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June 30, 2009

Steele blasts Minnesota court's decision

While NRSC Chairman John Cornyn more or less accepted the state Supreme Court's unanimous decision, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele slammed the ruling — and suggested he was hoping that Coleman would have taken his case to the U.S. Supreme Court:

“I am deeply disappointed in the decision made by the state Supreme Court, and I share the frustration of Minnesota’s voters. At the core of our democracy lies two concrete principles: No valid vote should go uncounted and all votes should be treated equally. Sadly, those principles were not adhered to during this election. While I would have proudly stood behind Norm Coleman had he chosen to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, I know that his decision to withdraw from this race was not an easy one, but one that he felt was the best decision for the people of Minnesota."

Remainders: Return of the Torch

Ethically challenged Bob Torricelli hosting fundraiser for the DSCC.

… and Al Gore’s helping out with fundraising, too.

Hodes 40, Sununu 34

Alan Grayson disappears, a la Sanford.

Dent’s potential Dem challenger curses like a sailor — or like Rahm.

Harry Reid’s son gets serious about gubernatorial run.

Republicans anoint successor
for Putnam’s seat.

Cornyn says he respects Coleman's concession

The National Republican Senatorial Committee spent nearly $1 million on Norm Coleman’s legal fees to back the Republican’s appeals and draw out the Minnesota Senate race.

But now that the state Supreme Court made its final ruling, NRSC Chairman John Cornyn said he “respects” Coleman’s decision to concede:

“Throughout the last several months, Senate Republicans have made clear that the people of Minnesota, not politicians in Washington, should decide this election. Now that the courts have spoken, I join Norm in respecting that decision and moving forward to address the important issues facing our country.

“The implications of this Senate race are particularly significant because the Democrats will now have 60 votes in the Senate. With their supermajority, the era of excuses and finger-pointing is now over. With just 59 votes, Senate Democrats in recent months have passed trillion-dollar spending bills, driven up America’s debt, made every American taxpayer a shareholder in the auto industry and now want Washington to takeover America’s health care system. It’s troubling to think about what they might now accomplish with 60 votes.

“That’s why the American people will now have a particularly clear choice in next year’s election — to continue down this path of fiscal mismanagement, more big government, and one-party control in Washington or to restore a system of checks and balances that will hold government accountable to its citizens."

Coleman concedes to Franken

Republican Norm Coleman conceded the Minnesota Senate race to Democrat Al Franken, guaranteeing that the SNL comedian-turned-politician will become the second senator from Minnesota.

“The election of 2008 is over, and we should all work together to support the new United States senator,” Coleman said. "The Supreme Court of Minnesota has spoken and I respect its decision and will abide by the result. It’s time for Minnesota to come together under the leaders it has chosen and move forward. I join all Minnesotans in congratulating our newest United States senator — Al Franken."

Coleman's decision to concede, which came after the state Supreme Court unanimously rejected his appeal, now paves the way for Franken to be seated — likely at some point next week, when the Senate reconvenes.

BREAKING: Franken declared victor in Minnesota Senate race

The Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously ruled Democrat Al Franken the winner of last November’s Senate race, putting the former “Saturday Night Live” star on the brink of becoming a United States senator and Democrats on the cusp of holding a dominant supermajority in the Senate.

In an unanimous 5-0 decision, the court upheld a three-judge panel’s April 14 ruling that Franken defeated Republican Norm Coleman in the race by 312 votes out of 2.9 million cast.

“We affirm the decision of the trial court that Al Franken received the highest number of votes legally cast and is entitled under Minnesota [law] to receive the certificate of election as United States Senator from the state of Minnesota," the court ruled in its unanimous statement.

The question now is whether the incumbent Republican senator will petition the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case — and if Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty would sign an election certificate in the interim — potentially prolonging a final decision for months. Doing so also would force Coleman to raise significant more funds to keep his court challenge going.

If Franken is seated, Democrats would hold a 60-40 majority in the Senate, the largest the party has enjoyed in a generation. Sixty votes are needed to break filibusters, ensuring that if Democrats stay united they would be able to cleave the GOP’s last lever of power in Washington.

 — with Manu Raju

Torsella endorses Specter

Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) won an endorsement from the Democratic candidate who was once preparing to challenge him for the nomination.

Joe Torsella, the former CEO of the National Constitution Center, gave Specter his full backing today and took a subtle slap at Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), who is expected to challenge Specter in the Democratic primary.

