Gloves Come Off as Campaign Trail Heats Up

Photo Courtesy - Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- With early voters casting ballots, the gloves are coming off.

Former presidential candidate Sen. John McCain was in California on Saturday to campaign for Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina, who is facing incumbent Barbara Boxer.

“[Fiorina]  will never waive the white flag of surrender the way that Barbara Boxer has tried to do every single time we have been in a conflict,” he said. “Barbara Boxer is the most bitterly partisan, the most anti-defense senator in the U.S. Senate today. I know that because I have had the unpleasant experience of having to serve with her.”

McCain made no mention of former running mate Sarah Palin, who was campaigning for Republicans an hour and a half away in Anaheim.

“You fire [Nancy] Pelosi, retire [Harry] Reid, and their whole band of merry followers,” Palin told a crowd in Anaheim, Calif., “and we get back on the right track.”

Palin is in high demand on the campaign trail, but not for every GOP candidate. ABC News political director Amy Walter says the former vice presidential candidate’s strong ties to the Tea Party worry some Republican leaders.

“They want to appeal to independent voters,” Walter said. “They want to look like an independent voice. They do not want to look like they’re beholden to either this Tea Party concept or to Sarah Palin.”

President Obama, in Massachusetts for Democratic Governor Deval Patrick Saturday, said that Republicans have continually denied his party’s efforts, hoping to ride a wave of frustration to the ballot box.

“I understand that sometimes hope may have faded as we grinded out this work over the last several years,” the president said. “You're watching TV and all you see is politicians tearing each other down and pundits who treat politics like a sport. I know it can be discouraging. But don't ever let anybody tell you this fight isn't worth it.”

It is a fight that has caused conflict among some Democrats, with leaders cutting funding to some of their own incumbents in the house; seats they believe are already lost.

“This is firewall politics,” said Walter. “This is protecting what you can and letting those who you know can't win, fall off. It is very cold blooded.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


President Obama, Dems Make Case for Gov. Deval Patrick

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(BOSTON) -- President Obama traveled to Massachusetts on Saturday to boost an old friend’s reelection bid.

“The reason I came today isn’t just because Deval has been there for me as a friend, it’s because he continues to inspire me as a leader,” President Obama said about Massachusetts Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick.

The nation’s only black governor, Patrick was an early and aggressive supporter of President Obama’s White House run. Then a U.S. senator, Obama campaigned for Patrick during his first run for governor in 2006.

The president’s swing through Boston came the day after a stop for Democratic Senate candidate Chris Coons in Delaware and one day before a trip to Ohio for Gov. Ted Strickland and other Democratic candidates. In a campaign first this election, First Lady Michelle Obama will join the president in Ohio.  She and the president have been out on the stump this past week trying to motivate Democrats not to sit out this election. 

The president was interrupted on at least two occasions by protestors calling for more AIDS funding.

Patrick is in a close battle with Republican candidate Charles Baker.  Timothy Cahill is running as an independent.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Rep. Pence Calls for Preservation of Tax Rates in GOP Address

Photo Courtesy - Mike Pense dot House dot gov(WASHINGTON) -- Republican Congressman Mike Pence of Indiana, addressed the concerns of Americans who "feel trapped under the weight of historic spending and government mandates" Saturday in the weekly GOP radio address.

The Obama administration announced Friday that the government had accrued a $1.3 trillion deficit during the 2010 fiscal year.  It is the second highest deficit ever only $122 billion behind last years record high.

Pence cited the nation's economic troubles by saying, "Today, our national debt stands at more than $13 trillion -- that's more than $44,000 of debt for every man, woman and child in this country."

Congressman Pence later said that Democrats in Congress "just aren't listening" and that it is their wish to "add a tax increase to their failed economic plans."  "After months of deficit spending and government takeovers, Democrats in Washington want to raise taxes in the worst economy in decades," he said in the address.

While Pence acknowledged that there were some Democrats willing to vote to prevent any tax increase, he criticized them for choosing to "leave Washington to try and save their jobs without even allowing a vote to protect the jobs of Americans threatened by higher taxes."

"No American should see a tax increase in January and Republicans are determined to oppose any effort to raise taxes on any American in the difficult economy." 

