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August 22, 2014

Posts in "On the Trail"

August 21, 2014

Once a GOP Staffer, Candidate Now Vies to Be Main Event

Once a GOP Staffer, Candidate Now Vies to Be Main Event

Young, left, and Grassley, right, campaign at the Iowa State Fair. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

ADEL, Iowa – When David Young first became Sen. Charles E. Grassley’s chief of staff seven years ago, the senator sat him down for a talk. Young thought he was in for the riot act or a long list of rules.

Once a GOP Staffer, Candidate Now Vies to Be Main Event

Instead, as he tells it in the parking lot where people are shucking corn for the Adel Sweet Corn Festival, Iowa’s beloved senior senator recounted some advice he received when he first came to Washington.

“He said, ‘[whatever] your constituents want, anything and everything, you do it,’” Young recalls. “‘If they want you to cut their toenails, you cut their toenails.’”

A few weeks later, Young went out and bought enough toenail clippers for the entire staff as a reminder of their mission. Today, Young recounts that tale as a candidate for Iowa’s open 3rd District. Grassley tells the same story in Young’s first general election radio ad.

Young jokes that he probably needs to start carrying around toenail clippers. “Undoubtedly, someone’s going to come up to me and say, ‘Cut ‘em Dave,’” he jokes, saying he might also need “a 5 gallon Purell pump” to finish the job.

Full story

August 20, 2014

Pat Quinn Could be Drag on Illinois Democrats

Pat Quinn Could be Drag on Illinois Democrats

Schock, left, and Davis, watch Rauner fire up the crowd. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The national political tide isn’t looking good for Democrats, but in Illinois this November, down-ballot candidates have an even bigger problem: the drag of Gov. Pat Quinn.

The Land of Lincoln is a hotbed of political activity this cycle, with Democrats defending three freshmen House incumbents and looking to pick-off one more — Republican Rep. Rodney Davis in the ultra-competitive 13th District.

All but one of those races take place outside of Chicago’s Cook County — the last bastion of support for Quinn and one of just three counties he carried in the state when he narrowly won the role in 2010. That geography is bad news for Democrats looking to tamp down losses in the midterms.

There was no clearer example of Quinn’s problems than last week’s Illinois State Fair, where elected officials, political operatives and party insiders from both sides of the aisle descended upon the Springfield fairgrounds for each party’s respective day of rallies.

On Aug. 14, Republicans flocked to the fairgrounds to support Bruce Rauner, the party’s wealthy gubernatorial nominee who rolled up to the rally on his Harley Davidson and then delivered a red-meat speech going after Quinn in front of a fired up crowd of supporters.

It was a stark contrast from Democrats’ gathering the day before, where instead of riling up his base at the fair, Quinn instead hosted a low-key picnic to pose for photos with a more mellow group of supporters, many of whom were bussed in from the Chicago area.

Full story

August 18, 2014

Martha McSally Tries to Fly to Victory

Martha McSally Tries to Fly to Victory

McSally is running for Congress in Arizona. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

TUCSON, Ariz. — Operatives couldn’t make up a better candidate résumé if they tried: retired Air Force Colonel, first in her class at the U.S. Air War College, the first female fighter pilot in combat who flies the very plane — an A-10 Warthog — that’s economically essential to the 2nd District.

At a time when Republicans wrangle with messaging to female voters, this 48-year-old’s spunk and articulate bite is made for television — and unlike anything the House GOP Conference has seen in a while.

Martha McSally Tries to Fly to VictoryBut can Martha McSally finally win this House seat on her third try, and, more pressing for this Friday evening, can the Republican spell “logomachy”?

“L-O-G-O-M-A-C-H-Y,” McSally enunciates to the judges, who nod in approval at a spelling bee fundraiser just off the Old Pueblo’s newly booming downtown strip. It means an argument about words — something of which there’s plenty in her race.

After nearly a dozen rounds, the competition has dwindled from 15 local celebrities and the judges have to regroup because they’ve run out of pre-selected words to challenge the two finalists. McSally is one of them, and when it’s her turn, she walks into the single spotlight on stage and tries to spell “sayonara.”

She blows it. Full story

August 13, 2014

It’s the Chuck Grassley Show at the Iowa State Fair

Its the Chuck Grassley Show at the Iowa State Fair

Grassley hams it up in the pork tent at the Iowa State Fair. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

DES MOINES, Iowa — At the Iowa State Fair, the walk from the William C. Knapp Varied Industries Building to the swine barn should take about five minutes.

