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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."

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 pa2010.com 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.

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.

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.

NRCC Has Outraised DCCC By $1M In 2010

By Kyle Trygstad

The National Republican Congressional Committee raised nearly $5.4 million last month, outdoing its Democratic counterpart for the second straight month. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee brought in $5.1 million.

The NRCC has now outraised the DCCC in three of the first five months of the year and has cumulatively topped it by $1 million in 2010, raising $30.2 million from January through May to the DCCC's $29.1 million.

However, with more than $28 million, the DCCC still has more than twice as much cash-on-hand. The NRCC has $12 million in the bank.

The two party committees will likely be spending their money differently over the next four-and-a-half months, as Democrats look to hold their large majority and Republicans aim to win back the House after four years in the minority.

NPR Poll Spells Trouble For Dems In November

By Kyle Trygstad

A new poll of the battleground congressional districts finds reason for deep concern among Democrats. The poll, conducted for NPR by Democratic polling firm GQR and Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies, tested the 60 most competitive Democratic districts and shows an increasingly difficult environment for candidates of the majority party.

"The results are a wake-up call for Democrats whose losses in the House could well exceed 30 seats," GQR notes in its findings.

In the Democratic districts, several findings were most disconcerting for the party: just 34% said they would vote to re-elect their representative, whom the questioner named; in a separate question, 56% said they will not vote to re-elect their representative because new people are needed to fix Washington; and when both the Democratic and Republican candidates were named, 47% said they'd vote for the Republican and 42% chose the Democrat.

Also tested were the 10 most competitive Republican districts, where 53% say they'll vote for the GOP candidate and 37% for the Democrat.

Messaging will also be a problem for Democrats. As GQR notes, "We tested Democratic and Republican arguments on the economy, health care, financial reform and the big picture for the 2010 election. The results consistently favored the Republicans and closely resembled the vote breakdown. Democrats are hurt by a combined lack of enthusiasm and an anti-incumbent tone."

Graphs and a full list of the districts included in the survey can be found here. Full results are here. NPR's write-up of the poll is here and quick break-down is here.

Retirements Force Dems To Shift Program To Defense

By Kyle Trygstad

With the swearing-in yesterday of Republican Rep. Tom Graves of Georgia, Democrats now hold a 255-178 majority in the House. And with a large majority comes the necessity in future elections to play more defense than offense, and that's exactly what Democrats are doing this year.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's Red-to-Blue program, inherently centered on playing offense, proved successful four years ago under the leadership of then-Chairman Rahm Emanuel as an effort to highlight the top Democratic candidates in the country and help them raise money. In the minority, it mostly assisted Democratic challengers running in Republican-held congressional districts.

This year, thanks to a large number of retirements in moderate districts, nearly 40 percent of the candidates in the program are running in districts left vacant by a Democratic incumbent. That includes seven of the 11 candidates whom the DCCC enrolled in the program on Monday.

Overall, 10 of the 26 candidates in the program are from Democrat-held districts. Five of the 26 are running in open Republican seats, and 11 are challenging a Republican incumbent. Included among the 10 is West Virginia's Mike Oliverio, who defeated longtime Rep. Alan Mollohan in a primary last month.

Polling shows a distinct anti-Washington mood among voters across the country, and handicappers have warned of the possibility of Republicans retaking the House. However, while an increasing number of retirements usually signal a bad climate for the majority party -- and that's certainly what 2010 is for Democrats -- in this volatile midterm election cycle some Democrats like Oliverio may have an advantage over the retiring Democratic incumbent: They can run against Washington just as much as their Republican opponent.

The 10 candidates in the Red-to-Blue program running in Democratic districts are: Oliverio; Chad Causey (AR-1); Joyce Elliott (AR-2); Denny Heck (WA-3); Roy Herron (TN-8); Julie Lassa (WI-7); Bryan Lentz (PA-7); Gary McDowell (MI-1); Stephene Moore (KS-3); and Trent Van Haaften (IN-8).

Continue reading "Retirements Force Dems To Shift Program To Defense" »

Gallup: Dems Increasingly Seen As Too Liberal

By Kyle Trygstad

Nearly half of Americans now believe the Democratic Party is too liberal, while some see the Republican Party as slightly more moderate than it was just two years ago. Gallup's new survey shows that perceptions of Democrats are now approaching what they looked like just after the 1994 midterm cycle.

"Currently, by 49% to 40%, more Americans perceive the Democratic Party as too liberal than say the Republican Party is too conservative, giving the Republicans an advantage in an important election year," Gallup's Jeffrey M. Jones writes.

Two years ago, during an election year that Democrats increased their congressional majorities and won the White House, 50% said the views of the Democratic Party were "about right," and 39% said they were too liberal. Now, just 38% say they're about right and 49% say they're too liberal.

That's just 1 point below the party's all-time high of 50% in a survey conducted after the Republicans had retaken control of Congress in 1994. The increase in liberal views of the Democrats has largely come from independents and Republicans, with 12% more independents and 8% more Republicans viewing the party as more liberal.

As for Republicans, just about the same number of people say the party's views are too conservative or about right. In 2008, 43% said GOP views were too conservative and 38% said they were about right. Now, 40% say they're too conservative and 41% say they're about right. Still, the number of people who see the GOP as too conservative remains near its highest point since the early 1990s.

"In their efforts to attract widespread voter support in general elections, parties and their candidates generally want to avoid being perceived as too ideologically extreme," Jones writes. "With Election Day more than four months away, however, the Democratic Party has an opportunity in the 2010 campaign to try to alter voters' perceptions of the party's ideology."

Democrats Want An Election Of Contrast

By Kyle Trygstad

With 59 seats in the Senate, an overwhelming majority in the House and a solid victory in the last presidential race, it's practically impossible for any party to test midterm cycle history and not lose a significant number of seats. But in 2010, Democrats are facing the kind of poll numbers and anti-establishment mood that has handicappers predicting the possibility of losing the House entirely, and cutting it close in the Senate.

Still, Democrats believe they're finishing up one of their best weeks in recent memory, and Sen. Robert Menendez, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, sat down with reporters Thursday to explain why.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada learned his general election foe will be Sharron Angle, a tea-party backed former state assemblywoman with views the DSCC believes are too toxic for the general election. And Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln beat the odds and $10 million in spending by labor groups to take a 4-point victory in a runoff against a more liberal Democratic challenger in Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. The Agriculture Committee chairwoman can now run in a race that fits her independent style far better.

"This is a fluid environment, a lot of volatility in the electorate, and I don't' think we've seen the last of the surprises," Menendez said.

A year ago, he noted, most expected Charlie Crist to be the next senator from Florida, Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd appeared set for a showdown with former Rep. Rob Simmons, and Trey Grayson looked like a shoo-in for the nomination in Kentucky. None of those came to fruition, and come November, Menendez said, "I think that gives us a very good sense, in a nutshell, about how the map will be fluid and volatile."

Democrats aim to localize each race and frame them solely as a choice between the merits of two candidates. If they're successful in doing so, Menendez says he likes the party's chances after seeing some of the GOP's nominees.

"Republicans have, in essence, so far elected in their primary process individuals who simply are not good fits for the general election and not good fits for this environment as well," he said. "Their crop of candidates are either the extreme replacing the mainstream or the Republican establishment candidates that don't work as well in this environment."

But the numbers remain on the GOP's side. A recent Gallup poll found that 60 percent of voters would rather support a candidate who has never served in Congress, compared with 32 percent who'd prefer someone with congressional experience. President Obama's approval rating is sub-50 percent, Congress has a historically low approval rating, and Gallup's generic ballot testing currently shows the two parties tied, which is a negative for Democrats who generally run a few points ahead in a normal year.

"A stronger-than-usual anti-incumbent bias is another challenge for a majority Democratic Party that is trying to minimize the losses usually dealt to the president's party in a midterm election year," Gallup's Jeffrey M. Jones wrote Tuesday. Election Day is "still nearly five months away, but typically, voters' attitudes toward incumbents do not change dramatically over the course of an election year."

The news gets worse for incumbents like Reid and Lincoln, who haven't seen much positive movement in the polls in the last year. Jones writes: "To the extent change has occurred in a given election year, it has usually been toward a more negative rather than a more positive view of incumbents."

While Democrats see Angle as too extreme for the general election, the first poll released since Tuesday's primaries found her leading Reid by 11 points. Lincoln has trailed Republican John Boozman by more than 20 points in the last two polls in Arkansas.

Menendez, though, sees room for positive movement. He believes that an improving economy, the reining in of Wall Street and the kicking of benefits of health care reform will improve the mood of voters this fall.

"If on Nov. 1, the day before Election Day," Menendez said, "the environment is that people believe, although they're not fully satisfied, that we are headed in a better direction -- that's the best environment I can hope for on Nov. 2."

Republicans are happy with where they stand today and the National Republican Senatorial Committee believes voters will ultimately hold Democrats responsible in November for high unemployment and increased spending, with the national debt now more than $13 trillion.

"It's no wonder the Democrats are trying to gloss over their own party's contentious divisions and failed policies, but the facts speak for themselves," said NRSC press secretary Amber Marchand. "Republicans are united behind our Senate nominees while the Democrats are still reeling from costly and divisive primaries in Arkansas, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Ohio, Colorado, and Kentucky."

10 Things To Watch On Super Tuesday

By Kyle Trygstad and Mike Memoli

While the May 18 primaries in Arkansas, Kentucky and Pennsylvania had their fair share of intrigue, the real Super Tuesday of the 2010 midterm cycle's primary season is June 8. Pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg will be making his major league debut for the Nationals just a few blocks down South Capitol Street, but it's a safe bet that many on Capitol Hill will have their eyes glued to the election results in 11 states.

With so many contests to take in, here are 10 highlights and things to watch for as Super Tuesday unfolds:

Harry and the Republicans

While establishment Republicans in Nevada don't agree on Sharron Angle's ability to defeat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, there's little disagreement she's the nominee Reid would prefer to run against. Angle's non-mainstream views on several issues (like shifting Social Security to a free market alternative and calling for the United States to withdraw from the United Nations) worry many of the standard bearers who prefer Sue Lowden, a former state senator and chairwoman of the Nevada GOP.

Angle's endorsement by the Tea Party Express and the Club for Growth gave her a boost in the polls, and she took the lead in two separate polls released Thursday. But no matter who wins Tuesday -- Angle, Lowden or Danny Tarkanian, who are the most likely -- that person will enter the general election race with a significant fundraising disadvantage. As of May 19, Reid had more than $9 million, and none of the three Republicans had as much as $300,000.

But the GOP sees a sitting duck in Reid, who continues to straddle 40 percent support in the polls. Anything under 50 percent should be worrisome to an incumbent, but a party leader near 40 percent is far worse.

Continue reading "10 Things To Watch On Super Tuesday" »

Fresh Faces, Same Places

Rightly or not, the inability of Republicans to pick up the 12th district seat in Pennsylvania on Tuesday has jarred loose the 2010 storyline that Republicans are destined to win back the House. This oddly shaped, gerrymandered district tucked into southwestern Pennsylvania quickly put the GOP on the defensive for failing to win a swing district in a year the party should be winning just such a seat.

But Tuesday's results also cemented into place the idea that voters in states around the country are simply ready for somebody new, and both parties are now adjusting their game plans to that end. National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions said Tuesday night that Republicans "will take the lessons learned from this campaign and move forward in preparation for November." Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen quickly called for a press briefing with reporters, scheduled for this morning, to discuss the lessons Democrats took from Tuesday.

"Bill Halter's a fresh face, Jack Conway in Kentucky . . . Joe Sestak -- these are the ones that are winning," former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said Wednesday on MSNBC. "I think there is an enormous mood of anti-incumbency, and it extends to the Republicans, not just the Democrats."

Individual campaigns in states across the country are certainly picking up on this, too. Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Jeff Greene, both running for the Senate in Florida, and North Carolina Senate candidate Cal Cunningham -- all newcomers to statewide and national politics -- used the primary results in Pennsylvania to take shots at their more politically experienced opponents.

While Mr. Cunningham is technically the establishment-backed candidate, he served only one term in the state senate and is using his runoff opponent's 14 years of statewide elected office against her.

Kaine: Voters Will Reward Dems' "Heavy Lifting"

DNC chairman Tim Kaine acknowledged that his party still has a tough battle ahead. But, speaking at the National Press Club this afternoon, he made the case recent polling trends and even the elections Tuesday show voters will ultimately reward tough decisions made by Democrats thus far.

"When people are hurting, the electorate is volatile and that means that people are going to want to see change," he said. "We think we frankly have just got a much better message about who can deliver change, because we've been out there doing that while the other guys have been standing on the sidelines and throwing rocks."

Democrats, he said, will make a "plain" case to voters in November: "If you want to continue to see change, you gotta put people in who are willing to actually do some heavy lifting to bring change about."

That argument is already working, he argued, pointing to a trend favoring Democrats in the generic ballot test. He specifically mentioned an AP survey in which a plurality said they would prefer to see Democrats control Congress, saying it showed voters "would rather have people who are fighting to get the nation back than people who are just saying no to everything."

"Americans are can-do people. We can be angry, we can be mad, but we're not fundamentally people who stay mad," he said. "A policy of just no to everything and obstruction doesn't work too well with American voters. As Americans see the economy continue to improve, they're going to reward the Democrats who had been willing to do tough lifts."

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2010 Continues To Defy Conventional Wisdom

There were no major surprises on what was the busiest voting day to date Tuesday, as voters again signaled that support of the Washington establishment is no virtue this cycle. Nowhere was that more clear than in Pennsylvania and Kentucky, where favored candidates lost their party's nomination.

In the Keystone State, it was 30-year Senate veteran Arlen Specter. The longtime Republican left the GOP last year to avoid losing a primary on Tuesday to conservative former Rep. Pat Toomey. Instead, the 80-year-old Specter lost the Democratic primary to Rep. Joe Sestak.

The convincing margin of defeat came for Specter despite endorsements not just from the White House, but Sen. Bob Casey, Gov. Ed Rendell, and the state party. Specter becomes the third incumbent to lose his party's nomination in the past 10 days.

In Kentucky, ophthalmologist Rand Paul made a statement on behalf of the tea party movement he embraced with his 23-point dismissal of Secretary of State Trey Grayson, who had received both behind-the-scenes and ultimately public support from Senate Minority Leader and Kentucky native Mitch McConnell, as well as other establishment party figures.

In both cases, the parties immediately moved publicly to mend fences, as November results remain the most important goal. "We will wholeheartedly support Congressman Sestak as the Democratic nominee," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stated.

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Two More Incumbents On Chopping Block

Democratic Senators Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania are entering the last few days before their May 18 primaries wondering whether they will be the next two incumbents ousted before the general election.

West Virginia Democratic Rep. Alan Mollohan and Utah Republican Sen. Bob Bennett were both rejected by their own party in the last several days, and their results have put incumbents on both sides of the aisle on notice.

Pennsylvania Arlen Specter.jpg

Both Lincoln and Specter are on shaky ground, but Specter's prospects look somewhat more perilous. In a slip of the tongue that's symbolic of his issues in the primary, the longtime GOP senator called the Allegheny Democratic Committee that endorsed him "Allegheny County Republicans," and repeated the stumble again before concluding his Tuesday night speech to the group.

His primary opponent, Rep. Joe Sestak, continues to remind Democratic voters -- whom polls once showed siding with Specter by large margins -- that this is the same Specter that George W. Bush and conservative former Sen. Rick Santorum endorsed six years ago in his competitive Republican primary.

Since Sestak went on the air with TV ads in recent weeks, his standing among primary voters has vastly improved and he finds himself dead even with Specter in the polls. A Franklin and Marshall College Poll out Wednesday found that support for Specter is soft, so a gaffe like the one on Tuesday could help Sestak persuade voters he's the only true Democrat.

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Except For N.C., Both Parties Win On Primary Night

North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall finished short of winning the 40 percent necessary to take the Democratic nomination and the right to challenge Republican Sen. Richard Burr. The result was the one aberration in an otherwise good night for the two national parties, which got their favored candidates in the other two states holding contested Senate primaries on Tuesday.

In Ohio, Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher defeated Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner in the Democratic primary and will face former Rep. Rob Portman in the general election. In Indiana, former Sen. Dan Coats won a competitive Republican primary and will likely take on Rep. Brad Ellsworth, whom Democratic leaders in the state are expected to select as their nominee next month.

The Ohio and Indiana seats are open following the retirements of Sens. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and Evan Bayh (D-Ind.).

In North Carolina, Marshall received 36 percent, followed by Cal Cunningham with 27 percent and Ken Lewis with 17 percent. As the top two finishers, Marshall and Cunningham will face each other again in a June 22 runoff, a costly addition for Democrats who would rather turn their attention toward Burr.

The Marshall campaign has already requested that Cunningham drop out of the race in deference to Marshall winning a plurality of the votes.

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War Chests Bulging For Vulnerable Southern Dems

Chairman Pete Sessions recently referred to the National Republican Congressional Committee's slew of candidates across the country as a "geographically balanced machine." It will need to be just that for the party to win back House control in the November midterm elections.

While the South has been a natural base for the party and a place many assume the GOP can pick up seats in a favorable year, several Southern Democratic incumbents in competitive districts currently boast overwhelming fundraising advantages over their GOP challengers. After the first fundraising quarter of 2010, at least eight Southern Democrats have more than 10 times as much cash on hand as their closest GOP challengers, and for some of them the margin is far greater.

This includes Reps. Mike Ross (AR-4), Jim Marshall (GA-8), Mike McIntyre (NC-7), Heath Shuler (NC-11), Rick Boucher (VA-9) and Nick Rahall (WV-3) -- whose districts were all won by John McCain in 2008. Others in districts Barack Obama carried with 55 percent or less are John Barrow (GA-12) and Bob Etheridge (NC-2).

They all have more than $800,000 in the bank, while none of their Republican opponents have as much as $100,000. McIntyre was actually outraised by $20,000 in the first quarter but still has an $800,000 cash-on-hand advantage.

Money isn't everything, and the enthusiasm gap is currently a detriment to Democrats nationwide. But even in the most favorable political environments challengers need cash to knock out incumbents. The financial disadvantage disclosed in the latest fundraising reports perhaps takes a few of these districts off the board of competitive races.

Of course, not all Democratic incumbents in the South enjoy such large leads in the money race, and Republicans have solid challengers in other potentially vulnerable districts. Some of the most vulnerable Democratic districts nationwide are open seat races in the South, where Democrats retired for various reasons -- some to run for higher office, some to avoid a difficult re-election bid.

But winning back the majority will require the GOP gaining many of its seats in states like Arizona, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania -- places Democrats were successful the last two election cycles.

The NRCC is confident it can do that and argues that the environment will overcome some of the fundraising disadvantages it will likely face in races across the country.

"Most Republican challengers are unlikely to outraise incumbent Democrats, but that doesn't mean they won't be in a strong position to compete in this political environment," said NRCC spokesman Paul Lindsay. "For every dollar that Democrats raise, they will be forced to spend hundreds more defending their job-killing agenda that has led voters to abandon their party in droves."

Young Voters, Once Again, Essential For Democrats

Young voters were enthusaistic about voting for President Obama in 2008, but a new Gallup survey finds that excitement for heading to the polls may have dissipated this year. That hasn't gone unnoticed at the Democratic National Committee and Obama's Organizing for America, which e-mailed a video of Obama spelling out the importance of the midterm elections.

"Today, the health insurance companies, the Wall Street banks, and the special interests who have ruled Washington for too long are already focused on November's congressional elections," Obama says in the video. "So this year I need your help once more. ... It will be up to each of you to make sure the young people, African Americans, Latinos and women who powered our victory in 2008 stand together once again."

Young voters offered a huge boost to Obama in 2008, when 18-29-year-olds made up nearly a fifth of the electorate and voted 66 percent for Obama. Up a level, 30-44-year-olds voted 52 percent for Obama and accounted for 29 percent of the electorate.

Perhaps troublesome for congressional Democrats running for re-election, Gallup's survey finds that significant portions of both voting blocs are less than enthused to vote again this year.

In the under-30 bloc, 23 percent is very enthusiastic about voting this year, 28 percent somewhat enthusiastic and 47 percent not enthusiastic. Meanwhile, 30-49-year-olds are only slightly more excited: 32 percent are very enthusiastic, 26 percent somewhat enthusiastic and 41 percent not enthusiastic.

The youngest voting bloc is important for Democrats, even if Obama is not on the ticket. Gallup found that 51 percent would support the Democrat running in their district, while just 39 percent would vote for the Republican. That's the only one of the four age-specific voting blocs that Democrats currently lead.

The fact that young voters lean Democratic and aren't excited to vote is not unsurprising or much different from some recent elections, but "The current data confirm that at this juncture, both of these patterns continue to play out in this year's midterm elections," writes Gallup's Frank Newport. "Democratic leaders have apparently recognized these realities, and are attempting to re-create the enthusiasm for Democrats among younger voters that was apparent in 2008."

5 GOP House Seats Dems Could Win

Republican leaders say their goal in the upcoming midterm elections is to pick up 40 House seats and take back the majority, and most political handicappers say that's a real possibility. By just about any measure of national polling, Democrats face an abysmal national mood and a toxic political environment that's likely to last through Election Day.

