Ill. Senate candidate

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) is up with an ad before he even has an opponent for 2010. The ad talks about Dorgan's work on energy issues, but the real message is: "Hey, Gov. Hoeven, I'm ready for you, so you had better think twice before entering this race."

A new Republican poll shows state Attorney General Bill McCollum (R) building a double-digit lead over state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink (D), 48-37. This is the second GOP poll this month to show McCollum opening up a big lead.

In the latest sign that she's planning to resign, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) has put her Virginia house on the market. It doesn't necessarily mean anything on it's own, but it's part of a growing puzzle.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) didn't exactly do the Democratic nominee in the upcoming New York special election a favor by reminiscing about state Sen. Darrel Aubertine's (D) would-have-been candidacy. What's troubling here is that Schumer is one of the sharpest political talkers in the biz, so it's just too tempting to read into his words. I think it's a reasonable question to start asking just how hard Democrats are going to push in this race, especially given that they aren't defending a seat, as they were in the other special election in the Empire State. With the national environment turning on them a bit, they could certainly save some face by not even trying. Perhaps the former DSCC chairman is hinting at this? (Note: pure speculation)

Place your bets! Gov. Charlie Crist (R) aims to appoint a replacement for Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) by the end of this week. Two current House members have pulled their names from the running, and this is sure to be a placeholder pick (given that Crist himself is running for the seat in 2010). So as far as Washington goes, there probably won't be any dominoes, and we're pretty much waiting for the next Ted Kaufman.

Chicago Inspector General David Hoffman adds his name to the Democratic Senate primary in Illinois, joining state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and Chicago Urban League President Cheryle Jackson. Having another Chicago-based, second-tier candidate should help Giannoulias by diluting the anti-frontrunner vote and splitting Chicago, but Hoffman's corruption-buster reputation could also draw attention to some of the less attractive aspects of the Giannoulias candidacy. Whatever the case, Hoffman has been good at upsetting the Daley machine, so he's got plenty of enemies in this Senate primary.

Poll shows Sen. Lincoln in serious reelection trouble

It might be time to start looking at Arkansas as a marquee Senate state in 2010.

According to a new survey from Democratic-leaning firm Public Policy Polling, Sen. Blanche Lincoln's (D-Ark.) net approval rating has dropped by double digits in the last five months, to below 40 percent approval, and she is virtually tied with three Republicans - all of whom have favorability numbers in the single digits.

The state is shaping up similar to Nevada, where a series of unknown Republicans are already polling competitive with - or leading - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

The different between the two is that Reid has long been unpopular in his home state, while Lincoln still had a net positive approval rating in March (45 percent positive/40 percent negative, according to PPP).

But that was five months ago. Thanks to Democratic initiatives and the very conservative nature of the state, Lincoln's approval is now 36 percent positive and 44 percent negative.

She polls at 40 percent in three potential general election matchups, trailing state Sen. Gilbert Baker and businessman Curtis Coleman by 2 percent and 1 percent, respectively, and leading attorney and Iraq/Afghanistan veteran Tom Cotton by 1 percent.

In other words, Republicans might not need a big-name candidate. And that's good for them, because they're not getting one.

The most interesting part of the poll might be the fact that Lincoln is viewed favorably by just 62 percent of Democrats. Basically, conservative Democrats who could hold their nose before are now getting a taste of the more liberal element of the party's leadership, and they don't like it.

Lincoln's numbers track closely with Obama's, and something tells me his fate could be hers.

South Carolina LG to call for Sanford to resign

South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer (R) is set to hold a press conference in a few minutes, and his office is saying he will call for Gov. Mark Sanford (R) to resign.

From the AP:
A spokesman says South Carolina's lieutenant governor will call for embattled Gov. Mark Sanford to step down.

Communications director Frank Adams says Andre Bauer will call on Sanford to resign at a news conference Wednesday. If he does, Bauer will renew his offer to stay out of the 2010 gubernatorial race and instead fill the remainder of his fellow Republican's term, which ends in January 2011.

Sanford has come under scrutiny since his June admission of an affair with an Argentine woman, and Bauer is the most prominent Republican to call for his resignation. Sanford's spokesman did not return a call for comment, but the governor has said he does not plan to resign.

Associated Press investigations have raised questions about the legality of Sanford's travel.

Questions linger over Kennedy succession

Hours after Sen. Edward Kennedy's (D-Mass.) passing from brain cancer at the age of 77, questions abound over who will succeed him, and how long that succession will take.

Massachusetts state law mandates that a special election be held to fill the vacant seat within 145 to 160 days of when the seat becomes vacant, placing the date of a potential special election between January 18, 2010 and February 2, 2010.

But with landmark healthcare legislation -- the trademark political issue of the late senator's lifetime -- in the balance in the Senate, Kennedy wrote Massachusetts lawmakers in recent weeks, urging them to reverse a 2004 law stripping the governor of the ability to appoint a nominee to succeed him quickly in the case of a vacancy.

"I therefore am writing to urge you to work together to amend the law through the normal legislative process to provide for a temporary gubernatorial appointment until the special election occurs," Kennedy wrote to Massachusetts lawmakers and top political officials in the state. Kennedy wanted the governor to be able to appoint a nominee, with the condition that any successor would give a personal commitment to not seek reelection in the following cycle.

The 2004 law was put in place by Democratic lawmakers in the statehouse in order to block then-Gov. Mitt Romney (R) from appointing a Republican successor to Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), should Kerry have won the presidential election that year.

It's unclear whether or not state lawmakers could change the law after Kennedy's passing to allow Gov. Deval Patrick (D), a relatively unpopular incumbent, from appointing a senator.

