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Jobs, economy to rule recess campaign trail

From financial reform to the federal budget and unemployment benefits,
Congress’ action, or lack thereof, over the past week will offer
plenty of campaign fodder as members head back to their states for the
July 4 recess.

The House passed a financial overhaul bill Thursday that was
highlighted by additional regulations on financial firms and a new
government oversight process to liquidate firms when necessary. Just
three Republicans supported the bill — Reps. Joseph Cao (La.), Mike
Castle (Del.) and Walter Jones (N.C.) — while 19 Democrats opposed it.

{mosads}The Senate is expected to take up the bill when Congress reconvenes in
mid-July.

Democrats think the financial reform debate offers them an opportunity
to lead with a strong economic message over the recess — the Democratic Congressional Committee has
an all-out campaign offensive planned over GOP opposition to the
reform bill and GOP opposition to the extension of unemployment
benefits.

Democratic candidates will continue to hammer House Minority Leader
John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) comments on the reform from last week
after he compared its provisions to “killing an ant with a nuclear
weapon.”

In Wisconsin on Wednesday, President Barack Obama offered a preview of the
message that will lead the campaign trail, singling out Boehner as
“out of touch” with American families.

Both Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will hit the trail this week. Obama will headline a fundraiser for Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan
(D) on Thursday, and on Friday the president will be in Nevada to
campaign for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Biden heads to
California to headline two fundraisers for Sen. Barbara Boxer (D).

Also stumping for candidates over recess are House Majority Leader
Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell
(Ky.). Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) has two campaign stops planned — one
for prosecutor Ken Buck in Colorado and another for Rep. Jerry Moran (R) in Kansas.

Given the overall state of the economy, Democratic strategist Peter
Fenn said the recess offers Democrats a much needed opportunity to
drive the “Wall Street versus Main Street” message.

“I don’t think Democrats have hit nearly hard enough at Republicans on
this yet,” said Fenn. “Republicans are making a bad error in judgment
by holding up these reforms and Democrats really need to let them have
it.”

Republicans will opt to focus on the lack of a federal budget and the
soaring deficit, and continue to hit the Democratic majority for
pursuing a “big-government agenda” in Congress. GOP congressional
candidates have a slew of events planned for recess week that aim to
highlight the deficit and congressional spending.

The National Republican Congressional Committee is already on the air in two districts with the budget theme.
The committee has an ad up slamming Rep. John Spratt (D-S.C.) over the
lack of a federal budget. The spot has a one-week run on cable. A
similar spot will begin running Tuesday against Rep. Chet Edwards
(D-Texas).

“When it comes to financial reform, I really think Democrats have a
great issue, and a lot of their advertising will be centered on it,”
said University of Virginia Professor Larry Sabato. “But the
Republicans have a trump card, too, and that’s the overall economy.”

While Democrats drive the “Wall Street versus Main Street” message, the
fact that unemployment is still hovering near 10 percent is one thing
Republican strategists think will take some teeth out of Democratic
attacks.

Republican consultant Chris Wilson also thinks that candidates who
head back to their state or district and focus on the Washington “process”
will emerge from the recess as losers.

“Candidates need to be walking in parades and eating bad barbecue,”
said Wilson. “That’s the sort of retail campaigning touch that gives
Republicans an edge.”

Along with jobs and the economy, Thursday also drove two more
contentious issues into the recess campaign conversation — Obama made a major speech on immigration reform, and a vote on funding
for the Afghan war revealed lingering fissures in the Democratic
ranks. Both issues are potentially complicating for Democrats in 2010.

If the president’s Thursday speech wasn’t enough to force immigration
into the campaign narrative, the administration is expected to
officially file its lawsuit challenging Arizona’s new immigration law
during the recess week.

“You have members leaving Washington and heading back to their
districts for the first time in a while,” said one Democratic
strategist. “And Republican or Democrat, I think they’re going to feel
that voter anger that’s out there. So I’m not sure I would pack my
schedule with town halls.”

Tags Barack Obama Barbara Boxer Boehner Harry Reid Jerry Moran Joe Biden John Boehner Mitch McConnell
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