Pence then urged that "Speaker Nancy Pelosi should call Congress back into session immediately and allow an up-or-down vote on preserving all current tax updates."

In his conclusion, the congressman plugged the GOP's "Pledge to America" campaign which was unveiled last month. 

"The Pledge to America calls on Congress to immediately cut spending back to pre-'stimulus,' pre-bailout levels, to refund unspent 'stimulus' funds and to preserve and promote the kind of tax relief that will create American jobs."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Obama Draws Line in the Sand Over Tax Loopholes

Photo Courtesy - The White House(WASHINGTON) -- Just over two weeks before Election Day President Obama highlights the steps his administration is taking to help the economy recover, while highlighting economic policies the Republicans support that, he says don't "make a lot of sense." 

The president spends his weekly radio address outlining efforts by the administration to help spur our economic growth and hiring in businesses, honing in on efforts to get companies to invest more in the United States.

"For years, our tax code has actually given billions of dollars in tax breaks that encourage companies to create jobs and profits in other countries," Obama explains in his weekly radio address, "I want to close these tax loopholes.  Instead, I want to give every business in America a tax break so they can write off the cost of all new equipment they buy next year.  That's going to make it easier for folks to expand and hire new people."

To the contrary, President Obama paints a picture of Republicans fighting to keep three loopholes open.

"Over the last four years alone, Republicans in the House voted 11 times to continue rewarding corporations that create jobs and profits overseas -- a policy that costs taxpayers billions of dollars every year," Obama says, "That doesn't make a lot of sense.  It doesn't make sense for American workers, American businesses, or America's economy."

The president notes that many companies that do international business make important contributions to the domestic economy.

"But there is no reason why our tax code should actively reward them for creating jobs overseas.  Instead, we should be using our tax dollars to reward companies that create jobs and businesses within our borders."

The president says this is what he'll be "fighting for" in the coming months.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Sparks Fly Between Conservative Candidates in Colorado

Photo Courtesy - Buck for Colorado(DENVER) –- Two years after Barack Obama won Colorado in the 2008 election, leaving many to declare it a new blue state, Democrats are struggling to hold on to their seats as they face the same public ire that Republicans did two years ago.

Incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet, who replaced Ken Salazar last year, is in an uphill battle against Republican candidate and Tea Party favorite Ken Buck.

In a debate moderated by ABC News' Jake Tapper and KMGH anchor Mike Landess, Bennet struggled to distance himself from the Obama administration, painting himself as a moderate as Buck accused him of running away from his record.

"I have been more likely to vote with the other party than any other member of the congressional delegation, whether they're Democratic or whether they're Republican," said Bennet. "And on some critical issues for Colorado, I fought the administration."

Buck, on the other hand, fought back against the argument that he's reversed his position, including on health care.

"I haven’t reversed positions, but I have talked about issues in different ways," Buck said. "Sometimes it's a matter of learning more about issues. Sometimes it's a matter of using different language to try to explain the same situation."

Bennett and Buck are locked in a tight race that will come down to who can win over more independent voters who comprise a large chunk of the state's electorate.

Democrats are having a hard time edging up in polls not only in the Senate race but also in several House races. But where they do see a ray of hope is in the gubernatorial race, where Denver Mayor Hickenlooper leads by double digits.

In a race fraught with fighting among conservatives, pollsters say Hickenlooper is looking at an easy victory to replace exiting Gov. Bill Ritter, who decided not to seek reelection.

At Friday's fiery debate between Democrat John Hickenlooper, Republican Dan Maes and the American Constitution Party's Tom Tancredo, fireworks sparked between Maes and Tancredo as the Republican candidate accused the former member of Congress of sneaking onto the ballot "like an illegal immigrant."

Businessman Maes rode to victory on the back of the Tea Party's support, narrowly defeating another GOP establishment favorite, former Rep. Scott McInnis.

Tancredo quit the GOP and declared himself a candidate of the American Constitution Party despite calls from Maes and other Republicans who feared it would split the vote. The former congressman's move did divide the Republican Party, essentially paving an easy path for Hickenlooper.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Republican Strategist Predicts 60-Seat Loss for Dems

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Despite a new NPR Battleground poll released Friday that showed some new hope for Democratic House candidates, Republican strategist Steve Lombardo said he is as bullish as ever about the GOP’s prospects in November.

