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The Week Ahead: Hectic Week On The Hill

The Senate begins the week mourning the death of West Virginia Democrat Robert Byrd, the longest-serving senator in history who died early this morning at the age of 92. The AP describes Byrd as "a fiery orator versed in the classics and a hard-charging power broker who steered billions of federal dollars to the state of his Depression-era upbringing."

Byrd's death opens what was already expected to be a busy week on Capitol Hill. For the second time in a year, the Senate will begin the confirmation process of a Supreme Court nominee of President Obama. Elena Kagan, the current solicitor general, testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee today after being introduced by her home-state senators, Democrat John Kerry and Republican Scott Brown.

Kagan is a former Harvard Law School dean and veteran of the Clinton White House. With no bench experience or decisions to dissect, it's Kagan's experience in both capacities that Republicans will focus on as the hearings unfold this week.

White House: President Obama returned to Washington Sunday night from a weekend at the G-20 summit in Toronto. To begin the week, the president will attend meetings at the White House, then on Tuesday welcomes a bipartisan group of senators to discuss comprehensive energy and climate change legislation. Obama heads to Racine, Wisconsin on Wednesday to hold a town hall meeting on the economy. The rest of the week, so far, looks to be quiet.

Vice President Biden hits the road again this week. Biden heads to the GE Appliance and Lighting headquarters in Louisville on Monday to highlight the impact the stimulus bill is having on creating jobs. Later in the day Biden attends a campaign event in Jeffersonville for Indiana Rep. Baron Hill, then begins the evening in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware with an event for Senate nominee Chris Coons. On Tuesday he travels to the Gulf Coast, including a visit to the National Incident Command Center in New Orleans and to the Florida panhandle.

Capitol Hill: You know it's a busy week for Congress when Supreme Court nomination hearings share the spotlight with anything. Kagan's hearings begin today at 12:30 p.m. and are expected to run throughout the week. However, her's won't even be the only high-profile nomination hearings.

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hear Tuesday the nomination of Gen. David Petraeus to take over as commander in Afghanistan. Petraeus is expected to cruise to confirmation, as senators from both sides of the aisle praised Obama's choice following the resignation of Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

Meanwhile, the House and Senate will vote on a compromise Wall Street reform bill that increases the government's regulatory abilities and creates a consumer-protection agency. It's expected to have a more difficult road in the Senate, where 60 votes are required. Meanwhile, House Democrats are also expected to bring a "budget enforcement resolution" to the floor to set discretionary spending levels, in lieu of a traditional budget. And a supplemental appropriations bill still awaits a vote as well.

And it's unclear what effect Byrd's death will have on some of these votes in the Senate. Now with 58 votes, the road to passing legislation will be even more trying.

*In Case You Missed It: South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, on "Fox News Sunday": "Given everything I know today, she's well-qualified but she has a lot to answer for. The president won the election -- to my conservative friends, you should expect liberals to be picked by Obama. But you should expect us to do our job, and that's not replace our judgement for his but to make sure she's qualified and not an activist. And that's what we aim to do."

The Week Ahead: Super Runoff Tuesday In Carolinas

By Kyle Trygstad

There are elections in four states Tuesday, including three high-profile statewide races in Utah, North Carolina and South Carolina and a congressional runoff in Mississippi. President Obama continues to push the Senate on clean energy legislation, and Vice President Biden hits the road in his role as campaign surrogate-in-chief. Here are the details on the week ahead in politics:

The White House: The president begins the week with an annual speech on the importance of responsible fatherhood, followed by a barbeque at the White House. Things pick up steam on Wednesday when a bipartisan group of senators meet at the White House to discuss the process for passing comprehensive energy and climate legislation this year -- something the House did a year ago, and something Obama called for last week in his first nationally televised address from the Oval Office. On Thursday Obama meets with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, a day before both travel to Muskoka, Ontario to attend the G-8 summit.

Something Republicans don't think he should do is enjoy any sporting or arts activities in Washington until oil stops leaking into the Gulf. "Until this problem is fixed, no more golf outings, no more baseball games, no more Beatle concerts, Mr. President," Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said in a statement Sunday, a day after Obama played golf with Biden and two days after he watched pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals against Obama's hometown White Sox.

Capitol Hill: On Tuesday, the House and Senate conference committee continues negotiations on the Wall Street reform legislation, a process that began last week and is expected to conclude this week. In the House, a vote is expected on the Disclose Act, which Democrats are hoping to rally support around after pulling it Friday because of a lack of votes. The bill comes in response to the controversial Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case, which allows corporations, unions and other groups to directly engage in political activity, like air TV ads against a candidate. The Senate begins the week with Monday evening votes on a handful of judicial nominations, and in one week Senate Judiciary Committee hearings will commence on the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court.

Continue reading "The Week Ahead: Super Runoff Tuesday In Carolinas" »

The Week Ahead: Super Tuesday Is Here

The first full week of June brings loads of intrigue and will kick off quickly as 11 states hold primaries on Tuesday. The results will define some of the biggest races in the country, as Republicans decide who will take on Senators Harry Reid in Nevada and Barbara Boxer in California. They're far from the only races of consequence, but they'll be two of the most closely watched.

Some of the questions going into Tuesday include: In Nevada, will Sharron Angle become the latest example of a tea party-backed candidate defeating an establishment candidate in a Republican primary? In California, can Tom Campbell overcome a severe monetary disadvantage and questions over some of his moderate policy stances to topple Carly Fiorina? And will Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln become the fifth incumbent to be defeated during primary season?

We delved into these and seven other highlights from this week's contests in a piece called "10 Things To Watch On Super Tuesday."

Now for the rest of this week's happenings:

Continue reading "The Week Ahead: Super Tuesday Is Here" »

The Week Ahead: Countdown To Super Tuesday

Today, voters are voting in Alabama, New Mexico and Mississippi. We previewed the major storylines heading into the Alabama vote last week, including the interesting primaries in the race for governor and some Congressional races to watch.

In New Mexico, the key race is the Republican primary for governor. Lt. Gov. Diane Denish (D) is well positioned thus far in the race to succeed Bill Richardson (D), but the GOP field is wide open. It includes former state GOP chair Allen Weh, Susana Martinez -- endorsed by Sarah Palin -- and Pete Domenici Jr., son of the former senator. In Mississippi, the key race is the GOP primary in the 1st Congressional District, with the winner facing vulnerable Democrat Travis Childers.

But the week promises to be eventful as we candidates eight states campaign in the final week before the primary and runoff elections on June 8. That and more as we look at the holiday-shortened week ahead.

The White House: President Obama returned late Monday from a long holiday weekend in Chicago with the First Family. Much of the time was spent in private with friends and family near his Windy City home. A planned Memorial Day speech at the Abraham Lincoln Cemetery had to be canceled because of weather. Instead, he spoke to a small group near Andrews Air Force Base upon his return to Washington.

Continue reading "The Week Ahead: Countdown To Super Tuesday" »

Week In Midterms

Just one state held a primary election this week, so there were not many votes to analyze. But in Idaho's 1st district, the National Republican Congressional Committee's preferred candidate, Vaughn Ward, lost by a wide 9-point margin to Raul Labrador, who was backed by local tea party groups.

For the second week in a row, some political observers questioned the NRCC's effectiveness so far in what's expected to be a good year for the party. Last week questions arose after Democrat Mark Critz retained -- by an 8-point margin -- an open Pennsylvania seat in a special election for a district ripe for a GOP pick-up.

Well, the committee will have another chance to prove its chops Tuesday in Alabama's 2nd district primary, where yet again an NRCC "Young Gun" candidate, Martha Roby, is up against tea party-backed Rick Barber.

Also holding primaries June 1 are Mississippi and New Mexico.

Continue reading "Week In Midterms" »

The Week Ahead: Expecting The Unexpected

It ultimately was not a surprise, but the result is no less remarkable. For the first time since 1991, a Republican will hold a Congressional seat in Hawaii.

Charles Djou won the mail-in special election in the Aloha State's 1st Congressional District this weekend, with more than 39 percent of the vote. Democratic candidates won more than 58 percent of the vote, but it was split largely by two candidates: state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa with about 31 percent, and former 2nd District Rep. Ed Case with 28 percent. Still, that combined total is the lowest since former occupant, Neil Abercrombie, was re-elected with 50 percent in 1996.

Republicans will start the week crowing about their first Congressional special election win since early 2008, one that took place in a heavily Democratic seat where President Obama spent much of his youth. Democrats will argue that they can easily win it back in November, when just one of those Democrats will be on the ballot. But both parties should know by now: in this election year, there are no sure things.

Just look at another set of votes cast this weekend. In Colorado, it was another bad weekend for establishment candidates and incumbents. Challengers to Sen. Michael Bennet (D), top Senate recruit Jane Norton (R), and leading gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis (R) all won votes at their respective party assemblies Saturday. These weren't binding votes, and all candidates will appear on the August primary ballot. But it's yet another sign of the shifting mood.

Bennet got 40 percent of the vote among Democrats, while former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff received 60 percent. In the GOP Senate race, Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck (R) won an overwhelming victory among GOP delegates; Norton had decided not to attend when a win by the tea party favorite seemed inevitable, and is instead seeking to make the ballot via petition.