But with Sen. Charles E. Grassley, it takes 45.

Its the Chuck Grassley Show at the Iowa State FairSince the Republican was first elected to the Senate in 1980, Grassley, the Hawkeye State’s senior senator, has never been re-elected with less than 64 percent of the vote. At the Iowa State Fair, it is easy to see why.

On Friday, Grassley could not travel more than 10 feet without people stopping to shake his hand, get a picture or tell him how he great he is. GOP candidates agree with that sentiment: He was at the fair to campaign with Joni Ernst, the Republican nominee for Senate to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin.

“I’d like to introduce you to someone. This is Joni Ernst, she’s running for Senate,” Grassley says, time and time again. Full story

August 12, 2014

In Iowa Senate Race, It’s Personality Versus Policy

In Iowa Senate Race, Its Personality Versus Policy

Ernst embraces a young supporter at the Iowa State Fair. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

DES MOINES, Iowa – Joni Ernst is a hugger.

At the Iowa State Fair, the GOP’s nominee to replace retiring Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, is hugging people she knows, people she’s meeting for the first time, and people who are excited to see her. On Friday, Ernst stops to hug and chat up someone else while Iowa’s three most senior Republican state officials — Gov. Terry Branstad, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, and Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey — wait for her at a podium 10 feet away.

In Iowa Senate Race, Its Personality Versus PolicyErnst’s strong suit as a Senate candidate is that people seem to want to hug her back.

“Joni, we love you, honey! Keep up the good work!” shouts a man as she walks the fair with Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa.

Six months ago, Ernst was a second-tier candidate with little money in a four-way Republican primary. Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley had cleared the field, raised money, and seemed likely to keep the seat in his party’s hands.

Then, Ernst made a splashy ad about castrating hogs and a video emerged of Braley derisively referring to Grassley as just “a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school.” Suddenly, Ernst was a contender, and Braley was back on his heels, trying to apologize to the state’s beloved senior senator.

Ernst rode that momentum to a resounding primary victory two months later, and since then, the race has been counted among the most competitive of the cycle. Ernst could well be Iowa’s first female senator if the Hawkeye State voters prefer her farm girl charm over Braley’s record in Congress.

It’s why walking the fair with Braley and Ernst is like experiencing night and day.

Full story

Freshman Congresswoman Moves to the Middle

Freshman Congresswoman Moves to the Middle

Sinema greets voters at Giant Coffee in Phoenix. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

PHOENIX — Once known for her progressive politics, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema has coasted to the center in her first re-election.

The freshman bills herself as bipartisan, and now party operatives — even Republicans, privately — view her as the safest of the state’s three vulnerable Democrats. But that’s also because she’s lucky: A brutal Republican primary is bound to leave her future foe broke and bruised 10 weeks before Election Day.

Freshman Congresswoman Moves to the MiddleOn the campaign trail, Sinema stresses her work across the aisle. It’s a political necessity for a member who represents a district President Barack Obama won by just four points.

“I’m working to make it cool to compromise in Congress,” Sinema tells 30 mostly baby boomers at a Thursday lunch with the Phoenix West Rotary Club. “I don’t know if we’re quite there yet, but I’m working on it.”

Sinema started her elected career nearly a decade ago at the state House, 10 miles away from this Sheraton conference room.

Some of her first political experience came working for Ralph Nader’s spoiler 2000 presidential bid. She tried her own third party attempt in a losing race for the state House as an independent affiliated with the Green Party two years later. She finally won the seat as a Democrat in 2004. Full story

August 11, 2014

McAllister Moving Past ‘Kissing Congressman’

McAllister Moving Past Kissing Congressman

McAllister gets welcomed back home. (Margaret Frances Eldridge/CQ Roll Call)

TALLULAH, La. — Vance McAllister’s political career flatlined earlier this year, a victim of self-inflicted wounds from an embarrassing infidelity scandal.

But less than three months before the midterm elections, the Louisiana Republican has suddenly, improbably, become the man to beat this November.

McAllister, who was holding a series of businesslike, low-drama town hall meetings in small communities in the east end of his mostly rural district last week, told CQ Roll Call that both he and his constituents have moved on from the ”Kissing Congressman” scandal that erupted in April, after a video surfaced showing him embracing a married staffer.

