Senior GOP operatives and Republican leaders are urging Rep. Todd Akin to get out of the race against incumbent Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill after his controversial comments about abortions for women who have been raped, Capitol Hill Blue has learned.
Akin faces a deadline of 5 p.m. Tuesday to withdraw as contributions to his campaign have dried up and GOP campaign committees are threatening to withhold money from his once-promising campaign to unseat popular Democratic incumbent McCaskill.
Akin’s troubles began Sunday when St. Louis television station KTVI aired Akin’s response to a question on whether or not he would support abortions for women who have been raped.
It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.
That answer sparked an immediate nationwide uproar and condemnations from both Democrats and Republicans, including presumptive GOP Presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his vice presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Akin is trying to control the damage with apologies. Claiming he “misspoke,” Akin said Monday:
Rape is never legitimate. It’s an evil act. It’s committed by violent predators. I used the wrong words the wrong way.
Few, however, are buying into Akin’s attempts at damage control and calls for him to step aside are mounting.
Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri is saying “thanks but no thanks” to her invite. So is Sen. Jon Tester of Montana. Others opting out Democratic Representatives like Mark Critz of Pennsylvania, Jim Matheson of Utah and Georgia’s John Barrow.
Why? Most are locked in tight races and don’t see any advantage wasting time at a convention or aligning themselves with Obama, whose approval ratings have plunged from all-time highs.
West Virginians showed their disapproval of the President in that state’s primary by giving an imprisoned felon 40 percent of the vote instead of casting their ballots for Obama so Sen. Joe Mancin and Rep. Nick Rahall will skip the convention.
“It’s smart politics for in swing areas for Democrats to run away,” GOP strategist Saul Anuzis told The Associated Press. “But that also sends a strong signal to independent voters that maybe Obama isn’t such a great idea.”
Less than two months after voters gave Republicans six more Senate seats and control of the House, the GOP is lining up candidates for 2012, well ahead of the pace of previous election cycles.
Looking to ride what they hope will be a continuing Republican wave, nine potential challengers, including two each in Missouri and Virginia, already have said they are weighing bids for the U.S. Senate.
They have an abundance of targets. Twenty-one of the 33 Senate seats up in 2012 are held by Democrats and two others are occupied by independents who align themselves with Democrats. Including those independents, Democrats will hold a 53-47 Senate advantage in the new Congress that convenes Jan. 5. The 10 Republican senators up for re-election in 2012 have yet to draw a challenger.
“I want to do my part in fighting for America’s future. That’s why I have decided to run for the United States Senate,” Republican Sarah Steelman said in announcing her challenge to Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.
Former Sen. Jim Talent, too, is weighing a rematch against McCaskill. The two faced off in 2006 and McCaskill won in that Democratic wave.
Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos has visited Washington to talk about his expected Senate bid against Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who won a second term with 60 percent of the vote in 2006. George LeMieux, who filled the last 15 months of Republican Mel Martinez’ term through an appointment, might also seek Nelson’s seat.
LeMieux is returning to Florida to make room for Marco Rubio, a former speaker of the Florida state House who won election to the Senate this year.
Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, who won by 28 percentage points four years ago, drew an early challenger in state attorney general Jon Bruning just days after last month’s election.
In Montana, first-term Democratic Sen. Jon Tester has drawn GOP businessman Steve Daines as a challenger. Republican Marc Scaringi has announced a campaign against Democratic Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, another 2006 winner expected to face a tough re-election bid.
“That’s really a reflection of the opportunity people see,” said Sen. John Cornyn, the Texas Republican who heads the GOP Senate campaign.
“It was hard to recruit people early on in 2009,” Cornyn said. “As time went by, people sensed an opportunity.
“I remember specifically, Mark Kirk, who was the only Republican who could win in Illinois. He was pretty hesitant, running for the Obama Senate seat, knowing the Democratic machine would be throwing everything they had at him,” Cornyn said . “Eventually, he came around and decided to make the run.”
Kirk, a five-term House member, defeated Illinois’ Democratic state treasurer Alexi Giannoulias to win election in November to finish Obama’s term.
The collapse of Obama’s sky-high popularity was a major factor, Cornyn acknowledged. In February 2009, Obama had a 67 percent approval rating in an AP-GfK poll. The weekend after November election, the same poll found Obama had 47 percent approval to 51 percent disapproval.
“When we went into the campaign in January 2009, it looked one way,” Cornyn said. “By November 2010, it changed dramatically.”
Democrats find themselves having to defend so many seats because of their success in 2006, when they picked up six seats in the Senate and also took the House away from Republicans after a dozen years of GOP control.