In the gubernatorial race, former Rep. McInnis fell just short of businessman Dan Maes, another tea party favorite. Both candidates will appear on the primary ballot, but Maes' name on top. Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper will be the Democratic nominee, having been uncontested.

One more notable vote this weekend: Connecticut Republicans backed Linda McMahon at their state party convention. She topped former Rep. Rob Simmons among party delegates in a vote that took on added significance after the revelation that Democratic candidate Richard Blumenthal has publicly misstated his military service record. Simmons, a Vietnam vet, still plans to contest the August 10 primary but McMahon is solidified as frontrunner.

Continue reading "The Week Ahead: Expecting The Unexpected" »

Week In Midterms: Who Will Capitalize On Voter Mood?

Since Tuesday's elections, both parties have been furiously spinning the results. A common thread from Democrats and Republicans is that voters are hungry for change and not satisfied with Washington. The argument then is which party is in a stronger position to make the case that they can offer that.

Republicans can rightly say that they are well-positioned to do so as the party out of power. Polling on the generic ballot, though shifting somewhat back toward Democrats of late, is still leaning toward a strong November. And gubernatorial contests last year in New Jersey and Virginia, as well as the Massachusetts Senate contest this January, seemed to give credence to that point.

But Democrats this week held a special Congressional election in Pennsylvania 12, a district John McCain had won in 2008. Democrats in fact haven't lost a single special election for the House in two years, though that streak is expected to end tomorrow when votes are tallied in Hawaii-01. Mark Critz's victory has led to questions about whether the National Republican Campaign Committee is up to the challenge of winning the more than 40 seats required to take back the House this fall. Speaking at the National Press Club this week, Tim Kaine also made the argument that voters who want change are seeing it as Democrats notch victories on financial reform, health care and the stimulus.

Tuesday's results showed candidates running against the establishment are perhaps best positioned this fall, regardless of party.

For a look back at the May 18 primary night, check out a rundown of our Live Blog and see the returns as they came in and updates throughout the evening. Also check out our take from the following day on what it all means.

Continue reading "Week In Midterms: Who Will Capitalize On Voter Mood?" »

The Week Ahead: D-Day For Establishment Candidates

We're near the midpoint of a six-week stretch that sees primary or special elections in 25 of the 50 states. And this could be the most revelatory in that run, with major tests for incumbent senators in Pennsylvania and Arkansas, the likely victory of insurgent Rand Paul in Kentucky, and special Congressional elections in Hawaii and Pennsylvania where Democrats will potentially lose seats in the House for the first time this cycle. That's the major headline in our look at the Week Ahead.

Politics: Some of the final polls released this weekend indicate that both Pennsylvania races are too close to call. The turnout operations will be key. For Arlen Specter, that means convincing Democrats who never voted for him in a primary before -- perhaps at all -- to do so this week. For Mark Critz, it means keeping the conservative Democrats in a McCain 2008 District from crossing party lines again. Meanwhile, the Arkansas primary between Sen. Blanche Lincoln and Lt. Gov. Bill Halter could head to a runoff, as will the GOP race to challenge the eventual winner.

In Kentucky, Democrats have their own primary but the attention will all be on the Republican Senate race. Sen. Mitch McConnell and the establishment Republicans pushed Jim Bunning to retire and anointed Secretary of State Trey Grayson as his replacement. But Rand Paul has tapped into the tea party movement and his father's network of libertarians to take a commanding lead.

Hawaii, meanwhile, is a case of mutually-assured destruction for Democrats. Because the special election to replace Neil Abercrombie (D) includes two Democrats, Republican Charles Djou is well-positioned to win. More troubling, perhaps is that the Democratic battle between Colleen Hanabusa and Ed Case won't end Saturday, but continues through a mid-September primary to decide who makes the regular November ballot. A win by Djou Saturday is now conventional wisdom. But if Democrats remain divided this fall and Djou holds a heavily-Democratic seat beyond this year, it would be a major upset.

Continue reading "The Week Ahead: D-Day For Establishment Candidates" »

Week In Midterms: The Obama Effect In 2010

This morning we took a look at President Obama's approval ratings on a state-by-state basis, noting how it is these figures, and not necessarily a national average, which will dictate how active the president is in helping candidates this fall, and where he is deployed to campaign with them.

This afternoon, we note a fascinating correlation between the strength of Obama's numbers in Senate battlegrounds and the health of Democratic candidates in those races. First, a look at the races RCP currently classifies as Toss Up this fall.

California: Obama +16.8; Boxer +0.8 to +6.5
Colorado: Obama -6.5; Bennet -2.0 to +0.7
Florida: Obama -1.7; Meek -16.0
Missouri: Obama -11.5; Carnahan -6.0
Ohio: Obama -7.8; Fisher +0.7
Pennsylvania: Obama -3.0; Specter -7.3

In the five states where Obama's job rating is net-negative, the Democratic candidate trails in four of them. In California, meanwhile, Barbara Boxer leads all potential Republican candidates in the RCP Average.

Now, look at other non-toss up states where Democratic incumbents face tough races.

Continue reading "Week In Midterms: The Obama Effect In 2010" »

The Week Ahead: Specter's Kagan Problem

The week begins with a blockbuster announcement at the White House: Elena Kagan as President Obama's nominee to fill Justice Stevens' seat on the Supreme Court. Seven Republicans supported her nomination as solicitor general in 2009 -- Obama needs just one to cross party lines again to ensure a smooth confirmation, which the White House seems to expect with what has been referred to as a "safe" pick.

But one of the Republican "nay" votes last year points to another big story developing this week -- now-Democrat Arlen Specter's fight for his political survival in the Pennsylvania Senate primary. This Saturday, Republican Bob Bennett lost his re-election battle by failing to qualify for the primary ballot. Two more senators could potentially lose their primaries this month. That and more as we look at the Week Ahead.

The White House: President Obama is set to announce his second choice for a seat on the Supreme Court this morning in the East Room: Solicitor General Elena Kagan. Again, the early favorite is the final selection. The pick will be followed by an intense effort to shape the message in the critical early stage. This time, unlike with last year's nomination of Sonia Sotomayor, they'll have to fend off questions not just from the right but also the left, as some progressives are wary of her record on such issues as executive power. Expect Republicans to focus on Kagan's decision as Harvard Law dean to restrict military recruiters from campus. NBC, which broke the Kagan news late Sunday, has a good snapshot of the choice.

Also on tap at the White House this week is a big meeting Wednesday at the White House between Obama and Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai. The relationship is a tenuous one, and there was even some thought to canceling the visit after recent comments from the re-elected leader. On Thursday, Obama travels to Buffalo for an event focused on the economy; he'll end the day in New York raising money for the DCCC.

Continue reading "The Week Ahead: Specter's Kagan Problem" »

Week In Midterms: Parties Stress Unity

This week in midterms featured primaries in three competitive states, with one more state Republican Party possibly choosing its nominee tomorrow. Each contest caused the two parties headaches, as fellow party members beat up on each other and spent sizeable sums of money to win the nominations.

In Indiana, former Sen. Dan Coats came away the winner against a challenger with grassroots conservative support and a former congressman, giving the national GOP its preffered nominee. In Ohio, Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher ended up with a 12-point Democratic primary win over Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, giving Dems the candidate they wanted.

In the aftermath, the parties have begun working to bring the split camps together. Brunner sent an email to Ohio Democrats to show she was standing behind Fisher's candidacy, despite some of the nasty accusations flung between them during the campaign. And she urged supporters to do the same.

Indiana Republicans went a step further, calling a press conference featuring all five candidates after Coats won the primary with just 40% of the vote. "We're going to reach out in the fall to Republicans, conservatives, Tea Party people, moderates, even Democrats that may have some remorse about voting for this president particularly in light of what this agenda has been so far," Coats said.

Continue reading "Week In Midterms: Parties Stress Unity" »

The Week Ahead: November Races Take Shape

Tuesday begins a potentially pivotal 35-day stretch of election contests that will set the stage for this November's midterm madness. By June 8, 25 states will have held primary and/or special elections, starting with tomorrow's party contests in Indiana, North Carolina and Ohio.

The featured contests this week are Democratic primaries in the races for Republican-held Senate seats in Ohio and North Carolina. Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher seems to have opened up a late lead over Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner in the Buckeye State; the winner faces Republican Rob Portman, a former Congressman and director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Bush. In North Carolina, no clear favorite has emerged among the field of candidates looking to challenge first-term Sen. Richard Burr (R). If no candidate gets the required 40 percent of the vote, a real possibility, a June 22 runoff will be held.

In the Hoosier State, the attention is on the Republican primary for Senate. Former Sen. Dan Coats, whose retirement led to the election of retiring incumbent Evan Bayh (D), is the presumed frontrunner against former Rep. John Hostettler and state Sen. Marlin Stutzman. Rep. Brad Ellsworth is the Democratic candidate; no primary is taking place because Bayh's decision not to seek re-election came just days before the filing deadline.