Due to the long incumbencies of Kennedy and Kerry, the state of Massachusetts has not gone through a special election to fill a Senate vacancy since Kennedy himself was elected. Kennedy was elected in a November 1962 special election in a race to fill the vacancy left by his brother, President John F. Kennedy, who was elected president.

The current vacancy weighs on the prospects for healthcare legislation and a number of other legislative priorities for Democrats in the upper house. But some whip counts have long counted Kennedy -- along with another ailing Senate veteran, Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) -- as unable to vote, leaving congressional Democrats short of the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster, but prepared for the prospect of lawmaking in Kennedy's absence.

Cantor: GOP poised to take back the House

Republicans are have a "very good chance" of taking back control of the House of Representatives in the 2010 midterm elections, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said this week.

Cantor said concerns about Democratic control of the White House and both houses of Congress have driven Americans to increasingly back GOP candidates.

"The country feels better when there's a check and a balance," Cantor said in an interview with the conservative PajamasTV website. "That's why I think the Republicans in the House are poised to have a very good chance of taking back the House. It's the only chance to provide that check and balance."

Political prognosticators have forecast likely Republican gains in 2010, though few have predicted the Republicans picking up the 40 or more House seats necessary to wrest control from Democrats, who have been in charge since the 2006 elections.

"We have unfettered one-party rule. And part of what we're people are tired of the status quo and business as usual," Cantor said. "People don't want an unbalanced approach."

The Virginia Republican said that Hollywood, usually considered a reliable Democratic base, could be an ally in rebuilding a Republican majority.

"It's still easier to run against Hollywood as a Republican, because the image is out there that everyone is to the left of the left here," Cantor explained. "But I know there are plenty of friends here, which is why we try and come here and say, 'Listen, we need your help.'"

Specter says town halls have affected his healthcare stance

Town hall meetings are important to heed and have had an effect on Sen. Arlen Specter's (D-Pa.) healthcare stance, the veteran senator said Tuesday.

"It has had an impact on me," he said during an interview on Fox News.

"I think the people who were boisterous and wouldn't allow other people to be heard -- that's unusual at town hall meetings," Specter added. "But beneath that, beyond any question, there's tremendous anger."

Specter's town hall meeting earlier this month raised eyebrows after the nationally-televised event showed a loud confrontation between Specter and some constituents over healthcare.

The Pennsylvania senator, who switched parties to pursue reelection as a Democrat, said that his constituents' anger extends beyond healthcare.

"It goes beyond healthcare -- it's a matter of the deficit and the national debt, and that's why I pledged to vote for a healthcare insurance reform bill which raises the deficit," he said. "And I think we have to be concerned about the expansion of government, and be sensitive to what people are thinking about."

"I certainly would not criticize them; I am going to listen to them," he added. "No matter how vituperative they are, they are citizens."

Arena Football League owner to challenge Rep. Boccieri

With the Arena Football League apparently on its deathbed, one of its owners is turning his attention to one of the marquee House races in the country.

Columbus Destroyers co-owner Jim Renacci, the former mayor of Akron suburb Wadsworth, has filed the preliminary paperwork to challenge freshman Rep. John Boccieri (D-Ohio), reports to the AP.

Renacci could be formidable thanks to his political experience and his financial means. He is the first Republican to step forward to face Boccieri.

Boccieri defeated Republican Kirk Schuring 55-45 in the race to replace Rep. Ralph Regula (R-Ohio) last year.

Republicans sign up Cardoza challenger

Republican efforts to grow the electoral map continue to bear some fruit, after they landed a candidate this week to face Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.).

Farmer and Turlock Irrigation District board member Mike Berryhill officially announced his candidacy Monday, and the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) followed it up with a statement Tuesday praising Berryhill.

"Mike Berryhill is a lifelong resident of the Central Valley who understands what it takes to help his neighbors overcome the devastating 17. 6 percent unemployment rate that Cardoza's recklessly partisan record has inflicted upon them," NRCC spokeswoman Joanna Burgos said.

Berryhill comes from a known political family, including having two cousins in the state assembly and an uncle who served as the state's agriculture commissioner.

Cardoza's district has been off the radar since he won it with 51 percent in 2002. He hasn't faced serious opposition since then and has won reelection with at least 65 percent of the vote the last three cycles (including being unopposed in 2008).

The plurality Hispanic district leans Democratic and went 59-39 for President Obama in 2008, but it also went 50-49 for President Bush in 2004.

Cardoza defeated his former boss, Rep. Gary Condit (D-Calif.), in a 2002 primary after questions arose about the disappearance of a Washington intern Condit had had a relationship with, Chandra Levy. State Sen. Dick Monteith (R) challenged Cardoza in the general election, but he fell 51-43.

This race will be a tough one for Republicans, as Cardoza has plowed a pretty centrist record in an agricultural district. But if 2006 and 2008 are any indication, having a candidate at-the-ready for the right situation can only pay dividends.

Herenton: I won't run for mayor, will primary Rep. Cohen

Former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton says he's sticking with challenging Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) in a primary and won't run in the special election for the mayor's office he recently vacated.

Herenton has been all over the map in recent months, first saying he would resign his mayoralty to run against Cohen, then delaying his resignation. He finally resigned, but then pulled a shocker by pulling a petition to run in the special election to reclaim his old post.

Herenton went on local radio last week to insist, over the host's suggestions, that he hadn't gone "crazy."

Now, Herenton says he will not run in the special election and will indeed challenge Cohen. And the all-too-blunt longtime mayor is continuing his vulgar and racially tinged assault on Cohen, labeling him "an a**hole."

Cohen represents a majority black district, which has made him susceptible to primary challenges.

"I can't think of a better description of Steve Cohen," he said. "He was an a**hole three weeks ago. And he's an a**hole now. To know Steve Cohen is to know he doesn't think very much about African-American people. He has a notion of superiority and he has temper tantrums."