But while Democrats prepare for big losses in the midterm elections, there are a handful of GOP seats around the country that the party has a legitimate chance of winning. Doing so would force Republicans to work a little harder to achieve their goal of winning control of the House.

Here's a look at the five Republican-held seats Democrats have the best chance of winning:

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Vulnerable Freshman Dems On Strong Financial Footing

As Americans rushed to mail their federal tax returns by midnight last night, first quarter fundraising reports were also due. The preliminary returns show that the freshman House Democrats widely considered the most vulnerable this year are so far on rather solid political footing, at least financially.

Freshmen were urged almost immediately following their election victories in November 2008 to begin raising money for what historically has been a difficult midterm cycle for the incumbent party after winning the White House.

These are not the only vulnerable Democratic seats, of course, as more than a dozen incumbents are not seeking re-election and several second-term Dems who helped take back Congress in 2006 are again in for challenging re-elections. There are also several more freshmen whose political fates could become increasingly perilous as the year continues on.

In separate columns this morning, political handicappers Charlie Cook and Stuart Rothenberg predicted Republicans could win 30 seats, if not more. RCP's Sean Trende argued this week that if a perfect storm hits in November, Democratic lossess could escalate into 70 to 80 seat range -- something not seen in 80 years.

Democrats are hopeful that aggressive fundraising efforts - in conjuction with a recovering economy - will help mitigate losses in November.

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Obama and the Politics of Health Care Reform

President Obama mocked the press and others today for their focus on the politics of health care reform -- how individual votes will impact members and how the passing of the legislation will affect Obama and the Democratic Party as a whole.

"A lot of reporting in Washington, it's just like SportsCenter," Obama said during a rally at George Mason University in the Virginia suburbs of D.C. "It's considered a sport, and who's up and who's down, and everybody's keeping score. And you got the teams going at it. It's Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots."

But the politics do play an integral role in how some members vote, especially those sitting in Republican leaning districts and serving just their first term in Congress. Politico looked at individual members in an article just this morning. And Republicans themselves continue to argue this could mean the end to the Democratic majority in Congress.

"I don't know how this plays politically. Nobody really does," said Obama. "I don't know what's going to happen with the politics on this thing. I don't know whether my poll numbers go down, they go up. I don't know what happens in terms of Democrats versus Republicans."

Trying to boost spirits before the House votes on Sunday, Obama focused instead on the bill's impact. "I do know that this bill, this legislation, is going to be enormously important for America's future," he said.

Over the river and up Capitol Hill, House Minority Leader John Boehner railed against the bill in his weekly press briefing, leaving no question how he thinks the 2010 midterm elections will turn out as a result of the bill's passage.

"The American people do not want any part of this," he said. "If anyone thinks the American people are going to forget about this vote -- just watch."

DCCC's Red-to-Blue List Highlights GOP Survivors

House Democrats this week issued their Red-to-Blue list -- 13 seats they hope to pick up or save in the fall. They might have called it the "Two-Time Republican Survivors" list.

In a year when the tide has turned against Democrats, the list is heavy with GOPers who managed to hold on by their fingernails through two of the toughest cycles for Republican incumbents in memory. On the target list are people like Reps. Dan Lungren and Mary Bono Mack of California, Ohio's Pat Tiberi and Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania.

Also on the list is Joe "You Lie" Wilson of South Carolina -- whose shouted objection during an Obama speech to Congress has stirred national interest in his race. He and two-time challenger Rob Miller have already raised more than $6 million, making theirs the most expensive House race in South Carolina history.

In total, President Obama won nine of the 13 districts on the Red-to-Blue list. Two of 13 are open Democratic districts -- John Tanner in Tennessee and the district of Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania, who is vacating against party wishes in order to challenge newly converted Sen. Arlen Specter in a Democratic primary.

Two of the open Republican seats have also been vacated by strong GOPers pursuing Senate bids -- Mike Castle in Delaware and Mark Kirk in Illinois. Even if Democrats pick up the House seats, it could be a poor trade if they lose Senate seats previously held by Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee promises money and manpower support for challengers to the targeted 13 -- brave talk considering Democrats will have to devote resources to defending plenty of their own vulnerable seats.

Kaine: Democrats Are Not Panicked

Amid some calls for him to step down, former Gov. Tim Kaine defended his tenure as chair of the Democratic National Committee, while arguing that his party is not "panicked" over a series of setbacks.

"We're governing and we're engaged in politics at a very challenging and tough time," Kaine told reporters on a conference call this afternoon. "We knew that going in."

He said the DNC has raised near-historic totals for a non-presidential year, and built a significant field organization to help 2010 candidates. Early in 2009 cycle the party was successful in special elections, but he conceded the environment has turned.

"In the two governors races, and Massachusetts things didn't go our way," he said. "We know it's going to be a challenging and tough cycle. Historically it always is. But we're not panicked people. When a couple races don't go our way, we don't panic. If we would, we never would have won the White House in '08."

Kaine did not mention a string of retirements, with Sen. Evan Bayh's (D) decision yesterday considered a severe blow. Instead, he sought to launch a new offensive on Republicans on the eve of the anniversary of President Obama signing the Recovery Act. The DNC is targeting more than 90 GOP governors, congressmen and senators, including members of the leadership, in its "Hypocrisy Hall of Fame," people they say vehemently opposed the stimulus bill but welcomed the dollars they provided in their states and districts.

"Many of them are not just asking for funds, they're claiming credit, handing out over-sized checks and acting as if they had something to do with it," Kaine said.

Dovetailing the White House message on what bipartisanship really means, Kainesaid the anniversary of the stimulus also marks the anniversary of "Republicans' effort to begin a new era of politicization."

In response to Kaine's assertion that Democrats are not panicked, one Republican sent along this YouTube clip.

Indiana Makes Senate Winnable For GOP

For a Democrat running in a Republican-leaning state in 2010, Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh was in relatively good shape when he announced his retirement Monday afternoon. He had $13 million in the bank and a substantial lead in both public surveys and polling conducted by his campaign. Yet the second-term senator is stepping away from elected office for the first time in 24 years and becomes the fifth sitting Democratic senator not to run this year.

The news surprised both local and national Democrats, most of who only learned hours before -- some even after -- the news leaked out. He had completed the necessary paperwork to get on the ballot, and had recently polled the race. Still, a White House official with ties to Bayh said he had talked about the possibility of retiring "for years" and believed the decision truly had nothing to do with the increasingly perilous political environment.

Bayh said as much at a news conference Monday afternoon in Indianapolis.

"My decision was not motivated by a political concern," he said. "Even in the current challenging political environment, I am confident in my prospects for re-election."

Bayh's retirement instantly puts Indiana on a growing list of pick-up opportunities for the GOP this year. President Obama and Vice President Biden could see their former Senate seats in Illinois and Delaware go red, while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) is one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the country.

North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan is retiring and his seat is considered the GOP's for the taking, while Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet and Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln are in bad shape as well. Throw in the longer shot chances of scoring two upsets in the blue state trio of California, Wisconsin, and Washington, and Republicans can now visualize a path - albeit still a very difficult one - to recapturing a 51-49 majority in the upper chamber.

"The Indiana Senate seat is one that we will fight to hold onto," said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (N.J.). "We will have a strong Democratic candidate on the ballot there."

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Trust In Government at Historic Low

Could Washington be any less popular? Not really, according to recent polling. Public approval for Congress and the political parties are at historic lows, while President Obama's approval rating has been in decline for the past nine months.

A New York Times-CBS News survey released last night reported a 15 percent approval rating for Congress. "Most Americans are now dissatisfied or even angry with government - and much of that frustration is directed at Congress," the poll's press release stated. "Levels of distrust and cynicism about government are at or near 15-year highs."

In Gallup's polling, congressional approval is down to 18 percent -- a point reached just twice in the past 36 years. The all-time low, 14 percent, came less than two years ago. The demographics most responsible for the decline in approval have been liberals and Democrats -- the party in control of Washington.

The Washington Post-ABC News poll out this week found 26 percent approving of Congress, which -- other than a mid-2008 dip -- was the lowest it's been since 1994, when Democrats lost the majority.

In the last three Post-ABC surveys in which the question was asked, at least 17 percent of voters have said they don't trust either party to cope with the country's problems over the next few years. Until September, party distrust had only climbed as high as 16 percent once -- in February 1994. And in November 1994, just 37 percent said they were inclined to re-elect their representative to Congress -- 36 percent say the same now.

Further evidence of the distrust in Washington came in a Quinnipiac University survey released Thursday. Just 28 percent said they approve of the way either party in Congress is handling its job, and two-thirds blamed both parties equally for the legislative gridlock in Washington. Meanwhile, 18 percent said they trust the federal government to do what is right at least most of the time, including only 2 percent who trust government "almost all the time."

The Post-ABC poll found the GOP leading the congressional generic ballot vote by 3 points, and Republicans lead the RCP Average by the same margin. With unemployment near 10 percent and support for Congress as low as it is, it's not surprising that Republicans -- the party out of power -- are expected to have a good electoral year.

With more than 30 incumbents in the House not running for re-election and several open Senate seats, the public were already going to see many fresh faces in Washington next year. The level of distrust for government, though, portends even more new members will be heading to the nation's capital in 2011.

Senate Dems Begin Year On Right Foot

The Democratic Senate incumbents thought to be in the most electoral trouble this year came out of the 4th fundraising quarter of 2009 with sizeable cash-on-hand totals, as did the ones who are so far only marginally vulnerable.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and Arlen Specter (Pa.) each have $8.7 million; Blanche Lincoln (Ark.), $5 million; Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), $5.2 million; and Michael Bennet (Colo.), $3.5 million. Then there is Barbara Boxer (Calif.) -- who will face one of three Republicans battling for the nomination -- with $7.3 million; and Evan Bayh (Ind.) -- whose opponent, former Senator Dan Coats, just got in the race this week -- with $13 million.

In what has already been a tough year for Democrats, these senators all begin their election years on solid footing -- at least financially. Except for Specter's primary challenger, Rep. Joe Sestak ($5.1 million), no one's opponents come close to matching their bank account totals.

Even the Democrats not yet considered vulnerable but are worth keeping an eye on -- Russ Feingold (Wisc.) and Patty Murray (Wash.) -- begin the year with healthy cash-on-hand totals. Feingold, who trailed former governor Tommy Thompson (R) in a recent poll, has nearly $3.7 million in the bank.

Already in the race to challenge Murray is motivational speaker and author Chris Widener and former Washington Redskins tight end Clint Didier, while Rep. Dave Reichert is reportedly still considering a bid. Murray reports $5.2 million in the bank, while Reichert comes closest with less than $500,000 on hand.

Republicans hold the advantage in the open Democratic seats in Illinois and Delaware, as well as a lead in the polls. Democrats just found out their nominees in both states this week, as Alexi Giannoulias won the Illinois Democratic primary and Chris Coons joined the race in Delaware. Republicans hold the money advantage in Connecticut as well, though Richard Blumenthal (D) just entered the race a month ago and is currently 20 points up in the polls.

In the open GOP seats in Florida, Kentucky, Missouri and Ohio, Republicans also are either competitive (Kentucky) or lead in the money race (the other three). In Florida, Gov. Charlie Crist has $7.6 million, with his GOP primary opponent Marco Rubio trailing with $2 million. Rep. Kendrick Meek, the likely Democratic nominee, had a successful fundraising quarter and begins the year with $3.4 million.

So while independent voters are trending away from Democrats, the money is still floating in. It's certainly a good sign for Democrats. Of course, raising the money is only the first step.

State of the Political Landscape

As President Obama prepares to deliver his first State of the Union address tonight, few Democrats expected the first year of his presidency to end with the party in such poor shape politically heading into this year's midterm elections. So before we hear about the overall state of the country, here is a quick rundown on the state of its politics:

• House Democrats hold a 256-178 majority in the House, with one vacant seat (Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Fla., resigned this month), while Senate Democrats hold a 59-41 seat advantage following the Massachusetts special Senate election of Scott Brown (R).

• Nearly 20 percent of Democrat-held congressional districts (49) are listed as competitive races by the Cook Political Report; 5 percent of Republican seats (10) are competitive.

• After losses in New Jersey and Virginia last November, Democrats' advantage in governors' offices is down to 26-24. In the 2010 elections, 11 Democrats are retiring or term-limited, as are 11 Republicans. Of 14 races rated as "toss-up" by the Cook Political Report, 10 are Republican-held seats.

• In 2008, John McCain won 49 congressional districts where a Democrat was elected to the House; one such Democrat, Parker Griffith, recently switched to the Republican Party. Barack Obama won 34 districts that elected a Republican.

• Ten Democrat-held congressional districts are competitive open-seat races, where the incumbent is retiring. Republicans so far have two such seats.

• Seven of Democrats' 18 Senate seats up for re-election this year are considered competitive, according to Cook; four of 18 Republican seats are competitive.

• Democrats are in serious danger of losing both President Obama's and Vice President Biden's former Senate seats. In both cases, the appointed senator is not running for re-election (in Illinois, that's a good thing), and the party failed to recruit its top choice candidates -- Attorneys General Lisa Madigan of Illinois and Beau Biden of Delaware.

• Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is in deep electoral trouble, trailing two Republicans who may not even end up on the general election ballot. The GOP is reportedly still seeking a top-flight candidate to take on the vulnerable Reid.

• Arkansas is a microcosm of Democrats' troubles. Its congressional delegation currently stands at five Democrats and one Republican. With Reps. Marion Berry and Vic Snyder retiring and Sen. Blanche Lincoln facing a potential GOP knock-out, Republicans could hold four of the six seats in the 112th Congress.

• Democrats' best news this year has been the retirement of five-term Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, who was likely to lose in November. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal currently holds big leads over his potential GOP opponents.

• Pennsylvania is one of the more awkward situations, as the White House and Democratic leadership promised Sen. Arlen Specter significant support if he switched parties. Now, he's up against Rep. Joe Sestak in a bitter Democratic primary and trailing Republican Pat Toomey in early polls. Plus, he no longer represents the 60th vote.

• Democrats are looking at four GOP-held Senate races in particular as potential pick-up opportunities, all of which the Republican incumbent is retiring: Kentucky, Missouri, New Hampshire and Ohio.

• The national Democratic House and Senate campaign committees had great fundraising years, outpacing both Republican counterparts. This will certainly help in protecting its many incumbents in GOP-leaning districts, while some Republican challengers may not get significant monetary assistance from the national party.

While the landscape looks rough for Democrats, party leaders say they were not caught by surprise as they were in 1994, when Republicans dominated the midterm elections two years after Bill Clinton won the White House. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, maintains that the party was expecting a tough political environment, as history shows the party that wins the White House often loses congressional seats in the following midterms.

"Even as the president was being sworn in -- and we were all still celebrating the election of President Barack Obama and even bigger majorities in the Congress -- we told our members to prepare for a very challenging cycle," Van Hollen told reporters in December, adding, "This is not going to be 1994 all over again."

Some Republicans, however, think it could be, and put the blame squarely on Democratic congressional leaders who "overreached" on their agenda last year. In a memo last month, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said the party expects "to make significant, if not historic, gains" in the House this year.

Who Won and Lost In The Supreme Court Decision

If there was any question which political party was the winner and loser in the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. FEC, just take a look at the instant reactions by congressmen and senators. Although the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill was technically bipartisan, many Republicans have been against it from the beginning and were overjoyed following the 5-4 decision that overturned key parts of the bill.

"Freedom won today in the Supreme Court," said House GOP Conference Chairman Mike Pence, who's considering a run for Senate in Indiana. "In 2003, the Supreme Court unwisely supported the oppressive restrictions on free speech that were part of the 2002 campaign finance law. At the time, I was honored to stand with Senator Mitch McConnell and various state and national organizations in challenging this historic error in court."

McConnell, now the Senate minority leader, was similarly approving of the decision. "For too long, some in this country have been deprived of full participation in the political process," he said. "Our democracy depends upon free speech, not just for some but for all."

The "deprived" McConnell mentioned are corporations, whose limitations on political donations were lifted with this ruling. As Michael Waldman, executive director at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU law school, wrote today in an op-ed in the Washington Post, "An immediate question raised by the...decision is whether this will flood elections with suddenly legal corporate money."

Democrats absolutely think it will -- and don't like it. Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine said the decision "will allow the money of corporate interests to flood the political process, will undermine free and fair elections and further erode voters' confidence in our system of Democracy." He called it "a major victory for oil companies, banks, health insurance companies and other special interests that already use their power over Washington to drown out the voices of regular Americans."

Some political operatives aren't so sure it's a win-lose situation for the parties just yet. Roy Behr, a Democratic consultant in California, says, "Predicting the long-term impact on a decision like this is a lot like trying to predict the weather six months from now -- the truth is we really don't know." However, Behr said, for candidates with a few deep-pocketed donors, "this could be an incredibly liberating decision."

"There could be hundreds of thousands if not millions in spending that candidates wouldn't have seen before," he said.

In his Daily Beast column and in an e-mail to RCP, Mark McKinnon, a former adviser to John McCain and George W. Bush, notes that big donors from both parties are the real winners -- and there's one main loser.

"It's great for labor. It's great for business. It's lousy for voters," McKinnon told RCP.

Pelosi: Still Moving Forward With Health Care

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said today that Democrats in Congress were watching last night as Republican Scott Brown won the special Senate election in Massachusetts, but that Democrats will still move forward with health care reform.

"The President's agenda is one that we will continue to push forward for the creation of jobs," said Pelosi, delivering the opening remarks to the United States Conference of Mayors winter meeting on Capitol Hill. "As I said, health care, again, heeding the particular concerns of the voters of Massachusetts last night, we heard the people and hopefully we will move forward with their considerations in mind. But we will move forward in the process."

Mass. Win Ripples Through Blue State Races

I wrote today about the repercussions of Republican Scott Brown's Senate seat win yesterday in Massachusetts. Here is an excerpt:

Just two people -- John F. Kennedy and Edward M. Kennedy -- had been elected in the last 58 years to the Massachusetts Senate seat Republican Scott Brown won yesterday. The seat's legacy and Democrats' dominance in the state were no match, however, for the lethal mix of Brown's message and a poorly run campaign by Democrat Martha Coakley, as well as a shifting public mood.

The upset, which political analyst Stuart Rothenberg called the biggest of his adult life, follows Republican wins in the New Jersey and Virginia governor's races last year -- all three states voted convincingly for Barack Obama in 2008. The Massachusetts loss threatens to derail an already-stalled agenda, especially health care reform, which the House and Senate have struggled to negotiate and national polling shows is unpopular.

It also could spell trouble for Democrats in the midterm elections in November, even in states with similar political leanings as Massachusetts -- states such as New York and California, where Democratic senators are fighting to keep their seats.

Read the rest here.

DCCC Hits Republicans For Voting Against Wall Street Reform

While Republican prospects in 2010 appear brighter than they've been in years, Democrats are remaining on the offensive as they remind voters who stands for the little guy. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is launching a radio ad in five districts represented by a Republican who voted against the Wall Street reform bill that passed the House on Friday.

"For years, House Republicans let big banks take huge risks that threatened our financial markets and left hard working American taxpayers holding the bill," DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen said in a statement announcing the radio ad blitz. "We will continue to go district by district to hold House Republicans accountable for supporting big banks at the expense of American taxpayers and consumers. Democrats will make clear that voters understand that while we stand with them, Republicans stand up for big special interests."

The ad will air in the districts of Reps. Dan Lungren (CA-03), Mary Bono Mack (CA-45), Lee Terry (NE-02), Charlie Dent (PA-15) and Joe Wilson (SC-02).

Lungren won with less than 50 percent of the vote in 2008, and President Obama won his district by a narrow margin. Obama also carried the districts of Bono Mack, Terry and Dent. Wilson, who's been a target of attacks since his "You lie!" outburst, faced his first serious challenge for re-election in 2008. He won with 54 percent (as did John McCain), which was easily his lowest winning percentage since coming to Congress in a 2001 special election.

Here is the script of the 60-second ad, titled "Remember" (this version is airing in Terry's district):

Continue reading "DCCC Hits Republicans For Voting Against Wall Street Reform" »

Poll: Dems Want Lieberman Punished If He Joins Filibuster

An overwhelming majority of Democratic voters want to see Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Ct.) stripped of his committee chairmanship if he joins Republicans in filibustering the health care reform bill, according to a new poll.

Huffington Post reports this morning that a survey of 800 registered voters, conducted by Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America, found that 81 percent of Democrats think Senate party leaders should remove Lieberman from his post as chairman of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

Two-thirds of Republicans say Democrats should not punish Lieberman. Thirty percent of independents agree with Republicans, while 43 percent say he should be punished.

Lieberman reportedly told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Sunday that he would filibuster the current form of the health care package should it be brought up for a vote. He, as well as Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), said on "Face the Nation" yesterday that they cannot support allowing people under 65 to buy into Medicare -- a key compromise negotiated last week.

GOP Numbers Improving In National Polls

After setbacks this fall, some Democratic strategists argued that the political environment is not anti-Democratic, but anti-incumbent. And for much of the year, Republicans' poll numbers have been worse than that of Democrats. But that appears to be changing.

