As the 2012 presidential election heats up, both parties are pushing hard in congressional and gubernatorial races across the country. While Republicans work to regain control of the Senate, Democrats are vying to pick up seats in the GOP-controlled House. Below, a rundown on election news happening beyond the presidential field.
While Democrats twiddle their thumbs waiting for Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) to actually announce whether he's seeking reelection, Republicans are fighting among themselves over who will be the party's nominee for U.S. Senate in Nebraska.
GOP heavyweights have been trying hard to persuade Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman (R) to enter the race, a move that's angering conservative leaders who have backed other candidates in the primary. Influential Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) has endorsed state Treasurer Don Stenberg (DeMint wrote: "If you recall, the establishment said our candidates were too conservative to win. They were wrong then and they're wrong now."), and Attorney General Jon Bruning has already come out swinging at Nelson (Bruning recently released this "Big Differences" ad). But many GOP leaders are worried the current batch of candidates don't have what it takes to win back the seat in the Cornhusker state.
Elizabeth Warren's New Slogan
The Elizabeth Warren campaign has released its T-shirt slogan winner: "The best candidate money can't buy." Other options included "Middle class folks buy shirts, not senators," and "I’m with Warren not Wall Street." The slogan is a subtle knock to Republican rival Sen. Scott Brown, whom the Warren campaign is painting as a career politician and Washington insider. The Massachusetts GOP has fired back with a batch of anti-Warren slogans, such as "Professor Warren: Occupying Harvard Yard Since 1995."
Feisty Debate Suggests A Fierce Campaign
Yesterday's spirited first debate between the two former Virginia governors now running for Senate covered many of the issues dividing the two major parties in 2012. While Tea Partiers rallied outside the Capitol building to protest the exclusion of their candidate, who didn't have the polling or fundraising numbers needed to join, de-facto nominees George Allen (R) and Tim Kaine (D) clashed over government spending, taxes, health care and other hot-button issues.
Huge GOP Ad Buy Targets Key States
Crossroads GPS, the Karl Rove-backed fundraising machine associated with the American Crossroads super-PAC, is spending over $1 million, according to the group, to air a slew of attack ads targeting Democratic Senate candidates in key battleground states. The latest batch of ads targets Claire McCaskill in Missouri, Jon Tester in Montana, Ben Nelson in Nebraska and Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts.
Speculation continues that Joe Kennedy III, the 31-year-old member of the famous Kennedy clan, will make a bid for the House seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.). Kennedy has not announced a decision but said he considering it.
It looks like there's a good chance auto dealer Bob Thomas will enter the Senate race in Indiana. This would be good news for incumbent Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) if it splits the anti-Lugar vote between Thomas and state Treasurer Richard Mourdock in the Republican primary.
Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) hosted a fundraiser for Rep. Mark Neumann (R-Wis) who is campaigning for Wisconsin's open Senate seat in 2012. Neumann faces stiff competition in the GOP primary from former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (R). The winner will go on to challenge the progressive Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.).