"I decided to withdraw from the race following Sen. Specter's decision because, among other reasons, a primary challenge to Sen. Specter as an incumbent Democrat would inevitably weaken our party's chance in the general election in November 2010," Torsella said in a statement.

Torsella has a close relationship with Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who has been one of Specter’s leading cheerleaders since the senator’s party switch. Torsella initially stayed in the race after Specter switched parties but dropped out in May after the party establishment rallied behind Specter.

Corzine trails Christie by double-digits

A new survey of the New Jersey governor’s race shows Republican nominee Chris Christie holding onto a 10-percentage-point lead over Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine.

The poll, the first in a series of monthly tracking polls on the race by the Democratic Public Policy Polling firm, shows Christie leading Corzine 51 percent to 41 percent, with 9 percent undecided.

Over 90 percent of Republicans support Christie, an indicator of how the party has closed ranks around its nominee since the June 2 gubernatorial primary that Christie won with 55 percent of the vote. The deep-pocketed Corzine draws support from just 26 percent of voters not registered with either major party, a number that will need to rise given that independents comprise 46 percent of all registered voters.

One glimmer of light for Corzine in the poll: Christie’s unfavorable rating. After standing at about 15 percent in early June, it has now doubled to 33 percent. That’s a possible indicator that Corzine ads slamming Christie for his conservative stances on guns, abortion and taxes are making an early impact in a race that most observers don’t expect to really heat up until after Labor Day.

Thirty percent of poll respondents said they could still change their mind, indicating a degree of fluidity to a race that, for all intents and purposes, began seven months ago when Christie announced he would resign his high-profile post as the state’s U.S. attorney after seven years in the job.

— Zachary Abrahamson

Real World: Washington

Sean Duffy is used to being in the public eye. He’s best-known as one of the cast members on the Real World’s sixth season (Boston). Since then, he has pursued a career in politics and now serves as the district attorney in small, rural Ashland County.

Duffy is now looking to take his next step in politics, and the Republican is mulling a run against Rep. Dave Obey (D-Wis.).

“A race for Congress is something I am seriously considering. I’m troubled by the explosion in new debt that Washington is leaving to my five kids, and I feel it’s important to do what I can to improve the direction of the country,” Duffy said.

One other fun fact about Duffy: He’s an award-winning lumberjack and has been a color commentator for ESPN’s “Great Outdoor Games.” His wife, Rachel, was also a Real World cast member and vied for Elisabeth Hasselbeck's panel spot on "The View."

Celebrity aside, any challenge against Obey will be very difficult. Obey, one of the longest-serving members of Congress, has held a near-stranglehold on his rural northwest Wisconsin district since he was first elected in 1969.

Obey, a veteran appropriator, also is popular for bringing back federal funds into the blue-collar district.

But Duffy believes that Obey showed signs of vulnerability by winning only 61 percent of the vote against a no-name opponent — his lowest total since 1998. And the district has been somewhat competitive at the national level — President Barack Obama won here with 56 percent of the vote, but former President George W. Bush received 49 percent of the vote in his 2004 campaign.

If Duffy runs, he would become the second “Real World” cast member to run for Congress. Kevin Powell unsuccessfully challenged Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) in last year’s Democratic primary — and is planning to challenge him again in 2010.

All this comes just in time for the show to begin shooting its 23rd season here in the nation’s capital.

When politicians attack

Note to congressional recruits: It’s generally not a good idea to be present during a barroom brawl, even as an innocent bystander.

But that’s the situation Manchester, N.H., Mayor Frank Guinta finds himself in after he went to a bar and found himself watching the aftermath of a heated fight that left one of his friends with a badly broken leg.  Guinta didn't immediately report the incident to police.

Guinta is one of the House Republicans’ prized recruits and has already begun his campaign against Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-N.H.).

“Police are investigating a recent bar fight at a city club involving an alderman, a state representative and Mayor Frank Guinta, and which left a man with a leg that relatives say was broken in seven places,” the weekly Manchester Express reports on its front page.

“Caught in the middle of it all was Guinta, who everyone agrees was not involved in the fight but is now being criticized by [the injured man's] family for not immediately reporting it to police.”

The article reports that Guinta left the scene while the injured man, Thomas English, was getting treatment from an EMT. Guinta told the paper that he didn’t see the fight and didn’t realize the extent of English’s injuries — and only found out later that English required reconstructive surgery to recover. After he later heard how serious the injury was, Guinta said he immediately called police and gave them a witness statement.

