Backing for Rep. Johnson from Obama

President Obama is endorsing the congressman who drew headlines recently for suggesting the island of Guam might “tip over and capsize.”

Obama has reportedly endorsed Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), who drew plenty of ridicule recently for this comment at a hearing.

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Johnson has been battling Hepatitis C, which has made his speech slow and caused him to lose a lot of weight. But he has said he will press forward with serving in Congress.

At the same time, he has drawn primary challenges from former DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones and DeKalb County Commissioner Connie Stokes.

The endorsement of a black lawmaker in a majority-black district is a rare one for Obama. In 2008, he drew some heat from African-Americans for backing white Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.) over a black state senator in Barrow's primary. That led black lawmakers facing their own primaries to wonder why he wasn't helping them.

The Johnson endorsement could set a precedent for other black lawmakers seeking the president's help this year.

— A.B.


Cheney endorses Rubio

Former Vice President Dick Cheney has endorsed former state House Speaker Marco Rubio in Florida’s Republican Senate primary.

“Our country is at a crossroads, facing threats from abroad and attempts from within to restructure the very foundation of our freedoms,” Cheney said in a statement.

“America requires leaders to face down these challenges who are confident in who they are and what they stand for. Leaders who know that public service is about something bigger than climbing the political ladder and amassing greater political power.”

Cheney also took a shot at Florida Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, who, according to reports, is mulling an Independent bid for the Senate against Rubio, whom he trails badly in GOP primary polls.

“Lately it seems Charlie Crist cannot be trusted even to remain a Republican. I strongly urge him to either stay in the Republican primary or drop out of the race. The only winners from an Independent bid by Crist would be Barack Obama and Harry Reid,” Cheney said.

The Florida primary is Aug. 24. The state’s filing deadline is April 30. Crist would have to decide by then whether to run in the primary or make an Independent bid.

— A.B.


Time may not be on GOP’s side in Washington Senate race

Republican Dino Rossi is still weighing his options when it comes to challenging Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), but it might be too late, according to recent history.

A Smart Politics analysis shows that no candidate in the last decade has launched his or her campaign after April 3 of the election year and gone on to victory. And the man who entered the race the latest — former Minnesota Sen. Mark Dayton (D), who announced his 2000 Senate campaign on April 3 of that year — had gobs of money to throw at it.

Besides Dayton, the latest entry for a winning Senate candidate came from now-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who got in the 2004 Colorado Senate race on March 10 of that year.

Rossi, meanwhile, has entertained the idea of waiting until the June filing deadline to launch a campaign against Murray. He said he can quickly tap all his old donors and have a solid electoral base to start with, by virtue of his two unsuccessful gubernatorial campaigns, in 2004 and 2008.

That all may be true, but Republicans appear to be getting nervous about Rossi waiting too long. National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) told The Hill recently that he’d like Rossi to make a decision sooner rather than later, so that both the candidate and the committee can get their house in order.

“I’ve been urging him to make a decision sooner rather than later because there’s a practical problem with not having enough time to do what you need to do before the election,” Cornyn said.

As a side note, the longest campaign for a winning Senate candidate was Sen. Bob Corker’s (R-Tenn.) 2006 campaign. He announced more than two years early, in October 2004.

— A.B.


Sen. Jim DeMint not ruling out presidential bid

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) — a rapidly emerging national conservative figure — is not ruling out a run for the White House in 2012.

In an interview with the Christian Broadcast Network, DeMint said he does not “desire” to run but left the door open for a bid.

“Well, I guess I’ve learned not to rule out anything in life, but right now it’s the last thing I want to do,” he said. “It’s not something I desire. Anyone who really desires it does not know how much trouble we’re in as a country, because we’ve got some tough times ahead of us and we need a president who says we can get through it.”

DeMint has become a favorite of the conservative base partly for his support for conservative candidates in primary races. He was an early backer of Florida Senate candidate Marco Rubio (R) when he was running an insurgent campaign to catch up with then-front-runner Gov. Charlie Crist (R).

Rubio now has a wide lead over Crist in the primary and Crist has said he is considering an Independent bid.

DeMint’s Senate Conservatives Fund has supported Rubio and other candidates around the country.

Though DeMint said he did not have a “desire” to run, he dropped some strong hints that he is considering a bid.

“Frankly, the people that I’ve seen here in politics — I realize that I can hold my ground with any of them,” he said. “There are a lot of changes I’d like to make in this country and I think Americans are going to be ready for someone to tell them the truth next election. Not someone who will give them a good speech, but someone who reminds them that the federal government has to do less, not more.”

— Jordan Fabian