“I still think we're looking at a 60 seat loss -- net loss -- for Democrats,” Lombardo told ABC News Friday.  “The way we look at it right now is this is at least as bad as it was in 1994.  My guess is it's worse.”

According to the NPR survey, in 58 of the most competitive House districts, Democrats are gaining on their GOP opponents, narrowing the gap with them to three points.  At the same time, more independents appear to be breaking for the Democrats.  However, Lombardo cautioned that it's unclear whether independents will actually show up at the polls on Election Day.

“Even some of those independents are not going to be voting as much as they should,” he said.  “The likely voter enthusiasm gap is still with Republicans by a significant margin.”

Lombardo, who runs a consulting firm based in Washington, also predicted that the attacks by top Democrats on outside groups, which are fueled by anonymous donors and spending heavily this year to aid conservative candidates and causes, would prove ineffective.  He said that Democrats were “grasping about ... blindly,” for an issue that would energize their base.

“Every campaign that is sort of losing the narrative, if you will, of the election, starts to venture into a lot of different things that aren't important or resonate with voters,” Lombardo said.  “To be honest with you, McCain had the same problem in 2008.”

Although he forecast big gains for Democrats in the House, Lombardo acknowledged that it was unlikely Republicans could take back the Senate.  Still, he left open the possibility that some wild cards could push the GOP over the edge.

“We don’t know just how big this anti-incumbent, anti-Democratic policy, Tea Party movement, if you will, is,” he said.  “We've only see it play out in primaries so far.  We don't know what will happen in a general.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Obama Campaigns For Delaware Senate Seat: Don’t Take this For Granted

Photo Courtesy - ABC News Radio(WILMINGTON, Del.) -- While Democratic Senate candidate Chris Coons has a comfortable lead over Republican candidate Christine O’Donnell President Obama campaigning Friday in Delaware had a message to Democrats:  Don’t take this race for granted.

“I think Chris has so far run an extraordinary race, I don't want anybody here taking this for granted,” the president said from Wilmington Friday, “This is a tough political environment right now.  This is a difficult election because we've been through an incredibly difficult time as a nation.”

Polls show Coons with at least a 17% lead on O’Donnell.  The president never once mentioned Christine O’Donnell by name, arguing more broadly for the Democratic Party’s case versus the broader Republican Party’s, casting his party as working against the status quo.

“It was the conventional wisdom two years ago.  Do you remember that?  Everybody said, no you can't.  And two years ago, you said yes we can.  And you can say that same thing two weeks from now.”

The president said the Republican Party wants to make this election “simply a referendum on the current state of the economy,” but he said this election is really about a choice of the direction of the country.  “I'm here to tell you, don't let anybody tell you that this fight is not worth it.  Don't let them tell you that we're not making a difference."

Vice President Biden and President Obama each spoke at the event Friday in the race for Biden’s old Senate seat, leading to some questions at Thursday's White House briefing as to why the White House is putting so many resources in this race, given that it is not nearly as close as other competitive races.

“I think it's a very important race,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said, “we understand that every vote and every race is important, and obviously this one's, sort of, near and dear to the vice president.   And -- and they're both happy to -- to go do that.”

Gibbs said they “hope and expect” to win the race.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Va. GOP House Candidate: Give 'Carrot' to Lawmakers Who Balance Budget

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images (WASHINGTON) -- Keith Fimian, a Republican U.S. House candidate running in northern Virginia, desperately wants Congress to balance the federal budget -- and he’s proposing the unusual idea of tying representatives’ salaries to whether they get the job done.

“Stop spending.  I don’t care what you’ve got to do -- stop spending,” he said in a presentation to a group of George Mason University students earlier this month.  “And look -- I’m okay with this:  Cut my salary in Congress to 50,000 bucks, ‘till I balance the budget.  But when I balance the budget, I want a $250,000 bonus.  If every congressman had that incentive, what do you think would happen?”