“This is the compensation we have for being beaten very badly in 2006,” Cornyn said. “We’re glad to be in this posture. I’d rather be in our position than theirs.”
In Virginia, Democratic Sen. Jim Webb could face a rematch against former Sen. George Allen. Webb inched out Allen in 2006, but Allen has been building buzz for a return to Washington with speeches to tea party groups and less-than-subtle hints he is weighing another campaign.
Allen also might not be alone seeking the nomination. Prince William Chairman Corey Stewart has floated the idea of a campaign for Senate and took a swipe at Allen in the process.
“Sen. Allen was a great governor of Virginia, he really was,” Stewart, a Republican, said on a local TV interview. “But his record in the United States Senate was mediocre. And I don’t think most people in Virginia think of him as a great United States senator. They think of him as a great governor.”
Indeed, contested primary races could again be an issue for Republicans in 2012, just as they were in 2010, when Democrats retained a couple of Senate seats after candidates who were viewed as their most potent GOP challengers lost their party’s primary.
Democrats cringe when asked about Kentucky Senate candidate Jack Conway‘s latest attack ad against Republican opponent and tea party favorite Rand Paul in their contentious race.
Sen. Claire McCAskill is one Democrat willing to go on the record saying Conway went “way over the line” in the ad that attacks Paul for an alleged participation in a mock pagan ritual as part of a secret society in college more than three decades ago.
President Barack Obama is talking to voters again about jobs and the economy. But he’s also concerned with two jobs in particular: Senate seats for Democrats in Missouri and Nevada.
With Democrats facing uphill battles in the November elections, Obama is combining a couple of economy-focused events Thursday and Friday with a campaign swing on behalf of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Missouri Senate hopeful Robin Carnahan.
Reid is in trouble in his bid for a fifth term, with unemployment sky-high in Nevada and Republicans working furiously to unseat him. Carnahan, Missouri’s secretary of state, represents a chance for a much-needed Democratic pickup of the Senate seat being vacated by Republican Kit Bond.
Obama will aim to energize their supporters Thursday with a sharply partisan message he’s been honing of late.
The man who pledged during his campaign to bridge partisan divides has begun playing into them as his party claws for political advantage. Obama’s been singling out individual Republican House members for comments he says show they care more about corporations than people.
Ahead of Thursday’s trip, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said voters could expect to hear Obama repeat his attacks on Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, who had to apologize for apologizing to BP PLC, the primary owner of the blown-out well spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico, and House Minority Leader John Boehner, who contends his metaphor likening the financial crisis to an “ant” is being twisted by Democrats.
“Obviously, we’re getting much, much closer to the fall elections, and the president will have, will do more things leading up to that,” Gibbs said. “He has been very involved in raising money and in making an argument.”
A sitting president’s party typically loses seats in Congress during midterm elections. On top of that, Democrats are battling an anti-incumbent fervor fanned by high unemployment.
Nonetheless, Obama’s argument will in part be an economic one, starting with a visit Thursday to an electric truck manufacturer in Kansas City, Mo., that got money from last year’s big economic stimulus bill.
Obama has been trying to get voters to buy a message he himself acknowledges is a tough sell — that things would be a lot worse if the $862 billion stimulus bill had not passed. Obama also plans remarks on the economy Friday at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
In between he’ll be raising money for Carnahan and Reid. The pairing of official presidential events with campaign appearances lets the White House bill taxpayers rather than the candidates’ campaigns for most of the president’s travel costs.
In Nevada, Reid is welcoming the president to a state Obama won with 55 percent of the vote in 2008. Unemployment in Nevada is at 14 percent, the highest of any state, and the White House inevitably gets some of the blame. But so does Reid, and he needs all the help he can get with his approval ratings sagging under constant GOP attacks.
Reid is facing tea party-backed Sharron Angle, who was welcoming Obama with a reference to the kerfuffle the president caused in February when he asserted that people saving for college shouldn’t “blow a bunch of cash on Vegas.”
Obama has issued plenty of mea culpas since then to politicians and residents hypersensitive about protecting Las Vegas’ battered tourism industry. That didn’t stop the Angle campaign from issuing a news release reading a sarcastic message into Obama’s visit: “President Obama: ‘Don’t go to Vegas unless it’s to bail out Harry Reid.'”
Obama is to appear at a reception and dinner for Reid that are expected to reap about $800,000.
In Missouri, Obama will make his first fundraising appearance for Carnahan, who was out of the state in March when the president attended a joint fundraiser for Sen. Claire McCaskill and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. That caused speculation about whether Carnahan was purposely keeping Obama at arm’s length in a state he narrowly lost in 2008.