These Senate contests in a way represent the midterm Congressional landscape in a microscosm. Races that had very early on been seen as pickup opportunities for Democrats now are at best toss-up races. And Republicans will be looking at the message sent in the Indiana primary as a signal of how other, more divisive races could alter their chances in a favorable environment.

Continue reading "The Week Ahead: November Races Take Shape" »

Week In Midterms: Who Benefits Most In Florida?

So Charlie Crist, the Republican governor of Florida, is now an independent. A year ago most expected him to not only walk away with the Republican nomination but also the general election. Today, after announcing the switch at a news conference yesterday afternoon, we have the most interesting and competitive race in the country.

Some have compared the situation to Connecticut circa 2006, when Sen. Joe Lieberman was defeated in the Democratic primary then ran in the general election as an independent. That's a favorable comparison for Crist, who hopes to siphon votes from both Marco Rubio (R) and Rep. Kendrick Meek (D).

Crist thinks this helps him because he would've lost the GOP primary. Democrats think this helps Meek, with Crist and Rubio splitting the GOP vote. And Rubio's campaign can't be totally complaining, as it now will begin to receive all the GOP fundraising and support that Crist left on the table.

Continue reading "Week In Midterms: Who Benefits Most In Florida?" »

The Week Ahead: Crist's Independence Day

Charlie Crist has until this Friday to determine whether he will continue to run for the U.S. Senate as a Republican, continue pursuing his candidacy but as an independent, or to abandon the campaign entirely and focus on his duties as Florida's governor and begin to plot his political recovery. If history is any guide, we can expect he'll wait until just before that Friday deadline to make that decision. In the meantime, politicos in Florida and certainly across the country will continue to debate what his predicament means for Crist, for the Senate race, and for the Republican Party in general.

Heading into the week, reports seem to indicate Crist is leaning toward an independent run. Marco Rubio has built a lead that seems insurmountable given the governor's standing in his own party right now. Some longtime allies are reportedly warning him against abandoning the party he has built his career with, with one notion being that Crist himself once had such an intimidating lead, and that Rubio's warts are only beginning to come to light as the toast of the tea party movement has built his following.

Continue reading "The Week Ahead: Crist's Independence Day" »

The Week In Midterms: 2012 Endorsements In 2010

It was an especially busy week for endorsements in midterm races this week, especially in Republican primaries. And no race saw more national figures weigh in than Florida Senate, where Charlie Crist's temptation with an independent candidacy drew Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich into the camp of Marco Rubio. Endorsements from potential 2012 hopefuls are coming fast and furious these days, as Karen Tumulty pointed out this week. Romney also endorsed in the Michigan gubernatorial primary, while pitching in for California's Meg Whitman. Tim Pawlenty also announced a slew of endorsements, while announcing a trip to South Carolina on behalf of a Congressional candidate.

Meanwhile, the White House continues to flex its political muscle. President Obama traveled to California on Monday for three events with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D). And Vice President Joe Biden is in Pennsylvania today campaigning for Sen. Arlen Specter (D) and Mark Critz, the Democrat running to replace John Murtha in Pennsylvania 12. All this week in the midterm races.

Continue reading "The Week In Midterms: 2012 Endorsements In 2010" »

The Week Ahead: Will D.C. Get Voting Rights?

It's a good time to be a Washingtonian. We have the never-dull, first place Capitals in the NHL playoffs, the Nationals are .500 (!) 12 games into the season, and the Redskins have the 4th pick in Thursday's NFL Draft. In what will certainly be a great week of sports in D.C., here's what we'll be watching for in politics:

The White House: President Obama has meeting at the White House today before heading west to California for three, count 'em, three fundraisers to benefit the DNC and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D). Boxer is among the more vulnerable incumbents on the ballot this November, with the RCP Averages against potential GOP opponents finding her ahead by 1 to 6 points. The funds to benefit the DNC will also point to a commitment made to spend tens of millions this fall supporting Democrats.

Obama returns to Washington Tuesday night. Wednesday he'll host a bipartisan group of senators including the leadership and the top members of the Judiciary Committee to discuss the Supreme Court vacancy. The focus seems to remain squarely on Elena Kagan, currently the Solicitor General. On Wednesday the president also honors Olympic and Paralympic athletes who competed in Vancouver. Thursday, Obama will travel to New York City to speak about financial reform.

On Friday he and the first lady head for a weekend getaway in Asheville, North Carolina.

Capitol Hill: This is the week many in Washington, D.C. proper have been waiting for. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.) are leading the charge this week for the House to pass a law giving the District a full voting member. Republicans in the Senate added a gun-control poison pill in the upper chamber's successful bill last year, pulling the process to a halt. But Norton now says she's ready to overlook the controversial add-on (which restricts the city's ability to pass gun control laws), and the House is expected to vote as early as Wednesday.

With financial regulatory reform atop the Senate legislative agenda, it begins the week debating and voting on the nomination of Lael Brainard as Under Secretary of Treasury. Others awaiting a Senate vote this week include Marisa J. Demeo for D.C. Superior Court, Christopher H. Schroeder for Assistant Attorney General, Thomas I. Vanaskie for 3rd Circuit Judge and Denny Chin for 2nd Circuit Judge.

Politics: There are no filing deadlines on tap this week. We're still two weeks away from the start of a long stretch of primaries, with the first coming May 4 in Indiana, North Carolina and Ohio. Mitt Romney stops by a Tampa conference center this morning to formally endorse Marco Rubio for Senate. Rubio's been running for more than a year, but it now seems a foregone conclusion that Gov. Charlie Crist (R) will drop out of the primary.

On Friday, we get a showdown in one of the biggest looming primaries as Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) debates challenger Bill Halter (D) and a third candidate, businessman D.C. Morrison at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Don't overlook the fact that Arkansas is one of the states that requires a candidate to reach 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff. It's possible, based on recent polling, that neither Halter nor Lincoln could get to 50 and thus extend the fight to June 8.

Also on Friday, Vice President Joe Biden will head to southwest Pennsylvania to campaign with and raise money for Mark Critz, the Democratic candidate in a May 18 special election to replace the late John Murtha (D). Biden's visit, long in the works, signals national Democrats' engagement in the race, expected to be much more competitive than last week's Florida 19 special election. Democrats still have not lost a special election for the U.S. House since President Obama took office, and have not lost a Democratic-held seat in a special election since 2001.

**Sunday Show Highlights at RCP Video.

Continue reading "The Week Ahead: Will D.C. Get Voting Rights?" »

Week In Midterms: Winning The Money War

The quarterly reporting period dominates the headlines this week in midterm races. Our regularly-updated chart has the latest figures.

Continue reading "Week In Midterms: Winning The Money War" »

The Week Ahead: A Boston Tea Party

After a bit of a lull, the world of politics heats up in a big way this week. Congress is back in session, voters head to the polls in Texas and Florida, and the tea party movement is set for a big rally in Boston on Tax Day this Thursday. Here's a look at this week in politics.

The White House: President Obama continues his administration's extended focus on nuclear security issues with a major summit here in Washington today and Tuesday. Participating are several dozen heads of state -- though not Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu. Nuclear security is one of the few issues associated with Obama during his time in the Senate, and his partnership with Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) is something the White House hopes will help pave the way for ratification of a new START Treaty.

On Wednesday, Obama revisits a promise made in the State of the Union address to hold a bipartisan meeting with Congressional leadership. It's only the second such meeting -- the other held days after he made the promise in February's speech. On Thursday, Obama heads to Cape Canaveral, Florida, for a speech on his administration's space policy. His budget plan significantly scaled back NASA's budget, killing the Constellation program and thus hitting a key industry in the politically vital Sunshine State. He's also raising money for the DNC in South Florida that night.

Left off the schedule but no doubt a focus: consideration of a new Supreme Court pick. Obama chose Sonia Sotomayor just over three weeks after Justice Souter announced his resignation in 2009. It's expected that the White House may be able to move on a selection sooner this time, considering most names on the 2009 short list are still considered viable and won't need much new vetting.

Capitol Hill: After two weeks of recess, the Senate returns to work today with a vote on the Continuing Extention Act while the House starts tomorrow with 20 suspension bills and the Clean Estuaries Act on the docket for the week. It wasn't a great two weeks off for House Democrats, as health care polling failed to improve and Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), who led the compromise on the bill that enabled its passage, announced his retirement. With Spring Break now in the rear view mirror, Senate Democrats have a full plate ahead of them: Wall Street reform and confirming Obama's Supreme Court nominee.

Politics: For the first time in more than a month, we have some Congressional elections on the schedule this Tuesday. Voters in Texas go to the polls to vote in primary runoffs, with the Republican race in Texas-17 one of the few that folks in Washington will be eyeing. In Florida's 19th Congressional District, voters will finally select a replacement for Rep. Robert Wexler (D). State Sen. Ted Deutch (D) is a favorite in the heavily-Democratic district, which President Obama carried by 32 points in 2008. Democrats have not lost a single special election for the House in the 2009-10 cycle.

This week there's also a filing deadline in New Jersey. The only elections this fall are for the House, and Republicans are looking to reclaim the 3rd District seat now held by Rep. John Adler (D). Among the candidates: Jon Runyan, former Eagles offensive tackle. Democrats hope to put up a fight in the 7th District, held by freshman Leonard Lance (R). But the environment looks to make this competitive seat -- won by Obama in 2008 -- safer for the GOP.