The idea of giving “bonuses” to members of Congress hung like ripe fruit for Fimian’s Democratic opponent, Rep. Gerry Connolly, who pounced on the comments and turned them into an attack ad.
“Keith Fimian’s plan to balance the budget?  Give himself and Congress a bonus, costing taxpayers $133 million,” the narrator says.

But Fimian says the ad is unfair and has called his comments a “quip,” a hypothetical taken out of context in his attempt to show how he’d affect change if elected.  His spokesman Tim Edson told the Washington Post’s Ben Pershing that Fimian supports pay cuts, not bonuses.

But when we caught up with Fimian Thursday and asked him to clarify his remarks, he didn’t seem to back away from the idea of incentives for members of Congress.

“I'm ok with cutting $50,000 out of every congressman's salary until the budget is balanced -- and by balanced I do not mean borrowing money. I’m totally in favor of cutting all of our salaries until we balance the budget,” he said.

“Look, I’m not advocating giving a $250,000 bonus if I balance the federal budget.  But penalize me if I don’t, but if there’s going to be a penalty if I don’t, give me a carrot so that I will and if I do.”

It’s unclear just how big Fimian’s “carrot” would be.

“He's quite serious.  There's no humor in it, no laughter in the audience,” said Connolly.  “It's not a quip.  It represents I think his philosophy which is a distorted philosophy of public service.  We don't run for these offices to get rewarded with bonuses when we do our job.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Murkowski Receives Endorsement from the Grave?

Photo Courtesy - Lisa Murkowski for US Senate / YouTube(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Lisa Murkowski released an ad touting an endorsement from Ted Stevens, two months after the longest-serving GOP senator died in a plane crash in Alaska.

The ad could provide a critical boost to Murkowski as she struggles for her political life. The incumbent senator is running as a write-in candidate against Republican candidate and Tea Party favorite Joe Miller, who has Sarah Palin's backing. Stevens enjoyed widespread support in Alaska, even after he lost his re-election bid in 2009 amid charges of corruption and ethics violations.

"I trust Lisa and her commitment to keep fighting for us,” Stevens says in the ad. “She's working for Alaska every single day. We need Lisa and the seniority she’s earned now more than ever."

The endorsement was taped July 30, days before Stevens died in a plane crash.

The latest polls show Murkowski virtually tied with Miller, with Democratic contender Scott McAdams trailing closely behind.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Senate Majority Leader Goes on Defensive as Angle Steps Up Attacks

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(LAS VEGAS) -- In one of the nation's most hotly contested races, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid dodged attacks from his Republican opponent, Sharron Angle, Thursday night while attempting to explain his own voting record.

Angle fired several shots at Reid, blaming him for creating "Band-Aid applications" for health care, thwarting the private sector and, in perhaps the most contentious issue of the night, suggesting Reid became rich on the government's payroll.

The four-term senator from Nevada denounced the charge as a "low blow."  "Her suggestion that I made money being a senator is really false, and I'm really disappointed she would suggest that," Reid said.

The debate, the only one between the two Senate candidates, focused on wide-ranging issues, including the economy, jobs, health care, abortion and the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays in the military.

The Democratic senator spent much of the debate on the defensive, defending the health care bill, his record on Social Security and immigration, as he attempted to explain his voting record to a public wary of President Obama and the Democrats' agenda.  Reid used the word "extreme" at least three times to describe Angle and her views, and derided her for mischaracterizing his record.

Angle, meanwhile, drew the contrast from the beginning between her and Reid by portraying the longtime senator as a career politician with an expensive residence in Washington.

Angle is no stranger to controversy.  She's taken heat for saying that her job as a senator isn't to create jobs, suggesting that the Department of Education should be abolished and that Social Security should be privatized.

On Thursday, the Tea Party-backed candidate stood firmly by her views.  She refused to apologize for what Reid said was a mischaracterization of his views on job creation and providing tax breaks to illegal immigrants, or her idea that Social Security should be privatized.  Instead, she placed the blame squarely on Reid for helping pass the health care bill and supporting Obama's policies.

"Man up, Harry Reid," Angle quipped. "You need to understand we have a problem with Social Security."

For both Angle and Reid, the debate was a test of whether they could go beyond attacks and reinforce their message on issues pertinent to voters. Both campaigns thus far have relied on negative ads to discredit the other.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio