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Blog Home Page --> July 2010

Marshall Releases Poll, Gets Visit From Biden

North Carolina Democrat Elaine Marshall released the results of a new internal poll that found the four-term secretary of state leading incumbent Republican Sen. Richard Burr by 2 points. That's well within the margin of error, but more to the point was that Burr was held to 35 percent and that nearly a quarter of voters had yet to make up their minds.

The poll was conducted by Lake Research Partners, a firm that conducts polling for Democratic candidates, from July 15-19 among 600 likely voters with a 4-point margin of error. It found Burr to not only have a low job approval rating, but also found a plurality of voters view him unfavorably.

The most recent public polls on the race were released two weeks ago and both found Burr leading by double digits. He leads by 10 points in the RCP Average.

In a memo announcing the results, Celinda Lake and Joshua Ulibarri conclude: "Marshall can win this race and flip this seat for Democrats if she has the resources to be competitive."

So far, money remains a major hurdle for Marshall, who was forced into a seven-week runoff after failing to win 40 percent of the vote in the primary. The extended primary left Marshall with less than $200,000 at the end of June. Burr has more than $6 million.

Although the White House initially attempted to recruit other candidates to the race and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee backed Marshall's runoff opponent, Cal Cunningham, Democrats in Washington see an opportunity in North Carolina and are getting behind Marshall's bid.

Marshall held a fundraiser last night that featured Vice President Biden, the top Democratic campaign surrogate in 2010. The event was small -- limited to 15 people -- but it made a clear statement that the White House is willing to help out.

"There is a clear choice in this North Carolina election between a woman who knows what drive [forward] means and somebody who clearly is continuing to be backwards," Biden told the crowd, which included Gov. Bev Perdue.

WV: Capito Out, Raese Expected In Today

By Kyle Trygstad

Three Democrats have now filed for the special election for West Virginia's vacant Senate seat, including Gov. Joe Manchin, who signed his candidacy papers at a press conference Tuesday in the state Capitol. No Republican has joined the race yet, though John Raese is expected to announce his candidacy today.

Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito announced yesterday she would not enter the race, taking the GOP's top contender out of the running. The focus now falls on Raese, a businessman and former Senate candidate who lost to Robert Byrd in 2006.

"We were pinning our hopes on Shelley, and while we respect her decision, we are very disappointed," state Republican Party Chairman Doug McKinney told the Charleston Gazette.

Byrd's death and the state legislature's decision to hold a special election this year -- rather than have an appointed senator through 2012 -- opened another potential pick-up seat for Republicans in what's expected to be a strong year for the party. National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn has promised a tough challenge, even with Capito out.

Raese has run for the Senate twice already and is wealthy enough to self-fund his candidacy, McKinney said, and he's expected to file today. There are no other prominent Republicans known at this time to be considering a bid.

Filing yesterday were Ken Hechler and Sheirl Fletcher, who are considered longshots for the Democratic nomination against the popular Manchin.

Hechler is a 95-year-old former member of Congress, four-time secretary of state and speech writer to Harry Truman. Hechler was first elected to the House in 1958 -- the same year Byrd, who passed away in late June, entered the Senate.

Fletcher is a former state representative who challenged Sen. Jay Rockefeller in the 2008 Democratic primary. Rockefeller easily won, 77 percent to 14 percent for Fletcher, and went on to win a fifth term in the Senate.

The primary is set for Aug. 28, with the special election being held on Nov. 2.

Handel, Deal Headed For Runoff In Georgia

Republicans in Georgia are headed to a runoff in the governor's race. Karen Handel, a former secretary of state, paced the seven-candidate field with 33 percent of the vote, well shy of the majority needed to win the nomination outright.

Handel will face former Rep. Nathan Deal, who resigned his House seat earlier this year to focus on his gubernatorial bid. Deal took 23 percent, edging out two others for the final spot in the runoff. Former state Sen. Eric Johnson finished with 20 percent, state Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine with 17 percent and three others with 3 percent or less.

The runoff takes place Aug. 10.

Oxendine had led in most polls heading into the final weeks of the primary and led by 8 points in a poll as recently as last week. But as she's done elsewhere, Sarah Palin stepped into the race last week to endorse Handel.

Just as she had done in the neighboring South Carolina Republican gubernatorial primary, Palin's endorsement was followed by an immediate boost in the polls for her candidate of choice. In South Carolina it was Nikki Haley, who went on to win a runoff against Rep. Gresham Barrett.

The winner of the three-week dash will face former Gov. Roy Barnes, one of five former governors running for their old jobs. Barnes cake-walked through the Democratic primary, winning 64 percent of the vote. Attorney General Thurbert Baker finished second with 22 percent.

DCCC, NRCC Both Raise $9M In June

The two parties' House campaign arms each raised $9 million in June, impressive sums for both. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee now has nearly $34 million on hand, a two-to-one advantage over the National Republican Congressional Committee's $17 million.

The NRCC announced its June haul at a press briefing this afternoon. NRCC Chairman Jeff Sessions said it was the committee's best June total since June 2006, and the party now has $8.5 million more in the bank than at this time in 2008.

Democrats, who released the numbers in a brief e-mail, were expecting to be outraised last month but turned in a good month of their own. The DCCC notes that at this point in 2006, the party had a nearly $5 million cash-on-hand advantage over the NRCC.

Both committee's June fundraising numbers were an improvement from May, when the NRCC raised $5.4 million to the DCCC's $5.1 million. At the end of May, the DCCC had $28 million to the NRCC's $12 million.

On the line is majority in the House, as Democrats try to hold on to a 39-seat lead. With Democrats down in generic ballot polling and President Obama's approval rating below 50 percent, Republicans are moving forward into the last three months of the election cycle with a majority-or-bust attitude.

"Midterms are always a referendum on the party in power," Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), deputy chairman of the NRCC, told reporters today. "And this is the mother of all referendums."

Similar Challenges In Bicoastal Senate Races

They're running on different party lines and in states on opposite sides of the country, but Carly Fiorina and Elaine Marshall now find themselves in similar situations -- challenging an incumbent and coming off competitive primary campaigns that have put them at significant financial disadvantages.

Fiorina, a California Republican, and Marshall, a Democrat in North Carolina, are running in states that often tilt toward the opposite party, yet they're also up against senators that are polling poorly and considered vulnerable. Still, unlike the two challengers, fundraising reports released last week show both Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) have had the luxury of saving up their money to unleash over the last several months.

While Fiorina was battling two others in the June 8 GOP primary, Sen. Barbara Boxer was hosting the president for fundraisers in L.A. and San Francisco. She raised an impressive $4.6 million from April through June, and over a six-week period from May 20 to June 30, Boxer collected $2.6 million and began July with $11.3 million on hand.

In the same time period, Fiorina raised $1.4 million. After the primary, however, her coffers dwindled and by the end of June had just less than $1 million left. The primary also forced Fiorina to loan her campaign $5.5 million, something she never planned on doing.

Her campaign isn't completely shutting the door on the possibility of Fiorina loaning more of her personal money for the general election, but at this point that is not part of the equation.

"We're confident we'll be able to raise the money we need, and polls show just how viable a race this is for Carly," Fiorina spokeswoman Andrea Saul told RealClearPolitics. "As voters realize that this is very winnable, I believe our support will continue to grow."

Personal wealth is a luxury Marshall, a four-term secretary of state, does not have. She's in a similar hole to Burr, who's running for a second term in office two years after Democrats swept the top statewide races.

Marshall won 36 percent of the vote in the May 4 Democratic primary, 4 points shy of winning the nomination outright. That extended the primary process by seven weeks, forcing her to nearly empty her campaign account before easily defeating Cal Cunningham in the June 22 runoff -- eight days before the reporting period ended.

By June 30, Marshall had just $163,000 on hand, a paltry sum for a statewide candidate anywhere, but especially one running against a well-funded and connected incumbent senator. Burr reported having $6.3 million by the end of June.

Despite the national party's preference for a different candidate to challenge Burr, the Marshall campaign believes it will receive some help as it rebuilds its war chest for the general election.

"We've had very productive conversations with folks at the White House and at the DSCC," Marshall communications director Sam Swartz told RCP. "They're fully on board and they want to help. Now we're just working out the details."

The Marshall campaign is also buoyed by Burr's inability to stabilize his polling numbers. The last three public polls released have shown him with 46 percent support, 52 percent and 38 percent. Any incumbent polling under 50 percent has reason for concern.

Boxer is in a similar situation, averaging around 46 percent in the last four public polls. Fiorina isn't far behind at about 43 percent.

Both challengers see paths to victory, but after depleting their campaign funds to survive the primaries, raising money is at the top of their to-do lists. And the races each have national implications -- winning California may be necessary for the GOP to win back the Senate, while North Carolina is the Democrats' best chance of picking up a Republican Senate seat and would help preserve the party's majority.

Gallup: Dems Take 6-Point Lead In Generic Ballot

By Kyle Trygstad

Gallup reported today that Democrats have taken a 6-point lead in the polling firm's generic ballot testing, a striking change from its earlier polling. One shouldn't take too much from one poll, especially when it's not in line with most other polling, but Democrats sure hope it's the start of a trend.

"[I]f these numbers held through Election Day, the two parties would be nearly tied at the ballot box, with possibly a slight advantage for the Democrats," wrote Gallup's Lydia Saad, noting the poll was taken of adults, not likely voters, and that Republicans often have a 5-point turnout advantage.

The survey was conducted last week, which Gallup points out is when Democrats successfully passed a Wall Street reform bill that the party says will protect consumers and taxpayers from another financial meltdown.

"The financial reform bill is the second-biggest piece of legislation to get through Congress this year, after healthcare reform, and it enjoyed majority support" among American adults, Saad writes.

Interestingly, while Republican support on the generic ballot test fell from 46% to 43%, GOP enthusiasm spiked 11 points since last week. Of the Republicans polled, 51% said they were "very enthusiastic" about voting this year.

Where the GOP lagged was among independent voters, whose support for Republicans dropped 5 points to 43%. Democrats, who saw an incrase among all voters from 47% to 49%, in turn received a 5-point boost from independents, 39% of whom said they would support the Democratic candidate.

Rasmussen also released its weekly generic ballot test, which found Republican ahead by 9 points.

Biden, Pelosi Fundraise Today In Philly

By Kyle Trygstad

Vice President Biden and Speaker Nancy Pelosi are headlining a fundraising luncheon in Philadelphia today to benefit the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Bryan Lentz, who's running for the Philly-area 7th district seat.

As first reported in June, this big-money fundraiser was formed by combining two events -- Biden for Lentz, Pelosi for the DCCC -- which were originally planned separately for the same day in the same city. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports 200 attendees are expected, paying $1,000 to enter and $5,000 to mingle with Biden and Pelosi.

The fundraiser will be a boon for Lentz, a state representative who continues to trail the fundraising pace of his Republican opponent, Pat Meehan, a former U.S. Attorney. Lentz raised $230,000 in the last two months -- $215,000 less than Meehan. As of July 1, Lentz has $786,000 left to spend, and Meehan has more than $1.1 million.

The split fundraiser will also help the DCCC keep its sizeable cash-on-hand advantage over its Republican counterpart, a key metric in what's expected to be a difficult year for Democratic House candidates. Through the end of May, the DCCC had more than $28 million to spend, compared with $12 million for the National Republican Congressional Committee. New reports for the committees are expected this week.

Both candidates are running to replace Democrat Joe Sestak, who's vacating the Philly seat he wrested from Republicans in 2006 to run for Senate. The race has had its highlights already, with Lentz showing up to a Meehan press conference at the state capitol in June to rebut the Republican's accusations that he was tied to the Bonusgate corruption scandal.

Meehan is an NRCC "Young Gun" and carries great expectations to win back the seat. Many political observers see this as one of the Democrats' more vulnerable seats, and RCP currently rates the race Leans Republican.

With Pelosi in town, Meehan began airing a 60-second radio ad last week tying Lentz to the speaker's liberal image, a tactic used by Republicans in many districts this year. "The Nancy Pelosi political circus is coming to town. Coming to our area to support Phila-liberal Bryan Lentz," the ad's announcer says, according to the Inquirer.

After a weekend at home in Wilmington, Delaware and the event in Philly, Biden -- who's been raising money for Democratic candidates across the country -- will later head further south to Baltimore for a fundraiser for Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley before returning to Washington. O'Malley is running for re-election against former Gov. Bob Ehrlich, whom O'Malley defeated in 2006.

Strong Quarter For Open Seat Republicans, Dem Incumbents

By Kyle Trygstad

Republicans are flying high after what the party is calling a banner fundraising quarter, as financial reports due yesterday showed GOP candidates leading in the most competitive open seat races. The strong second-quarter showing is the latest evidence of what most political observers believe will be a good election year for Republicans.

"With only 110 days until Election Day, Republicans are running strong nationwide," Rob Jesmer, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, wrote yesterday in a memo to reporters, "and we're confident that our candidates will have the resources that they need in order to communicate their message and wage very competitive races this November."

In the open Democrat-held seats of Delaware, Illinois, Indiana and Pennsylvania, the Republican candidates all outraised their Democratic opponents. In the Keystone State, Pat Toomey took in $3.1 million during the second quarter, which featured a high-profile and expensive Democratic primary between nominee Joe Sestak and Sen. Arlen Specter. Sestak, though, pulled in nearly $2 million and still has about that much on hand.

Delaware Rep. Mike Castle, favored to win Vice President Biden's former seat, outraised Democrat Chris Coons and now has more than twice as much money on hand. In the race for President Obama's Illinois seat, Rep. Mark Kirk brought in $2.3 million despite a brutal run in the press, and raised well more than Democrat Alexi Giannoulias' $900,000 take.

In Indiana, former Sen. Dan Coats ($1.5 million) raised more than twice as much as Rep. Brad Ellsworth ($600,000), though Ellsworth still holds a lead in cash-on-hand. And thanks to another $7.5 million of her own money, Linda McMahon, the leading Republican in Connecticut, begins the third quarter with a $3.2 million to $2.1 million cash advantage over Democrat Richard Blumenthal, who raised $1.6 million.

Republicans also led the fundraising race in most of their own open seat states, including Florida, Missouri, New Hampshire and Ohio. In Kentucky, though, Republican Rand Paul raised just $1.1 million. That was slightly more than Democrat Jack Conway, but Conway loaned his campaign $400,000, giving him an edge in overall receipts.

Marco Rubio had another impressive fundraising quarter, bringing in $4.5 million to set a new state record. However, Gov. Charlie Crist, now running as an independent, had a relatively impressive $1.8 million haul despite leaving the GOP a month into the fundraising quarter, and he now has $8.2 million left in the bank. Rubio has $4.4 million on hand after spending $4 million over the last three months, and Democrat Kendrick Meek has $4 million after raising $1 million in the second quarter.

Democrats, meanwhile, are hanging their hats on the fundraising quarters of their most vulnerable incumbents: Harry Reid (Nev.), Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Blanche Lincoln (Ark.), Patty Murray (Wash.), Russ Feingold (Wisc.) and Michael Bennet (Colo.).

While polling shows all six Democrats in competitive re-election races, they all pulled off healthy fundraising quarters and all but one led their Republican opponent. Reid's challenger, Sharron Angle, topped Reid by a $200,000 margin, though the Senate majority leader still holds a commanding cash-on-hand advantage ($9 million to $1.8 million).

In Arkansas, Rep. John Boozman had a subpar fundraising quarter despite his sizeable lead in the polls and Lincoln's competitive and expensive primary campaign. The embattled Lincoln now has four times as much money as Boozman.

In California, Boxer keeps stockpiling cash while Fiorina continues to recover financially from the GOP primary. After raising $4.6 million, Boxer has more than $11 million in the bank, while Fiorina, who self-funded a large portion of her primary campaign, has less than $1 million.

Republicans will need to overcome these Democratic cash advantages to win back the Senate, as the party must turn several of these seats red to take the majority.

Boxer Rakes It In For Tough Re-election

By Kyle Trygstad

On the same day that the Cook Political Report moved the California Senate race into its Toss Up column, Sen. Barbara Boxer announced raising $4.6 million in the second quarter, possibly the largest take by any Senate candidate in the country.

The three-month haul from April through June leaves the three-term Democrat with $11.3 million in the bank. That's about $10.7 million more than Republican challenger Carly Fiorina, who earlier announced $620,000 in cash on hand.

"There's no denying that we're starting, and will probably continue to be, at a significant cash disadvantage to Boxer," Fiorina spokeswoman Andrea Saul wrote in a memo to reporters. However, Saul adds, Fiorina raised $1.4 million over the last six weeks following an expensive and competitive primary, during which Fiorina loaned her campaign more than $5 million.

Boxer had no such impediment to her cash haul and also received a couple fundraising visits from President Obama. Still, the Cook crew believe money will not be an issue over the last three-plus months of the campaign:

"Given Fiorina's strengths as a candidate and her ability to put some personal money into the race, combined with the national political environment and California's beleaguered economy that has voters clamoring for change, this contest is shaping up to be one of the most competitive of the cycle. While Fiorina still has a lot to prove, the race moves to the Toss Up column."

That's a big move in the Democratic-leaning state, which Barack Obama won in 2008 by a 61 percent to 37 percent margin. Spending twice as much as her challenger in 2004, Boxer won her last election by 20 points.

The Boxer campaign has long been preparing for a competitive fight, and her fundraising numbers bear that out. Boxer leads by 3 points in the RealClearPolitics average, and, like Cook, RCP rates the race as a Toss Up.

Republicans Outraise Democrats For Governor's Races

By Kyle Trygstad

The Democratic Governors Association announced today raising $9.1 million over the last three months and $17 million from January through June, a new record for the campaign committee. The DGA now has $22 million left to spend through November, which is more than it spent in the entire 2006 election cycle, according to a press release.

The DGA's second-quarter fundraising is $10 million less than the Republican Governors Association raised during that time. The RGA announced yesterday that it pulled in $18.9 million from April through June. Since the beginning of the year the RGA has raised $28 million -- $13 million more than its highest-ever midyear fundraising mark.

"To be honest, given the mass donor exodus from the RNC, we never expected to outraise the RGA. But we have marshaled historic resources to compete aggressively across the map," said DGA executive director Nathan Daschle. "With marquee states like California, Florida and Texas up for grabs, more Americans could have a Democratic governor after November than ever before."

With four months left before the gubernatorial elections that will have a lasting effect on next year's redistricting, the RGA has $40 million on hand -- $18 million more than the DGA.

Race To Watch: North Carolina's 8th District

By Kyle Trygstad

It took two tries but Larry Kissell finally won a North Carolina congressional seat in 2008. The underfunded candidate with national party support outperformed Barack Obama to knock off a five-term Republican incumbent in one of the state's few swing districts.

But in a far less welcoming year for Democrats, Kissell enters his first re-election campaign as a top Republican target. And although Harold Johnson hasn't yet made it to the top tier of the GOP's Young Guns campaign organization program, Republicans have what both parties say is a legitimate challenger.

Johnson, a well-known former TV sportscaster in Charlotte, dropped $240,000 of his own money during the primary process, which was extended by seven weeks for a runoff with Tea Party-backed Tim D'Annunzio. The coffers-draining runoff will likely affect Johnson's second-quarter fundraising report, but many expect him to surpass Kissell in the coming months.

Kissell, a former schoolteacher and textile worker, defeated Robin Hayes in 2008 by a 10-point margin, two years after falling just a few hundred votes short of victory. After being outspent four-to-one in 2006, Kissell was again outspent in 2008, this time by more than two-to-one, though that was supplemented by $2.4 million in spending by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

However, the freshman lawmaker may not have as much help this time around, as the well-funded DCCC will need to spread the wealth to save the party's House majority. Kissell also won't have the luxury of Obama at the top of the ticket or his hundreds of organized volunteers blanketing the state.

