Ex-Assemb. Sharron Angle’s (R) $14M haul in the third quarter is jaw dropping. It is by far the most we’ve seen raised by a GOP Senate challenger so far, and it means that Angle will be able to blunt Senate Maj. Leader Harry Reid’s (D) significant CoH advantage. At the end of the second quarter, Reid had $8M in his bank account to Angle’s $1.76M (Hotline reporting, 10/12).
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Reid spokesperson Kelly Steele, in a statement: “Sharron Angle’s fundraising number is meaningless without disclosing how much they spent to raise it. In fact, Angle’s shady fundraisers are reputed for cooking the books and fleecing their clients, so any number Angle may assert to generate media buzz is highly suspect” (release, 10/12).
It “wasn’t clear” on 10/12 “how much of the impressive haul ended up fattening her campaign’s bottom line.”
“The steady flow of money into the challenger’s wallet is a signal” that GOPers “around the nation see Angle as a viable threat to Reid” (Blood, AP, 10/12).
Las Vegas Sun’s Ralston writes, an “incredible 161,358 people sent her checks of $200 or less. Her average donation is $90,” according to Angle spokesperson Jarrod Agen.
“This is real… grass roots. And there is a wildfire blazing through the grass roots, with burning hatred for Reid animating Angle’s chances.”
“Of those small contributors, my guess is only a handful of the 161,358 people know much about Angle. They have no idea about her religious fervor, fail to separate her church (which apparently doesn’t like Mormons) from our state, or her multifarious positions on Social Security and Medicare, her sympathy for ‘Second Amendment remedies’ or her latest incendiary comments” about Dearborn, MI, and nonexistent Frankford, TX, “implying ‘the Muslims are coming, the Muslims are coming.’”
“But they don’t need to know much” about Angle. “They know enough” about Reid (10/13).
Bill Clinton “blamed” George W. Bush “for putting the nation in a deep hole and urged” Dems on 10/12 to give Reid “more time to patch up the economy.”
Clinton, at the rally: “You and I know the only reason this is a tough race is because this is a tough time.”
Reid: “The number one issue on my mind, your mind, is the economy. … We all wish things were better.”
Clinton: “If you care about jobs, you have to vote for Harry Reid.”
Clinton “said he,” not GOPers, “practiced fiscal conservatism and balanced the federal budget.”
Clinton: “I almost gag every time I hear them talk about, ‘I want to balance the budget.’ … They didn’t give a rip about the deficit until we had a Democratic president” (Silva, AP, 10/13).
Angle’s campaign on 10/12 “attempted to downplay her recent comments suggesting that sharia law is taking hold” in two US cities.
Agen, in an email: “She was referencing some incidents reported in the press, but made it clear there was nothing widespread and that we have freedom of religion in this nation.”
Agen “said Angle wasn’t specifically attacking the Obama administration, but referring to press reports, although he did not specify which ones.”
Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly: “This is the most absurd, inane answer I’ve ever heard. And she was led by the questioner, but should have been mature enough to say I don’t think that’s happening. … Muslims have been in Dearborn, there has been a mosque in Dearborn for 90 years. So the notion that there’s this new phenomenon and Muslims are taking over America is certainly not substantiated in this community.”
Frankford “was annexed into Dallas” in ‘75.
Advocacy group Council on American-Islamic Relations spokesperson Ibrahim Hooper called Angle’s comments “an example of incoherent bigotry.”
Hooper: “It is pretty clear that she has something against Islam and Muslims but she is so incoherent you don’t know what she stands for” (Khan, ABC News’ The Note, 10/12).
Dem consultant/Muslim resident of Dearborn Tarek Beydoun “is personally paying for a robocall to tell” NV voters “that Angle is wrong about Dearborn and Muslim-Americans” (Wattrick, MLive.com, 10/12).
“It seems having a polarizing, high-profile” Dem “as their top target would unite” NV GOPers. “Instead the state GOP finds itself engaged in internecine attacks over the candidacy” of Reid.
“The intraparty feuding peaked last week” with state Sen. Bill Raggio (R) endorsing Reid.
Dems, “to be sure, have had their own share of infighting.” But the GOP “civil war underscores what the party lacks” and Dems have: “an undisputed head of their party, such as Reid, who can impose order” (Schwartz, Las Vegas Sun, 10/13).
The political environment in 2006 was almost uniquely well-suited for the Democrats who kicked out incumbent Republicans from the Senate. Now, as they prepare reelection bids at a time when everyone in Washington is more unpopular than ever, those same Democrats are on the front line of the difficult battle to retain a slim majority.