“It’s really only the Washington media that’s keeping that going,” he said in an interview outside the community meeting room in the small farm town of Winnsboro, population 4,910.

And, at least among the business leaders, city council members, farmers and veterans who attended the question-and-answer sessions in Winnsboro and nearby Tallulah, McAllister seemed to have a point.

The congressman was asked about the border crisis, the Keystone XL pipeline, national security issues and the problems with Department of Veterans Affairs — but not a single question arose about the video.

Full story

August 8, 2014

Shooting in the Rear View, Ron Barber Drives His Own Way

Shooting in the Rear View, Ron Barber Drives His Own Way

Barber gives a tour of Tucson. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

TUCSON, Ariz. — Rep. Ron Barber guides his Ford through the flat, four-lane paved streets, ticking off landmarks on the corners of his desert city surrounded by jagged mountains.

That’s Rincon High School, where he enrolled as a sophomore in 1959. There’s the middle school his grandson attends. As he makes a left turn, Barber points to St. Cyril of Alexandria Church, where he married his wife, Nancy, 47 years ago.

Shooting in the Rear View, Ron Barber Drives His Own Way“It was the middle of the summer, and what do you know, the air conditioner broke,” he recalled, driving by rows of adobe office parks.

On the opposite corner of the church is another Barber landmark, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ office, where he worked as her district director for several years. One memory sticks out: On the night of the Affordable Care Act vote, he put out a press release and left around midnight. A couple of hours later, someone shattered the office door and window. He said they later discovered bullets inside.

It’s not the most notorious time Barber risked gunfire — not even close. At the main gate of the University of Arizona campus, the former state bureaucrat gestures up the road toward the trauma center where he was treated after a gunman killed six and injured a dozen more, including Barber and Giffords, in January 2011. Full story

July 1, 2014

Democrats Work to Mitigate VA Scandal as Political Issue

Democrats Work to Mitigate VA Scandal as Political Issue

Begich has had to tackle the veterans affairs scandal as he seeks a second term in Alaska. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Politicians have always touted their support for military veterans back home. The willingness to expend federal dollars to provide the best care possible is popular across the partisan spectrum and is rarely cause for controversy.

But the issue has been turned on its head in recent months, with the fallout from the Veterans Affairs scandal prompting even the Obama administration to admit a “corrosive culture” at the VA affecting facilities across the country.

It’s also invited criticism of vulnerable House and Senate Democrats from Republican candidates and outside groups. For Republican challengers and operatives, the VA scandal offers a striking example of federal government mismanagement with a Democrat at the helm and provides another link between Democratic incumbents and President Barack Obama.

“Veterans’ issues tend to be bipartisan, non-controversial and not a big deal in most campaigns — which is why the VA scandal is a problem for Democrats this year,” Republican pollster Dan Judy said. “Democratic candidates in most of the competitive states already have the millstone of President Obama’s unpopularity around their necks, and the VA scandal is only making that weight heavier.”

Full story

June 3, 2014

Thad Cochran Runs on Incumbency, Appropriations in GOP Primary

Thad Cochran Runs on Incumbency, Appropriations in GOP Primary

Cochran greets a supporter at Windy City Grille in Hernando. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

OXFORD, Miss. — Construction on Phase II of the grand Thad Cochran Research Center here on the Ole Miss campus is expected to be completed later this year, around the time the senator hopes to be re-elected to a seventh term.

Cochran’s help securing crucial federal funding for the pharmacy school’s natural products research facility is one of numerous examples of the Senate appropriator’s widely regarded ability to steer money toward his state, which has the lowest median household income in the country.

The incumbent spent the final week of an increasingly hostile race on a statewide bus tour touting his 36 years of experience in the Senate, despite the fact that his appropriations prowess — and accusations he doesn’t fight hard enough for conservative causes — is what led to the 76-year-old’s most competitive primary challenge ever, from tea-party-backed state Sen. Chris McDaniel.

“I feel comfortable knowing that I can get things done for the state to help better address our economic problems, also our national security interests,” Cochran said in an interview in Hernando, when asked about voters who may be looking for someone new. “As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I’m situated to help influence the level of funding for a lot of government programs in the national security area that directly benefit Mississippi,” including both military installations and defense contractors. Full story

May 30, 2014

The Chris McDaniel Bus Sputters and Rallies

The Chris McDaniel Bus Sputters and Rallies

McDaniel speaks with an employee of Truhitt Service Center in Union, Miss. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Chris McDaniel Bus Sputters and RalliesPHILADELPHIA, Miss. — The Chris McDaniel campaign bus is sputtering.