But her campaign said she welcomes his help. Obama will be appearing at a low-dollar reception for grass-roots supporters, and at a lunch and reception where tickets will range from $1,000 to $30,000.
Carnahan’s likely Republican opponent is GOP Rep. Roy Blunt.
Associated Press writer David A. Lieb in Jefferson City, Mo., contributed to this report.
America’s “Great Compromiser” Henry Clay called government “the great trust,” but most Americans today have little faith in Washington’s ability to deal with the nation’s problems.
Public confidence in government is at one of the lowest points in a half century, according to a survey from the Pew Research Center. Nearly 8 in 10 Americans say they don’t trust the federal government and have little faith it can solve America’s ills, the survey found.
The survey illustrates the ominous situation President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party face as they struggle to maintain their comfortable congressional majorities in this fall’s elections. Midterm prospects are typically tough for the party in power. Add a toxic environment like this and lots of incumbent Democrats could be out of work.
The survey found that just 22 percent of those questioned say they can trust Washington almost always or most of the time and just 19 percent say they are basically content with it. Nearly half say the government negatively effects their daily lives, a sentiment that’s grown over the past dozen years.
This anti-government feeling has driven the tea party movement, reflected in fierce protests this past week.
“The government’s been lying to people for years. Politicians make promises to get elected, and when they get elected, they don’t follow through,” says Cindy Wanto, 57, a registered Democrat from Nemacolin, Pa., who joined several thousand for a rally in Washington on April 15 — the tax filing deadline. “There’s too much government in my business. It was a problem before Obama, but he’s certainly not helping fix it.”
Majorities in the survey call Washington too big and too powerful, and say it’s interfering too much in state and local matters. The public is split over whether the government should be responsible for dealing with critical problems or scaled back to reduce its power, presumably in favor of personal responsibility.
About half say they want a smaller government with fewer services, compared with roughly 40 percent who want a bigger government providing more. The public was evenly divided on those questions long before Obama was elected. Still, a majority supported the Obama administration exerting greater control over the economy during the recession.
“Trust in government rarely gets this low,” said Andrew Kohut, director of the nonpartisan center that conducted the survey. “Some of it’s backlash against Obama. But there are a lot of other things going on.”
And, he added: “Politics has poisoned the well.”
The survey found that Obama’s policies were partly to blame for a rise in distrustful, anti-government views. In his first year in office, the president orchestrated a government takeover of Detroit automakers, secured a $787 billion stimulus package and pushed to overhaul the health care system.
But the poll also identified a combination of factors that contributed to the electorate’s hostility: the recession that Obama inherited from President George W. Bush; a dispirited public; and anger with Congress and politicians of all political leanings.
“I want an honest government. This isn’t an honest government. It hasn’t been for some time,” said self-described independent David Willms, 54, of Sarasota, Fla. He faulted the White House and Congress under both parties.
The poll was based on four surveys done from March 11 to April 11 on landline and cell phones. The largest survey, of 2,500 adults, has a margin of sampling error of 2.5 percentage points; the others, of about 1,000 adults each, has a margin of sampling error of 4 percentage points.
In the short term, the deepening distrust is politically troubling for Obama and Democrats. Analysts say out-of-power Republicans could well benefit from the bitterness toward Washington come November, even though voters blame them, too, for partisan gridlock that hinders progress.
In a democracy built on the notion that citizens have a voice and a right to exercise it, the long-term consequences could prove to be simply unhealthy — or truly debilitating. Distrust could lead people to refuse to vote or get involved in their own communities. Apathy could set in, or worse — violence.
Democrats and Republicans both accept responsibility and fault the other party for the electorate’s lack of confidence.
“This should be a wake-up call. Both sides are guilty,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. She pointed to “nonsense” that goes on during campaigns that leads to “promises made but not promises kept.” Still, she added: “Distrust of government is an all-American activity. It’s something we do as Americans and there’s nothing wrong with it.”
Sen. Scott Brown, a Republican who won a long-held Democratic Senate seat in Massachusetts in January by seizing on public antagonism toward Washington, said: “It’s clear Washington is broken. There’s too much partisan bickering to be able to solve the problems people want us to solve.”
And, he added: “It’s going to be reflected in the elections this fall.”
But Matthew Dowd, a top strategist on Bush’s re-election campaign who now shuns the GOP label, says both Republicans and Democrats are missing the mark.