The police are currently investigating whether to press charges in the case.

Republicans have been bullish on Guinta’s prospects against Shea-Porter because of his fiscal record as mayor of Manchester. Republicans have also touted his leadership in the community, giving him brand-name identification in the district.

This incident, however, will likely get him a lot of unwelcome media attention — and provides Democrats with some early, fun fodder to use against him in a campaign.

UPDATE:  Guinta spokesman Michael Biundo issued the following response:  “Mayor Guinta accompanied a friend who was trying to help a troubled individual and left once this unfortunate situation was resolved. The Mayor has a strong record of assisting his friends and fellow residents of Manchester, and he hopes that Mr. English gets the help he needs."

Energy vote aftershock

Make sure to check out today’s front page story by J-Mart and Isenstadt on the House Democrats who hurt their own political prospects by voting for cap-and-trade legislation.

In turn, the National Republican Congressional Committee is planning to launch television and radio attack ads against Reps. Harry Teague (D-N.M.), Betsy Markey (D-Colo,), Tom Perriello (D-Va.), Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), John Boccieri (D-Ohio) and Zack Space (D-Ohio). Those six either represent energy-producing or conservative-minded districts, and many have already begun receiving flak back home.

Republicans are also hoping the Democratic votes will help them recruit strong challengers in those districts. Of the six announced targets, only Markey currently is facing GOP opposition.

June 29, 2009

Remainders: Sanford and sin

Sanford won’t resign.

Trey Grayson expects to raise about $500K for Bunning's seat.

The pepper spray probe.

Cheryle Jackson says she's planning to run for Obama's Senate seat.

Columnist compares Pat Quinn to Blago.

Alex Sink: schlepping her family
around on the state plane?

Is Terri Lynn Land looking to succeed Vern Ehlers?

Parker Griffith gets credible GOP challenger.

Danny Davis’ former aide could run for his House seat.

And Tiahrt dominates
Moran in one straw poll.

Silver lining for Rubio in new poll

A new Mason-Dixon poll continues to show Gov. Charlie Crist (R-Fla.) in strong shape in both the primary and general election for Florida’s open Senate seat.

Crist leads Marco Rubio, his Republican primary challenger, 51 to 23 percent, with 26 percent undecided. And he leads likely Democratic nominee Kendrick Meek 48 to 26 percent in a general election.

But one cross-tab in the poll drew our attention – among the 52 percent of Florida Republicans who recognize both Crist and Rubio, the primary is a dead heat. In that sub-sample, Crist narrowly leads Rubio 33 to 31 percent, with 36 percent undecided.

That’s an encouraging number for Rubio, who is still largely an unknown quantity to many Floridians. But if he raises the millions necessary to get his conservative message out, the poll suggests he could make some serious headway in a primary.

Young running for re-election

Alaska Republican congressman Don Young will be running for a 19th term in Congress, after filing paperwork for re-election today.

"This morning I officially became a candidate for the seat held by Alaska in the U.S. House of Representatives,” Young said in a statement. ”I love this State and have loved representing you for the past 36 years and because of that I am running for another term and I am running hard.”

Young, 76, announced his re-election plans as he continues to face scrutiny over for his relationship to VECO a scandal-infused oil services company. Last December, he was forced to step down as ranking Republican on the House Natural Resources Committee.

But despite the ethical scrutiny, Young was re-elected last year despite facing two tough political challenges – in the GOP primary against the state’s lieutenant governor and against a highly-touted Democratic challenger whom he comfortably defeated.

A Senate race to watch in North Dakota?

North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven, likely only Republican who could seriously give Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) a run for his money, told the AP that he will be making a decision whether to run for the Senate by September.

At the least, the prospect of a Hoeven candidacy would make it less likely for Dorgan to support any version of cap-and-trade legislation, given that he represents a state that’s dependent on coal for much of its electricity.

Keeping tabs on the governors

In light of South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford’s recent disappearance, The Associated Press decided to survey all 49 other governors to see where they were and what they were up to.

All responded in prompt fashion, but the best reaction is from Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry, who made it absolutely clear that he wasn't vacationing south of the border:

TEXAS: Gov. Rick Perry was at his campaign headquarters, and he made a personal stop by the AP office an hour after a reporter called asking about him. Perry’s office said it would release his calendar if a written request was filed.

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman had a similar response: "Heineman marched into an AP reporter's Capitol office a few minutes after a reporter called to ask for his whereabouts. His office did not release his calendar."