A date not to overlook this week comes Thursday -- tax day. Last year this marked one of the first major public demonstrations for the tea party movement. Rallies are again on tap around the occasion, including an event in Boston the day before featuring Sarah Palin with the Tea Party Express.

Continue reading "The Week Ahead: A Boston Tea Party" »

Week In Midterms: Grudge Matches

Former Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R) is attempting to do what others have failed to in recent gubernatorial races: win a rematch.

Ehrlich announced Wednesday that he'll run for his old job, seeking to avenge his 2006 defeat against then-Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley (D). He lost that year despite fairly strong personal approval in the state, a victim some say of the strong anti-Republican tide that year. With the political winds seemingly blowing the opposite way, Republicans think he can be successful. But a look at recent history even in Maryland alone shows he has an uphill climb. In 1998, Ellen Sauerbrey (R) ran against Gov. Parris Glendening (D) after losing a tight race just four years earlier. She lost again.

More recently, Dino Rossi (R) tried to unseat Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) after a 2004 race decided in the Democrat's favor only after several recounts. He lost in a 2008 comeback attempt by a wider margin. In Rhode Island Myrth York (D), like Sauerbrey, lost in 1994 and 1998 against the same foe -- Republican Lincoln Almond. She lost again in 2002 when she ran a third time.

But there is some precedent Ehrlich allies would prefer to point to. And it starts with the ultimate "Comeback Kid" -- Bill Clinton. He was unseated as Arkansas governor by Frank White in 1980, but he ran again two years later and defeated White, taking back a post he would hold for another decade. And another Democrat presidential hopeful -- Michael Dukakis -- successfully avenged a gubernatorial defeat. He lost his 1978 re-election bid in the Democratic primary to Edward King, but defeated King four years later.

Speaking of grudge matches, Rudy Giuliani exacted a measure of revenge against Charlie Crist in Florida this week, as he endorsed the governor's primary rival, Marco Rubio. That and more as RCP looks at This Week in the Midterm Elections.

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The Week Ahead: First Pitches And Final Shots

It's Opening Day in Major League Baseball and the end of an exciting NCAA men's basketball tourney. The week ahead in politics is not so bad either, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid formally kicking off his campaign for re-election, Mitt Romney back in New Hampshire for the first time in a quasi-campaign mode since 2008, and a big cattle call for the rest of the 2012 GOP field in New Orleans at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference.

The White House: The president is still in a bit of holiday mode. After attending church services yesterday with his family in Southeast Washington, Mr. Obama attends over the annual White House Easter Egg Roll today. This afternoon, he'll take part in an almost-annual presidential tradition as he throws out the first pitch at the Washington Nationals season opener against the Philadelphia Phillies. It's a stop that is already overshadowed by the big news involving the Washington and Philadelphia football teams -- the trade of Donovan McNabb to the Redskins. A solid heater from the tall lefty could help at least erase somewhat the memory of his poor All-Star Game showing.

The big headline of the week for the president is on the international front. On Wednesday night he travels to Prague, where Thursday he'll sign a new START treaty with Russian President Medvedev. While in the Czech Republic he'll have dinner with the heads of state of 11 eastern European nations, and hold a bilateral with that nation's president and prime minister.

Capitol Hill: As it was last week, the story with Congress is everywhere but Capitol Hill, as Members make use of the two weeks off for personal appearances in their districts and states -- shoring up their campaigns, raising money, defending their health care vote. When the bodies return from Easter recess, financial regulatory reform sits atop the agenda -- while a potential Supreme Court replacement could put a hold on the Senate's legislative plans. More on that below.

Politics: We expected some surprises from Congressional incumbents during this recess period, but so far there have been no retirements or shake-ups like we saw in previous months. This week there are two filing deadlines to note: North Dakota and Virginia. What to watch in those states: Will any major Democrat emerge to challenge Gov. John Hoeven in the Senate race? How will the GOP fields shape up in some potentially competitive House races involving freshmen Democratic incumbents.

In Nevada today, Harry Reid officially kicks off his re-election campaign. He'll embark on a three-day bus tour of the state, and it begins in his hometown of Searchlight. Just a week ago, tea party activists rallied there as a show of force against the Democratic leader.

On the 2012 front, three big events to watch. First, Mitt Romney's book tour takes him to the Granite State this week, his first major public appearance in New Hampshire since his 2008 campaign. He'll head to Minnesota later for an event with potential primary rival Tim Pawlenty. Notably, neither of those candidates will appear at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans. Confirmed speakers at the major presidential cattle call include Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal and Mike Pence. The straw poll is considered a major early test of the electorate, but we remind you that Bill Frist was the runaway winner in 2006 when Memphis played host.

There's another interesting joint rally taking place in Minnesota, as Palin headlines a Wednesday rally for Rep. Michele Bachmann's re-election campaign.

Continue reading "The Week Ahead: First Pitches And Final Shots" »

The Week In Midterms: Fundraising & Impeachments

Here's a look at the week that was in the 2010 midterm elections:


ARIZONA: It was a good week for Sen. John McCain -- Sarah Palin came to town last weekend to shore up support among conservatives; he announced raising $2.2 million in the 1st Quarter; J.D. Hayworth raised less than expected; and a new poll shows McCain leading the primary by 15 points with 52% support.

ARKANSAS: The big news here is the ridiculous fundraising pace of Sen. Blanche Lincoln's primary opponent, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter -- who's tapped into a nationwide donor network and pulled in $2 million last month alone. Lincoln also received more poor polling numbers.

Continue reading "The Week In Midterms: Fundraising & Impeachments" »

The Week Ahead: Out Like A Lamb

The week ahead brings us to the end of March. You know the old saying -- in like a lion, out like a lamb. And it feels like it in Washington; a month that started with the furious health care deliberations ends now with that bill signed into law, and Congress out of Washington for the Easter recess. But there never is a dull moment in politics, and by now we all know to look out for the surprise political bombshell to drop when you least expect it. With that in mind, here's what we do know about the week ahead.

White House: Speaking of surprises, President Obama had another up his sleeve with a covert trip in and out of Afghanistan this weekend. We had been led to believe he'd be resting up with family at Camp David. But instead, the White House went ahead with a visit that had been under consideration in concert with his planned trip to Australia and Indonesia -- a trip that was called off for health care.

As Mike wrote here Sunday, it seemed part of a guns-blazing White House strategy to create a sense of momentum for the administration coming out of the big health care victory. This week, Obama will continue to highlight that win as he signs into law the so-called "fixes," which also include a major overhaul of how the government handles student loans. That event takes place at a community college in nearby Northern Virginia. Obama keeps up his road show with a trip to Maine -- home of the GOP's two leading centrist senators -- to promote the health care bill on Thursday. Then on Friday, he'll head to North Carolina to return focus to the troubled economy. That visit will coincide with the monthly jobs report.

Also on tap this week: a White House visit on Tuesday by French President Sarkozy.

Capitol Hill: Things will be quiet on the Hill for the next two weeks with members home for Easter recess. While Obama signs the health care reform reconciliation bill on Tuesday in Northern Virginia, members will be out in their districts and states defending their votes -- in town halls, on local radio and other public appearances. Most Democrats voted yes; all Republicans voted no. In a memo last week, Speaker Pelosi urged House Democrats to push the benefits of the bill when speaking with constituents; Minority Leader Boehner told Republicans to focus on the fact that the bill does nothing to combat the country's high unemployment.

Politics: The deadline for first quarter fundraising is this week, so expect some last minute appeals for cash from candidates and party campaign committees. Filing deadlines for candidates to get on primary ballots are on tap over the course of the week in five states: Alabama, Tennessee, Missouri, South Carolina and South Dakota. We're still more than a month away from the next round of primaries.

Mitt Romney has a busy week that includes stops in two key early nominating states. On Monday, he stops in two Iowa cities as part of his book tour. Then on Thursday he heads to South Carolina to campaign for state Sen. Nikki Haley, one of the Republicans running to succeed Mark Sanford as governor. He'll be in New Hampshire the following week on his book tour, rounding out the presidential primary trifecta.

**Poll Watch:
Obama Job Performance: Approve 47.5 / Disapprove 46.5 (+1.0)
Congress Job Performance: Approve 18.5 / Disapprove 76.2 (-57.7)
Generic Ballot Test: Republicans +1.7

**In Case You Missed It: The hot Florida Republican Senate primary took to the national airwaves on Sunday as Marco Rubio debated Charlie Crist on Fox News Sunday.

**Bonus Sports Watch The week ahead includes one of the great weekends on the sports calendar in some time. On Saturday, the Final Four kicks off in Indianapolis, featuring Michigan State against the hometown Butler Bulldogs and Duke facing off with West Virginia. And then Sunday night is a night Mike in particular has been waiting for since November. The baseball season starts that night as the defending World Champion New York Yankees head to Fenway Park to face the hated Red Sox. The rest of the league, including our hometown Nationals, opens on Monday.