** In a CNN poll, 40 percent say the country would be better off with Democrats in charge of Congress, while 39 percent say Republicans. In a previous survey conducted mid-summer, Democrats had a 10-point advantage on that question. At the start of the year, the margin was 56-31 in favor of the Democrats.

** In a Quinnipiac survey, voters now give similar grades to Republicans and Democrats in Congress: 30 percent approve of the GOP, while 33 percent approve of Democrats. That is down from a high of 45 percent for Democrats in March, while the GOP number has largely held steady, if not ticked slightly upward.

** In a new McClatchy/Ipsos poll, 51 percent view the Democratic Party favorably, while 46 view it unfavorably. That's down from a 61/34 split in November 2008. The GOP still has a negative net-approval, with a 44/54 split, but that's improved from 36/58 in last November. And in a series of questions on specific issues, Republican numbers are up while Democrats' are down, in some cases rather significantly.

** A new Bloomberg poll shows the GOP's net favorable rating is now -5, while the Democratic party's rating is +3. In a generic ballot test, the GOP leads 42-38.

That's quite a bit of data confirming that Republicans, after hitting bottom, are on the rebound, while Democrats are feeling the heat as the party in power.

Rep. Baird (D-WA) Announces Retirement

Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.) became the third Democrat in as many weeks to announce he will not seek re-election next year. Baird and Reps. Dennis Moore (D-Kan.) and John Tanner (D-Tenn.) hail from competitive districts that Republicans are targeting as prime pick-up opportunities next year. Their exits also signal what could be a tough 2010 midterm election cycle for Democrats.

Baird's released statement: "The time has now come to pursue other options, other ways of serving. Hence, I am announcing today that I do not intend to seek reelection to Congress in 2010. This is not an easy decision to be sure, but I believe it is the right decision at the right time."

Baird has represented the 3rd District of Washington since 1998, and his winning percentage has increased in each election since. However, President Obama carried the Olympia-based district in the southwest corner of the state with just 53% of the vote. Four years earlier, President Bush won the district with 50% of the vote.

In a released statement, NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions said Baird's retirement "speaks to the shifting political environment" and "it is clear that members of the Majority are feeling the ground shaking beneath them."

A Democratic Schism In North Carolina

New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, chairman of Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, recently passed on to reporters the advice he gives to candidates in primaries -- save your negative campaigning for the general election. Just one day into what could be a tough primary race in North Carolina, that rule was already broken.

Democrats officially got their man Monday when former North Carolina state senator Cal Cunningham announced he will indeed challenge Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) next year. About a month ago, Cunningham opted against a bid despite the encouragement of the national party, but Rep. Bob Etheridge's (D-N.C.) subsequent decision not to run propelled Cunningham back into the race.

Already running was Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, who has been elected statewide four times, and attorney Kenneth Lewis. Much to the chagrin of Marshall's campaign, the DSCC was unimpressed with her and continued to recruit candidates it felt had the best chance of upending Burr and continuing the seat's perpetual turnover streak --no one has won re-election to the seat since the early 1970s.

Shortly after Cunningham's announcement Monday, the DSCC released a statement on the race that criticized Burr and touted Cunningham's resume, but made no mention of Marshall or Lewis.

"Richard Burr remains one of the most vulnerable Republicans in the United States Senate. ... [I]t has become clear that Richard Burr is beholden to the special interests in Washington," said DSCC spokesman Eric Schultz. "In contrast, Cal Cunningham served with distinction in Iraq; has a record of cracking down on waste, fraud and abuse; and is already building an exciting grassroots coalition on the ground in North Carolina."

Schultz added that "Burr's ongoing obstruction of health care reform is the latest reason why he's going to have a real race next November."

While it has not officially endorsed Cunningham, the DSCC's snub of Marshall led the campaign to release a statement Monday that was critical of Cunningham's ties to the national party, as well as his refusal to join the race until he was assured of the DSCC's backing.

"He's kind of the hokey pokey candidate -- he's in one minute and out the next. He's in the race because Washington wants to choose who North Carolina's nominee is going to be," said Thomas Mills, a Marshall consultant. "Cal Cunningham apparently is scared of a primary or he would have gotten in earlier. The only way he got in was with the support of the Washington power brokers."

Intraparty battles aren't just a Democratic worry in 2010. The Republican Party is facing similar situations in a few states where national leadership has given preferential treatment to certain candidates -- often the more moderate candidate, whom the party thinks has a better chance to win statewide.

In Florida, the National Republican Senatorial Committee quickly endorsed Gov. Charlie Crist despite the presence of conservative Marco Rubio in the race. Conservatives have also been up in arms over the assistance Carly Fiorina has received in her Senate bid in California, where Chuck DeVore is running as well. Both Rubio and DeVore have centered campaign attacks on their establishment-backed primary opponents, something Menendez had hoped to avoid in North Carolina, as well as other states like Pennsylvania, Colorado and Ohio, where more than one Democrat is running.

"Obviously we always prefer not to see primaries because we want to focus on the general election," Menendez told reporters during an off-camera briefing in late September. "My one admonition, generically, to all who may be in a race in a primary is that there is plenty to talk about on the Republican side. Focus on your assets and on the target; don't focus on each other.

"To the extent that people play out of bounds, we may get engaged and be referee and say, 'Hey, this is not useful, not helpful, inconsequential.' But so far, so good."

That was more than two months ago, and things may not be all good anymore. The DSCC's involvement in the race and last week's leak of Cunningham's imminent entrance happening on the same day as Marshall's husband's funeral has caused some anger in North Carolina Democratic circles.

Reached for further comment Tuesday, Mills told RealClearPolitics he does not anticipate "this being an especially nasty campaign" for the Democratic nomination.

"That being said I think that primaries should be determined by people who live in their state, and candidates should not be chosen -- I don't believe in coronations," said Mills. "We look forward to working with national Democrats when Elaine Marshall is the Democratic nominee in North Carolina."

For its part, the state party is staying completely neutral in the three-candidate race as it focuses its efforts on defeating Burr, and Chairman David Young is downplaying the role of the DSCC in the race.

"Now it's show me the money time -- it's about who can raise the money, who can generate the enthusiasm," Young told RCP. "I really believe if one of those three candidates starts showing big fundraising reports, that will be the chosen one."

As RGA Celebrates Wins, DGA Mocks 'Comeback'

Here in Texas today, the RGA continues to crow about their 2009 victories and sound bullish about their 2010 prospects. But the DGA is responding by looking again at some of the familiar names they're putting on the ballot next year, saying it belies the idea of a promised GOP comeback. Check out the video here, which is being sent to the party organization's mailing list this afternoon:

More from the e-mail:

20 Republican governors. 500 conservative donors. A private resort in Texas. 3 days to finalize their comeback strategy... Sound like a bad dream? Unfortunately, it's all too real. And it's all happening right now in Austin, where the Republican Governors Association is holding their annual conference.

...

The "comeback" faces of the GOP include lackluster has-beens like John Kasich, former FOX News host and a leading figure at Lehman Brothers at the time of the bank's collapse, and Bill McCollum, a long-time politician/lobbyist whose crowning achievement in his 30 year congressional career is sponsoring the legislation that helped turn the housing market into a "big gambling casino." And the list only gets worse from there.

A Senate Trifecta the Dems Want to Avoid Losing

While Democrats face competitive Senate races in a number of states carried last year by President Obama, three in particular could send shock waves through a party that stormed back to control Washington the last two cycles: President Obama's former Illinois seat, Vice President Biden's Delaware seat and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's seat in Nevada.

Based on recent polling, a shifting national mood and excellent candidate recruitment by the GOP, Republicans could be in position a year from now to win seats once held by three of the four most powerful elected officials in Washington. Should that happen, it wouldn't be at all surprising if states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Connecticut and Florida -- all of which Obama won last year -- elected Republicans as well.

In Illinois, the National Republican Senatorial Committee succeeded in recruiting Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) to give up his congressional district to run statewide. Meanwhile, Democrats -- including the White House -- were unable to convince state Attorney General Lisa Madigan (D) to run, as she eventually opted for re-election. Running instead are Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, Chicago Inspector General David Hoffman and Chicago Urban League president Cheryle Jackson, who previously served as press secretary for disgraced governor Rod Blagojevich. Obama's appointed successor, Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.), opted not to run for reelection.

Limited polling in the state has shown Giannoulias ahead of his primary opponents and statistically tied with Kirk, who is expected to win the GOP primary. Whoever wins the Democratic primary will likely receive substantial support from the White House and Democratic National Committee, as the prospect of losing the president's former Senate seat two years after he was elected president would be embarrassing.

Republicans scored a coup in Delaware with the recruitment of Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.), who has won 11 statewide races including two for governor (in 1984 and 1988) and the past nine for the state's lone House seat. Biden won the seat for the seventh time in November 2008 -- when he was also elected vice president -- and Sen. Ted Kaufman (D-Del.), Biden's longtime chief of staff, was appointed to replace him. It was widely rumored that Kaufman, who will not run next year, would serve as a placeholder for Biden's son, state Attorney General Beau Biden, until the 2010 special election.

Castle has led Biden in the four polls released this year. However, the most recent one -- a DailyKos/Research 2000 survey out last month -- found Castle up by just a single point.

The third race of what could be a crushing trifecta for Democrats is in Nevada, where recent polling shows Majority Leader Harry Reid to be among the most vulnerable incumbent senators, despite the amount of power he wields in the Senate. Both of his potential Republican opponents -- former state party chair Sue Lowden and Danny Tarkanian, son of a famed UNLV basketball coach -- lead Reid by more than 5 points in general election matchups, and have led him in every poll that has been released.

Whoever takes on Reid will need to raise serious money in order to compete statewide, as Reid has a national network of donors and $8.7 million in the bank.

Still, the GOP is targeting Reid in hopes he will become the second Democratic leader in the Senate in six years to be defeated, following then-minority leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota, who was knocked out of office in 2004 by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.).

Losing these three seats would be particularly embarrassing to President Obama and his party just two years after capturing the White House and expanding majorities in Congress. Beyond the humiliating symbolism, however, the defeats would deliver a serious blow to the party's advantage in the Senate -- and more than likely be just a few of the Democratic losses on Election Day 2010.

Why Things Don't Look Good For Dems In The Midterms

Independent political observers and Democrats themselves have been saying for months that 2010 is shaping up as a bad year for Democratic candidates, and the latest Gallup generic congressional ballot test only reinforces the point. Not only do Republicans lead 48 percent to 44 percent, but independents now favor the GOP by 52 percent to 30 percent.

Although generic Republican candidates hold just a 4-point lead, the GOP's perpetual turnout advantage means their lead would likely be higher if the midterm elections were today. Even a single-digit lead for Democrats in Gallup's testing often only means the two parties will be competitive, as more registered voters identify with the Democratic Party but more Republicans go to the polls on Election Day.

In the final Gallup survey before the 1998 midterms, Republicans trailed by 9 points but still went on to win a small majority of House seats. In the 2002 midterms, Republicans were down 5 points just before the election but again kept a slim majority in the House.

A year before the 2006 midterm elections --when Democrats regained control of both houses of Congress -- generic congressional ballot testing forecast the shifting mood of the country. An August 2005 Gallup survey found Democrats leading by 12 points -- one of the widest margins between the parties Gallup had found since the GOP took back Congress in 1994.

That survey was far from the only one to show a shifting mood. This is the first Gallup survey to show Republicans leading this cycle, and while a year is a long time in politics, the poll falls in line with other signs pointing in the GOP's direction.

"It's better to look at a series of these polls than one of them, but the fact is Republicans haven't led the generic ballot since the stone ages," said David Wasserman, who analyzes House races for the Cook Political Report. "Any sort of deficit is dangerous for Democrats because their support is more heavily concentrated within a few base districts."

The last time Republicans led was September 2008, just after the Republican National Convention. The poll was an outlier, as no other generic ballot test by any other polling firm had shown Republicans leading in at least four years. None did soon after, either, and Democrats went on expand their majority to more than 75 seats in the House.

Further significance in the poll is the shift among independent voters. The 22-point advantage for Republicans is a far cry from July, when the two parties were statistically tied. The migration of independents toward the GOP mirrors what occurred in the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial elections last week, when a Republican knocked off the incumbent governor in the Garden State and the GOP nominee won by nearly 20 points in the Old Dominion.

The independent swing shows in the new Pew Research survey also released today. It found incumbents -- most of which are Democrats these days -- in a perilous place, with just 52 percent saying they want their representative re-elected and only 34 percent say most representatives should be re-elected.

"Both measures are among the most negative in two decades of Pew Research surveys," Pew reports. "Other low points were during the 1994 and 2006 election cycles, when the party in power suffered large losses in midterm elections."

The latest Gallup survey was conducted Nov. 5-8 of 894 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 4 percent. The Pew poll was taken Oct. 28-Nov. 8 of 1,644 registered voters.

DNC Likens RNC To Hamas, Taliban

Gov. Tim Kaine, chair of the DNC, called President Obama's winning a Nobel Prize "an affirmation of the fact that the United States has returned to its longstanding role as a world leader."

"The President has made a conscious decision from the beginning of his presidency to reinvigorate diplomacy, by talking to our friends and our rivals," Kaine writes. "With this prize comes a sense of enormous pride, but also an enormous sense of humility about the work that remains if we are to resolve the global problems facing humanity. Democrats will continue to work with President Obama to keep moving America forward, as we continue in earnest to sow peace, progress and understanding around the world."

Meanwhile, the DNC communication team has paired the RNC's statement on Obama's win with these from Hamas and Taliban, lumping the opposition party with these extremist elements.

Hamas: "We believe he has been rewarded or judged based on good intentions towards peace but not on his achievement. It was too early to award him. He has not don't that much yet." - Ahmed Yousef, Deputy Foreign Minister of Hamas   Taliban: "We have seen no change in his strategy for peace. He has done nothing for peace in Afghanistan. He has not taken a single step for peace in Afghanistan or to make this country stable... We condemn the award of the Noble Peace Prize for Obama. We condemn the institute's awarding him the peace prize. We condemn this year's peace prize as unjust." - Taliban Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid

Obama To Democratic Governors: Tough Choices Still To Come

At a fundraiser meant to boost the Democratic Party's chances in upcoming gubernatorial elections, President Obama acknowledged how the down economy has made it tough on state leaders, and warned that "the tough choices they'll have to make will not end anytime soon."

dga2.jpg But he praised the work of the 28 Democrats who hold governor's offices across the country, adding: "What I hope has made their job easier and will continue to make their job easier is knowing that they've got a full committed partner in the White House." He also said the stimulus program has cushioned the blow somewhat, while arguing that health care reform was "absolutely critical" in continuing on the road to recovery.

As evidence, he cited a Robert Wood Johnson study that found that even in a best-case scenario, employers would see premiums rise 60 percent in the next decade.

"That kind of future is bad for entrepreneurs, it's bad for businesses, it's bad for the United States of America," he said. "We can't afford a health insurance system that hampers America's economy in the 21st century. We need a health system that unleashes its potential."

Continue reading "Obama To Democratic Governors: Tough Choices Still To Come" »

Dem Party ID Margin Dropping

Democratic party identification is at its lowest mark since the second quarter of 2005, while GOP ID is at its highest point since the first quarter of 2006, according to Gallup's quarterly party identification report.

At 48% Democrat or lean-Democrat and 42% Republican or lean-Republican, the six-point gap is the smallest since 2005. Although the number of people identifying themselves as Republican has remained stable, more independents now lean Republican (15%) than Democrat (13%) for the first time in at least four years.

The report is based on five polls conducted of 5,090 adults between July 1 and Sept. 30.

9-30-09_Gallup_Quarterly_Party_ID.jpg

Dem Govs Back Obama Health Care Reform

While the odds may have been in its favor, it was not a sure thing that Democratic governors would support President Obama's health care reform proposals en masse. Governors from both parties had worried about what reform would mean for the states -- espcially with respect to increased Medicaid costs.

Today, though, the leadership of the Democratic Governors Association announced that after "productive conversations in the past week with House and Senate leaders," the president has their full support on health care.

"We had productive conversations. The lawmakers heard our concerns and they understand where we're coming from," said West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, a former DGA chairman and current chair emeritus. "While I want to see more details, I feel good about where this is headed and I want to see reform passed this year."

"Governors are doing our best to help families struggling to pay for health care. We're all grappling with state budgets that are strained with the spiraling cost of health care," said Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, chairman of the DGA. "We need health insurance reform this year, and we support the President's goals."

RNC Outraises DNC By $1M

The Republican National Committee outraised its Democratic counterpart by $1 million in the month of August, according to reports filed last week with the Federal Election Commission. The RNC pulled in $7.87 million last month, compared with the Demoratic National Committee's $6.89 million.

"The RNC had another very strong fundraising month in August," said RNC Chairman Michael Steele. "We remain committed to broadening the appeal of our party by taking a strong principled message on health care directly to the people."

The RNC has close to $21 million cash on hand, while the DNC ended the month with a little more than $15 million. In July, the DNC far outraised its GOP counterpart, taking in $9.28 million to the RNC's $6.26 million.

In August, the Democrats' House campaign arm outraised the GOP's, while the National Republican Senatorial Committee outraised the Dems for the second month in a row.

DCCC Raising Money Off GOP Outburst

House Democrats' campaign arm is raising money with the help of a GOP congressman's outburst during President Obama's address to a joint session of Congress last night.

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) has since apologized for interrupting the president with a shout of "You lie!" and Republican groups have noted instances when Democrats called George W. Bush a liar, but the Dems aren't taking this opportunity for granted.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has set a fundraising goal of $100,000 over the next two days. Here is an excerpt of the e-mail sent today to the DCCC's contact list:

Last night as President Obama addressed a joint session of Congress on the need for health insurance reform, Republican Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina actually screamed out "you lie" on the House floor in front of the full Congress and the entire nation.

Calling the President of the United States a liar in front of the nation is a new low even for House Republicans and it deserves the strongest response we can give. That's why we're issuing a special Rapid Response Alert.

Help us raise $100,000 in the next 48 Hours to send a message to Republicans like Congressman Joe Wilson that we will not stand for our President to be called a liar in front of the nation.


OFA Directs Supporters To Call Congressmen

This summer, Organizing for America urged its mailing list to head to the office of their local representatives to talk health care. Even a Democrat wasn't thrilled with the deluge of constituents to offices. But now, President Obama's former campaign network is again directing supporters to target their representatives.

From an e-mail:

Last night, President Obama called on our representatives to pass health reform that brings stability and security to Americans who have insurance, affordable coverage to those who don't, and reins in the cost of care.

Now, it's our turn. After last night's speech, members of Congress have no doubt about where the President stands. But to win this fight, we must show that Americans from every state and every background support his plan -- and we need Congress to do the same.

The e-mail then lists the recipient's member of Congress and U.S. Senators, depending on the ZIP Code a user signed up with, and gives the phone number of their local offices.

Call your representatives, and tell whoever answers where you are from and that you watched the President's address.

Then tell them that you want your representatives to support the President's plan, ask them where they stand -- and thank them if they already clearly support it.

Don't forget to click here to let us know what they said.

Hundreds of thousands of folks will be calling, so please try again if you get a busy signal.


DNC Targets Cheney, Using His Own Words

There was not quite the anticipated smack down from the White House this week when press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about former Vice President Dick Cheney's comments on "Fox News Sunday" defending the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques that the Justice Department is now investigating.

On Monday, Gibbs simply called Cheney's comments the "same song and dance" seen from the very first day of the Obama administration, adding this kicker: "I'm not entirely sure that Dick Cheney's predictions on foreign policy have borne a whole lot of fruit over the last eight years in a way that have been either positive or, to the best of my recollection."

Now, the DNC is amplifying that latter point in a new television ad that will air on national cable television.

It includes the greatest hits of false Cheney promises, including: "My belief is that we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators"; and, "There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction."

The ad does show Cheney saying this week that the "enhanced interrogation techniques were absolutely essential," but rebuts him on that point with another Republican, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). It closes with the tag line, "Dick Cheney: Wrong then, wrong now."

DCCC Calls Out GOP for Medicare Hypocricy

As Congress prepares to return next week amid an already heated battle over health care, Democrats continue to fight back against what they say is Republican scare tactics.

For instance, the Republican National Committee released a TV ad yesterday featuring Chairman Michael Steele accusing President Obama and Democrats of working against the interests of senior citizens by cutting Medicare. The Democratic National Committee said the GOP was simply down to its last resort in its attempts to "block health care reform" -- lying.

Today, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is slamming 26 House Republicans for a "say-anything strategy to kill health insurance reform" as they "masquerade as defenders of Medicare."

A press release headed for the Members' districts calls out 137 Republicans for voting earlier this year "to end Medicare as it's presently known." So, the release reads, "Steele's comments represent either an abrupt turnaround for a party with a long history of fighting against Medicare or just another hypocritical scare tactic to try and kill health insurance reform."

DCCC spokesman Ryan Rudominer says in the release that "Republicans' desperate attempt to portray their party as defenders of Medicare is nothing short of laughable hypocrisy and another shameless effort to exploit the fears of America's seniors."

Republicans included in the targeted hit include Leader John Boehner (Ohio), Whip Eric Cantor (Va.), Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.) and NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas).

Dems Confident On '09 Gov Races, Eye '10 Pickups

The Democratic Governors Association sounds increasingly confident about the two gubernatorial races being held this fall, citing recent developments in the New Jersey and Virginia contests that have voters taking a second look at Republican candidates who have lead in the polls.

In Virginia, officials say that this weekend's Washington Post report about Republican Bob McDonnell's thesis was "devastating," and will go down as the point in the campaign when his "persona as a moderate came crashing down." "He knows that's the ticket to success in Virginia," DGA executive director Nate Daschle said. "But the fact is, he is not" a moderate.

Meanwhile, Republican Chris Christie's favorable numbers are rising and his long-standing lead is "evaporating" after a series of stories that have New Jersey voters questioning his character, the party says.

"This is a candidate who entered the race talking about how he's the ethics candidate. Unfortunately for him, since then ethics have dogged his campaign," Daschle said. He mentioned "a string of ethical lapses," from reports of contacts with Karl Rove, to an undisclosed loan to a subordinate, and to recently revealed driving violations. "If this were the kind of thing where it was just one two or three events in isolation, you could chalk it up to a lack of judgment. But this is a string, a pattern of events that calls into question his character," Daschle said.

Continue reading "Dems Confident On '09 Gov Races, Eye '10 Pickups" »

Kennedy's Legacy

Sen. Kennedy's office has posted a 54-page document listing all of his accomplishments in 47 years in office.

Senator Kennedy has authored more than 2,500 bills throughout his career in the United States Senate. Of those bills, several hundred have become Public Law.

Read the full document here.

DNC To Honor Kennedy At September Meeting

The Democratic Party will honor its liberal lion at the DNC fall meeting in Austin next month. The chairman, Tim Kaine, released this statement:

Today we mourn the loss of one the greatest and most consequential political figures in American history with the passing of Senator Ted Kennedy.

Senator Kennedy was adored by millions of Americans and was respected by colleagues on both sides of the aisle for his energy, his passion, his humor, his compassion, his friendship and above all his commitment to serve his country in pursuit of a more common good for every American.

It is not an exaggeration to say that Senator Kennedy devoted his entire adult life - in the great tradition of the Kennedy family - to public service. And, in his forty-six years in the Senate, Senator Kennedy's primary focus - and the legacy he will be most remembered for - will be his work to improve the plight of ordinary Americans, to empower the powerless and to end the scourge of discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability and economic background that was all too prevalent in an earlier time.

For his efforts to ensure civil and voting rights for minorities to equal rights for women, Senator Kennedy was a champion. For providing health care to millions of our nation's children to fighting for the cause and rights of workers and organized labor, Senator Kennedy was a hero. For working to improve education and educational opportunities for children and college students to fighting for the security and dignity of older Americans, Senator Kennedy was an icon. And, for his career-long pursuit of quality, affordable health care for every American, a cause he was devoted to until the very end, Senator Kennedy was an inspiration to millions of Americans who are fighting today for that just cause.

In the Senate, he was called the Lion. To the Democratic Party whose values and ideals were embodied in and shaped by this great man, he was a giant. To the American people, he will be remembered as one of the greatest and most accomplished legislators in American history. And to his family he will be remembered as a father, a husband, an uncle, a brother, a grandfather and a friend.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Kennedy family as we mourn the loss and celebrate the extraordinary life of Senator Edward Moore Kennedy.

"The Torch Will Be Passed Again"

TKConvo08.jpg

It was one year ago yesterday that Sen. Ted Kennedy made a surprise appearance at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, electrifying the Pepsi Center with a speech in which he said that in November, "the torch will be passed again to a new generation of Americans" with the election of Barack Obama. Re-read the full speech after the jump.

Continue reading ""The Torch Will Be Passed Again"" »

DCCC Calls On GOPers to Denounce 'Lies'

Democrats want to change the rhetoric on Main Street regarding health care reform, and fast, and they're hoping Republicans can help make that happen -- sort of.

In doing so, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has released individualized press releases to more than 20 congressional districts calling on GOP House members to "denounce Republican lies and scare tactics such as 'Death Panels' meant to kill health reform."

A press release sent to the district of National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas) states: "Representative Sessions needs to finally denounce the false and outrageous claim put out by Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, and others on the right that Americans 'will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel.' ' "

The offensive comes as liberal Democrats in the House and Senate are up in arms regarding their view that the administration is softening its stance on the inclusion of a public option in the reform bill. The public option has become the most prominent battling point now within the party, which is also facing a strong backlash from the other side.

In the meantime, the Democrats' House campaign committee wants to at least call out what they see as contradictory rhetoric.

"Republicans and their insurance company allies have shown repeatedly through their lies and shameless fear mongering that they will say anything to kill health insurance reform," DCCC spokesman Jennifer Crider says in the release. "Representative Sessions voted for 'end of life counseling' in 2003, that Republicans are now calling 'death panels.' Representative Sessions should defend his own record by denouncing Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, and other Republicans' false claim that Americans 'will have to stand in front of Obama's death panel' to receive care."

Dean Confident Public Option Will Survive

Wishful thinking or smart strategy? On MSNBC this morning, former DNC chair Howard Dean seemed unfazed by the talk that the Obama administration is ready to drop the public option. He said that this is simply "politics," and that even if a public option is temporarily removed it might find it's way back into final legislation.

"The president knows very well that you aren't really going to have health care reform without a public option. But he also knows he has to get this out of the Senate," Dean said on "Morning Joe." "He's got a very important member of the Finance Committee, Kent Conrad, who doesn't want to vote for this bill if it's got a public option in it. And he knows he's not going to get any Republican votes, of any kind. So at the end of this day, this bill is going to be written by Democrats. It's got to get out of the Senate. And you only need a few Democrats to take out take out the public option."

He added that with Republicans unlikely to support any version of health care legislation, he had no doubt that the final reform bill would be passed with the help of reconciliation, which means Democrats need only to muster 50 votes in the Senate rather than the usual 60.

Dean told RCP earlier this year that a health care reform bill without a strong public option was pointless. "If it doesn't, all we have is the same old stuff, and I don't think it's worth spending $634 billion on what we've already got," he said.

DCCC Continues "Health Care ER" Offensive

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has entered the second phase in its "Health Care ER" advertising offensive, today launching automated calls in 10 GOP districts. The DCCC is targeting "Republicans who are trying to block health insurance reform for America's families," according to a press release.

"This August, we are holding Republicans accountable," said DCCC executive director Jon Vogel.

The phone calls are heading to the following districts: Brian Bilbray (CA-50), Ken Calvert (CA-44), David Dreier (CA-26), Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25), Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO-09), Mike McCaul (TX-10), Frank Wolf (VA-10), Bill Young (FL-10), Judy Biggert (IL-13), Mary Bono Mack (CA-45), and Pete Sessions (TX-32).

Radio ads began airing Monday in another eight districts. In all, the ad offensive will reach the districts of more than two dozen Republican members of Congress.

Here is the script of an automated call going out to Sessions's Texas district:

I have an important message about your health care. Insurance companies are posting record profits while health bills skyrocket. Now they are lining up to stop health care reforms and protect profits. Congressman Pete Sessions took almost four hundred thousand dollars from the insurance industry and now he's trying to block reform... like reducing costs by forcing insurance companies to compete and preventing them from denying you coverage. Call Congressman Sessions today. Ask him to stop standing up for insurance companies and start standing up for us.

Democrats Target "Orchestrated" Town Hall Opposition

Senate Democrats left a White House meeting singing President Obama's praises while echoing the latest party talking points by portraying rowdy town hall meetings as the result of an astroturf campaign by the leading opponents of health care reform.

"In spite of the loud, shrill voices trying to interrupt town hall meetings to throw a monkey wrench into everything, we're going to continue to be positive and work hard," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters after a luncheon with the president today.

"The American people do not like partisanship. But the American people also don't like groups of people trying to kill something that should be done," Senate Finance Committee chair Max Baucus said.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) listed potential positive outcomes from health care reform, then added: "We'll match that against their message of negativity."

Continue reading "Democrats Target "Orchestrated" Town Hall Opposition" »

Dems Outraise GOP in Swing Districts

Here is my piece today on fundraising in districts won by incumbents with 55% or less:

As Democrats gear up for 2010, they face a daunting historical fact: since Abraham Lincoln, only two newly-elected presidents have seen their party gain seats in Congress in their first midterm election.

Aside from the weight of history, there are other ominous signs for Democrats, who now have complete control of the government and are laboring to govern through an ongoing economic recession: Obama's approval ratings are slipping, unemployment remains high, Congress is taking up a string of big-ticket items in health care reform and climate change, and the gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia look favorable for the GOP.

A bright spot for Democrats, however, is the strength of their fundraising in congressional swing districts.

A RealClearPolitics analysis of fundraising by some of the most vulnerable incumbents shows Democrats in good shape. And the campaign finance reports released this month offer fresh data for the Democratic and Republican campaign committees as they refine their search for vulnerable incumbents in 2010.

Read the rest here.

DCCC: Where's the GOP's Health Plan?

As Republicans are busy pounding Democrats for the health care plan that still remains in flux, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is asking: Where are your bright ideas? In a press release sent to 39 targeted districts, the DCCC notes that it's been 41 days since the GOP promised a plan.

"Instead of hiding behind some secret Republican health care plan that may or may not exist, Representative Thaddeus McCotter should help set the record straight by confirming whether or not he has seen it, what its price tag is, and how it ends the status quo of skyrocketing health care costs," DCCC spokesman Ryan Rudominer says in the release sent to McCotter's Detroit-area district.

Democrats are also hitting McCotter and more than 30 other Republicans in a separate release for voting against the economic stimulus package. The releases cites yesterday's announcement by the White House that $1 billion is being used to hire and re-hire police officers around the country.

DNC Airs Health Care Reform TV Ad

The Democratic National Committee will begin airing a TV ad tomorrow promoting the need for health care reform and slamming Republicans for attempting to block progress.

"What's the cost of not reforming health care? Premiums rising faster than your paycheck," the announcer says. "But some leading Republicans, playing politics, have vowed to kill reform. Tell Republicans the cost of doing nothing on health care is just too high."

The ad comes as Democrats appear unlikely to get bills passed in either chamber of Congress before leaving town for a month. Speaker Pelosi indicated today that she's "not afraid of" waiting until after the August recess to complete a bill, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that's exactly what the Senate will do.

The 30-second ad will air on national and D.C. cable stations for the next two-and-a-half weeks.

DCCC Slaps GOPers For Fiscal Hypocrisy

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is calling out Republicans for not walking the talk of fiscal responsibility.

House Democrats passed a budget rule called PAYGO today that requires new entitlement spending bills passed during this Congress to be deficit neutral -- meaning paid for. Under the statutory pay-as-you-go rule, theoretically a tax cut would be offset by a spending cut and a spending increase by a tax increase.

PAYGO passed 265 to 166, with all but 24 Republicans voting against it and all but 13 Democrats supporting it. A press release was distributed to media outlets in 40 GOP districts, including party leaders John Boehner (Ohio), Eric Cantor (Va.), Mike Pence (Ind.) and Pete Sessions (Texas).

"Today, when given a chance to match all her tough talk about fiscal responsibility with a vote on restoring pay-as-you-go policy, Representative Mary Bono Mack just said no," DCCC spokesman Ryan Rudominer said in a release to the California Republican's district. "Representative Bono Mack's vote against Statutory PAYGO after all her rhetoric about the need for fiscal discipline proves yet again that Bono Mack will say one thing at home and do the opposite in Washington."

Republicans, though, said the bill would do little to offset what they call out-of-control spending during this session of Congress and expressed reluctance to support a plan that could lead to tax increases. Republican Study Committee Chairman Tom Price (Ga.) called the bill "fraudulent" and a "sham" with "loopholes a trillion dollars wide."

President Obama had called for the House to pass the bill and released a statement after the vote saying it was a sign of "strong support for fiscal discipline."

"For several years, the federal government was stalled in a pattern of fiscal irresponsibility," he said. "No more."

Blue Dogs Talk Health Cost With Obama

President Obama spent an hour meeting with Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, talks a key conservative Democrat called productive, though no final decisions on a key concern -- cost containment.

"There's a number of potential cost-cutting measures which I think the American people expect before we consider any kind of new revenue," Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), head of the Blue Dog Democrats' health care task force, told reporters after the meeting today. "They want us to squeeze every ounce of savings we can out of the current system. That's what we're demanding."

Ross said the entire meeting focused "specifically on cost containment," and said there are "a lot of ideas out there." But he and his colleagues want to see another CBO score that factors in projected savings before agreeing to any specific terms.

Energy and Commerce Committee chair Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said that Obama "expressed to us his great, strong, firm commitment that the legislation that he signed will have to be deficit neutral and will hold down the cost in the future."

Meanwhile, the White House hinted today that it may be open to taxing a portion of health insurance benefits, on so-called "Cadillac" plans. Press secretary Robert Gibbs echoed comments the president made last night in an interview with Jim Lehrer, differentiating Obama's opposition to ending the deductibility of health insurance benefits altogether with such a limited exclusion being lifted on the most expensive plans.

"He doesn't support what Senator McCain proposed in the campaign, which, as you know, wasn't a tax on a certain level of the exclusion but instead to remove the entire tax deductibility," Gibbs said.

DNC: GOP 'Playing Politics' With Health Care

The Democratic National Committee released a web video today accusing Republicans of "playing politics" with health care reform. The video highlights a oft-cited quote by Sen. Jim DeMint, who said recently that health care reform could be President Obama's "waterloo" if the GOP "is able to stop him on this."

Obama has responded to the DeMint quote, which has also been cited today by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen.

"While President Obama and House Democrats are offering solutions to fix America's broken health care system, Congressional Republicans are offering nothing more than the same old Washington finger-pointing and their just-say-no defense of the status quo," Van Hollen said in a press release that called out Republicans for "playing politics."

Dem Talking Points on Sotomayor Nomination

Here are some talking points Senate Democrats have released on the Supreme Court nomination of Sonia Sotomayor:

SOTOMAYOR'S NOMINATION IS A HISTORIC MOMENT:

-Sotomayor is the First Hispanic American Nominated to the Supreme Court.
-Sotomayor is the First Supreme Court Nominee in 52 Years to Have Both Federal District and Appellate Court Experience.
-Sotomayor is the First Person Nominated by Three Presidents of Both Parties to All Three Levels of the Federal Judiciary.
-Sotomayor is One of Small Group of Judges Nominated to the Federal Judiciary by Presidents of Different Parties.
-Sotomayor is the First Person Since 1957 Nominated to the Supreme Court to Have Served on Federal District Court.

SOTOMAYOR'S EXPERIENCE SETS HER APART FROM PREVIOUS NOMINEES

-Sotomayor Will Bring More Federal Judicial Experience Than Any Jurist in 100 Years to the Bench.
-Sotomayor Will Bring More Overall Judicial Experience to the Court Than Any Nominee in the Past 70 Years.
-Sotomayor Will be the Only Current Supreme Court Judge With Trial Judge Experience.
-Judge Sotomayor Has Both Corporate and Public Legal Experience.

A Swinish Slap

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is hitting House Republicans for their vote last month against the supplemental appropriations bill, which included $2 billion in funding to fight the H1N1 virus -- also known as swine flu.

A press release went out to media in the districts of more than 50 GOP members, including party leaders Eric Cantor (Va.), Mike Pence (Ind.) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.). In all, 170 Republicans voted against the bill on June 16, as did 32 Democrats -- none of whom were included in this blitz.

The release provided to RCP targets Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.). "Despite 111 confirmed and probable cases in Nebraska of H1N1 flu already, and with many scientists predicting a 'second wave' of the pandemic in the coming months, Representative Lee Terry joined fellow Party of No Republicans this year in opposing funds to help families, schools, and businesses prepare for the worst," the release states.

"The message from this spring's H1N1 flu outbreak was loud and clear: planning needs to start now. Yet, instead of heeding this wake up call, Representative Lee Terry rolled over and hit the snooze button," said DCCC national press secretary Ryan Rudominer. "The families, schools, and businesses that are now racing against the clock to prepare for this fall's flu pandemic deserve better than Representative Terry playing politics with money that could help them get better prepared today."

The backdrop for the campaign is the administration's H1N1 Preparedness Summit held yesterday at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.

Has Obama Lost His Sway?

First, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper opted out of challenging Republican Sen. Richard Burr, despite a White House sit-down with President Obama. Now, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has decided not to run for Senate, even after her own private White House visit.

This begs an obvious question: Has Obama lost his sway?

Obama seemed able to snag almost anyone he wanted to join his administration -- he tapped a potential 2012 rival in Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (R) to serve as ambassador to China, and even Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) hopped on board for a day or two before declining the nomination for Commerce Secretary.

The president appeared equally adept at getting candidates to drop bids against incumbents he wants to protect -- a quick phone call was all it took to get Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) to drop any plans for a challenge to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).

However, along with his inability to sway Cooper and Madigan, the White House hasn't had any luck keeping Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) from challenging Gillibrand or Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) from taking on the second-newest Democrat in the Senate, Arlen Specter (Pa.).

DNC TV Ad Slams McConnell

The Democratic National Committee begins airing a TV ad today in the home state of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, calling the five-term Kentucky senator "Leader No."

This is the latest salvo in a line of criticism against the Republican leader whose party is down 20 senators. In May, the DNC released a web video questioning McConnell's leadership.

The ad's announcer states: "Call Mitch McConnell. Tell him after eight years of being part of the problem, it's time to be part of the solution."

The ad will run this week on cable stations in Lexington and Louisville.

DCCC: GOP Still Party of 'No'

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chalked up today's job numbers as a result of "George Bush's failed economic policies," and said the Republican Party's response to helping fix the economy continues to be, "No."

The economy lost 467,000 jobs last month and unemployment is at its highest point in a quarter-century, according to a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Much of the jobs lost during this 16 months-and-counting recession took place during the Bush administration, though Republicans have focused their attacks on the fact that the Democrat-written stimulus plan doesn't appear to have slowed it down.

"Times are tough, Americans deserve more than Republicans' no jobs and no solutions, and no progress commitment to the status quo," said DCCC spokesperson Jennifer Crider. "Republicans ought to roll their sleeves up and work with President Obama and House Democrats on turning the economy around."

Independence Day Targets

Shortly after the House squeezed in a vote on the Waxman-Markey energy and climate change bill late Friday, Members hit the road for a week-long Fourth of July break. While back in their districts, though, some will be inundated by opposition efforts from the parties' House campaign arms.

The National Republican Congressional Committee is targeting Democrats in Ohio and Virginia that voted for the energy bill. Press releases went out to the formerly Republican districts of Ohio Dems John Boccieri, Steve Driehaus, Mary Jo Kilroy and Zack Space -- all of whom are in their first or second terms.

"Whatever favors Mary Jo Kilroy might have traded for her support for Nancy Pelosi's National Energy Tax, they hardly make up for the higher energy costs and lost jobs that will plague Ohio as a result of their Kilroy's Washington horse trading," NRCC spokesman Ken Spain said in one release. "Mary Jo Kilroy owes her constituents an explanation as to why she continues to back an agenda that is nothing short of destructive to Ohio families."

Releases also went out in the Virginia districts of Tom Perriello and Rick Boucher. John McCain won both of their districts in 2008. In separate statements, Spain said Boucher "sold out Southwest Virginia's middle class" because of the coal jobs some project will be lost, and Perriello showed an "utter lack of concern" for middle class families in his majority rural district.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is launching 60-second radio ads to run during drive-time in the districts of seven Republicans who voted against the supplemental appropriations bill, which among other things funds the wars through September. The House agreed to the conference report June 16 on a 226-202 roll call vote; the Senate approved it two days later.

Those targeted are: Ken Calvert (CA), Charlie Dent (PA), Jim Gerlach (PA), Dan Lungren (CA), Mike McCaul (TX), Lee Terry (NE) and Joe Wilson (SC).

"Republicans never hesitated to criticize those who voted against the previous supplemental bills that included funding for the troops, but now that they are trying to score political points, Republicans' votes have conveniently changed," DCCC executive director Jon Vogel said in a statement released Friday. "So this Independence Day, we are going district by district to hold these hypocritical Republicans accountable."

John Edwards Pondering A Return To Politics?

Talk about timing. The Washington Post this afternoon runs a story based on what it calls "first extended interview" with former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) since he confirmed last August having an affair with Rielle Hunter. It covers a range of subjects, including his 2008 campaign for president. But he "refused to address Hunter, the baby's paternity, his wife's memoir, or the investigation."

He does talk about his future:

He says he has no plans to make a push to restore his name, along the lines of what former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer has embarked on. Reputation "is not something I'm focused on," he said. "The only relevance of it at all is my ability to help people. That's the only reason it matters. I'm not engaged in, or interested in, being in a p.r. campaign."

But he did not rule out a return to politics. He said it was too early to say what the future held -- though an Al Gore-style advocacy role was more likely than elected office, given the scandal. He thinks "every day" about what form his future role in activism or public life could take, but "right now, a lot of that is unanswerable."

You can read the rest here.

DCCC Slams House GOPers For Just Saying 'No'

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is launching press releases in the districts of more than 60 House Republicans, including leaders John Boehner (OH-08), Eric Cantor (VA-07) and Pete Sessions (TX-32), highlighting the fact that they voted against the economic stimulus package.

The press releases state that despite a high unemployment rate, "things are starting to turn around thanks to President Obama's economic recovery act, but no thanks to Representative Pete Sessions's 'just say no' opposition to it."

While today's unemployment numbers appeared to be dismal, Democrats are highlighting reports indicating that the losses were not as bad as expected.

Republican leaders had used today's report as a chance to bash Democratic economic policies, however a New York Times piece today quotes T. Rowe Price chief economist Alan D. Levenson saying the numbers actually show the country "could be at flat employment" by the end of the summer.

"When will Representative Pete Sessions finally decide to be part of the solution instead of just saying no to President Obama's economic recovery policies that are starting to turn around the unemployment mess that George Bush created," Ryan Rudominer, DCCC national press secretary, says in the release. "Families are still hurting badly in these tough times. People losing their jobs in the Bush recession need action in the form of economic recovery, not Representative Sessions's determination to just say no."

DCCC Targets Anti-Stimulus GOPers

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is once again targeting Republicans who voted against the economic stimulus package. The committee began running radio ads this morning that will continue for a week, and it's also unleashing robo calls and e-mails to paint the GOP as the "party of no."

Of course, every single House Republican voted against the bill -- twice, even -- but the DCCC is focusing on the districts of six Members: Brian Bilbray (CA-50), Charlie Dent (PA-15), Peter King (NY-03), Thaddeus McCotter (MI-11), Tom Rooney (FL-16) and Don Young (AK-AL).

"We are once again going district by district to hold 'just say no' House Republicans accountable for voting against thousands of jobs for their constituents and against middle class tax cuts that would immediately help ease the economic crisis for families struggling to make ends meet," DCCC Executive Director Jon Vogel said in a released statement. "In these tough times, middle class families who are worried about keeping their jobs want action in the form of middle class tax cuts and economic recovery, not the House Republicans' 'just say no' obstruction."

Here is text of a radio ad: "Did you know Congressman King voted against the Economic Recovery Plan? He opposed an $800 tax cut and opposed creating or saving 215,000 New York jobs. Tell King to put New York first." [followed by disclaimer]

And here is text from the robo calls: "I'm calling from the DCCC to tell you how disappointed I am in Congressman Thad McCotter. He keeps voting "no" on everything. Congressman McCotter even voted against the economic recovery plan, which is at work now to create or save over 109,000 Michigan jobs. He voted "no" on transportation projects that mean good jobs right here - like widening Canton Center road. He even voted against an $800 tax credit for Michigan couples. I hope you'll join me in calling Congressman McCotter to tell him to stop voting "no," to stop standing in the way of getting the economy moving again."

DSCC Hires Daily Kos Blogger

The netroots' increasing influence on the national political scene has just taken another step forward. On Monday, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee hired Arjun Jaikumar to serve as the blog and netroots outreach manager.

Jaikumar is better known in the netroots community as Brownsox, a frontpage blogger for Daily Kos.

"We are thrilled to have Arjun join our team," DSCC spokesman Eric Schultz wrote in an e-mail to RCP. "He's talented, smart, and will help strengthen our relationships with the ever-expanding netroots community."

RCP spotted Jaikumar in Arlington, Va., on Monday at a fundraiser for gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe. He said he was there unofficially and noted that he had just been hired by the DSCC.

Earlier in the day, Jaikumar wrote in his final blog post on Daily Kos that this was "a great moment for the netroots - three and a half years ago, I was an anonymous, underemployed college graduate who stumbled across Daily Kos while looking for news on Senate races. Now, I'm going to be employed by one of the party committees."

The DSCC is not alone in its strategy for netroots outreach. Hotline's Blogometer noted yesterday that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's (D-N.Y.) campaign has also hired a netroots blogger -- MyDD's Todd Beeton.

DNC Web Video Questions McConnell's Leadership

A new web video from the Democratic National Committee takes the argument made by Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning (R) that the GOP's nearly-20 seat deficit in the Senate is a reflection of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's leadership.

DNC Marks 100 Day Milestone

The DNC portrays President Obama's first 100 days as a time of keeping his promises in a new TV ad out today.

The 60-second spot splices together promises Obama made on the campaign trail last year with news reports of him signing legislation meeting those goals, with the Recovery Act first among them. It closes with Obama's address to Congress where he mentions energy, health care and education, certain to be among his top priorities in the next phase of his administration.

Party Fundraising: Tale of the Tape

The DNC just announced its first-quarter fundraising numbers, reporting $11.9 million raised and $9.8 million cash on hand. The DNC took in another $5 million during the quarter from the Obama Victory Fund and Obama for America, and also reported more than $6.6 million in debts.

The RNC announced Friday that it had raised $25.3 million in the first quarter, including $7,351,000 transferred from the McCain-Palin campaign in January.

Here's a quick breakdown:

              Dems              GOP
Raised 3/09 $ 5,573,000 $ 6,700,000
Raised 1stQ $11,857,000 $25,300,000
CoH $ 9,766,000 $23,900,000

TX-10: DCCC Targeting McCaul

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will begin running radio ads next week in the districts of six Republicans, all of whom voted against the economic recovery package. One of the six targeted districts, though, sticks out from the rest.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), whose 10th District runs from the Houston suburbs west to include parts of Austin, is the only one of the six targeted members to represent a district won by John McCain in 2008. Both McCaul and McCain won the district by 11 points in November, which begs the question: Is the DCCC really targeting this seat?

Apparently they are, and in no small part because of an already well-funded candidate named Jack McDonald, whose exploratory committee announced yesterday that it had raised more than $300,000 in just five weeks. Should McDonald, a self-described "centrist Democrat" and "successful businessman," officially jump in the race, he'll face a Republican whose winning percentage has dropped significantly as his opponents have spent more money, but who held off a well-funded opponent last year.

McCaul was elected comfortably to Congress with 79 percent in 2004, when no Democrat ran in the general election and two third-party candidates spent no more than $50,000 combined. McCaul's Dem opponent in 2006 spent a paltry $64,000, yet still garnered 40 percent of the vote. And McCaul's percentage dropped to 55 percent.

In 2008, a DailyKos/Research2000 poll released late in the campaign found Democrat Larry Joe Doherty trailing McCaul by just 4 points. Doherty spent $1.2 million, about a half-million less than McCaul, and the Republican's winning percentage dropped to 54 percent, below the threshold of what should be considered a solid victory.

The other five Republican congressmen the DCCC is targeting in radio ads next week include: Mike Castle (Delaware), Ken Calvert (CA-44), Charlie Dent (PA-15), Thaddeus McCotter (MI-11) and Bill Young (FL-10).

"Heading into Tax Day, we are again going district by district to hold 'just say no' House Republicans accountable for voting against middle class tax cuts that would immediately help ease the economic crisis for families struggling to make ends meet," said DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen.

The committee is calling this the fourth phase of its "Putting Families First" campaign, with the ads set to begin airing Monday morning and run for a week. The ad can be heard here:

Vogel Named DCCC Executive Director

Jon Vogel, who recently signed on as a partner at Global Strategy Group, has gone back to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, replacing Brian Wolff as executive director.

During the 2008 election cycle, Vogel led the independent expenditure program, which the DCCC credits with picking up 24 seats. Vogel also served as political director, and in 2006 as the Northeastern and Florida regional political director.

"I'm excited that Jon Vogel will be our new Executive Director," DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen said today in a released statement. "Jon brings a deep level of understanding about House campaigns that can only be gained from two extremely successful cycles."

Obama Highlights Kaine's Bipartisan Record In DNC Nod

Putting his stamp on the Democratic Party, President-elect Barack Obama handed his party chairmanship to Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, a friend and ally who was the first governor outside Illinois to endorse him.

The two appeared together at a brief press conference at the DNC headquarters near Capitol Hill. Absent was the outgoing party chair, Howard Dean, who both men praised for laying the groundwork for the party's successes.

"Howard deserves enormous credit for helping usher in a new era in Washington," Obama said. "Now's the time not only to build on Howard's record of achievement, but to remake the Democratic Party to meet the challenges of the 21st century."

Even in choosing Kaine to be the partisan-in-chief, the president-elect highlighted his bipartisan record. Obama said that as the governor of a state "that reflects America," Kaine had been successful "not by appealing to our divisions, but by appealing to our common hopes. "

"Tim knows that breaking free of the old orthodoxies and reaching across party lines isn't just a way build a Democratic Party that's more open and inclusive. It's a way to achieve progress for all Americans," he said. "He understands that while politics is tough, and we need to fight hard for our ideals and our values, we also need to work together to solve our common problems."

Kaine thanked Obama for the selection, calling him a "very persuasive individual." As chairman, he said he would focus on three goals: promoting Obama's agenda, carrying "the proud banner of a proud party," and working to "engage citizens to be active in civic life."

"We have made the party in Virginia working every day a party of problem solvers," he said. "We're not the ideologues, the obstructionists, the gridlock folks. ... And we're not the dividers. We've rejected the politics of negativity, the politics that often energizes the 51 percent by beating up on the 49 percent."

Kaine, who is prohibited by Virginia law from serving a second consecutive term, has one year remaining in office. He'll serve as a part-time chairman until he leaves office. Since becoming governor in 2005, Virginia Democrats have won two U.S. Senate elections, a majority of the U.S. House seats and taken control of the state Senate.

The smooth transition in the Democratic Party stands in contrast to a tough fight for the top political post in the GOP. Republicans will choose from a crowded field during their winter meeting at the end of January.

Rangel's Fate Still Unknown

Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a statement late Wednesday, on Thanksgiving eve, that she expects a House Ethics committee report on the questioned dealings of Ways and Means Committee chairman Charles Rangel to be completed by Jan. 3.

Pelosi's statement followed two days of renewed questions regarding Rangel, after a New York Times article reported he "was instrumental in preserving a lucrative tax loophole that benefited an oil-drilling company last year, while at the same time its chief executive was pledging $1 million" to help fund a new City College of New York school of public service that will be named in Rangel's honor.

This latest New York Times story was followed by an editorial the next day in the same paper, which called on Pelosi to ensure the ethics investigation was moving forward. "We hope that Speaker Nancy Pelosi is shocked into action. She should insist that the ethics investigation move forward -- and that Mr. Rangel relinquish his chairmanship during the inquiry. If Mr. Rangel continues to resist, the speaker should permanently reassign the gavel. In a deep economic crisis, the committee, and the country, cannot afford the distraction," the Times editorialized.

The Washington Post jumped into the fray as well, writing Saturday that Rangel "should step aside as chairman while the ethics committee expands its inquiry."

National Journal's Richard E. Cohen, one of the most knowledgeable and well-sourced House reporters, wrote in Congress Daily on Friday that Rangel "faces a potential double-barreled challenge when the new Congress convenes in January: House members could seek to force a vote on whether he should get another two years in his powerful post; at the same time the House Ethics Committee is scheduled to issue a report on its investigation of several news reports about his possible ethical violations."

What's ahead for Rangel remains unknown, but one thing is for sure: Pelosi will not be able to side-step this investigation, as all eyes are on the chairman of this powerful tax-writing committee.

Dean Done At DNC

Four years after taking over the helm of the Democratic National Committee, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean is calling it quits, multiple news organizations are reporting.

Elevated to the top DNC slot after his failed but ground-breaking presidential campaign, Dean enraged some Washington insiders but thrilled state party activists by investing resources in even heavily-Republican territory through his 50-state strategy. That strategy, some now say, helped propel Democrats to unlikely victories over the last two cycles.

Dean can also claim credit -- or take the blame, depending on one's perspective -- for elevating the liberal netroots to new prominence in the party. During his watch at 430 South Capitol Street, Dean involved groups like the DailyKos community to an extent previously unmatched in politics.

Meanwhile, Dean maintained a contentious and at times bruised relationship with top Congressional Democrats like Rep. Rahm Emanuel and Senator Charles Schumer, who headed their party's campaign efforts in the House and Senate in 2006. At one well-publicized meeting, Emanuel, whose DCCC offices were in the same building as Dean's, huffed out of Dean's office after a loud disagreement over party spending.

Dean's tenure saw a downturn in fundraising but a dramatic uptick in electoral results after disappointing cycles in 2000, 2002 and 2004. While the national atmosphere, President Bush's low approval ratings and strong performances from both the DCCC and the DSCC deserve most of the credit for Democratic successes of late, the national party did help build state and local organizations in areas that were previously the sole domain of Republicans.

With the Vermont governor no longer in the picture, early speculation about a long list of potential replacements will begin. President-elect Barack Obama will have a hand in the selection, which has historically been used either to reward big-name backers or install fundraising and political powerhouses.

Bill Clinton did both, installing 1992 campaign manager David Wilhelm and political operatives like Steve Grossman, Joe Andrew and Terry McAuliffe for some periods and well-known public officials like former Colorado Governor Roy Romer and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell.

If Obama chooses the big-name route, he might tap a governor who faces term limits, like Tim Kaine or Bill Richardson. On the other hand, Obama could throw his support behind campaign manager David Plouffe, who many have floated as bound for bigger and better things after steering Obama's campaign to an historic win.

Democrats will meet early next year to elect a new chair.

Waxman Seeks E&C Chair

California Rep. Henry Waxman built a reputation in the 110th Congress as a fierce watchdog, exercising his authority as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. In the 111th Congress, Waxman wants to be known as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Waxman today began campaigning for the prominent post, mounting a bid against incumbent chairman John Dingell of Michigan. Waxman, the second-ranking member of the committee, has a small cadre of early backers making phone calls to whip on his behalf. Tennessee Rep. Jim Cooper is one member who has called several members on behalf of the Californian.

But Dingell will be hard to unseat. The Michigan congressman, just elected to his 27th full term in Congress and the dean of the Democratic caucus, has served as chair or ranking member of the committee since 1981, becoming one of the most powerful members of Congress while irritating some environmentally-friendly Democrats with his fierce defense of the automobile industry.

A top Democratic leadership aide told Politics Nation that Waxman's decision to challenge his senior colleague caught party leaders by surprise. The leadership aide also said Waxman's challenge appears to be serious.

Van Hollen Done With DCCC

Claiming credit for bucking historical trends after his party netted 22 seats last night, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Chris Van Hollen nonetheless told reporters today he is through after one term as the House party's chief political strategist.

Asked about his future at a post-election press conference, Van Hollen said he wouldn't seek a new term as chairman. "I'm exploring all my options. An option I'm not exploring is continuing as chairman of the DCCC," Van Hollen said. "It's been a great two years, it's been a wonderful experience working with my colleagues."

With rumors swirling that Democratic Conference chairman Rahm Emanuel may head to the White HOuse as chief of staff, Van Hollen may be looking for a promotion in Democratic leadership. Van Hollen said he had not talked to Emanuel about the Illinois congressman's plans, and he was circumspect about his own future. "I look forward to continuing to be a part of the discussion," was all Van Hollen would say.

With Van Hollen vacating the top post at the DCCC, speculation will center on Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who with Van Hollen co-chaired the party's "Red to Blue" program in 2006. This year, Wasserman Schultz co-chaired the program, which targeted vulnerable Republican-held seats, with Rep. Artur Davis of Alabama and Iowa Rep. Bruce Braley. Both Davis and Braley have also been mentioned as potential future chairs of the DCCC.

A spokesman for Wasserman Schultz said she is traveling today.

Unlike Republicans, who have to run to head their party's campaign arm, Democrats give sole power to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to decide who will head the DCCC. A spokesperson for Pelosi could not be immediately reached.

Why Dems Love The Phils

Quote of the day, from this weekend's Politics Nation on XM Radio:

"If you're Senator Obama and you're making the case, as some of the people are, that this is the next revolutionary election since 1980, you'd be rooting for the Phillies, because the first and last time that they won the World Series was in 1980. So if you want to complete the circle of history, then the Democrats should be rooting for the Philadelphia Phillies."

-- Craig Shirley, GOP consultant.

DCCC Drops More Cash

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is following up its first major ad buy two weeks ago by reserving another $18 million in television time for their candidates across the country. The new purchase, which brings Democrats' total reservations to $53 million, will target a total of twenty new districts, increasing the playing field to fifty-one seats on both sides of the aisle.

The new purchase, much like the first round, heavily favors spending in Republican-held districts. Seven of the targeted seats are being vacated by Republican members of Congress this year, while another eight are held by GOP members seeking re-election. The five remaining seats are held by Democrats, including Alabama Rep. Bud Cramer's open seat.

Republicans, who trail in cash on hand by a six-to-one margin, took some comfort after the first round of advertising reservations by crowing about some seats left off the list of early targets. Many of those seats are included in the second round, pointing to districts like those in which Democrats have had recent success.

Among those archetypes are seats held by Reps. Dave Reichert, of Washington, and Mark Kirk, of Illinois. Both are suburban districts in which Democratic candidates at other levels, including the presidential, have won. Democrats have reserved $949,000 to target Reichert, whose district encompasses much of suburban Seattle, and $1.4 million to take on Kirk in the pricier Chicago suburbs.

Democrats have also found success in the economically-depressed stretch between the Northeast and the Rust Belt. The party has laid down a combined $2.7 million to target three Republican-held seats in upstate New York, two held by retiring Reps. Tom Reynolds and Jim Walsh and one by incumbent Rep. Randy Kuhl.

But the party has to play defense as well, and the DCCC is starting with two of its three most junior members. Democrats reserved $723,000 to defend Louisiana freshman Don Cazayoux in the first round, and it has now put aside a combined $2.08 million to defend its other two special election winners, Reps. Bill Foster, of Illinois, and Travis Childers, of Mississippi.

Democrats will also spend money defending two freshmen members, Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who faces a tough challenge in State Senate President Tim Bee, and California's Jerry McNerney, who is running against highly-touted Republican recruit Dean Andal.

A full list of districts targeted and the amount the DCCC has reserved can be found after the jump.

Continue reading "DCCC Drops More Cash" »

DCCC Holds Volunteer Contest

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced a new contest among every Democratic House campaign to see who can bring out the most volunteers on July 26 -- exactly 100 days until the election -- to canvass and man phone banks. The winner, per the DCCC, will benefit from a fundraising e-mail sent on their behalf to the 3 million people in the committee's address book.

Calling it "Mobilize for Change: A National Day of Action," DCCC chairman Chris Van Hollen said the contest is a "way for campaigns to boost their volunteer base."

"The DCCC is committed to reaching voters across the country with our message of change and has begun contacting voters earlier than ever before," Van Hollen was quoted saying in the press release. "By starting earlier, Democrats are reaching voters that are not yet being fully bombarded by political messages, which we know from our three special election wins is critical to our success."

In what it calls an "unprecedented" voter contact program that aims to reach as many voters as possible through door knocks and phone calls, the campaign committee says its on pace to reach 13 million voters in more than 50 districts. To put that in some perspective, 13 million voters is just more than one-tenth of all the people who voted for president in 2004.

Messages left with the DCCC and Obama campaign, inquiring whether there would be any coordination on this project between the two, were not returned by the time of publication.

Both the DCCC and its GOP counterpart, the National Republican Congressional Committee raised their cash-on-hand totals last month, though the DCCC still holds a more than six-to-one advantage. After raising $10 million from June 1 to June 30, the DCCC reports having $54.6 million in the bank. The NRCC had a good month raising $6 million, though still has just $8.5 million on hand.

--Kyle Trygstad

Dems Make Major Buy

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is taking advantage of its huge financial advantage already, making major media buys in 31 Congressional districts around the country, according to an internal document obtained by Politics Nation. The DCCC has reserved $34.5 million worth of television time, including $22.5 million in districts currently held by Republicans.

Democrats enjoy a huge financial advantage over Republicans. Through the end of May, the DCCC held $47.1 million in cash reserves, while the National Republican Congressional Committee had just $6.65 million in the bank. That disparity will play a huge role in November, and Democrats are already laying the foundation with the first round of major ad buys.

Of the nineteen Republican districts Democrats have reserved time in, the party has a good chance to pick up as many as a dozen. Nine Republican incumbents, including Alaska Rep. Don Young, Michigan Reps. Joe Knollenberg and Tim Walberg, Nevada Rep. Jon Porter and Ohio Rep. Steve Chabot, are early targets of DCCC media buys.

The party is targeting ten Republican-held open seats as well. In Arizona's First District, Rep. Rick Renzi's retirement has made Democratic former State Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick the early front-runner. In New York's Thirteenth District, Rep. Vito Fossella's retirement after being charged with a DUI has left Republicans virtually without an opponent.

But after picking up thirty seats in 2006 and another three in special elections this year, Democrats realize they have to play defense as well. The party will defend Reps. Jason Altmire, a Pennsylvanian who faces a rematch with his 2006 opponent Melissa Hart, Texan Nick Lampson, who will face former Congressional aide Pete Olson, and Harry Mitchell, a freshman from Arizona who will face the winner of a competitive primary.

Too, the party has already reserved time to defend retiring Rep. Darlene Hooley's suburban and exurban Portland seat in Oregon. State Senator Kurt Shrader, the Democratic nominee, is seen as the front-runner after Republican Mike Erickson faced embarrassing personal revelations following his state's May primary.

In total, the DCCC has reserved $12 million to protect their own incumbents and Hooley's open seat. The nine Republican incumbents will be targeted with up to $9 million in total spending, while the DCCC has reserved another $13.5 million for Republican-held open seats.

Still, these numbers can change over the coming months. Reserving time is not the same thing as buying time, and, should Democrats decide one race is easily won or already lost, the party can shift resources to other districts. Having reserved time only ensures the DCCC can spend money before commercial advertisers and other political candidates buy the time remaining, driving prices up.

Too, with Barack Obama, John McCain and both parties expected to spend millions in a wider number of states than normal, both including traditionally Democratic and Republican states, cheaper political advertising rates will run out quickly, while traditional advertising rates will balloon.

Full list of targeted districts and amount of ad buys after the jump.

Continue reading "Dems Make Major Buy" »

DNC Platform Cmte Released

National Democrats will be guided by Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, a long-time Barack Obama supporter, when they craft their platform at the convention in Denver, the Democratic National Committee announced today. The Copper State chief will head up the party's Platform Drafting Committee in advance of the full committee hammering out a draft to be voted on by the convention.

Napolitano will be joined by prominent Democrats from around the country, including Reps. Tammy Baldwin, Rosa DeLauro, Patrick Murphy and Linda Sanchez, as well as Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, Maryland Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown and Obama advisers Susan Rice and Heather Higginbottom. The committee includes prominent Clinton backers, like Baldwin and Granholm, as well as Obama backers.

The drafting committee is scheduled to meet August 1 in Cleveland, Ohio, to hear from the public, but that's not the only chance voters will have to give input. The party will also hold platform meetings in local communities which will produce summaries to be reviewed by the full, elected committee, the DNC announced today.

"From the beginning, we said we were going bring down the traditional walls of the Democratic Convention and make this event more accessible and include as many people as possible," DNC chief Howard Dean said in a statement. "This process will empower Americans in all 50 states to make their voices heard as they help write the document that embodies our Party's values and vision for the future."

That Obama's campaign would open the process, at least nominally, to non-party elites is nothing new. Previous nominees have sent their platform committees on junkets around the country to take testimony in a number of different cities. Still, the breadth of Obama's reach is once again in play, as the Illinois Senator makes it known that a certain, likely very high, number of people are interested in crafting the ideological foundation of his campaign.

After the platform is drafted in Cleveland, the full committee will meet in Pittsburgh the following week to hammer out the final version to be voted on by delegates to the convention. Deval Patrick, governor of Massachusetts, and former New Mexico Attorney General Patricia Madrid will co-chair the full committee, along with former Discovery Communications president and CEO Judith McHale.

In charge of the entire process will be Karen Kornbluh, who serves as Obama's policy director in his Senate office. Kornbluh, the Principle Author of the Platform, will be joined by National Platform Director Michael Yaki, a one-time top aide to Nancy Pelosi and a commissioner on the U.S. Comission on Civil Rights.

It is unusual for either party to face serious fights over what normally turns out to be a ratification of the nominee's wishes, though conservatives have hinted that they might cause a ruckus at the Republican Convention in St. Paul, especially over issues like climate change and immigration.

Dems Get Ambitious

Flush with a cash advantage that looks increasingly ominous for Republicans, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is targeting thirteen Republicans with a new radio ad blitz through the Fourth of July, including in some seats the party has only a slim chance of picking up.

The ad includes a comedian who impersonates President Bush, and accuses targeted Republicans of backing oil companies at a time of record gas prices. "President Bush's Big Oil energy policies delivered high gas prices to the American people, so who better to deliver our message than someone who sounds just like him?" DCCC chair Chris Van Hollen said in a statement announcing the campaign.

Some targeted Republicans will face serious challenges come November. Democratic challengers to Reps. Thelma Drake, of Virginia, Shelly Moore Capito, of West Virginia, Steve Chabot, of Ohio and Robin Hayes, of North Carolina, have been named to the Red to Blue program for candidates the party thinks have top chances of knocking off their GOP rivals.

Other Republicans could be added to that list. Democrats running against Reps. Brian Bilbray, of California, Charlie Dent and Phil English, of Pennsylvania, Scott Garrett, of New Jersey, Virgil Goode, of Virginia, Patrick McHenry, of North Carolina, Peter Roskam, of Illinois and Jean Schmidt, of Ohio, are seen as "emerging" challengers who may, in the future, be added to the Red to Blue program.

While some races seem out of reach, others are getting an inordinate amount of attention from Democratic Party leaders. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, for example, held a campaign event for Dennis Shulman, running against Garrett in the Fifth District of New Jersey, which touches New York State. Shulman remains a long shot, though Garrett won re-election with just 55% of the vote in 2006.

Hoyer's visit, and attention the DCCC is paying to candidates running against Bilbray, McHenry and others, are attempts, with four months to go before the general election, to dramatically expand the playing field. Those efforts will not be successful in all cases, but if the party can put a few additional seats in play, it will dramatically stretch the few dollars Republicans have in their warchest, forcing tough decisions that could limit the party's ability to play offense.

DCCC Plunks Down Big Bucks

House Democrats started flexing their financial muscle last night, reserving their first major advertising slots ahead of November elections and offering a peek into the party's priorities. In all, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reserved $4 million in three competitive districts between September and the November 4 election, beginning the process of swamping Republicans with their financial advantage.

Buoyed by surprising and scandalous revelations that forced Rep. Vito Fossella to announce his retirement from his Staten Island-based Thirteenth District in New York, Democrats plunked down $2.1 million in the pricey New York City market. The party has largely coalesced around New York City Councilmember Mike McMahon, while Republicans are struggling to find a candidate of their own.

After one candidate the GOP settled on passed away last weekend, a new round of recruitment efforts has been rebuffed by everyone on the list, including Fossella himself. At least eight potential candidates have said no to Republican efforts to get them on the ballot. McMahon looks very likely to take back the last Republican-held seat that touches any part of New York City.

Democrats have also reserved about $700,000 on Colorado's eastern slope and high plains, money targeted at ousting incumbent Republican Marilyn Musgrave. Musgrave's Fourth District, which looks like an inverted "L" hanging north and curving down the state's eastern edge, has been contested before, and while Democrats came close in 2006, they are confident in former congressional aide Betsy Markey's chances.

The ad buy comes largely in the Denver media market, which feeds into the bulk of the district's homes, with a smaller amount coming in the Colorado Springs-Pueblo market. Musgrave has a significant cash advantage, with more than $1 million in the bank through November compared with $376,000 for Markey. But the DCCC's commitment can take away Musgrave's advantage in a heartbeat.

Democrats aren't completely playing offense, though. The party has also reserved $1.2 million in advertising time in the Portland, Oregon market in order to defend retiring Rep. Darlene Hooley's seat. Hooley's district is the most competitive in the state, running from south of Portland and the Cascade Mountains to the Pacific Ocean and including Salem, the state capital. President Bush won the district by a single point in both 2000 and 2004.

State Senator Kurt Schrader is in good position to keep the seat, as his Republican opponent, 2006 nominee Mike Erickson, has been battered by accusations that he paid for an abortion even though he says he is pro-life, accusations that first cropped up in the primary but have only gotten louder. Erickson came surprisingly close to beating Hooley in 2006, and he's got a lot of his own money to spend, but whether he will survive the scandal remains an open question.

Putting money into three seats so early gives the DCCC the opportunity to buy ads at cheaper political rates come the Fall. It does not, however, mean that Democrats have to spend their money in any of the seats. Democrats may find the New York and Oregon seats in their pockets by the time September or October roll around, and if the party decides the money is better spent elsewhere, they will do so.

With such a big cash advantage, look for national Democrats to plunk down money early and often. Republicans, who have yet to cross into the tens of millions of dollars on hand category, could find themselves hurt by increasing ad prices, especially as John McCain and Barack Obama start to make their own ad buys. But at least Republicans will know where Democrats are placing their bets.

Dems Finalize Rules Work

Far from the bright lights of the television cameras, under which the committee last met in early June, the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee concluded its official business this afternoon via conference call, finalizing the long, hard slog toward the Democratic convention in Denver.

The committee unanimously adopted the official report to the convention credentials committee in one of the fastest Rules and Bylaws meetings in recent memory -- committee member Donna Brazile joined the call as the meeting ended, wondering aloud,"Is the call over?" Twenty three states have already submitted complete and acceptable delegate slates, while nine states have yet to submit slates in compliance with Democratic rules on gender balance among delegates, alternates and standing committee members. The remaining states and territories have not completed their delegate selection process.

States that have yet to achieve gender equality among their delegations include Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Virginia. Ensuring equality across gender lines is the one authority reserved for the Rules and Bylaws Committee, and DNC Executive Director Phil McNamara said there had not been a waiver granted since the rule was adopted in 1984.

The panel referred just two delegate challenge to the convention credentials committee, which will take over most of the RBC's roles once it is convened in Denver. The legitimacy of an Obama delegate from Texas and a Clinton delegate from Wisconsin will be the only controversial matter decided by the credentials committee.

The Wisconsin matter, which involves First District Clinton backer Debra Bartoshevich, will be the most newsworthy, as Wisconsin party officials seek to disqualify the emergency room nurse. Bartoshevich, who is from Waterford, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that she would support Republican presidential nominee John McCain in the Fall, instead of Barack Obama. A Wisoconsin Democratic Party spokeswoman said the party was challenging Bartoshevich's status as a delegate to Denver.

RNC, The Only Saving Grace

Reports filed with the Federal Election Commission late Friday show Republicans picking up serious ground on the financial front, but only thanks to Mike Duncan's efforts at the Republican National Committee. As GOP campaign committees in both the House and the Senate continue to lag far behind their Democratic counterparts, RNC fundraising, thanks perhaps to a nomination battle that wrapped up far earlier than the Democrats' did, continues to outpace the Democratic National Committee by leaps and bounds.

The RNC raised $24.3 million in May, FEC reports show, while spending $11.5 million. The DNC raised just $4.8 million and spent $5.2 million. After John McCain clinched the GOP nomination, the party began raising funds through the Victory program, a joint fundraising effort with their presidential nominee. Republicans ended the month with a whopping $53.5 million in the bank, compared with just $3.9 million on hand for the DNC.

Barack Obama's clinching the nomination in early June should boost Democrats' fundraising numbers this month, though the South Capitol Street gang has a long way to go to catch up to their rivals at the Capitol Hill Club.

House Democrats continued to put distance between themselves and the National Republican Congressional Committee in May, raising $6.1 million and spending $4.2 million to end the month with $47.1 million in the bank. Republicans raised $5 million and spent $5.1 million, to finish with $6.65 million on hand. Much of both parties' spending went to early May special elections in Louisiana and Mississippi, both Republican seats which Democrats won.

Perhaps most telling, Democratic members of Congress are investing in their own conference. Last month, members gave $1.9 million to their own cause, building the party's cash-on-hand edge to a more than seven-to-one ratio. Republican members of an NRCC oversight committee, meanwhile, have complained about a lack of contributions from their own members, many of whom have apparently decided to stockpile their own cash in the event they, too, have more competitive races than expected.

On the Senate side, Democrats outraised Republicans as well, though Republicans earned enough to close their own yawning disparity. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised $5.9 million and spent $4.9 million, to end the month with $38.5 million on hand. Much of the money went to building field organizations in key battleground states, a process which began last month. The National Republican Senatorial Committee raised $4.9 million and spent $2.7 million, bringing their total in the bank to $21.5 million.

Both Senate committees have something to brag about this month. Republicans point out that they are in better position than they were in 2006, with nearly $3 million more in the bank and having raised more than they did two years ago last month. Democrats, though, have also raised more, and their cash on hand advantage is up slightly from two years ago.

GOP, Dems Pull In Big Dough

President Bush may have an approval rating that dips perilously below 30%, but at least Washington Republicans can still find some use for him. The National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee are holding a major fundraiser this evening that is expected to bring in $19 million to the two beleaguered campaign arms.

Chaired by Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling and Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, the dinner is expected to exceed its fundraising goals of $7 million for the NRCC and $12 million for the Senate, sources on both sides of the Hill said. Still, that doesn't mean all the money will come in tonight; a similar event featuring President Bush in March was said to have raised $8.6 million, though that money was spread between multiple FEC reports. Records show the party raised $7.1 million through March.

Democrats, who have outpaced their Republican rivals in fundraising success in both chambers, are also planning a new fundraising push for individual downballot candidates, Politico reports this morning, though the effort is not being run through either committee. Instead, a group of Hollywood women are planning a major fundraiser for September 27 that would directly benefit half a dozen key Senate candidates to the tune of at least $100,000 each.

Leaders of the group of organizers have signed agreements with Reps. Tom Allen, Tom Udall and Mark Udall, running for Senate seats in Maine, New Mexico and Colorado, respectively; Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, challenging Alaska Senator Ted Stevens; ex-Governor Jeanne Shaheen, running again in New Hampshire; and comedian Al Franken, in Minnesota.

Red To Blue Expands

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is building its Red to Blue program, Roll Call's David Drucker reports this morning, adding fourteen more candidates from Republican-held districts the party thinks it has a legitimate shot at winning. That brings to 37 the total number of districts the party is putting among its top-tier targets.

Districts targeted range from those seen as highly likely to take back Republican-held seats, like Fairfax County Board of Supervisors chairman Gerry Connolly in Virginia's Eleventh District, to those seen as longer shots, like businessman Glenn Nye in Virginia's Second District and Queen Anne County State's Attorney Frank Kratovil in Maryland's First District.

While some of the seats seem within Democrats' reach, others seem to be rather ambitious. National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Ken Spain told Drucker the DCCC was just "trotting out their B-list candidates" to get some free press. Still, as Democrats have a massive cash on hand advantage, they will be able to make Republicans worry about districts they might otherwise not be concerned with.

Too, as Democrats press their advantage even in seats in which they start off as severe underdogs, Republicans will not be able to play offense as much as they might like. By adding to the Red to Blue program, Democrats can simultaneously help those incumbents endangered enough to be on the Frontline program for vulnerable incumbents.

Twenty additional candidates could be on pace to qualify for the program, which aids candidates with fundraising, communications and other assistance from Washington. Some, like former Nevada Democratic Party chair Jill Derby, have prior political experience (Derby lost to Republican freshman Dean Heller by five points in 2006), while others, including businessman Michael Skelly, challenging Rep. John Culberson in Texas' Seventh District, have seemingly come from nowhere.

Full list of challengers added to the Red to Blue program after the jump.

Continue reading "Red To Blue Expands" »

Obama Pens DCCC Email

Utilizing the available star power, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent out a fundraising plea signed by presidential nominee Barack Obama yesterday seeking contributions he promised would "remake the electoral map and create a governing majority that will transform this country."

Obama, who has already raised somewhere north of $300 million and will likely have his best fundraising month to date this month after securing the nomination, is helping another financial heavyweight. The DCCC finished April with $45.2 million in the bank, much higher than their Republican counterparts, who ended with just $6.7 million on hand. Both parties spent heavily in early May on special elections in Louisiana and Mississippi, both of which Democrats won.

Obama's solicitation on behalf of the committee comes a week after his campaign effectively took over operations at the Democratic National Committee, which resides in the same building south of the Capitol. Obama banned contributions from lobbyists and PACs to his own campaign, and the DNC followed suit, but the DCCC and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee have so far refused to do so.

Some Democratic candidates have been critical of the move, saying it puts them in the awkward position of having to explain why they accept donations from special interest groups, even in an era when campaigns cost more than ever.

National Republicans are only too happy to oblige. "It is the height of hypocrisy for Barack Obama to solicit campaign contributions on behalf of the very same campaign committee that opposes his position of refusing lobbyist donations," NRCC spokesman Ken Spain said in a statement released this morning. "It appears that Democrats want to have it both ways; they want to run on a platform of so-called 'change' while simultaneously shaking down Washington lobbyists before they bash them on the campaign trail."

Fundraising reports for May's activity are due June 20, while money raised from Obama's solicitation won't show up in FEC reports until July 20.

Dems Unite At DNC HQ

WASHINGTON -- One would not even need to enter the Democratic National Committee headquarters on Capitol Hill yesterday, where a press conference was being held, to know where the focus of the party's efforts is. A banner hanging over the front door reads: "John McCain = 3rd Bush Term."

Party leaders stood before a packed room of reporters and cameras yesterday proclaiming a unified party, as DNC chairman Howard Dean, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Democratic Governors' Association chairman Joe Manchin spoke about efforts to extend its majorities in the House, Senate and among the key governorships around the country, and on the importance of winning back the White House.

Reid said party leaders "have the closest association in the history of the Democratic Party," saying that the communication and cooperation between the House, Senate, DGA and DNC was unprecedented. Pelosi said that all the branches of party leadership "look forward now to joining forces to elect a Democratic President of the United States to take our country in a new direction."

Two Clinton supporters, Senators Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Patty Murray of Washington, also stepped up to the microphone to express their support for the presumptive Democratic nominee, Barack Obama -- a clear nod to Clinton primary voters, especially women, to do the same. Murray likened the situation to the rivalry between her Washington State University Cougars and the University of Washington Huskies. Though she rooted for her team, if the Huskies made the Rose Bowl, she would always root them on.

Another Clinton supporter, fellow New York Senator Charles Schumer, let out a high-pitched "Woooo!" after Reid said Obama would be the country's next president. Dean expressed his confidence that Obama will defeat McCain in November. "This is not just about Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, this is about our country," Dean said. "I have every belief that we will come together."

In another sign of the party's efforts to bring its supporters together, Pelosi noted two groups of Democratic voters that usually favored Clinton over Obama over the course of the primary season. "Women and blue collar workers, whatever their race, have the most to gain by the election of Barack Obama," Pelosi said.

The Republican National Committee has almost doubled the DNC's fundraising so far this election cycle, but Dean said the party will be closing that gap soon, noting that he had just finished writing 30 "thank you" letters to donors who had just given the maximum $28,500 donation. "Now that we have a nominee, we won't have any problem raising money," Dean said. "We are going to essentially be run by the Obama campaign."

He has a few more thank-yous to write to catch up, though; media reports indicate that the DNC will claim just over $4 million in the bank when they file with the FEC this month, while Republicans have more than $50 million on hand.

-- Kyle Trygstad

FL, MI Deals Reached

After a three-hour lunch meeting in which Rules and Bylaws Committee members privately argued over solutions by which delegates from Michigan and Florida will be seated at the Democratic National Convention in Denver this summer, committee members surprised observers by returning two quick verdicts.

The committee agreed unanimously with a proposal offered early this morning from Florida DNC member Jon Ausman, under which the Sunshine State will send a full compliment of 185 delegates to Denver, all of whom will have one half of one vote. An initial motion to seat every Florida delegate with a full vote failed, though by a surprisingly narrow 12-15 margin.

Michigan, which initially moved its primary to January 15 in violation of DNC rules, caused significantly more consternation during deliberations today. But after extended negotiations, a motion from Virginia committee member Mame Reiley, a Clinton backer, allocated 69 delegates to Hillary Clinton and 59 delegates to Barack Obama, each delegate with half a vote, passed by a 19-8 margin.

Dissenting members, largely backing Clinton, criticized the motion for what they said was a violation of a party rule known as fair reflection, arguing that by removing four delegates from the 73 Clinton would have gained out of Michigan, the process was unfair.

Overall, Clinton earned nineteen net delegates from Florida and five from Michigan, before super delegates from both states will be included. With the additional delegates allowed seats in Denver, the magic number Clinton and Obama strive for will be 2,118, up from the 2,026 delegates needed before today.

Not everyone left the hall happy, though. As co-chairs James Roosevelt and Alexis Herman attempted to gavel the meetings to a close, protests erupted in the back of the hall. "I'm not voting for Barack Obama!" shouted one woman, while others chanted, "Madam President!"

But ten hours after the committee convened, the specter of a nomination by just 48 states has been excised. The Rules and Bylaws Committee will next meet to offer their final report to the convention credentials committee in late June, a meeting Roosevelt promised to arrange by telephone.

MI Deal In The Works?

Nearly three hours after the Rules and Bylaws Committee broke for lunch, the meeting has not resumed, as committee members work to resolve delegate messes in Florida and Michigan. Multiple sources tell Politics Nation that a Florida compromise is largely finished, while one source tells Politics Nation that committee members remain in closed session working on a Michigan deal. Other media outlets are reporting the discussions continue.

At issue: Whether to accept the Clinton campaign's scenario, under which the New York Senator would get 73 delegates to Barack Obama's 55 (a proposal that is virtually dead on arrival), the Obama camp's plan, which would split the delegates along an even 64-64 line, or a compromise plan that would hand Clinton 69 delegates to Obama's 59.

If the committee can hash out their differences behind closed doors, they could finish their public deliberations relatively quickly. With a Florida compromise ready to go, the Wolverine State remains the only sticking point, and one on which, so far, neither campaign has been willing to budge.

