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New Ads Target Senate GOP Over Supreme Court 'Obstructionism'

The Supreme Court vacancy following Scalia's death has become the subject of ads against Senate Republicans. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Majority PAC, a group aligned with Democrats, unveiled a new round of digital ads Tuesday accusing Senate Republicans of “unprecedented obstructionism" by vowing not to consider anyone whom President Barack Obama nominates to succeed Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.  

Their effort came on the same day Senate leaders including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., reiterated their belief  that the next president should choose a nominee to take the place of Scalia, who died earlier this month. “People across the country are fed up with Republicans putting politics ahead of the public good and McConnell’s unprecedented obstructionism has made his entire caucus that much more vulnerable this November,” Shripal Shah, a spokesman for Senate Majority PAC, said in a statement to Roll Call.  

Democrats Target Vulnerable Senate Republicans over Party Loyalty

In tight Senate races, Democrats plan to point to the reliably Republican voting records of incumbents such as Pennsylvania's Toomey. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In some of the top competitive Senate races this year, Democrats on Monday planned a new line of attack against opponents they see as vulnerable: They are calling those Republican opponents reliable Republicans.  

Using a metric that has been used before by the GOP against Democrats, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee said it would hit vulnerable Republicans in eight states over their high "party unity" scores, as ranked by the conservative Americans for Prosperity and the nonpartisan CQ Vote Studies.  “These candidates know their Washington records are a liability – that’s why senators like Pat Toomey and Kelly Ayotte," referring to the senators from Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, "spent the last year trying to rewrite their hyper-partisan history," said Lauren Passalacqua, a spokesperson for the group. "We took a look at how they’ve voted and no surprise, it’s consistently with the Washington special interests and always at the expense of the people who they were elected to represent."  

Races Where Spending Bill Vote Could Be an Issue

Neither Republicans nor Democrats, whose Senate committee is led by Tester, see a clear political win from the omnibus vote. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Congress hadn't even left town when political campaigns in some of the most competitive House and Senate races zeroed in on Friday’s vote on a massive government spending bill. But rather than cleaving along partisan lines, Democrats and Republicans — incumbents and challengers alike — came down on both sides of the issue depending on their states and districts, suggesting national party committees aren't likely to take up the vote in their national messaging. The chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker, voted for the bill – even though some of his most vulnerable colleagues opposed it – while Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Jon Tester of Montana opposed it, with similar divergences in his own party. In the case of this bill, every candidate is on their own.  

Pennsylvania Senate Sen. Patrick J. Toomey voted against the bill, criticizing it as an instrument of the government’s “out-of-control spending” that would exacerbate the deficit, fund the resettlement of Syrian refugees and implement “damaging” federal regulations. And yet, in a statement released after the vote, he went on to tout that the bill for which he did not vote includes bipartisan proposals that he said will support jobs in the Keystone State. He also praised the bill’s suspension of the medical device tax, support for the military, Alzheimer’s research and health care for 9/11 responders.   That’s a contradiction that former Rep. Joe Sestak, who’s vying for the Democratic nomination to challenge Toomey in 2016, seized on in Twitter messages Friday afternoon. https://twitter.com/JoeSestak/status/677930799744868354  

Roy Blunt's Challenger Tries to Put Him on Defense Over Security

After recent events in Paris and San Bernardino, Blunt's rival is trying to make national security his own issue. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Roy Blunt, the Missouri Republican who has served on committees related to the military or intelligence gathering for all but two of his 18 years in Congress, presents himself as a man who knows very well the issues surrounding national security.  

But back home in the Show-Me State, his Democratic challenger is testing that perception. Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander's campaign plans to release a 14-page report Thursday, obtained by Roll Call , which lays out a case, as Kander put it, that Blunt's “words on these issues are far stronger than his actions.” Kander's campaign highlights Blunt’s vote against legislation to fund the Department of Homeland Security, his place among only four others  who voted against Ashton B. Carter as secretary of Defense and his missed committee hearings on issues such as the rise of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.  

With the Senate Up for Grabs, All Eyes Are on the Presidential Race

Democrats think that Trump at the top of the ticket will make their path to control of the Senate easier. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Among those watching the White House race most closely a year from Election Day are those who stand to gain the most from the top-of-the-ticket contest. House and Senate candidates from both parties know their fates are closely tied to the fortunes of their parties’ respective presidential nominees and the tenor of the national conversation next November.  

“Obviously the national environment is something that, to a certain extent, we have very little control over,” NRSC Communications Director Andrea Bozek said. “So our mentality is to prepare for the worst-case scenario.”  

The 10 Most Vulnerable Senators

Democrats are going all-in to try to beat Illinois Republican Kirk. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The script has most definitely been flipped  on Senate battlegrounds in 2016.  

This cycle, Republicans take nine of the 10 spots on Roll Call's list of the most vulnerable senators. That's a marked turn from 2014 , when there were nine Democrats and one Republican.  

Rove-Aligned Group to Spend Early for Roy Blunt

Blunt is being challenged by Democrat Kander. (File Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

More than a year before Election Day, Republicans in Washington are already spending big to assist Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt.  

One Nation — a nonprofit organization with ties to Republican strategist Karl Rove's web of political groups — has plans to launch an $800,000 statewide television and radio ad campaign to boost Blunt’s image on veterans and military issues, the Springfield News-Leader reported .  “In Missouri, $800,000 is a sizable buy at this stage in the election cycle,” said James Harris, a Show-Me State Republican strategist. “Holding the Senate is a top priority for Republicans, and it is not surprising that One Nation would jump in the race to help Sen. Blunt.”  

Schumer and Reid Like the Lay of the Land in Senate Races

Schumer highlighted recruiting successes for Democrats in 2016. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Democratic leaders are not being shy about their chances to move a handful of desks across the aisle and take back the chamber's majority.

"The map looks very good," New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer told CQ Roll Call last week. "First, the map itself is good. We have two Democratic, you know, seats that are in some degree of jeopardy. They have a much larger number."

Senate Democrats Nearly Run Table in Recruitment

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

With New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan's entrance into the Granite State Senate contest, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has secured nearly every top-tier recruit it sought for 2016 — when Democrats will attempt to net the five seats necessary to regain control of the Senate.  

Aside from Hassan in New Hampshire, the DSCC secured strong candidates in Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The DSCC also scored wins with Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick's decision to run for Senate in Arizona, as well as three Democratic senators from red states forgoing gubernatorial bids in 2016.  

Democrats Prepare for the Unlikely in Senate Races

Democrats recruited a candidate to take on Boozman in 2016 — a tough task in a normal political environment. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Arizona, Arkansas and Missouri look like unlikely pickups for Democratic Senate candidates to win in 2016. But Democrats are preparing for the unlikely.  

You don't need to look any further back than 2012, when despite a favorable GOP climate, mistakes by two favored Republican candidates kept the party from winning control of the Senate.