--Kyle Trygstad and Mike Memoli

Palin Rallies The Right

Sarah Palin took the stage today at the Pima County Fairgrounds in an effort to give Arizona Sen. John McCain the same kind of conservative base boost she brought to his presidential candidacy two years ago. McCain is facing a challenging GOP primary opponent in former Rep. J.D. Hayworth, who is attempting to paint himself as the true conservative in the race.

The McCain campaign hopes Palin's presence will shore up his conservative base in the state, some of whom are upset over stances he's taken on issues such as immigration reform. Palin also wrote an op-ed in the Arizona Republic this morning talking up McCain's accomplishments.

"For the good of our entire country and the future of your state, please send John McCain back to the United States Senate," wrote Palin.

Palin is active in congressional politics this year, not only defending Republicans but also attacking Democrats. She will reportedly attend the Tea Party event in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's Nevada hometown tomorrow afternoon and has listed 17 Democratic House member targets on her Facebook page.

After the jump, a look at This Week In Midterms.

Continue reading "Palin Rallies The Right" »

The Week Ahead: Senate Takes Center Stage

Democrats jumped over a monumental hurdle last night as the House -- after working through the weekend -- approved the Senate's health care reform bill along with a separate bill of fixes. The "fixes" bill now heads to the Senate, which will attempt to pass the bill through reconciliation, needing just 51 votes to pass and send to the desk of President Obama.

After a week that never ended, here is what to expect in the week ahead:

White House: President Obama was scheduled to be overseas this week, but instead he'll continue to focus on domestic affairs as he works with leadership to ensure that the Senate enacts the final health care fixes. "It's time to bring this debate to a close," he said Sunday night, while saying he hopes the Republicans don't resort to parliamentary procedures to delay final passage.

Obama reportedly will also hit the road again this week, a combination of victory lap and a continued sales job. Clearly, as we have seen with the stimulus bill, the White House understands the need to continue to use the bully pulpit to maintain and build support for the finished product. With the focus on this weekend's votes, there is no official week ahead schedule for the White House beyond that.

Capitol Hill: Along with Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid spoke to the House Democratic Caucus Saturday afternoon and promised that the Senate would hold an up-or-down vote on the reconciliation bill, which requires just 51 votes because its contents deal solely with the budget. Reid also sent Speaker Pelosi a letter signed by a majority of Senate Democrats who promised to support the bill upon passage in the House. The House passed the Senate bill 219-212 and the reconciliation bill 220-211.

Debate on the reconciliation bill will likely begin Tuesday, with a vote possible by the end of the week. Republicans in the Senate are expected to challenge parts of the bill to the Senate parliamentarian that they say do not directly affect the budget. A successful challenge would throw yet another wrench in the gears for Democrats.

Politics: We just hit the first day of spring, so it's impossible to predict what the political landscape will look like in early November. But Republicans certainly think the vote last night represents the beginning of the end for many Democrats in the House. "The decision by President Obama and the Democrat-led Congress to ignore the voters and ram their government takeover of healthcare down the throats of the American people will come at a steep political cost in November," NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions stated in a press release last night. "The NRCC and Republican candidates running across the country will fight to hold Democrats accountable from now until Election Day."

House members running for governor or Senate had even more pressure on them, as their votes will eventually be judged by voters statewide. One such Democrat is Brad Ellsworth, who's running for Indiana's open Senate seat. Republican Dan Coats' campaign released a statement slamming him for his vote before the reconciliation vote had been completed.

No filing deadlines in the states this week. Some political events worth noting: Good timing for the NRCC. This Tuesday, they hold a major fundraising dinner at the National Building Museum in Washington, headlined by Fox News' Sean Hannity. On Thursday, Tim Pawlenty makes his second trip to New Hampshire as he tests the waters in the 2012 primary state. On Friday, Sarah Palin joins John McCain for an event to boost the Arizona senator's 2010 re-election bid.

**Poll Watch:
Obama Job Performance: Approve 47.0 / Disapprove 47.0 (Tie)
Congress Job Performance: Approve 19.0 / Disapprove 75.8 (-56.8)
Generic Ballot Test: Republicans +1.6

**In Case You Missed It: Besides the votes, the biggest moment on Sunday came at about 4:00 p.m., when Rep. Bart Stupak called a press conference to announce he had reached an agreement with President Obama and would support the reform bill. Minutes earlier, RCP spotted Stupak on the House floor tapping fellow pro-life Democrats on the shoulder. The Stupak deal gave Democrats the 216 votes needed to pass the bill.

--Kyle Trygstad and Mike Memoli

The Week In Midterms: Romney's In The Mix

As he gears up for 2012, Mitt Romney is keeping his name in the 2010 mix as he tours the country selling his recently released book. He was in Phoenix on Tuesday talking up his former presidential rival and also took the time to announce which gubernatorial candidate he likes in South Carolina.

Here's a quick rundown of some of the highlights of the week that was in the always hectic 2010 midterm election cycle:

ARIZONA: A new poll out this week showed the GOP primary race for John McCain's Senate seat is close, with McCain polling under 50 percent and holding off former Rep. J.D. Hayworth by just 7 points. The two have been going after each other recently over earmarks and which candidate is truly conservative. McCain's also getting help from some old friends -- Mitt Romney in Phoenix this week and Sarah Palin in Tucson and Phoenix next week.

COLORADO: Sen. Michael Bennet (D) released a TV ad this week that -- as many candidates around the country are doing -- attempts to show him as a D.C. outsider. "I've been in Washington for only a year," he says, accurately. Meanwhile, Bennet's primary challenger, former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, was tying him right back to Washington, saying his caucus victory over the senator on Tuesday was a backlash against Washington. The point of the caucuses was to select delegates to the May state party assemblies, but also proved Romanoff has a strong group of activist supporters.

CONNECTICUT: A Quinnipiac poll found WWE executive Linda McMahon, who's already spending big, taking the lead in the GOP Senate primary against former Rep. Rob Simmons. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal still leads both by more than 30 points.

KENTUCKY: Things got a little maddening in the two Senate primary races this week as the NCAA basketball tournament kicked off -- both physician Rand Paul (R) and Attorney General Jack Conway (D) hold degrees from Duke, while their primary opponents, Secretary of State Trey Grayson (R) and Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo, hold degrees from Kentucky. Things got started when Grayson released a web ad calling out Paul for his ties to Duke. The schools have a deep and contentious history in the tournament, and basketball is huge in Kentucky.

NEW YORK: Former Rep. Joe DioGuardi (R) announced Tuesday morning that he was joining a short but growing list of Republicans running for Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand's Senate seat. As we mentioned a few weeks ago when we reported he was considering a bid, DioGuardi -- who's been out of Congress for more than 20 years -- is now better known as the father of an "American Idol" judge.

LEFTOVERS: New polls this week showed potentially close general election races in California, Florida and Wisconsin.


CONNECTICUT: Quinnipiac finds Ned Lamont and Tom Foley leading in the Democratic and GOP primaries, respectively.

CALIFORNIA: Two polls -- the Field poll and Rasmussen -- showed Meg Whitman surging in both the primary and the general. Maybe pulling an Obama helped afterall? Jerry Brown says he wants the unions to do his dirty work. George Skelton says Whitman is proving herself to be a formidable candidate.

FLORIDA: Alex Sink, criticized by some for her tepid campaign, is now gearing up with a tour of the state focused on economic plans. Those plans sounded familiar to some. Bill McCollum is turning his attention to national issues, saying he'd be ready to sue over health care.

IOWA: A potential Democratic challenger to Gov. Chet Culver has decided to run instead as an independent. Meanwhile, the Republican field just got larger. Culver filed for re-election, and said he's very confident he can win a second term. Culver: "This isn't my first rodeo."

NEW YORK: NY-23 all over again? Some Republicans, unhappy with Rick Lazio's campaign, are working to lure Democrat Steve Levy into switch parties. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, meanwhile, is no closer to entering the fray.

OHIO: Joe Biden campaigned for Ted Strickland, one of many vulnerable Democrats the veep has hit the trail for.

SOUTH CAROLINA: Mitt Romney picked sides in a race in the important early primary state. He's backing Nikki Haley, the only woman in the primary field. She had endorsed Romney in the 2008 primaries.

THE REST: The Democratic-turned-indie candidate in Massachusetts might have taken the strongest stand on health care, criticizing both the state plan signed by Mitt Romney and the national plan nearly through. Howard Dean endorsed R.T. Rybak in Minnesota. A new Michigan poll found Andy Dillon leading among Democrats, while Rep. Pete Hoekstra and Attorney General Mike Cox are tied at the top of the GOP field. Susquehanna's latest poll shows Attorney General Corbett safely ahead of potential Democratic foes. Pete Domenici Jr., son of the former senator, drew a scant 5 percent of the vote at the GOP convention.

Cook Political Report:
*HI-01 from Lean D to Toss Up

Senate: GOP +7
Governor: GOP +4
House Map

The Week Ahead: March Madness

The fields are set and the brackets are being filled out. Thursday begins one of the truly great long weekends on the sports calendar each year, with the NCAA men's basketball tournament's first and second rounds. Meanwhile, it's perhaps a make-or-break week for health care legislation in Washington. Pity the Congressional and White House staffers who won't be able to watch the opening round games.