That’s what a reporter was told Thursday as it became clear the Mississippi state senator challenging Republican Sen. Thad Cochran in the primary next week would be a no-show for both of his first two campaign events.

McDaniel, endorsed by former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., on Thursday, marks the tea party’s best hope for a major splash in the 2014 elections. But the recent arrest of at least two McDaniel supporters allegedly involved in the photographing of Cochran’s bedridden wife in her nursing home has thrown the entire race into flux.

Amid the flurry of talk across the state, McDaniel is pushing forward with a 25-town statewide tour to detail his “Five Promises to Mississippi” platform. But like his Senate campaign, the McDaniel bus must navigate a bumpy route to its final destination.

Full story

May 27, 2014

First Incumbent Could Lose in Tuesday’s Texas Runoff (Video)

First Incumbent Could Lose in Tuesdays Texas Runoff (Video)

Hall has said this will be his final re-election bid. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Could Ralph Hall be saying goodbye to Congress Wednesday morning? It’s fight night in Texas and that’s the biggest question of Tuesday’s runoff.

Most of the political excitement in the Lone Star State is expected to take place in state races. Even though tea-party-aligned candidates hit recent road blocks in GOP primaries in federal races, anti-establishment conservative candidates are expected to dominate state-level politics Tuesday evening in Texas.

But in that shadow, there are a few House race runoffs with the potential to impact Capitol Hill — especially in Texas’ 4th District. After Republican Rep. Ralph M. Hall failed to win the majority of the vote in the March primary, he faces the fight of his career to return to Congress.

Lone Star State polls close at 9 p.m. EST (this cycle’s complete political calendar is available on CQ Roll Call’s Primary Chart).

Full story

April 22, 2013

Democrats Markey, Lynch Resume Campaigns #MAsen

Democrats Markey, Lynch Resume Campaigns #MAsen

Markey has led in all polls of the Massachusetts Senate special election so far. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Reps. Edward J. Markey and Stephen F. Lynch resumed their Senate special-election campaigns on Monday. It’s been one week since the two Bay State Democrats suspended political activities after the Boston Marathon bombing.

Markey’s spokesman confirmed via email that he will start campaigning again, although neither candidate is running television ads yet:

Full story

November 1, 2012

Virginia: Mitt Romney, George Allen Rally GOP Faithful

Virginia: Mitt Romney, George Allen Rally GOP Faithful

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney greets the crowd at a campaign stop at the Farm Bureau Center in Doswell, Va. Romney was joined on the stump by Republican Senate candidate George Allen, who is locked in a tight race with Democrat Tim Kaine. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)

DOSWELL, Va. — Presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Senate candidate George Allen rallied the GOP faithful today to begin a final joint push across this crucial battleground state.

In the second event of a three-stop tour, several hundred supporters donning stickers for Romney, Allen and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) crowded into the expansive Farm Bureau Center outside Richmond to hear the nominees for president and Senate. Full story

October 31, 2012

Joe Walsh Struggles With Crossover Appeal in Chicago Suburbs

Joe Walsh Struggles With Crossover Appeal in Chicago Suburbs

Rep. Joe Walsh speaks to supporters in front of his Addison Township campaign headquarters in Elmhurst, Ill., on Saturday morning. (Shira Toeplitz/CQ Roll Call)

PALATINE, Ill. — Freshman Rep. Joe Walsh (R) and Iraq War veteran Tammy Duckworth (D) have polar opposite personalities and politics. But they have one unusual similarity in this House race: They are both battling their national profiles to win this northwestern suburban Chicago House seat.

An unlikely victor last cycle, Walsh embodies the feisty tea party spirit of 2010 but made headlines on cable news for his rookie gaffes. Duckworth, a double amputee, is a Democratic darling who missed an opportunity to win a 2006 Congressional race at the height of the country’s anti-war frustration.

This cycle’s contest would have been a clash of two political movements if all signs didn’t point to a Democratic victory. But Duckworth picked up a few campaign tricks in the past six years, becoming a better candidate since she lost to now-Rep. Peter Roskam (R) by 2 points. Her fan base extends downstate to Democrats in Springfield, who redrew the 8th district to be more favorable to the party and to include her Hoffman Estates home. Full story

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