Ickes And "Fair Reflection"

As the Rules and Bylaws Committee prepares to break for lunch in advance of debate over solutions to the Michigan and Florida conundrums, Hillary Clinton backer Harold Ickes has signaled that his argument on Michigan will center on the concept of "fair reflection." By invoking Rule 13 of the Democratic Party's delegate selection rules, Ickes hopes to win delegates beyond the 69 of 128 a group of prominent Michiganders have proposed.

"Delegates shall be allocated in a fashion that fairly reflects the expressed presidential preference, or uncommitted status of the primary voters or, if there is no binding primary, the convention and/or caucus participants," Rule 13(a) says. Clinton's campaign is defending the 56% of the vote she won on January 15, arguing that any allocation of delegates below the 73 that amount gives her would violate the fair reflection rule.

An important second point about Rule 13: Should the remaining delegates, allocated when voters cast ballots for the "undeclared" option on the ballot, be seated, the committee will then have to decide who controls selection of those delegates.

"If a presidential candidate (including uncommitted status) has qualified to receive delegates and alternates but has failed to slate a sufficient number of delegate and alternate candidates, then additional delegates and alternates for that preference will be selected in a special post-primary procedure," Rule 13(c) states. Whether the Obama campaign controls access to that post-primary procedure, in which delegate slots become named delegates, will be hotly contested by the Clinton campaign.

However, it is highly unlikely that the Rules and Bylaws Committee will adopt any plan that would not hand full control of at least 59 delegates -- or 29.5 total delegate votes -- to Obama.

MI's Case: Electability, History

Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer, himself a member of the Rules and Bylaws Committee, relied heavily on the importance of the state's electoral votes to a Democratic candidate's chances in November. Acknowledging their case is weaker than Florida's, especially given that a Democratic governor signed the legislation, Brewer still asked the committee to reseat all of the state's 128 convention delegates. That re-establishment of full voting rights, some committee members told Politics Nation, is unlikely.

Under a compromise plan agreed to by four prominent Democrats in the state -- Senator Carl Levin, Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, DNC member Debbie Dingell and United Auto Workers chief Ron Gettelfinger -- Brewer asked the committee allocate 69 delegates for Hillary Clinton and 59 delegates to Barack Obama. That is a smaller number for Clinton than the 73 delegates she would have won from the January 15 primary, and a smaller number for Obama than the even 64-64 split his campaign had advocated.

"The Michigan Democratic Party has achieved unity. We're asking you to preserve it," Senator Carl Levin told committee members. "There is no scientific way to reach the conclusion that we reached. But there is a fair way."

Such a division, though, would create a problem for the Rules and Bylaws Committee. Several members questioned whether the committee even had the authority to do so, given that Michigan's appeal is based less on established rules than on political consideration. "Are you relying on any rule?" asked committee member Eric Kleinfeld, a Clinton backer. "No, but we have to do something in this situation," Brewer responded. "I wish it were more. I wish it were better. It's all we have."

Brewer faced a withering assault from Clinton supporters who questioned whether allocating uncommitted delegates to Barack Obama. Under party rules, "uncommitted" is a legitimate choice for primary voters. Obama backers on the committee suggested the assumptions made to allocate delegates severely underestimated the Illinois Senator's potential in the state.

While Florida's case has won sympathy from some committee members, given the Republican tilt of the state legislature, Michigan's move to the head of the pack is a prime reason the committee sits in a hotel ballroom on a Saturday. Introducing Levin as the "grandfather" of the revised calendar commission, committee co-chair Alexis Herman said the senator has been the "most spirited" advocate of calendar changes.

Levin, after all, has been the most vociferous agitator for a new set of calendar rules, and his efforts propelled the date change. "Michigan decided years ago that no state should have the right to go first and second in every election. No state," Levin declared. "We're not going to sit by and do nothing for another decade or two," he said later.

FL's Case: Blame The GOP

Representatives from the Florida delegation finished their presentations to the Democratic Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting this morning by acknowledging they had broken party rules but that their primary should count anyway, both to put the state in play in November and because Republicans were truly to blame.

DNC member Jon Ausman, Senator Bill Nelson and representatives from both presidential campaigns urged the adoption of a plan that would return the 185 seats at the Denver convention in August and award each delegate half a vote. The state's super delegates would be given their full votes under Ausman's petition.

But to convince Rules and Bylaws Committee members to accept the proposal, presenters relied on blaming the GOP. Nelson, in a sharp exchange with one committee member, pointed out that the vehicle for moving the primary ahead of the pre-approved February 5 window was a bill pushed through the Republican-controlled state legislature, and that the party had neither the time nor the money to hold their own later contest.

"We recognize in fact that Florida has violated the timing rule," Ausman admitted. But, he and others argued, by not counting the 1.75 million votes cast in January, national Democrats would essentially take the state off the table in November. Refusing the count the votes, State Senator Arthena Joyner argued, would be comparable to Apartheid South Africa.

Joyner represented the Clinton campaign while Rep. Robert Wexler spoke on the Obama campaign's behalf. While Ausman's plan would hand Clinton a net gain of 19 additional delegates, Wexler said the Obama campaign would accept the compromise. "Senator Obama offers this concession in order to promote reconciliation among all Florida voters," Wexler said, pointing to the broad support for the plan. "If we in Florida can get it together and be unified, if we can keep our eye on the ball in November, so can you."

While some RBC members are hesitant to reinstate votes, mindful of the consequences in four years, most seem willing to accept the argument that Republicans were to blame. Votes on a solution to the Florida problem are expected after an early afternoon lunch break, followed by what is expected to be a more contentious debate over Michigan's delicate delegate situation.

FL Compromise Close

Rules and Bylaws Committee members reached a tentative agreement on a solution for seating Florida's delegates, the Huffington Post reports this morning. Three Rules and Bylaws Committee members confirm to Politics Nation that parts of an agreement were reached at a meeting that lasted late into the evening on Friday, though two caution a fight could still loom.

Under the agreement, the entire Florida delegation will be seated and will be given one half of one vote. That compromise, which would net Hillary Clinton a net gain of nineteen delegates over Barack Obama, is agreeable to both campaigns and a majority of committee members. An agreement on whether super delegates will be given a full or a half vote has yet to be reached.

Florida DNC member Jon Ausman, who has brought two challenges before the Rules and Bylaws Committee today, will address members in moments, along with Senator Bill Nelson, Florida Democratic Party Chair Karen Thurman and Rep. Robert Wexler.

Despite a late night -- committee members reportedly remained in informal session until 1:30 a.m. Saturday morning -- no compromise has been reached on a solution to Michigan's delegate crisis. Senator Carl Levin and other top Michigan officials will speak to the committee this morning, seeking a full reinstatement of the state's delegation with their full allocation of votes.

That solution, which would produce 73 delegates for Clinton and 55 uncommitted delegates, is highly unlikely to garner the votes necessary to pass. Committee members are expected to fight over whether Barack Obama's campaign will have control over the state's uncommitted delegates, whether they have full or half votes. Top Democrats in the state have proposed a solution by which Clinton would control 69 delegates and Obama would control 59 delegates.

RBC Member Clip-And-Save

A quick clip-and-save: Below are the members of the Rules and Bylaws Committee and the candidates they are supporting:

Clinton Backers
Tina Flournoy (DC)
Donald Fowler (SC)
Jamie Gonzalez Jr. (TX)*
Alice Huffman (CA)
Harold Ickes (DC)
Ben Johnson (DC)
Elaine Kamarck (MA)
Eric Kleinfeld (DC)
Mona Pasquil (CA)
Mame Reiley (VA)
Garry Shay (CA)
Elizabeth Smith (DC)
Michael Steed (MD)

Obama Backers
Martha Fuller Clark (NH)
Carol Khare Fowler (SC)
Janice Griffin (MD)
Thomas Hynes (IL)
Allan Katz (FL)
Sharon Stroschein (SD)
Sarah Swisher (IA)*
Everett Ward (NC)

Uncommitted
Donna Brazile (DC)
Mark Brewer (MI)
Ralph Dawson (NY)
Yvonne Atkinson Gates (NV)
Alice Germond (WV)
David McDonald (WA)
Jerome Wiley Segovia (VA)

Notes: Gonzalez is not in attendance at the meeting. His proxy goes to fellow Clinton backer Flournoy. Swisher's daughter is getting married today, and her proxy goes to fellow Obama backer Martha Fuller Clark.

Committee co-chairs James Roosevelt, of Massachusetts, and former Labor Secretary Alexis Herman, of Virginia, are both neutral super delegates. They vote only in case of a tie.

Dems Meet In DC Hotel

Thirty Democratic National Committee members who hold the fates of Florida and Michigan delegates in their hands are meeting this morning at a Washington hotel at what is expected to be the final meeting of the Rules and Bylaws Committee before the August convention. Committee members will hear testimony on three challenges to party rules that seek to reverse an earlier decision that stripped the two states of their delegates.

A few hundred protesters, mostly from Florida, bussed to the Wardman Park Marriott this morning to show their support, while dozens of reporters are crammed into a mezzanine overlooking the meeting room. Prominent Florida super delegates, among them Senator Bill Nelson, a Clinton backer, and Rep. Robert Wexler, a Barack Obama supporter, and Michigan super delegates packed the room as well.

Stay with Politics Nation all day as we bring you live gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting. For background and what's expected of today's event, check out our primer from yesterday.

Obama's Tattoo

A perfect Friday moment: As Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton head to Oregon to woo voters, they are also wooing a new local press corps, showering time and attention on local reporters and editors. The Oregonian gets its turn, as do daily papers in Eugene, Salem and other significant locals. But when a candidate gets to some of the smaller outlets, the questions can get downright weird.

In perhaps the strangest interview front-running Obama has ever had to go through, Willamette Week, an alternative weekly in Portland, hit on the key issues important to voters in the City of Roses. Obama told the interviewer he would stop federal agents' raids on Oregon's medical marijuana farms and he would negotiate with counties affected by a wounded timber industry.

Obama had nice things to say about the state's Republican Senator, Gordon Smith, who could face a tough battle for re-election this year. But the candidate stayed on message: "I think Gordon Smith's problem is that he rarely breaks away from George Bush and the Republican agenda that I think has done this country great damage," Obama said. "But personally I think he's a perfectly decent person." Obama professed to have no opinion on the race's Democratic primary.

To finish, the paper put the really tough question to Obama: What kind of tattoo would he have? Take a look at the transcript:

Willamette Week: If you had a tattoo, what would it be and where would you put it?

Barack Obama: Uh, I cannot imagine any circumstances in which I would get a tattoo.

W.W.: If you were under duress.

B.O.: If a gun was put to my head?

W.W.: Yes.

B.O.: Then I suppose I'd have to have [his wife] Michelle's name tattooed somewhere very discreet.

Funny enough, in the twenty minutes the paper got with Clinton, early in April, she too indicated she would only get a tattoo under duress. "If I was under duress? Gosh, I have been asked millions of questions, and no one has ever asked me that. I have so little interest in having a tattoo, that I just am going to have to ponder this," Clinton said. "It can be really, really small, right? I think it would be really, really small, like under a microscope, and it would say 'love.'" Clinton declined to say where her body art would be featured.

We wonder if either candidate has seriously thought about a plan to fight what must apparently be the rampant rash of vicious gangs marauding through American streets putting guns to people's heads and forcing them to get tattoos.

FEC Reports -- The End

After flipping through hundreds of Federal Election Commission reports detailing the daily lives of every candidate under the sun, we've come to a close. Check back on the posts we've had up over the last week, inspecting the hot House races of the cycle:

The Northeast, the Mid-Atlantic, Pennsylvania, The South, Florida, the Ohio Valley, the Dust Bowl, the Rocky Mountains, the Desert West, the West Coast, the Northern Mississippi, and the Great Lakes, both Western and Eastern, along with the House campaign committees.

Taking a gander at all those House races means there are bound to be a few massive glaring errors, and for those Politics Nation apologizes. Thanks to everyone who pointed out, for example:

-- That Lou Barletta, running against Rep. Paul Kanjorski in Pennsylvania, is the mayor of Hazelton, not Scranton.

-- That some of the numbers in New Jersey reflected the cash on hand statistics for the end of 2007, not for the end of the First Quarter in 2008. In New Jersey's Third District, State Senator John Adler finished March with $1 million in the bank after raising $1.17 million, $500,000 more than we'd reported. In the Seventh District, 2006 candidate and Assemblywoman Linda Stender has $845,000 remaining after raising nearly $1.05 million. Our numbers for two Republicans in each of those districts were accurate.

-- That Indiana's primary is on May 6, not May 13 (You'd think, with all the presidential hoopla, that we would have remembered that.).

-- That Ashwin Madia, the Democratic nominee for Congress in Minnesota's Third District, could use a better descriptor than "Democratic activist." Madia is a lawyer, an Iraq war veteran and not exactly the biggest Democrat in the history of the world, either. Roll Call's Shira Toeplitz pointed us to this interview, with Minnesota Public Radio, in which Madia admits that he voted for President Bush in 2000 after telling the same station that he voted for Al Gore that year.

-- That Bob Onder, the candidate for Congress in Missouri's 9th District who has raised the most money to date, is in fact a Republican, not a Democrat.

-- That Wayne Parker, a Republican, is running for Congress in Alabama's Fifth District. Parker filed his organizational paperwork with the FEC on April 4, and we just plain missed it. He raised $177,000 in the first few days of his candidacy.

Other mistakes we made? Candidates we missed? Feel free to email us your comments and complaints.

Gov Assocs Report Big Bucks

Despite just eleven governor's mansions being on the ballot this year, Washington-based committees that will help their parties defend and contest those seats are raising record amounts of money. Beyond this year, when just four contests are expected to be competitive, both parties are already looking ahead to 2010 when three dozen seats will be up for election.

The Democratic Governors' Association will report raising $5.7 million when they file first quarter reports next week. That leaves the committee with $10.5 million in the bank, more than they have ever held after the initial three months of the year. In a statement, DGA finance chairman Martin O'Malley, governor of Maryland, predicted the committee would raise more this year than it ever has. "We are off to a great start, and we're not slowing down," O'Malley said.

But officials at the Republican Governors' Association are also confident in their fundraising abilities, and the committee will report receipts of about $1.3 million more than their Democratic rivals. The RGA raised just over $7 million in the first quarter, and will show $14.6 million in the bank when they file their reports with the FEC. "It says a lot about the RGA that we're outraising the Democrats when they have the strong upper hand," Mississippi Governor and RGA finance chair Haley Barbour said in a statement.

The two committees will likely spend their money battling over open seats in North Carolina, where Democrat Mike Easley is term-limited, and Missouri, where Republican Matt Blunt surprised observers by dropping his bid for re-election earlier this year. Two incumbents -- Washington State Democrat Christine Gregoire and Indiana Republican Mitch Daniels -- will also face tough fights to keep their jobs.

Dem Leaders Optimistic

Meeting reporters at Democratic National Committee headquarters yesterday, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Chris Van Hollen and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chair Chuck Schumer strove to tamp down expectations of optimism, casting their battle to extend their majorities as a battle against history.

Only once in recent memory has a party that benefited from a wave election gone on to win seats two years later, the two pointed out; after Democrats picked up 49 seats after Watergate, in 1974, the party netted an additional seat two years later. But after waves in pro-Democratic waves 1982 and 1992, Republicans took back a large number of seats the next time out.

This year, Van Hollen said, "We think that we are in a position to beat history." Democrats have already picked up a seat, after a special election victory in Illinois last month, but the party promises to stay on offense. "The big story we've seen in this cycle is, rather than just having to circle the wagons and play defense, we were able to put together a plan and stay very much on offense," he said.

House Democratic strategists contend they will target between 45 and 50 Republican-held seats, and combined with as many as 25 Democratic seats they will have to defend, as many as 75 seats could be seriously contested come November. That helps the party with the cash advantage, and Van Hollen, pointing to what is likely to be a four- or five-to-one cash on hand edge when reports come out later this month, said his party is "comfortably ahead" in that race.

Schumer characterized the 2008 contests as a potentially "tectonic" election, akin to the 1932 Democratic sweep and Republican gains in 1980. Those epic contests come when citizens' basic relationship to government changes, and Schumer said he believes the country is near that point.

But overconfidence is a concern, Schumer said, and Democrats can't risk getting ahead of themselves. "You don't want to get too enthusiastic at this time," he said, proceeding to rattle off states where he says his party will win big. Democratic candidates lead their Republican counterparts in five GOP-held states in DSCC polling, Schumer said, pointing to Virginia, New Hampshire, Colorado, New Mexico and Alaska. Three other Republican Senators, Maine's Susan Collins, Oregon's Gordon Smith and Norm Coleman of Minnesota, are "within reach."

Perhaps most importantly, only one Democratic incumbent is in real trouble, Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu. In five states President Bush carried in 2004 -- Iowa, South Dakota, West Virginia, Montana and Arkansas -- Democratic incumbents face only nominal opposition (Arkansas Democrat Mark Pryor will not even face a Republican opponent in the fall.).

Farther down the target list, Schumer characterized Republican incumbents in North Carolina, Mississippi and Kentucky as within "striking range," and he talked up candidates less likely to win in Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Georgia, Idaho and Texas.

Van Hollen and Schumer rejected the notion that John McCain would play a positive role for Republican candidates, arguing that voters want fundamental change. "McCain is not going to be able to be a change candidate, given his record and his views," Schumer said. "The war in Iraq is an albatross around his neck." On their party's side, both said either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama would help out their downballot candidates, "with the one caveat that we make sure that both candidates stay positive," Van Hollen warned.

And both chairmen warned of the possibility of involvement from independent organizations running issue ads on behalf of Republican candidates. Singling out one such group, Van Hollen said the assault had already begun. "Freedom's Watch, and others, have expressed now more than an interest in getting involved" in contests, he said, pointing to Ohio, where the 501(c)(4) organization ran ads slamming the Democratic candidate. Schumer pointed to ads running on behalf of Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman by a Colorado-based group, as well.

But perhaps the biggest concern the party should have is the possibility of getting ahead of itself. Democrats are being careful when playing the expectations game in the next contest, coming next month in Louisiana where State Rep. Don Cazayoux has a strong chance to defeat Republican former State Rep. Woody Jenkins in a special election. "We have a very good candidate," Van Hollen said, referring to Cazayoux. "We're clearly the underdogs in a district like that."

Dems Gang Up On Iraq

More than forty Democratic candidates released a joint plan yesterday promising to work for legislation calling for an immediate draw down of troops in Iraq, the Washington Post's Paul Kane reports. While the group stopped short of setting an exact date for withdrawal, their plan calls for the U.S. to leave only a security detail to protect the U.S. embassy.

The focus on Iraq runs counter to most Democrats' assertions that the economy will be the number-one issue voters are thinking of. The challengers' plan goes farther than most other top Democrats, Kane writes, who prefer to leave troops in the country to train new Iraqi forces.

Led by Washington State Democrat Darcy Burner, who lost a close battle with Republican Rep. Dave Reichert in 2006, the coalition of challengers is made up of hot prospects and longshots alike. Maryland Democrat Donna Edwards, who beat incumbent Democrat Al Wynn in February, is almost guaranteed to serve in Congress. Chellie Pingree, running to replace Rep. Tom Allen in Maine, leads her primary field by a wide margin in a safely Democratic seat as well.

Other candidates are, like Burner, top recruits in Republican-held districts. Eric Massa, the New York Democrat, came up just short against Republican Rep. Randy Kuhl, and Jill Derby, chair of the Nevada Democratic Party, ran a stronger than expected campaign against freshman Republican Dean Heller in the state's northern Second District.

But the group has more than its share of candidates national Democrats are rather less excited about. Former Iowa state legislator Ed Fallon, who finished third in the state's gubernatorial primary last year but ran a stronger than expected campaign from the left, is running in a primary against long-time Democratic incumbent Leonard Boswell. The Des Moines-based district is more moderate than Boswell's big winning percentages indicate, giving Republicans a shot if the seat suddenly features no incumbent. And former Rep. Leslie Byrne, running to replace retiring Republican Tom Davis in Northern Virginia, is many national strategists' second choice, behind Fairfax County Council chair Gerry Connolly.

Four Senate candidates joined the 38 House challengers endorsing the plan. In Oregon, where the Democratic primary to take on Republican incumbent Gordon Smith has moved decidedly left, both State House Speaker Jeff Merkley and attorney Steve Novick have signed on, as have longer-shot candidates in Kentucky and Tennessee.

Burner, who has long made Iraq the centerpiece of her campaign platform, also secured backing for the plan from Major General Paul Eaton, a retired officer who served in prominent positions in Iraq, and Lawrence Korb, who served as Assistant Secretary of Defense under Ronald Reagan.

The group launched the proposal, which they hope capitalizes on continuing voter discontent with the five-year old war, as violence again erupted throughout Iraq. Security forces have issued a three-day curfew in Baghdad to gain control of the situation, while fighting in the southern city of Basra, once the domain of British forces before they withdrew, rages between Shiite militias and government forces, CNN reported today. Increased fighting in the country's capitol city, especially in Sadr City, is bringing U.S. troops into harm's way more often, the Washington Post also reports.