A year before the 2012 elections, Democrats face a rare situation as a majority that starts an election year as the underdog. Democratic hopes of keeping the Senate are dauntingly narrow. Thanks in part to the party’s success in 2006, they are defending twice as many seats as Republicans; thanks to a lousy economy and a furious electorate, those seats are tougher to defend. And swing-state Democrats who carefully cultivate their independent brand have a virtual running mate they didn’t anticipate — President Obama, who faces his own difficult reelection path.
Republicans, who need a net gain of four seats to win back control of the Senate, plan to spend millions linking vulnerable Democrats to Obama and his policies. In must-win states for Democrats — Montana, Missouri, Virginia, Ohio, and Florida — Obama’s approval rating is low enough to drag down Democratic performance.
“President Obama and his policies are the issue,” said National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn of Texas. “Ultimately, what we’re going to see is a referendum on the president and his policies. They can’t run from the fact that they have been in charge, particularly in the Senate.
“We’ve seen this already manifest itself when it comes to the president traveling to various states, where Democratic officeholders and candidates are nowhere to be found, because they realize the negative association with the president and his policies. The fact of the matter is, they’re not going to be able to escape it,” Cornyn said.
Indeed, Democratic candidates face uncomfortable questions any time Obama stops in their home states. During a recent visit to Virginia, for example, Obama did not appear with former Gov. Tim Kaine — a Democratic candidate for Senate — but Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell was all too happy to join Obama at a veterans event. (Kaine, the former Democratic National Committee chairman, wasn’t invited to the official event, but he’s likely to appear with Obama when the president campaigns in the Old Dominion over the next year.) Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Bob Casey‘s campaign made a public point of removing him from Obama’s list of campaign bundlers. And Republicans made hay when Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., didn’t bother changing her flight so that she could meet Obama in Las Vegas last month.
But the reality is that the photos of a Democratic candidate and Obama embracing probably exist somewhere. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., a major Obama backer in 2008 who is fiercely protective of her independent image, recognizes that reality and is taking advantage of it: This week, she told a home-state newspaper she would ask the president to raise money for her reelection.
“I don’t always agree with the president,” McCaskill told the St. Louis Beacon. “He’ll be the first to tell you that. But I support the president.”
Separating oneself from a president is a touchy task for any incumbent. Getting distance on a particular issue can work — think West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin’s efforts in 2010 to make clear his opposition to cap-and-trade legislation. But do it too much and a candidate risks alienating the base — something that can matter in a close contest.
“You all hang together or you all hang separately,” is how Democratic pollster Mark Mellman put it.
Republicans find themselves on fertile soil when tying Democrats to an unpopular president in their quest for just four seats. North Dakota, Missouri, Nebraska — where Sen. Ben Nelson has yet to commit to reelection — and Montana — where Sen. Jon Tester is running neck-and-neck with GOP Rep. Denny Rehberg — are likely to vote for the Republican presidential nominee. Democratic open seats in presidential battlegrounds like Wisconsin, Virginia, and New Mexico are inviting targets for the NRSC. And even in states in which Republicans will have a more difficult time knocking off Democrats, like Florida, Michigan, and Ohio, Obama won’t cruise to victory, giving the GOP three more, albeit narrow, openings.
Democrats are confident they can hold the Senate. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York said last month it would be “almost impossible” for Republicans to win enough seats to take over. “The facts on the ground are a little different than what’s reflected in [Cornyn’s] talking points,” added Matt Canter, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman. “Each of these races will be a choice between a Democrat and a Republican.”
Democrats actually have a few opportunities. Republican Sens. Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Dean Heller of Nevada are each expecting difficult reelection bids. Brown’s chief rival, Democrat Elizabeth Warren, raised $3.15 million in just a few weeks on the trail, and Heller’s foe, Berkley, is running even with him in both public and private polling. (Democrats believe they have a shot in Arizona, too, but only if they get the right candidate.)
“If we’re playing offense, like we are today, from now until Election Day, we’re going to hold the Senate,” the DSCC’s Canter said.
But the theme is the same: Incumbents are in trouble. If the last three tumultuous election cycles made one thing clear, it’s that incumbency has lost its advantage and that life is going to be difficult for anyone who holds office.
“People are very negative on Washington and of course anything that emanates from Washington, it seems like,” Cornyn said. A year out, like in 2006, that’s a good thing for the minority party.