Welcome back to Hotline Sort. The tax wars continue in the Massachusetts Senate race, both parties are spending to win Giffords' seat, and Biden attacks Romney on foreign policy - while making a notable double-entendre. Meanwhile, Clinton might not be so helpful after all in helping Obama's super PAC raise money. And retiring Rep. Tim Johnson, in an about-face, says he doesn't want any of his former staffers to succeed him.
13. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., received an apology from his Republican primary rival Scottie Mayfield after Mayfield's teenage son was caught slashing a Fleischmann staffer's tire at a campaign event.
"I am truly sorry and embarrassed," wrote Mayfield, who's challenging Fleischmann in Tennessee's 3rd District GOP primary. "This kind of activity has no place in campaigns and we are regretful that it happened."
12. Democrats are trying to dent the regular guy image of Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., by arguing that his tax returns show that he's a lot wealthier than he's let on (in the run-up to both candidates releasing their returns today). "After spending weeks attacking Elizabeth Warren for her own success, Scott Brown's tax returns will reveal that his 'everyman' image doesn't match reality, just like his record in the Senate," DSCC communications director Matt Canter writes in a memo.
But the Wall Street Journal spotlights a trend that could be problematic for Democrats - union members are still supportive of Brown, even as Warren has been vigorously campaigning to change their minds. If Warren can't win over the lion's share of traditionally Democratic labor voters (with a populist message geared towards them), it will be very difficult for her to oust the senator.
11. As Hotline's Julie Sobel reported last night, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, is up with his first Senate campaign ad - and it's sharply negative against his Republican rival, state Treasurer Josh Mandel. The ad accuses Mandel of hiring inexperienced, "unqualified" buddies and giving them big raises in the Ohio treasurer's office.
The fact that Brown's first ad is an attack ad shows how competitive this race is likely to get. Traditionally, Senate candidates begin the campaign with a positive, biographical spot before throwing mud at each other. But both Mandel and the outside groups have been spending big already, and Brown couldn't afford to let the attacks fly by without a tough response.
10. Sen. Richard Lugar
, R-Ind., is up with a second ad
featuring Gov. Mitch Daniels
singing his praises. "We're lucky to have Dick Lugar, and we need to keep him," Daniels says in the 30-second spot. The ad begins airing statewide today.
9. After expecting to run unopposed for the GOP nomination, Rep. Dennis Rehberg
, R-Mont., found he actually will be facing a Republican opponent in the primary
- farmer Dennis Teske
8. Hotline's Scott Bland reported
Thursday that both the NRCC and DCCC are up with matching $150,000 as buys in the special election to replace former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords
, D-Ariz. The race pits Democrat Ron Barber
, a former Giffords district director against Republican Jesse Kelly
, a former Marine sergeant who lost to Giffords in 2010.
Both parties' early investments are a sign that both parties view this contest as highly competitive. The district leans Republican (it gave McCain 52 percent of the vote in 2008), but Barber's close ties to Giffords and Kelly's struggles in the 2010 election have made Democrats optimistic they can hold the seat.
7. Democrats have a chance to recapture both of New Hampshire's House seats, which were swept away in the 2010 Republican wave, according to a new WMUR-TV Granite State poll
released late Thursday. Former Democratic Rep. Carol Shea Porter
leads GOP Rep. Frank Guinta
in a 2010 rematch, 44 percent to 39 percent, in the state's First Congressional District. In the other district, Democrat Ann McLane Kuster
leads GOP Rep. Charlie Bass
, 40 percent to 39 percent, in another reprisal of a closely-fought election two years ago. The margins of error for each poll are more than plus-or-minus six percentage points, so each race is considered virtually tied.
6. Retiring Illinois Rep. Tim Johnson
, R-Ill, said
that he doesn't want his former chief of staff Jerry Clarke
-- or any of his former staffers -- to replace him in Congress. His comments come after he faced accusations that he engineered his retirement, shortly after winning the March GOP primary, to help Clarke win his Congressional seat.
A handful of Republican county chairmen within Johnson's newly-drawn district will be soon deciding the replacement nominee to run against Democrat David Gill
. Johnson represents a battleground seat, but the Democrats' favored candidate narrowly lost the primary to Gill, who has run unsuccessfully against Johnson in three previous elections.
5. Mitt Romney has hired Rick Santorum's
campaign manager Michael Buindo
to play a role in his campaign's political shop.
4. So much for team spirit: After reports surfaced that Bill Clinton
would be helping an Obama-aligned super PAC raise money for the campaign, Bloomberg reports
that Clinton is demanding that Obama's top fundraisers pony up first before he gets actively involved. That could be a tough task. Only 12 of Obama's 532 top fundraisers had donated to Priorities USA Action, a super PAC created to support his re-election.
3. The conservative group Americans for Prosperity is up with a $6 million ad buy
attacking President Obama
for wasting taxpayer dollars on green energy projects, spotlighting his mishandling of Solyndra. The ad is airing in eight battleground states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio and Virginia.
2. Sen. Marco Rubio
, R-Fla., may be helping Republicans politically by pushing for an alternate Dream Act, legalizing the children of some illegal immigrants. But it will be a tough sell to House Republicans. House Speaker John Boehner said
it would be "difficult at best" to take up the issue in the House, where Republicans are pushing for greater border security, not more forgiving laws. "The problem with this issue is that we are operating in a very hostile political environment," said Boehner.
1.Vice President Biden
was the administration's point man to criticize Romney on Thursday, delivering a speech at New York University characterizing the former Massachusetts governor's foreign policy as being stuck in a Cold War mindset. He also made ample reference to the president's successful killing of Osama bin Laden. Repeating a favorite campaign staple, Biden said: ""If you're looking for a bumper sticker to sum up how President Obama has handled what we inherited, it's pretty simple, 'Osama bin Laden is dead, and General Motors is alive,' " The Obama campaign is even out with a Web video today
, suggesting that if Romney was president, bin Laden would still be alive.
As the New York Times puts it
, Biden "was pressing what the campaign believes is an advantage in national security -- unusual for a Democratic incumbent -- over a Republican who has struggled to find an easy opening against Mr. Obama on foreign policy."
But perhaps the most memorable line from the speech was when Biden, channeling Theodore Roosevelt
, said "I promise you, the president has a big stick."