Ark. state Senate president weighs Lincoln challenge

Add another name to the lengthy list of potential GOP opponents for Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.): Arkansas state Senate President Bob Johnson.

From the AP:
Arkansas Senate President Bob Johnson said Friday that he's considering challenging incumbent Democrat U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln in next year's primary.

Johnson told The Associated Press that's he's been encouraged to challenge Lincoln, who is seeking a third Senate term next year. Johnson said he doesn't have a timeline for deciding whether to challenge Lincoln.

"I'd be less than honest if I told you it hasn't surfaced in a number of circles," Johnson said. "I am weighing it very carefully."

Republicans have identified Lincoln as their top target on next year's ballot; five candidates have already announced they're running for the GOP Senate nomination. So far, no Democrats have said they're challenging Lincoln in the primary.

Johnson, who served as House speaker during the 1999 legislative session, has represented his north central Arkansas district in the state Senate since 2001.

Though the field is big, it is still without a big-name lawmaker. The current frontrunner is probably businessman and Mike Huckabee adviser Curtis Coleman. State Sen. Gilbert Baker is also considering the race.

Poll shows Beauprez leading Colo. Senate primary

The first poll on the GOP Senate primary in Colorado shows former Rep. Bob Beauprez leading a field of three candidates with 41 percent of the vote. He is followed in the Public Policy Polling survey by Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier, at 23 percent, and Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, at 15 percent.

The numbers aren't too surprising. Beauprez is known to about two-thirds of primary voters thanks to his 2006 gubernatorial campaign, while Frazier and Weld are both unknown to a solid majority of voters.

What's interesting is that while Weld is known to more voters than Frazier, 35 percent versus 24 percent, he still trails Frazier by 8 percent.

Of course, this is all very early, and Beauprez hasn't even decided whether to get into the race. But it's still a good sign for Frazier that his support is very high among those who know about him.

The poll didn't test former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, who has recently begun making overtures about the race.

The winner will likely face appointed Sen. Michael Bennet (D).

In the gubernatorial GOP primary to face Gov. Bill Ritter (D), former Rep. Scott McInnis leads state Sen. Josh Penry 36-15.

Waxman: GOP making 'serious mistake' to think health bill stance will bring 2010 wins

Republicans are making a "serious mistake" by thinking that stopping Democrats' healthcare reform will result in political victories in 2010, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) warned.

"I think they make a serious mistake trying to make this a partisan fight," Waxman told U.S. News in an interview posted Friday.

Waxman asserted that GOP-ers would be in error to look to the 1994 healthcare fight, in which they blocked President Bill Clinton's reform efforts, as a template for the 2009 fight.

"They are looking at the playbook from 1993 and 1994 where the Republicans pulled someone like Bob Dole back from working out a deal on healthcare in order to deny President Clinton a victory," Waxman said. "And they were rewarded in the election in '94."

"They are playing that same card again, but this time it's not going to work," he added.

Waxman, the chairman of one of the three committees crafting healthcare legislation in the House, signaled that Republican support wouldn't be essential to passing legislation if members of the GOP refuse to play ball on negotiations.

"I think it's always important for legislation to be bipartisan," he said. "But you don't always achieve that goal. If the Republicans don't want it because they want to deny Obama a political success, you don't stop your efforts."

Ron Paul's son raises $680k for KY Senate race

Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson (R) will have, at the very least, a well-funded Senate primary opponent in Rand Paul.

Paul's campaign website reports that he has already raised more the $680,000 for the race, including $430,000 during a Thursday "moneybomb." The former total exceeds the amount Grayson raised for his exploratory committee in the second quarter and puts Paul on a very strong fundraising pace.

Paul is the son of former presidential candidate and Texas Rep. Ron Paul (R) and is tapping into the same type of fervor that helped his father raise lots of money for his long shot presidential bid.

The younger Paul is beginning to look like much less of a long shot, after a recent SurveyUSA poll showed him taking 26 percent of the vote, to Grayson's 37 percent.

Another libertarian-leaning Republican Senate candidate, Peter Schiff, is also raising big money in Connecticut.

County GOP runs ad with Pallone's town hall details

This is interesting: The Monmouth County, N.J., Republican Party is running an ad listing details for Rep. Frank Pallone's (D-N.J.) town hall meeting on Monday.

The ad features Pallone's comments on how the new health care bill would be paid for, and at the end urges people to tell the congressman what they think about the bill.

Printed on the screen are details for Pallone's Monday town hall in Piscataway, N.J.

Democrats have accused Republicans of manufacturing some of the more outlandish examples of activism at these town halls, but at least one local GOP isn't shying from publicly organizing a protest.

Palin wants tort reform as part of health bill

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) continued her Facebook note campaign against healthcare reform, writing Friday that tort reform is a necessary part of healthcare legislation.

"As Governor of Alaska, I learned a little bit about being a target for frivolous suits and complaints (Please, do I really need to footnote that?)" Palin wrote on her Facebook page.

Paraphrasing former President Bill Clinton, Palin said she feels health care providers' pain, arguing those companies are targeted by "opportunists and people with no scruples."

"We cannot have health care reform without tort reform," Palin insisted. "The two are intertwined."

Palin posed questions for Obama, a recurring feature in her series of Facebook notes: "Why no legal reform? Why continue to encourage defensive medicine that wastes billions of dollars and does nothing for the patients? Do you want health care reform to benefit trial attorneys or patients?"

Palin's Facebook notes, of course, set off the debate over so-called "death panels" in regards to end-of-life care in healthcare reform legislation earlier this month.

