wisconsin-senate-2016

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.  

Political Wrangling Over 'People's Pledge' in New Hampshire

Ayotte challenged Hassan to a People's Pledge Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

With the presidential circus having left their backyard, New Hampshire's Senate candidates lost little time this week digging into each other's commitment to limiting spending in what's expected to be one of the most competitive and expensive Senate races in the country.  

Just days after Vermont Sen. Bernard Sanders won the New Hampshire Democratic primary with 60 percent of the vote — a presidential race in which he's made campaign finance a big issue against Hillary Clinton — Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte came out with a surprising campaign finance proposal of her own. “Campaigns don't have to be driven by third-party groups — we can change the status quo and take a stand to say that this race should be about New Hampshire," she wrote to her Democratic rival, Gov. Maggie Hassan, in challenging her to sign a "People's Pledge" to limit outside spending in their Senate race.  

Bernie Sanders as GOP Tool: Their Plan to Use Him Against Democrats

Sanders speaks Feb. 1 at his caucus night rally at the Holiday Inn Des Moines Airport and Conference Center in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Bernard Sanders’ surprisingly strong candidacy for president has laid bare a sharp division within the Democratic coalition, pitting its activist base against the moderate-minded establishment.  

It’s a split Republicans — especially the ones focused on winning down-ballot races this fall — are now racing to exploit.  

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  

Vulnerable Republicans Choose Words Carefully on Trump Comments

In a statement Tuesday, Portman said he didn't agree with Trump without using his name. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

In the weeks since the Paris attacks, Republicans have been outspoken about the potential security risk posed by refugees from countries where ISIS has established strongholds from coming into the United States.  

But when pressed on Donald Trump's call for "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States," many of this cycle's most vulnerable senators were slow to respond.  

Two Senate Candidates Buck Parties on Syrian Refugees

Hassan joined GOP governors calling on the federal government to stop accepting refugees from Syria until vetting "is as strong as possible." (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

New Hampshire's Maggie Hassan has the distinction of being the only Democratic governor so far to call on the federal government to stop accepting Syrian refugees. At the same time, vulnerable Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin is one of the few Republicans who is not calling for a halt on Syrian immigrants.  

Hassan, who's waging a competitive Senate contest against GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte, echoed the sentiment aired by Republican governors Monday. “The Governor believes that the federal government should halt acceptance of refugees from Syria until intelligence and defense officials can assure that the process for vetting all refugees, including those from Syria, is as strong as possible to ensure the safety of the American people," spokesman William Hinkle said in a statement .  

NRSC Relishes Making Russ Feingold Eat His Own Words

Feingold supporters plan a fundraiser for him at 201 Bar on Tuesday.(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Supporters of Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold's Senate campaign plan to welcome their candidate back to D.C. next week with a fundraiser at 201 Bar — a spot the former lawmaker once cited as a key place where influence is bought and sold.  

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.