**The White House: The effort to pass his top domestic policy initiative has crowded in on President Obama's first major international trip of 2010. The White House is delaying the president's trip to Guam, Australia and Indonesia, originally scheduled to begin Thursday, so that he can be on hand through a potential final vote this weekend on health care reform legislation. The delayed trip represents yet another missed deadline from the administration -- officials wanted a vote before his originally-scheduled departure.

Obama continues the public sales effort today with a visit to the Cleveland area, his sixth visit to the battleground state of Ohio as president. Outside of the Beltway, he's visited only one state more times - New York. Also on his schedule this week: the traditional St. Patrick's Day visit by Ireland's prime minister, the Taoiseach, on Wednesday.

Vice President Biden, just back from a foreign trip of his own, will coincidentally also be in Ohio. He's there strictly on political business. First, a Cincinnati event with Rep. Steve Driehaus, and then a Cleveland stop on behalf of Gov. Ted Strickland. Also this week, Biden will be the featured speaker at the annual Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner in Washington.

**Capitol Hill:: As Democratic leaders await scoring from the Congressional Budget Office on a health care reform "fix," the House Banking Committee begins marking up the "Reconciliation Act of 2010" today at 3 p.m. It will set off perhaps the most fruitful week for health care reform since Christmas Eve, when the Senate passed its version on a party-line vote. Elsewhere in the Capitol, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd will introduce the latest version of a financial regulation reform bill. It will be "detailed legislation for the most sweeping overhaul of financial regulations since the Great Depression, which Democrats want to pass before the fall elections," Los Angeles Times reports. The Senate will also hold a cloture vote tonight on the House amendments to the jobs bill.

**Politics: A slew of filing deadlines on tap for this week. Today is the deadline for candidates to get on the ballot in Montana and Maine - where the gubernatorial ballot is going to be particularly crowded on both sides as Democratic Gov. John Baldacci is term-limited. Major party candidates have until Friday to get on the ballot for races in Iowa, Idaho and Utah. Iowa features a competitive gubernatorial race and several potentially swing House races; Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) looks safe for now as he looks for a new term. In Idaho, the focus will be on the first district Congressional seat held now by Democrat Walt Minnick. And in Utah, the focus will be on a competitive Republican primary for U.S. Senate featuring incumbent Robert Bennett. There's also a special election for governor as Gary Herbert looks to hold onto the post he inherited when Jon Huntsman resigned to become ambassador to China. Peter Corroon, mayor of Salt Lake County, is the likely Democratic nominee. The next primary date is not until May 4, when Indiana, Ohio and North Carolina votes.

An interesting bit of political stumping takes place this week, as Jim DeMint and Marco Rubio do some joint fundraising -- in South Carolina. Mike Pence visits New Hampshire on Friday, another early primary state visit for him. Tim Pawlenty returns to the Granite State the following week.

**Poll Watch:
Obama Job Performance: Approve 49.1 / Disapprove 45.8 (+3.3)
Congress Job Performance: Approve 19.3 / Disapprove 75.7 (-56.4)
Generic Ballot Test: Republicans +0.6

**In Case You Missed It: On "Meet the Press" yesterday, House Majority Whip James Clyburn said Democrats "don't have [the votes] as of this morning" but that he's "confident" Democrats will successfully complete health care reform.

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--Mike Memoli and Kyle Trygstad

The Week In Midterms: Campaigning For Majority Leader

Georgetown is pushing its way through the Big East Tournament this week en route to the NCAA Tournament, starting next Thursday. In the meantime, we've been reporting politics news from California to Massachusetts to Florida. Here's a look back at the week that was in 2010 midterms:


FLORIDA: In a Monday morning briefing with reporters, NRSC Chair John Cornyn walked back his early endorsement of Gov. Charlie Crist. On Tuesday, a PPP poll found Marco Rubio leading Crist by 32 points; and on Wednesday, another poll found Rubio up 34 points.

MISSOURI: Robin Carnahan's (D) trip to Washington this week got far more press than the campaign was likely expecting. The secretary of state -- and daughter of two former senators -- was attending a fundraiser at Sen. Mary Landrieu's (D-La.) Capitol Hill home and other events in D.C. while President Obama was in the St. Louis area for a fundraiser and health care rally. Meanwhile, a poll found Carnahan still trailing Rep. Roy Blunt (R) by 6 points.

NEVADA: Three of the four Senate Democratic leaders are up for re-election this year, and Majority Leader Harry Reid is easily in the worst shape. Sens. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the No. 2 and 3 ranking leaders, are now actively -- though relatively quietly -- campaigning for Reid's job. Putting things in some perspective, Reid had a serious scare yesterday as his wife and daughter were both injured in a serious car accident outside Washington.

PENNSYLVANIA: Now it is Specter who is the underdog," writes TIME's Karen Tumulty, who takes a close look at how much things have changed in politics from a year ago when Sen. Arlen Specter switched from the Republican to the Democratic Party.

WASHINGTON: Sen. Patty Murray, the fourth ranking Democratic leader in the Senate, is increasingly looking more vulnerable than most had expected. In a hypothetical matchup with two-time GOP nominee for governor, Dino Rossi, Murray trailed by 3 points and garnered just 46 percent support. Rossi hasn't said whether he'll run, but one thing that may hold him back is the thought of an open governor's race in two years -- when Christine Gregoire (D) is term-limited.

CALIFORNIA: It was a strange week for Meg Whitman (R) -- she invited the press to an event on Tuesday then refused to take questions as the press was quickly ushered out and then blocked from sight with a screen. San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra J. Saunders noted this week after finally interviewing the candidate that "her supersize campaign has been rolling her out like an Easter egg. She has been in a shell - for which she has paid handsomely." Still, a poll released on Thursday found Whitman trailing Jerry Brown (D) by just 4 points.

COLORADO: Two polls this week found vastly differing results in the race between Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper (D) and former Rep. Scott McInnis (R). The first found McInnis up 6 points; the second found Hickenlooper up 11 points.

ILLINOIS: After finally being declared the Republican primary winner last Friday, a new poll found Bill Brady (R) leading Gov. Pat Quinn (D) by 10 points.

IOWA: The race drew the attention of the Washington Post, with a reporter on the scene to document Gov. Chet Culver's (D) difficult road to re-election. Former Gov. Terry Branstad (R) agreed to three debates with his June 8 primary foes, including Bob Vander Plaats, who beat Branstad in three county straw polls over the weekend.

MASSACHUSETTS: Gov. Deval Patrick (D) is facing a difficult re-election fight. A new poll found him winning just 35 percent support and leading Republican Charlie Baker by 3 points, with Dem-turned-independent Tim Cahill taking 19 points. Cahill's support jumps when Christy Mihos (R) is substituted in for Baker. Meanwhile, the governor is ramping up his criticism of Baker, a former health insurance company CEO.

PA-12 Special: The candidates are now set for the May 18 special election to replace Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) in the House through the end of the year. Republicans chose political neophyte Tim Burns to run in the competitive district and help set the tone for the rest of the midterm election year.

Cook Political Report:
*MA-10 from Likely D to Toss Up

Rothenberg Political Report:
*MD Gov from Safe to Narrow Advantage D

The Week Ahead: Up In The Air

The votes are in from Hollywood, and the war in Iraq is the big winner as "Hurt Locker" took home the gold. Meanwhile, Iraqis themselves actually voted this weekend. That winner is still TBD.

Back in the world of politics, the outcome of health care reform legislation is still up in the air (to belabor our Oscar theme), with the President hitting the road again this week to sell his plan ahead of an Easter deadline. Here's our look at the week in politics.

**The White House: President Obama keeps minding his purple states with his travel this week to sell health care, starting with a morning visit today to the Philadelphia area, to be followed this Wednesday with a trip to one of the ultimate bellwether states, Missouri. Expect to continue hearing the president call for an "up or down vote" in the Senate for his plan, even though the real effort is in getting the votes in the House. The first deadline set by the White House is for that House vote to occur by next Thursday, when Obama leaves for an extended overseas trip.

Speaking of foreign policy, Obama this week meets with the president of El Salvador, the prime minister of Greece and the president of Haiti. Meanwhile, Vice President Biden has started a week-long trip to the Middle East, a visit that comes just after the aforementioned Iraqi elections.

**Capitol Hill: The country awaits Democrats' next move on health care. If they stay on a tentative schedule that the White House has intimated, there should be some action during the next two weeks. The plan: the House will pass the Senate bill, then both will pass a separate bill that fixes certain budget-related aspects to it that House members don't support. In the meantime, the House passed last week a slightly altered version of the Senate's $15 billion jobs bill, so the Senate is expected to take that up this week. Speaker Pelosi said that will be just the beginning of jobs-related plans to come to the floor in the months ahead. The upper chamber begins this week with work on the tax extenders bill, with votes on Tuesday.

**Politics: We start by noting the filing deadlines in the states this week: Arkansas (3/8); Oregon, Pennsylvania (3/9); California, Nevada (3/12).