"I think that we have an excellent chance to win this seat back this time around," said David Black, chairman of the 8th congressional district Republican Party. "There are a number of reasons for that -- one is that, let's face it, there won't be the kind of Democratic effort there was the last time."

"The other thing is," Black added, "Larry has seemed to do the impossible and that is to tick off both parties."

Kissell angered some on the left for his vote against health care reform. In fact, a group called North Carolina Families First, which is funded by the Service Employees International Union and its local affiliate, attempted to run an independent candidate against Kissell in the general election. However, Wendell Fant, who was recently fired by Kissell's congressional office for misusing a computer, opted against a bid early this week.

The group later stated it would no longer attempt to field a candidate against Kissell and was happy about his stances on Wall Street reform, Big Oil and unemployment insurance.

As Black admitted, Johnson has some work to do as well, as his primary and runoff performances were less than impressive against a candidate with outside-the-box views on some issues. In a district with three media markets -- Charlotte in the west, Greensboro in north-central and Raleigh in the east -- Johnson is not a household name everywhere, as he is in Charlotte.

The 8th district, which includes parts of Charlotte, extends eastward along the South Carolina border and takes in parts or all of 10 counties. The eastern counties are where D'Annunzio had his greatest amount of support.

"There have already been meetings held across the district with some of the D'Annunzio supporters," said Black. "I think that when those voters start to look at the options and evaluate who they want to vote for in November, I think they'll vote for Johnson."

Kissell has a populist pitch and is known for being strong on trade policy, one of the top issues in the district that's seen its textiles industry diminished. He ran against Hayes for his deciding vote on the Central America Free Trade Agreement in 2005.

This year he called for the repeal of the North American Free Trade Agreement. He stated in March: "I worked in a textile mill for 27 years. I have watched many of my friends and neighbors lose their jobs and their benefits to these unfair trade deals. I went to Congress to make a difference for working people, and I believe that repealing NAFTA is a start to reenergizing American manufacturing."

Still, Kissell is running not just against Johnson, a first-time candidate in an anti-Washington year, but also against a tide of unrest similar to the one he surfed into office two years ago. Even then he had extensive help, with the DCCC's assistance and's independent campaigning against Hayes early in the last election cycle.

The Cook Political Report moved the race last week from a "Likely Democrat" rating to "Toss Up," explaining: "Democrats should have serious doubts about whether they can replicate the kind of turnout formula, particularly in urban Charlotte, that sent Kissell to Congress in 2008. The DCCC may have to make a hefty investment here if they hope to salvage this seat."

Gallup: Independents Favor GOP By 12%

By Kyle Trygstad

Independents are sticking with Republicans in the 2010 midterms, Gallup's latest monthly tracking poll shows. In June, 46 percent of unaffiliated registered voters said they preferred the Republican in their congressional district's House race, compared with 34 percent who leaned toward the Democrat.

That's largely how the numbers have broken down every month since March, and it's good news for Republicans who are aiming for the majority in Congress. Since 92 percent of Democrats and 94 percent of Republicans favor their own party's candidate, the leaning of independent voters is a "key component in determining overall preferences leading up to Election Day, and the eventual outcome of the election," Gallup's Jeffrey M. Jones writes.

President Obama's standing among registered independent voters could be weighing down the numbers at the congressional level. Since March, an average of 42 percent of independents have approved of the job he's doing as president, while 51 percent have disapproved.

"Independents' preference for the Republican congressional candidate in their district has been consistent this year," writes Jones. "Still, one in five independents remain undecided. The preferences of these voters, as well as which independents turn out on Election Day, will have a major impact on the direction and magnitude of seat change in the midterm elections."

The two parties are currently statistically tied in the generic ballot test, as Democrats hold a 0.4 percentage point lead in the RCP Average. However, because Republicans traditionally have stronger turnout and polls have shown the party is more enthusiastic about voting this year, Democrats need to extend their lead in the generic ballot to feel better going into November.