Independent GOP groups getting early start

It’s never too early to get involved in the 2010 elections — even if you’re an
independent group.

Republicans relied heavily on outside groups for help in the congressional special election in New York earlier this year. And now, for better or worse, these independent groups are going after Democratic Senate candidates.

The Our Country Deserves Better PAC (political action committee), which made a name for itself by spending more than $150,000 in the congressional special election in New York two months ago, is now spending at least $100,000 to go after Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidSenators briefed on US Navy's encounters with UFOs: report Key endorsements: A who's who in early states Trump weighs in on UFOs in Stephanopoulos interview MORE (D-Nev.) in a radio, TV and Internet ad campaign. The group also pledged to spend $1 million against Reid this cycle.

The spending was announced Monday to coincide with President Obama’s planned Tuesday fundraiser for Reid at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. An ad on the PAC’s website features a comment from Ronald Reagan criticizing Reid when he ran for Senate in the 1980s.

And in New Hampshire, Rep. Paul Hodes’s (D-N.H.) Senate candidacy is the subject of a new mailer put out by wealthy businessman Fred Tausch. The mailer, sponsored by Tausch’s fiscally conservative Steward organization, hits Hodes for saying AIG stands for “Arrogance, Incompetence and Greed” and voting for the stimulus package that allowed AIG’s executives to receive bonuses.

Tausch, an independent who supported President Obama last year but has become disillusioned by congressional bailouts and stimuli, spent $100,000 earlier this year on ads decrying runaway government spending, according to the Manchester, N.H.,
Union Leader.

It’s pretty clear that outside groups are going to play a big role for Republicans. That can be a double-edged sword, though; just ask the Republican candidate in that New York special election, Jim Tedisco, who ended up losing that race and blamed outside groups for hijacking his message.

— A.B.

Obama expands purple-state travel

Raking in millions of dollars for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is just one of the advantages President Obama had in visiting Nevada on Tuesday. Silver State voters are still an independent lot, and the president will need their electoral votes to win reelection in 2012.

Then again, Obama’s travel during the early part of his tenure has been electorally strategic. Obama has spent most of his travel time in decidedly swing states, all places where his campaign will focus attention in three years.

Obama’s stops sound less like a presidential schedule than a last-minute campaign swing: He stumped for the stimulus package in early February with events in Indiana and Florida. He signed the bill in Colorado a week later. He has visited soldiers in North Carolina and businesses in Ohio and Iowa and given commencement addresses in Indiana
and Arizona.

Throw in stops in Virginia, Missouri, New Mexico and now Nevada, and Obama has made appearances in purple states adding up to 133 electoral votes.

How crucial are those electoral votes? President Bush won all 11 states in the 2004 election; in 2008, Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainVeterans group to hand out USS John McCain T-shirts for July 4 on the National Mall Will we ever have another veteran as president? Meghan McCain clashes with Joy Behar as the 'sacrificial Republican' on 'The View' MORE (R-Ariz.) won just Missouri and Arizona.

By contrast, Obama has made just a few stops in traditionally blue states, if one includes a few weekends at Camp David in Maryland. Later this week, he will stop once again in California, another state reliably in the Democratic column.

Obama is also picking up his fundraising pace. The event with Reid will be the first the president has done for a candidate, but he has hosted a few more for the Democratic National Committee, including one late last week in Indianapolis and one on Wednesday in Los Angeles.

Next month, the president will host a major fundraiser in Washington for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

The president may be determined to establish a new form of politics and eschew the rank partisanship of the past two decades, but he may also be proving that the perpetual campaign — one funded by an insatiable appetite for photo opportunities in key states, plus millions of dollars — isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

— R.W.

Toomey putting flamethrower down?

Perhaps the most interesting reaction to Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court on Tuesday came from former Rep. Pat
Toomey (R-Pa.).

The Senate candidate, who is known as a Republican’s Republican and who has been going after centrist GOPers for years as president of the Club for Growth, sounded a strikingly nonpartisan note on her nomination.

“Just as it was wrong for liberal Democrats to adopt a knee-jerk opposition to Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito, it would be equally wrong for Republicans to oppose Judge Sotomayor on a partisan basis,” Toomey said. “Judge Sotomayor deserves a fair hearing. If that hearing proves her to be of sound judicial temperament with the requisite knowledge of and respect for the Constitution, then she should
be confirmed.”

This last sentence is key, because it suggests that Toomey would actually been amenable to her confirmation. Other Republicans who were cautious about criticizing Sotomayor didn’t even talk in those terms.

Of course, Toomey got in the requisite shot at Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) for allegedly politicizing the nominations of Robert Bork and
Clarence Thomas.

But it could be an early sign that Toomey realizes he has to be more centrist in order to gain establishment support.

— A.B.