Democrats are hoping for a better week after seeing two New York congressmen taken down last week by ethics investigations. Facing mounting pressure, Charles Rangel stepped down from his post as chairman of the Ways & Means Committee, while freshman Eric Massa first announced he wouldn't run for re-election -- then said he'll resign from Congress today to save himself from an ethics investigation into an allegation that he sexually harassed a staffer. We're also still keeping an eye on New York's governor, David Paterson, who holds a town hall meeting with voters this week and meets with the New York archbishop today as he tenuously holds on to his post.

On the 2010 front, Scott Brown was in Arizona campaigning with John McCain this weekend. But this week, it's McCain who plays a supporting role as he heads to a special state for him -- New Hampshire. He'll be campaigning for Senate hopeful Kelly Ayotte, a notable visit considering that there's a very active primary there. Looking at 2012, Mitt Romney's book tour kicks into high gear with stops in Florida, Michigan, California and Utah this week.

Trying to turn the attention back to the GOP, the DNC is airing a national TV ad this week on cable on the GOP "fear" fundraising appeal. Republicans will also be closely reading Karl Rove's new book, "Courage and Consequence," out Tuesday.

**Poll Watch:
Obama Job Performance: Approve 48.7 / Disapprove 45.8 (+2.9)
Congress Job Performance: Approve 18.8 / Disapprove 75.6 (-56.8)
Generic Ballot Test: Republicans +0.7

**In Case You Missed It: Just one month ago we were enduring back-to-back blizzards here in DC. But this week, we're looking at some 60-degree-plus days. This spring-like weather reminds us that baseball is just around the corner, and for Nats fans a pretty important spring training game this week as Stephen Strasburg will get the start in an exhibition Tuesday against Detroit, who'll start 2009 rookie star Rick Porcello.

Don't look now, though, the NCAA basketball tournament is coming even sooner. This weekend, the following programs punched their tickets to the big dance: Cornell (Ivy League); Winthrop (Big South); East Tennessee State (Atlantic Sun); Murray State (Ohio Valley); Northern Iowa (Missouri Valley). Sadly, Mike's Loyola Greyhounds lost in the first round of the MAAC tourney.

And congratulations to Sandra Bullock for taking home Best Actress last night for her role in "The Blindside." Like Kyle, Bullock is an Arlington, Va., native and Washington-Lee High School graduate.

--Mike Memoli and Kyle Trygstad

The Week In Midterms: Monday Mayhem

This week started with a bang, as one Democratic Senate primary challenger jumped in Monday morning and one jumped out that night. Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) becomes the third Democratic senator to face a serious primary challenge this year -- the other two are Arlen Specter (Pa.), who switched parties last year, and Michael Bennet (Colo.), who was appointed to the seat last year.

Here's a look back at the week that was in 2010 midterms:


ARKANSAS: Lt. Gov. Bill Halter entered the Democratic primary race Monday morning by releasing a video announcing his challenge to Sen. Blanche Lincoln, who was already facing a difficult November -- and now will struggle just to get past May 18. Halter spoke with RCP in an interview on Tuesday, during which he struck a populist tone. A general election poll released this week found Lincoln making significant gains against several Republican challengers, but she's still polling mostly in the 30s.

ILLINOIS: Democratic nominee Alexi Giannoulias conceded this week that the bank his family owns will likely fail before the November election -- a potentially dangerous blow to his electoral hopes. He tried to get out in front of the story this week, sitting down with the Chicago Sun-Times and Tribune editorial boards for more than an hour each to answer questions. However, as the Sun-Times' Mark Brown wrote Thursday, "certain unpleasant facts remain" about the situation, and then there's also this: His only qualification for running for state treasurer in 2006 was his experience as CEO of what's a now-failing bank, and he concedes he was partially responsible for it.

NEVADA: Could things get any worse for Sen. Harry Reid (D)? Probably, but as of now they're pretty bad. A Mason-Dixon poll out at the beginning of the week found Reid trailing all three of his potential GOP opponents by double-digits. Against former state GOP Chair Sue Lowden, Reid did not even garner 40 percent support. However, Tea Party of Nevada candidate Scott Ashjian filed his candidacy papers this week, causing Republicans some worry he could split the conservative vote in November. And rumors persist that he's a Democratic plant aiming to help Reid get elected, though he denies that.

NEW YORK: There was plenty of polling here this week, despite the fact that Republicans have no clue who's going to run against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D). Rasmussen's poll found Gillibrand leading former Gov. George Pataki by 2 points, while Marist found Pataki up 3 points. Either way, most insiders don't expect Pataki to run, and Daily News owner Mort Zuckerman announced he was out as well. Marist pollster Lee M. Miringoff believes Ford's interest in the race may have "solidified" Gillibrand's support among Democrats.

NORTH DAKOTA: Democrats took a hit here this week, as former Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp announced she would not run against the GOP frontrunner, Gov. John Hoeven. The seat came open at the beginning of the year when Sen. Byron Dorgan announced he would not run for re-election. Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D) briefly considered running, but opted for re-election instead. State Sen. Tracy Potter appears to be the most likely Dem nominee at this point.

PENNSYLVANIA: Sen. Arlen Specter (D) found himself in unusual territory this week -- in the lead. A new Quinnipiac survey showed him ahead of likely Republican opponent, former Rep. Pat Toomey, by 7 points. The poll also found him leading his primary challenger, Rep. Joe Sestak, by 24 points.


TEXAS: Gov. Rick Perry (R) leads the first post-primary poll by 6. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) made history in her primary loss. The DGA thinks Perry is "strikingly vulnerable." With no runoff, the general election campaign started in earnest. The Perry camp played the L-word, while White said Perry failed as gov. Perry says Hutchison should stay in the Senate.

NEW YORK: Attorney General Andrew Cuomo actually gained ground on Rick Lazio despite the Paterson mess; his job approval sky high.

CALIFORNIA: Attorney General and former Gov. Jerry Brown (D) made his comeback bid official. On his media tour, he stressed his experience and paved a centrist course; he even did some pullups. His long record: "a blessing and a curse." He targeted Meg Whitman with the AP. Whitman hit Steve Poizner in a radio ad.

FLORIDA: Alex Sink (D) targets Bill McCollum (R) over Medicaid fraud. Both candidates responded to Gov. Charlie Crist's (R) final state of the state address.

MICHIGAN: Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R) took a lead in the GOP primary in Michigan. Mike Huckabee endorsed Attorney General Mike Cox (R). The Democratic field shrinks by one.

ILLINOIS: It's decision day in the GOP primary, with a recount or a concession coming. Looking ahead, state Sen. Bill Brady "swung and missed" while trying to hit Gov. Pat Quinn (D), the Tribune says.

GEORGIA:Ex-Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes (D) has a slight lead over GOP foes. Rep. Nathan Deal (R) is delaying his resignation to vote on health care.

THE REST: Charlie Baker (R) leads the field in the Massachusetts money chase. PA Attorney General Tom Corbett leads all potential Democratic foes. Rasmussen finds former Sen. Lincoln Chafee (I) leading in Rhode Island. John Stephen (R) entered the New Hampshire governor race. Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal (D) decides not to challenge the term limit law, giving the GOP an opening.

Cook Political Report:
*Texas Gov from Lean R to Toss Up.
*NC-08 from Lean D to Likely D.
*AR-01 from Lean R to Toss Up
*AL-02 from Toss Up to Lean D.
*NY-29 from Lean D to Lean R

Rothenberg Political Report:
*TX Gov from Clear Advantage R to Narrow Advantage R
*NY-29 from Lean D to Toss Up
*MA-10 from Safe D to D Favored.

--Kyle Trygstad and Mike Memoli

The Week Ahead: Texas Tuesday

Thank you, USA men's hockey team, for an awesome couple of weeks and a valiant effort yesterday in the Gold medal game -- tying the score at 2-2 with 24.4 seconds remaining in the 3rd period before falling in overtime. We'll see you in four years, Canada.

It's been a month since the Illinois primaries, and it will be two months more until primary season really gets going. But on Tuesday, Texas has its day in the sun. Republicans have their first chance to decide whether they want another four years from Gov. Rick Perry, who succeeded George W. Bush in Dec. 2000. Challenging the incumbent are Republicans Kay Bailey Hutchison, who's currently serving her third full term in the Senate, and activist Debra Medina. Former Houston Mayor Bill White is expected to win the Democratic primary with ease.

Here's what else is happening this week in the world of politics:

White House: President Obama got a clean bill of health after a physical Sunday. Meanwhile his health care plan still has a pulse, but barely. We're expecting to hear as soon as Wednesday how the White House plans to proceed with the legislation, with a reconciliation vote in the Senate likely needed.

"I said at the end of Thursday's summit that I am eager and willing to move forward with members of both parties on health care if the other side is serious about coming together to resolve our differences and get this done. But I also believe that we cannot lose the opportunity to meet this challenge," Obama said in his weekly address.

Today, Obama will appear at an event for America's Promise Alliance, founded by General Colin Powell, focused on improving America's schools. On Tuesday, the president makes his first visit to Georgia since taking office for the latest stop on the "White House to Main Street Tour." As of now, he'll spend the rest of the week at the White House.