Louisiana Dems file ethics complaint against Vitter

The head of the Louisiana Democratic Party filed an ethics complaint against Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) on Friday, accusing Vitter of using his taxpayer-funded town hall meetings as campaign events.

Party chairman Chris Wittington filed a complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee, saying in the sworn statement that shots Vitter had taken at prospective reelection opponent, Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-La.), as well as the controlled environment of the meetings, had constituted a breach of ethics.

"These comments, and in particular Senator Vitter's repeated attacks on his likely campaign opponent, indicate these events were political and not official in nature," Whittington wrote.

Lawmakers are forbidden from using official funds, bankrolled by taxpayers, for campaign purposes.

"Instead of using town hall meetings to foster a free and open discussion on important issues, Senator Vitter has essentially staged taxpayer-funded campaign events to repeatedly launch misleading attacks on his potential opponent and build his campaign's war chest," said Louisiana Democratic Party Spokesman Kevin Franck. "Once again David Vitter has given into the temptation to cross an ethical and legal boundary."

The complaint could establish an interesting precedent for the heated August town hall meetings, giving pause to any lawmaker who made statements about potential political foes in recent meetings.

NRCC begins targeting Obama

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) has officially begun trying to tie vulnerable incumbents to President Obama.

The committee is up with new health care ads targeting Reps. Zack Space (D-Ohio) and Michael Arcuri (D-N.Y.). The ads feature a bubbling beaker and decry the "Obama/Pelosi health care experiment. They say their plan will result in "higher costs, tax hikes and ... massive cuts to Medicare."

It's not surprising that the GOP is going after the health care issue, which looks like it could be an electoral winner. What is new here is that the committee isn't just ascribing the plan to Pelosi - the usual target - but is also trying to use Obama as a wedge.

Obama lost Space's district by 8 percent but won Arcuri's by 2 percent. The NRCC is dipping its toe in the water on a new anti-Obama strategy and banking on the president's numbers continuing to slide.

With his approval sinking to around 50 percent, it will probably need to slide a bit further before such a strategy works. But if the history of first-term presidents is any guide, we could well be headed in that direction.

UPDATE: The NRCC also used Obama in an ad hitting Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.) for voting for the energy bill two months ago, but the newest effort is the first since then.

Conservative group jumps the gun with release

UPDATE: This post initially misidentified the group involved as Americans for Prosperity. I regret the error.

There's been plenty of real, genuine outrage when it comes to the town hall meetings being held around the country.

But a couple of conservative activists say Americans for Limited Government (ALG) went too far when it came to their meeting with Rep. Zack Space (D-Ohio).

Tom Montgomery and Ron Elble gained publicity (with ALG's help) for delivering a letter to Space's office urging him to hold town hall meetings, which the congressman has declined to do.

But when ALG announced the delivery of the letter beforehand, Space was ready. He invited Montgomery, Elble and an accompanying camera crew from the Cincinnati Fox affiliate into his office for a meeting that lasted well over an hour.

Montgomery and Elble came out of the meeting happy, though they still have plenty of reservations about the Democratic-led health care bill and Space's lack of town halls. They both praised the congressman for sitting down with them and called it a positive meeting.

But ALG issued a press release after the meeting with plenty of angry quotes from Montgomery and Elble, and the duo said it was done without their permission. Each said they were not contacted before the release was sent out, and they have sought a revised version.

"I was upset, because what I read wasn't exactly what I felt; it was too strong," said Montgomery, who runs an insurance company in Zanesville, Ohio. "It's just not fair to anybody to put that out, because it's not the true situation."

Elble said ALG didn't follow protocol.

"There were some assumptions in that initial (release) that weren't really correct," Elble said. "They didn't follow some of the channels of communication that should have been followed before it was released."

ALG's Walker Yates took responsibility for the errant release.

"There was a miscommunication on our end, and it went out too early," Yates said. "It went out without Tom's approval, and we sent an addendum the next day."

Space told The Hill he thought the three of them had had a good meeting before he saw the ALG release. He said he called them to reconcile ALG's version with his own, and they told him ALG had jumped the gun.

Space said the situation shows how outside groups can screw things up for those with legitimate concerns.

"I find that part of the process very offensive," Space said. "That's precisely what we don't need.

"When you get things like what we just saw happening, it undermines the entire process," he added. "It creates a lack of trust and credibility, and that undermines the debate."

Evaluating Rep. Etheridge

As we venture through another succession of potential Democratic candidates to face Sen. Richard Burr (R) in North Carolina, it's important to keep an eye on Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-N.C.).

The seventh-term lawmaker isn't the highest-profile member of Congress, but he does pack some crossover appeal and a decent-sized warchest to start the race, at nearly $900,000.

Etheridge is also taking the important step of reconsidering the race after initially saying no. You might recall that another North Carolina Democrat reconsidered the race after declining. We now call her Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.).

With higher-profile candidates stepping aside, Etheridge could provide a nice alternative. His Raleigh area district has routinely voted for Republicans for top offices, but he has been able to tap into its Democratic history to win reelection easily.

It did vote for President Obama last year, but before that it went for George W. Bush by solid margins in 2004 and 2000.

Etheridge defeated a freshman Republican to win his seat in 1996. And that was before redistricting shored up the district's Democratic base.

Etheridge hasn't faced a serious challenge in a decade, though, and he'd have to start raising far more than the $1 million per cycle he's subsisted on thus far.

The only tobacco farmer in Congress, Etheridge bowed to Erskine Bowles in a pair of open Senate races in 2002 and 2004. But 2010 might be his year to give it a go.