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."

Beauprez won't run for Senate

Former Rep. Bob Beauprez (R-Colo.) has decided not to seek his party's nomination for Senate in 2010.

Beauprez wrote on his website late Monday that the 2010 Senate race simply wasn't the right opportunity.

"Short of being a candidate, I will do all I can to see that Colorado elects a Senator in 2010 who represents our conservative values and who will bring badly needed common sense to Washington," Beauprez wrote. "I believe we will have a great nominee, and I believe we can and will win. It will take all of us pulling in the same direction, for the same reason."

In a recent Public Policy Polling survey, the 2006 GOP gubernatorial nominee held a small lead over appointed Sen. Michael Bennet (R), and Beauprez's renown would have made him a favorite to take the Republican nomination over two little-known candidates.

Despite the numbers, though, Republicans in Colorado weren't enamored with having a Senate nominee who lost the governor's race so badly just three years ago.

Beauprez's decision could open the door to former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, who recently expressed interest in running on the GOP side. Short of that, Republicans will have a battle between Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier and Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck.

Doctor to be named in Jackson homicide donated to Republican Party in 2004

Dr. Conrad Murray, a cardiologist believed to be present when pop star Michael Jackson died in June, donated money to the Republican Party on two separate occasions in 2004.

A Federal Election Commission (FEC) report shows that Murray contributed $500 to the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) in the summer of 2004. The physician made the payments in two, $250 sums. The NRCC fundraises for Republican House candidates.

According to the report, Murray listed his address at his Las Vegas medical practice, Global Cardiovascular Associates, when making the donation.

On Monday, the Los Angeles County coroner ruled Jackson's death a homicide. The AP reported that Murray is currently the target of a Los Angeles Police Department manslaughter investigation.

The report said that the LAPD will likely file charges against Murray shortly.

The Las Vegas Police Department also raided Murray's practice in early August as part of the manslaughter investigation.

Rep. Bill Young declines consideration for Senate appointment

Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.) announced Monday that he is pulling his name from consideration to fill out the term being vacated by Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), according to local reports.

Young was one of several current and former politicians being looked at for the appointment, which will be made by Gov. Charlie Crist (R).

Young has served in the House for nearly 40 years and has been considered a potential retiree. His decision to remain in the House appears to provide a strong indication that he will seek reelection in 2010, which could be his toughest reelection race in years.

Democrats have recruited state Sen. Charlie Justice (D) to run against Young, with the hope being that he might consider retiring in his battleground Tampa-area district.

The appointment would have served a similar function for the Democrats, given that Young would have been yielding his seat for it.

Young is the second current House member to decline Crist's interest in a potential appointment, joining Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.).

The current list of those being actively considered by Crist is as follows:

Former Rep. Mike Bilirakis
Former Rep. Clay Shaw
Former Rep. Lou Frey
State Rep. Jennifer Carroll
North Florida University President John Delaney
Former U.S. Attorney Bobby Martinez
Former Crist Chief of Staff George LeMieux
Former state Sen. Dan Webster
Former Florida Secretary of State Jim Smith

Schakowsky: 'Fear is the friend' of the GOP

Fear is the friend of Republican lawmakers looking to slow down or prevent healthcare reform legislation from going forward, one Democratic lawmaker asserted Monday.

"Fear is their friend," Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) said in a conference call organized by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to respond to a "Seniors' Health Care Bill of Rights" released by their GOP counterpart this morning.

"The Republican Party has to take responsibility for their lies and their hypocrisy when it comes to seniors and healthcare reform," Schakowsky said. "The substance of this document uses false claims that have time and again been debunked."

The Republican National Committee's (RNC) "bill of rights" would, among other things, oppose cuts to Medicare to fund healthcare reform, preventing government involvement in end-of-life care, and "prohibit efforts to ration health care based on age."

Schakowsky accused Republicans of "doing nothing except saying 'no' and spreading lies" in the document, and accused the GOP of " carrying the water of the insurance companies, of the status quo."

"There may be Democrats who would like to see a bipartisan solution to this, but the Republicans are unwilling to compromise," she said, predicting that the House would return in September to pass legislation containing a public (or "government-run") option for consumers.

Campaign update: Troubling polls for Dems, Steele gaffes

Poll roundup:

-Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) is hardly bulletproof, but who will run against her?
-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) trails two little-known Republicans, including by double-digits to a two-time loser.
-Neighboring Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-Mich.) could both have big primary problems.
-A GOP poll shows former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) cruising past current Gov. Chet Culver (D) by 19 points. Now, we'll find out whether Branstad seeks a 5th term in that office.

Other items:

-There is a libertarian running for Senate in New Hampshire and he has some name ID. Ken Blevens, who has carried his party's banner in several races over the years, could steal some votes, but polling at about 3 percent means he likely won't cause any serious shifts in the race.

-RNC Chairman Michael Steele steps in it (the crapper?) as a conservative talk show host eviscerates the GOP's likely Senate nominee in Missouri. Not good for Steele, not good for Rep. Roy Blunt and maybe even worse for their party.

-Marco Rubio (R) fills out his revamped campaign team for his Senate primary against Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, adding political director Brandon Patty.

-Crist's list of potential appointees to fill out Sen. Mel Martinez's (R-Fla.) term grows to include former Reps. Mike Bilirakis, Clay Shaw and Lou Frey. It sounds like a decision could come in the next week or so. I know I said I would abstain from handicapping, but Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.) just seems like a logical choice here. No, he doesn't help Crist with valuable Hispanic voters, but he is a long-serving congressman who could go out on top, serving a year in the upper chamber to complement his nearly 40 years in the House. Young also has a potentially tough challenge on his hands this year, and this would give him a graceful way to avoid that without looking like he's slighting his party.

-Could there really be a fifth straight Baron Hill-Mike Sodrel matchup? The answer: for better or worse, yes. Former Rep. Sodrel (R-Ind.) says he'll decide on the race this fall, after he finishes writing a book. Hill (D) is now 3-1 in their four matchups, but if the environment swings in the GOP's favor, Sodrel's personal wealth has to be attractive to the national GOP.