“What the country wants is a community solution to the problems but not necessarily a federal government solution,” Dowd said. Democrats are emphasizing the federal government, while Republicans are saying it’s about the individual; neither is emphasizing the right combination to satisfy Americans, he said.
After a rousing campaign rally for New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine last summer, President Barack Obama flashed a broad smile to an aide as he boarded his helicopter back to the White House.
“That was the most fun I’ve had in a while,” he said.
Obama likes campaigning. And it shows. He relishes the chance to shed his jacket, roll up his sleeves, dust off his rhetoric and energize a political crowd.
During this week’s health care push on Capitol Hill, Obama and senior advisers have been telling lawmakers that they will not be left standing alone in a difficult election year if they cast a tough vote for the health care overhaul.
But with Obama’s popular support at its lowest level since he took office, it’s unclear which Democrats will want to wrap themselves in his presidency as the party heads into the midterm election campaign.
When Obama campaigned for his health care overhaul last week in Missouri — he narrowly lost the state to Republican Sen. John McCain in 2008 — presumptive Senate candidate Robin Carnahan was conveniently away. At a fundraiser for Senate Democrats and strong-willed Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Obama used his rhetoric to distance McCaskill from his presidency even as he raised cash for her 2012 re-election campaign.
“She’s a standout because she speaks truth to power. She’s not afraid of anybody, speaks her mind,” Obama said. “Sometimes she tells me things. And I’m the president.”
The line got a laugh in St. Louis, but it underscores the White House’s uncomfortable situation.
In interviews with more than a dozen Democrats in Washington and in competitive races across the country, the overwhelming sense is that Obama will be most useful in races that depend on big turnouts of the Democratic base that rallied to his cause in 2008 — contests like the one to fill Obama’s former Senate seat in Illinois. He is far more popular there than he is nationally; home-state Democrats still identify with the president.
He’s also a strong fundraiser, drawing some $3 million in just one Chicago night last year.
Watch for an election schedule to emerge with Obama at lots of fundraising dinners with the party faithful, a familiar — and safe — role for any president. And look for party officials to keep him away from moderate Democrats and imperiled incumbents who risk being branded as White House yes-men and being tarred with Obama’s problems.
Also, look for Obama:
_In races that hinge on high black voter turnout, such as Virginia’s 5th Congressional District. Rep. Tom Perriello has been a loyal vote for the White House even though he won by just 745 votes in a district that is 23 percent black. Include Ohio Rep. Steve Driehaus’ re-election bid in a Cincinnati-area district that is 29 percent black. A surge of black voters helped both win in 2008; Obama would be key to giving them — and others like them — a second term.
_In the 49 districts Obama carried that elected Republican members of Congress in 2008. Those places knew and liked their incumbent lawmakers. Taking advantage of growing anti-incumbent feelings, Democrats hope voters in such districts may be persuaded to cast a ballot again on Obama’s urging — even though he isn’t on the ticket.
_With candidates whose fundraising has been lackluster, such as Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, whose campaign war chest is a fraction of those of his Republican challengers. Obama already has visited fundraisers for his fellow Harvard Law School graduate.
_In hometowns of lawmakers who were early endorsers of Obama’s presidential bid, such as New Hampshire’s Paul Hodes, who is leaving the House to run for the Senate. Also look for frequent trips to Pennsylvania, a perennial swing state whose senior senator, Arlen Specter, left the GOP for the Democratic Party last year.
_In districts where Democrats barely won on the coattails of Obama, such as Ohio’s 15th District. Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy went through a monthlong recount that gave her a win with less than 1 percentage point. Any Obama appearance in that district, which includes Ohio State University, helps the president’s 2012 chances, even if Kilroy exits Washington after just one term.
_In true-blue Democratic districts where he can raise cash. Look at his regular trips to places such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.
The White House also will use Vice President Joe Biden to raise money and help Democrats in blue-collar and rural districts where voters love his folksy style. On Monday, Biden made his 51st political stop, campaigning in Ohio for Driehaus, an uncertain vote for the president’s health care overhaul.
While Republicans will be seeking to turn the midterm elections into a national referendum on Obama and his policies, Democratic campaign officials will be working to ensure that voters see House and Senate campaigns as a choice between the candidates on the ballot.
Obama’s fine with that, as long as he gets to hit the campaign trail again.
In his view, a hoarse Obama is better than an even-toned one. An Obama who strains to shout over a cheering crowd is happier than the one seen in the Rose Garden. He favors high school gyms in small towns in the heartland over ornate halls of power in Washington, raucous rallies over somber signing ceremonies.
Much more fun than the workaday labors of governing for sure.