Capitol Hill: Following the health care summit last week, Democrats are attempting to push a health care bill through in the next four-to-six weeks. Democratic House leaders wouldn't say Sunday whether they currently had the votes to pass the Senate bill, but Speaker Pelosi predicted a "very positive result." Resigned to most likely having no Republican support, the Senate would need to make some fixes to its bill later through reconciliation, a legislative maneuver that circumvents a filibuster and requires only 51 votes to pass.

This week, Obama is expected to signal his preferred strategy for congressional Democrats to pass health care reform. The next several will be filled with making that happen, once and for all.

Politics: This week we have something of a Super Tuesday shaping up in politics. We start in Texas, where all eyes are on the Republican primary for governor. Gov. Rick Perry (R) is expected to lead the vote, but the question is whether he can get the 50 percent he needs to avoid a runoff vote next month. Democrats think a second round of voting could give them a real chance this November, with former Houston Mayor Bill White (D) as their nominee. There's also some interesting Congressional primaries on tap as well.

Also Tuesday, Mitt Romney's new book, "No Apology: The Case for American Greatness," is released. Some excerpts have been released, including his memories of the 2008 campaign and is thoughts on the early course of the Obama administration. As part of his book tour, he's scheduled to appear on Tuesday's "Late Show with David Letterman." He'll be up against Sarah Palin on the return of the Jay Leno-hosted "Tonight Show" on NBC.

On Friday, the Illinois state Board of Elections is scheduled to certify the results of last month's primaries. We're still waiting on the outcome of the ultra-tight Republican primary for governor. State Sen. Bill Brady led by just a few hundred votes, but state Sen. Kirk Dillard has yet to concede. If the final margin is more than 100 votes after the final totals are accounted for, Dillard said he would likely not seek a full recount, the Chicago Tribune reported last week.

**Poll Watch:
Obama Job Performance: Approve 47.8 / Disapprove 47.0 (+0.8)
Congress Job Performance: Approve 18.8 / Disapprove 75.6 (-56.8)
Generic Ballot Test: Republicans +1.1

**In Case You Missed It: Some politics news that dropped over the weekend: Republican John Linder of Georgia's 7th District announced he is retiring from the House this year; Indiana Rep. Baron Hill announced he will not make a bid for Evan Bayh's Senate seat, leaving Rep. Brad Ellsworth as the sole Democratic contender; and Joseph Kennedy III, an assistant DA in Massachusetts, announced he will not run for Democrat Bill Delahunt's House seat should he retire.

Team USA's loss in the gold medal game means two losing bets for West Wingers. President Obama now has to send a case of Molson Canadian to Prime Minister Stephen Harper (had USA won, Obama would have gotten a case of Yuengling). Meanwhile, press secretary Robert Gibbs will have to don a maple leaf jersey at one of his upcoming press briefings. He had gone double or nothing after the women's team lost to Canada as well.

2010 Winter Olympics Final Medal Count: USA, 37; Germany, 30; Canada, 26; Norway, 23; Austria, 16.

--Mike Memoli and Kyle Trygstad

The Week In Midterms: Showdown In Texas

Starting today, we'll take a look back at some of the biggest news of the week in the midterm elections. The focus will be on Senate and gubernatorial races, but occasionally we'll note big news in some of the key House races. Feel free to e-mail us with suggestions.


NEW YORK: Kirsten Gillibrand continues to focus her attention on a Democrat from another state who may not even run, as the GOP continues to search for its own candidate. Former Republican Gov. George Pataki is not expected to run, even though he continues to lead Gillibrand in the polls. Former Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford Jr. met with state party Chairman Jay Jacobs, who told Ford to think "long term" about his political future in the state.

FLORIDA: The week started horribly for Gov. Charlie Crist, as a new Rasmussen poll found him trailing Senate GOP primary opponent Marco Rubio by 18 points. Things turned for Rubio on Thursday, however, as the Miami Herald published a front page story looking at his personal use of a state party credit card.

INDIANA: Rep. Brad Ellsworth's entrance to the race at the end of last week came one day after a poll found him trailing former Republican Sen. Dan Coats by 14 points. This week we learned Ellsworth isn't the only Democratic congressman interested in running for Sen. Evan Bayh's seat -- Baron Hill made clear he would make a decision on a bid in the next week or two.

ILLINOIS: The Senate field was solidified this month when Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and Rep. Mark Kirk won their respective primaries. In the first poll since, Giannoulias leads by 7 points with one-in-five voters still undecided.

KENTUCKY: The Republican primary between Trey Grayson and Rand Paul is getting nastier by the week, with Grayson releasing another round of TV attack ads.


FLORIDA: The RGA's first ad of the 2010 campaign targeted Alex Sink's (D) banking background. Rasmussen finds Bill McCollum (R) ahead by 13. The candidates dueled over ethics. Sink's campaign staff sees changes.

ILLINOIS: Gov. Pat Quinn (D) leads both potential Republican candidates, per Research 2010. The GOP primary remains unsettled, but state Sen. Kirk Dillard (R) admitted his chances of overtaking state Sen. Bill Brady (R) are slim.

IOWA: Gov. Chet Culver (D) trails former Gov. Terry Branstad (R) by double digits. One Democrat wants to recruit a primary challenger. Culver says he hasn't been asked to step aside.

NEW YORK: Another New York Times story hits Paterson, prompting calls to resign. He asks Atty. Gen. Andrew Cuomo (D) to investigate. The senators stop short of that for now. He says he won't drop his campaign just yet, but will talk to party leaders. Siena shows Atty. Gen. Andrew Cuomo (D) a clear frontrunner.

OHIO: Gov. Ted Strickland (D) has retaken a lead over former Rep. John Kasich (R).

TEXAS: Rasmussen shows Gov. Rick Perry (R) ahead, just a point shy of avoiding a runoff. PPP (D) shows it a bit closer. The Republicans are raking it in. And are spending big too. The DGA is investing in Bill White (D). And Perry sat down for an interview this week with Politics Daily.

--Kyle Trygstad and Mike Memoli

The Week Ahead: Olympic Recess

The Winter Olympics opened Friday evening under a somber cloud following the accidental death of a luger just hours earlier. The Vancouver-hosted games continued on, however, with an exciting first two days. Tops was the men's and women's freestyle skiing events. Canada's first gold medal on home soil was won last night in thrilling fashion by Alex Bilodeau -- who barely defeated Canadian-turned-Australian Dale Begg-Smith. America's Hannah Kearney turned in an equally awesome performance the night before to win gold ahead of Canadian favorite Jenn Heil.

White House: The threat of snow shortened what was to have been a long weekend for President Obama at Camp David. He is back at the White House today with no events scheduled on the holiday. His schedule for the rest of the week includes a mix of domestic and foreign policy, as well as some politics. Tomorrow he'll have another event focused on jobs in the DC area. On Wednesday, Obama welcomes Spain's King Juan Carlos I to the White House, followed Thursday by a meeting with the Dalai Lama.

Also Thursday, Obama will travel to Denver one year and one day after he signed the Recovery Act into law. This trip is about politics, though -- he'll be attending a fundraiser for Sen. Michael Bennet (D), appointed last year and facing a tough primary and general election this year. After the event, Obama travels to Las Vegas for a DNC fundraiser. Then on Friday, he'll have events to boost Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's re-election bid. Reid still faces an uphill climb, but he did get some good news with the decision of Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki (R) not to run, and the qualification of a Tea Party candidate.

Capitol Hill: Just before the weekend, Obama signed into law a bill raising the country's debt limit by nearly $2 trillion, as well as a requirement that any new spending or tax cuts by Congress must be offset by a corresponding spending reduction or revenue increase.

Both chambers of Congress are on recess this week in celebration of Presidents Day. Due to snow, the House was out all last week as well. Senators and Representatives will return next Monday, Feb. 22. The Senate will open with a reading of George Washington's Farewell Address by Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.), then take up a new jobs bill it was unable to compromise on last week.

Politics: Two big conferences are on the schedule later this week. The annual CPAC gathering starts this Thursday in Washington, with Florida Senate candidate Marco Rubio delivering the keynote in the morning. Also due to speak are Glenn Beck, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, Mike Pence, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul.

Then on Saturday the nation's governors descend on Washington for the annual NGA Meeting. NGA Chair Jim Douglas of Vermont had chosen health care as his policy focus for the year, so you can expect to hear the state leaders weighing in on the national debate. On Sunday night the governors have dinner at the White House.

** Poll Watch:
Obama Job Performance: Approve 47.6 / Disapprove 45.3 (+2.3)
Congress Job Performance: Approve 20.4 / Disapprove 73.4 (-53.0)
Generic Ballot Test: Republicans +2.0

**In Case You Missed It: Today is Presidents Day, but Sunday was Vice Presidents Day on Sunday talk shows. RCP Video has clips from Joe Biden and Dick Cheney's dueling appearances, focused on the Obama administration's prosecution of the war on terrorism. This is a topic that will continue to be debated.

Medal Count: U.S., 6; Germany, 4; France, 3; Canada, 3; Korea, 2; Italy, 2.

--Mike Memoli and Kyle Trygstad