A recent analysis from the Pew Research Center shows public opinion is decidedly mixed over Iraq. While a strong majority says the decision to go into the country was the wrong idea, though the same percentage say the war is going either well or poorly, at 48% each. 49% say the U.S. should bring troops home as soon as possible, while 47% say troops should stay in the country until Iraq is stabilized.

Still, Americans largely trust Democrats more than Republicans to handle Iraq. The Pew survey showed 47% choosing the Democratic Party, while 37% said Republicans would better handle the situation. Of twelve issues surveyed, Republicans led only on handling of terrorist threats. If Democrats, and particularly the 42 challengers backing the plan for getting out of the country, can stick to a message about Iraq while avoiding GOP talk of terrorism, they could be successful in November.

But maybe national party leaders, who have focused more on the economy of late, have a point: The party's 10-point advantage on Iraq is not nearly as strong as its 53%-34% edge on issues surrounding the economy.

Dems Miss Funding Mark

The host committee for the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver has missed a key fundraising goal, the Rocky Mountain News reports today. The committee, which was supposed to come up with $28 million by yesterday, stands about $5 million short, according to a spokesman.

It is the second time Denver has missed a deadline, making some nervous the party might not reach the $40.6 million goal by mid-June. Even that figure, the spokesman said, is probably short of the $45 to $50 million convention organizers will need to operate the four-day event without going into debt. Those watching convention fundraising suggest the shortfall is caused by the lack of a Democratic nominee.

Still, the missed deadline is not likely to have a dramatic impact, as convention committees routinely miss deadlines. The $23 million raised is almost twice what organizers had pulled in by the end of March, 2004, when the committee setting up the Boston convention had raised only $12.7 million.

Republicans also find themselves in better position than four years ago, with $15.3 million raised through December 31, ahead of the $13.5 million they reported at the end of 2003. Both committees will file new FEC reports on April 15, just after the first quarter ends.

House Giving Favors Dems

A new report from the Federal Election Commission shows House Democrats were more generous with their own campaign cash than House Republicans in the first thirteen months of the cycle. The transfers, from candidates' campaign committees to the DCCC and the NRCC, are just a part of the large cash disadvantage Republicans face.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which had nearly $35.1 million in the bank through January 31, accumulated the money with the assistance of about $18.4 million from their caucus members. Top donors included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who kicked in $785,000; Whip Jim Clyburn, with $770,000; Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who donated $685,000; committee chairs Charlie Rangel and Barney Frank, with $685,000 and $550,000, respectively; caucus chairman Rahm Emanuel, who gave $475,000; and current DCCC chairman Chris Van Hollen, who donated $435,000 to his own cause.

Those numbers do not include Democratic members' pledges to raise additional funds for the DCCC. Depending on their position in the House, members have to raise additional funds for the committee, ranging from less than $100,000 to tens of millions of dollars. How much each member has to raise, though, is a closely-guarded secret.

Republicans lagged far behind Democratic contributions, with just $10.6 million in donations to the beleaguered NRCC. Minority Leader John Boehner dropped $845,000 from his own campaign account, while Reps. Dave Camp ($480,000), Wally Herger ($300,000), Kay Granger ($265,000) and Cliff Sterns ($262,500) wrote big checks. All four are said to be seeking prime committee slots. Retiring Reps. Jim McCrery and Jim Saxton helped out, donating $490,000 and $275,000 from their soon-to-be-shuttered campaign accounts.

While Republicans have a smaller caucus than Democrats, their average member is still giving far less than the average Democrat. Democrats are ponying up just shy of $80,000 per member, while Republicans are giving about $53,500 each. What is more impressive is that most Democratic freshmen, especially those facing tough re-election battles, are forgiven dues for at least their first term.

Boehner, who has worked hard to keep his caucus together, has grown increasingly frustrated with some members. At a GOP caucus meeting last week, Boehner told members to get off their "dead asses," as Politico's Patrick O'Connor reported, to help the NRCC raise money. NRCC chair Tom Cole and minority whip Roy Blunt also urged members to help the committee raise money for the party's March 12 fundraising dinner, O'Connor wrote.

Even if the NRCC makes its $7.5 million goal, and even if members begin handing over more sizable checks to the national party, Republicans have a long way to go to catch up. The NRCC reported just $6.4 million in the bank after January 31, nearly $29 million behind Democrats.

Democrats are raising more money than Republicans virtually across the board, and compared with 2005, the last pre-election year, and 2003, the last pre-presidential year, Democrats are performing better than they were and showing increases that outpace the GOP. In 2007, the DCCC's cash receipts grew 57%, while the committee's receipts grew 136% over 2003. Republicans, meanwhile, saw their fundraising shrink by 22% from 2005 and 31% over 2003.

Dems Have $28M Advantage

The campaign wing of the House Republican caucus narrowly outraised its Democratic counterpart in January, though the NRCC remains well behind the DCCC in total cash in the bank. FEC reports released yesterday show a minor victory for NRCC chair Tom Cole, but DCCC chief Chris Van Hollen retains bragging rights.

In January, the NRCC raised almost $3.8 million and has a bank account of $6.4 million. They retain a debt of slightly over $2.3 million. The DCCC raised just over $3.7 million and spent much more than Republicans. Democrats have $35.5 million in the bank and $1.7 million in debts and obligations.

Senate Republicans are in relatively better position with regard to their Democratic opponents. The NRSC raised $3.5 million in January, banking $1.2 million of that for a total bank account of $13.2 million. But the DSCC raised $3.9 million last month, a faster clip than the NRSC, and ended with $30.5 million cash on hand.

While Senate Republicans enjoy a smaller disadvantage than their House counterparts, their fundraising pace has been slower than each of the other three committees in recent months. They banked more than Democrats last month by spending $600,000 less than the DSCC.

While both Democratic campaign wings are easily outpacing their GOP counterparts in money in the bank, Howard Dean's Democratic National Committee fell farther behind Mike Duncan's Republican National Committee last month. The DNC raised $5.76 million in January and banked just $60,000, ending the month with $3 million in the bank and a $250,000 debt. The RNC, meanwhile, pulled in $11.8 million and kept more than $21.7 million in the bank.

In total, Democrats have a big fundraising advantage. Together, the three committees have $69 million in the bank, while Republican committees have $41.3 million lying around.

Dems Offer SOTU Response

Excerpts from Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius' Democratic response to President Bush's State of the Union:

"In this time, normally reserved for the partisan response, I hope to offer you something more."

"An American Response."

"A national call to action on behalf of the struggling families in the heartland, and across this great country. A wakeup call to Washington, on behalf of a new American majority, that time is running out on our opportunities to meet our challenges and solve our problems."

On the Economy:

"Our struggling economy requires urgent and immediate action, and then sustained attention. Families can't pay their bills. They are losing their jobs, and now are threatened with losing their homes."

"We heard last week and again tonight that Congress and the President are acting quickly, on a temporary, targeted stimulus package. That is encouraging. But you and I know that a temporary fix is only the first step toward meeting our challenges and solving our problems."

On the Need to Work Together:

"There is a chance Mr. President, in the next 357 Days, to get real results, and give the American people renewed optimism that their challenges are the top priority. Working together, working hard, committing to results, we can get the job done."

"In fact, over the last year, the new Democratic majority in Congress has begun to move us in a new direction, with bipartisan action on significant initiatives to bolster our national security, raise the minimum wage, and reduce the costs of college loans."

"These are encouraging first steps. But there is still more to be done."

On Charting a New Course:

"The new Democratic majority of Congress and the vast majority of Americans are ready - ready to chart a new course. If more Republicans in Congress stand with us this year, we won't have to wait for a new President to restore America's role in the world, and fight a more effective war on terror."

On Iraq:

"The last five years have cost us dearly - in lives lost; in thousands of wounded warriors whose futures may never be the same; in challenges not met here at home because our resources were committed elsewhere. America's foreign policy has left us with fewer allies and more enemies."

On Working for the Common Good:

"I know government can work to benefit the people we serve, because I see it every day, not only here in Kansas, but in states across the country. I know government can work, Mr. President, because like you, I grew up in a family committed to public service. My father and my father in law both served in Congress - one a Republican and one a Democrat. They had far more in common than the issues that divided them - a love for their country that led them from military service to public service. A lifetime of working for the common good, making sacrifices so their children and grandchildren could have a better future."

On Transforming America:

"These are uncertain times, but with strength and determination, we can meet the challenges together. If Washington can work together, so quickly, on a short-term fix for families caught in the financial squeeze, then we can work together to transform America."

Another Competitive Year In The Philly 'Burbs?

In 2006, as Democrats won congressional districts across the country that for years were not thought to be competitive, few metropolitan areas provided greater political theater than the Philadelphia suburbs. Pennsylvania's 6th and 8th Congressional Districts were decided by a grand total of 2 points, while in the 7th District, the home of the incumbent's daughter was raided by the FBI less than a month before the November election.

It is still unclear how competitive these districts will be in 2008, but both parties have been scouring their bases for legitimate challengers. The Philadelphia suburbs have been trending Democratic--John Kerry and Al Gore each won all three districts by slim margins--even as these three districts were represented in Congress by Republicans prior to 2006.

In Republican Congressman Jim Gerlach's 6th District, Democrats have had a laundry list of potential challengers turn down a bid, including Christopher Casey, the brother of Senator Bob Casey. The district has been competitive since its inception after the 2002 redistricting. Gerlach barely avoided a loss once again in 2006, winning by a 51%-49% margin for the third straight year. Democrat Lois Murphy, who lost to Gerlach in 2004 and 2006, has declined to run again. But Democrats reportedly have not given up on Casey yet.

In the 7th District, freshman Democratic Congressman Joe Sestak received late campaign advertising in 2006 that money cannot buy. The FBI raid on the home of incumbent Republican Curt Weldon's daughter was caught on film by local news media and shown across the country. This allowed Sestak to breeze into Congress with an 8-point victory. But the retired 2-star Navy admiral just got his first credible challenger in W. Craig Williams, the now-former assistant U.S. attorney from Philadelphia and a veteran of the Gulf War. Williams was endorsed January 15 by the Delaware County GOP Committee.

Democrat Patrick Murphy, the youngest member of the congressional freshman class of 2006, defeated one-term incumbent Mike Fitzpatrick by a margin of 1,518 votes. This Bucks County-centered district had been represented in Congress by a Republican since 1992. At least three Republicans are currently running for the chance to take on Murphy, who is the only veteran of the Iraq war serving in Congress. One of the candidates is Tom Manion, a retired Colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve and the father of a soldier who died in Iraq. Manion already has the support of Fitzpatrick and Bucks County GOP Committee chairman Harry Fawkes. And with Murphy winning by such a small margin in 2006, the NRCC is likely to step in with financial support as well.

National Democrats certainly see a chance to pick up a seat in the 6th District, but holding on to the 7th and 8th districts may be equally challenging.

--Kyle Trygstad

Labor Spat Growing In NV

The labor movement has undergone significant turmoil in recent years, as major national unions have split, enrollment figures have dropped and the movement has seen its influence in Democratic circles wane. The Nevada caucuses, partially intended to give labor a bigger voice in picking a president, have only increased the tumult.

Barack Obama's endorsement from the Culinary Workers' union has given other labor groups in the state the impetus to work harder for their own candidate, the Las Vegas Sun reports today. Despite the impression given in non-stop press coverage of the Culinary Workers' nod, they are far from the only union in the state. Clinton is backed by eight labor groups, while John Edwards enjoys support from four. Obama has two others.

Even those who back the same candidate are targeting each other. Nevada's SEIU chapter, which announced its backing of Obama the same day as the Culinary Workers, shouted down a suggestion of a joint press conference, the Sun writes, opting instead to get their news out first and beat their rivals.

Now, Nevada's teachers' union, which has not endorsed, has filed a lawsuit to force caucus-goers to meet in their home precincts, stripping caucus locations from some Strip casinos, where culinary workers would have access to them on caucus night. It's a direct shot at the casino workers' organization, which brushes the attack aside as targeting the biggest fish in the pond. The state AFL-CIO is neutral, but other unions in the state back the teachers.

The Culinary Workers backed Democratic gubernatorial nominee Dina Titus in 2006, though they had backed former Republican Governor Kenny Guinn twice. Titus herself is backing Hillary Clinton. A split among labor voters will keep the primary competitive, but should they fail to come together by the time the general rolls around, Democratic hopes of finally winning a state that's been trending their way but has remained just out of reach might be dashed.

Sebelius To Give Dem Response

Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius will offer the Democratic response to President Bush's State of the Union address, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced today. Sebelius, in her second term as the Democratic governor of an overwhelmingly Republican state, won re-election with 58% of the vote in 2006.

The American people "demand leadership focused squarely on solving our problems, making the most of our opportunities, and moving America forward," Sebelius said in a statement. "That is exactly the kind of leadership we've demonstrated in Kansas, and I am honored to share that example with the American people in response to the President's State of the Union message."

The Democratic leaders also announced Texas State Senator Leticia Van de Putte would offer the Spanish-language version of the Democratic response. Bush's speech is set for January 28. The last two Democratic responders have hailed from Virginia; Governor Tim Kaine delivered the response in January 2006, while Senator Jim Webb spoke in January of 2007.

5 Moments That Changed The Democratic Race

Time for a year-end look at five moments that fundamentally altered the way the Democratic race has played out:

5. September 26 -- Edwards accepts public financing. Casting it as a move to ensure openness and a way to shut out lobbyists and special interests, John Edwards declared in late Spetember that he would accept public financing in his bid for the Democratic nomination. The decision gave him access to millions he might not otherwise have raised, but it also severely curtailed spending. Edwards, once seen as the obvious yin to Hillary Clinton's yang, has been marginalized to some degree by Barack Obama. And while Clinton and Obama each raised upwards of $75 million in the first three quarters of the year, Edwards has struggled in a distant third place.

Edwards' decision hurt him in several ways. Aside from curtailed spending in early primary states he needed to win, he also lost support among many of his one-time fans in the liberal blogosphere. Kos, for one, said that the acceptance of public money meant Edwards was not viable, and though he maintained good relations with the netroots, Edwards needed them to be for him in a much stronger way.

4. August 4 -- Clinton attends YearlyKos. The liberal netroots, who in 2006 helped raise million for the Democratic Party and claims responsibility for victories by several second-tier Democratic congressional hopefuls who pulled off big upsets, had their knives out for Hillary Clinton early. Unhappy with triangulation and furious with what they saw as timid moderation, the netroots wanted an unabashed progressive who would fight for their cause; it is little wonder that John Edwards had won online straw polls at DailyKos for more than a year.

But Clinton decided to attend the largest gathering of liberal bloggers of the year, showing up at YearlyKos in Chicago and held a breakout session to get to know a new set of opinion makers in the Democratic column. Clinton's moves to placate the netroots -- communications director Howard Wolfson fought Bill O'Reilly over YearlyKos; Clinton earned the endorsement of netroots hero Joe Wilson and announced it on a conference call with bloggers; in the Senate, she worked on a bill to provide paper trails in voting machines -- had a hugely important effect: The netroots still didn't like her, but at least they didn't hate her.

Whether it was DailyKos or the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee that got certain candidates elected is subject to debate. But it was certainly the netroots that brought down Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman in his primary last year. By making sure lefty bloggers did not hate her, Clinton escaped what could have been a blogosphere-wide effort to bring her down.

3. October 30 -- Clinton stumbles in Philadelphia. In early debates, Hillary Clinton provided no zingers, no great lines and no winning moments. But she was the front-runner, and because she did not lose, she won. Again and again, Obama, Edwards and others tried and failed to land a punch. It was left to Tim Russert, moderating a debate in Philadelphia the day before Halloween, to throw Clinton off her game.

Clinton seemed on her way to another flawless debate performance until Russert asked her whether she agreed with New York Governor Eliot Spitzer's decision to grant driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. Clinton hemmed and hawed, offering what her opponents criticized as two answers in two minutes. The sheen began to come off the impenitrable armor of the inevitable candidate.

Obama DSM.jpg
Obama speaks in Des Moines
on December 27
2. November 10 -- Obama shines at Iowa Dem dinner. Fewer than two weeks after the debate in Philadelphia, Clinton had the chance to right the ship. The Iowa Democratic Party's Jefferson Jackson Dinner presented the opportunity to give a big speech, fire up the crowd and show organizational strength. But Clinton's efforts were outstripped, again, by Obama.

Clinton, speaking second-to-last, delivered a solid speech ripe with red meat for her fans crowded into an old hockey arena in downtown Des Moines. Obama, speaking last, put every candidate to shame with what many considered his best speech since his address to the 2004 Democratic National Convention. And while Clinton had many friends in the audience, Obama had more -- Joe Biden made light by saying hello to Iowa and hello to Chicago.

Riding high in national polls, leading big in Iowa and New Hampshire, Clinton's Philadelpia stumble opened a window through which Obama entered at the Jefferson Jackson Dinner. Now, Clinton's ten-point lead in Iowa has turned into a tie in the latest RCP Iowa Average. Her huge lead in New Hampshire has also evaporated, and while she leads the latest RCP New Hampshire Average, she has trailed Obama in recent polls. Clinton has even seen her national lead shrink.

1. January 16 -- Obama files exploratory committee. Conventional wisdom in 2006 and before was that Hillary Clinton would run away with the Democratic nomination. It was to be less a campaign than a coronation. But with the entry of Barack Obama, a freshman senator who nonetheless enjoyed unbelievable support, a hefty fundraising capability and the aura of one who could do no wrong, the calculus fundamentally changed.

Clinton's team already anticipated John Edwards' angle -- he would cast himself as the outsider versus Clinton, the ultimate insider. But Obama was more of an outsider than Edwards. He was new, fresh, and called for a fundamental change in the American political system in a way that Edwards simply couldn't match. The Clinton machine was seemingly blindsided, especially after Obama began drawing crowds numbering in the tens of thousands to rallies. His entry sucked oxygen out of the room, dooming second-tier candidates to also-ran status, a fate even Edwards might face.

Obama's audacity of hope, a theme to which he has stuck throughout the campaign, and the sheer audacity of a freshman senator running against a party legend, changed the Democratic race more than any candidate's entry -- save, perhaps, that of Al Gore -- could have.

The Democratic race is much more stable than the GOP race -- unlike yesterday, today our top five deals with just three of the candidates. In all likelihood, the race is still Clinton's to lose. But given the momentum Obama has built, thanks in large part to the Jefferson Jackson Dinner and Clinton's weak debate performance in Philadelphia, he has the opportunity to steal the nomination.

No matter who wins, Obama's was the game-changing campaign, and Clinton has to hope that she will either get her momentum back or that Obama's charge is just too little, too late.

Three Dems To Watch

Three new polls in three very different states out today show not everything is rosy for Democrats. It's been a difficult year for three elected officials, which could lead to opportunities for Republicans down the road.

In Nevada, a lesson is rapidly emerging: It does not pay to be Senate Democratic leader. A Mason-Dixon poll, conducted 12/3-5 for the Las Vegas Review Journal, shows just 41% of the 625 registered voters think Sen. Harry Reid is doing an excellent or good job, while 58% say his job performance is fair or poor. That's about the same as unpopular Governor Jim Gibbons, a Republican, who clocked in at a 41% to 54% margin.

Is it bad to be a Republican leader? Or is it just better to be a few steps down the leadership chain? John Ensign probably doesn't care, as long as the NRSC chief remains popular in the Silver State. He enjoys a 57% excellent or good rating, while 40% rate him as fair or poor.

In New York, a Quinnipiac University poll taken just before Eliot Spitzer's one-year anniversary as governor demonstrates his difficult year. Only 37% of the 1,083 respondents in the poll, taken 12/4-10, approved of the way Spitzer is doing his job, while 48% disapprove. Independents are slightly less favorably disposed to Spitzer, by a 35%-49% margin. 21% say things have gotten worse while Spitzer has been governor, while just 7% say things are getting better.

By contrast, the state's two Senators, Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer, are very popular. Even though she's on the presidential campaign trail, 64% approve of Clinton's job performance, while 59% like the job Schumer is doing. 29% disapprove of Clinton, while 22% disapprove of Schumer.

In neighboring New Jersey, the news isn't much better. Quinnipiac surveyed 1,085 registered voters there, between 12/5-9, and found that Governor Jon Corzine has just a 46% to 43% approval rating, while only 38% are satisfied with the situation in New Jersey. 62% say they are dissatisfied.

Corzine leads a generic Republican by a 41% to 31% margin, though just 44% say he deserves re-election and 43% say he does not. Senator Frank Lautenberg, whose seat comes up for re-election next year, has a 42% job approval rating, with 33% disapprove. Before Republicans get too excited, though, they should look at recent history. Lautenberg has never been the most popular senator, and neither have his seatmates, including Corzine, Sen. Bob Menendez and former Sen. Robert Torricelli.

Still, every time Republicans target one of the seats, sinking millions into ultra-expensive Philadelphia and New York City media markets, they come up short. After State Sen. Tom Kean Jr. lost to Menendez last year, Republicans might be shy about going after Lautenberg too aggressively next year.